“New” Google Sites

With as fast as technology moves nowadays, you can’t really call the “New” Google Sites new – I mean, it’s been more than a year since the upgrade was announced.  But still, you have to manually select to jump to the New Google Sites.  The GIF below shows how and, like Nike says, “Just Do It” – the kinda New Google Sites is much better than the “Classic” Google Sites.

Go to New Google Sites Animation

Captain Doofus & the Traffic Circle

We all have our irrational pet peeves.  Our things that are “small potatoes” but make us want to gouge someone’s eyeballs out.

One of mine is people who don’t know how to drive in a traffic circle.  You know the guy.  That doofus that stays on the outside of the circle even though they’re going 75% of the way around the darn thing.  Everyone sits waiting in suspense at the entrances to the circle, wondering “Will this be the lucky street that this fantastic driver turns on?”  No one can tell.  It literally could be any exit.  And we all have to stay out of Captain Doofus’ way because you just… don’t… know.

“Hey Kids, Big Ben! Parliament!” – GIF from giphy.com, originally from the 1985 movie National Lampoon’s European Vacation

Anyhow, I digress.  One day I was entering a traffic circle and there he was.  Captain Doofus.  I started to mutter driving instructions for him.  “Stay to the inside until you near your exit, dude!”  At one point, while starting to yell out, “How do you not know how a traffic circle works, doofus!?” I realized . . . a lot of people do it wrong.  And if that many people don’t follow the same process that I follow in a traffic circle, are they wrong . . . or is the traffic circle itself wrong?

If like 25% of users can’t use something correctly, the design itself needs to be reevaluated.  This reminded me of education (as things tend to do).  I can remember grading tests and groaning “ugh, they all got this question wrong!”  After further reflection, I’d often realize that either the question was unintentionally confusing or my instruction had led them astray.

That’s an oft-forgotten reason that we do formative assessment.  Not just to assess our learners, but to assess our instruction and content.  If a large portion of our learners are confused, we need to re-think our strategies, design and assessment.

Unsurprisingly, there are a few recently built traffic circles in my area that have signs, lanes and arrows painted in the lanes.  If the drivers were using the traffic circle wrong, you’ve got to change the traffic circle . . . because you can’t change all of the drivers!  And these newer circles changed to accommodate the users.

The moral of the story – Captain Doofus may not be a doofus.  You may have just designed a really confusing traffic circle.  Or he may have attended a crumby driving school.  But your best move is to design a more doofus-friendly traffic circle.

Easy Citations in Google Docs

**Updated on 10/30/19 with fresh #EduGIFs & Pausable EduGIFs**

Digital citizens are constantly sharing other people’s content.  We are all cultivators of stuff.  Images, quotes, GIFs, artwork, you name it – we share it.  It is very important that we teach kids to give credit where credit’s due.

Unfortunately, students are very resistant to citing their sources when they do schoolwork.  Why?  I believe it’s because it’s a pain to do so.  Who would want to cite their source if you have to do tons of sleuth work to figure out who the original source really was?  Who would want to cite their source if you have to enter a boatload of information into a separate site to prepare the citation to put in your document?

In my book, the goal for students, especially those in middle school, should simply be to get them to cite their sources.  I’m not going to stress out about if it really is the accurate original source.  I also wouldn’t stress about them correctly placing their periods and commas in their MLA citation.  I just want them to recognize that the content is not their own and that the originator deserves credit.  Google Docs makes that easy with two tools.  Let’s check them out . . .

Using the Explore Tool in Google Docs

This will only work for resources on the web (not books), but it’s super easy to use.  It creates footnotes, which I’ve heard aren’t commonly used in K-12 writing.  However, as you’ll see in this animation, you can easily copy those footnotes and turn them into a Works Cited.  Check out this #EduGIF to see how (Pausable #EduGIF available here):

Citing in Docs with the Explore Animation

Using the EasyBib Add-On

This tool is great for citing books, but not as good at citing websites.  It keeps track of your entire bibliography until you’re ready to add it to your doc.  If you are using the Explore tool for your websites, you can just combine them when you’re done, just like I do in the #EduGIF animation below. (Pausable #EduGIF available here)

Citing in Docs with EasyBib Animation

Disclaimer: I’ve heard from a few sources that these two tools do not always produce 100% accurate citations.  In my opinion, as stated above, this is a risk that I’m willing to take, at least until students are in college prep high school courses.

Boomerang for Gmail

“You’ve got mail.” – America Online

Those used to be such exciting words.  The news of having email was exhilarating.  Nowadays, it’s nonstop.  It’s a constant battle to keep-up and it takes tons of tact to send emails that get read and acted on, because your recipients are overwhelmed, too.

I’ve been using Boomerang for Gmail to help me survive the Battle of the Inbox. These are the 3 main features that I love about Boomerang:

1. Send Later

If you’re like me, you end up sending some 11:45 PM emails.  And if your coworkers are like mine, most of them are not typically reading their email at 11:45 PM.  So, schedule it to send first thing in the morning.  Do lots of work on the weekend?  Schedule emails to send on Monday.  Find some spare time to send an email that actually needs to go out in two days?  Type it now, schedule it to send later.  Check it out:

Boomerang Send Later Animation

2. boomerang

This is the feature that the name came from.  We often get emails that aren’t important yet, but will be important later.  They’re not worthy of our focus at this point, but we should look at them before next Wednesday.  So, throw them away and set them to boomerang back on Tuesday.  Ah, that feels nice.  Check it out:

Boomerang Animation

3. boomerang if no response

Ever send out an email where there’s a time sensitive need for a response, but not get the response in time?  Ugh!  If I had known she wouldn’t respond in time, I would have texted her.  With this setting, you can send an email or send away a received email and set them to pop back up in your Inbox if no one else responds.  That way you know that you need to follow up with them in a different way!  It’s also helpful when you’re hoping that someone else on the chain will answer a question, but this way you can insure that the question gets answered sooner or later.  Check it out:

Note: I’m not affiliated in any way with Boomerang, nor am I being reimbursed for this endorsement.  I just like their tool.

BTW – Right Inbox is pretty rad too.  Boomerang is just my personal preference.

Schoology – Requiring Assessment Mastery Before Moving on

In Sal Khan’s phenomenal TED Talk Let’s Teach for Mastery – Not Test Scores, he illustrates the lack of focus on mastery in most classrooms with this metaphor:

To appreciate how absurd [teaching based on a pacing guide, not mastery] is, imagine if we did other things in our life that way. Say, home-building.

So we bring in the contractor and say, “We were told we have two weeks to build a foundation. Do what you can.”

So they do what they can. Maybe it rains. Maybe some of the supplies don’t show up. And two weeks later, the inspector comes, looks around, says, “OK, the concrete is still wet right over there, that part’s not quite up to code … I’ll give it an 80 percent.”

You say, “Great! That’s a C. Let’s build the first floor.”

He continues with this great metaphor, but I’ll stop there because the point is clear: it’s silly to have students move to the next topic or skill before they’ve mastered the one they’re on.  With technology, we have tons of ways to ensure this mastery.

In Schoology, you can require students exceed a minimum assessment score prior to moving on to the upcoming content.  And, if they don’t do well enough?  Have them learn from their mistakes, get better, re-take the assessment and then move on.

Here’s how to do it, first in GIF form and then in step-by-step form.

Requiring Test Mastery in Schoology Animation

  1. Go to the Materials Page for your course.
  2. Click Add Materials > Assessment.
  3. Create your Assessment.
  4. Include in the instructions a note about the minimum score and their ability to retake the assessment.
  5. Go to “Settings” inside of the assessment.
  6. Change the Attempt Limit to Unlimited (or some other greater than 1 option)
  7. Decide how you’d like it to be graded.  I go with “highest score.”
  8. Turn on Submissions (if you’re ready)
  9. Go back to your materials page.
  10. Click on Options > Student Completion.
  11. Set up Student Completion for your pages and assignments.
  12. For the Assessment, Select “Member must score at least” and enter the minimum score you’d like students to obtain.

Show All Comments in Google Sheets

The ability to comment on cells in Google Sheets is super useful.  The ability to find those comments, however . . . pretty stinkin’ difficult.  That little yellow triangle in the corner just ain’t cutting it.  In a big spreadsheet, it can be easy to miss some comments.

You can show all of the comments in the currently open spreadsheet tab by either hovering over or clicking on the comments icon on the sheet tab at the bottom.  Clicking keeps them open while you move your mouse around or scroll.  If you hover, the comments are hidden again as soon as you move your mouse.

Show All Comments in Google Sheets Animation

Deleting Larger Files from your Mac

Is your Mac running out of space?  Do you need a quick solution?

When you don’t have time to go through all of your folders and files to cleanup, a good, quick solution is deleting your larger files.  The process for doing this in the GIF below, or in the steps below the GIF.

Mac Delete Larger files Animation

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Go to Finder>Preferences.
  3. Make sure “All My Files” is checked.
  4. Go to “All My Files” in your Finder menu.
  5. The files are now sorted with the largest at the top.  Go through these files and identify things you can delete.  Drag them to your Trash.
  6. Don’t forget to empty your trash!

Google Drive Folder Basics

Organization can help relieve stress.  One great way to organize in Google Drive is to create and utilize folders.  Here are the basics . . .

Creating folders:
  • Folders can be created by selecting New > New Folder
  • Folders can also be created in some locations by right-clicking & selecting New Folder
  • Folders can be nested (folders inside of folders)
  • Folders can be color-coded (pretty!)

Create Drive Folders Animation

Putting Content into Folders:
  • Drag & Drop
  • Use the Move To button in the top toolbar
  • Use the Move To button in the right-click options
  • Hold down shift to highlight more than 1 file and then move them together

Move Files into Folders Animation

Put Files in More than One Location

Check out this post to see how you can have your Google Drive files in more than one folder.

Moving Stuff Out of your “Shared with Me”

Every household has a junk drawer.  And, for most Google Drive users, they have two: My Drive and Shared with Me.  Everything is in there.  Today, let’s focus on how to clean up your Shared with Me.

Here are 4 tips about cleaning up your Shared with Me, followed by a GIF displaying them:

  1. If there are files you are 100% sure that don’t want, go ahead and delete them.  You’ll still technically have access to them, but you won’t see them in your Shared with Me anymore (so good luck finding them).  The original sharer will have no idea that you removed them and it won’t affect them (because you’re not the owner).
  2. You can click Add to Drive to move files from your Shared with Me to your own Drive, where you can then organize it.
  3. You can drag & drop files from the Shared with Me to anywhere in your Drive to organize them.
  4. Once you’ve moved files into your Drive, you can delete them from your Shared with Me and they will stay in the location that you put them.

Move from Shared With Me Animation

Google Slides Flash Cards

There are plenty of flash cards sites, apps and ideas out there.  And many of them are great.  But… it’s nice to not have to add another tool to your classroom, another site to your list of resources, another password for your students to remember and possibly another account for your students to access.

So, if you don’t need a fully-featured flash cards solution, stick with what you’ve got (and know): Google Slides.

  • Students can work together to create the cards.
  • You can assign each kid a card to make . . . and 5 minutes later you have a whole deck.
  • Cards can involve pictures from a Google image search, pictures from students’ Drive or webcams, drawings and videos.
  • You can project it in class to have a class-wide review.
  • Students can use it to study from their cell phones and other devices.
  • If you have a class website, you can embed the Slides on the site.
  • Students can make a copy of the Slides to make them their own, add information that helps them, delete cards they already know and add cards for terms they struggle with.

Google Slides Flash Cards Animation

*Disclaimer: I’m really not a flash cards, vocabulary kind of guy.  Knowing the lingo has some value, but in general… memorization of stuff that fits on a flash card is just that: memorization.  Since I know that it’s an important part of a lot of classrooms, I want to share this strategy for doing it, but I hope that you do it along with other types of learning experiences, like Project-Based Learning and other inquiry-based strategies.