Add a Popup Message to your Google Docs

Ever wish that you could tell people something when they open up your Google Docs? Maybe “Make a copy of this document, answer the questions and share it with your teacher!” or “This is a draft!

Well, it’s possible.  Some simple coding in the script editor and you can make it happen.  I know that some of you are thinking “Simple . . . . coding. . . !?” while making this face, but it’s true.  Just follow the steps below and you’ll make it happen.

Before we jump into the how, or what it looks like, a few notes:

  • Only Editors will be able to see the popup.  In my testing, someone who is “can view” or “can comment” does not see the popup.  Also, they have to be explicitly shared as editors, not just “anyone with the link can edit.”
  • If you copy the document within your own account, the popup will appear on the copy as well.
  • If someone shared on the document makes a copy, the popup will NOT appear on their copy.
  • If you send the document out on Google Classroom as “Make a Copy for Each Student” it will NOT include the popup in those copies.  I was bummed when I discovered this, because it would have been huge for teachers.

Now that you know those notes and limitations, let’s dive into it.  First, an animated GIF of how to do it and then, below the GIF, the step by step with code that you can just copy and paste.

Add Popup Message to Google Docs Animation

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. From within your Google Doc, click on Tools > Script Editor.
  2. Click on Untitled Project and rename the project.
  3. Replace the words myFunction with onOpen. (This is what tells it to run automatically)
  4. After the { type DocumentApp. (include the period)
  5. From the menu that pops up select getUi : Ui
  6. After {DocumentApp.getUi() type a period.
  7. From the menu that pops up select alert(String prompt) : Button
  8. In place of the word prompt type your popup message.
  9. Add quotation marks around your message (and inside of the parentheses).
  10. Click the save icon.
  11. Go back to your Doc, refresh and check it out!

Another note: You can actually edit the appearance of the popup with some HTML and CSS coding, but that would take me longer to explain that 1 GIF can handle!

Credits: I learned this from one of Google’s Applied Digital Skills Courses in the “Code Welcome Screen” Activity.  You can learn about adding some formatting to your popup in that course.

Lunapic – Create Images with Transparent Backgrounds

When presenting about #StopMotionSlides, someone inevitably asks about cutting the background out of a picture so that it has a transparent background.  Up to this point, my answer has been Microsoft Word, but I wasn’t satisfied with that since it wouldn’t work on Chromebooks or on computers without Microsoft Word.  And then I listened to Episode 13 of the Shukes and Giff Podcast.  In it, Kim Pollishuke shared about Lunapic.

Lunapic is a free, web-based photo editing platform.  Along with a lot of other features (seriously, go to it and explore!), is the ability to make the background transparent.  If it’s a solid colored background (i.e., green screen), there are tools that automate it.  For images that don’t have a solid colored background (or have backgrounds that include colors that are in the main part of the image), you can also do it manually.  Check it out in the animated GIF below!  Side note: there’s even a Chrome extension so that you can edit images you find online more conveniently.

Lunapic Transparent Background Animation

SketchUp on Chromebooks!

When my friend Dave Ternent and I started teaching a middle school STEM course back in 2012, one of the first tools that we selected for the course was SketchUp.

SketchUp is a free 3D modeling computer program made by Trimble and, for a while, owned by Google.  It was the perfect introduction to 3D-modeling, architecture and engineering for middle schoolers: powerful, but relatively easy to learn.

After seeing the awesome Matt England present at a local tech conference about his use of SketchUp with middle schoolers we even had information from someone who had used it about how to best introduce it.  Matt was kind enough to share his resources during the session.

Based on Matt’s information, we had our students make shapes with certain dimensions as they learned to use it (see image).  After that, they moved up to creating a 3-hole putt-putt (mini-golf) course that fit within a certain area (see image).  They got very creative with those courses, which is great, but you could also extend this to tons of curriculum standards!  Surface area, Roman architecture, volume, locations from literature, measurement, earthquake-resistant houses, perimeter, developing cities . . . I could go on and on.  But I stopped using SketchUp.  Why?  It didn’t work on Chromebooks.

Until recently! SketchUp is now available on the web, which means that you can use it on Chromebooks!  Check out the animated GIF below showing me using SketchUp.  Imagine the possibilities for students!

(Note: this post previously linked to an “old” post from SketchUp for Schools. I updated the link to point to a newer post on 9.12.2020)

SketchUp Shapes
In this activity, students had to create certain shapes based on provided descriptions. i.e., Create a right triangle with a 5-foot hypotenuse.
Another student’s 3-hole putt-putt course, complete with a small shed for the employee & storage
SketchUp on Chromebooks Animation

 

3 Screencastify Features You (Probably) Didn’t Know About

Screencastify is my favorite “lightweight” screen recording tool. I prefer it because 1) it works on Chromebooks, 2) it syncs to Drive and 3) it has all 3 important options (webcam, screen and webcam + screen).  Recently, I discovered 3 features that I hadn’t realized were there – and I’m guessing you hadn’t either.  So, here we go!

 

1. Move, Resize & toggle the webcam

I believe that including webcam video in a screencast is best practice.  However, it doesn’t need to be there for the entire video and sometimes it gets in the way.  So, in Screencastify’s Tab Recording mode, it’s super convenient that you can toggle the webcam off, resize it and move it – mid-recording!  You can also flip the camera, which is nice if you need to hold up something with text on it or, you know, if you have a non-symmetrical hairstyle. 🤪  Note that (currently) you cannot customize your webcam in Desktop Recording Mode.

Screencastify Tab Recording Webcam Features Animation

2. Cursor effects

If you’re recording a tutorial on your computer, cursor effects–like click animations or highlighting the cursor–are essential.  They’re available in both Desktop and Tab Recording Mode.

Screencastify Cursor Effects Animation

3. Switch tabs

Tab Recording Mode is nice for a number of reasons: it lets you reference things “off camera,” lets you customize the webcam window (see above), creates smaller file sizes and lets your computer run more smoothly. But, what if you realize that you need to record a different tab mid-video? Just click on the extension and select “Record This Tab.”

Screencastify Switch Tabs Animation

Note: I learned of many of these features on Screencastify’s blog.

Use Preview in Docs for a Quick Whole Class Progress Check

In a blended classroom, it can be tough to see who is on and off task and know who is behind on their work.  One trick that I often used in my STEM classes was to open the Google Drive folder that all of my students’ work was in and click through the previews of their docs.  The previews weren’t always the most current version (it’s likely the status of the file when you most recently opened up Drive), but I could easily identify students who may be behind (or off task) and then open up their docs to check for sure.  It was much faster than opening all of the docs would have been!  I also used this occasionally when assigning some pretty simple grades, especially if they were completion grades.

Use Preview for Quick Progress Check Animation

Comparing GIF Creation Options

**Originally posted in December 2017, edited in August 2018 and then editing again in October 2019 to reflect new options that have become available or that I have discovered.  Also in October 2019, I added the new table format below.**

In February of 2017, I found my niche in the online #edtech world – and a new passion – creating #eduGIFs.  In the time since then, I’ve been asked dozens, if not hundreds, of times how I create them.  Here I’ll dive into 1) a little background on what I do & why I use the tool I use, 2) other options to consider and 3) my advice on what to use (feel free to skip to there). Continue reading Comparing GIF Creation Options

Screencastify for Feedback

I’ve done a number of posts about Screencastify, but recently I was reading a blog post that presented an idea that I had not previously thought of.  In it, the author talks about using a screencasting tool to give both visual and auditory feedback on a student’s work.  It seems to me that this would be so much more useful for a student than just comments on the doc.  Plus they’d be more likely to view it.

Add in the ease of use with Screencastify – quickly sharing in Google Drive – and you’ve got a win-win.  Below is a GIF I made to share the process.  In the GIF, I am giving (fake) feedback on a Google Doc, but it could be anything.  I could even show how it falls on a rubric within the video!

You could even have students give each other feedback this way!

One last note – if you start doing this regularly, you could create one folder in your Drive for each of your students and then drag the videos into those folders for the students to view.

Screencastify for Feedback Animation

AutoPlay & Loop in Google Slides

Need slides running on loop during an Open House or other event?  Here’s how to do it!

It’s super simple!

  1. File > Publish to the Web
  2. Link (not embed)
  3. Select the amount of time between slides (unfortunately, all slides have to be same length.  Need some slides to show for longer? Duplicate them so that they show twice.)
  4. Decide if you want it to start playing as soon as you open it.
  5. Decide if you want it to loop (restart).
  6. Access the link.  Hit the full screen button. That’s it!

Note: If you’d like it to be a slideshow of pictures that are in your drive, I recommend the Drive Slides extension (by Matt Miller & Alice Keeler) for getting those images quickly into a slideshow.  It’s limited to 50 images/slides, but you could always make separate slideshows and then import the slides from one into the other.

AutoPlay & Loop Google Slides Animation

Note: if this is for a permanent hallway display or sign, you should try out Chrome Sign Builder.

You can also select embed to easily embed the auto-playing, auto-looping slides into a non-Google Sites webpage, like this:

Continue reading AutoPlay & Loop in Google Slides

Screencastify, Paper & Math: Spin It Around, Write It Down, Explain with Sound!

This post originally appeared on the Screencastify blog, here.

We all know how important it is for students to demonstrate

their understanding of a particular subject or problem by “showing their work.” If your students are using tablets, there are a number of great interactive whiteboard recording apps that allow students to write with a stylus, annotate images and provide audio explanations.

But what about the large student population who are using Chromebooks, not tablets?  Some new Chromebooks have touch screens and a small number are ready to roll with Android apps, but for the majority of our students, this type of recording feature is nowhere in their near future.  And it’s a great feature!  What’s better than telling a student to “show their work”!?  Telling them to “explain their work” or, better yet, narrate it.

As an educational technology advocate and problem-solver, I am always looking for a hack.  And, here’s my hack for this.  Tell your students: “click on the Screencastify extension, select Cam, spin the computer around, aim it at a piece of paper, starting writing or drawing and explain away.”  In short, spin it around, write it down, explain with sound.

Check out my hack in action in the video below!

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.