Quickly Assigning Due Dates for Google Tasks in Google Calendar

***In order for this process to work, you have to make sure the Tasks checkbox on the left is checked.***

Not too long ago, us Google-fans celebrated the arrival of the sidebar that we see alongside most gSuite apps.  That sidebar, which features access to Google Calendar, Keep & Tasks, made things much more convenient for users.  But, one thing that wasn’t convenient was how we assigned due dates & times to items in Google Tasks.  click.  click.  click.  click.  click.  Count ’em… 5 clicks for each task!

And this frustrated me, because I had just recently adopted Google Tasks as my to-do list management strategy.  I love how I can see them across all of my devices.  But, what to do about all of those clicks?  Well, I’ve got ya…

Open up the Tasks sidebar while in Google Calendar and navigate to the date and/or time that you want a task to be due on.  Then, just drag the task onto the date and/or time that you’d like to it to be due and… BAM! How many clicks was that?  1 click.  1 drag.  Done.

Assign Dates to Tasks in Calendar Animation

BTW – don’t see tasks?  I’ve seen 2 possible reasons for that.  Here they are:
1. You have Reminders enabled instead of Tasks.  Click the small menu to the right of Reminders (should be in the LEFT sidebar) and then choose Switch to Tasks.
2. You have multiple Google Accounts logged in within the same Chrome window.  Check this post from Kasey Bell or this post from Eric Curts to resolve that.

A Google Slides Hack to Replace ChatterPix or Blabberize

This idea–a true moment of educational duct tape (using technology to solve a classroom problem or goal)–actually came to me while recording an episode of my Educational Duct Tape Podcast!

In Episode 5, I played a question that Linda Hummer shared to the Educational Duct Tape Community FlipGrid along with Abbey Thomas’ answer.  Linda’s question was, essentially, what is an alternative to Chatterpix that works on Chromebooks?  Abbey’s answer was Blabberize. And the question was answered!  Or, so I thought…

After the episode aired, Dan Gallagher shared on that same grid some words of caution: Blabberize’s Terms of Service indicate that it’s not appropriate for all ages.  So, in Episode 6, I shared this and then, on the spot, found a hack for a solution:

I’ve posted about #StopMotionSlides a number of times (here are my tips for making them) and they make a pretty good solution for this.  Put a picture into a slide, use some careful cropping and then leverage a stop motion technique.  Not only can you make the mouth move up and down, but you can then publish the animation (#13 in these tips) and then record them with Screencastify (or your screencasting tool of choice) with a voiceover (#14 in these tips)!

Voila!  Not as easy as Chatterpix, but at least it eliminates the need of adding another tool and another set of terms of service to what you use with your students: you likely already use Google Slides & Screencastify!

Plus, unlike ChatterPix or Blabberize, you can have multiple characters, your characters can move, the scene change…  You–and your students–can get super creative!

Here’s an animated GIF of the process, followed by a step-by-step breakdown.

Google Slides ChatterPix Blabberize Hack Animation

Continue reading A Google Slides Hack to Replace ChatterPix or Blabberize

Keyboard Shortcuts in Google Calendar

The new school year started for my colleagues and I a few weeks ago.  One process that I have to go through at the beginning of each school year is getting all of the year’s events onto my Google Calendar.  This is a tedious process, but it’s an important one for me.  The main task here is copying events from our school’s calendar onto my calendar.  The school calendar is jam-packed with stuff and I only need a subset of those events.

While going week-by-week through the school year, I thought “There has got to be a quicker way to navigate through this!”  Well, I did a little poking around and found my answer! Keyboard Shortcuts!

If you go into Settings, you can turn on Keyboard shortcuts.  First, let’s look at how to do this and then I’ll share some of my favorite shortcuts.

So, that animation showed you our first 2 keyboard shortcuts:
– / brings up the search, all ready for you to find that special event you were looking for.
– ? brings up all of the keyboard shortcuts, for when you forget some of them (which you will).

Here are the other ones that I’ve added to my repertoire:

Continue reading Keyboard Shortcuts in Google Calendar

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

Recreating Pop Hits as Content-Related Lyrics Videos

Never gonna go to war, never gonna drop a bomb
Never gonna shoot a gun and hurt you
Switzerland is never gonna say let’s fight
Never gonna tell a lie, Neutrality

These are not lyrics by Rick Astley.  They’re by me, and they’re really lame.  But . . . .they serve as a pretty good intro to the idea of having students record their own videos/songs of pop hits recreated with content-related lyrics.

If you know me, you know that I love a good “Rick Roll.”  You also know that I love the idea of students proving their mastery of content by creating things rather than by filling in bubbles.

This idea mixes students love of 1) being creative and 2) lyrics videos on YouTube.  Here’s a video (with even worse lyrics), followed by the steps.

Continue reading Recreating Pop Hits as Content-Related Lyrics Videos

Clear your Cache & Cookies

It’s important that you clear your browsers cache and cookies regularly.  Doing it daily isn’t necessary, but doing it monthly (or even more regularly) would be wise.

In layman’s terms, cache and cookies are like little pieces of the websites that you visit.  In the short term, they help you load that site faster when you visit it next.  In the long term, however, as the sites change, the cache & cookies start clogging up processes (often because they are no longer part of the sites that you visit).  Clearing them will help your browser run more smoothly!

Here’s how to do it in Google Chrome:

Clear Cookies and Cache Animation

Note: it was really hard to make it through this post without using a lame pun with the words cache or cookie.   In fact, I think that my self-restraint earned me a cookie…. oops.

Practice Speeches in Screencastify

Giving speeches or presentations in front of their peers can be a really nerve-wrecking activity for students.  We often encourage them to practice, but . . . what’s practice without reflection and self-assessment?

Students can use the free Google Chrome extension Screencastify to record themselves giving their speech or presentation.  Then, they can view that recording and reflect on how they did.

Practice Speeches in Screencastify Animation

Screencastify automatically saves to their Google Drive and is not public, unless the student chooses to upload to YouTube or share the Google Drive file.

The steps:

  1. Install the Chrome Extension.
  2. Click on the extension and follow the prompts to set it up.
  3. When ready, click on the extension to record.
  4. Select Desktop (recording entire screen), Tab (recording just the current tab, even if you navigate away from it) or Cam (recording only the camera).  If doing Desktop or Tab, decide if you want the webcam on or not.
  5. Click Record and start talking!
  6. Click stop and then watch your masterpiece.  Remember that it’s also saved in your Google Drive in a “Screencastify” folder.

The Draftback Extension

One of the earliest edtech tools that I recommended to the teachers involved in the Writing Ourselves project, which I am the Technology Director for, was the DraftBack Extension.  Once enabled, the extension allows you to playback your writing process for any doc that you are an editor on.  Obviously, the best use case for this would be to have students do this.

What a powerful way for students to reflect on their writing process and for educators to assess (and offer feedback on) the way that they go about the writing craft.  Awesome sauce.

Draftback animation

Jump to a Page in a PDF

If you’re like me, scrolling through a really long .pdf hoping to find the right page drives you bonkers.  Did you know that, when looking at a .pdf in Google Chrome, you can jump directly to a page number?

Note: This is based on the number of pages in the document and occasionally the publisher of the PDF didn’t count the cover page and other initial pages in their numbering.  So, typing in page 10, might actually land you on page 9 because the cover page didn’t count.  But, hey, at least you only have to scroll one more page!

Creating a Restricted Access Group in the Google Admin Console

Let me start with this . . . I think the best thing that we can do for children in regards to the dangerous, disruptive and distorted content on the internet is to teach them to identify and avoid it.  However, some students have difficulties with this and during intermediary times while helping them to develop better/safer online habits, an alternative support may be necessary.

One option is to use a separate Google Admin Organizational Unit (OU) that is has restricted internet access.  In it, you can block all online content except for content that that you and your educators have identified as being a part of students’ learning experience.  (The last thing that you would want to do is limit or prohibit their learning)

To do this:

  1. Login to the Google Admin Console
  2. Go to Device Management > Chrome Management > User Settings
  3. Select the appropriate OU (Organizational Unit)
  4. Scroll down to the URL Blocking Section
  5. In the URL Blacklist section enter only a *.  This blocks ALL internet content.
  6. In the URL Blacklist Exception section, list every site that you do want your students to have access to.  Keep in mind that an address like khanacademy.org will unblock anything starting with khanacademy.org, including things like khanacademy.org/math.

A few tips:

  • When placing students into this group, you may need to move them in Active Directory in order for them to stay in the Google Admin Organizational Unit.  It all depends on your setup.
  • Maintain a Google Doc that teachers can access to see what sites are unblocked.  That way, they can double-check their sites that they intend to use . . . and send you additions.
  • Consider using an instructional piece about appropriate internet use to help students learn to make better choices so that they can be moved out of this group after an appropriate amount of time.

Again, this is not a perfect solution, but different students need different supports and scaffolds as we prepare them for their futures in our technology-obsessed society.

Note: These limitations will only be apply 1) in Chrome, 2) with the student logged into Chrome.