Dropdown List in Google Sheets

Did you know that you could add a dropdown list of options to a cell (or cells, plural) in Google Sheets?  This is nice for creating something like a “multiple-choice option,” but is also nice when you want to force your collaborators (or yourself!) to select from a specific list of choices.

It can be especially useful if you have formulas acting on that cell.  For example, if you were keeping track of a budget and wanted different things (i.e., adding versus subtracting) to happen if a row was marked as a deposit, purchase or interest.

Here’s an animated GIF about how to do it followed, as usual, by a list of the steps.

Sheets Dropdown Animation

Step 1: Click on the cell or cells that you plan to add the dropdown list to
Step 2: Right-click & select Data Validation
Step 3: In the dropdown by Criteria, select List of Items
Step 4: Type your options into the box, separating them with commas (I tend to alphabetize them)
Step 5: Click Save.

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.

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

 

Translate in Google Sheets

Living in a new country where a different language is spoken is something that I can barely fathom. Doing it as a child just blows my mind. Our schools are often ill-equipped to support these kiddos, but they often do have one powerful tool that can help: compassionate teachers.

One of these compassionate teachers once came to me looking to create a tool to support an ELL (English Language Learner) student. His idea was to organize important English vocabulary words and their translations to the student’s native language into a spreadsheet. After he came to me with this idea, I started exploring options. What I discovered was really exciting! There’s a Google Translate formula in Google Sheets!

Enter a word in one language in a cell, and then use the formula =GoogleTranslate(text, source_language, target_language) in another cell to automagically translate it! You can even drag the fill handle at the bottom of the formula cell down to apply this formula to more than one cell.

This formula appears to work for all languages supported by Google Translate, of which there are more than 100! It even outputs the results with the correct letters and alphabet–not just our ABC English letters. You’ll just need to know the 2-letter code for the language, which you can find in this list.

Check out how to do it in the animation below!

Translate in Google Sheets Animation

Tab-Level Edit Rights in Google Sheets

In Episode 50 of the Google Teacher Tribe Podcast, Bailee Sandsmark, a 6th-grade middle school PE teacher, asked a Google Sheets question that got my gears turning.  All that gear turning inspired a new #EduGIF from me.  First, let’s look at her question:

I’d like to send out a Sheets template to all 250 of my students for them to individually track their fitness testing data, but then I would like to have an efficient way for them to share that info with me so that I can see all of my students’ data in one sheet. Having to access 250 different sheets makes my head spin…

While Matt & Kasey had a handful of good ideas of their own, I had another one that I wanted to share.  It came from a thought that Matt shared: it’d be nice to give each student a tab in one spreadsheet, but then each student could edit the others’ tabs.  That’s where “tab-level permissions” comes into play.  If you click on the tabs at the bottom of your Google Sheet, there’s a Protect Sheet option.  It’s also accessible from under Tools.  As you’ll see in the Animated GIF below, you can use this to give tab-level edit rights to specific students.

Before we get the GIF, a few notes:

  • If each tab will be identical, you can duplicate the tabs.
  • If you’d like to create a tab for each of your students, you can use Alice Keeler’s Template Tab add-on.
  • You can also use this to give or limit edit access for just specific cells – I do this sometimes to make sure no one messes up formulas that I have running.
  • In Bailee’s, situation, she’ll still have the issue that each student can see their classmate’s information (even though they can’t edit it).  To prevent this, you could give them code names or numbers.
  • The tabs that we’re referring to are technically called sheets, but I think that’s super confusing that the individual parts of Google Sheets are Sheets.  What!?

And finally, the GIF:

Tab-Level Edit Rights in Google Sheets 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.

Customize the Numbers or Letters in a List in Google Docs

Educators use bulleted and numbered lists all of the time.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to customize those lists?  Maybe instead of 1, 2, 3… you’d like Step 1, Step 2, Step 3…  Well, you’re in luck.  This is one of those features in Google Docs that many people may have never noticed was there.  Right-click on a numbered list (or go to Formats > Bullets & Numbering > List Options) and you can modify the prefix and suffix of the numbers (or letters) in your list.

I can think of a few prefixes you may use – step, station, period, day, activity, option, choice, # – but I’d love to hear your ideas and uses!  Finally, here’s an animated GIF of how it works:

Add Prefix & Suffix to a Numbered List Animation

Speech & Thought Bubbles in Google Drawings

On the Google Teacher Tribe podcast and on his site DitchThatTextbook.com, Matt Miller shared about his recommended use of thought bubbles (and speech bubbles) in Google Drawings.  When I first heard it, I thought – “Whoa!  What a simple, but powerful application of a technology tool.”  Think about it: students being able to comprehend a story or historical event well enough to synthesize the information back into what they predict a character/person may have been thinking or saying?  Not to mention, it’s quick and it’s much more engaging that writing it on a worksheet or in a Google Doc.  Matt recommends this as a Bell Ringer activity, which I think is an awesome idea, but certainly not the only way it can be used.

This can also be done in Google Slides–it would be neat to have each kid have their own slide–and through the “Insert > Drawing” option on Google Docs.  Just like with Google Docs, you can have students make copies of your drawing to add their own thought bubbles or you can use them as assignments in Google Classroom or other LMS’s.

Check it out in the Animated GIF below and then, after the GIF, is a published version of that Drawing, just to show how easy it is to post the completed project.

Speech & Thought Bubbles in Google Drawings Animation

Continue reading Speech & Thought Bubbles in Google Drawings

Enhanced Sharing Settings on New Google Sites

As soon as it came out, I thought the New Google Sites made a pretty awesome Digital Portfolio tool.  However, there was one important feature missing – sharing settings that allow you to choose to not make student work public.  Well, it’s there now!

First up, a quick overview of this in Animated GIF form, followed by detailed information about the options.

Sharing Settings in New Google Sites

You have a few publishing options with New Google Sites, assuming you’re on a gSuite for Education domain.  Here they are:

Continue reading Enhanced Sharing Settings on New Google Sites

Posting Homework via Google Slides

I’m not a big fan of homework, but I am a big fan of making sure that communication between teachers, co-teachers, students and parents is as convenient and efficient as possible without detracting from the learning experience.  For many educators, their learning management system (LMS) or online gradebook already offer a platform for this.  However, for those that may need an alternative solution – or just a differentiated form of communication – this idea for communicating homework (and/or details about what was done during class) is a good one!  I heard it on Episode 39 of the Google Teacher Tribe Podcast, shared by Karen McKenna.

In Karen’s idea, teachers can use a Google Slides presentation and add a slide for each day of class. On that slide, they can include any important details from class that day, including the day’s homework.  Putting the newest slide at the beginning of the slideshow would make it easiest – saving the viewers from needing to scroll to the end of the slideshow to get the most recent details.

I love this idea for its simplicity and flexibility.  Need to email a parent what their kiddo missed when out sick? Send a link to the slides.  Have a Google Site for your class?  Embed the slides.  Work with intervention specialists, tutors and gifted educators who need to know what you did in your class?  Have them bookmark the slides.  Check out this animation to see how you can set it up:

Homework in Google Slides Animation