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Monday, January 21, 2013

Five Essential Google Drive Skills For Teachers

This school year I've worked with a few school districts that are using Google Apps for Education for the first time. A lot of what I have done with those school districts is help to get the teachers acclimated to using Google Drive. When I sat down to plan an upcoming Google Drive training session I thought about some of the essential Google Drive skills that teachers need in addition to creating documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. Here are five essential Google Drive skills that I think teachers and students need.

1. Open and Edit Word Files in Google Drive.
If you're just beginning to transition to Google Apps from Microsoft Word, the chances are good you will have old files that you want to bring into and work on in Google Drive. Click here for the detailed directions on how to do this.

2. Create PDFs in Google Drive. 
Sometimes you don't want a document to be easy to alter. Or you plan on printing it and want it as a PDF. Click here to learn how to create a PDF in Google Drive in three easy steps.

3. Use Google Documents Offline.
For those times when you don't have an Internet connection and you want to work on a document, having offline access enabled is the only way to go. Click here for directions on how to enable offline access to your Google Documents. 

4. Give Yourself More Room to Work in Google Documents.
If you're using a laptop that has a screen of 13" or less there will probably be times when you want more white-space to work in. This little trick will give you about another inch of viewable document.

5. Create and Organize Folders.
Do you want to have more organization in your Google Drive account? Then you need to know how to create folders and move files into them. The steps for creating folders and dragging files into them are outlined below. (Click the images to view them full size).

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 3:

Step 4:

Changes Coming to Google Docs Export to Word Options

Google Drive has long offered the option to export your documents, slideshows, and spreadsheets as .doc, .xls, .ppt files to be used in Office 97-2003. Last fall Google announced that would be changing in the future. A few days ago Google announced that as of the end of this month you will only be to export as .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx files. Those are the formats that are supported in the current version of Microsoft Office. If you are still using Office 97-2003 Google recommends installing the Office Compatibility Pack for Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

To clarify, this change applies to the Office formats Google Drive will allow you to export to. You will still be able to export content to PDF, Rich Text, Plain Text, .html, and Open Document formats.

What To Do Before Posterous Shuts Down - And How To Do It

Last March the popular blogging service Posterous Spaces was bought by Twitter. Since then it has intermittent outages (including once just before I was going to use it in a workshop), issues with its SSL certificate, and now according to TechCrunch it appears that Posterous Space is not accepting new registrations. All of this indicates to me that Twitter doesn't seem to be too interested in keeping Posterous Spaces running for much longer. For that reason I am no longer recommending Posterous Spaces as a good place for teachers and students to blog.

If, like me, you're worried about Posterous Spaces shutting down you can create a backup of your the content of your Posterous blogs to use in another blogging platform like Blogger, Edublogs, or WordPress. The backup files include your post content (except for the images in my test of it), the CSS file, and the WordPress XML file associated with your blog. I've included screenshots of the process below. Lifehacker also has written directions for moving content from Posterous to WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr.

Step 1: Sign into your Posterous Spaces account and select "backup."
Click image to view full size.


Step 2: Select the blog(s) that you want to backup.
Click image to view full size.


Step 3: Enter captcha code and your email address to be notified when your backup is ready.
Click image to view full size.


Step 4: Download zip file containing the contents of your blog.
Click image to view full size.

A Short Guide to Green Screen Special Effects in iMovie

My friend Rushton Hurley's Next Vista for Learning educational video hosting service recently hosted a video creation contest for teachers and students. The finalists were announced last week and the winners will be selected next week at the FETC conference in Florida. One of the finalist videos that I think a lot of teachers can learn from is Green Screen Special Effects in iMovie. It's a two minute overview of how to set-up and use green screen effects. Watch the video here. You can see the full list of finalists here.

Applications for Education
One of the things that I love about Next Vista for Learning is that all of the videos on the site are intended to teach some kind of lesson. Another important aspect of Next Vista for Learning is that all submissions are reviewed before going live on the site. And finally, the videos don't have any pre-roll or post-roll ads like you see on YouTube videos. 

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