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Friday, August 1, 2014

A Round-up of This Summer's Google Drive, Apps, and Maps Updates

As the new school year begins many teachers and students may notice that some things have changed in Google Drive, Apps, and Maps over the summer. Here's a round-up of updates that occurred this summer.

Google Apps for Education users will soon have access to Google Classroom if they don't already have access. Google Classroom will make it easier than ever use Google Apps for Education to distribute assignments to students. This video offers a short overview of Google Classroom.



In June Google announced the release of a new version of Google Drive. The new version features a new interface intended to offer simplicity of design and function. In the new interface you will be able to right click on any file to open it, share it, move it to a folder, or see the most recent activity on it. The new version of the Google Drive dashboard is available to all Gmail users and is available in most GAFE domains (you may need to pester your GAFE admin to get the new version enabled). The video below provides a short overview of the new version of Google Drive.


iPad and Android tablet users celebrated earlier this summer when Google updated the Drive iOS and Android apps to allow for creation of slides on the apps. Along with creating the slides you are now able to share them and collaborate on them as you can when using Google Presentations in your web browser.

Speaking of collaboration, Google Documents now has a feature called "suggested edits." Suggested edits work in a fashion similar to that of commenting on a Google Document. Suggested edits can be made by anyone who has commenting permissions on your document. A suggested edit will be placed in a document but won't become permanent until approved by you.

And more good news on the collaboration front, Google Drive now supports editing, commenting, change tracking on Microsoft Office files. You do not need to convert the files in order to work with them in Google Drive.

Many of the updates that happened to Google Drive and Google Apps for Education were targeted at the user interface. One of the updates that you won't notice unless you're a Google Apps domain administrator is the new option to recover files for your users. If your users delete items and remove them from their trash, you can search for the files and recover them if your users can give you an idea of when they think that they deleted their files.

While technically it happened in the spring (April) a lot of Google Drive users still aren't aware of Google Drive Add-ons. Add-ons replace the scripts that you previously found in the script gallery. Add-ons were added to Google Apps for Education domains. If you are a GAFE user and have not seen Add-ons appear as an option in your Google Drive account, contact your domain's administrator. GAFE domain administrators can enable or disable Add-ons for users. Some of the Add-ons that I recommend are EasyBib for creating bibliographies, Kaizena shortcut for adding voice comments to Google Documents, and Table of Contents. Learn more about Add-ons in the video below.


Google Maps received an update this summer in the form of a new measurement tool. This brings the "new" (18 months old now) version of Google Maps up to speed with the old version of Google Maps that offered a measuring tool. To use the measurement tool just right-click on a map and select "measure" then left-click on another location to measure the distance between the two locations. One of the best uses of the measurement tool in Google Maps is to have students complete activities like the Maths Maps activities developed by Tom Barrett. In the video below I demonstrate how that feature works along with a couple of other neat options.


Last but not least, Android users will be happy to learn that Chromecast now supports mirroring Android devices to your television or other monitor. Read more about that feature in this announcement from Google.

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