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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Now You Can Add Logos and Images to Google Sheets Headers

Since September Google has allowed users to use customize Google Forms by inserting images and logos into Forms headers. Now, as I just learned from The Next Web, you can insert images and logos into the header of a Google Sheet. To do this just open your header cell, select "image" from the "insert" menu, and then upload you image. You can re-size your image by simply dragging the corners. Click here to see Google's GIF of the process.

Applications for Education
This update isn't going to change the way that you use spreadsheets, but it could be a nice way to brand a  report that you plan to share with others.

Create, Share, and Find Online Courses on Versal

Disclosure: Versal is currently running an advertising campaign on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Versal is service that you can use to create online classes that are bit more robust than your average flipped lessons. On Versal you can build online courses that incorporate text documents, images, videos, maps, slideshows, and more. When you build a course in Versal you build it lesson-by-lesson in an easy-to-follow outline. To build a lesson you drag content widgets onto a blank canvas. The content widgets include all of the previously mentioned media plus a whiteboard for drawing (perfect for math lessons), GeoGebra animations, timelines, and quizzes. When you add a quiz to your lesson you can require that students meet a minimum percentage in order to advance to the next lesson in your course. You can invite students to take your course and or embed your course into your blog or website. You can track the progress of invited students.

If you don't have the time to create a course from scratch or if you're looking to take a course yourself, jump into Versal's public course catalog. These courses can be embedded into your blog or website. Unless you upgrade to a premium account, you won't be able to track your students' progress on courses that you didn't create.

Applications for Education
What makes Versal an appealing option for developing online courses is the wide variety of content types that you can add to your courses. Versal's whiteboard, Desmos, and GeoGebra gadgets are perfect for developing online mathematics courses. The option to require students to complete a quiz with a minimum score before moving into the next lesson is perfect for ensuring that students don't rush through your course.

On Wednesday at 7pm Eastern Time Versal is hosting a free webinar on using their service.

Three Efficient Ways to Keep Parents Informed About Your Class and Their Children

 The first assistant principal that I worked for gave me a great piece of advice on my first day. He said, "communicate with parents often and they won't be surprised when you communicate with them." It was great advice and I put it into action by sending home a weekly newsletter. Today, there are more efficient ways to keep parents informed about what is happening in your classroom. Here are three good methods to keep parents informed about your classroom in general and their children in particular.

ClassDojo is a popular tool for creating records of students' behaviors like staying on task, being prepared for class, and general attendance in class. You can also add custom behavior categories to track in your ClassDojo account. ClassDojo also provides a free messenger service. ClassDojo Messenger can be used to send messages to parents on an individual basis and on a whole group basis. ClassDojo uses the term "Direct Messaging" to refer to sending messages to individuals and the term "Broadcast Messaging" to refer to sending messages to all parents in a group. ClassDojo Messenger hides the personal contact information of the teacher and the of the parents. Parents have to opt-in to receive messages from the teacher.

Remind (formerly known as Remind 101) is one of the original text messaging services for teachers. In your remind account you can create and manage multiple classes. Once you have created your Remind account you can send messages to parents and students (they have to opt-in to receive them on their cell phones) from your cell phone, from your laptop, or from your Chromebook. Messages can be sent to a whole group or sent to individuals. Messages can include attachments and short voice recordings. Remind offers a set of ten PDFs designed to help teachers start using the service and to introduce the service to parents.

Email is still a good way to communicate with parents. Creating a simple mailing list and BCC'ing parents is one way to send updates about your class in general. To send individualized emails you might consider using a Google Spreadsheet script. It might sound complicated, but it really isn't. Watch the short video below from the Google Developers team to learn the process.

How to Find Creative Commons Images Within Edmodo

As I shared last week, Photos for Class is now available as an Edmodo app. With Photos for Class installed in your Edmodo group your students can search for Creative Commons licensed images and download them with citations attached to them. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to install Photos for Class. The second half of the video demonstrates a students' perspective of using Photos for Class within Edmodo.


Disclosure: Photos for Class is owned by Storyboard That. Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

How to Create a Review Game on Classtools.net

Russel Tarr's Classtools.net is a great place to find all kinds of tools for creating short review games for your students to play. One of the tools that I recently used was the Dustbin Game. In the Dustbin Game students have to sort terms into categories that you create. You can have up to four categories in your game. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create a simple geography review game on the Dustbin Game creator.