Friday, November 25, 2016

Four G Suite Updates You Might Have Missed Recently

Google is constantly developing new features and sometimes eliminating old features from the tools that many of us use every day. It can be hard to keep up with all of the changes. In the last ten days there have been four changes to G Suite products that you should know about.

This week Google released the new version of Google Sites to all G Suite users. In terms of visual aesthetics the new version is definitely an improvement over the old one. However, the early reviews are mixed as some of the customization options of the old version have been removed from the new version. Read more about the new Google Sites on the Google product blog.

There is a new Google Drive product designed specifically for team use. Team Drives is a version of Google Drive that will offer instant access to all files to all team members who are sharing a Team Drive. Team Drives is in beta and only open to G Suite domain administrators for now. Read more about it on G Suite Update Alerts.

Google Docs and Slides have long let you export to Word and PowerPoint formats. You can now export Google Slides presentations to ODP (Open Document Presentation) format for use in OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Google Docs can be exported to ODT format for use in OpenOffice.

The old Google Drive templates gallery is going away. It will be replaced entirely by the templates that you see when visiting Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Forms directly. G Suite for Education users will be able to create their own templates to share with students and colleagues. I wrote a more detailed post about this last week.

Three Ways to Host Online Tutoring Sessions

I recently received an email from a reader who was looking for some tools that she could use for online tutoring/ instruction. The catch was that she needed to be able to share a whiteboard with her students. That's not an unusual request because whiteboards can be invaluable when trying to explain a mathematics concept online. These are the suggestions that I offered to her.

Web Whiteboard for Google+ Hangouts. This little tool adds a whiteboard to your Google+ Hangout. You can draw on the whiteboard while still taking advantage of all of the other features of Google+ Hangouts like voice, video, and text chat. To use Web Whiteboard in Google+ Hangouts simply go to the site and click G+ Hangout.

Stoodle is a free collaborative whiteboard tool hosted by the CK12 Foundation. You can use text chat while sharing your whiteboard. Registration is not required in order to use Stoodle. In the video embedded below I demonstrate the features of Stoodle. offers a whiteboard tool in their video conferencing system. There is a free version of available. The free version does limit some of the functions, but you can try the full version for free for up to three weeks. The other limitation is that you do have to install the desktop client or the iPad app in order to use so it's not an option for Chromebook users.

Google Drive vs. Padlet

Earlier this week I received a message on the Practical Ed Tech Facebook page from a reader who asked, "What do you suggest as the best way to share resources such as documents and webpages for teachers? Google Docs? Padlet?"

File sharing comparison
Comparing Google Docs (or Drive) to Padlet for file storage is a bit of an apples to oranges comparison. Google Drive was created for creating and sharing files in an orderly manner. Padlet, while it can be used to share files, wasn't designed for file sharing and lacks the organization tools needed for making sense of large collections of files. Google Drive lets you create folders and subfolders with various levels of sharing permissions. Google Drive also has a search tool that makes it relatively easy to find a file if you forget which folder you stored it in. Padlet has none of those features. Therefore, Google Drive is the clear choice for file sharing.

Bookmark sharing comparison
The part of the question was about sharing webpages. This is where Padlet gets the nod because it actually has a tool designed for sharing links. Padlet Mini is a Chrome extension that you can use to send links directly to Padlet wall. You can then just share the wall with your colleagues so that they can see your links. Google Drive wasn't designed for sharing links so again we have a bit of an apples to oranges comparison.

There are better tools for sharing bookmarks than either Padlet or Google Drive. Tools like Diigo or the ubiquitous Pinterest will give you better options for organizing your bookmarks before sharing them with others.

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