Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Three Google Sheets Add-ons That Can Help You Get Things Done

Google Sheets has a lot of features baked into that can help you organize things and get things done efficiently. Start exploring the Add-ons for Google Sheets and you will find even more ways to get things done efficiently. These are my go-to Add-ons for Google Sheets.

Online Rubric
This free Google Sheets Add-on makes it easy to create a rubric. This Add-on does more than just format your Google Sheet into a rubric template. With Online Rubric you can enter scores, write comments for your students, and email your students directly from the Sheet. When you send an email from the Sheet your students receive a copy of their scores, your comments, and the descriptors from the rubric.

Add Reminders
With Add Reminders installed in your Google Sheets you can schedule reminder emails to be sent to your students, their parents, to colleagues, or to your employees. To use this Add-on just fill in the template with email addresses, recipient names, the tasks they need to be reminded of, and the due dates for the tasks.

Lab Scheduler
If you're the person in charge of scheduling conference room, computer lab, library, or science lab use, Lab Scheduler is the Add-on for you. This little Add-on will give your Google Sheet an easy-to-follow template for coordinating room use without the need to make a zillion entries in a Google Calendar. Share the Sheet with your staff as view-only so they can see who has reserved a lab.

Learn more about how to use Google Sheets and Google Sheets Add-ons during my Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners webinar on Thursday. 

New Common Craft Video - Digital Footprints Explained

As adults we know that everything we do online is a part of our digital footprints. Even those things that you post on your "private" Facebook or Instagram account are public because they're just a screenshot away from being shared outside of your private circle. This is a lesson that every student should learn without having to learn it the hard way. That's where Common Craft's new video could be helpful.

Digital Footprint Explained is Common Craft's latest video. The three minute video teaches viewers how they make digital footprints as soon as they go online, how digital footprints are tracked by organizations, and how to reduce the risks associated with leaving digital footprints.

Applications for Education
You and I know both know that teenagers watching this video might say something like "yeah, but if you do X, no one can track you." This video should help them understand that even those things can be tracked by law enforcement.

In related news, Common Craft is giving away three free pro accounts at the end of the month. All you have to do is be a teacher or librarian and complete the entry form here.

Disclosure: I have a long-standing in-kind relationship with Common Craft.

SpeakPipe Has New Customization Options

SpeakPipe is a great little service that lets you collect voice messages from visitors to your blog. I used it for many years on a classroom blog so that parents could leave voice messages by just clicking the "send a message" button on my blog. I could then either listen to the message or read a transcript of the message. Last fall SpeakPipe added support for iPad users. This morning I got an email from them announcing some more updates.

The latest updates to SpeakPipe give you options to customize the color scheme and welcome message displayed to your blog's visitors. In addition to the appearance update there were updates made to SpeakPipe to help ensure that your visitor's messages reach you. Now when visitors record a message they will be notified if the message didn't record correctly and in that case they will be prompted to record again.

inkleWriter is Shutting Down - Try These Alternatives for Writing CYA Fiction

For years inkleWriter has been one of my go-to recommendations for tools to create choose-your-adventure stories. Unfortunately, this morning as I was planning a workshop, I noticed an announcement on inkleWriter's homepage about their forthcoming shutdown. So if you find yourself looking for an alternative to inkleWriter, give the following two options a try.

This is my new first choice for writing choose-your-own adventure fiction. Twine is an open-source program for writing choose your own adventure stories. You can use Twine online or you can download the software for Mac or Windows. To write a choose your own adventure story with Twine online start by giving your story a title. After titling your story you will be taken to a grid canvas on which you can write short passages in a series of sticky notes. Each sticky note should be given its own title. To link elements of your stories you place brackets around the title of note within a note. Each note can be linked to two or more other notes in your story. When your story is complete you can read through it and click through it in your browser.

If you use Twine online there are a couple of things to be aware of before you start. First, there is not a log-in or registration option. Your work is saved in your browser. To save your work permanently, click the archive icon to download a Twine file. Your Twine file can be opened later in your web browser where you can edit it further or simply read through your story. Second, to share Twine stories you will have to email the file to the person you want to read your story.

Playfic is a tool for creating text-based, choose your own adventure stories. Playfic is based on Inform7 which uses "if, then" logic to allow anyone to create their stories. When authors plan and write their stories they can include multiple paths for readers to pursue as they progress through their stories. Readers navigate through the stories by entering directional commands such as "go north" and "go south." Click here to try a sample story and learn a bit about the logic of Playfic. The aspect of Playfic that I like best is that while writing their stories students can click on a preview. If students have errors in the logic of their stories, when they click on the preview Playfic will point those out with an explanation of the errors.

A word of caution about Playfic: there is a public gallery of stories that students can access from the Playfic homepage. For that reason, I would only consider using Playfic with students of high school age or older.

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