Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Three G Suite/ Google Workspaces Updates to Note

In the last week Google has announced three new features for G Suite for Education/ Google Workspaces tools that are frequently used by teachers and students. Here's a quick overview of those new features.

More Text Style and Appearance Options in Google Sites
This is a welcome and long overdue update to Google Sites. You can now customize your font size, style, and color within the text boxes that you insert into the pages of your Google Sites. This means that you can mix and match font styles and colors on the same page. Previously, changes happened on a site-wide basis.

Improved Handling of PDFs
As announced on Monday, Google has made some updates to how PDFs are handled in Google Docs. Now when convert a PDF into Google Docs format you shouldn't see as many issues with image placement and table placement as before. My students are going to be pleased with this update as I do distribute a few PDFs per week in Google Classroom. 

Improved Originality Reports
Google Classroom Originality Reports will now check for special characters that students insert into documents to try to "trick" automated plagiarism detection programs like Originality Reports. According to the announcement from Google, students will sometimes use Greek or Cyrillic symbols in place of English letters in a plagiarized document. That was actually new to me as I had never thought of that as a way to circumvent automated plagiarism detectors. 

As is usually the case, these updates are rolling out over the course of a couple weeks. If you don't see the updates in your Google account today, check again in a few days. 

Dozens of Bell Ringers to Start Your Social Studies Lessons

C-SPAN Classroom has long been one of my go-to recommendations for social studies teachers. It's particularly good for those who are developing lessons about civics and government. Bell Ringers is one of the many good resources that C-SPAN Classroom provides for free to all teachers. 

C-SPAN Classroom Bell Ringers are short video clips accompanied by a few discussion questions and a list of key vocabulary terms. Bell Ringers are intended to be warm-up or introductory activities that you can complete with your students in five to ten minutes. 

It has been six years since I last wrote about C-SPAN's Bell Ringers. In that time the collection of activities has grown by leaps and bounds. There are now Bell Ringers about world history, branches of government, economics, education, Supreme Court cases, and more than two dozen other topics. Here's a recent Bell Ringer about identifying fake news stories. 

Applications for Education
Bell Ringers are equally suitable for in-person and online classrooms. In an online classroom I'd have students watch the videos and answer questions independently in Google Classroom then bring the group together in Zoom to discuss a few responses. Without making them write answers before discussion some students would probably avoid watching or participating as the videos themselves aren't terribly entertaining even though they are quite informative.