Thursday, December 9, 2021

Helpful New Table Options in Google Docs

This week Google added a handful of helpful new features for customizing tables in Google Documents. A couple of the new features are things that I've wanted for years. 

The first new feature that I'm excited about is the option to specify that a table row not be split at a page break. Making that designation keeps the content of the cells in that row together instead of splitting it. I've wanted this option for years because I've always had to tinker with font size and spacing whenever I've wanted to keep a row from splitting. 

Another new feature that I've wanted for years and finally got to use last night is a drag-and-drop option for adjusting the order of rows and columns in a table. This is much easier than copying and pasting cell content to move it into a different order in a table. 

Some other new features of tables in Google Docs makes them act more like spreadsheets than simple tables. You can now pin rows to the top of a table and sort rows according to cell content. 

Finally, there's a new sidebar menu for setting the properties of your table. This doesn't materially change the settings options, it simply moves the menu. 

Applications for Education
This update to tables in Google Docs should make it easier for middle school and high school students to include simple data sets in things like science lab reports or school surveys.

As is the case with nearly all updates to Google Workspace tools, this update is rolling-out over the next couple of weeks. Some users may see the new features already and others may have to wait. I'm already seeing the update in my personal account but I haven't seen it in my Google Workspace for Edu account.

Blackbird Code Offers Two New Self-paced Coding Lessons

Blackbird Code is one of my favorite new educational technology resources launched in 2021. For Computer Science Education Week they've released two new self-paced, self-directed lessons through which students can learn a bit about JavaScript. 

The new Blackbird Code lessons are Tether Game and Screen Saver. The two lessons teach students how to create a simple game and a simple screen saver through the use of JavaScript. 

The best thing about Blackbird Code lessons, including these two new lessons, is that students choose how much guidance and direction they need. Blackbird Code provides students with a series of steps to complete by writing the JavaScript to create each part of either the Tether Game or the Screen Saver. Students can use just the basic instructions for each lesson or click on the definitions and "deep dives" embedded within the instructions. Those definitions and deep dives give students an explanation of what they're writing and puts the explanation into an applicable context. After each step of the lesson students can see their code run and debug as needed with guidance from Blackbird Code.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for some short, "Hour of Code" lessons to use with students in fifth through ninth grade, Blackbird Code's new lessons are definitely worth giving a try. Your students won't become master programmers in an hour, but they will learn more about how programs are written than if they just used a block editor.

Why Do We Have Winter? - Another Question from My Daughters

Yesterday afternoon I was playing outside in the snow with my five-year-old daughter when she asked, "why do we have winter?" She didn't ask in a complaining way (she loves playing the snow), but in a genuinely curious way. My short answer was that where we live on Earth is tilted away from the sun for part of the year and that's what makes it colder. She said, "okay, thanks Dad." When she's a little older I might show her the SciShow Kids and Crash Course Kids videos about seasons. 

Why do we have seasons? What causes the changes in weather patterns throughout the seasons? The answers to those questions and more are found in the following SciShow Kids video and Crash Course Kids video.