Friday, January 25, 2013

The Science Behind the Bike

The Science Behind the Bike is a four part video series from The Open University. The series has a total running length of 33 minutes and is a complement to a larger Open Learn course called The Science Behind Wheeled Sports. The videos and the course are designed to help students understand the physics, the physiology,  and the technology that influence the outcome of cycling events. (I recommend forwarding the first video to about the midpoint unless you're really interested in the history of cycling races).

The Hero's Journey - A Lesson in Writing Myths

The Hero's Journey is an online writing activity produced by Read Write Think. The Hero's Journey is an interactive resource that teaches students about the key elements required in developing a myth about a heroic character. The lessons are rooted in stories like The Odyssey. After reading about the elements required in a good hero story students can create their own stories by using the template provided by Read Write Think. Completed stories must printed in order to be saved.

Applications for Education
Read Write Think recommends The Hero's Journey for students in grades 9 through 12 and provides lessons plans for those grades. I looked at the lesson plans and I think that they could be used with middle school students too.

How to Set Expiration Dates for Shared Google Drive Folders

The ability to share folders is one of the many useful features of Google Drive. Sometimes you don't want to share a folder indefinitely. Rather than trying to remember when to revoke access to the folder, you could use the Auto-Expire script to set an expiration date for your shared folders. When the expiration date is reached your folder will revert back to private status. I learned about the script in a recent episode of Tekzilla Daily. The video is embedded below. You can find written directions for using the script in this Digital Inspiration blog post.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tips for a Successful Google Apps Training Session

This evening I wrapped-up the final section of my Google Drive and the Common Core webinar series. (I'll be offering it again in March). Some of the participants in the webinars were people who will be going back to their schools to train others. Toward the end of the webinar I offered some tips for setting up those trainings. I've published these tips before, but it never hurts to share them again.

Get everyone using the same browser (preferably Chrome).
Not all browsers support every feature in Google Documents. Not surprisingly, Google Chrome does support all features of Google Documents and Google Drive. For that reason it is preferable to have all participants in your training sessions use Google Chrome. Google Chrome automatically updates whenever a new update is released by Google. A day or two before your training session send an email to all participants asking them to install Chrome if it’s not already installed on their laptops.

If getting all participants in your training session to use Chrome is not an option for you, at the very least stress to them importance of having the latest version of their preferred browsers installed. Not only is this a browser security issue (older versions of browsers are more susceptible to security threats) it is a Google Documents functionality issue. The latest versions of browsers support the most functions of Google Documents. For example, as of this writing Google has officially ceased supporting Internet Explorer 8.

Finally, regardless of which browser you ultimately have participants in your training sessions use, have them all use the same browser during your training session. Initially, this might be uncomfortable for some participants, but by the end of the day most people will be comfortable with a different browser. Having everyone use the same browser will make your day easier. When everyone uses the same browser if there are unexpected glitches or problems they will likely be the same for everyone in your training session. Solve the glitch once and you’ve solved it for the whole group for the day.

Laptops vs. iPads vs. Android tablets
Unless your training session is specifically about using iPads or Android tablets, the best way to introduce new users to all of the Google Documents features is to have them use a browser (again Chrome is preferable) on their laptops. You can certainly have people bring their iPads and or Android tablets to your training session, but make sure that they know that not all of the features available in a desktop browser are also available in the iOS and Android apps.

When I have participants bringing iPads or Android tablets to one of my workshops, my preference is to have people try all of the features of Google Documents in their browsers before moving to their tablets. This way they have exposure to all of the functions of Google Docs. Then when they move to their tablets they can clearly see the differences between the browser experience and the tablet app experience. 

Five essential Google Drive skills to teach:
1. Open and Edit Word Files in Google Drive.
If you're just beginning to transition to Google Apps from Microsoft Word, the chances are good you will have old files that you want to bring into and work on in Google Drive. Click here for the detailed directions on how to do this.

2. Create PDFs in Google Drive.
Sometimes you don't want a document to be easy to alter. Or you plan on printing it and want it as a PDF. Click here to learn how to create a PDF in Google Drive in three easy steps.

3. Use Google Documents Offline.
For those times when you don't have an Internet connection and you want to work on a document, having offline access enabled is the only way to go. Click here for directions on how to enable offline access to your Google Documents. 

4. Give Yourself More Room to Work in Google Documents.
If you're using a laptop that has a screen of 13" or less there will probably be times when you want more white-space to work in. This little trick will give you about another inch of viewable document.

5. Create and Organize Folders.
Do you want to have more organization in your Google Drive account? Then you need to know how to create folders and move files into them.

Put the Reading Rockets Reading Tip of the Day on Your Blog

This afternoon I was a panelist on a webinar hosted by AdLit and Reading Rockets. My contribution to the panel was to talk about using technology and social media to connect with parents and students. At the conclusion of the webinar the hosts ran through some of the things that AdLit and Reading Rockets offer. One of the things that I grabbed onto immediately is the Reading Rockets Reading Tip of the Day widget.

The Reading Rockets Reading Tip of the Day widget does exactly what its name implies, it provides daily reading tips. The widget can be installed in your blog or website.

Applications for Education
The Reading Tip of the Day widget could be a good addition to your school blog or website. The widget provides a tips that parents can reinforce with their children at home.