Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How to Enable Offline Use of Google Documents

Just a few minutes after I published my post about writing blog posts while offline I received an email from someone needing assistance using Google Drive offline. Below you will find written directions along with screenshots for enabling offline use of Google Documents on your laptop.

To enable Google Docs for offline use, sign into your account and click the sprocket icon in the upper-right corner. Then select "set up docs offline." Google Docs will then launch a dialogue box asking you to confirm that you want to enable docs offline. If already have Google Drive installed, you're finished with the set up. If you don't have Google Drive installed, you will be prompted to do so. If you need help setting up Google Drive on your Mac or on your PC, please see the directions that I have included in my guide to Google Drive and Docs for Teachers (page 7 has directions for Mac users, page 14 has directions for Windows users). 

Step 1: In your Google Drive account open the "more" menu.
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Step 2: Select "enable offline docs." If you don't have the Google Drive Chrome app already installed, you'll be prompted to do that too. Installing the Chrome app takes just one click.
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A Note for Google Apps for Education Users
If you are using Google Docs within a Google Apps for Education domain your domain administrator will have to enable the option for users to use Google Docs offline. Google's directions for domain administrators can be found here. A screen capture of the Apps Domain settings is included below.
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A Tip About Drafting Posts Outside of Your Blog Post Editor

I create nearly all of my blog posts within the Blogger (for FreeTech4Teachers.com) or WordPress (for iPadApps4School.com and Android4Schools.com) post editors. Occasionally, I'll create some posts when I don't have an Internet connection. For example, this post was started while I was on a plane that didn't offer wi-fi. At some point in the school year you may find yourself or your students having to craft blog posts when you don't have access to the Internet either. One solution to this problem is to write your posts in Word, Pages, or Google Drive offline. But if you choose to do that there are a couple of things to consider before you push "publish" on that copied and pasted text. 

If you write a blog post in Word or Pages, when you go to copy it into Blogger or WordPress (including Edublogs and Kid Blog) don't copy it into the "Compose" editor (Blogger) or "Visual" editor (WordPress). If you copy it from Word or Pages and paste it into "Compose" or "Visual" you could be bringing along some background code that will alter the way that your post's text and other visual elements appear on the blog. What you should do instead is paste the content into the "HTML" editor (Blogger and WordPress use the same terminology here) which will reveal any strange code that shouldn't be in the post. What you should see is just the text of your post and possibly any embed code for a video or HTML for an image. If you see anything else around your text and especially between pieces of text, delete it. To preserve paragraph spacing simply insert <br /> between paragraphs while you're in the HTML editor. Before you hit "publish" on the post you can switch back to "Compose" or "Visual" to make sure your spacing is correct and or to style your font. This might sound like a lot of extra work, but it really isn't and in the long run it will save you the frustration of trying to sort out formatting issues with your blog posts. 

If you have Google Drive enabled for offline composition of documents, write your blog posts in it when you're offline. I've always been successful in simply copying and pasting text from Google Documents into the Compose editor on Blogger and Visual editor on WordPress without any formatting issues. 

How Google+ Has Brought Meaning Back to My PLN Experience

Twitter is great for link sharing, but I've always felt like any conversation that I was having on Twitter was a race to get a word in rather than being a reflective conversation. That's probably why I never got too excited about #edchat or any of hundreds of other Twitter chats. I do appreciate that some people really enjoy the Twitter ed chats and I'll use the hashtag to see what folks are saying, but participating in them never has been my thing. 

As I've mentioned many times over the last six to twelve months, Google+ has really become where I have my most meaningful interactions with others. On Google+ I find it much easier to follow conversations. I also find that because folks aren't forced to express themselves in rapid-fire 140 character messages, the conversations are more robust even if they take longer to develop. For me, Google+ conversations have more depth that Twitter interactions.

For now, Google+ is where I'm going when I want to have robust conversations and Twitter is where I'm going to share links and see the links others are sharing. You can join me here on Google+.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Two Easy Tools Teachers Can Use to Coordinate Parent Volunteers

The beginning of the new school year is a time when some parents like to get involved and volunteer their time in schools. This is great, but it does require some scheduling. I was recently asked for some recommendations for services that teachers can use to coordinate sign-up lists for parent volunteers. Here are two tools that are easy to use.

SignUp Genius is a free and easy way to create and organize online sign-up forms for all kinds of group activities. SignUp Genius creates a simple webpage on which people can sign-up for activities that you've specified. You can make your sign-up sheet public or private. Once you've created your sign-up list visitors to your list can sign-up for the activities you've specified. You can monitor the sign-up list as it is filled and visitors can quickly see which slots are already taken. SignUp Genius provides a myriad of themes and styles for your sign-up sheets.

Volunteer Spot is a scheduling service that teachers, coaches, and others and use to coordinate volunteers. Volunteer Spot gives you the ability to post calendars and sign-up sheets online. When potential volunteers visitor your calendar they can see the days and times at which volunteers are needed. When the quota for volunteers for a particular time or day is reached, Volunteer Spot won't allow any more sign-ups.

ExamTime Adds Groups for Resource Sharing

ExamTime is a service that middle school, high school, and college students can use to prepare for tests. When I tried the service earlier this year it offered users options to create flashcards, mind maps, and practice quizzes to help them study. Today, ExamTime added the option to create online groups to share study materials. Groups allow teachers and students to share learning resources to group members and to host discussions.

Applications for Education
One of the aspects of ExamTime that can benefit students is the option to create mind maps to map out the concepts that they are studying. There are a lot of services that offer mind mapping but many allow students to create mind maps and practice quizzes in the same place. With the new group discussion option in ExamTime students can share mind maps and discuss them as a review activity.