Monday, September 30, 2013

Build HTML5 Sites and More With Google Web Designer

Earlier today Google launched the public beta of Google Web Designer. Web Designer is a desktop application for creating interactive HTML5 sites and advertisements. The tool was built for the purpose of creating advertising units, but it can be used for building webpages and other non-advertising materials.

Web Designer allows you develop pages that contain drawings, animations, and 3D objects. Web Designer includes galleries of pre-made objects to drag, drop, edit, and compile in the creation of animations. The animations come together through a layered timeline.

I gave Web Designer try this afternoon. It is not a tool that most people will master quickly unless they've prior web design experience. Fortunately, Google has produced a lot of tutorials on how to use it. You can read tutorials here and watch tutorials on YouTube. If you decide to try Google Web Designer, you will probably want to try it on a screen larger than 13 inches. I tried it on my 13' MacBook Pro and would have liked to have some more screen space in which to work.



Applications for Education
Using Google Web Designer could be an excellent progression for students who are ready to move beyond the basics of building webpages in Google Sites and other free website builders.


How to Receive an Email Alert When a Google Form Is Updated

This morning I answered an email from a reader who was looking for a way to be alerted whenever a student entered new information into the Google Form that she shared with them. There are a couple of Google Sheets scripts that can be used to accomplish this task. The easiest script to use is called "form_alert." This simple script will send you an email alert whenever someone enters new information into your form. The email that you receive will contain a timestamp along with the information that was submitted through your Google Form. The spreadsheet attached to your Google Form will still update as usual too. Directions for using "form_alert" are included in the screen captures below (click the images to view them in full size).

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After clicking configure you will begin to receive alerts in the email account that is attached to your Google Drive account.

Quickly Compare Two or More Things in Wolfram Alpha

In their 15th anniversary blog post last week, Google mentioned that you can now compare things by simply typing "compare" between the things that you want to compare. Google used the example of comparing butter with olive oil. I tried the new function and it wasn't terribly effective beyond the basic examples that Google provided.

Wolfram Alpha has had a comparison function for years and it works very well. To compare biographical information about two or more people, just type their names into the Wolfram Alpha search field (use commas between names). To compare other things just type them into the search field (again, use commas to separate them) and Wolfram Alpha will provide data for comparison. You can even compare apples, oranges, and bananas (Wolfram Alpha will provide nutritional information for the fruits).

Applications for Education
One of the aspects of Wolfram Alpha's comparison function that can be of use to students researching the lives of famous people is the timeline comparison. The timeline will show students where the lives of two or more people overlap. In social studies classes the comparison function is useful for creating a quick guide to the party affiliations of a set of politicians. In a health class the comparison function is great for helping students quickly see the differences in the nutritional qualities of various foods.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Shape of Life - Dozens of Biology Videos and Other Lesson Materials

The Shape of Life was an eight part television series developed by the Sea Studios Foundation, National Geographic, and PBS. The Shape of Life website contains dozens of segments from the series. The video segments are arranged according to eight animal phyla. The segments can be downloaded or viewed online. Lesson plans and or worksheets are available along with the video segments.


Using Google Image Search to Solve a Flea Market Mystery

Image credit: Becky White.
This afternoon my friend Becky White posted on Facebook some pictures of the tea set that she found at a flea market. She was curious about the meaning of the lettering on the bottom of the cups. My suggestion was to take a close-up picture of the lettering and upload it to Google Image search to try to find some matches that could lead to an answer to her question. I tried it myself by using a screenshot of Becky's picture and it didn't get me too far (I couldn't zoom-in enough on the lettering) until I combined the use of the image with some text in the search field. Then I was able to find that the lettering meant "long life."

Watch the short video below to learn how to combine image upload with text to improve your Google Images search results.