Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Three Alternatives to Google Classroom - Best of 2017

As I do during this week every year, I am taking some time off to relax and prepare for the new year. Every day this week I will be featuring the most popular blog posts of the year. Here is one from January.

Last week I received an email from a reader who was looking for an alternative to Google Classroom. This is not an uncommon request. A couple of times a week I get similar questions from folks who don't have access to Google Classroom. Here are my three recommendations for a free alternative to Google Classroom. This list is ranked by my preference.

Otus is designed to be a complete LMS (learning management system) for teachers. In addition to the gradebook you have options for sharing assignments and delivering quizzes directly to your students' inboxes. Otus provides teachers with a library of instructional resources (videos, texts, interactive review activities) that they can share with their students. Third-party resource providers are integrated into the Otus LMS. A couple of notable third party applications are Khan Academy and OpenEd. OpenEd offers thousands of math and language arts practice assessments aligned to Common Core standards. Otus is free for individual teachers to use. Otus can also be purchased for district-wide implementation which includes additional reporting tools for administrators.



Kiddom is a free service that enables teachers to create online classroom spaces. In Kiddom you can create and manage multiple classrooms. In those classrooms you can distribute assignments to students to complete and return to you. One of the things that Kiddom offers to try to make itself stand out is an integrated search for assignment materials. For example, fourth grade teachers can search for mathematics assignments that are aligned to standards of their choosing. When a material is found teachers can then assign it to their students as a homework assignment, as a quiz, or as a long-term assignment. Teachers can also create assignments from scratch by uploading materials and or importing them them Google Drive. Read my full review of Kiddom here.

Edmodo, in a nutshell, is a system designed specifically for teachers and students to share announcements, assignments, and handouts. Edmodo allows teachers to create a group specifically for their students and exclude those not invited to the group. Edmodo provides teachers with a place to post assignment reminders, build an event calendar, and post messages to the group. Just as with any good microblogging service users can share links, videos, and images. One of the most popular posts ever published on this blog outlined 15 things you can do with Edmodo.

Track Progress Toward Goals With This Google Sheets Template - Best of 2017

As I do during this week every year, I am taking some time off to relax and prepare for the new year. Every day this week I will be featuring the most popular blog posts of the year. Here is one from January.

This morning I received an email from a subscriber to the Practical Ed Tech newsletter. She had read my tip of the week about using Google Keep to set goal reminders, but she needed something that would be easier to manage with a large group of students. My suggestion was to try Flippity's Progress Indicator template for Google Sheets. The template makes it easy to create a progress chart that will update whenever you update the data in your spreadsheet. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of how to use Flippity's Progress Indicator template.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Three FAQs from New Google Slides Users

I have hosted hundreds of G Suite webinars and workshops over the last eight years. In that time there have been some questions that I learned to address early on because people always ask them. Here are three questions that I frequently hear from new Google Slides users. Learn more about Google Slides in my on-demand course, G Suite for Teachers.

1. What if I want a copy of the slides in case the internet connection in my classroom isn't working?
There are two solutions to this problem. First, you can download your slides as a PowerPoint file. To do that simply select "download as" then select "Microsoft PowerPoint" from the "File" drop-down menu while viewing your Google Slides. 

The other option for accessing your slides without an internet connection is to enable offline access for your Google Drive account on your computer. To enable offline access, open the gear icon in the upper-right corner of your Google Drive dashboard. Then select "settings" and check the "Offline" option. (Please note that it enabling offline access is not recommended on a shared computer). 

2. Can I insert videos that are not on YouTube?
Until earlier this year you could only use videos that were hosted on YouTube. In February of 2017 that changed when Google started to let you insert videos from your Google Drive account without using YouTube.  


3. How do I add transitions/ animations to my slides?
This is the question about Google Slides that I am asked more than any question. There are two ways to add transitions between slides. First you can simply right-click on a slide in the the slide navigator on the left side of your screen. When you right-click on a slide you will see a menu appear. In that menu there is an option to "change transition." Selecting "change transition" will open a new menu to the right of your slides. That menu will let you choose a transition to apply to your slides. The other way to open the transitions menu is to select "transition" from the menu of options appearing across the top of  your slide editor. 

The animation options appear in the same menu as transitions. Open the transitions menu the click on an object in your slides to animate it. Once you have selected an object on a slide you will see a menu of animation options appear on the right side of your slide. 

Merry Christmas!

Tomorrow is Christmas! There won't be any new blog posts tomorrow. I'll be playing with daughters and their new toys.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it!

How Machines Learn - And What Facebook Knows About You

Machine learning is a hot topic in the ed tech start-up community. You may have heard of an ed tech start-up or two that is touting how machine learning and or artificial intelligence will help them help students. But what is machine learning? CGP Grey recently tackled that topic in a new video.


After you watch CGP Grey's video consider the information within it as you think about the screenshot I have posted below. It's one that I took on Friday morning while scrolling down the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page. You'll see that it tells me the demographic with which my video is most popular.