Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My Top 5 Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students

As longtime readers of this blog know, my background is largely in social studies with a smattering of special education and corporate training thrown in for good measure. It's teaching social studies that will always be my first professional love. That's why I always get excited when readers send me questions like the one I got on Monday from a teacher who was looking for ideas about using G Suite and Google products in his classroom. That question inspired me to make a video and send him the following ideas.

VR Tour Creator
This is Google's free service for creating virtual reality tours. In a social studies classroom students can use it to record virtual reality tours of historical landmarks, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, or unique geographic features that spurred the development of civilizations. A playlist of VR Tour Creator tutorials is available here.

Google Earth
Google Earth is available in two versions. The Pro version is the version that you can install on your desktop. That's the version that I prefer if given a choice because it includes more features that the web browser version. Google Earth Pro can be used by students and teachers to record narrated tours and to layer historical imagery on top of current map views. You can find a playlist of Google Earth tutorials here.

Google Books
This is an often overlooked search tool. Google Books provides students with access to millions of free books and periodicals. Google Books really shines when you start looking for work that was published in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. One of the best features of Google Books is the ability to search within a book for a phrase or keyword. Learn how to use Google Books by watching these tutorial videos.

Google Expeditions
This is Google's free virtual reality service. Students can use it to go on more than 800 virtual reality tours. You can either guide students through the tours or let them guide themselves. Take a look at these videos to learn how to start using Google Expeditions.

Google Keep
Google Keep is a bookmarking and note-taking tool that students can use as part of their G Suite for Education accounts. It's a convenient tool to use to save bookmarks with notes. Students can add labels to their bookmarks to make them easy to organize. The best feature is that students can access their Google Keep bookmarks and notes from Google Docs to insert their bookmarks and notes directly into the papers they're writing. Here's a set of Google Keep tutorial videos.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Glide Now Lets You Publish App Templates

Glide is probably my favorite new tool of 2019. The free service lets you take a Google Sheet and quickly turn it into a mobile app. It can be used to create all kinds of apps including staff directories, study guides, scavenger hunts, and local tourism guides. My tutorial on how to use Glide can be seen here.

This week Glide introduced a new feature that lets you share your app as a template. This means that once you've created an app that you like you can share it and let others make a copy of it to modify for their own needs.

Applications for Education
This new feature of Glide could be useful in providing students with a template for an app that they can modify and build upon. Of course, the nature of Glide's basis on Google Sheets makes it possible to students to collaborate on the content displayed within their apps.

Ten Free Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Flowcharts - Updated for 2019-20

Creating a mind map is an excellent way to generate and write down ideas connected to a central topic. I frequently use mind maps to generate ideas for blog posts and for workshop topics. Students can use them to generate ideas for creative writing, to plan presentations, and to record all of the factors contributing to a central event. Flowcharts help students see how a process works from start to finish. Here are ten free tools that students and teachers can use to create mind mind maps and flowcharts.

Google Slides & PowerPoint
If your students have a computer in front of them, they probably have access to either Google Slides or PowerPoint or both. Google Slides and PowerPoint have built-in tools that students can use to create flowcharts. The following videos demonstrate how students can use Google Slides and PowerPoint to create flowcharts. As you'll see in the videos, you can make the flowcharts interactive through the use of linking in PowerPoint and Google Slides. is a mind mapping and flowchart tool that I've been recommending for more than a decade. It has evolved overtime to keep up with the needs of students, teachers, and other users. Creating mind maps on is an easy process of simply clicking on the center of your screen then entering the central topic of your mind map. The next step is to add "child" topics or bubbles that are connected to the central topic. Those are added by clicking the "+" that appears while holding your cursor over an existing bubble.

Padlet offers templates for creating flowcharts and know, want, learn charts. Unfortunately, you can only make three Padlet walls before you have to either delete one to make a new one or upgrade to a paid plan. The upside to using Padlet is that it's designed for collaboration.

This is a mind mapping tool that was a commercial project for a few years before going out of business then coming back as an open-source project supported by Tobias Løfgren. The way that it works is that you type a linear outline and Text2MindMap will automatically generate a corresponding mind map. To use it simply go here, clear the existing text and replace it with your own text. Every line that you type in your outline becomes a node in the mind map. You can create a branch from a node by simply indenting a line in your outline (see my screenshot below for an example).

Post-it App for Android and iOS
The Post-it mobile apps for Android and iOS let you take a picture of physical sticky notes and then sort them on a digital canvas. By the way, you can save 10% on Post-it notes on Amazon when you use the code 10OFFCOLLEGE before October 15th.

MindMup is a free mind mapping tool that can be used online, with Google Drive, and on your desktop. MindMup works like most mind mapping tools in that you can create a central idea and add child and sibling nodes all over a blank canvas. MindMup nodes can contain text and links. When you're ready to save your MindMup mind map you can save it to Google Drive, save it to your desktop, or publish it online. If you publish it online, you can grab an embed code for it to post it in a blog post or webpage.

Coggle is a collaborative mind-mapping service that is very easy to use. To create a Coggle mind map just sign-in with your Google account and click the "+" icon to start your mind map. After entering the main idea of your mind map you can add branches by clicking the "+" icons that appear next to everything you type. To re-arrange elements just click on them and drag them around your screen. Coggle is a collaborative tool. You can invite others to view and edit your mind maps.

Google Drawings and Google Jamboard
Both of these free Google tools can be used to create mind maps and flowcharts. Drawings has more features than Jamboard. The upside of Jamboard is that it's probably a more intuitive tool for new users. Demonstrations of how to use both tools are embedded below.

Spider Scribe is an online mind map creation service. Spider Scribe can be used individually or be used collaboratively. What jumps out about Spider Scribe is that users can add images, maps, calendars, text notes, and uploaded text files to their mind maps. Users can connect the elements on their mind maps or let them each stand on their own. You can embed your interactive SpiderScribe mind map into your blog or website.

Ask Me Anything This Friday

On Friday afternoon at 3pm ET.  I'm recording the next episode of my Practical Ed Tech Live series in which I answer batches of questions that readers like you send to me throughout the week.  This school year I'm opening each broadcast with a recap of some ed tech news that you might have missed in the previous week.

I'll be broadcasting this live on my YouTube channel. (subscribe to my channel to be notified when I go live). You can ask me questions during the broadcast or submit them in advance to ensure that I'll see your question. You can submit questions through the form that is embedded below.

Mozilla Is Shutting Down X-Ray Goggles

Mozilla's X-Ray Goggle's is a service that I've been promoting for years as way to help students understand how HTML works. Students can use it to view and change the HTML behind almost any webpage that they find. The changes happen as a local copy of the page that students could then share with their teachers.

Unfortunately, Mozilla has announced that they are discontinuing support of X-Ray Goggles. On December 16, 2019 Mozilla will close X-Ray Goggles and delete all user data associated with the project.

At the end of their announcement Mozilla recommended looking at Glitch as a possible alternative to X-Ray Goggles. I'd also recommend taking a look at Tynker.