Monday, January 4, 2021

How to Add a Dynamic "Latest News" Section to Google Sites

A couple of weeks ago a reader emailed me with a question about creating a Google Site that her colleagues could comment on. She wanted to have a section in her site that had tips and news for colleagues who could then ask her questions about those tips. 

The old version of Google Sites had a commenting function built into it. Unfortunately, the current version of Google Sites doesn't have a commenting function built into it. There is a work-around that can work if you're sharing your Google Site with your colleagues and or students in the same G Suite for Education domain. 

To create a news section that automatically updates in Google Sites and that your colleagues and or students can comment on, use a Google Document embedded into a page in your Google Site. To do this you'll create your Google Document then change its access permissions to allow anyone in your domain to comment on it. Then you'll embed the document into a page on your Google Site. Whenever you update the Google Document, the updated version will appear on your Google Site as well. In this short video I demonstrate the whole process of creating a dynamic news section in Google Sites. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

How to Add an Announcement Banner to Google Sites

The "new version" of Google Sites that was released in 2016 is finally the only version that is available. And now Google seems intent on making Sites competitive with some of the more popular DIY website builders. To that end, a lot of handy little features have been added to Google Sites over the last eighteen months. One of those features is the ability to add a sticky announcement banner at the top of the pages in your Google Site. 

An announcement banner offers a good way to draw attention to something important that you don't want your students or their parents to miss when they visit your Google Site. This could be a reminder to return some paperwork, a reminder about an upcoming test, or anything else that you want to make sure they see when they visit your site. You can have an announcement banner appear on every page on your Google Site or on just the homepage of your site. In the following video I demonstrate how to add an announcement banner to your Google Site. 

Whiteboards, Drawings, and New Snow - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where fluffy snow is falling from the sky in the early morning hours. My kids will be excited to see it when they wake up. My oldest will want to ski on the new snow and my youngest will want to eat the snow. 

This week I took a break from writing new blog posts and republished some of the most popular posts of the year. During the week I took some time to play outside with my kids and on my own day when I headed up to my favorite mountain, Saddleback. I feel recharged and ready for school to start again next week. I hope this week treated you well too. 

These were the most popular posts of the week:
1. Five Ways to Make Whiteboard Instructional Videos in Your Web Browser
2. Draw on Your Screen in Google Meet
3. Rubrics for Assessing Videos, Podcasts, Blogs, and More
4. Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Videos
5. A Few Interesting Ways to Use Google Slides Besides Making Presentations 
6. 5 Google Classroom Tips You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten
7. How to Make Digital Bookshelves in Google Slides

Professional Development Opportunities 
Through Practical Ed Tech I'm currently offering two on-demand learning opportunities:
Thank you for your support! 
  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course in 2020. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • Pixton EDU is a great tool for creating comics and storyboards. 
  • Wakelet is a great tool for making collections of resources, recording video, and more!
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  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
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  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for thirteen years. 
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Friday, January 1, 2021

Draw on Your Screen in Google Meet

Annotate Meet is a Chrome extension that lets you draw on your screen during a Google Meet call. A reader named Eli mentioned it to me a couple of weeks ago so I gave it a try. 

Annotate Meet provides you with a small set of tools that you can use to draw or type on your screen while hosting a Google Meet. To use the extension simply start a Google Meet then share your screen. Once you've shared your screen you can click on Annotate Meet in your Chrome extensions menu to access all of the Annotate Meet drawing and typing tools. The drawing tools include a variety of pen/ marker sizes, a customizable color palette, basic text typing tools, and an eraser. You can also clear everything with just one click if you don't want to manually erase. 

After I had it installed I found Annotate Meet easy to use. There is one quirk to be aware of before you start using it. The default color for the drawing tool is black which might not show up all that well depending upon the screen you're sharing. For example, if you screenshare a Google Document the black pen tool might not be enough of a differentiation from the text for your students to notice right away. I changed the color to a darkish orange color and the pen tool was much easier to see.

Applications for Education
Annotate Meet could be useful for providing remote tech support to students. I would use the annotation tool to draw on my screen to show students where they to click on their own screens. Annotate Meet could also be great for drawing on articles to highlight important parts of articles that you share with your students. I'd also consider using it when providing remote editing or feedback to students.

I probably wouldn't use Annotate Meet if I was conducting a full lesson that required drawings and diagrams. Those kinds of lessons I prefer to do a shared Google Jamboard because I can quickly provide students with a copy of Jamboard via Google Classroom whereas annotations on a screen in Google Meet aren't available to students after the meeting ends.

A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit

It's the first day of 2021! Have you made a New Year's resolution to curtail your junk food habit or quit a similar bad habit? I did that a couple of years ago and have mostly been able to keep my bad snacking habit in check by using a simple method that I learned about through Dr. Judson Brewer's TED Talk titled A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit.

My big take-away from Dr. Brewer's talk was the idea of thinking about why I engage in a bad habit while I'm doing it as a means to breaking that habit. For example, my bad habit is eating potato and tortilla chips when I'm stressed out. Brewer's suggestion is to think about why I'm doing that when I do it and I'll be less likely to do it again. For the last two years I've used this strategy of using mindfulness to curtail my stress-snacking habit. It has worked...most of the time. Between using Brewer's strategy and regular exercise I lost over 30 pounds in 2019 and kept it off through 2020.  

Applications for Education
The concepts and examples that Brewer shares in the talk are ones that high school students can relate to. For that reason, with the exception of one “PG word” in the talk, you could use this video to create a mindfulness lesson in a high school classroom.