Thursday, February 25, 2016

Spruce up your spreadsheets and presentations with the latest versions of the Google Sheets and Slides apps for Android

Posted: 25 Feb 2016 01:57 PM PST
New versions of the Google Sheets and Slides apps for Android are now available on Google Play, making it even easier to work from your mobile phones and tablets. Read on for details.

We recognize that images can be the difference between a spreadsheet that’s difficult to interpret and one that effectively tells a story. To help you better convey your spreadsheet’s message on mobile, images will now render in the Google Sheets Android app. (Note that images in frozen rows and columns may not show properly.)

Similarly, themes allow you to quickly and easily craft engaging and effective presentations, so you need to be able to swap them in and out whether you’re working on your phone or your laptop. Starting today, as long as you’re online, you can change the theme of your presentation in the Google Slides Android app. There are 18 themes to choose from.

Launch Details
Release track:
Launching to both Rapid release and Scheduled release

Rollout pace:
Gradual rollout (potentially longer than 3 days for feature visibility)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Issue commands when voice typing in Google Docs

Posted: 24 Feb 2016 11:33 AM PST
In Google Docs, you don’t need to type to put words on a page—you can simply talk. But as any good employee knows, crafting an effective document takes a whole lot more than simply adding text. The process may involve bolding and italicizing, copying and pasting, inserting bullet points and tables, undoing and redoing formatting, and more.

Until now, it was tough to take these types of actions using only your voice. With this launch, we’re changing that. Starting today, you can simply pause, issue a command, pause again, and resume dictating. To see a list of all commands, check out this Help Center article or say “voice commands help” when you’re voice typing. Please note that Voice commands work in English only.
Watch the full video here.

As an added bonus, we’re also making it possible to dictate in Docs on the web in dozens of additional dialects and accents. Please note that these features are only available when you’re working in a Chrome browser on your computer.

Launch Details
Release track:
Launching to both Rapid release and Scheduled release (voice commands)
Launching to Rapid release, with Scheduled release coming on March 7th, 2016 (additional languages)

Rollout pace:
Full rollout (1–3 days for feature visibility)

Technological Ways to be Productive

I was recently asked by Dr. Rebecca McLelland-Crawley to do a post for the upcoming Wellness Fair on 'ways to be productive & beat procrastination with technology.' Well, I must admit that I am not an expert on this topic, so I reached out to the rest of the Teacher Resource Specialists for Technology (Stacey Lindes, Melissa Morris-Inoa, Laura Agnella, Kim Lowden, Jaime Cook, & Allan Johnson) for assistance. Here's what we came up with; this is by no means an end-all, be-all list. What works for some, may not work for all.

Technology can definitely redefine the way we get things done. It has, in many ways, made us more productive, but with any positives there are always negatives. Here are some ways to utilize technology for productivity and try to reduce the distractions brought by technology as well:

Google Apps

Finding a tool which works best for you to keep track of assignments, due dates, events, etc. is key. There are a few options in the form of Google Calendar, Tasks, and Keep which allow you to manage your activities.  With Calendar and Keep you can collaborate with someone as your 'motivation buddy'. Their job is to check in on your progress and encourage you to complete your goals. Tasks and Keep have the ability to create check boxes, this way you can break up large projects into smaller, manageable 'action items'. As you complete each step and check it off, you can watch your progress and feel encouraged as the large project gets closer to completion. Calendar and Tasks allow for setting a due date which are all viewable from your Google Calendar. This way you can plan a timeline for completing your assignments, knowing which items are due sooner rather than later allows you to prioritize.

Pomodoro Technique

The theory here is basically spending a concentrated, specific amount of time focused and on-task with a follow-up shorter amount of time unstructured. I've seen it listed as 25 minutes focused with 5-10 minutes of 'fun'. There are a variety of Chrome Extensions which can help with this: Timer, StayFocusd, and RescueTime. Each one is a little more powerful than the one before it. But if you want something even simpler, just type "timer" in the Google Search Bar and set it for how long you need.

Limit Distractions

Technology can bring many distractions to our attention, some come in the form of ads on webpages while others can be suggested videos on the sidebar of YouTube. Here are some Extensions to limit those as well. Adblock Plus helps to remove and cleanup web pages so you can focus on the content and not the newest car on the market. Readability removes the clutter on web pages so the information can be read clearly. Turn Off the Lights allows you to view a YouTube video as if you were in the theater, everything on the site dims except the video being played.

Time & 'Click' Savers

Two tools built into Google Docs which can save time with clicking, typing, and searching are Research Tools and Voice Typing, check them out below:

Use the built-in microphone of a Chromebook to type in a
Google Document
Research Tools helps you find and cite information right inside
your Google Document

Also, knowing some shortcuts can help you navigate your Chromebook faster and lessen time clicking with your mouse.  For instance, recover a tab you accidently closed by: Ctrl + Shift + T Find more Chromebook shortcuts here!


One of the hardest battles in this digital environment is staying and keeping organized.  Determine a folder structure in Google Drive that works best for you. One item to remember, NEVER delete your Trash.  We have unlimited space in Google Drive, there is no need to empty your trash can to clear up some space. 

Did you know you can have a file in more than one location? Here is the trick:
Add a file to multiple locations by clicking once on the file then typing Shift + Z
Other resources for curating or keeping track of links include your Bookmark bar (located underneath the web address bar), Chrome Bookmarks, or sites like: Pinterest, Pocket or Participate Learning [each of these three sites require an account and can only be used by individuals 13 or older].


Background music or "noise" can be helpful for individuals by keeping them focused. One option for background music is Google Play Music, I recommend 'Instrumental Beatles Covers'. Another option for "noise" would be A Soft Murmur. I currently use this and have these settings:

Follow-up came up with a list of '29 Ways to Beat Procrastination...' check it out, if you have time!
Also, the 5 AM Miracle Podcast offers a plethora of productivity strategies, you can subscribe using iTunes, Stitcher, Overcast or just listen on Jeff Sanders's Website. 

What the Tech? Pinterest for Teachers

Discussion about Who Owns the Learning? from Russell Wray

This post is from Russell Wray, Supervisor of Instructional Technology


As part of our district's professional development program for new teachers, second-year teachers choose a book for a year-long book study. One group of second-year teachers selected the book Who Owns the Learning?: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age, by Alan November.

During a recent discussion of this book, teachers shared specific excerpts that they found to be especially relevant to their current work with students and their personal growth as an educator. While teachers selected different passages throughout the book, there was a common theme of collaboration and communication in all of those passages.

To coincide with the discussion of the book, teachers also viewed and discussed this video clip:

In the book, November explains four possible student roles as they learn in a digital age: Tutorial Designer, Scribe, Researcher, and Communicator and Collaborator. Teachers discussed ways they could provide opportunities in their classes for students to fulfil these roles as well as the various digital resources currently available for students and how they could be used in each of these ways. 

As a culminating activity, teachers collaborated on this Padlet, as a way to share some of those digital resources with one another:

~Russell Wray 

Have any other resources you'd like to add to this list?  Share them in the Padlet above or the comments section below.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Simpler user options, improved Trash support, and viewing your teammates in the new Google Drive for Android app

Posted: 17 Feb 2016 02:41 PM PST
A new version of the Google Drive for Android app is coming to Google Play. New features include:
§ A new menu icon next to a file or folder will pop-up a set of contextual actions you can take on the file or folder.
§ You’ll now have the ability to view trash and delete or restore files from within your Android app
§ When viewing the Shared With Me view, you’ll now see the avatars of the person who has shared with you.

Launch Details

Release track:

Launching to both Rapid release and Scheduled release

Rollout pace:
Gradual rollout (potentially longer than 3 days for feature visibility)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A simpler way to view teammates and sharing settings in Google Drive shared folders

Posted: 16 Feb 2016 04:19 PM PST
Google Drive users love to collaborate with each other, but if you've ever tried changing the sharing settings for a folder, you know that it’s not always easy to find out who the folder has been shared with or how to update the permissions.

 In the coming weeks, we will be adding a new “people icon” to shared folders, which simplifies seeing who you’ve shared a folder with and whether they have View, Edit, or Comment permissions. With this change, we hope to reduce the amount of clutter for users and make sharing more transparent for folder owners.
Hover over the people icon to see who a folder’s been shared with and with what permission level.

Launch Details
Release track:
Launching to Rapid release, with Scheduled release coming in 2 weeks

Rollout pace:
Gradual rollout (potentially longer than 3 days for feature visibility)

Two new security features for Gmail coming soon

Posted: 16 Feb 2016 02:38 PM PST
On February 9th, Safe Internet Day, we announced two new security features to Gmail that will roll out to Google Apps customers in the coming weeks.

First, users who receive a message from―or are composing a message to―someone whose email service doesn’t support an encrypted connection (TLS) will soon see an open lock icon in the message. Users won’t see this icon when sending mail from one Google-hosted domain to any other, including, since those emails are always sent over an encrypted connection. Gmail will always send and receive messages over TLS, unless the connecting service doesn’t support it.

Second, users who receive messages that aren’t properly authenticated with either Sender Policy Framework (SPF) or DKIM will see a question mark in place of their profile photo, corporate logo or avatar.

Change Management
It is important to note that both of these features are warnings only. They will not affect email sending or delivery. Unauthenticated emails, as well as those sent over an unencrypted connection, have always existed (though on a steady decline). The only thing that has changed is that Gmail will now warn the user when the security of a particular email is less than standard.

The two Gmail Help Center articles below outline the expected behavior and can be used to help effectively communicate this change to users.

To see what percentage of traffic is received or sent from your domain that is either encrypted with TLS or authenticated with DKIM, SPF, or DMARC, the following tools are available for domain administrators:
§ Postmaster Tools provides both encryption and authentication dashboards for domains which receive a sizable daily volume of email traffic (up to the order of hundreds). Learn more in the Postmaster Tools Help Center.
§ The Admin console contains aggregate reports for your domain, including Gmail Inbound Email: Encryption and Outbound Email: Encryption reporting. Learn more in the Admin console Help Center.

Limitations for senders using custom ‘From:’ to send mail
If your users use custom ‘From:’ to send mail through a different domain’s mail servers, Gmail will only indicate the encryption status for the the receiving domain’s reputation. At this time, Gmail will not indicate the encryption status of the user’s custom ‘From:’ address.

Launch Details
Release track:
Launching to Rapid release in the coming weeks, with Scheduled release coming 2 weeks later.
Please monitor the launch release calendar for details.

Rollout pace:
Gradual rollout (potentially longer than 3 days for feature visibility)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Showcasing Learning through Google My Maps

This post is shared with you by Kaity Haley, 6th grade Social Studies teacher at Grover Middle School

I discovered  Google My Maps on my weekly Pinterest binge, and fell in love with it. As a Social Studies teacher, I was so excited to see how my students could use it in the classroom. Our 6th grade class was entering our unit on Ancient Egypt when I introduced the tool to my classroom. I started out with a quick tutorial video. It was created by a high school teacher to guide his students through a particular project, but demonstrated the awesome tools that My Maps offers, in a student friendly manner. Before beginning our My Map assignment all students viewed the video for homework.

Students began the My Map assignment by conducting research on Egyptian geography. They also explored culture and life in Egypt. After conducting research through guided materials and leveled readings,  the students had a variety of information. They then identified common categories and trends with this information. Students were then presented with the following question: How did geography and climate impact life in Egypt? However, instead of using their research to construct a paragraph response, they utilized their learning to answer the question in a My Map. Their task was to answer the question using the visual map instead of the traditional paragraph.

Students spent 2 days in class, then, creating their maps. They were encouraged to translate their categories from the research in to different layers on their My Map (reflecting on the organizational skills we study in writing). There were also invited to use the images and videos from their research to add more visual elements to their maps. In general their goal was to answer our research question in this new medium...and my students did an excellent job.

I was so happy with the results of the My Maps, but was more excited by the discussion it allowed us to have as they worked in class. After clicking on the satellite view, students were able to see how drastically the Nile affects vegetation and thus life in Egypt. They used the measurement tools, without my prompting, to consider the distances between various ancient cities and the transportation that was necessary. And most importantly, they wanted (and at times competed) to create more connections, pins, and layers to strengthen their argument. It was fantastic to see.

I have attached a few screen shots of our final products. Google My Maps invites so many diverse uses. I can’t wait to use it from the start of September next year, where my goal is to have the students create an interactive map of all the units we study in one My Map. The possibilities with such a tool seem endless.

Ready to start exploring Google Maps? Check out this great resource: and reach out to the Teacher Resource Specialist for Technology in your building for support.

Ready for your own Pinterest binge? Check out these boards:  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Notification settings and more in the latest Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides Android apps

Posted: 10 Feb 2016 04:42 PM PST
The latest versions of the Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides Android apps include several new features that make working on your mobile phone or tablet easier and more efficient. Check out some of what’s new below:

Notification settings in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides Android apps

As of last November, you can receive mobile notifications when a Drive file is shared with you or someone requests access to a Drive file you own. Previously, the only way to disable those notifications was via a setting in Drive. With this launch, we’ll allow you to enable or disable those notifications from the Settings menus in the Docs, Sheets, and Slides Android apps as well.

View existing Named Ranges in the Google Sheets Android app
In Google Sheets on the web, you can name a range of cells so that they’re easier to keep track of and find later and to simplify the process of creating formulas. With this launch, you can now view those named ranges and quickly navigate to their locations in the Google Sheets app for Android.

Launch Details 
Release track:
Launching to both Rapid release and Scheduled release

Rollout pace: 
Gradual rollout (potentially longer than 3 days for feature visibility)

New Google Forms now the default option, with improvements to add-ons, script editing, and more

Posted: 10 Feb 2016 12:29 PM PST
Today, the new Google Forms will become the default option for Form creators. This follows our launch from last September, where a revamped Google Forms was released as opt-in-only until we could add additional features and functionality. Once launched, Form creators will be redirected to the new Google Forms whenever they create a new Google Form.

To opt-out, users may click the “running man” icon in the bottom left-hand corner.

Here’s a summary of the latest improvements:
§ Form Add-ons and Google Apps Script now supported
Form creators will be able to use add-ons and edit scripts in the new Forms editor. Popular tools like Form Publisher and g(Math) for Forms have helped creators extend the capabilities of Google Forms.
§ View individual responses from the editor
In addition to the summary of responses currently available in the Forms editor, creators will now be able to see individual survey responses as well. This will save valuable time when analyzing Forms. At the same time, if there’s so many responses that there may be performance issues, Google Forms will let users know how to visit the responses separately, instead of slowing down the editor.
§ Use Templates from the Google Forms home screen
Work and Education-related templates will become available on the Forms home screen to jumpstart your Form creation at
§ We currently have several templates for event feedback, event sign-ups, job applications, and more. Users can click on the More link to start a form from any of the newly created templates.
§ Your domain’s existing templates are still available and can be found at
§ Get notified for every form response
Form creators will now be able to configure Google Forms to send them email notifications whenever someone responds. The default is set to off, but users can enable it from the form’s settings menu. 
§ Track responses to your Google Form
Form creators will be able to see who they’ve sent their forms to and who still needs to respond. There will also be a new option to send out follow-up reminders as needed.

§ Responders will only see the new Google Forms for those forms created or edited in it.

To opt out and go back to the old Google Forms, simply click the running man icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the Google Form and follow the prompts.

Launch Details
Release track:
Form templates: Launching to both Rapid release and Scheduled release on Feb 10, 2016
Most features: Launching to Rapid release on Feb 10, 2016, with Scheduled release coming in 2 weeks

Rollout pace:
Full rollout (1-3 days for feature visibility)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Change to default avatar for Google account owners without Google+

Posted: 08 Feb 2016 11:08 AM PST
In September, we announced some changes to the default avatar that Google account owners with Google+ enabled see when logged into their accounts. We’re now making those same changes for Google account owners who don’t have Google+ enabled. Starting today, if a Google account owner has not added a photo to his or her account, we’ll show a custom avatar with that account owner’s given-name initial (two-character given names will be fully displayed). In some cases where initials are not available, a plain colored avatar will be used instead.

This change will be visible* in the Google Bar soon and will be gradually reflected across all Google products over the course of the coming months.

*NOTE: Users with initials in scripts other than Latin, Cyrillic, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean will see this change later this year.

Launch Details
Release track:
Launching to both Rapid release and Scheduled release

Rollout pace:
Full rollout (1–3 days for feature visibility)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Word Study on the iPad

This week I am featuring some iPad resources that support word study.  Below are several gaming apps which review sight words, phonics, and spelling features.  I have also listed a few examples that allow students to get creative while practicing their personalized word lists! Lastly, I created a sample “Word Study Choice Board” which incorporates technology and you are welcome to use it. 

iBrainstorm SMART notebook app: With these apps, students can practice writing and sorting their own personalized words digitally and then easily save their work for you or a partner to check. 
Popplet: This app works as a mind map, which helps students think and learn visually. Students can create word maps of each spelling pattern.  They can also write the definition and part of speech to each word.  Popplet is a great app for students to visually learn their word patterns.
Screen Chomp or IPEVO Whiteboard: These apps allow the students to write on the screen and record their voice simultaneously, creating a screencast. Students can "Show What They Know" and practice placing their words in the correct word pattern.  After they have saved their recording, students can view their video and listen to him/herself to critique their fluency and understanding of their spelling words and patterns.  This is another powerful way for students to self-assess. 
Tellagami: With this, students can create an avatar and have them orally explain their spelling feature, name examples, listen to their pronunciation of the words, use in a sentence, etc…