Monday, March 31, 2014

Rubrics in Google Spreadsheets

I have been searching for a way to create and use rubrics through Google apps. I know there are scripts out there like Doctopus and Goobric, but I have yet to get the scripts to run and present results as intented. Even after following tutorials and guides. I thought, there has got to be a way to use the spreadsheet formulas to do what these scripts attempt to do. This method seems to work well for me, maybe some of you who are not sold on using Google Scripts yet might find this useful.
Here's what I did, and really like the way it works.

  1. I created a spreadsheet for my rubric
  2. I entered in the appropriate headings and descriptors, to make it look like a rubric.
  3. Here's the technical stuff. I added a formula and conditional formatting to account for some changes.
    1.   I added a column titled "total" 
    2. I put this formula into the first cell and copied it down the column. =if(right(B3)="@",4, if(right(C3)="@",3, if(right(D3)="@",2, if(right(E3)="@",1,0))))
    3. all this formula says is that if the @ symbol is to the right of all the text in the referenced cell, then apply the value 4,3,2, or 1. If it is not there, apply the value 0.
    4. Further down the spreadsheet there is a small formula to calulate a total and adjust the score out of a 100%.
    5. This cell uses the following formula ="Grade: "&(Sum(F1:F23)/80)*100 &"%"
    6. which tells the spreadsheet to add the text Grade, calculate a percentage of teh earned values, and attach a % symbol to the returned value. This is only for ease of student viewing. As I collect the values for my grading purposes I would use the raw tally for the total available.
  4. Below is a copy of my rubric Used for grading Lab Reports. To get a full feel of the spreadsheet you will need to "make a copy" to click around in the cells and play with the formulas.
  5. The last detail is to add the conditional formatting option to highlight the appropriate cell a specific color. You can see that the first box of the rubric is purple, because it contains the @ symbol at the end of the text, which also triggers the formula to apply 4 points to the total.

Again, I know goobric will do this automatically, but the rules for which you need to "assign" work sometimes don't' match with they way that I have students doing assignments. I simply fill out the rubric then click print, and select save as pdf, and change the destination folder to the synced Google drive folder for that student.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Google Presentations New Feature

     Google has been making a lot of changes recently to many of their apps. One really useful addition for education is the ability to crop images directly in a presentation. Prior to this addition, users would have to use Pixlr,  GIMP or some other third party tool to adjust their images prior to adding them. Pixlr and  GIMlP are still amazing tools, and are very useful, but Google has made it easier for students quickly take an image and adjust it to fit appropriately on their presentation.

     It's very easy to use the function.

  • Add a picture as you typically would in a presentation 
  •  Either, double click the image to invoke the "crop" tool, 
    • or you select Format > Crop Image

     This feature has great potential to allow students and the general user to be able to add more workable images to support the presentation. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fusion Tables

    Being a science teacher, it is a necessity to teach students how to collect, manipulate, analyze and arrive at conclusions of various data sets. Google Fusion Tables are a fantastic tool to help ease the process of data management, as well as data analysis. Typically, data management has been monopolized by Microsoft Excel. While this program is useful, and offers a wide range of options for manipulation, many of the steps needed to create useful tables, and graphs are tedious to program and difficult to teach. Google Fusion Tables makes this entire process much easier.

    Embedded below is a massive data set that my 9th grade Earth Science students worked collaboratively to create. They gathered local weather data for their town over the past two months and created various charts and tables to use as reference to describe trends and describe how temperature, air pressure and humidity are related. The entire fusion table can be accessed here. 

    If you require students to manipulate various sets of data, try using . Google Fusion Tables, it makes life much easier.

(If the embedded charts fail to load, click the shield icon in the address bar, and select "load unsafe script")

This is the data students started with.

Students reorganized the data into a nice table like this one.

Finally, students made this chart to try and see the relationship between these three variables.


     I discovered a very fun and super useful tool called EDpuzzle. The tool allows the user to take a video and add various annotations. Once you create an account, you will need to create student accounts to be able to access the site. Once the housekeeping is all complete, the tool allows you to upload your own videos to then add voice over comments, or questions for students to respond. You could search through the database of educational videos from sites like Khan Academy, TED, or LearnZillion to borrow and add your own custom annotations. I tried using this tool with my students on a video about the Higgs Boson particle. I uploaded this video and added my own questions.  The questions that they were asked were typical questions that would have been a classroom discussion. However, I thought it might be fun to have them respond to these question while they individually watched the video.

     The students enjoyed watching and responding to these questions individually, prior to a larger class discussion. I found that in enhanced the lesson and allowed students to gain a better understanding of the content.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Search Google Drive from Chrome Address Bar

Just to clarify, the address bar, aka Omnibox is the place at the top of your browser where you enter a URL. Most browsers have a built in search engine of some flavor as a default search. In chrome, for most OS's, it's Google. Have you ever wanted or needed to quickly search your Google drive for a document? Here is how to add a "search Google drive" option from the Omnibox.

These directions are for Chrome.

1) right click the Omnibox, and select "Edit Search Engine."

2) Scroll down in the pop up window

Find the add new option.

3) In the first box, type a unique name, for example "Drive Search"
4) In the next box, type in a combination of letters to trigger the search. I use "dri"
5) then paste this in the url

6) click Done.

Then test it out. Open a new tab, type the letters dri then hit the space bar. It change to a unique search engine. Then type the name of the doc you are looking for and watch Google search your drive for you.

Here is a quick tutorial.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Google Doc Add-ons Highlighting

     One very useful tool in the Add-Ons options in Google docs is the app called "Text Help Study Skills." The app allows you to highlight a document, then clip the highlights into a new document for note taking purposes.

  I plan to try this out with some students today. We will use the tool for a 'during' reading activity, and use their highlights for a 'after' reading activity. Students can highlight key components and gather their highlights into a new document to use as notes. The only downside is to be able to highlight and mark up the document has to be in the Google Docs format. It will not work with .pdf, .doc, or any other file directly uploaded and not converted. If you have pdf's that you want to try this with, you can convert them into a text format using the CloudConvert app in Google Drive.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Google Doc Add Ons

Google has added a very convenient feature to Google Docs called Add-ons. It provides very useful tools that can be incorporated into your Google Doc. Being a science geek, the first add-on I installed was the add-on called Charts. This helpful tool allows you to make charts and graphs inside your Google Doc by pulling data from an existing spreadsheet from  your drive. The app opens local windows and menus inside the document to find the appropriate data and then create a graph that is inserted neatly into the doc.

Take some time and explore the new option, there is something for everyone. I have yet to find the add-ons the chrome web store, it seems that you can only find them within the document. Just give it some time, and Google will probably add that feature.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Power of Chromebooks - Advanced

Chromebooks are slowly, but surely integrating into schools around the world. One fantastic idea, but one that requires someone willing to write code is the Chrome Kiosk App.  

 "Kiosk apps allow an admin to run a single app in fullscreen mode on a Chrome device. They are useful for environments that require a user to interact with a single application such as assessments/student testing, guest check-in stations, help desk, manufacturing kiosk, and digital signage in airports and retail stores."

It's fairly straightforward to create your own Chrome App. The Chrome Kiosk App works with any chrome app, as long as the Kiosk Mode is enabled. You could customize your app to direct the user to a Google Form running in Kiosk Mode that could be used as an assessment for students. The app would run in firescreen mode to make it difficult to click on anything else but the app, until the app is closed. 

Within the GAFE (Google Apps For Education) admin panel, the chrome kiosk app can be turned on and loaded for a custom instance. This would allow the creator to make their own chrome app that is specific to the assessment they want hosted, load it into the domain chrome store, and push it out to the appropriate devices from the admin panel. To turn this option on from the admin side, go to
Device Management>chrome>Device Settings
Look for the Kiosk Settings option. 

Here is a zipped package of the files needed to create your own Kiosk App.If you don't trust mine, you can go here and make your own. 

 Here is a zipped package of a basic chrome app. Again, if you don't trust mine, you can create your own here. 

Write your codes, write them well, and put them to good use, like a custom secured assessment on the schools chromebook. 

Google Apps For Education Tips

I stumbled upon this nice tip guide shared by Shaun Pinney as seen on his blog post.

Take some time and peruse through the document, there are some useful tips.


and thank you, Shaun Pinney, for sharing this guide.

Move A Google Doc To A Folder

If you were to walk into my classroom, you would most likely freeze in shock and horror at the presumable "mess" that clutters the room. To my defense, that "mess" is STEM in action. Students are usually creating some kind of apparatus, project, experiment, model, or demonstration that turns a typical organized classroom into a scene from that show Hoarders. As cluttered as it may seem, I'm very particular about the organization of my Google Drive, and how students share items with me. Recently I've had students, and teachers complain that organizing documents into folders is tedious, because the main Drive page is cluttered with too many docs. 

I just assumed that everyone knew that you could drop your doc into a folder from within the doc. Well, you know what they say when you "assume"...

Here is how to organize your new document into a folder from within the doc. 

  1. Open Google Drive
  2. Create a document
  3. Name your document
  4. Click the Folder icon next to the name
  5. Move it to the appropriate folder. 

So what if you are super organized and want to put your document into a folder from the start? The best way is to open the folder you want the document to go into, them push the create button. Alternatively you could click the down arrow next to your folder and select create from the popup menu. 
Good luck and stay organized. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

Now that the Common Core is, hopefully, well implemented into schools.  The common assessment is also up and running. Many schools have elected to participate in the field test for various reasons.

 I would suggest that schools work through a  practice test  and download the secure browser to ensure device compatibility. The practice test allows educators to become familiar with the interface as well as the content. It might also be a good idea to get a subset of students to experience a  practice test.

After taking a practice test, the interface has a few flaws that I noticed. For example, some questions are in a typical A-D multiple choice format where you can only select one answer, and some have check-boxes that allow you to select more than one option. As far as other flaws, I will leave to you to discover and provide feedback to Smarter Balanced prior to the official release of the exam.

As educators, we should do our homework to  prepare for these new assessments and help ensure student success. I'm not an advocate for standardized testing, but it's here, and we have to ensure that we prepare students to do well. While we  prepare students for these assessments, we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of "teaching to the tests." If we are truly aligning  the taught curriculum to the common core, students should do well on these assessments; assuming that students are motivated and held accountable for their performance. In the meantime, explore these assessments and ensure that the infrastructure is ready and that your students are ready.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Speech to Text App

Sometimes it is a challenge to make technology accessible to all students. However, the availability of useful and appropriate apps is on the rise. I discovered this really cool chrome app today called VoiceNote. The goal is to translate translate speech to text. For a free app, it works pretty well, you do need to speak clearly for the tool to pick up your voice accurately, sometimes when you pause with your speech it will stop recording. But, for a free tool, that is web based, it works well.

It is simple enough to hit record again if need be, and the app offers some quick editing tools to allow you to put in appropriate punctuation and fix any translation mistakes that might occur. It is a nice tool to allow students to translate speech to text with ease. Once your text is edited the way you would like it, you can quickly copy and paste to a Google Doc or other word processing tool, like LibreOffice.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Host a Website with Google Drive

All credit for this idea goes to Wanda Terral, an Instructional Technology Analyst who I follow on Google Plus, as well as her YouTube channel. She recently posted a fantastic tutorial about how to host a website with Google Drive. As she mentions in her comments, the video is quick, so pause, rewind, and learn a ton.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Favorite Screencast Tool

Sometimes it is useful to record your desktop and computer usage as a tutorial for students. I often do this when teaching with Google Earth. I often want students to only use some Google Earth layers, or want them to load custom layers. It is usually easier to create a screencast to show the students exactly what to do, then to have to repeat myself a million times in the computer lab. It is also very useful to have an archive available for students in the chance they might need to reference this outside of school.

My new favorite tool for creating sceencasts is a free web based tool called Screencast-o-matic. You can make a free account, to make one screencast at a time, however it allows you options to upload directly to YouTube, download the file, or post it on  Screencast-o-matic. The video here, is a very quick tutorial I made showing students how to access the earthquake data we needed for a lab activity. (The video is very fast and wouldn't serve as a great tutorial, however, students had already had a lot of practice obtaining this data. The video was part of an archive to help students remember how to obtain the data.)

This tool runs great in all operating systems. I'm running Linux Mint 16 Petra Cinnamon Edition x64bit, and the app worked fine. (Wait hold on, let me just push up my glasses and fix my pocket protector a bit.)  As long as you have a current version of java installed, it should work fine. The nice thing about the tool is that it allows you to record your entire desktop, and will capture narrations as well.  Screencast-o-matic is a great web based tool to create simple educational tutorials and quickly add to your educators YouTube channel.