Monday, June 26, 2017

5 Nifty Google Tricks for Your Classroom

I recently completed my Google Educator Level 1 certification. Our English department received a shared Chromebook cart last fall, and I am dedicating a large part of my summer to learning how to better use these fantastic tools that are now at our fingertips. Over the last year I’ve learned some pretty cool little Google tools tricks that I’d like to share with you. These are all tricks that you and your students can use right away, even if you don’t have access to G Suite for Education in your building. All you and your students need is a free Google account to get started.

Priority Inbox for Gmail

What is it? My email inbox is probably the biggest time suck of my school day. If your school corporation is anything like mine, you guys probably do 95% of your communication through email. Pretty much all in-house information, meeting reminders, parent contact, questions for teachers in other parts of the building, etc. all happen through email. My inbox gets out of control quickly. Fortunately, my school email is through Google, so this summer I was able to switch to Gmail’s priority inbox feature. It is working well so far; Gmail pays attention to the emails that I respond to, the emails I delete immediately, the emails I star, etc. and then it sorts them accordingly so the important emails show up at the top and everything else shows up at the bottom.

What’s it look like? Here’s what my inbox looks like now that I have priority inbox enabled.

You'll notice that I also like to email myself reminders and resources. Anybody else do that?

How do I do it? To switch to a priority inbox, choose the Gears icon and choose Settings

Click the Inbox tab, and then from the Inbox type dropdown, choose Priority Inbox. Change other settings as you desire.

Message Filters for Gmail

What is it? Another nifty trick Google offers to streamline your email experience is the option to filter your emails and set actions to them. If you have an issue with important emails getting lost in the mess or emails that you want to look at later without them cluttering your inbox, then this setting can save you a lot of trouble. You can filter through your emails using sets of criteria and then order those emails to be automatically deleted, filed, marked as important, and more.

How do I do it? Select an email that you want to use to establish a filter. For example, I’ve selected this email from Samuel French, a theatre publishing company. I like to read about the new plays they have in stock, but it isn’t something that is a priority for me, so I want to get rid of the Samuel French clutter from my inbox since they email me weekly. After you select an email, click the More button and choose Filter messages like these.

You will next see the filter box. Here you have the option of adding additional message filters. Click Create filter with this search.

You will now see list of actions you can apply to emails of this type. You can choose to have these emails automatically deleted (great for junk mail), you can apply a previously-created label (I will apply the theatre label to my Samuel French emails), mark emails as important, etc. After you’ve selected the actions, click Create filter and this action will be automatically applied to these types of emails.

Suggesting Mode

What is it? Students can collaborate on work in Google Docs through real-time editing, where everyone can edit a document at the same time. As one student makes a change in the document, another student can instantly see the change and who made that change. This is a great option for collaborative projects, but there might be times where you don’t want someone to have editing power and instead you just want them to be able to write suggestions. Peer or teacher feedback on student essays would be a great example of this. In Google Docs, you can switch to suggesting mode, so that edits to a document become suggestions and the creator of the original can choose to accept those changes or remove them.

What’s it look like? This is a student essay that I am editing in suggesting mode. You can see my edits marked in green, and the changes I have made pop up in boxes on the right side of the screen.

This is what that same essay looks like from the student creator’s point of view. She can see my suggested edits and has the option to accept the changes I made by clicking the check mark or rejecting my suggestions by clicking the x.

How do I do it? To switch to editing mode, simply choose the dropdown that says Editing in the top right corner of the screen and switch to Suggesting. You can also click the View tab, hover over Mode, and choose Suggesting. Note that only the editor needs to be in Suggesting mode; the creator does not need to be in suggesting mode to see the suggestions.

Direct Comments to Specific Users

What is it? If multiple students are collaborating on a project, you can direct comments directly towards certain students. They will receive notification that they have been tagged in a comment. As a bonus, you can assign a comment to a specific student and they will be required to mark it as done.

What’s it look like? This is a student essay that I have commented on. The blurred out email address and name tell me which student I have tagged in this comment.

This is the student’s view of that same comment. It shows that the comment has been assigned to the student and they can mark it as done.

How do I do it? Highlight the word or section of the document on which you would like to make a comment. The Add a comment button will pop up in the right margin of the document. Click that button.

To tag someone in the comment, type the + sign and then their email address. Additionally, if you want to assign the comment to that person, put a check in the Assign box.

Embedding Videos into Google Slides

What is it? Have you ever wanted to show your students a YouTube video without the distraction of the comments, sidebar video suggestions, and pop-up ads? You can very easily embed YouTube videos into a Google Slides presentation to get rid of all of those distractions. Plus, this is a great way to leave videos for substitute teachers. This particular slide deck was one I left for a substitute. It contains three different videos, so the sub did not have to worry about clicking on a bunch of links or trying to find the videos on their own. It was all there, ready to go. The sub just had to click present.

What’s it look like? This is what it looks like when you embed a video into a Google Slide. You can adjust the size of the video like you can any object. 

The full screen option is also still available when you embed a video in Google Slides.

How do I do it? In your Google Slides presentation, click Insert and Video.

You are presented with three options: Search, By URL, and Google Drive. If you already have the video saved elsewhere, just paste the URL link in or pull it from Google Drive. Or you can simply search for the video you want, as I have done here, click it, and hit the Select button.

These five little Google tricks are designed to help you manage your time, your work load, and your sanity. Hopefully these tips will make your life in the classroom a little bit easier!

Did you learn something today? Do me a favor and Pin the image below so other teachers can find this post!

Happy Summertime Planning!