Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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Google Docs

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A blog post I wrote to High School Students.

wordinacan

As I’ve been helping students get going with their gmail accounts and blogs over the past couple of weeks I’ve been joking about the “old school” e-mail systems that some of you still use. Hotmail, Yahoo…and seriously….AOL…come on…..

But there is another old school tool that I think has seen its best days behind it. Microsoft Word….oh how we loved you back in the day when you were really the only word processing program we needed. But times are changing and it’s time to move on to new and better tools.

Google Docs is a very powerful alternative to Word. Here are 10 reasons to consider using Google Docs the next time you need to do some writing.

1. No more corrupt files

Nothing worse than staying up all night to finish an assignment only to quickly drag it to your flash drive and turn up at school with a file that won’t open on a teacher’s computer. With Google Docs access to your file is only a click away and you never have to worry about your file their corrupt.

2. No more corrupt USB Keys

Of course if your file is not corrupt then it’s your USB Key that fails you when you need it most. Using Google Docs as an online storage locker means never having to worry about a corrupt or even lost USB key again. Simple download the documents you need when you get to school. With 1GB of space you can store a weeks worth of work easily.

3. .doc .docx who cares!

Nothing worse than having a file you can’t open or giving someone a file they can’t open. With Google Docs simply share the link to your file on the Internet. If they have a web browser and an internet connect they can view the document.

4. Work Collaboratively

By far the best feature of Google Docs. Work collaboratively with others in your class. Missing a day because of IASAS? No problem! Have a friend take notes in Google Docs during class and simply share the notes with you. Just don’t forget to return the favor.

5. Share and Share a Like

Simply create documents to share with team members, club members, or anyone else you need to. No more worrying about the latest versions of the document or how many times you’ve revised. Allowing everyone to work on the same document at the same time can increase productivity and save you time.

Google Docs

6. Export to PDF or Word no problem

Still need to hand in the Word or PDF version? Not a problem File – Download As allows you to download Google Docs in a variety of formates.

7. Make it Public

Proud of a piece of work that you want to put on your blog or share with the world? With a couple simple clicks turn any document or presentation into a viewable web page. If you can click you can publish.

8. Work from any computer with Internet access

Never worry about leaving your USB or computer at home again. Any computer, or mobile device for that matter can access your files. From an iPad to a Blackberry it might not be the best view in the world but you can still see your documents.

9. Work on the Go

If you have the Chrome browser installed (and if you don’t you should) install these apps to allow you to work on the go. Turn your bus time into work time.

10. Because it’s the future

We’re headed into a fully web-based world. Even Microsoft is working to make Word fully online in a few years…see I told you they were old school. Get a jump on the future and get use to working on the web now so you’re not playing catch up later.

Those are my 10 reasons….what would you add to the list?

Flubaroo
Click the Image to go to Flubaroo

Last week a teacher here at ISB asked me if I had ever heard of Flubaroo. I hadn’t at the time and then over the course of the next three days Flubaroo came up 5 more times. Today I took some time to play with it and it is an amazing script that takes Google Forms to a new level.

The Flubaroo websites has great step by step instructions on how it works and it’s easy to use. It even allows you to e-mail the students their scores right from the Google Sheet. A powerful add-on script for educators. All you need is a free Google Account! Give it a try and see what you think.

Just another reasons why Open Wins!

3rd Grade Teacher, Laura Chesebro here at ISB continues to impress me with her innovative use of technology with kids. First there is her class website/blog where she engages both parents and students. Then there is the fact all her students are blogging themselves. Another example of her innovation was the weather unit they did earlier this year where she used her Facebook and Twitter Network to gather temperatures around the world for the kids to analyze and use. 

And if that wasn’t enough, she’s now reinventing the way a classroom newspaper is created. 

I remember creating classroom newspapers with my students in 4th, 5th, & 6th grade. This project almost makes me want to go back into the classroom again just to try it for myself. 

First, there is Laura’s understanding of how kids learn technology. Before they start this project, she exposes them to Google Docs and lets them explore the program. It didn’t take long for the kids to of course find the chat feature in Google Docs. For some teachers, this would have been a reason to stop using Google Docs, for others like Laura, it was a teaching opportunity and a chance to use it for learning. A quick call to the carpet, the class talked about the chat. Why did Google put it there? How would you use it? What would you say? And off they go again exploring the program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there is the template Laura found by searching the Google Doc Templates for “Student Newspaper.” Someone else out there had done the hard work of creating the template for her (Thanks Lezlie Harris whoever you are).  

Next was the creation. I went to observe as the students took the rough drafts they had on paper and started typing them into the newspaper template. Three to four kids to a “section” of the newspaper, working simutaneously on the same document. As I watched via the Google Docs, it didn’t take the students long to start chatting. One group talked about the font they were going to use. Another group commented and encouraged each other on how much they had written or how fast they were writing. Yes, they were all in the same room but what a great way to start teaching “chat etiquette” in an environment that could be monitored by a teacher.

Next it was time to find pictures. A lesson on Creative Commons and using compfight and the kids were off to find pictures for their articles. Another lesson on citation/attribution and with a little help from the teacher, the students also learned how to correctly cite pictures used from the Internet. 

Lastly, Laura makes some final formatting edits, downloads the different sections of the newspaper out of Google Docs in PDF form. She combines them into one PDF and uploads them to Youblisher to create their online Newspaper. 

youblisher
Click the Image to see the Magazine

I haven’t even talked about the writing standards, research standards, or reading standards that were covered along the way. What a fun, engaging, powerful project. Just the thought of using Google Docs with 3rd graders blows my mind. Adults have a hard enough time wrapping their heads around how Google Docs works and here 9 year olds go about it like they “get it”. No fear, handling frustrations in stride, like it was another day at the office….and for them and their future…it probably will be. 

A great project that I wanted to take the time to celebrate. Laura also has a professional blog that she keeps where she’s outlined a lot of the procedures she used and thinking about this project. Elementary teachers, here’s another voice to connect with!

(P.S. Laura is a CoETaIL participant)

So maybe I’ve been reading to much Lifehacker lately. But I got to school this morning and some how got thinking about how I could hack-up the Google Doc Application that you get from Google when you install Google Gears to work with our school educational Google Apps domain.

So here are the steps on how to do it for your own school domain.

Mac

1. Download the app by clicking here.
2. Control+Click on the app and select “Show Package Contents”

Google Apps
3. Navigate to Contents-MacOS-launch.sh file

google doc launch

4. Control+Click on the file and open with TextEdit
5. You will see the value http://docs.google.com/a/yourschooldomain delete that and copy and paste the web address to your google apps. It should look something like http://docs.google.com/a/yourschooldomain

google doc shortcut

6. Save your changes to the launch.sh file
7. Drag the app into your application folder or to your dock and launch.

Bounce:
While in the launch.sh file you’ll also see the code to launch your web browser. You can change this to be the web browser of your choice. Safari, Firefox, or Google Chrome. I set it for Firefox for all our teachers at school, but use Google Chrome on my own computer.

PC

If you are on a PC Google just creates a shortcut for you on the desktop to the web page.

Why?

Teachers at our school have really started to use Google Docs; from team meeting notes, to creating unit plans and sharing them out. The problem was that teachers didn’t want to have to remember one more URL, and for many they have so many mismanaged bookmarks that they can’t find things they have bookmarked.

So what this does is “reduce the clicks” as I’m always preaching. Now it’s one click and you’re to your docs! The simple app for the Mac just makes it nice and simple with a little design feature added in and easy to attach to an e-mail and send out to the staff.