Google Apps


Now I have admitted before that I am a google fan boy. I love Google, I love their products, I love the way they take risks in development, I love the future they are trying to make a reality. So it should be no surprise that on Wednesday I prepared myself for the 3 hour Keynote that kicked off Google I/O Developers Conference this year. The conference has now ended and it is time to write my own reflection on the event and how I think this all relates to education.

Let’s start with the educational announcements:

Facts from the above video:

Google Apps

  • 25 Million educational users all around the world
  • In the US, 74 of the top 100 Universities use Google Apps and 7 of the 8 Ivy League Universities use Google Apps.

Love that they released these figures as just two weeks ago I had an IT Director tell me students still needed to know how to use Word as that was the standard. According to Google itself over 5 million businesses use Google Apps. What this tells me is platform no longer should be the focus. Wordprocessing the skill should be.

It’s Google’s Job to Fix It

Now I understand that this is Google trying to sell a product. But really isn’t that exactly what we hear educational institutions say? If only it was easier, faster and of course cheaper. What I love is Google is taking on those challenges and is continuing to try and knock down the barriers of technology in the classroom. At some point educational institutions will run out of reasons not to fully integrate technology. The only reason that will be left is fear….and fear is no way to run a school.

Google Play Store for Education

Two things here that make this a game changer:

1) The easy of use to volume purchase an app for a school/district or classroom.

2) No syncing of devices or management needed. The next time the device connects to wifi the new app, books or the video is instantly downloaded to the device. This is HUGE and those of you who are in charge of managing iPads in schools know just how huge this is. No need to sync, no need for one computer to manage all the iPads. Just buy and done. WOW!

Of coures this is a direct shot at the iPad. The question I have is, are they too late? No school that has invested in iPads is going to change to Android. Not for a long while anyway so I am left wondering just how much effect this will have. There are some schools that are going with Nexus 7 tablets and for them this is a big announcement for sure. But we’ll have to wait and see if this actually brings new schools to the Android platform.

I will say though that you put a ChromeBook with a Nexus 10 device and you are in a 2 to 1 situation for about $650 per student. That is very very tempting. If I am starting a new school tomorrow I would have to seriously way this against the MacBook Air and iPad combination that is about $1400. There is a huge savings cost there. That along might put Google in the game of education.

Google Search

If you haven’t seen the demonstration of what is coming to the Chrome Browser than you need to watch this. How does this change the classroom?

Honestly this to me was the biggest announcement of the three hour keynote. One of the big things I focus on in all my talks is how search is THE skill of our time. If there is one thing that everyone should know how to do today it is to know how to search. Not “find stuff” but really search the web for meaningful information. What they showed of course is pretty basic but this is just the beginning for sure. This is going to be a game changer.

If I were a 4th grade teacher today (which if I went back into the classroom is where I would go) I would start next school year by buying a ChromeBook setting it up in my classroom and would have it be always open to Chrome. Over the computer would be a sign that says “Ask Me Anything”. We would use the computer throughout the day to answer our questions, to see if we could stump it, to see what information we could “find” and what information did we need to “search” for. How would the classroom change if Google was your teaching partner? How would your teaching change? How does learning change?

google-io-2013Lastly…something that I’m still working through, is over the last two days I have listened to some of the other presentations and more than once developers have been talking about the “On Demand Generation“. That this generation (meaning all of us living right now) are more and more expecting things to happen when we want them to. We want our TV shows when we want to watch them, we want our music when we want to listen, we want our information when we want it, and we want directions now and based on the latest traffic information available. What about weather and my ability last week to know exactly when to quit playing golf for a 30 minute rain delay as the storm passed overhead. We are expecting it as a society and developers are focusing on it. This is what is coming; the ability to get anything we want “On Demand”.

I keep thinking about this and how does this change everything about education? An education system that was built over a hundred years ago on the premise of “Just in Case”? If we can literally learn anything “On Demand” then education has to change. It can not survive a world where there is no “Just in Case”. We need new skills, we need new knowledge. We need to be able to learn, unlearn and relearn quickly and we need to be comfortable always being a beginner.

What are your thoughts? What does school look like if we are preparing an “On Demand Generation” for their future?

In the middle of completing my month long work/vacation tour of Europe and Asia (as I sit on a plane on my way to Doha), I keep reflecting on the experience that has been these past couple weeks hopping around from London, to Amsterdam, to Switzerland and Ireland and never relying on a paper map.

I didn’t have data on my phone, but what I did have was the ability to download Google Maps to use offline. It is a feature that came to Android last June. After experiencing using the offline maps the past couple of weeks, I really think the paper map’s days are numbered.

Why my digital map beats your paper map

Constantly Updated:
Let’s start with the fact that the map that we had in our guide book was two years old. Two years, it seems, in Ireland is a long enough time for roads to be built as we found ourselves on roads that didn’t exist on the paper map we had.

Where Am I Now:
By far the most useful feature is the ability to know exactly where you are. GPS works all over the world and by turning on my GPS and loading the offline maps we knew exactly where we were on the bus, on the subway, on the running trail or on the street. We were able to plot our route with precision instead of “I think we’re somewhere around here.”

Ability to explore and get lost with confidence:
What the GPS mentioned above allowed us to do was to explore with confidence. I was able to mark our B&B as a favorite on the map and then off we went. Walked around Amsterdam and when it was time to return home, pull out the map find where we were and plot a route home.

Ability to expand and zoom:
Your paper map can’t do this which is why you travel with a couple different ones. But on my phone the downloaded Google Map allowed me to zoom all the way in and all the way out to the point I downloaded the map from. Allowing me to see exactly where we were in the larger picture of the city.

Ease of carry and no folding:
Let’s face it, folding maps is never easy…..in fact I always used to see it as a traveling challenge that I had to solve. Now with the maps on my phone, nobody knows I’m a tourist. I just appear like everyone else looking at my phone and figuring out where to go next. I had the whole of Ireland in great detail in my pocket. Simply amazing.

Off the beaten path:
My wife and I wanted to go for a run in every country (mostly because we thought it would be cool to have it show up on our runkeeper timeline but also because we have a race coming up the beginning of April!). The Google Maps allowed us to find trails and details that were not possible on the tourist map we had. We were able to find running trails, to figure out our route and if we did get off track simply look it up on our phone. A great example was a trail we found that followed the subway line in Lausanne, Switzerland from our hotel down to the lake shore. We were thinking we would take the subway down to the lake, but after finding this hidden trail on the map we got an extra Km in on our run that we would not have known existed on the city map.

I could go on and on but I won’t. This is a game changer in all sorts of ways. Are we teaching students how to read a digital map? How to expand and zoom, how to orient the map to north vs the direction you’re walking and when to use both? Are we teaching the benefits of GPS, how to use it, how it works, and why it is a technology we all take for granted today but by itself is an amazing little feature built into almost every product?

This changes map skills, this changes what we need to be teaching students because the excuse of “what happens when you don’t have the Internet” just went out the window. With technology getting cheaper and cheaper, I wonder when a city might start distributing digital maps like this. Or what if you could check one out on a iPod touch from your hotel during your stay?

Game changer I tell you…..and one I’m not sure we’re preparing students for.

It is day two here in San Jose at the California GAFE (Google Apps For Education) Summit. What a great summit for educators working at schools that have or are about to adopt Google Apps. 


Mark Wagner and team have put together a great event. With 70% of the participants new to Google Apps many of the sessions are focused on getting educators started with a sprinkling of real geekiness for those advance users. Of course being just a few miles away from Google Headquarters gives this summit a little extra something special with keynote from Jaime Casap and Dan Russell. The pressure is definitely on for my keynote next weekend at the Great Plains Google Summit

There’s a couple reasons why I think these events are and will continue to be successful. There are simple things that anyone planning a conference needs to think about.

Size Matters:

The more conferences I attend the more I am loving conferences that are between 400-600 people. It’s such a great size for discussions, for networking and for sessions. When planning your conference think about the size you want. Bigger doesn’t always mean better. A small group of passionate people can do a lot for the culture of a conference. We could have easily expand the Learning 2.0 conference to be much bigger but that was never our purpose. We want a nice group of passionate people to come and learn from each other. For me these are the ultimate size conferences. 

Trained Speakers:

Every speaker at the GAFE Summit is either a Google Certified Teacher or a Google Apps Certified Trainer. If you’re going to run a conference around a specific set of tools why not get people who are passionate about those tools to do the sessions? That’s what the Ed Tech Team has done and it has worked out well.

Keynotes That Know How to Lecture:

See my last blog post. Keynotes go a long way in setting the tone for the day of the conference. If you are going to have a keynote make sure you get a good one. Someone who understands what their job is and is able to make people laugh, cry and motivate them to learn. Or in Dan Russell’s case today, make you realize just how much you still have to learn and then….go learn it. 


In the end if you use Google Apps or if your school uses Google Apps or if you are an administrator at a school who uses Google Apps. This is a must attend event for you or some of your teachers. You can check out the GAFEsummit.com website for up and coming summits near you or if there is nothing in your neighbors have your school host one. I for one am looking forward to hopefully attending more summits in the future. When you are surrounded by passionate educators you can’t help but learn something!

(Blogged on a ChromeBook…more on this fun device later!)

Ninja Program

 Last week at ISTE12 I officially launched the ninjaprogram.com site. I’m still working on updating it and adding information that people might need to get started. I am excited to finally get the official site launched and make this part of my portfolio of projects I’ll be working on this coming year. I am excited that there are already 220 educators who have asked to have access to the files that make up the Google Apps portion of the program without the official site even launching. If you want more details on exactly what this is I think this blog post does the best of explaining it for now along with the website.

The educators who have been involved for awhile have had some good suggestions that I hope to work on in the coming months. First up will be to update the Google Apps tests that we already have made as there have been a lot of changes to Google Apps just in the past week. Next I have had some requests to make these tests available in other languages….Spanish in particular so hopefully I can get some Spanish speakers out there to help me with this when the time comes and I have already had a couple volunteers as well….good stuff. 

You’ll notice that the program in the Ninja Program and the future is to not just focus on Google Apps but to be able to make other tests that students can take to become ninja masters. A great way to build skills around programs that schools are using with students and a fun badge based system to motive them. 


I’m also in the process of setting up a store where schools and educators can purchase swag. I have got all the buttons made for the different belts that students can earn and am now working on stickers, t-shirts, and anything else that educators want to help promote the program at their school. 

A big thank you to Adam Bernard who created the new ninja logos and badges for the program. He was great to work with and I found his fees to be very competitive. If you are looking for some design work I would highly recommend him.

So head on over to the new ninjaprogram.com site and check it out. Give me some feedback, join the program and spread the word. 


It looks like word finally broke on Twitter yesterday about a project I’ve been working on for about 5 or 6 weeks at my school. It started as a “I wonder what would happen if….” project and has turned into a pretty awe inspiring, self-motivated, get-out-of-their-way, dare I say fun project. 


When I was going through the process of becoming a Google Apps Certified Trainer I was taking the required tests on all the Google Apps. The tests run on Google’s own system and once you press start you have 90 minutes to finish. Google also gives you all the training materials which are public and anyone can learn from. So I did what any cheating student would do. I started the test in one browser and then opened up the training materials in another browser. When I came to a question I didn’t know the answer to I would quickly search for and find it in the training manuals. Basically an open book test.

As I continued taking the tests I kept asking myself “What is Google after here?” and then it hit me. 

It’s about searching and finding information

A big smile came across my face when I realized I had been beat at my own game. I’m constantly preaching that filtering and searching are skills that EVERYONE needs to master in today’s information abundant world and here’s Google putting it into practice.



It makes perfect sense! Google Apps change so rapidly that really the right answer today might not be the right answer tomorrow. So the ability to search and find the right answer is what they are testing. I, as a technology coach/integrater/coordinator (whatever your special name is for the job), do this same thing everyday. People ask me how to do things, I look up the answer. So a big part of being in this role is knowing how to find information when you need it.

I then thought what a great way to build a tech team at our school. To find the kids that are geeky/eager enough to go and find the answers they don’t know on their own.



So I set out to create the ISB Google Apps Ninja Training Center. Here’s the idea:

  • Students take a test of 10 questions needing to get 80% of better to “earn” their Ninja Belt
  • Once they get 80% or better on the first test they progress through the Ninja Belts until they reach Ninja Master
    • White Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt, Ninja Master – Total 40 questions
    • Each time a student earns a belt I will send them a widget of that belt they can put on their blog
    • Each time a student earns a belt they can come get a button from me to wear around school
    • Once a student has become a Ninja Master in all 5 areas I’ll give them a shirt hence making them an official student tech team member
  • If students don’t get 80% or better they can simply study and retake the test as many times as they would like.

Next I started creating the tests in Google Forms and embedding them into the site. Once students have taken the test I install the Flubaroo script which grades the tests for me and e-mails the students their scores. Next those students who earned 80% of better get added to a sheet that is displayed on the front of the site so they know and others know who’s taking the tests and where they are in their Ninja training.

Now….how to get this out to kids? We don’t have tech classes, this isn’t a school initiative, there is no buy-in from teachers or admin. This is me….doing what I always do…creating stuff and figuring out the details later and ask for permission last. 🙂

Every middle school and high school student goes to our Moodle at some point in the day so why not start there? I put a message on the front page of our Moodle site that simply read “Do you want to become a Google Apps Ninja?”


That was 5 weeks ago and needless to say I can’t keep up creating and grading the tests. We’ve had 125 students attempt the tests at this point which blew my mind. Then I shared the site at a staff meeting and next thing I know I have teachers taking the tests. We started running parent trainings a couple weeks ago and now parents are taking the tests.

Parents and teachers are motivated to learn because they want the skills…I get that. But what about students? Why are students taking their free time to take a test? Really…is the little widget on your blog that cool? Our the little button you get to wear around school? So I asked a couple kids why they were taking the tests.

“It’s kind of fun.” 

What? Taking a test is fun? Since when? So I asked them how they take the test. Love this student’s response:

“I take the test the first time without looking at the study materials just to see what I know. Then if I don’t pass, the e-mail tells me which questions I got wrong so I can go find the answer or play around with my calendar until I figure it out.”


Or how about this kid:

“I watch a couple of the Youtube videos, maybe 5 to 10 minutes worth and then take the test. It’s pretty easy.”

Let’s see here…they have complete autonomy over how they learn and the timeline to complete it. They have a purpose to learn something new and they can work towards mastery.

Autonomy, Purpose, Mastery….haven’t I seen that somewhere before?  

Released under Creative Commons 3.0 License


Now comes the good news. I am releasing all the work (most importantly the tests) under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License so that any school can take them and use them with their own students and staff. 

All I ask in return is that you share with the community and help keep all the tests updated….actually that’s the hard part. As Google Apps changes keeping the tests updated will become important and I need/want all the help I can get. I need a community!

I have everything you need to get started in a collection in Google Docs please fill out this form and I’ll add you to the growing list of educators helping out and using the tests with their own students and faculty.

Images: I contacted Google about using the Ninja images. Google’s response was that they own the images and that they could be used as part of Google Apps Training but that they hold the copyright to the images. SWEET!

Features Image: By brunkfordbraun

A blog post I wrote to High School Students.


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?

As we move to Google Apps for Education at my school I gave a quick 10 minute talk at a staff meeting on 5 Gmail Tips for Teachers. Here they are:

1. Archive is Your Friend

Archive Getting use to archiving everything is a change. Google wants you, begs you, to archive your e-mails so you can search for them later. No need to keep hundreds…even thousands of e-mails in your inbox. Archive and search later.

2. Learn to Search in Gmail

Search GmailAfter archive, next you need to learn the search syntax of Gmail. Understanding how to search through your archived mail is a must if you’re going to keep thousands of messages. Good search syntax to know:

in: (i.e. in:sent dennis will find you all the e-mails you have sent to someone named dennis)
has: (i.e. has:attachment will find you all the e-mails with an attachment) from: (i.e. from:jeff will find you all the e-mails from jeff)
to: (i.e. to:john will find you all the e-mails to john) label: (i.e. label:Google Docs will search for the word ‘docs’ in your google label)
subject: (i.e. subject:dinner will find all e-mails where the word ‘dinner’ is in the subject line)

3. Use Priority Inbox

 We get so many e-mails during the day that using Gmail’s new Priority Inbox can help search out the conversations that are current and e-mails from people you communicate with most often. The other advice I give teachers is to star the e-mails that need a response by the end of the day….and before you leave school archive everything in the “everything else” area. You can always search it later and you’re not going to go back and read them tomorrow as there will be new e-mails waiting for you.


4. Use Chat

ChatGchat that can be found in your Gmail sidebar is a great added feature that I’ve been waiting to hit schools for years. A lot of businesses already use some sort of chat client for quick responses and gchat does just that. Use it to communicate with friends at school, with your department, or with students. Have a running dialog throughout the day and get those conversation based e-mails out of your inbox and into a chat format. Gmail also archives all the chats and if you happen to miss when someone chats you it will send you an e-mail with what they said so you never miss the information. Oh….video chat is great too if you are lazy and don’t want to walk to talk to someone else face to face. 🙂

5. Canned Responses

 Canned responses are a must for teachers! Turn on this feature in labs and use it to create canned responses to parents or to students. It can also be used to create multiple signatures that you can quickly add to message. So now you can have a e-mail signature for parents, students and co-workers.

Here’s a PDF of how to get Canned Responses working

What tips would you add to the list for teachers?

Google BuzzGoogle Buzz has been out for a while now and has been slowly making its mark on the social-networking scene.

As I’ve been investigating Buzz (a.k.a. playing with it…but investigating sounds so much more important!) and how it changes social-networking, it hit me the other day how this might just be the communication tool I’ve been looking for in schools ever sense Twitter came out.

I’m hoping that Google brings Buzz to the Education Apps soon. There are a lot of schools (including mine) that are embracing Google Apps and taking a serious look at using the set of tools as the default mail, calendar, contacts, docs application for the school. Doug Johnson has been writing about Google Apps a lot lately and his latest post is a must read if your district is considering the move.

I don’t know about your school but at my last two schools the ALL MAILS that get sent around are frustrating to many. Like a lot of schools teachers already get close to 100 e-mails a day and adding a couple ALL MAILS that are someone looking for this book or that supply, someone who lost their keys, or a jacket for a trip to cold weather (OK….this one might be Bangkok specific). You name it, it’s probably come through in an ALL MAIL.

Buzz Update

There has to be a better way to handle these right? Like many schools ISB created a “Public Folder” that was suppose to be a place for people to post such requests. The problem is nobody goes there unless they know that something new is there to look at, but how do you let people know there is something new…..you got it….you send an ALL MAIL.

It’s a frustrating circle that Google Buzz might just solve. Think about having a Buzz type program running at your school. A place that you check off and on to see the “back channel” of your school. The latest social gatherings, the 1st grade teacher looking for Paper Towel tubes for a project. or the high school teacher sending a reminder about the art show. What if the school used Buzz as a social back channel. That was there, but not in your daily inbox. A place to share resources, links, and have conversations as a school community.

As excited as I am to see Google Groups get added a couple weeks ago, I hope we’re not to far away from seeing Google Buzz. I really think this could be a communication channel that schools have been missing for awhile.

Update: Thanks to krea_frobro747 on Twitter who pointed out that Google released a blog update stating that Google Buzz will be coming to Google Edu Apps “in the next few months“.

Yes I’m still all about Seth’s new book Tribes and leading communities. If you want to know what skill is going to be needed in the future. It is going to be someone who understands and has the skill to create and lead a community of people. Someone who can organize and help the community lead themselves.

http://media.marketwire.com/attachments/200701/305554_LOGO.jpgWhen I approached Wetpaint last January I had to sell them on the idea of what they needed was a leader for their educational community. Someone who understood the needs of educators. Someone who spoke their language, understood their concerns, and who could help them figure out what you do with a wiki once you actually sign up for it. That person of course was me. 🙂 ….or so I hoped it was.