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?

Appointment Slots new to GcalA great feature popped up in my Google Apps for Educaiton GCal the other day. I was putting in some meetings and noticed an “Appointment Slots” link in the event window.

Not sure how long it’s been out (please somebody tell me it hasn’t been years), but it’s turning out to be a fantastic tool for education.

Basically you can “slot out” chunks of time on your calendar to allow others to make appintments with you on your calendar. Once you active Appintment Slots you get a special URL that only shows the slots in your calendar you want to allow people to make an appintment with you.

Appointment Slot URL




I’ve already used it when teachers have e-mailed me asking for a time to meet. Instead of 3 or 4 e-mails back and forth to find a common time, I just send them the link to my Appointmnet Slots and they choose a slot that works for them. Saving us both time and e-mails. Update: Today I added it to my signature so it’s always in front of teachers when I e-mail them.

I could see this being using for elementary conference times. Teacher’s could share their appointment slots with parents and parents could just sign up in a slot that fits their time. No more slips of paper, no more juggling schudules. Simple and straight forward. 

Set the appointment lengthWhen creating your time slots you can adjust the chucks of time you want your appiointments to be. I break my slots up into 30 minute meeting times. If a teacher wants to meet for longer than 30 minutes they just fill out two appintments back to back. 

I’m sure there are a million other uses for this new feature in the classroom and schools at large. What ideas do you have?

In May I noticed I was being asked to hold more and more trainings at my own school and around the world on Google Apps as schools make the move to Google Apps for Education (GAFE). It’s simple, cost effective, and just so vaulable of a resource to have school wide that making the argument not to go to GAFE is a tough one. 

Seeing I was being asked to do more and more training sessions I thought I better make sure I know what I think I know about the whole Google Apps system. So I signed up, passed, and just became a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer making me an official trainer and, from what I can tell, maybe the only one working in Asia.

So if your school/company is looking for some training in Google Apps know I’m here and officially certified.  

That’s it….now back to runninng PD sessions as kids arrive on Monday for the new school year and we have a lot to cover. :) 

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!

(Full Disclosure: I own stock in Google)

The more I read about what Google launched at Google IO a couple of weeks ago the more I’m convinced that I’m going to continue to love Google and its products as well as where they are taking us into the future. 

HTC Incredible S3 weeks ago I traded in my iPhone 3G for an HTC Incredible S that had just been released in Taiwan and I haven’t looked back. The speed, the form factor, the 8MB camera on the back and 1.3MB camera on the front…and an open platform. 

I bought my wife an HTC Desire a year ago and we both fell in love with it. It was my wife’s first Smartphone and she was nervous at first about figuring it out. 2 weeks later she couldn’t live without it. 

When it comes to Android what I love is that because it’s open-source companies can take the base product and put their own spin on it. I love what HTC has done with their HTC Sense interface on top of Android, it really gives it a polished finish that rivals any iPhone. 

I also like the idea of widgets that you can put on the screens. I’m all about reducing my clicks, and having my calendar, contacts, and friend stream always open saves mini-seconds of time throughout the day that add up. 

But what I think excites me most about Google and Android is the future. 

At its recent Google IO conference they talked about Android@Home where they are releasing open APIs that companies can use to build into their home products like refrigerators, light switches, sound systems, etc. If companies adopt the standard then smart-appliances are in our not to distance future….and again because Android is open it basically could runs in the background allowing each company to put their own look and feel to the user interface (UI)

Then there is what Google continues to do with automobiles. We already know they have a car that can drive itself, but now they’re partnering with Ford to make our cars even smarter. 

Open Wins

Google has shown again that creating open platforms in the long run win out. There are now more Android phones in the US than iPhones and it’s predicted that by July there will be more Android apps than iPhone Apps

Then there’s the app building piece which, I’m not sure if they did this on purpose or not but looks and acts a lot like Scratch the MIT game building software.

So a school could have a computer game building class one year and the next year have an App building class where the skills build on each other (please tell me there are schools out there doing this?).

Wikipedia beat Encarda, Linux is the backbone of the Internet, Blogs beat newspapers, and Twitter is taking down nightly news.

In the long run open wins, it gives people choice and allows for creativity. 

The Importance of Failing

I also love the fact that Google takes chances and fails…and not little chances…big chances. Google Wave, Google TV (so far), Google Buzz, all products that Google hasn’t had a hit with…and that’s OK. 

When you’re pushing, when you’re being innovative, you’re gonna have failures….and I for one like to celebrate those. Good companies (and teachers) can fail big, get back up and try something else.

Constant Beta

I really wish I could convince educational leaders in this notion (as I wrote here). Google products are always in constant Beta. They still make somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 tweaks to Google Search. Google Docs is constantly getting updates and tweaks, and the same goes for Chrome, Maps, Android, and most other products. They are constantly innovating, seeing what works what doesn’t. Building on the positive and throwing out the negative. 

Teachers do this daily with their students, constantly adjusting to student needs, what’s working, what’s not….however are we doing it at an organizational level? Or is education “good enough” and we’ll continue to build curriculum like we’ve always done.

I’m excited for the future….I don’t know where all this is going, what my home will look like in 5 years, what this device I’m typing on will look like in 5 years….but I’m excited to see where it’s all going to lead. 

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. 

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)

Last week I was asked to give a talk to our high school students about CyberSafety. A yearly talk to remind them about the Internet and their responsibility on it….or that’s how I view it anyway. 

I was given 5 minutes at an assembly….5 minutes to cover the whole topic of CyberSafety. So the question became how do I make an impact in 5 minutes?

I decided that the best way to present what I wanted to say was to do a Pecha-Kucha. First, when given such a short time frame I wanted to make sure I didn’t get off track, go down a rabbit hole of my own thinking and never make the point. The structure of the Pecha-Kucha with slides pre-timed at 20 seconds per slide would force me to stick to the message. Secondly, Pecha-Kucha as a presentation style has been catching on in our high school ever since I did one for a staff meeting. Many of our students have had to give Pecha-Kuchas this year and seeing that it was me that brought this loved/hated presentation style to the kids it was only fair that I play by the same rules (Plus I hoped that showing them a good example would help them in their own presentations in the future).

Talking about CyberSafety to high school students is a topic I always find difficult. It’s there world you’re talking about . How do you tell them about their world? You can scare them with stories, you can overwhelm them with statistics, or you can ask them to take control. This year I would ask them to take control.

First I knew I needed to establish a connection with them so my opening slide was this: 

Google Resume

Just the slide on the screen had the kids clapping, cheering and laughing. I quickly told them that even though LOL and OMG are now official words that they should still check with their English Teachers before using them in their next essay. But the laughter and cheering was the connection, I had an emotional response that now I could play on. My next slide was about CyberSafety…that’s it one slide.

Google Resume

I simple said “Be Safe and know that everything is Public….does anyone have any questions?” They again laughed and rightfully so…they’ve heard this for years now. To make a point that there is no privacy on the Internet I used Credit Card companies that for years now do not charge you for anything purchased on a stolen card. They eat billions of dollars every year in stolen credit card numbers, yet they are willing to take that risk so that you the customer can have the ease of purchasing online…..assume it’s public…assume it’s going to happen eventually.

I then talked about some stats to frame the rest of my talk. 2 Billion Interent users 500 Million+ on Facebook or in other words 25% of all Internet users are on Facebook (that silenced the crown…again an emotional fact I don’t think they realized). I talked about text messaging and displayed this made up graph of the correlation between bathroom breaks and text messaging at our school. Again the kids laughed (emotional response).

Google Resume

All of this in 80 seconds (4 slides) to frame my real message of the day. That with all this information out there you need to learn to control it and use it. So I framed the rest of my talk about building your Google Resume. We all use Google to look up everything, even people we meet. Employees and Universities do the same, Google in many cases is your first resume and the paper copy that you hand in is really your second. So how to do you use the power of Google to build your resume?

I talked about using their blogs as a place to tell the world who they are and want to be. I talked about leaving comments on other blogs around the world. I talked about submitting articles to high profile blogs or online sites including our own In The Mix which has had over 70,000 views since it started last August. A site started just for this purpose…to promote great student writing. 

I talked about being active on the web, that every one of them should have a Facebook account as you have to be there to control the information, to use it to your advantage seeing that 80% of Universities now use Facebook and other social networks to find information on you.

I ended with this simple slide. Be Safe, Be Active, Take Control. I do believe those are the keys to being safe on the web…no matter your age. 

There’s been a lot of talk about my presentation since…..even teachers Googling themselves and asking how do they build their Google Resume. A couple students have submitted writings to In The Mix and today after school I’m doing a sessoin of Resume building that the counselors asked me to run for seniors. 5 minutes to make an impact and it seems to have worked in the short term anyway. We’ll see where this leads as we prepare for next year. 

sciencefair logo google

Now this is just down right cool! Mashable is reporting that in a few hours from now on 1/11/11 Google will be announcing the first ever global science fair. So many possibilities and I can only image what students will submit. The fair is open to 13 – 18 year olds from around the world and the prizes range from scholarships to work opportunities (as reported by Mashable).

The Google Science Fair Site is now live. You can view it here and sign up your class or school here. What a great was to start 2nd Semester at any school. Great timing on Google’s part as a teacher could give extra credit to those student who submit an entry, or even make this a part of their own school wide science fair. 

As usual Google as a nice little video to go with the launch. 

I just spent a bit of time going through the site and it looks really cool. There’s no reason why a school district or school couldn’t easily copy this format for future use as well. 

I’ll be following this over the next semester and hopefully will get some kids at my own school interested enough to submit an entry.

Google anncouned Google Instant today…or was that yesterday….today to me, yesterday to you? Anyway, sometime in the past 48 hours Google launched their new search engine.

Some people have been asking does this change mean anything to educators and education?

The answer is: Absolutly!

Google Instant

It changes the way we teach search. When teaching search skills to 2nd graders (You do teach search skills to your 2nd graders right?) I always use the word dolphin for a couple of reasons.

1. It’s a safe search

2. It returns millions of hits

3. You’ll get search results for both the football team and the animal

But now that’s all changed. Above you’ll see what I get now when I search for Dolphins with Google Instant. Student now have instant feedback as they type and can then correct or continue typing and narrow down their search.My search will be narrowed down to exactly what I want before I even actualy hit the search button.

I think it’s a positive change as basically we’ve just done away with a lot of search syntax we use to have to teach kids and can now search….literally…in real time.

Why is this such a big deal for Google?

Eric Schmidt the CEO of Google made this statement at a tech conference on August 4th:

Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until  2003, according to Schmidt. That’s something like five exabytes of data, he says.

Let me repeat that: we create as much information in two days now as we did from the dawn of man through 2003.

(BTW…using Google Instant it took me 5 words to find this exact quote)

If you run a company who is trying to organize and return results to all this informaiton then you need a way to deliever that information instantly to your customers…..aka…searchers.

It’s going to take us a while to wrap our heads around this new feature, but the more I search with it the more I’m finding it very powerful and returning the exact search results I’m looking for.

  • We need to rethink how we teach search skills to kids
  • We need to reteach search skills to kids
  • We need to teach kids to search

Just another reason why the skill of learning, unlearning, and relearning is so important in this fast pace digital world.

Last year one of the best ads released during the SuperBowl was this simple ad by Google

Shortly after the release of this video Google asked you to make your own search stories.

Simply go to http://www.youtube.com/searchstories and start creating your story.

What a great way to teach students search skills.

Give students and start and end point. For example in 3rd Grade I might give students: Rocks and Volcanos. Start with Rocks and create a search story that gets you to end your search story with how Rocks and Volcanos are related.

Or in High School how about finding a connection between two random books: The Odyssey and 1984.

I’m sure you can come up with your own examples. Take two unrelated topics and see if students can use their search skills to bring them together. Or could a student tell the story of a character through search. Take just the character Homer in The Odyessey and tell his story in 7 lines using search.

Or you can do what I did and tell the story of you.

So many possibilites!