Since Google Apps for Education are online, they can be and are updated constantly. This is a great help to tech departments across the world as updates happen and you don’t *really* need to re-image machines all the time (I put *really* because that’s a much bigger conservation AND philosophical ideal). When Microsoft Word comes out with an update, you used to have to purchase a CD, now you can download but you get an annoying alert every time. With Google Docs, you get a simple message highlighting the new feature, then a window with “Got It” as an option and then it goes away. Google Docs has new features all the time, and the latest is a way to “voice typing” that just came this week.
February 28th – Google Docs Voice Typing
Much like other Google products (search and their SmartPhone app) Google Docs now allows you to record you speaking into the computer and it will write it down for you. These speech to text programs (like Dragon) have existed for years, but the technology is now becoming cheaper, better and more accessible. As years go by, they have figured out things like punctuation and now formatting to the point where you can have your computer dictate a letter for you while your hands are busy!
To use this great new feature, just open Google Docs and you’ll notice the notification of a new feature (see box below).
Then click on Menu Bar > Tools > Voice Typing and then click on the microphone icon to get started!
In the demo I “voice typed” the line, said “New line” for the return key and was able to say “Select All” to highlight everything and then “Bold” to make it bold. After playing around for a paragraph or two, you’ll realize how easy it is and have another option to use when you’re hands are full!
“A Week With…” Google Docs went by in January and today I realized I forgot to talk about one of my favorite features!
February 25th – Google Docs Formatting Paintbrush
Without explanation, one day a rolling paintbrush showed up in the menu bar next to the Print, Undo and Redo buttons – just to the left of the 100%.
I never paid much attention because I never Print and typically use all of my keyboard shortcuts for the printing (Cmmd + P on Mac) and undo (Cmmd + Z) and even redo (Cmmd + Y). One day I started to experiment and it changed my world.
I quickly found that simply highlighting a format you like, pressing the button and highlighting some other bit of text instantly formats it – amazing! A huge time saver for me when dealing with tricky formatting options.
Since we covered organization and then more organization from Google Docs we are ready to start looking at how we import files and we can do this in two different ways. As mentioned in an earlier post, Google Drive is a Cloud storage system which you can store Microsoft Word documents, or Apple Pages documents or really anything – BUT Google Docs are something you can store AND edit. This post will help you upload and change documents to make them editable.
February 17th – “A Week With”… Google Drive
When we’ve organized everything that people have shared with us, the next step is putting our existing files into “the cloud”. This means we can do it 2 ways, and I’m going to suggest you do it both ways.
The scenario: you’ve been teaching for a number of years and have worked out a system with your 100+ Microsoft Word documents, but now the district/school wants you to work with Google Drive and you see the benefit, but what to do with the Word docs you have? My suggestion is to upload the original, and then upload an additional editable copy – just to cover the hard work you’ve done.
Before you upload you can select how the file will be uploaded – either as is (native file format) or editable within Google Drive. To select how you want to upload: click on the gear and then “Settings” and click on the box next to “Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format”.
You can upload two different ways:
1.) Click on the red “New” button and select file upload.
2.) If you are using Google Chrome, you can drag the file directly on the folder you want to put it into.
Try to do this in batches, so that you are uploading all the originals in the original format, and then as editable (in two different titled folders of course).
Although the “A Week With…” series is done, I’m continuing the theme and going to introduce you to Live Binders which are great to use with Google Docs.
One of the greatest programs invented is Microsoft’s One Note. Feel free to read that line again. The one stop “notebook” for everything, sounds, pictures, videos, text, drawing – is amazing. However, Microsoft can’t figure out how to capitalize on it. It works great on the new Surface Pro, but with a majority of the world (right now) still using laptops, that doesn’t help us. Well, one great thing about One Note is the tabs feature, this allows you to multiple documents within the same (much like a web browser) and other companies have struggled to figure out how to copy that. In steps Live Binder – with a little hack, it can work very similar to One Note.
January 24th – Live Binders
Live Binder is a free sign up and a very powerful program. Although I like and use it for the purposes of Google Docs, you can use any website as each of the tabs. In Live Binder, you have a collection of tabs on a page, and each is a separate URL. Seems simple, but truly brilliant when you have a Google Doc for each unit you teach, Live Binder allows you to have an overall class review with Google Docs linked. What about a project that has the students search websites for information? Use Live Binder to create the cover sheet with instructions, then link to the following webpages so students don’t have to find them/open new tabs in the browser.
As I conclude the first “A Week With…” series, I’d like to hear from people what they thought. Was it helpful? Did you like the format? I figured I could do a couple of back to back daily articles on a topic so it might be easier to follow – let me know in the comments section below!
The final tool I’d like to introduce you to (there are plenty more that might show up – but I think the tools shown will give you a good basis) is the Revision History
January 23rd – “A Week With…” Google Docs and Revision History
The instant that I bring up “collaborative learning” and “sharing documents” the skeptical teachers ask “But isn’t that cheating?”. First, week shouldn’t be creating assignments where there is one right way and students can cheat, but thats a different day/post/philosophical conversation. Second, we have this great safeguard called “See Revision History” which we can see all the changes made to the document, including when something is added (like copy and pasted from a source) or deleted (like another students name – yes it happened once). Simply open the document, go to the menu bar to File > See revision history (it’s a long keyboard shortcut – might want to skip remembering that one). On the right side you’ll see the authors and different colors highlighting what they’ll contributed to the document and you can freely click around to see changes without changing the document until you select the “Restore this Revision” button.
Now you can track changes and catch students in the act! Even better? Show it to them first to show that you know the system so they can’t cheat it!
The headings feature is great and can be used for tons of creative projects, however there is another way to use the built in bookmark/anchor feature to help organize your documents. Being a teacher, I’m thinking about the long “handbooks” that we give to students detailing what rules they are to follow, grading policies, absence policies and the like – shouldn’t we digitalize those so students can click and drag to the section they need? What about just creating a “Table of Contents” without using headers – as mentioned on January 21st?
January 22nd – “A Week With…” Google Docs and Bookmarks/Anchors
Note: I say Bookmarks/Anchors because Google Docs calls an anchor a bookmark, mainly because they want this to be accessible by everyone, not just web geeks like me.
Much like the headers from yesterday, you can link to places on your document. Yesterday we looked at linking to Headings, which was pretty easy because Google Docs did that for us, now we’ll be able to make a bookmark/anchor where the document will direct to. This involves a few steps:
1.) Open Document (Duh), and select place where you want the link to GO to, NOT where the link should be (that should be closer to the top of the page in a “table of contents” or similar)
2.) From the menu bar select “Insert” > “Bookmark”
3.) Then go to the top of the document (or where you want the link to be that people will click on)
4.) From the menu bar select “Insert” > “Link” (or notice the keyboard shortcut Cmmd+K – on a Mac) OR Type the word, and select it to add a link to it.
5.) Type in the text you want and now notice the new selection “Bookmarks” with a triangle/arrow, click the arrow and you have the bookmarks you’ve made in your document and can link to them!
Your students will love not having to scroll and soon you’ll ask: why doesn’t everyone organize a document like this?
One of the Great things about Google Docs is that the document itself is a website which you are essentially editing with a automatic save feature, then able to share. The next two post are going to be about making the Document more of a webpage and being able to create a table of contents like Wikipedia.
January 21st – “A Week With…” Google Docs and Headings
I can safely assume most people have been to a wikipedia page. Wikipedia is the famous online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, but everyone quickly learned the structure of the page with the Table of Contents at the top of the page (after the introductory paragraph) which you could click and it would take you down to the selected section. Well, it’s not so hard to do in Google Docs and have your students create a Google Doc of a topic with a similar structure and create your own Wikipedia (just be aware of copyrights…)
You may have noticed a section on the menu bar that is listed as “Heading 2” or “Normal Text” or “Title” – those are actually HTML tags that Google Docs built in and you can link to. Most things will be labeled as “Normal Text” but highlight (or select) the heading in your paper, then select Header 2 (for a higher level) or Header 3 (for one step in, etc…). In HTML <h1> through <h6> give a default boldness, size difference and anchor to the page – The Table of Contents, when you insert it, automatically finds those headers and creates one for you. My suggestion? Be creative with it! A Google Doc can be really helpful to share for class resources and has the semester goes along, you can easy create other headers as Units or whatever your class structure might be!