March 3rd – MindMaps

A big part of Algorithms is breaking down how you do something and putting it into steps.  People often create flow charts to assist them in figuring out the parts of the whole or how parts relate to one another.  In elementary school I remember “brainstorming” and writing everything down and trying to make connections.  In this modern age, we have computers that can do it for us!

March 3rd – Mind Maps

This is another general post on a concept with a few example programs – again you’ll need to play with the product and find what works for you!  All of the following are through Google Drive which it uses to store your mindmaps and gives you the ability to share with others.

Meisterlabs

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Meisterlabs created a simple mindmap which is very similar to others – you start with a “main idea” and build off of it.  The Pro’s – Easy to use and share with others.  The Con’s – Only 3 maps at a time on the free account.

Coggle

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Coggle is very similar to Meisterlabs, with a even simpler interface. The Pro’s: Unlimited MindMaps.  The Con’s: A little strange to navigate (for me at least).

MindMup

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MindMup is another Mind Mapping program, only this just went through an upgrade to 2.0.  Looks great and seems to have the same features as Google Drive (sharing and organizing from the document itself). The Pro’s: Version 2.0 means they have someone who cares about the product and actively making improvements. The Con’s: Version 2.0 is new so I’m sure there are some kinks to work out.

There are a dozen more out there, I’ve worked with Mindmap from Mindmapmaker.org (click here to go straight to the Google Drive app – if installed) and Mindomo, and you just have to install them through Google Drive and give it a go.  If you don’t like it, check out the gif below to remove apps from your Google Drive.

Remove Apps from Google Drive
Removing apps from Google Drive

 

February 22nd – Code School and Google Drive

“A Week With…” Google Drive bonus post!  This one is more an “add-on” that take a little extra effort.  My love of Computer Science has taken me far and wide on the Internet.  I find articles, curriculums and academies and actually spend a majority of my time checking them out (my “cool high school 18 year old self” would be ashamed).  One that is great, but comes with a cost for the “regular courses”, is CodeSchool.com.  Codeschool.com will be reviewed in a later post, but they have a free course on Google Drive that is worth checking out.

February 22nd – “A Week With…” Google Drive + CodeSchool.com

CodeSchool.com is a excellent website to teach you basic skills in different programming languages – I’ve taken the JavaScript course and it was great, easy to follow instructions, videos to guide you before each set of exercises and then some challenging stuff that you really had to think about.  The downside?  It’s $30 month, which isn’t bad by any means, but I ended up beating myself up when I didn’t use it as often as I wanted to (you know, other “life” stuff getting in the way).  Fortunately CodeSchool also offers some free courses as well, and Google Drive is one of them.  Just visit CodeSchool Google Drive API Course and follow along to the 10 lessons they give you to work through.  By the end you’ll feel like a rock star and hopefully seek out a few more CodeSchool free courses.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 8.12.48 AM
CodeSchool Google Drive Elective API Course Home Page screenshot taken February 22nd

 

February 21st – A Week With Google Drive Day 7

Now that you are comfortable with sharing folders and files from Google Drive, now you can take it a step further.  You can use Google Drive folders to host websites!

February 21st – “A Week With…” Google Drive

Google Drive can be pretty amazing – but one thing that isn’t easy to work with is hosting something from a Google Drive.  Websites and pictures need a place online to refer back to if they want to be seen.  Within Google Drive you can share a file or folder, why not a website?  Now you can!

A few steps:
1.) Create a folder and set sharing permissions to “Public on the Web”

Creating a Folder for Hosting
Creating a Folder by “right clicking”
Sharing for Hosting
Sharing Folder to “Public on the Web”

2.) Copy files to host (.html, .css, .js) into the folder and grab the folder Key.  It can be located in the URL after “/folder/”.

Getting Folder Key
Copying the URL after “/folders/” as the Folder Key and visiting Googledrive.com/host/

3.) Visit googledrive.com/host/ and paste the folder key after the “/host/” part.  Voila! Its a hosted site!  The first site will be hosted files – you could’ve put another “/index.html” after the folder key to go directly to the index.html file.

 

February 20th – A Week With Google Drive Day 6

Now that we’ve organized our Drive, imported files and been able to convert those PDFs and images into editable documents, and even created a few new mind maps, HTML documents and a pixel image or two (wow, you must be exhausted!) let’s focus on how we can share this with the world! Much like how your co-worker kept sharing files with you, you can do the same – but remember the experience and think about what would be best and least annoying for them to get a hold of important documents.

February 20th – “A Week With…” Google Drive (Sharing Files and Folders)

The great thing about Google Drive is the ability to share with students and co-workers, but like anything on the computer (or in Computer Science) we want to use it efficiently not not recreate the same mess we’d be handing them in real life. Sharing a half dozen documents is a pain, and giving them to the other user one at a time is like handing them a single piece of paper, walking out of the room and then walking right back in. It’s not helpful for anyone.

The ability to share a single document is great a easy – but what about when you need to give them a digital “packet” of material? This is where sharing a folder comes in handy.

In a Google Doc (Slides, Sheets, Drawing, etc…) you can easily scroll to the top right hand corner and click on the “Share” button to type in a email address of a co-worker or student.  But this is no different than handing out a single document, and looking around most high school classrooms there is a place for “extra handouts” or “missing classwork” that are sitting there available for students – why not create that digitally for all students?

The beauty of the digital folder share is that it doesn’t have to be finished when you share it – simply share on the first day, and make the URL available on a website (or using one of the URL shorteners) that students can visit to get more resources (again putting the learning in their hands!).

Simply select the Folder you want to share, find the “person +” button and type in the names OR better yet, type in the contact list you created for the class on day 1.  Using Google Classroom?  Make the folder available for everyone and post under the “About” tab on the Google Classroom under the “Resources” area.

Sharing a Folder
Selecting a folder, then sharing it with either the “world” or individual people.

 

 

February 19th – A Week With Google Drive Day 5

In Google Docs/Slides/Sheets some of the most powerful resources you’ll find are from the “Add-On’s” which Google has given 3rd Party access to develop “add-ons” to their products.  I’ve talked, and will continue to talk, about a few I really like for Sheets.  Google Drive has similar “Add-On’s” which are Apps that use the platform.  There is a giant online store full of them you can check out, but below I’m going to give a brief review of a few helpful ones.

February 19th – “A Week With…” Google Drive

When inside your Google Drive you can click the new button to create a new Doc, Sheets, or Slides, but if you scroll to the “More >” option it’ll open up to Google Draw, Google Forms and something called “Google My Maps” and the option for “Connect More Apps”.  Do it.  Most of them are free and really useful. Below are a few I’ve found and have been very useful in my teaching.

Adding Apps to Google Drive
Adding Apps to Google Drive

1.) Editey
Pros: It’s (the default one) an online instant HTML/CSS editor that students can see their work instantly.  Helps them to add in CSS via separate external file to show the true power of CSS and helps them to make connections to why it’s important (and not to use internal or inline style)
Cons: Seems to be having some issues with Google Drive – I checked out their blog and they said Google changed some permissions and they are working to resolve them – stay tuned!

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2.) StackEdit
Pros: It’s another HTML editor and has a slick interface which is closer to what industry professionals use (rather than Editey)
Cons: A little tricky to figure out and I had a tough time working with all 34 of my students to help them understand the platform – the main reason we went with Editey as a class with Chromebooks

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3.) MindMeister
Pros: This isn’t the only Mind Mapping software available (see the screenshot) but I feel it’s the best with the options you can create colorful text and maps.  You can also export to PDF and images without the upgrade
Cons: Only 3 MindMaps at a time.

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4.) Pixlr
Pros: A free (with some ads) alternative to Adobe Photoshop.  Very powerful and a nice step up from Google Draw, but will get you ready for Adobe Photoshop when you are ready to spend the money
Cons: The ads take up a lot of space on the screen, and when you come from learning Adobe Photoshop (or a like powerful product) it’s hard to adjust down to this free version – I suggest starting with this and maxing it out before jumping to Photoshop

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There are dozens more available and you’ll have hits and misses, but you’ll learn a little something about everything in the process!

February 18th – A Week With Google Drive Day 4

Continuing in our “A Week With…” Google Drive series we revisit a fantastic trick that Google Drive does.  January 9th I wrote about a great little trick to convert PDF and JPG’s to text, but it was somewhat out of context. I was more just excited about the skill and now, in our week of Google Drive, it seems like a better place to insert the skill again.

February 18th –  “A Week With…” Google Drive

Google is constantly trying to improve upon its existing products.  They purchase new technologies from other companies and incorporate it into their own holding company (now called “Alphabet”) and seem to have their hands in just about anything and everything.  Google also uses existing technologies in other ways, one being Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to scan the words in a page and place them into a editable Google Doc.

PDF to Google Doc
Converting Code.org Document on State Models to Expand CS to editable Google Doc

This is incredibly helpful when you find some great resource online and need the text – and although you can split-screen it and type up those 5 paragraphs, using this technology instead will be so much more efficient and save time, which no teacher truly has on their hands.

 

February 17th – A Week With Google Drive Day 3

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”.

Convert Files on Upload
Click on the Gear and Settings to either Convert the Documents automatically or not.

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.

Upload Docs to Google Drive
Uploading using the “New” button. (Not pictured: the drop and drag method to uploading)

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).