Elementary school principal Catina Haugen devoted her slice of time to Ngram Viewer, a Google graphing tool that “takes all the literature Google has chronicled and picks out the words [you search for] and gives you some trends about them.” Students can search for instances of freedom and democracy or monarchy and democracy, for example, and see how those terms have waxed and waned throughout the centuries. “In 1940s-50s there were more mentions” of the terms democracy and freedom, she said, before adding that users can also switch the language of the books being searched. “Look what happens when you change that to Chinese.” Overall, “You can do lots of iteration on the language and encourage your students to do some exploration.”
After introducing Google spoken searches, science teacher JR Ginex-Orinion cataloged a series of shortcuts and workarounds that he called Google tips for the lazy (“like me,” he joked). CraftyText, a Chrome extension, lets teachers easily project a phrase in large-point font across the screen at any time, such as during overhead presentations. Another extension, Clipboard History, retrieves everything in your ctrl+c copy history at a glance, while Tabcloud bookmarks all the tabs you have open—useful for pulling up an entire lesson’s worth of materials in a click. Auto Text Expander lets you save a specific (short) combination of text and numbers in the extension, which can be used later as shorthand for autofilling longer phrases in emails, docs, or web forms.
Sortd, a tool still in beta, acts as a so-called “smart skin” for Gmail, filtering emails into Tweetdeck-like columns. With a standard chronological email stack on the left, the right-hand columns can be sorted into things like “to-do,” “important,” and “follow up” to prevent messages from getting lost or sinking to the bottom of a growing pile of emails.
Technology teacher on special assignment Kevin Fairchild shared advanced features of Google Forms, including one called Data Validation (an option located under advanced settings). “How many of you ever have students submit something incorrectly in a Google Form?” he asked to a sea of hastily-raised arms. “What Data Validation lets you do is tell the form, ‘I only want to accept numbers, or letters, or make the students write a minimum amount or a maximum amount.’ It will not let the students submit the form until they have met your criteria.”
Branching Pages provides different questions based on student answers, Fairchild said. (“This would go really well with Alice’s choose your own adventures,” he noted). Choice eliminator, an add-on, is another useful option for forms that multiple students will be using simultaneously, as it automatically removes answers when students click on them. The frequency can be adjusted so that an answer disappears after four or ten students click on it. “It’s a nice way to have students choose project groups when you don’t want duplications.”
According to middle school tech teacher Scott Moss, Google provides resources for schools to start their own coding clubs using Scratch through Google CS First. “You sign up for free, but you have to commit,” he said. Google then sends eligible programs two boxes, one containing curriculum with lessons already scripted out, and another with “very nice headphones for the club.” Schools can organize their clubs around music, art, game design, fashion, and more.
Wrapping up, teacher Jo-Ann Fox showed how to use Google Slides and an iPad drawing app, such as Paper53, to create custom backgrounds, logos, and graphics, then export them into the camera roll (with the background on) and import them into Google Slides, using a extension called Color Pick Eyedropper to match specific colors for use with text.
“Finally,” she said. “No more death by slides.”
[Ed. note: Check out the presentation doc for a complete list of resources.]