New Experience in Google Drive

With the adoption rate of Google Apps within our school district, I'm fairly certain most teachers are finding Google Apps for Education to be an advantageous addition to working, teaching, and learning.


However, as is OFTEN the case with Google, things change and they change quickly.


Google Drive has been reformatted to incorporate a new user experience that brings added benefits to the way we work with greater efficiency.  The video below from Google outlines many of the new changes.



With any new change, though, there is opportunity for confusion as users get used to the new platform.  Honestly, it seems as if the changes actually bring back some skills that many users were previously familiar with when searching for and selecting files on a computer, so these changes may be exactly what some users have been waiting for.


Take a moment to watch the video, switch over the new Drive experience (I did so by selecting the gear icon when I was in Google Drive and selected New Drive Experience), and start getting a bit more comfortable with the new layout, format, and toolset this version of Google Drive offers.


Additionally, if you have not yet realized it, Google Apps on the iPad has made some major alterations in the past few months that teachers should be aware of.  New apps, including Docs and Sheets, are now the apps used to EDIT Google docs and sheets files, and Drive is the storage and management app.  The video below is a pretty good overview of what these apps can do.  Again, if you have not seen this yet, now would be a GREAT time to get familiar with these apps before the students return.




Quick Turn Around: Already Reaping Key Benefits of Attending Google Summit


We were fortunate to send a team of 30 educators from across Waukesha to the Google Midwest Summit 2013.  This talented group, made up of educators and coordinators from across the district, was nominated  by building administrators to make the trip.


As always, aside from finding inspiration and adding some new tools to our bag of tricks, the focus is about bringing the message and learning of the power of these tools back to our colleagues and students in Waukesha.  We are so pleased to see this happening already, and we wanted to highlight the headway these attendees have made in the week that they have been back since the conference took place.



  • Using the YouTube editor, one attendee was able to capture a magical moment as one of our students with unique challenges at the elementary level demonstrated incredible growth since her teachers began working with her in fall.  Through the use of the YouTube editor (learned about at the conference), the teacher was able to pinpoint key moments during the student's performance that highlighted each learning target (something that could easily be overlooked without the context)
  • Inspired by the wealth of digital tools that are available and the necessity to simply put the information learned at the conference to use, one teacher/attendee is making a commitment to attempting the use of Blackboard in several classes as a means of getting started.  This is a risk that the teacher has embraced because of inspiration gained from networking with other motivated educators at the Summit.
  • One teacher/attendee has already set up the first Google Hangout (utilizing Google+) to connect with colleagues across the district without having to schedule an after school meeting and spend time driving across town.  The goal is to gain greater efficiency while staying connected.
  • Using the Google+ social network, one attendee has set up a Google+ community at his school and is actively recruiting teachers in the building to join in order to have a common sharing/social place in which to share ideas, articles, resources, etc.  As educators feel the constraints and demands of time, the use of a community like this maintains our connection with others, develops a platform in which we can share and collaboratively learn/reflect, and does so in a way that is asynchronous, meaning it is accessible to teachers when they are ready to digest the information available there.
  • Several attendees are actively talking about how to share their gained knowledge at upcoming professional development dates to spread the wealth of inspiration and information to a much wider group of colleagues.

This in no way captures all of the momentum sparked by sending attendees to this and other conferences, but it gives us perspective on what becomes possible when people are inspired with new ideas and introduced to powerful tools!  Remember, it has been literally less than a week since these folks have returned to the district.


We encourage you to connect with the representative from your building to pick their brain, hear more about the conference, and get inspired.  However, they are not the only source of knowledge.


Resources for the entire conference, for nearly every session presented, are available here:

Midwest Google Summit

We encourage you to take a look and dig in.  These resources are a generous gift provided by the conference presenters to any instructor who may have wished to attend the Summit but were unable to.

Need an Assistant for Grading? Try Flubaroo!

I know that many teachers have uncovered the power of Google Docs and are using the tools in your classroom (or intend to in fall).  However, the one certainty about Google tools is that there is always something new to learn.


Now before you freak out and say I'm getting too geeky for you, let me entice you just a bit.  If you are interested in assessing your students' knowledge using an online/electronic format (that DOES work on iPads), Google has a tool for that.  If you wish to take it one step further and get almost immediate feedback on that assessment (so you can actually plan next steps for your classroom using real time data), there is an easy to use tool for that.  It's kind of like having the perfect Teaching Assistant there and available to grade student quizzes for you, and provide a detailed breakdown for each student that will help you to determine what the students truly know.


The first part really is quite easy.  It's called Google Forms.  This is a powerful tool that has gotten even more powerful in the past few months with a recent update.  Google Forms allows you to collect information, to survey people, to assess student knowledge in an easy to build, easy to distribute electronic form.  Many teachers have found this tool and swear by it.  You may wish to learn to use it for simple tasks, like collecting student information in the first few days of school, collecting parent information so you can have an email list that is actually up-to-date, etc.  With just a few simple uses, you'll see the power and find more educationally relevant uses for Google Forms.  We have a resource on our Instructional Technology Resources site that will help you to get started with Google Forms:


However, the second part, the part that is REALLY enticing, is having something that actually grades your assessments for you in almost no time at all.  That is where some of you may get freaked out initially.  It really isn't difficult, and you don't need a scripting degree to understand how to use it.  However, the terminology does sound scary.  I promise -- it really isn't.


As you may already know, the responses that are collected in a Google Form are placed into a spreadsheet. That's how they stay organized and can easily be sorted.  However, within Google Spreadsheets is the power to run powerful formulas and scripts.  Left to our own devices, most of us would never be able to do this -- we don't have the knowledge.  However, some really nice, really teacher-friendly people with scripting knowledge have come to our rescue.  They've pre-made scripts that we can simply click on and use without having to understand the coding behind them.


That's where Flubaroo comes in.  It is a grading script that teachers can use to quickly assess student mastery of concepts gathered through the use of Google Forms.


I'll start with a video to help you see the general concept behind Flubaroo.



So, you are excited now, but thinking, "There is NO WAY I could that."  Guess again.  I told you, this is super easy.  Flubaroo provides a great series of instructions to help you get started.  After doing it a few times, you likely won't need the instructions any more.


To get to the step-by-step instructions, just follow this link:


In a few short steps, you'll have your own TA just waiting to help you streamline the process of assessing student learning.  Then you can get back to the business of planning meaningful instruction based upon the data you have in front of you.


Remember, you don't need to have students to learn to use this tool.  Now would be a great time to quiz your family and friends.  Send them a Google Form to find out what they know about you, and then use the Flubaroo script to grade their responses.  It may help you to quickly determine who you really want to spend time with this summer!

The New Look to Google Forms

Kind of like the weather in Wisconsin (it was 47 degrees and raining only 12 hours ago), Google can change its look and direction in a hurry!  It is something you just learn to live with as you increasingly depend upon the great tools they offer us in education.


For those who have delved into the world of Google Forms for data collection and formative assessment, be aware that in the next week or two, Google will likely release to us an updated version and look of Google Forms.  The updated look has already been released to individuals with a personal Gmail account, but it has not yet landed in our Google Apps for Education (GAFE) domain.


Added Functionality

Aside from an improved user interface, which is elegant and functional at the same time, there are some value-added benefits to the update.  These quotes about features are taken directly from the Official Google Enterprise Blog.


  • "Now with collaboration 
    Create a form faster than ever. Just as with Docs, Sheets and Slides, you can now collaborate with others in real-time. If you need to work with two colleagues on a survey, all three of you can work on the same form simultaneously and even have a group chat on the side, without leaving the form.
  • "Better editing 
    Even if you’re working solo, some new changes will make creating and editing forms easier. All your changes are auto-saved and you can quickly undo/redo edits. Improved copy-and-paste will let you copy a list of bullets from the web or multiple rows of text from a spreadsheet; then, when you paste into a form, each line will be appear as an individual answer. And you can use keyboard shortcuts to get things done more quickly. 

A Guide to the New Look and Functions

Molly Schroeder, a Technology Integrator from Edina Public Schools in Edina, MN, has put out a guide to the new look and features in Google Forms.  Molly's experience and ability to make Google seem useful and simple to maneuver translates well in this guide.  

You can access that resource here:  

Advanced Google Search - Finding Reading Levels of Resources

I'm going to disturb and unsettle some Library Media Specialists here for a second (I'll redeem myself in a bit), so please stick with me.


Most people think they generally know how to search the web.  In fact, some of us think we are pretty good at searching the web and finding valuable resources.  However, when you look at the tricks  and tips most of us actually employ to complete those searches, it's actually pretty unimpressive and without much strategy.  Sadly, those unimpressive search strategies are the exact same strategies we "relay" to our students if educators don't take a more progressive view of systematic digital resource research.


The harsh reality is that most of our searches start with Google.  And so do most of our students.  While we may wish they started in databases (or at least proceeded to them in deeper research), they typically do not.  I challenge all of you who have the luxury (sadly it has become that in so many schools) of a Library Media Specialist available in your building to help you rethink that approach when teaching research to your students.  These folks are experts in this area and can really jump start some high quality ideas and lessons that will be invaluable to your students today and in the future.


Let's say, though, that we were to stick to Google alone.  Did you know that Google has an Advanced Search feature that really drills down into some focused and interesting results.


I'm going to let another Waukesha instructor, West's Mark Grunske, share his nifty little tip about using Google's Advanced Search to find appropriate resources on the Internet based upon the reading level.  As you visit Mark's blog, you'll see the details of how to do this.  Go and try it yourself.  And in doing so, you'll see lots of other Advanced Search options that may make you see how valuable having a little bit more systematic, advanced search strategies (even in Google) can be in finding the digital information you REALLY want!


From Mark Grunske's blog:


"This month's Google tip deals with finding appropriate readings for students at different reading levels........

When I first saw this trick, I immediately thought of all of our work in AO as well as the current leveling in Science and the similar changes coming to English and Social Studies............To search Google for sources sorted by reading level all you have to do is the following......."

Read the rest of the article at Mark's blog - Google, Gadgets, and Grunske - Reading Levels.



And again, visit your Library Media Specialists to start exploring how we can teach kids to be better "seekers" and "finders" of information.  In a world where everything is digital and the accessibility to information continually explodes, these critical skills are as an important as being able to read the resources once our students have found them.

The Google Research Tool within Google Docs

 You've been there.   The open books, magazines, and resources spread out on the table, head snapping between the key words and quotes from the text and the notepad (or better yet, index card) on which your notes (and citations) will be stored for the research paper you will need to write eventually. 

With a little help from technology, at least one part of that equation can be eliminated -- the painstaking (and often inaccurate) handwritten copying of research resources, quotations, and key elements. 

With the update to Google Drive (formerly called Google Docs), a few other key updates were made.  The Google Research Tool is one of those updates.  The Research Tool (available when you are in a Google Document by clicking on Tools --> Research Tool) keeps your Google Document open on the left side of the screen, and then place a fully functional research window on the right side of the screen. Search Google from right within your Google Doc, find resources, images, quotes, or even use Google Scholar. 

The beauty is that resources, citations, images, and quotes can all be dragged into your document with LIVE LINKS to the resources for later exploration.  It's kind of like turning the world of resources available on the web into a stack of selected resources from the stacks of a library, all sitting right there on your research resources piles. 

Pretty impressive, but more importantly, very efficient.  Have your students regain their focus on the reading and selection of the resources instead of on the handwritten copying of that research (and citations, if they remember to do so) on to note cards or pads, to later re-write or type those citations into the actual paper.  Imagine the efficiency!

Are you a Google Chrome Ninja?

Old habits die hard.  That means that you have to have a pretty darn good reason for changing those old habits.  Based on what we are learning about Google Chrome, switching your preferred web browser is one of those habits you may soon want to consider taking on.


Some teaser "killer apps" for Google Chrome that may get you considering a change:


  • Easily switch between multiple Google accounts without logging out and back in
  • Never type in to your address bar again -- search Google right from the OmniBox (address bar) in Chrome
  • That same Omnibox (address bar) in your browser can also serve as a calculator -- just type an equation in and see
  • Easily bookmark your favorite sites, and have those bookmarks appear on any device with a Chrome browser that you log in to with a Google account 
  • Add incredible apps and extensions to the browser and make your working (and personal) life more fun and efficient (a timer extension that allows you to have a stop watch for group discussion sessions with students -- an image editing extension that allows you to screen shot and draw on/annotate photos from the web -- many more)


My personal Google Chrome Sensei, Molly Schroeder, has put together another masterful presentation/resource featuring some of the incredible tips and tricks that make Google Chrome a dynamite web browser.



If you want to take a look at some of Sensei Schroeder's favorite Google Extensions and Apps, look here -


*Warning - The possibilities may blow your mind!

**If you need additional Chrome assistance or questions, feel free to contact any member of the Instructional Technology Coordinator team for help.