October 28, 2014
Google Drive is fantastic for many reasons. The “out of the box” uses for Google Drive are what makes it great – Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Drawings. This is what we all started with, and what our students start with. However, there is a whole other side to Google Drive; the ways you can make Drive function beyond it’s “out of the box” uses that make it really versatile.
The other apps that you can connect to your Google Drive can be found under the “More” option that you see when you click the New button in Google Drive. Inside of “More” you will see an option that says “Connect more apps”. This will take you to a mini app store of apps that can be connected to your Google Drive. I wanted to share some of my favorites in this post which is in no particular order and by no means exhaustive.
Pixlr Express – This app is a great photo editing app for students and teachers that don’t need all the bells and whistles of full blown editing software. The interface is simple: you open the image that is saved on your computer, via a web link, or capture directly from the webcam on your computer. You can do simple edits like cropping, placing text on an image, or applying various special effects. Where it integrates nicely with Drive is that if you have images already saved there, you can now right click on an image, select “open with” and you will now see that Pixlr Express is a choice.
Pixlr Editor – If you are needing something more robust; more like Photoshop, then you will want to add Pixlr Editor to your Drive. The interface is very similar to Adobe Photoshop. You can create images, layers, etc. with a more advanced set of editing tools. Again, since it’s integrated with your Drive, it can be used to open any existing images you have saved there. This app might be more appropriate for middle school and high school students taking a graphic design course that are needing to learn core fundamentals of image editing.
WeVideo – To go along with the above two is WeVideo, a really nice video editing platform. Again since it integrates with Drive this app will automatically create a WeVideo folder in your Drive to keep all your video projects organized. This app does have a free and a pay version; however, I’ve always found the free version more than sufficient for projects that I need to create as well as student created projects. One of the best parts about WeVideo is their effort they’ve made to teach the user how to use it. You have three different view modes for when you’re working on a project, and there’s also the WeVideo Academy – where you can go through their library of short video lessons to learn all of the ins and outs of the app. The team from WeVideo really gets that the focus should be on learning and not the technology.
Powtoon – Are you looking for a presentation tool that has lots of fun features? You will want to check out Powtoon for sure. It gives your students another option to create a presentation. It’s a great way to differentiate for students to show mastery of a concept. When you connect it to your Drive make sure to get the EDU version.
VideoNotes – This app is just a bit different in how you connect it to your Drive. When you first go to their site you will click the Connect with Google Drive button on the home page. You will not find this one through the “Connect more apps” option directly in Drive. This app is a great way for students to take notes while watching a YouTube, Khan Academy, Vimeo, or Coursera video simultaneously. You load the video on the left side of the interface and use the right side to take notes. You name your note file and since it’s connected to Drive, it automatically saves it in a VideoNotes folder that is created for you in Google Drive. It works really great and you can even stop working and reopen your VideoNotes file at a later time. A very handy app!
Lucidchart – This is another app that you want to make sure and get the education version when you connect it to your Drive. Lucidchart is an excellent app for creating diagrams, mind maps, flow charts, and other graphic organizers. Students can work independently or build collaboratively. The app has loads of ready to go templates for students to jump right into using.
Lucidpress – Made from the same makers of Lucidchart, Lucidpress gives you the ability to create really robust, professional looking documents; whether that be for digital viewing or for print (I always suggest doing digital over printing). Lucidpress has a ton of pre-made templates for newsletters, flyers, signs, and more.
Google Drive Template Gallery – This is always one of the first Google Drive apps I suggest for teachers and students to add-on. Not only does this give you access to a lot of Google specific templates (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Drawings), but if you’re using your Google Apps for Education account, your organization can have its own private template gallery. Staff and students can publish files to the template gallery for others in your organization to use. For example, we have one of our high school math departments publish Google Drawing files of a coordinate plane to the template gallery so students can easily get a copy whenever they need one. You also have access to all of the public templates that are available to everyone in the world.
This has just been a small sample of the great apps that are available to connect to your Google Drive. What I love about apps like these (besides they being free) is that is gives staff and students such a wide variety of applications all from within Google Chrome. We are becoming less and less dependent on using one specific computer with a piece of software installed or being limited to one particular platform. These are all apps that can get kids creating content rather than just consuming content!
October 1, 2014
Today kicks off Connected Educator Month. The hashtag being used to centralize the posts, tweets, and chats about being a connected educator is #CE14. I encourage you to follow this hashtag throughout the month of October to find great educational leaders to add to your personal learning network (PLN). It will be a great example of what it means to be a connected educator. Being that I am in a constant state of learning, I will be tapping into the great people and resources there all throughout the month of October.
I must remind you, however, that being a connected educator isn’t limited to October. Should we only be cheerleaders of being a connected educator one month out of the year? In my opinion we should be modeling what a connected educator is all year-long. It has become (or needs to be) who we are in providing relevant, innovative opportunities for our students. Who are we modeling this for? For me, I’m modeling it for my coworkers, my own children, and teachers, students, and administrators in my district. That’s my immediate impact zone. Of course it is my hope that while modeling being a connector educator here in the Kansas City area I’m also helping others in other schools and districts around the globe. If my learning helps others do the same, then that a win all around. It’s more than being “connected”, I’m doing it to show that I am first and foremost a learner. My friend Molly Schroeder calls it “Living in Beta”. Have you identified who you need to me modeling this for and why? Are you modeling a learner first mindset?
Just like with anything else that’s new, becoming more of a connected educator is no different. There are options, options, and more options for how you can become connected. For some it’s Twitter. Some like to join Google+ communities. For others it might be reading and commenting on blog posts; or writing your own. Voxer has even taken off as a new way for educators to connect with others to collaborate. The list goes on. To each his/her own right? Of course, part of being a connected educator means recognizing that there isn’t just one way to do so. Just like we should be doing for our students, our own learning should be no different. Not everyone is going to learn the same way nor is how we model what we’ve learned.
My challenge to you for Connected Educator Month, is to pick one thing and get really good at it. Make it stick. Follow some chats on Twitter, start a blog, etc. The choice is yours and yours alone. Don’t focus on how fast you’re moving forward – the point is you’re moving forward!