Great Apps to Connect to Your Google Drive

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.drive apps

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!

 

Google Drive’s “One More Thing”

During FETC 2014 at the end of January/first of February, I had the opportunity to present a short session in the teaching theater at Google’s space in the exhibit hall. I chose to share about all the extra things Google Drive will do beyond what we know it to do – Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Drawings (probably the first three more than anything). What most don’t notice is the option to click on that says, “Connect More Apps” when the Create button is clicked in Google Drive.

Google Drive has so much more to offer teachers and students than how it comes “out of the box”! We are talking about putting powerful web apps at our students’ disposal right from within Google Drive. Via the web and for free! Apps that edit photos, edit videos, create diagrams, dynamic presentations, and more. The beauty of these apps being connected to a student’s Google Drive is that the files save right into Google Drive. Some apps even automatically create a folder for you where the files are stored. These powerful web apps are now available to all students to access from any computer connected to the web.

Web-based programs accessible via the web isn’t necessarily new anymore, but I believe the integration with Google is a key component with as many schools that are “going Google” with Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks.

If you’d like to see some of my favorites check out the slides below!

Google Drive Workflows to Use with Students

driveOne of the most common questions teachers have had lately is regarding the best way to have students share work with them and vice-versa via Google Drive. In my opinion this is the best feature of Google Apps for Education; the ease of sharing and collaborating with your fellow teachers and students.  It really simplifies your workflow and we aren’t confined to emailing attachments back and forth or accessing items via a network drive that’s only accessible at school.

When you’re wanting to use Google Docs/Drive with students, figuring out which workflow works best for you is one of the biggest challenges. How to access something I want students to turn in to me? How do I put a file out there for my students to have access to? I wanted to share a couple ways that teachers in my district have been doing that. I know they aren’t the only ways it can be done but teachers have had a lot of success with them.

“Out of the box” Sharing

Teacher creates the folder and manages the sharing – The sharing features that are already built in to Google Drive are very handy. I’ve had some teachers that have found it useful to create a folder and then share that entire folder with their students. This gives students access to the folder, they can then move it to their “My Drive” work space, and can then place any necessary documents in that folder that they need to have access to. If you’re going to go this route I would recommend creating a class folder and then creating a folder for each student inside of that.  This brings up an important digital citizenship conversation at this point that needs to happen. At this point your students will be able to access each others’ folders. If this were to become an issue you would need to go to the sharing settings for each individual folder and take each student off except for the student whose folder it is. Then your students will see the class folder, and inside that they will only see their folder. This option can take a while depending on how many students you have but it’s a one-time setup at the start of a school year or each semester.

Student creates the folder and shares with you – This is the option that I usually suggest for students in grades 3 through 12. I would have the student create a folder and they share the folder with you. I would strongly encourage to create a standard naming convention you’d like all your students to use when they create the folder (ex. Name followed by 2013-14, hour 2, American History etc.). The teacher could even take it a step further and ask students to create more folders inside that folder (ex. subject folders or a folder called ‘work to turn in”, etc.). This option puts the student as the owner of the folder and it can easily become a digital portfolio of their work for that school year.

Google Scripts

Google Scripts is a part of Google Apps that I can always find something new to learn about. If you don’t know what Google Scripts are, they are additions you install on a Google Spreadsheet to create various automated functions.  One of those scripts is called gClassFolders; which is one of the most popular scripts out there for teachers to use.

Like I said before, a script is something you install on a Google Spreadsheet. So what a teacher would do is set up a normal Google Spreadsheet with all of their students’ information on it. This would be their email address, Name, class, hour, etc. Whatever identifying information you’d like to have for each student.  Then you will need to run the gClassFolders script. If you go to this spot on their site you can make a copy of their Google Spreadsheet that’s already ready to go or you can watch their video tutorial that explains how to install the script yourself.

So once you set up the spreadsheet and run the script, it automatically creates folders for you and all of your students with the appropriate sharing permissions applied. It looks something like this:

folders-with per
gClassFolders example from gclassfolders.com

As you can see above it automatically makes a folder for the subject, and inside that folder there are assignment folders for each student to turn in their work (private only to you and them), a place to put documents that the whole class can edit and a place to put documents that the whole class can view. There’s also a teacher folder that’s just for you. All the sharing and folder creation is done from one place (Google Spreadsheet) that you manage.

While I know these are the only ways to have a successful workflow in Google Drive, these have been very beneficial to many teachers. The first couple are usually what teachers start with once they have a good grasp on using Google Docs and then move to something like gClassFolders that’s a bit more advanced.

If you have any other favorite ways to manage student work please share them in the comments section!