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!

 

The New Google+ Hangouts App & Extension for Chrome

This week Google rolled out the new version of Google+ along with a redo of Hangouts. If you want to read the full details be sure to check out this post over on the Google+ blog. The post also has the links that will take you to downloading the new Hangouts app/extension for Android, iOS, and Chrome.

I wanted to share a quick post that explains the app and extension that are specific to Chrome.

Video Call Launcher for Hangouts

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This app from the Chrome Web Store is exactly what the title says; once you install the app and click it, you are taken straight into a new video Hangout session and can invite whomever you need to. I like this app because you don’t necessarily have to start from your Google+ home page to start a video hangout. Start a new tab, click the app icon, and you’re off and running.

Hangouts Extension

screen-capture-1Again, without having to head to your Google+ home page or your Gmail inbox first, you can jump right into your Hangout chats with this handy extension. It opens your Hangouts chat window in the lower right corner of your screen and you’re chatting away without leaving what you’re currently working on. You can tuck it away even lower in the bottom-right corner by minimizing it.

I’m really enjoying the new look and feel to Google+; especially the redesign of Hangouts. I have an iPhone and am also enjoying the iOS version of Hangouts too. Hangouts are a great way for us to connect our classrooms to learn and collaborate globally.

10 Apps in 10 Minutes #chromebookedu

Recently my colleague Jill and I worked with some teachers during a PD day on finding great Chrome apps & extensions for learning. We thought we’d kick off the time together by picking 10 of our most favorite (picking only 10 is hard!) and sharing them with teachers in 10 minutes. We wanted to quickly get teachers excited about educational apps and extensions available to their students. We might have went just a tad over 10 minutes but nonetheless we kept it brief.

Here are the 10 we covered with a quick description as well as the link to the Chrome Web Store. I am also purposely keeping this post short so it takes 10 minutes or less to read. 🙂

1. Google Dictionary – a very handy extension to use in Chrome. Students can quickly look up the definition of a word by using the extension or directly; or double-clicking any word on a web page will bring up it’s definition and a sound icon to click and hear the pronunciation.

2. Pixlr Express – this app allows you to quickly and easily do some fun editing to any photos you have saved on your computer, in Google Drive, or even captured live via webcam. This is one of many apps that integrates easily with Google Drive.

3. Scratchpad – another app that works seamlessly with Drive. This one opens a new (smaller) window to give the user a basic note-taking application. The really nice feature is that a “Scratchpad” folder is automatically created in Google Drive with each note stored inside it.

4. Lucidchart for Education – students and teachers can quickly build diagrams, flowcharts, and concept maps with this web-based diagramming tool. Again, saves and syncs straight to Google Drive for easy access from any computer or to collaborate with a classmate.

5. Readability – this is an extension that strips all the extra “stuff” off of a news article or blog post. Many times advertisements and other links can be very distracting as students try to read content on the web (for teachers too!). The Readability extension gets rid of all those extra bits so you can focus on just the content.

6. Lego Builder– What kid (or adult) doesn’t love building with Legos? With the Lego Builder app you can build all kinds of fun structures. Students that love Minecraft will also find creating content enjoyable with this app too.

7. Isle of Tune – this is a great app for the musician in all of us. Create a town on your island and each element of your town has different musical properties.  Then as you send your cars driving around your newly built community your new tune will play.

8. MeeGenius – this is one of many great apps for younger grades to read and listen to online storybooks. Access a bookshelf full of the popular stories loved by many generations. Students can not only hear the book read to them but also see the words highlighted on the page as the story is read.

9. Typing Club – keyboarding skills and the necessity for students to have them are becoming more and more embedded in everything we do. Apps like Typing Club

10. Math Invaders – practicing math just got a lot more fun. Students can practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a game-like format.

The great thing about installing apps in Chrome (whether on a Chromebook or not) is quick and easy. With everything in Chrome staying in sync to students’ Google accounts, access to these apps is easy no matter which Chromebook or computer a student is using that’s connected to the web.

These are just a sample of the great educational apps available in the Chrome Web Store. Be sure to take some time to check them out! If you have any other favorites please feel free to list them in the comments!