Calendar Within Gmail

Did you know that you can view your gmail calendar right inside your gmail window without having to open / close any additional tabs or sites.  It is done with a “google calendar” gadget.  I came across this a couple of weeks ago and have been piloting it on both my google accounts.  I certainly give it a thumbs up as something that I think is useful and a good fit.  Then I read about it in today’s Google Guru posting, so I thought I would blog about it and point you toward their “how to” video.

It is very easy to setup. Simply click on the little gear icon in the upper right of your gmail page and then down to settings.  Click on the tab labeled “labs” and search for one called google calendar.  Click “enable” and save the changes.  Then go back out to the gmail page.   At the bottom of the left hand column beneath all your folders are 3 small dots.  Click on the dots.  They represent your gadgets that are active.  You can grab the calendar at the bottom and resize it up and down.  As nearly as I can tell, it will only show events for your primary calendar but it still serves its purpose.



Google For Education Training

Whether you are a beginning Google for Education user or an experienced pro, you need to visit the new Google for Education page.  Click on the training / get trained link and you will see resources for all levels of users.  The page is broken down by categories such as Calendar, Classroom, Email, Drive, etc.  In each category there is a section on introduction, basics, and advanced so you can select your level.  There are videos, review materials, and practice tests.  This is a great place to go to learn more about an area of Google for Education that you are interested in developing.

Perhaps you are interested in learning even more and want to become google certified.  This is the place for you.  To get to these resources, from the home page click on training / get certified.  The basic level of certification is called google educator.  In order to reach this status, you have to pass 5 different tests.    The gmail, calendar, drive, and sites tests are mandatory but you can choose the 5th test from a list of options. This is a great place to start preparing for the tests and then progress right into taking the actual test.  You take the tests on your own time and each test must be completed online in a 2 hour window.  You have 90 days to take all 5 tests once you begin.  There is a fee of $15 for each test and you can retake it if you do not reach the 80% goal.

Google “remove formatting” button

I subscribe to a weekly google newsletter called The Gooru.  It is a great resource for little tips and tricks in Google.  Today’s email was about removing formatting from text.  It seems innocent enough, but it is a chore I do frequently and I thought I had to reformat manually.  There is an easier way.  Say you have copied something from a webpage and it is a different color or size than your document or email.  To make it look like my regular text, I highlight the text, change the font, change the color, change the size, etc.  It is a pain, but I see now that it is a matter of simply highlighting the text and pressing the last key to the right in the text toolbar.  It is an underlined, italicized, and capitalized T and an X ( kind of like Tx).  If you are in google docs, the tool bar is at the top of your document.  If you are writing an email, you will need to click on the formatting button on the lower left.  It is a capitalized, italicized A (kind of like A).  When you click that A button, the toolbar pops up and you can select the Tx. It is kind of a little thing, but once you know about it, I am going to bet that you use it frequently.

Google Classroom

Google is always changing. It is a great product that is not afraid to evolve. One of their newest innovations is google classroom, a blackboard type of learning management system. It was introduced this summer and has hit the ground running. Here is a quick link to give you more information about the product.  This week Google made some improvements to Classroom. They have enhanced the way students can be added, added some sorting, permission, and exporting features, as well as a few other improvements. If you would like to read a bit more detail about the changes, read the latest “google-for-education” blog.

No more attachments

Are you tired of sending attachments only to have them bounce back as undeliverable because of size?  Well that is one of the advantages of the new gmail system.  With the new email, you do not need to send attachments.  Save them as documents in your drive folder and share the link.

Here is how:  Create or upload a document in your district google drive account.  Name it something easy to help identify it later.  You also need to setup a share.  I would prefer you share them to people in the district – not to the world.  To do that select share and “who has access?”  Select the middle option – Willard R2 Schools.  Anyone that is logged into their district account will be able to see it.  There is a section called “links to share” on the sharing page.  Copy that link and send it out to everyone in your group.  You will never have to deal with rejected attachments again.  One more caveat…. if someone is not logged into their district account, they may try to click on a link that sends you a request to share it with their personal account.  My preference is that you do NOT do that.  They should be logged into their district account at school and exceptions should not have to be made with those not logged in.

Here is a reply that I use when I receive those requests.  You are unable to view the document that was shared within the Willard Schools domain because you are not logged into your district account.  Likely this is because you are merging your personal and district mail.  This will continue to be a problem for you as more and more documents are shared within the district.  For more information, read my post about keeping your personal mail separate and your district mail professional.

Password Security

As we move from a locally housed email program to a cloud-based giant, security becomes more of an issue.  As you are merging your files and sharing documents, it is very important to change your google password.  Change it every 30-60 days if possible.  Also, it is not a good idea to use the same password in google that you use for other accounts. I have had a few ask about how to change the password.  The process requires a few steps but is easy to do.  Go to your settings screen.  You can get there by clicking on the drop down arrow next to the small gear in the upper right of the screen.  Once in settings, you are going to select accounts and then google account settings.  That opens a new security window.  On the right hand side somewhere near the middle of the page there is a box labeled Password.  Click on the manage security link in that box and then change password.  You will need to put in the old one and then enter the new one twice.  That is it and you will have some peace of mind, knowing you have at least made it more difficult for identity thieves.

Full Speed Ahead

We are a few days into our conversion of our email over to google.  For those of you that are new to google apps (and I can tell by the last login date that many of you are) , try to find some time this summer to familiarize yourself with gmail and all of the apps included.  There are a number of sites that post google apps and gmail tips frequently.  Here is one I came across the other day called Apps User Group.  A good starting point is one of the videos they have posted called A Gaggle of Uses for Google Apps for Education.  It is a bit dated – about a year and a half old, but still very relevant.  If you are a newbie, come in open minded and you will come away with some ideas to try in your classroom.  Good luck and happy googling.