Shameless Google Classroom Plug

The October issue of the Google for Education Newsletter mentioned that Google Apps is now used by 50 million students and teachers around the world.  Even more impressive, in just over a year since it was introduced, Google Classroom is now used by 10 million of those students and teachers.  It is constantly evolving and being improved.  Just recently, they announced that you can attach a google form to your assignments directly in google classroom.  Google will grade the form / test and mark the assignment as completed when it is submitted.  Still not sold?  Take a look here to see some ways that teachers are using google classroom to help them connect with kids.  Oh, and yes, it is free for educators.

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Google Status Check

I have to admit that we are all becoming more and more dependent on google in our work here at school and in our daily lives.  Like all technology, we just expect it to always work.  I will give google credit for being a very solid and dependable suite of applications.  But they are not perfect and once in a great while there is a problem.  Such was the case last Wednesday and last Friday.  The timing of Friday’s outage was terrible for us as we were having a professional development day and staff collaboration was going on all around the district when the majority of the problems occurred.  It needs to serve as a wake-up call.  We live in an amazing time but there can still be problems.  Obviously, the first step is to identify the problem.  There is an Apps Status Dashboard that anyone can check to determine if Google is having any known issues.  If they are having issues then it is on to “Plan B”.  You can pre-configure your machine to be able to work offline during an outage.  Here is a short tutorial from PC magazine about how to do that.  It has to be done ahead of time, so it can be your “Plan B” for those outages.  It is not a perfect solution and obviously there is no real-time collaboration, but maybe it will help make the time productive.

Become a Gmail Power User

I have used a personal gmail account for several years and a gmail work account for about 3-4 years.  I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about gmail.  But today I read a PC Magazine article by Eric Griffith called 33 Gmail Tips That Will Help You Conquer Email.  It turns out there are quite a few things I did not know or maybe just didn’t bother to learn.  I got some great tips and I am anxious to work them into my routine.  He lists some keyboard shortcuts you may like.  He does a good job of explaining dragging / labeling in gmail, a skill that I struggle to get a grip on.  Here is a new one – dots in your email address mean nothing.  Who knew?  I have been using a private gmail account for years with a dot in my name because I thought it had to be there.  Nope.  They do not matter.  Another area of google where I have struggled is when adding items to the tasks list or to the calendar.  I generally open the calendar and then copy and paste in order to create the event.  You can simply highlight something in an email (meeting tomorrow at 10) and then click on the “more” drop down arrow at the top of the email and create an event or add to tasks.  These are just a few of the tips from the article.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to any gmail user to try to pick up some shortcuts and tips to help them conquer email.

Windows 10 is Here!

After several months of hype, Windows 10 arrives tomorrow.  It is a free download for anyone currently using windows 7 or 8.  All of the reviews look positive, although early adoption does come with a risk, since there are such limited track records.  I have seen it in beta and it does look promising.  They have restored some things from previous versions and have moved away from the tiled look.  It is supposed to be more “Siri” like with its intuitive interface (Cortana).  Internet Explorer is gone, replaced by a new browser called Edge.  While windows 10 does seem geared more for a touch-screen laptop.  I am planning on downloading and installing it on my desktop at the office.  Unfortunately, it is a busy time with the start of school looming, and I will probably have to wait a few days / weeks.  Here is a link to an article from “MakeUseOf” detailing steps in the process.  Here is another good review from David Pierce at Wired magazine, saying YES! to the question of “should you download windows 10?”

Quick disclaimer – don’t look for windows 10 happening anytime soon around the school district.  We are generally not early adopters.  We want the program to have a strong track record, run smoothly, have all the needed drivers and clients available for all of our products, etc.  Time will tell, but many think this is a strong showing from Microsoft and has been a long time coming.

Google’s “Unsend” Feature

In case you missed it this week, Google announced a new “unsend” feature in gmail.  It will allow up to 30 seconds to retract an email that you have sent.  I am sure we have all accidentally sent something before it was completed or perhaps something we should not have written.  I am not sure 30 seconds is enough to save me from all future embarrassment, but there has to be a compromise.  Obviously, lengthening the unsend feature would only add to the delay in your mail actually being sent / received.  I think it is a compromise that will work and have it set on my accounts.

In order to use the “unsend” feature, you will have to change your settings.  Here are the step-by-step instructions for making the change – thanks to Google Support:

  1. Click the gear in the top right .
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Scroll down to “Undo Send” and click Enable.
  4. Set the cancellation period (the amount of time you have to decide if you want to unsend an email).
  5. Click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.

If you had Undo Send turned on in Gmail Labs, your Undo Send setting will be on by default.

Health wearables

I was in Kansas City this weekend and stopped by an apple store.  I wanted to see the Apple Watch first hand.  It was everything I expected.  Unfortunately, so is the price tag.  I am still trying to convince myself that I should pay $350 – $400 depending on the size and then another $50 for applecare.  I will say I am getting closer.  The health care piece may be the thing that ultimately sways me to this major purchase.  As more and more apps are developed for the heart rate and health capabilities of the watch, I can see the value of the device.

As we age, having a way to automatically record all of our health data, activity, heart rate, etc, could potentially be life saving.  I do not think the Apple Watch is quite there yet, but I do believe it is on the right track.  Here is a good article from Jill Duffy at PC Magazine about the apple watch as well as some other trends in health wearables. According to Duffy, within the last 6-8 months, many health wearables have moved away from “gen one” devices to more advanced tracking and data collection.  What is next?  Through the ResearchKit platform, Apple is working to gather even more health data.  We could potentially be recording years of health data to monitor as we age.

EducationOnAir Google Conference

Google presented a 2 day education conference last weekend.  I watched most of Friday’s keynotes and discussions and have been working my way through the Saturday list.  Saturday was primarily short breakouts on a variety of topics related to Google for Education.  The sessions have been great!  They have great information and are easy to follow.  I love how I can pick and choose my topic, hop around the list, fast forward or replay any session, as well as choose when I watch.

As I said, the first day was really more keynotes and panel discussions designed to stir your thinking.  The second day was around 100 shorter sessions, organized by audience type, and more of a “how to” on various topics.  There is one on creating forms, a few on using google classroom, some on flipped classroom and how it works with GAFE, and more,   The link for the workshops:

https://educationonair.withgoogle.com/live/2015-may

Just scroll to the bottom and select Explore Conference Day 1 or Day 2.  It is great information and it is all free.