Google tricks to make life easier

Google really does it right. Last weekend’s Google Apps For Education (GAFE) Summit in Grand Forks was energizing, engaging, and full of learning experiences. After a session was finished, I found myself staying in my seat in an attempt to absorb as much what we had just done and learned. Is that normal? The good news is that we had 30 minutes between sessions that provided time for collaboration, questions, and recovery. Brain sweat is fun!

Some of the most exciting things to me were the little things. The things that I might use every day or every week in the classroom to make life a little easier. I’ll let you in on a few of those things today!

I use my computer all the time to show students all sorts of things. When our presenters asked us to follow along, they made it easy by zooming in as well as highlighting the mouse. Both tricks were highly effective. The first one is to highlight the mouse. I spent the $4.99 on the Mouseposé app in the Apple App Store without regret!

MouseSo now when I want my students to see where I am navigating, I press F1 and highlight my cursor. Brilliant!

Another often-used trick was zooming on a Mac. Whenever a presenter wanted to help us focus in on something, give us a web address, or anything else that did not require the full screen, he quickly scrolled up and zoomed in on that area. I know it’s a small thing, but I was impressed! I can imagine using this daily.

Here is how you set it up for your Mac. Go under Universal Access in the System Preferences. Turn the zoom on, go to Options, and check “Use scroll wheel with modifier keys to zoom.” I think it is set to be the control key, so now when I hold down control and scroll up with two fingers, my screen zooms in. These little things will help keep the focus on where it needs to be during any sort of presentation.

My students constantly point out the extreme amount of tabs that I have open in Google Chrome. Here are a few tricks that deal with tabs:

One Tab is an extension found in the Chrome Web Store that takes each of your tabs and condenses them down into one tab. That tab can then be shared as a link with students or saved for later. It saves on memory and reduces clutter!

Tab Scissors is another extension that divides up your tabs into a split-screen look allowing you to type on one side while viewing another page at the same time.

Tab Glue, you guessed it, puts the tabs back together!

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And a few other tricks that everyone already has if you right click on a tab – ctrl+click or two-finger click with a Mac:

You can pin the tab to your task bar, and that will remove the X that would close it.

You can also close all other tabs.

Or close all tabs to the right of the one that you clicked on.

And lastly, you can reopen your last closed tab with this click or ctrl+shift+t.

I know this is going to make my life easier. I hope it does the same for you!




No really, when?

A few years back I remember reading an article about how we, as teachers, would soon look back and shake our heads out our former selves for banning cell phones from schools.

Why isn’t that time now?

Do teachers and administrators expect students to walk inside the hallowed walls of our fine institutions and cast away all thoughts of the outside world? When are we going to realize that students are people just like us?

In today’s world it is hard to imagine being cut off from the outside world for an hour, let alone an entire school day. But that is what we expect our students to do each time they walk through our doors. Under our current cell phone ban, students have to sneak their phone out of their pocket or ask to use the restroom in order to steal some time for a text message. If students were allowed to use their phones between classes, we would greatly decrease the need for secrecy and sneaking around.

Our students, much to the dismay of teachers, have lives outside of school that are very important. Lives that they care about, and lives that they can even learn from!

Instead of focusing on the social aspect of cell phones, think of the possibilities for learning and student engagement that they present. Facts and information are more powerful when found by a student instead of told to a class.

How are we going to find a balance with cell phones in schools? We have students with phones that can film HD quality footage, be used to blog on the go, or even to read a book. We also find information at the blink of an eye as well. But somehow schools continue to ban these powerful tools because of fear. Cell phones are resources that students are already familiar with. We want students to feel ownership and care for the devices they use? Use devices that they own!

Right now my middle school supplies each student with a netbook. Want an easy way to cut costs and make students happier, more engaged, and perform better? Let’s start bringing our own devices! And if a student is unable to afford a device, they can check one out for the year from the school. Even if only half of the students choose to bring their own device, think of the costs that will be cut! This article from Forbes is a good resource that addresses some concerns.

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These Tweets over the weekend were fitting. Let’s take the devices out! Allowing teachers to use these student-owned devices at their discretion could be a huge asset to classrooms, especially those that are concerned about budget issues.

Like it or not, we rely on our cell phones and so do our students.