Living in a “GAFA” world

by +John Mikton

Think of what Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon services and products you use daily. How much are they a vehicle for communications, work, social life, purchases and tasks? How often do you connect to them? Count the number. How many? Surprised? Now, out of the 4 companies, how many do you use? Or do you not use any of these four companies ever? The reality is that you probably use at least one, if not all of the four, very frequently.

Welcome to the “GAFA” (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) world. The”GAFA” world is where most of humanity’s internet users and consumers work, communicate, socialize, learn, entertain themselves, and share, in services provided by one, two, three or all four of these companies: the “GAFA” grids.

We have become comfortable with “GAFA’” being part of our lives in multiple venues, and as a result, schools, educators, students and parents are investing significant amounts of monies into “GAFA”. It is an essential component of our ability to function at school and at home, and the collective convenience and seamless experience of “GAFA” intoxicates us.

In Terry Heick’s (@TeachThought) thoughtful article “How Google Impacts The Way Students Think”, he highlights how learners working in a Google ecosystem develop an appetite for a black and white information age. The expectation? Immediate answers, 24/7. The convenience of this immediacy creates an illusion of thinking, but actually disengages the user from deep critical thinking. It does this by simplifying the process of gathering information and giving the impression it is all connected.

In order to have a constant infusion of innovation and creativity, “GAFA” also hungers for start-up companies. By absorbing these companies, they are able to facilitate the pollination of ideas, products and services and enrich their ability to generate more seamless methods of connectivity. In this way “GAFA’s” largeness and versatility is engrained in all aspects of our lives

This innovation also provides “GAFA” with opportunities to tie our lives closer together with multiple platforms and venues in a frictionless environment. Examples of this reach are Amazon’s cloud service, which hosts large architectures of company websites, services, and databases, including the CIA’s; Google moving into the home with Nest and pursuing the development of artificial intelligence (Dark Blue Labs and Vision Factory); Apple’s acquisition of Affectiva, a company that specializes in emotion recognition, and investments in health apps and services; and Facebook’s expansion into virtual reality. Making its services ubiquitous, as with the “free wi-fi-with-check-in ”in hotels and small businesses. Its purchase of “Whatsapp” is another example of how a “GAFA” company spent billions on an innovative service.

The algorithms provide a treasure trove of information with which to understand our behavior, habits, aspirations and desires. In Raffi Khatchadourian’s article “We Know How You Feel”, we are reminded that the hunger for data is tied to a hunger for emotional interactions. In Shelley Podolyn’s New York Times article, “If an Algorithm Wrote This, How Would You Even Know?”, she highlights the level of sophistication of writing algorithms generating news articles and books. In tandem, the growth of “The Internet of Eyes“ in objects we interact with, as part of the “ Internet of Things.” brings about a new dynamic to data mining. It is a reminder that many of these algorithms being designed within “GAFA” play an almost non-negotiable role in our lives.

Many schools believe that their curriculum’s should allow for authentic connections to the world around them. What about “GAFA”? Should we as learners, guides, mentors, and facilitators highlight “GAFA”? Is this important? Should its presence be considered in our learning outcomes? To ignore “GAFA” is to create a disconnect with present changes that are reshaping all of our lives. It sidelines a reality that is the future. What does “GAFA” mean, to us, our schools, community and educational institutions? Schools have a responsibility to ensure this is part of the curricular discourse. We need to construct learning moments and scaffold time to pause, reflect, understand, explain and critically think about what it is to live in a “GAFA” world.

If personal privacy, independent thought, critical thinking, differentiation, balanced perspectives, mindfulness and our capacity to be unique are in our school’s mission, we need to address what it means to be curated by “GAFA”. Will we not lose an important aspect of humanity, if we continue to ignore “GAFA”?


P.S: Next time you are at a Starbucks drinking your coffee remember that the free wifi is a “GAFA”

About the Contributor

John Mikton | Google Certified Education Trainer

Director eLearning at the Inter Community School Zurich Switzerland, John is involved facilitating Google Apps for Education workshops and sessions with Parents, Students , Faculty and at Education conferences. John runs the blog:

Connect with +John Mikton on Google+

Tracking with Google Keep, Using Polls in Google Classroom, and More Updates!

Keep Track of Tasks with the Latest Google Keep Updates

Were there times that you wanted to jot down something but don’t have anything on your desk or no easy way to write it on? Ideas or to-do-lists that pop out instantaneously won’t be easily forgotten with Google Keep! The latest updates for Keep provide you new ways to collect and manage information that matters to you.
  • Using the Keep Chrome extension

  • Using Chrome’s “Share via” in Android Phones

  • Using #Labels

Whether you’re on the web through your PC, Android phone, iPhone or iPad, these updates on Keep will surely be of great help! Learn more by clicking the source link below.


Ways to Use Polls in Google Classroom

Google Classroom acts like a virtual classroom that helps communication between teachers and students easier and more efficient. Recently, Google makes learning easier with a new polling feature that assists teachers quickly for better understanding, gathering feedback, or measure interests.

  • Post Exit Tickets

  • Help Students Self-Monitor

  • Guide Student Discussions

  • Get Feedback from Students

These are the 4 suggested ways to make use of the Classroom Polling feature. To read a more detailed process of these ways, check out the source link below.


Your Files Wherever You Are

Storing and keeping your files in Google Drive means that you can access them on all devices from just about anywhere. Just recently, Google declared “anywhere” including Android and iOS versions of Yahoo Mail and WhatsApp.

Check the source link below to read more about these new features.


Because Computer Storage is Limited

Google Drive for Mac/PC is an app that syncs files on your computer with Google Drive. It’s an easy way to ensure that you can access files safely at your own pace at any given location. Updates to improve syncing and sharing experience have been rolled out recently.

The following features consist of:

Selecting folders and subfolders you want to sync.

Getting a warning message before you make changes to shared files and folders.

Now, it is definitely easier for you to manage your files anywhere. For more details on this great update, refer to the source link below.


Check This Out: Really Cool Way for Kids to Learn About the Insect World

Editor’s Note: Are you a Science or Biology teacher looking for an interactive and fun way to introduce to insect world to children? +Scott Montague of shares with us a amazing 3D Insect app that integrates with Google Classroom. Learn more about it below!

Kids love bugs! Their fascination can be used like a spoonful of sugar to make the lesson go down. Over twenty different species of tiny wildlife can be found in every backyard. They destroy (eat) crops. They pollinate (help grow) one out of every three bites that humans eat. Bugs are very close to the bottom of the food web, where salmon eat bugs (fly fishing) and then humans eat salmon. Birds eat frogs that ate flies as adults and mosquito larvae as tadpoles. Raccoons eat fruit pollinated (provided) by bugs. Bugs decompose matter back into dirt. Bugs are hiding almost everywhere and are really important!

This new 3D insect library uses Google Maps and Google Classroom to allow students to learn how to identify a dozen common bugs and then apply that knowledge at home to find examples in their own backyards.

How it works

Within their private Google Classroom group, students mark bug sighting locations on a map and work together to virtually collect as many as possible. As time goes by, the Google Map shows where other classes have spotted each bug in different parts of the world.

Students can spin an ant around, zoom-in on its head, take some measurements, then apply math lessons to calculate that an Ant’s brain is 1,000,000 times smaller than a human’s, yet they wiggle their toes, eat, some fly, war, communicate, procreate. What are humans doing with all those extra brain cells...?

The fully interactive 3D content runs within a standard Chrome browser on any desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone, and can be easily assigned to your class using the Share with Google Classroom button.

Other classroom applications

With a bit of creative perspective, bugs can be applied to many different subject lessons:

  • Math calculating volumes and ratios
  • Historic plagues
  • Economics of crop and forest damage 
  • Physics of flight
  • Environmental bomes, climate change
  • Life-cycles, food-webs
  • Human biology/health virus distribution
  • Cultures around the world eat bugs
  • Research for online resources
  • Science fair egg drops and paper airplane competitions
Other interesting facts on bugs

Pollinating Our Food

Contrary to what many people think, honey bees are actually not the only insects that pollinate crops. Moths, flies, butterflies, beetles, solitary bumble bees, all make significant contributions to growing fruit by spreading pollen. Humans spray a lot of pesticides into the environment as a proactive measure against bugs, rather than a much less frequent reactive situation to an approaching infestation. There is great potential for communities to help identify and track bug sightings.

Climate Change

Using a tool that helps correctly identify which bug you saw in your garden is the first step to tracking migration patterns. The climate is warming and bugs will soon play a new part in North American’s lives and other countries around the world. The Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes, is a good example. Migration patterns northward can also provide tangible evidence to the effects and rate of climate warming.


An important lesson is that bugs can kill. One of the most deadly organisms on the planet is the mosquito. In 2013, an estimated 437 000 African children died before their fifth birthday due to malaria. Lyme disease spread by Ticks can be devastating. Chagas disease is spread by an Assassin Bug’s bite. What different moments in history have been plagued by insects?


Bugs are surprisingly important to economies. The Mountain Pine Beetle has decimated forests in Canada, the Goldspotted Oak Borer destroys trees in California.

Lasting Knowledge

Consider using the 3d insect library to creatively inject energy into less exciting curriculum so that students can visualize a real application of the lesson. The bonus is, they are reminded of what they learned every time a real-life critter buzzes by.

About the Contributor

 Scott Montague is a mechanical engineer who was inspired by great teachers to pursue a career in science. He was encouraged to take things apart and ask... Why was this made this way? What other things could be created that look similar? Many of these small pieces of knowledge eventually enabled him to design Model Airplanes, Bicycles, Brain Activity Imagers, Industrial Laser Printers, Robotics, and High Definition Insect Scanners.

His biggest regret was not being exposed to insects in school to learn how different bug wing shapes could have been applied to designing a better airplane, or exoskeleton inspired robots. Scott Montague can be found actively digging up fun applied knowledge on Google Plus that can be re-shared to inspire young future engineers.

Sycamore Education and AppsEvents Become Classmates

Sycamore Education, the provider of web-based school management systems, could not be more pleased than to announce a partnership with AppsEvents, a Google for Education partner company. AppsEvents offers the training to teach educators how to use Google tools in their instruction, and Sycamore provides the platform to utilize those Google tools. To learn more and connect with AppsEvents, Sycamore will be attending the upcoming AppsEvent Bootcamp and Summit gathering in Tampa Bay, FL on June 10-11. Sycamore Education has supplied schools with a reliable school management system for 15 years, and has hundreds of features that are compatible with schools in over 40 different countries around the world.

An extensive integration Sycamore has built allows schools using Google Apps for Education to be able to utilize those tools within Sycamore’s school management system. Sycamore prides itself on offering as many technology-related resources as possible in the classroom, and with GAFE (Google Apps for Education), those resources are only expanded. Schools using Sycamore now have the ability to share, collaborate, and engage in the academic process in a way that was not possible before the integration. This is in large part due to Sycamore having the highest integration with GAFE possible by a school management system, so schools have the tools and resources to significantly improve the value of teaching and education.

Some features Sycamore offers through Google include: Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Classroom, Google Docs, etc. While every tool and feature is important, schools have gravitated towards Google accounts being created and synced within Sycamore. This way, schools save time by accessing their accounts and Gmail without having to leave the Sycamore web-based system. Another popular aspect of GAFE is Google Classroom. This feature allows teachers to create, collect, grade, and return assignments. Google Classrooms can also be set up and connected within Sycamore by using classes and class rosters. Any Google Classroom previously created can be synced so that it is readily available for students in the Sycamore classroom page.

Sycamore provides a variety of features that are standard for most school managements systems. With over 300 total features, Sycamore has an abundance of resources schools can use to improve education through the web-based system. The main Sycamore features include: 

  • Report Cards
  • Admission Portal
  • Attendance
  • Discipline Tracking
  • Classroom Management
  • Gradebook
  • Financial Manager
  • Childcare Manager
Sycamore Education’s ability to adapt, integrate, and function with a variety of different products and services makes it an ideal partnership with AppsEvents. In the ever-changing world of educational technology, Sycamore utilizes resources like GAFE to take its school management system to the next level. Google schools save time, money, boost academic performance, and further prepare students for the digital world they will inevitably find themselves in. Sycamore will continue to partner with companies like AppsEvents that are dedicated to making education and technology a top priority.

Google’s Expeditions Bring Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program to Your School!

Written by Allison Mollica and Rachel Small

Google has developed an economical way for schools to virtually visit attractions all throughout the world. Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program created over a hundred curriculum based 3D virtual field trips for teachers to guide students through various destinations using Google Cardboard and an inexpensive device.

It was a wild day of @GoogleForEdu’s #GoogleExpeditions at Memorial Elementary School in Burlington, MA. Last week, Burlington Public School students from grades 2-8 worked with various Expeditions ranging from Biomes, Historic Philadelphia, Famous US Landmarks, Canada, Desert Habitats, Landforms, Taj Mahal, and Coral Reef...

Sean Musselman leading third grade students through 
various rooms of the Staten Island Transfer Station.

Using Google’s Expeditions technology (and his schema), Sean Musselman (BPS Science Specialist) directed students to various areas of the Staten Island Transfer Station in New York, New York while sharing information and essential questions given to him via the Expeditions app. Many heartfelt “oohs” and “ahhhs” came from students and teachers. Sean led third and fifth grade students on a tour of the recycling process starting with throwing trash away, working its way through the recycling plant, and then getting loaded for delivery to production facilities. As Sean talked about aseptic (e.g. milk, orange juice) materials and how they go through the recycling plant, students focused directly on a 3D image of the actual plant. Sean and the students discussed how bales are transported to the paper mill to be turned into paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, etc.

Expeditions Recycling 
Virtual Reality Panorama Titles

1 - Staten Island Transfer Station
2 - Rail Yard
3 - Sims Municipal Recycling Center
4 - Bale Storage Building
5 - Lower East Side Ecology Center
6 - Gowanus EWaste Warehouse

Ali, a fifth grader, recalled, “It was really cool we could explore and discover different places in one room. I felt as if I were there!”

Sean Musselman teaching fifth grade students about the recycling process. 

Tyler C. said, “I like going places virtually because we can go almost anywhere to learn without leaving the comfort of our own school or risk getting hurt at the sites.”

Tyler taking comfort as he visits Historic Philadelphia. 

Rozzi exclaimed, “I love Google Expeditions. It really helps us learn about places we may not ever be able to actually go.”

Our Expeditions Timeline

Hope & Dream

Over winter vacation, Rachel Small (Memorial’s Teacher Librarian) indicated Memorial’s interest for Google’s Expeditions here 


Expeditions asked Rachel to submit a schedule proposal that met all requirements as well as a contract signed by Deb Dressler (Memorial’s Principal)

Deb Dressler, Paula Weldon (Technology Integrator), and Rachel created a schedule proposal

Expeditions requires 18-20 sessions throughout the day. Memorial Elementary School could only come up with 16 sessions because grades 2, 3, 4, & 5 have four classes each. (Expeditions is only for children ages 7 and up.) We invited a couple of Marshall Simonds Middle School classes to come experience a few Expeditions.

Katie Bercury (BPS Social Studies Coach) and Sean Musselman (BPS science specialist) documented all applicable expeditions that fit BPS social studies and science curriculum by grade level

Teachers selected the Expeditions they wanted their students to experience

Expeditions accepted our schedule proposal and sent confirmation 

Google’s Expeditions Day

Alex, an awesome Google’s Expeditions associate, brought everything we needed that included Google Cardboard and phones for 60 students and two tablets to run the phones. Once a tablet is set to a destination, the phones travel accordingly.

Alex taught participating educators about the app in a quick 15 minute training session at the beginning of the day

Two concurrent 30 minute Expedition sessions ran throughout the day. (There was a required hour lunch break in the middle of the sessions in order to charge the phones!)

Allison Mollica, as well as many members of the BPS EdTech Team, came to observe and help. 


Students reflected upon their experience using this Google Slides Template that can be found in Slides if you are a Google Apps for Education School.

More information about the Google’s Expeditions Pioneer Program can be found here.

Allison Mollica is a Google Certified: Educator, Innovator, Administrator, & Education Trainer as well as a Secondary Virtual Instructor of Computers and Web Design and an educational technology leader, facilitator & enthusiast! Allison has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has a Master's in Technology in Education and Advanced Certificate in Online Instruction through Lesley University, Boston, MA. @AMollica can be found on Twitter.

Rachel Small is the Teacher Librarian at Memorial Elementary School in Burlington, Massachusetts. She has been a fifth grade teacher, curriculum coordinator/ literacy coach, and middle school English instructor. Rachel is also a presenter, education/ technology/ social media consultant, and a Google for Education Certified Trainer. She is extremely passionate about helping teachers blend the best practices of literacy with connected learning while trusting the process. @RachelVSmall can be found on Twitter.

AppsEvents Featured School : Taylor's International School Kuala Lumpur

As promised on our February newsletter, here’s the first for our new monthly series where we highlight GAFE enabled schools or districts. In this feature article, we learn about the challenges, best practices, and other cool things the Taylor's International School Kuala Lumpur have implemented which is also our host of the upcoming Malaysia Summit on May 14 and 15, 2016!

School Name: Taylor’s International School, KL
School Address: Jalan Pria, Taman Maluri, Kuala Lumpur, 55100
Principal Name: Mr Peter Wells
Other Leader/Contact Name: Adrianna Astle, IT Integrator
Twitter: @adriannaastle

About the School Community

The School first started in 1991 in association with the Badminton Association of Malaysia as a centre of excellence for national players, as well as being a private Malaysian curriculum school. It evolved into an outstanding institution that delivered superb examination results, as well as a holistic and balanced educational experience. The national curriculum of England was introduced in 2011 as the school started transforming into Sri Garden International.

With the aim to become a fully international school with exceptional learning facilities, the School was continuously renovated. In 2014, Sri Garden International was rebranded as Taylor’s International School, Kuala Lumpur.

The school has students from Reception through to Year 11 (IGCSE), with plans to expand by introducing Sixth Form in 2017, where students will study for A levels.

Tell us about your students who are they?

We have approximately 1700 students on one campus. We have a wonderful mix of cultures and nationalities, but mainly cater for a Malaysian market.

Our school follows ‘RECIPE’ a set of core values that we aspire to - Respect, Excellence, Communication, Integrity, Passion and an Enjoyable Environment.

I love walking through the corridors in our school and hearing the students greet each other and adults as we wander through. Our students are naturally inquisitive and friendly, so the odd ‘What are you doing in school today?’ asked of a stranger in school is not uncommon. Their willingness to engage with others is one of the endearing features of our students.

In Malaysia, we are lucky to experience a variety of cultural identities, and this is reflected in our school environment. Whether it is Hari Raya, Chinese New Year or Deepavali, all cultures are represented and celebrated.

The schools' Robotics Club recently joined a tournament and won as a runner up.

The School

The school opened in 1991, and is fully licensed by the Malaysian Ministry of Education. From its days as a Malaysian Curriculum school it was registered with MQA to sit Malaysian school examinations. In 2011, the school was accredited by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) to host IGCSE and A level examinations.

The school is a full member of AIMS, the Association of International Malaysian schools.

The Curriculum

The school now follows the national curriculum for England, with public examinations at IGCSE at Year 11 , and soon A levels at the end of Year 13.

Teaching faculty

We take great pride in the fact that a lot of our staff have been here a number of years. They have seen Sri Garden move from a national to an International School that is now Taylor’s International School. They have seen many curriculum changes, and teaching pedagogy come in and out of fashion. And they have endured and risen to the challenge.

We are an ‘International Curriculum’ school which offers the best of both worlds. We offer a British International curriculum which is taught by locally-trained staff. A world-class education that considers the cultural aspects of the country we are teaching in.

We also have a strong link to Taylor’s University, part of the Education family, and provide mentor opportunities for B.Ed students. We look forward to welcoming them into our school as graduate teachers in the next few years.

Google Apps Implementation

About 2 years ago, the school issued laptops to all the teachers with the remit ‘go have a play’. This encouraged our staff to try something new without feeling pressured. In the last year, momentum has really taken off. As we have seen confidence in the staff grow, so has the increased use of technology in the classroom. Teachers have embraced Google Apps, and you see evidence in this by their use in planning, meeting minutes, and collaborative discussions about teaching and learning.

This year our ICT focus is ‘Moving forward together’ as we look to harness our teachers’ increased confidence in Google products and embrace its effectiveness in the classroom. In reality, our teachers have been doing this, but perhaps quietly - ‘just getting on with it’. We want this year to be a year where we celebrate and collaborate together.

This time last year, I asked if anyone was interested in pursuing a Google Educator qualification - I had two responses. This week, I have 13 looking to qualify. I’m very proud of how far my colleagues have travelled in a short space of time.

We have access to macbooks, iPads and Dell laptops for use in our classes. I am getting a lot of requests from teachers to trial other devices such as Chromebooks, Samsung tablets, even iPod touch! Such is the increasing confidence, staff are looking for the best devices to suit their teaching and the students’ learning experiences.

How has your school adopted Google Classroom?

Our Secondary school has adopted Classroom as a valuable tool. For our staff, anything that is implemented has to have purpose and add meaning. Classroom has shown its value to colleagues, and staff and students alike have used it in class to push relevant content, to start up learning conversations and to give constructive feedback to online endeavours.

The students have found it extremely handy. They are now able to access school material outside of school hours, and work collaboratively with their peers. It has given them more responsibility to manage their time effectively, and choose when to access the material.

What has been the greatest impact or change as a result of ‘going Google?’

The key word is collaboration. A teacher’s life is a busy one, and there are not enough hours in the day for those conversations that you need to have, or that meeting you should attend to gain key information. ‘Going Google’ has allowed us to use our ‘non-contact time’ (because there is no ‘free time’) more effectively.

Our meeting minutes are in Google Docs, so that management and interested parties are aware of what is happening across school departments and year groups. Planning, Weekly summaries, lesson plans and resources are in folders in our Google Drive, so that access is available to all for viewing or editing purposes. Google Classroom allows us to share content with students, engage in online discussions and encourage students to share relevant content with their peers. It also provides a way to issue and receive online assignments, as well as giving ongoing and final feedback.

We are looking ahead at Google Sites as a way to manage all this information, and make it more efficient in terms of storage and retrievability. Google+ is also been considering as a way of setting up online communities to share and debate ideas with people beyond our school walls.

Chromebook & Device Status

We are not a 1:1 school. The debate is happening now about how we move forward from having access to technology in a structured way (booking systems, availability, planning ahead for the need), and moving to having it available as and when it is needed.

We have currently been trialling the use of Chromebooks in schools, and it has proved very successful. Do we head that way? It is great value for money, it accesses all the GAFE products we are promoting as learning tools in the classroom.

Do we stick with the model of Macbooks and iPads as we have currently?

These are exciting times for our school. The next step for us is to have this debate with the wider school community - our parents and our students must have a voice in this as well. Watch this space for 2017.

Each teacher is issued with a Macbook Pro or Macbook Air when they join. We offer induction sessions for those who need it, as well as ongoing support throughout the year.

Our teachers have responded positively to embracing this technology, although initially they were concerned about such expensive kit being placed in their possession.


Innovations are up and coming. Coding is on the way in response to KS4 students wishlist that they compiled for the new IT Integrator. It’s new ground that we’re breaking, so the world is our oyster. As the first IT Integrator for Taylor’s International School, KL my focus has been to listen to the students and see what they are asking about, and what is exciting them. Then I work from there.

It does mean I’ve had to purchase a book to read this term break - ‘Minecraft for Dummies’. It’s a learning curve for teachers as well!

Google Launches Chrome Music Lab, New Google Docs Templates, and More Updates!

Learn Music the Google-way with Chrome Music Lab

In time for this year’s Music in Our Schools Month, the Google for Education team built a set of experiments for everyone to explore on how music works. They call it the “Chrome Music Lab”.

Built for the web and freely accessible by anyone, the Chrome Music Lab lets you fiddle around with several elements used in Music such as rhythms and melodies.The Education team will also be providing open-source code so that people can build their own experiments based on what they have started.

The goal is to inspire people, make music seen in a different perspective, or even encourage new ways to teach. Go ahead and try the Chrome Music Lab now by visiting


New Google Docs Templates: Designed by Experts, Made for Everyone

Preparing a lesson plan from scratch is never an easy task. Most of the time, we don’t know how to begin writing one. This is why Google introduces new templates for Docs, Sheets, and Slides, designed by experts like Reading Rainbow and Google Science Fair to make schoolwork easier and better.

Reading Rainbow, an award-winning digital service and the third longest-running children’s television show in the US, created templates in Docs to help students and teachers with their schoolwork.

The Google Science Fair is an annual online science and engineering competition open to teenagers around the globe. They’ve also made a Slides template as a means for students to head start their presentations.

Whether you’re in a middle of planning or actually working on your next project, you can make use of these new templates - all available on the Web, Android, and iOS.


Google Sheets and Slides for iOS: Change Filters, Themes, and Layouts

Newer versions of the Google Sheets and Slides apps for iOS are now available to download in the App Store. The updated version now lets you do the following:

View and modify existing filters in the Google Sheets iOS app.

Change the theme or layout of a presentation in the Google Slides iOS app.


Google Hangouts: Connect with More People

Video calls on Hangouts makes it simple to connect with people all over the world. In an update on the 16th of March, Google increased the the participant limit from 15 to 25 people using Google Apps.

Out of these 25 people, only 10 most active video call participants will have visible video feeds at the bottom of the screen to ensure a high quality experience. No specific actions are required to avail of this update.


Assign Expiration Dates for Google Drive Files

For schools that have started to integrate their classes using Google, file handling and protecting confidential information are some of the top priorities that should be taken care of. While this is true, there will always be instances where these files need to be accessed by some people for a certain period of time.

To ensure the safety and integrity of these files, Google introduces the ability to assign expiration dates for files in Google Drive to specific people, whether they belong to the school organization or not.

Learn more about this new feature and its inclusions on this post.


Google Docs and Slides for Android: Create and Collaborate Better

Latest versions of the Google Docs and Slides apps for Android are now available to download on Google Play. The updated version now lets you do the following:

You can now “Select”, “Copy”, and “Comment” on content in the Print Layout view in Docs.

You can now create and edit presentations that read from right to left, a necessity when presenting in languages such as Hebrew and Arabic.

Admin Corner: Gmail - Objectionable Content. Email Filtering, Quarantining and Blocking

This post is the first in a new series of how-tos on the Google Admin Console. Aimed at Google Apps administrators one setting will be highlighted and we will walk through the various settings. This month….Gmail and objectionable content.

Whilst not every school will need to use filtering tools in email, some schools will find the Objectionable Content tools invaluable for preventing certain behavior before it happens. Every school approaches objectionable content (bad language, bullying, inappropriate links etc) in different ways. Some schools rely upon responsible use education (Digital Citizenship) to educate users on what is safe and appropriate, whereas there may be instances where administrators want to put in place filters that prevent messages from being sent.

The Objectionable Content Settings are contained within the Gmail app on the Admin Console. From the Google Admin Console head to Apps, Gmail and then scroll down to Advanced Settings and choose the Organizational Unit you will be working on. Scroll down again to see the Objectionable Content Settings:

Admins can manage objectionable content by creating different settings, each setting represents a different rule. So for example, perhaps we want to restrict all outbound mail from sending a specific set of offensive words, whilst we also want to restrict sending and receiving of a second set of even more offensive words. These would be handled by creating two separate settings.

To create a setting, we click on Configure. From the configuration screen we can elect to apply this setting to Inbound/Outbound and Internal sending/receiving - therefore we can control what is sent and received.

The next option is enter the custom list of words that will trigger this filter, you can either find a publicly shared list of offensive words or create your own custom list to use here (capitalization is ignored).

When the filter is triggered, we have the option to either modify, reject or quarantine the message. Once an email is quarantined, the admin has the facility to allow or deny delivery of the message. If no action is taken the message is automatically deleted after 30 days. An outbound message that is quarantined will stay in the sender’s sent folder until action is taken by the admin even if it is deleted by the sender (until the 30 day limit).

This allows administrators to have granular controls on what to do with inappropriate use of school network. Some scenarios are represented below:
  • Offensive content can be blocked at sender
  • Potentially illegal behavior can be flagged
  • Inappropriate attachments can be re-routed or quarantined
  • Potential bullying can be forwarded to school counsellor
The short video below summarizes the options:

For further information please see the Google Help article Objectionable content setting.

A note on privacy: The filters combined with quarantine give admins the ability to view emails in their entirety - the administration team and managers should be aware of this feature.

About the Contributor

James Sayer

James is the Head of Mathematics and IT Coordinator for Patumwan Demonstration School's international program in Bangkok.

As Google Apps and Moodle LMS administrator James has conducted a variety of training sessions for different schools and supported teachers through best use of educational technology.

He is particularly interested in the use of technology to improve a learner's math ability across a variety of devices and platforms. James is a Google Education Trainers, Google Apps Certified Administrators and Moodle qualified.
Connect with James:

Demo Slam: Control Your Desktop Remotely with this Fantastic Chrome Extension

by +Andrew McDonald

I just came back from an awesome apps event in Qatar. So many great new things to do in the classroom and talk to administration about for our school. I also met so many new friends and reconnected with old friends. I gave a talk on using Google Cardboard in the classroom and also gave a demo slam about Chrome Remote Desktop. The demo slam was a great success and I wanted to talk about it here today. This application is available in Chrome Web Store and on the Google Play Store as well as on the iOS App Store.

Here how is works. You install the application on the devices that you want to use as hosts and clients. You can launch the application on the client device and then login to the other devices using your pre-assigned pin, or it can be automatic if you have disabled the need for a pin. Because it is linked to your Google account, there is no need to create another username or password. Yes, it’s just that simple.
You can share your computer or access a shared computer from the top profile box.  
The lower box is where your computers that you can access are located.
Once you are logged in you have full control of the host computer. A great use for this tool is to login to my computer from my phone to use it as the remote during presentations. It keeps me from being tethered to the desk when giving a presentation and using the mouse.

It’s also useful for those times that I forgot something on my work computer. I can login from my home computer or smartphone to retrieve it.

You can also use this application to take control of someone else’s computer if they give you access. In the application, simply select the remote command option and input the host gives the client the 16 digit code. You will then have control of their computer.

I have used this to login to my father's computer to help him with some computer issues which would have been very hard to fix over the phone or Skype from the Middle East to Canada.

Again this is linked to your Google account so if you have multiple Google accounts try to remember which account to you used for each device. My suggestion is you use one account for all of your devices.

If you need any help with installation please don’t hesitate to contact me.

3 Great FREE Brainstorming & Interactive Quiz Tools

by +Michael Still

Brainstorming is a big part of my class. We use it all the time, especially during the writing process. Through #GIESummit’s I’ve learned a bunch of new brainstorming apps and great ways to incorporate them into the classroom. Be sure to check out PollEverywhere and Socrative when you’re done reading this post! Both of these tools are used best in conjunction with BYOD or a class set of devices but I use them all the time even if the only device is my personal Smartphone. They can also be used for quizzes but my favorite quiz app is Kahoot!

My favorite part about brainstorming apps like these are the student’s reaction to seeing their suggestions immediately populate the board. As the first few responses come in you’ll notice even your shy students will chime in. This is even more true if each kid has a device but my lowest kids get excited about sharing their ideas even when I’m inputting it on my own phone.

1. Poll Everywhere ( is my personal favorite brainstorming tool.

Go to the main website and create a poll, open ended, short answer or multiple choice question.
My favorite one is WORD CLOUD (fair warning that this works best with 1 word responses) but my students are a fan of anything using this website.   
FYI: The free version of Poll Everywhere only allows for 25 responses before locking your survey.

You can even set the choices to be images or have a brainstorm that is voted on by your audience with Q&A/Brainstorm! Once you create the poll, you’ll get a code that can be sent via SMS text messaged or the more commonly used website. It’ll look something like Head there on your devices and you are almost ready to roll! Don’t forget to activate your poll by clicking the button (see photo)

Poll Everywhere is great for making a quiz too but I prefer Kahoot for that. I’ll tell you about that right after Socrative ;)

2. Socrative ( is my go to brainstorming tool if I need to have more than 25 responses. Once you make your login it's easy to start a poll. I use the “Quick Question” function for brainstorming and let the responses roll in. This can get cumbersome as your list populates so be sure to manage the display so that new responses are still being shown.

The other great thing about Socrative is how simple you can turn that poll into a vote! Click the button and suddenly each of those brainstorm topics are voted on all the devices so you can pick a topic for guided practice that the whole class will enjoy!

Once you setup the quiz you’ll get a special room code. The audience should go to and click “Student Login” where you can input the “room name” and anyone can join! 
Just like Poll Everywhere, Socrative offers quizzes too and these can be fun. You can search pre-made ones or make your own. I like Socrative’s team function (SPACE RACE) but otherwise I still prefer Kahoot for quizzes. No matter what type of poll you make in Socrative there are lots of options. You can remove inappropriate responses, keep it all anonymous or force everyone to have a name.

3. Kahoot ( is probably my students’ favorite thing on the whole wide internet. When I tell them there’s a Kahoot it's almost impossible to keep things orderly. It makes a great reward while also being a solid formative assessment tool! The catch with Kahoot is that each member of your audience/class will need a device. Personally I bring in 2 of my old smartphones and tell the kids to BYOD. Sure my school has tablets but they are often in need of repair and there’s only 1 set for the whole grade!

To use Kahoot in your classroom go to and create a login. From here you can browse a seemingly unlimited archive of quizzes made by other educators or create a new one. I usually make new ones since it's a pretty simple process. You can add a sentence, picture, video or combination and then offer 4 different multiple choices. Keep going until your quiz is finished.

When you are ready click “PLAY.” You’ll find yourself on a new screen where I highly recommend clicking “DISPLAY GAME PIN THROUGHOUT.” (This is just in case one of your little munchkins accidentally closes their app or has any other technical issues). Click “LAUNCH” and you’ll find your Game PIN.

Once you have a game PIN its time for your audience/students to go to The only choice will be to input your game PIN. Then they can add a name and wait for you to start the quiz!

Customizing names is bound to lead to a teachable moment about what is “school appropriate” and possibly even about “bullying.” If you want to avoid these simply tell your students they must use their name or student number.

I hope these tools help you and your students! Be sure to follow me @LiveTravelTeach and check out!