New Google Sites First Impressions by Dean Stokes

by +Dean Stokes

The new Google Sites was announced this week and is currently in early access. I was lucky enough to get hands on and see whether Google has truly given Sites some much needed love.

For years, users have been asking Google to update Sites. Whilst it's a great tool and hugely customisable, we all know deep down that it just looked a bit, well, old!

The new Sites has clearly been built from the ground up. It has a beautiful user interface which makes use of Google's material design principles and is just as intuitive as their other tools like Forms (which also recently received a refresh).

To give myself a challenge, I decided to attempt to rebuild my personal site using Google Sites. I originally used a Bootstrap template and it took me nearly 3 days to get everything just as I wanted it. With the new Sites I achieved the same result in half an hour!

Watch the video below to get an overview of how this awesome tool works and keep an eye out for another post soon where I'll dive further into the tools available and discuss the things that I think we're likely to see added in future.


About the Contributor

Dean Stokes 

Dean is a Google Apps expert. He spends his time training staff at schools and businesses all around the world.

Get more tips on his site - blog.deanjstokes.co.uk

Admin Corner: Chrome management - Making it yours


by +James Sayer

Referring to both browser and Chromebook management tools, Chrome Management allows school administrators granular controls on how students may interact with the web through a signed in Chrome browser.

Chrome is an app that serves as the home for your learner’s GAFE experience, from customised homepages to curated lists of bookmarks to preinstalled apps, there are loads of cool features waiting to be discovered. Of course users shouldn't be overwhelmed with the number of managed features and items served up when they login, any managed feature should improve the collaboration workflow and make it easy to access school resources.

All of the following settings may be actioned for the entire domain, or for a subset of users in an OU.

Apps and Extensions


Force-installed Apps and Extensions - key apps and extensions may be installed by default for all users, for example teachers may all want to use the ‘Share to Classroom’ extension - why not preinstall it for them. Firstly select the OU you want to apply this to, then click on ‘Manage force-installed apps’ and locate the extension, finally click on….. Done! The next time users login the extension will be installed.

Allow or Block All Apps and Extensions - it is also possible to create lists of allowed apps, or lists of blocked apps - block a game or only allow video extensions! Create the allowed/blocked lists under Allowed Apps and Extensions.

Chrome Web Store

Chrome Web Store Homepage - change the homepage to a custom list of recommended apps and extensions to make it easier for younger learners (and teachers!) to locate and install your recommended items. Create your school’s “For school.com” collection - you can customize the name of the collection and then add to this list. Perhaps start with a recommended dictionary extension, screen capture and

Content - Safe Search

The default here is that ‘Safe Search’ is not enabled - by forcing this policy to no you will help block most adult content from Google’s search results.

URL Blocking

It is possible to block certain URLs by placing them in the blacklist, any URL in this list will be blocked unless it is added to the URL exception list.

User Experience: Managed Bookmarks



For school resources and useful pages, Admins can create a list of managed bookmarks that will appear in a user’s browser automatically, This is a really useful feature for younger learners who will benefit from a common list of school webpages and quick links to Google Apps pages.\

Omnibox Search Provider


It is also possible to lock which Omnibox search provider users will see the results from (the default is of course Google!).

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These are some of the more common features of the Chrome management tools. There are over 100+ policies that can be configured, whether it is used to manage bookmarks or preinstalled apps administrators have a vast array of tools to improve the user experience.


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: https://plus.google.com/+JamesSayer/posts

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”?

John@beyonddigital

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: http://beyonddigital.org/.

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.

[Source]


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.

[Source]


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.

[Source]


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.

[Source]

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 BlackholeCollections.org 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.

Health

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?

Economics

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.