Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A New Look to Google Forms is Coming -- Still All the Google Forms Function You Love!

Kind of like the weather in Wisconsin (it was 47 degrees and raining only 12 hours ago), Google can change its look and direction in a hurry!  It is something you just learn to live with as you increasingly depend upon the great tools they offer us in education.

For those who have delved into the world of Google Forms for data collection and formative assessment, be aware that in the next week or two, Google will likely release to us an updated version and look of Google Forms.  The updated look has already been released to individuals with a personal Gmail account, but it has not yet landed in our Google Apps for Education (GAFE) domain.

Added Functionality

Aside from an improved user interface, which is elegant and functional at the same time, there are some value-added benefits to the update.  These quotes about features are taken directly from the Official Google Enterprise Blog.

  • "Now with collaboration 
    Create a form faster than ever. Just as with Docs, Sheets and Slides, you can now collaborate with others in real-time. If you need to work with two colleagues on a survey, all three of you can work on the same form simultaneously and even have a group chat on the side, without leaving the form.
    • "Better editing 
      Even if you’re working solo, some new changes will make creating and editing forms easier. All your changes are auto-saved and you can quickly undo/redo edits. Improved copy-and-paste will let you copy a list of bullets from the web or multiple rows of text from a spreadsheet; then, when you paste into a form, each line will be appear as an individual answer. And you can use keyboard shortcuts to get things done more quickly. 

    A Guide to the New Look and Functions

    Molly Schroeder, a Technology Integrator from Edina Public Schools in Edina, MN, has put out a guide to the new look and features in Google Forms.  Molly's experience and ability to make Google seem useful and simple to maneuver translates well in this guide.  

    You can access that resource here:  

    As always, when you run into questions or have thoughts about the new look for Google Forms (which we anticipate to arrive in the next few days or weeks), we encourage you to contact a member of the Instructional Technologies Coordinator team (Wendy Liska, Jim Gonyo, Brian Yearling, or Dale Van Keuren at North High School).  We'll be happy to guide you through the new look and features in person.  

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    A Thing or Two to Teach Our Kids About Technology

    I'm fortunate to have colleagues from around the district feeding me great articles when they find them.  This article, forwarded to me by Butler teacher, Mollie Heilberger, points to a critical point of conversation.  Thanks, Mollie, for bringing this to my attention.

    A recent article from the New Tech Network blog serves as a reminder to us that just because a student is born in an era where technology is omni-present, that doesn't necessarily mean that they are innately knowledgeable about how to use that technology productively for academic or professional pursuits.

    Digital Native Does Not Mean Digital Literate

    The blog post talks about a false assumption that we are all increasingly at risk of making about our students.  The assumption asserts that simply because our youth have grown up in an era where the Internet, computer access, Google, and Facebook are readily accessible, our kids innately know how to utilize the tools for meaningful academic work.

    It is no wonder that we make this assumption.  For many of us, our lack of comfort with technology, mixed with the popularity of that same technology with most young people (I dare you to find one who doesn't regularly use a smart phone, or at least know how a smart phone works) leads us to believe that young people somehow just "get it" when it comes to technology.  Mix that with a little bit of naive, misguided confidence on behalf of many young people in masterfully using various forms of technology (I dare you to find a classroom of kids that doesn't have a least one "expert" technologist on software he/she has never used before in his/her life), and it's easy to understand why we tend to trust that somewhere along our genetic lineage a dominant technology trait was formed and turned on with the invent of Google.

    This is NOT to say that kids don't have some mad skills when it comes to the use of technology.  Some of them do -- many do. More importantly, they have never known the fear of "breaking it," which hinders/paralyzes so many adults when it comes to technology use.  It simply means that we cannot assume that they all have the same comfort with technology, or that they all can use technology for the deeper side of research that they need to engage in to meaningfully learn.

    There are still many valued lessons that come with age, wisdom, and experience that teachers bring to the academic experience.  These skills and lessons transcend medium -- no technology comfort or expertise required to put these skills to work.  That is at the core of what we must offer our students as we work with them.  It is the guidance that they need as they employ the digital tools that are at their fingertips to do the hard work of learning.  

    And it is in that gap between our discomfort with technology and their lack of life and academic experience that students and teachers can meaningfully connect to teach and learn from each other.  This is where teaching Essential Skills, such as digital citizenship and research come into play.  They may not be measured on standardized tests, but they are the skills that will ultimately help students to fail/succeed in lifelong pursuits.

    So, the next time you integrate some element of technology into your classroom practice, don't be afraid to spend some time teaching the kids a thing or two about how to use the technology to become more academically, professionally, and personally productive with the tools.  

    Friday, February 15, 2013

    Recorded webinars on YouTube, Google tools, and more

    On Digital Learning Day, which was February 6th, the SDW ITC team hosted an 8 hour "Digital Learning Day Webinar-a-thon" focused on easy-to-use technology integration strategies and tools.

    And yes, it was as cool as it sounds.

    Those sessions were recorded and are available for on-demand playback any time that suits you.  Spend a Saturday morning in your pajamas with us as you learn something hip and exciting that may give you some new ideas in working with your students.  Or maybe you are more of a night owl type -- that's fine, they are available whenever you want.

    And the best part?  If you already know plenty about the topics being covered, you can walk away without fear of hurting the presenter's feelings!\.  If you need the presenter to slow down or to repeat something, just pause and replay as much as you need.

    So, just give it a try.  If you've never used an on-demand webinar before, it's time.

    As always, when the webinar is over, if you have questions or would like to learn more, you can contact any of the Instructional Technologies Coordinators (Brian Yearling, Wendy Liska, and Jim Gonyo) and we can set a time to go through the topic in greater depth with you.

    View recordings of webinars presented to 
    SDW staff on Digital Learning Day - 2013!

    Google Docs - Checking Your Revision History

    Google Docs is a powerful tool for sharing files and working collaboratively.  One of the fears that most teachers (and students) have when sharing, though, is the destructive editing in a document by another Google user.
    Simply put, any time you give another user editing privileges on a Google document, they could (for good or for evil) delete the work that has been completed to that point.  Now, sometimes this is EXACTLY what you want to happen.  In fact, in can be the goal of the day's lessonAt other times, this can result in loss of student work, momentum, and inspiration.  

    Thankfully, there is a built-in solution for viewing the history of changes made to the document (provided the document hasn't been deleted/trashed entirely...that is an issue that cannot be resolved).  It's called "Revision History," and it can save (or ruin) the day, based upon your perspective.

    Revision history marks all of the changes made to that document.  Not only do you get to see the specific edits made (which can be a GREAT way to mark progress or see the writing/creation process after the fact), but you can also see, with color coding, which user made the changes.  Never again wonder if everybody participated equally in creating that final product.  Just look at the revision history to see how many, and what kind of changes each user made.  (remember, if the kids all logged in separately, this will work...if they all used the same person's account, it won't help much).

    From here, I'll let you watch the experts in action.  This is a pretty basic, but clear, explanation of how to access Revision History in Google Docs.

    So, how do YOU Google?