Read This: Google Docs Add-ons

Tomorrow’s Technophiles meeting will feature a tutorial on all the great extra features you can add to your Google Docs using add-ons. In preparation, check out this excellent article from Richard Byrne over at Free Technology For Teachers.

Made With Code

Google is trying to get young girls interested in coding, and they’ve got a pretty cool new initiative called Made With Code to do it. According to the website,

“Made with Code is an initiative to champion creativity, girls, and code, all at once. The movement is designed to do three things: To inspire girls by celebrating women and girls who are using code to do great things; to engage girls to try coding through introductory projects and resources; and to sustain their interest by creating alliances and community around girls and coding.”

There are some (very) easy coding projects, including a 3D printed bracelet that you can  design and have sent to you for free. It’s a fun way to introduce code to folks who don’t think they have any interest in it.

In addition to the projects, there are testimonials by “mentors,” inspiring women who have used computer programming to make the world a better or more interesting place.

National Coding Week is coming up, and if you’d like to dip your toes into the world of programming without any need for experience, check out the projects and resources available through Made With Code.

Series: Connected Educator Month

To help you prepare for Connected Educator Month next month, over the next few weeks we’ll be featuring a series by tech director superstar Mike Grant on the many different tools you can use to create a Professional Learning Network (PLN). 

October is Connected Educator Month, so if you are interested in becoming more connected to other educators, I will be sending out links for the next few weeks with tips on doing so.


This week’s link is to a video showing how to set up an account on Google+, and how to connect to others in Google+ communities. It was through my account on Google+ that I learned about Connected Educator Month.

If you join Google+, I am on there and will even “friend” you or as they say on Google+, I will “circle” you.

Go ahead and try it– you might like it.


Google Lit Trips

Yet another fantastic way to use Google for education! Google Lit Trips were created by teachers as a way to teach literature as a completely out-of-the-box experience. Rather than simply reading a story, students use Google Earth to go along on the journey of each character, following their geographical trail. Books for K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 are all available, though the selection is understandably small.

You can even create your own Lit Trip with your students, researching locations, finding quotes, and delving deeper into your source material. The site offers directions here.

This site, created by educators, is truly a labor of love, and a brilliant way to bring literature to life.


How Will Google’s New Privacy Policy Affect You?

You may or may not be aware that Google recently unveiled a new privacy policy, one that covers all of its products (one policy to rule them all…) There’s quite a bit of confusion about what exactly this change in policy means, how it affects searching, and whether it’s worth it to continue using Google products. If you are a user of Google (Gmail, YouTube, Android devices, and any number of other Google-owned products), it’s important that you know about these changes, and what they mean. It is especially important as many people begin to migrate their personal (and professional) data to Google.

One of my favorite tech blogs, Gizmodo, provides an excellent explanation. It covers the big questions (how does the privacy policy affect searching and ad targeting, what information does Google collect, what is the impact on Android) in a really balanced way. It is not exactly impartial; the author, Brent Rose, makes clear which features make him uncomfortable. However his analysis of the impact of this change is pretty well-balanced, and representative of the general tech-world opinion.

A Google A Day

In my recent explorations of Google Chrome (the web browser) and all its fun extensions and apps, I discovered A Google A Day. Every day, A Google A Day poses a new question that can be answered by clever use of Google’s search engine. The questions cover a wide range of topics, from math, to science, to history, and several combinations thereof. There is a hint button, tips and tricks, and when you’ve gotten the answer, there is a great explanation provided.

Here’s yesterday’s question:

If the Statue of Liberty (including pedestal) were measured with the unit of length most common in 2650 BCE, how tall would she be?

It’s one question, but requires several pieces of information to solve: the height of the statue, the unit of measure, and some means of converting the units. Because the tool at use here is Google, the question serves to subtly point users to a lesser-utilized function of the search engine: conversion. You can ask Google to convert just about any unit of measurement into any other, and it will do the calculation for you. You may not know that going into the question, but you certainly will once you’ve finished.

The answer, (which includes exact search strings to be entered into the search engine for the best results) is:

Search [measurement from 2650 BCE] and learn that the cubit was the standard unit of measurement. Search [height Statue of Liberty] and find that from the bottom of the pedestal to the top of her torch she measures 305 feet, 1 inch. Compute [ 305 feet 1 inch in cubits ] to get 203 cubits. (Because cubits varied slightly in dimension, your answer could be anywhere from 186-203 cubits.)

The main reason why I love this feature is because the questions tend to force the researcher to utilize a Big 6-style approach to information problem solving. Answering a question requires that you figure out what you’re searching for, create a plan for searching, and then examine your source closely to extract the relevant information.

The questions are not easy, and require quite a bit of critical thinking. This is both a blessing and a curse, since I don’t think that A Google A Day is appropriate for below 6th grade and is challenging for 7th and 8th graders. However, it would be great to work on a question as a class, or in a team of two of three, then come together and discuss what you’ve found and formulate an answer. Even if students can’t find an answer, A Google A Day will spark discussions about the difficulties of the research process, and how to best plan for and navigate the world of search results.

If you’re interested, I’d recommend checking the A Google A Day website, where you’ll find a week’s worth of questions available,  to see if there are any questions that you’d like to use with one of your classes.