Friday, March 23, 2018

Student "Blogs" Using Google Slides

Sometimes you'd like your students to do a blogging type project, but not actually have a real blog.  Google Slides is a great tool for this type of activity.  Each slide can be one entry into the blog.  This is particularly wonderful for giving the students a chance to reflect on their learning - something that is so important but often gets lost in the chaos.

I have created a basic template in Google Slides for a "blog" post.  You can click here to get a copy of it.  Here is what the template looks like:

You'll notice a few things...
  • The slide size is set to 8.5 x 11 to mimic a piece of paper.
    • I did this just in case this needs to be printed for any reason.  You can easily change the slide size to be whatever you want it to be, including something like 8.5 x 14 to give them a longer space to "blog" for each entry.  You can view this post for instructions on how to change your slide size.
  • There is a picture across the top. 
    • This mimics a header or banner that you typically find on blogs.  You can easily adjust the size, color, and font of the title or subtitle, adjust the white layer box, and/or switch out the image to meet your needs.  You can also give your students the chance to adjust these features to fit their style if you'd like.
  • There are a few "Click to add text" boxes.
    • I have gone into the master layout of the slide and added in these boxes exactly where I want them.  They are placeholder boxes that give the "Click here to add text" prompt and they will be on all the new slides that you add.   This post about the master slide layout will help you see how.
  • There is a column for evidence of learning. 
    • This is a place where students can insert images of what they are working on to document their progress.  They could also put text boxes here with links to videos, images, audio files, etc. to show how their work is coming along.  This is geared toward a reflection type blog.  You could use this column for whatever you want.  I included a sidebar because blogs typically have some sort of sidebar and I felt it added to the blog feel of the template.  To change the title of "Evidence of Learning", you'll need to go to the master slide layout and edit it there.  
I would typically put the header image, the white layer box, and the blog title into the master layout of the slide as well so that it will show up on each new entry slide the students add.  I didn't do that here, just in case you are working with older students who want to edit the picture and blog title themselves.  This means they will have to paste those header elements onto each new slide they create.  If you are working with younger students, or you just want your older students to have a specific image and blog title, you can put these elements into the background of the master slide so that they cannot be edited on each individual slide.  You can view this post to see instructions on how to edit the master slide layout.

Using Google Slides for a blog activity is great because you can put links to these "blogs" on your class pages or even embed some of them, which makes it easy to showcase the work to parents or other students.  

Google Slides: Edit the Master Slide Layout

Sometimes you want students to have a specific layout in their presentation, or perhaps there are certain shapes, images, graphic organizers, etc. that you'd like to have in the background of a Slides presentation for the students to use as an assignment template - Venn Diagram, specific questions you want to be answered in a certain area of the slide, etc.  This can all be done easily by editing the "Master" slide layouts.  Anything you place in the "Master" slides will become part of the background of the slide and students can't accidentally delete it.  You can even choose the default font style, size, and color.  Watch this short video to see how.  Then let your imagination run wild with possibilities!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Animate with Google Slides

You can use Google Slides to do a lot of things you might not expect.  One of those things is to create animations.  Yes, you read that correctly.  You can animate with Google Slides.  Here's how!

Create an Animation:

Create a slide that sets the scene for your animation.  Like this one:

Then go ahead and start your animation process.  The trick is to move things on the slide just a tiny bit, duplicate the slide, change it a tiny bit more, duplicate again, etc.  To duplicate a slide quickly, click on the slide in the left side panel and then press Command+D (Control+D on PC) or right click on the slide in the left panel and choose "Duplicate slide".  

Watch the arm on the right in these images.  Here is a zoomed in look at my first 4 slides in the animation series:

See how the arm is moved just a tiny bit between each slide?  I moved the arm with the mouse by just changing the angle of that line a little bit on each new slide.  If you are moving an object instead of just changing the angle, you can use the arrow keys to nudge it, or hold shift while you use the arrow keys and it will move just one pixel at a time.  After a few slides, stop and test your animation by clicking on the first slide and then holding down the right arrow key (or the down arrow) and checking on how the movement looks.  If you move items too much between slides, it might look choppy.

Here is how that whole animation turned out:

Publish Your Animation:

There are a few different ways that you can publish your animation.  The way that you saw it above as a Google Slides presentation that is rapidly advancing slides on its own is the easiest.  Here's how:

In your presentation, go to the "File" menu across the top and choose "Publish to the web".

A window will pop up.  You have a few options here, you can set it to automatically start once the player loads and you can have it restart automatically as well (like mine is doing in this post).  Your choice!  Go ahead and leave the 3 second auto-advance setting.  Once you have your options the way you want them, click the "Publish" button.

Once you click "Publish", it will give you a link you can use to send people to your published show.

When you copy and paste the link, change the number at the very end of the URL, it currently 3000.  This is in milliseconds and will automatically change the slides every 3 seconds.  You want them to advance much faster, like a flip book, so change that number to 100.  Try that out and then adjust the number as needed to find the speed you like for your animation.
Another way to publish your animation is to capture it with a screen recording software and then you'll have it as a video you can share.  If you want to put music in the background, you can use something like iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or Camtasia Studio to edit the video and add the sound.  You can also just upload your animation to YouTube and then add the background music from YouTube's music library.


Here is a fun little animation by my friend Jen Roberts (@JenRoberts1):

Here is an example I found in a Matt Miller blog post of some students animating a Scientific Procedure.  Click the image to view the Slides presentation.  I recommend going into present mode and allowing the whole presentation to finish loading before you start it.  There are over 200 slides so it can be very choppy unless you do it that way.  

Animating with Google Slides is simple and fun!  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Google Forms: File Upload

I have many teachers wishing there was a better way to collect files like videos and photos from their students.  The separate emails or share notifications from each student can get frustrating and overwhelming.  There is a really easy way to collect these types of files - or any other file for that matter - and you won't have to search through your email inbox or Shared With Me to find them.  The answer?  Google Forms!

There is a question type in Google Forms called "File Upload" and it will ask the person filling out a form to add a file.  Once they hit submit, this file will be uploaded into a folder in your Google Drive and you have sole ownership over the files.  They are not shared with the person who uploaded them - nor can they access the file once they have uploaded it.  This is simply a way for them to quickly and easily submit a file to you.  Keep in mind that the person submitting the file will be required to log into Google - so only people with Google Accounts will be able to upload files.

If you are not familiar with Google Forms at all - check out my Google Forms 101 post which gives you all the information you need to get started making your own form.  You can always feel free to set up an appointment with me as well to help you get going.  You can read on to see how to start a new form and how to find the "File Upload" question type.

To start a new Google Form, browse to your Google Drive and click "New" --> "More" --> and "Google Forms".

Make sure to give your form a title so it looks nice and you will be able to find it in your drive later.  Then you can change the question type from "Multiple Choice" to "File Upload" by clicking on the little drop down for question type. 

You'll get a warning about how it will make the person responding log into Google in order to access your form.  You can just click on "Continue" when this message comes up. 

Now you will see some options for your file upload.

If you turn on the "Allow only specific file types" option, then it will give you some checkboxes to choose which types to allow. You can also choose how many files a respondent can upload and put a limit on the file size.  If they are uploading pictures and videos - you will want to choose a larger maximum size.  You'll also want to adjust the total file upload limit for the whole form by clicking on that little blue "Change" link you see under the "Maximum file size" (pictured above).  You can then set the total file upload limit in the settings there (pictured below).

When someone goes to fill out the form, they will see a little "Add File" link and all they have to do is click to upload their file and hit submit.  Easy!

To find the files that have been uploaded, click on the "Responses" tab of your Google Form.  You will see all the files listed there and you can click the links to open them one by one.  If you'd like to view the folder that contains all of the files, click on the "View Folder" link.  You'll notice that the name of the person who uploaded the file is included in each file name.  Thanks, Google!

Monday, February 5, 2018


My favorite Ed Tech event of the year is Spring CUE in Palm Springs.  Not only do I get to go and learn, but I get to hang out with all my amazing PLN people face to face.  These people are online colleagues, but I'm proud to call many of them friends as well.  Every January, I start to get excited because I know CUE is just around the corner.  This year, I'm extra excited!  Why?  #SketchCUE!!

I'm a sketchnoter and the Spring CUE conference is when I do most of my sketchnoting.  So many amazing sessions and keynotes - I can't help it!  I LOVE to sketchnote, but I don't consider myself an artistic person.  It has taken me years to practice and dial in my sketching skills and I still don't consider myself artistic.  I do, however, feel confident enough in my sketches to share them out now, but it has been a journey of practice!  I don't know about you, but I love to see other people's sketchnotes.  The way the learning is made visual in so many different styles just blows my mind.  

Last year, I participated in an event that took place after Spring CUE called #Sketch50.  A bunch of people joined together on Twitter and did a sketch a day for 50 days.  This sketching practice helped me so much!  Not only did it give me practice, but it also gave me a library of little sketches that I can copy and paste and use in the future.  This got me thinking...what if we did some sketch practice leading up to CUE?  Something simple and fun that would help us brush the dust off our sketching tools and get some practice in before CUE comes around.  I reached out to fellow sketchnoters Wanda Terral (@wterral) and Cate Tolnai (@CateTolnai) and #SketchCUE was born!

Here's how it works:

From February 5th until March 9th, there will be a prompt tweeted out using the #SketchCUE hashtag each day (weekdays only).  We will have 25 simple prompts that will help you practice your sketching skills.  When it is all said and done, you will have a whole library of sketches that can inspire your future notes.  If you sketch digitally, and your app of choice allows it, you might even be able to copy and paste your sketches directly into your future notes. 

Steps to participate:
  • Watch the #SketchCUE hashtag every weekday from February 5th to March 9th for the daily prompts.  (I will tweet them out, so you could also follow me - @TeachingTechNix.) 
  • Sketch using your tools of choice.  This could be on paper or digitally.
  • Tweet your sketch out to the community using the #SketchCUE hashtag before the end of the day for each prompt.  
That's it.  It's easy and it will be so much fun!  I hope you join in with us during the next few weeks as you prepare to #SketchCUE at #CUE18.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Instagram Template with Google Slides

For better or for worse, students are all over Social Media - so why not give them a little of what they love mixed in with the learning?  My friend Ryan O'Donnell, (@creativeedtech), is quite talented with creating templates and he made an Instagram post template in Google Slides that caught my eye and sparked my imagination.  There are so many fun ways to use this in the classroom!  You can get a copy of his template by clicking the link I provide at the end of this post.  Here is a glance at what he has created:

How could you use this in the classroom, you ask?  Here are a few examples:

Summarizing chapters or sections of a book:
It takes quite a bit of skill to boil a summary down to a few sentences that truly capture the main ideas of a chapter.  Students can create a Slides file from the template where each slide becomes the summary for each section of text you assign.  They will need to choose a screen handle and profile picture that are appropriate for the character they are impersonating.  They will also choose a picture and some text for their "post".  This is an example for Chapter 1 of Charlotte's Web.

Baby pig photo from Michael Kappel

Responding to a historical event:
Students will need to choose a screen handle and picture appropriate for the historical person they are impersonating.  They will find a profile picture and "post" some text. This can be used to summarize an event or show their understanding of an event and/or its importance. 

Animal Study:
Students will take on the perspective of the animal and make posts to show their knowledge of that animal's life, habits, habitat, and diet, etc.  Think of something like "If an iguana had Instagram".  I'll tell you what, I learned quite a bit about Iguanas while creating these "posts" for this example!

Wild Plum photo from Forest and Kim Starr

Some other ideas are:
  • Highlight a scientific discovery or invention
  • Make a post that a book character would make about a certain event from the story if they had an Instagram account and lived in our day and age
  • Make a post to show their knowledge of why a noteworthy person is well known

There are so many ways to utilize this type of template.  I'd love to hear how you decide to use it, and so would Ryan!  Feel free to tweet it out and tag us both (@TeachingTechNix and @creativeedtech).

You can get a copy of Ryan's Instagram template by clicking here.  On the page that opens up, click the blue "Use Template" button in the upper right corner.

Check out Ryan's website for more amazing templates for all sorts of fun things.

*If you liked this Instagram template, you might also like my Fake Tweet Template.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Google Slides: Grid View

There is a new feature in Google Slides and I just can't contain my excitement!  Google has finally added the grid view feature!  This was the last remaining thing I missed from PowerPoint and I'm thrilled Google has given it to us in Slides.

To view your slides in Grid View, click on "View" across the top and choose "Grid view" from the list.  You can also look at the bottom left corner of your Slides window and see the little icons to swap from standard view to grid view.

There are a few more features they just added, like Add-ons and Google Keep integration, that you can read about in this post from Google.  

If you don't see the "Grid view" option in your "View" menu - don't worry.  It is still in the process of rolling out to all domains.  Hang tight and you should see it soon!

Helping teachers incorporate technology, one tech tip at a time.