Google Apps: How to Search | Gmail, Drive (Video)

The Google for Work YouTube channel recently published a great video showing how to use Google advanced search operators to quickly find messages and documents. In short, those same operators you use in search work in Gmail and Drive!

Read more ...

Digital Spring Cleaning

We talk a lot with our students about how they present themselves online. But what about us? Family Online Safety Institute created a checklist to help adults stay safe online. Below are some additional resources to help in cleaning up your digital footprint.

Check your Passwords
The best password is one that you can easily recall and type, something that an acquaintance could not easily guess. StrongPasswordGenerator.com is a neat tool to help create a stronger password.

Check your Privacy Settings
Quick links to privacy settings information for popular sites and tools:



Check your Posts
Remember that privacy does not exist on the internet, even "private" accounts. Also remember that just because a post or image is deleted does not mean that it is really gone forever. I recommend reading FastCompany's article "How to Avoid Social Media Regret" which includes some great tips for ensuring your online presence reflects your offline professionalism.


H/T to +Kasey Bell and +Tracy Buchanan
Read more ...

Quick Tip: Search a Timer in Google

Looking for a simple countdown timer? Google has you covered! Go to Google and search for "[time] timer". "Time" can be entered as an amount of time (minutes, seconds, hours), or an actual time (4pm). A timer instantly appears at the top of the results. A chime will sound as time expires (this can be disabled). Go full screen for a less cluttered display. Stop, reset, and start as often as needed. A warning box appears if you try to navigate away from the page, reducing the chance of accidental closure.
Read more ...

TechSmith Snagit (Google Chrome Extension)

TechSmith's Snagit is a Google Chrome extension that allows users to share what they see on their screen. Capture by selecting a portion of the screen, current browser tab content, the entire page (scrolling capture), or video screen cast. All captures are saved to Google Drive for easy access and sharing. While there are alternatives that offer more features, Snagit's Chrome extension is free, easy to use, and will travel with the user's Google Chrome account (school, home, any computer with Chrome installed).

There are a lot of ways that Snagit can be useful in the classroom for both students and teachers. Some suggestions:
  • Teacher or peer visual and audio feedback on projects.
  • Students capture an image of the results of a quick assessment or game (helpful for sites without class management tools).
  • Create a screencast demonstrating how to complete an action, share with students or colleagues.
  • Demonstrate an action or process, share with others (students, colleagues, families).




Image capture options:
  • Choose an area of the browser window to capture: user drawn region, visible browser window, or scrolling capture of the entire web page.
  • Add text, arrows, circles, or squares to highlight or draw attention to specific areas of the image. The color and size of these elements can be defined by the user.

Video recording options:
  • Video recording is not limited to capturing only the content within the browser.
  • Choose which window to record: full screen or a specific window.
  • Enable or disable the microphone.
  • Files are automatically saved to Google Drive (larger files will take longer).
  • Create an animated gif (video must be less than 20 seconds). Alice Keeler's Teacher Tech blog has a great tutorial.
  • Publish directly to YouTube.
  • Capture a direct link to the Drive file.

Quick note: Some recording and annotating features do not work on certain types of web pages -- but there will always be an option to simply capture a still image of the screen.

Read more ...

Research: Process Matters

I am by training and vocation a librarian. Depending on the industry and employer needs my title has varied, but acquiring, verifying, and sharing information have been central to every position. Perhaps because of this I am slightly passionate about the importance of process in research practices.

Defining Research
Research pertains to much more than the typical full-blown formal research paper. Research includes all information seeking behaviors. Even students listening to a lecture are engaged in research, albeit passive and single-sourced. They are gathering and organizing information to develop new understandings.

Content vs. Process as Primary Goal
Putting the primary focus on content leads to students grabbing information from the top three hits in a Google results list. Based on student search strategies this will likely include Wikipedia, Ask.com, and a popular news article tangentially related to the topic. Each of these will have something the student can connect to their already determined opinion on the topic. You will notice that nowhere in this scenario did students:
  • grapple with what they really want to know about this topic
  • compare their current understandings to the newly found information
  • consider all of the information sources available to them -- not just the top 3 Google hits
  • evaluate sources for credibility, authority, currency, and relevancy
  • take relevant notes, including citations
  • take ownership and pride in the learning experience
  • grow their knowledge and understanding

Research Processes and Models
Process matters. If students (information seekers) learn the process of good research, they can't help but locate and make use of good information. There are several research based models for students (Big 6/Super 3, IIM, Simple 4, I SearchInformation Search Process). Each involves some form of pre-search, search, and post-search. In fact, they all include these nonlinear steps:
  • Wonder: Establish the topic of research. This will be refined, and perhaps completely altered in future steps.
  • Explore: Quickly and superficially begin to look for information about this topic to gain a better understanding and begin to formulate deeper questions.
  • Plan: Consider all information resources, keywords and search phrasing, information format and media.
  • Collect: This is the biggest and most time consuming task. This is where all of the planning in previous steps is acted upon. Sometimes researchers need to go back to Wonder and reevaluate the entire project based on new findings. 
  • Present: Gather found information and new understandings into some sort of presentation or product. It may be a written paper, a multimedia presentation, a verbal discussion, notes for personal edification, or as simple as a satisfied curiosity.
  • Review: Go back and evaluate the final result. Ensure that the primary question has been answered.

Upcoming
In the coming weeks I will share strategies and tools to use when guiding students through the research process.

Read more ...

Fake Websites for April Fools Day

Fool your students and check their ability to identify bogus material. Below are a list of some of the more popular fake websites used by teachers. Each has some obvious clues that something isn't right: It may the URL, strange location, obviously incorrect facts, or even the topic itself. Using an evaluation tool will help students formulate questions to ask of each information source they encounter.

Evaluation Tools

Tools to Debunk False Information

Great Fakes
Additional Reading

Read more ...

Clearly (Google Chrome Extension)

Here is a free tool that will help easily distracted readers focus on page text. Clearly is a Google Apps extension that removes the clutter -- menus, widgets, ads -- leaving only the content. Some content, such as videos and images, are sometimes excluded from the minimized view. An account is not required to use Clearly as a web page simplifier.

Once installed, users can click the Clearly icon to see immediate results (see animated gif below). Evernote account holders will be able to use the additional features to save content to read later, highlight important passages, and find related notes.



Curious about how Clearly knows what to extract? The actual details are proprietary, however this discussion on StackOverflow explains how similar tools work.




Read more ...