Friday, February 17, 2017

Desktop Publishing the Easy Way with Google Slides

My first introduction to computers was learning programming, back in the mid 80s. But as computers got better and more useful, the killer application became desktop publishing. The ability to use a computer to lay out a page with text, images and graphics, arranging it to look good and tell a story. I originally learned to do desktop publishing for a club I belonged to, where I somehow got the job of putting together their monthly newsletter. Before I got involved, it was literally a cut and paste job, but I tried using a computer and an early desktop publishing program and I was hooked. I found it incredibly rewarding to apply my sense of design and creativity (I was an art teacher after all) to doing page layout with a computer.

When I changed schools, I was given the job of making the school yearbook, so naturally I completely changed the old manual processes and replaced it with desktop publishing on a computer using Aldus Pagemaker. If you remember those days, the ability to do page layout on a computer, mostly thanks to the invention of the Mac and the laser printer, was an absolute revolution at the time.

Since that time, there have been many great tools for creating page layouts. From the consumer-level Microsoft Publisher, through to the professional publishing powerhouse that is Adobe InDesign, there are many excellent options for page layout these days.

One option that surprises many people is that you can do some pretty credible desktop publishing using Google Slides. What? Google Slides? Yep, all you need to do is change the page format and treat it as a publishing tool instead of a presentation tool. Here’s how.

First create a new Google Slides presentation.

Then go to the File menu and choose Page Setup. From the drop-down menu change to Custom and then enter the size of the page you’d like to work on. In Australia we tend to use A4 size paper (21 x 29.7 cm) but you can set the page to any size you like, such as A3, US Letter, postcard size… whatever you’d like to work on. You just need to know its dimensions.

By making this change, you’ve just gone from this...

To this…

Now that it looks more like an actual page, you can use the Text, Shape and Line options to add objects to your page, or the Insert Image option to add photos and graphics.

Of course, using Slides in this way has a few limitations, as it’s not designed to be a full blown desktop layout tool, but it is surprisingly capable. For the vast majority of the kinds of tasks you’d want your students to be doing, you’ll find Google Slides makes a pretty amazing Desktop Publisher!
Once you get started, you can play around with the ability to change the page color with the background options, or use the image cropping tool to really fine tune the way your images fit on the page. The image editing tool gives you options to recolor your images, make them transparent, and do all sorts of creative things.
Despite not being expressly made for desktop publishing, Slides has tools to align, stack and group objects on the page. There are limited, but still useful options, in the Format menu for working with text, including changing the line and paragraph spacing.
This is one of those times you should probably ignore the defaults, start with a clean blank page, and let you creativity guide you. Have fun!

Chris Betcher
Director of PD for ANZ
Sydney, Australia

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Team Digital Breakout Edu- Canadian Style!

Cross-Post from:

Last week I was invited by my friends Kim Pollishuke and Jenn Casa-Todd to play a collaborative, live, on-line game of Digital Breakout EDU via Google Hangouts.

The timing could not have been better for me, as a few days later, I was due to travel to Irvine, California with the EdTechTeam to facilitate, among other sessions, a session on Digital BreakoutEDU. But I had very little experience with it, so I was delighted for the opportunity to test it out with friends, Sandra Chow, Larissa Aradj, Scott Monahan, Jen Giffen, and Les McBeth, and others. Kim and Jenn were beta-testing the game for a large, online game planned for TeachOntario, Feb. 23.

For those of you who are new to the concept of breakout games, they are essentially games that are devised with a series of problems that need to be solved in order to “break out” of room, or a box, or, in the case of Digital Breakout EDU, a Google form. Last year James Sanders and Mark Hammons spearheaded the Breakout EDU movement in education, which, due to its tremendous popularity amongst educators, evolved into a fully fledged separate entity, Breakout EDU, with a huge Facebook group and new games appearing every day.

Some time later, Mari Venturino and Justin Birckbichler came up with a digitalized version of Breakout EDU, using Google Sites, locked Google forms, and many other tools to create games with. You can check out all the games here.

The digitalized game that Kim and Jenn created was a lot of fun and gave me many ideas for my GAFESummit presentation. Since I am Canadian and the summit was in the United States, I decided to base the game on facts about Canada. I also decided to make it a team game by placing teachers into groups and challenging them to see who would break out the fastest. A few days before the conference, I tested it out with my students. I split my class into 5 teams, and each student had a Chromebook to work on to try to solve the puzzles. 5 minutes into the game, I knew that it was going to be a tremendous success as my students were immediately engaged, working collaboratively, and having tons of fun.

I love the physical version of the game, but several factors of the digitalized version make it stand out as a very appealing alternative.
  1. No purchase of a box necessary.
  2. No locks to worry about re-setting.
  3. No kit components to worry about losing.
  4. 100% student engagement if you have many devices for them to work on. No one feels left out or unable to contribute.
  5. Zero time required for set up (unless you make up your own game).
  6. Great opportunity for students to create their own games.
At my session in Irvine, 70 teachers played the game. I divided them into 6 groups. Some groups stayed in the room and some groups left to find a quiet place to solve the game.

The energy in the room was high, and I can honestly say that it was the most fun I have ever had in a training session for teachers. Click below for the games!
NOTE: Each team has a separate game because there is a shared, editable Google doc as one of the clues to solve. Each team needs to work collaboratively on the document, but separately from the other teams.

French and Tech Teacher
Google Certified Innovator & Teacher

Experience BreakoutEdu and other innovative practices at an EdTechTeam Summit near you!

Check out Sylvia's book, Sketchnotes for Educators and be inspired!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Supercharge your Learning!

Re-posted from

I just spent the day at our school district’s Google Summit. The energy was buzzing as new and veteran teachers, administrators, and district staff upped their skills with Google Certified trainers. Sitting in sessions next to my colleagues is always powerful. As we learned, we would sidebar about how this could be applied at our site and exchanged new ideas. I left the summit exhausted! Exhausted and rejuvenated at the same time. Never thought that was possible!

Our site, Woodbury Elementary, had about 15 people in attendance and as usual, we were there to learn and have fun doing so. Ideas were in abundance as we chatted from our sessions via Google Hangout and took notes in our shared Google Drive folder. Tweet Deck was downloaded by some and hashtags were followed (#EdTechTeam, #irvineusd). Whether we realized it or not, we became a small, yet powerful professional learning network.

We especially enjoyed the keynote speaker, Rushton Hurley. We laughed, we cried. Literally! He was that good. He reminded us to ask ourselves, “What’s special about our school?” He gave us a moment to turn and discuss our answer and from this, our Google Hangout exploded with ideas; my favorite being a “commercial” where students are asked this very question about our school. We can’t wait to get started! Other great takeaways from our Keynote Speaker, Rushton Hurley:

After the keynote and sessions on Google Forms, Google Classroom, Professional Learning Networks, and Social Media, our minds are blown and our learning has been recharged. It’s times like these that remind me how much fun it is to be a life-long learner, especially in the company of friends and colleagues. Professional Development is key and collaboration is key to successful professional developments. I am honored to be a part of Irvine Unified, where professional development is not only a top priority, it is high quality.

Jennifer Lambert
Assistant Principal
Irvine, California

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Journey to Google Certification Level 1

After helping to facilitate the Visalia CUE Black Label training this last September, I thought going to a CVCUE Meet Up called  #PitaCUE, would be a good way to start to connect with educators in my local area. Wow!  Was I right! Educators from Tulare, Fresno & Hanford county areas were chatting & I was listening to everyone share ideas & plans for this current school year. One topic in particular that piqued my interest was that an upcoming EdTechTeam Google Certified Level 1 Boot Camp was going to be held in Orosi.

Almost a year earlier I epically failed forward on the exam. I realized how shallow my understanding was of all that is available inside the G Suite. I set out to apply more Google Apps into my classroom lessons. In addition, my teaching partner, Debbie Pendergast and I, were holding monthly GAFE workshops after school for teachers. The commitment to teach technology in the workshops really helped to bridge gaps in my tools knowledge & pedagogy of instruction.  

Each month as I was preparing a topic to present, I began to branch out into apps I had rarely used. I also started to follow, lurk & search out other educators on Twitter. Just like I had been told at CUE Rock Star Camp, Twitter is “24 / 7 PD on All Things Tech”. I began to search for specific lessons using apps I had not previously used. Because I failed the Google Educator Exam once, I pretty much knew all the areas I needed to work on. I needed Forms, Sheets, Gmail, YouTube, Calendar, Sites & Hangouts the most.

As I added variety to my classroom practices, I gradually added more depth and breadth to my Googly knowledge.  Docs, Slides, Draw & Classroom are just the tip of the Google iceberg!  One of favorite lessons comes from Alice Keeler's  coordinate plane battleship lesson to rethink ways to use technology in collaboration. I also have a classroom full of kids hooked on pixel art which is done in sheets. I began to dive into YouTube and learn that dashboard. My own children were better at making playlists then I was. At the end of a writing assignment I had kids start to use forms for their own surveys and evaluations, and you can’t do forms without teaching students about sheets.  

Then the HyperDoc magic happened. After reading the book, The HyperDoc Handbook, I realized how powerful a tool shared folders could be. This really helped my understanding of the way Google Drive works. Not to mention how combining the power of multimedia, color, images, and app smashing could fire up a doc or slide like crazy! The creativity just blew me away.

Armed with a renewed confidence in my base knowledge of the G Suite, I was ready for the EdTechTeam Google Certified Level 1 Boot Camp. Trainers, Mark Hammons, Kate Petty, along with Adam Juarez, were hosting the event at Orosi High School. The day included numerous activities & challenge level extensions. If you finished the first set of tasks early you had additional tasks to complete. At the end we wrapped up a day of learning with a digital citizenship review. All along the way were  gems of advice. “Be exact”. “Copy & paste to save time.” Review before you take the exam with the Ed Tech Team Bootcamp Signature Resource Library.  

Feeling like I could not prepare any more. I took the exam. I passed! When I told my family my son yelled, “It’s your Google Birthday!”

I encourage teachers to dive deeper into the types of lessons that you can apply in your classroom beyond Docs & Slides. The G Suite has so much to offer. Connect on Twitter to other educators and just try!

Amy Downs
6th Grade Teacher
Annie R. Mitchell Elementary School
Visalia, CA

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Dive into Inquiry You Tube Archive!

Check out EdTechTeam LIVE Dive into Inquiry Archive with Trevor Mackenzie here!

Check out Dive into Inquiry Slide Deck resource HERE!

Trevor Mackenzie
Dive into Inquiry

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Summit Up! Soundboard Series

Summit Up!  My Experience with EdTechTeam Summits
(Kansas City, New Orleans, and Southern)

I am a conference pro!  I mean, I love a good seminar, summit, workshop, conference, unconference and whatever else you call it.  I guess you can say I am a lifelong learner who loves to share (my student loans definitely say that).  So when I heard about EdTechTeam Summits, I said, “Bring it on!”
Before my first summit, I was ready for a “two-day, hop from classroom to classroom, walk away with one or two good tips or tricks” kind of time.  I mean, I already use Google!  I am all Google Certified out (Google Level 1, Level 2, Certified Trainer and Certified Innovator).  I would present, pick up my two new tips and walk away.
Boy was I WRONG!
What I did not expect was to become part of a community of educators who were thirsty…hungry, not to only learn, but to share!  This was not the traditional “honor me for I am a Google god” type of environment.  This was a “hey, I know this tip…what do you have” type of learning playground that I had not had the privilege to be a part of too often.   

On this playground, I got to listen to guest speakers who inspired me to do more and be better…not just with Google, but in education and in life.  I was enveloped by presentations that not only gave me the tips and tricks, but also showed me how to incorporate them in daily lessons and in administrative duties.  I witnessed presenters become rock stars with their own little band of groupies who would follow them around from session to session, only to have more people see them and join the crowd (minus the groupie lighters because we were in schools after all).  I presented to groups of beginner Google users who were so eager to learn that they asked tons of questions and wanted to know when I would present the second level of the topic because they were ready and excited to learn more!  It was amazing to see educators band together during their personal time at a location that was completely unfamiliar for many of them to learn from not just the presenters, but from each other.  As I walked around the lunch area and as I ate, I would become a part of random conversations from educators sharing what they learned that day or sharing their own tips.  I could hardly eat my sandwich because I was taking notes and emailing myself little tidbits!  The learning just did.not.end.

And just when I thought it could not get any better, I was slammed with knowledge.  Demo Slammed that is!  What a fun experience to see short, 3-minute presentations of tools and tips and tricks!  It was such a fast-paced, fun (and funny), “what was that again” type of environment, I honestly forgot I was learning.  But I did learn!  I learned about some amazing extensions.  The  Panic Button extension (shout out to Nathan Kellogg) lets you press one button to close ALL of the tabs you have open in a second.  It then lets you bring them all back up with one click.   Mind blown, right?  I’m not even done!  I was also encouraged to prank people with the April First Prank Toolkit extension (shout out to Jenny Derby).  It makes the person’s computer you install it on go absolutely bonkers when they use Chrome (yes, I said bonkers)!  It was one of the funniest Demo Slams I had ever witnessed.  They say good things come in threes, so I have to tell you about one more.  This one is a life-changer!  It is the Auto Text Expander extension (shout out to Mark Wagner).  When you are using Gmail, this handy extension will allow you to type in shortcuts, like BBB, to bring up an entire paragraph of text!  So if you ever have that email that you send out over and over again, this will save you so much time.  Type BBB and that paragraph about the attendance policy pops up and you can hit send.  Wait...don’t leave to download these just yet...finish reading this first!
And all of that was just on day one!   
This was not your normal learning experience.  It was more like an intense summer camp that I just did not want to leave.  I felt like I was in a learning bubble of possibility and I didn’t want to leave and have it burst.  I walked away from each Summit with more people added to my professional learning network, with more knowledge and with more skills that will make me a better teacher, presenter, and overall educator.  I left each Summit excited, inspired, and downright exhausted from the exhilaration of learning.
Now, when do we start again?

Desiree Alexander
Instructional Technology Supervisor
Caddo Parish Public Schools
Shreveport, LA
Educator Alexander Consulting, LLC

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