Thursday, November 27, 2014

Graphic Organizers with Google Drawing

Google Drawing is the forgotten stepchild of Google Drive. It doesn't have a MS Office / iWork equivalent and most people aren't quite sure what to do with it.

Drawing is a simple shape tool in which you can create and annotate simply graphics and illustrations. It's great for organizational charts, mind maps, flow charts, infographics, and graphic organizers.

I recently presented a half-day workshop on Google Drive to a group of elementary teachers in Dexter, Michigan. I always like to provide the groups that I work with practical ideas for incorporating these tools into their grade level rooms, so I put together a collection of a half-dozen traditional graphic organizers for elementary students:

Main Events Quilt
Main Idea Umbrella
Prediction Chart
Problem / Solution Chart
Story Comparison Chart
Story Elements Butterfly Chart

I am sharing these template with you for FREE! Simply click on one of the links and make a copy of my original (File -> Make Copy). Please note that you will need a Google Drive account (and must be signed in) before you can make your own copy.

If you have created a graphic organizer in  Google Drawing and would be willing to share, please leave a comment on this post!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Google Certification Academy - Expanding and Growing!

Google Certification Academy
For the past two years I have been developing the Google Certification Academy (GCA), a program designed to help educators become Google Education Trainers (GETs). Becoming a Google Education Trainer has been one of the most beneficial and helpful experiences of my life professional life and I would love to provide others with the same opportunity.

The need for the GCA emerged as I was answering many questions from educators who were confused by the process, steps, timeline, and details of the program. It is a fairly complex program and having someone to guide and advise you throughout is a helpful option.

The GCA grew from a single event in northern Michigan in 2013 to over 20 events around the Midwest in 2014. Over 400 educators have attended the GCA and many of them have taken the necessary steps to become Google Education Trainers.

A few comments from past participants: 
“Beyond my expectations! I am doing the opening day PD for my district staff training and have been assigned the Gmail portion so I am more than feeling I can do this!” 
I appreciated the "advanced" pace of the class. SO MUCH information that I can take into my classroom and back to my district right now. 
I LOVED THIS LEARNING!!!! So many ideas, resources, connections. I loved playing too!
The GCA is expanding and growing in 2015 with additional locations and instructors being added to make this opportunity available for more educators.

The Google Certification Academy provides support to all participants before, during and after their certification:

  • 2 Days of intense, advance, and practical instruction. 
  • Access to a large (400+), active community of educators seeking certification. 
  • Practice questions for all required exams. 
  • A large list of study materials, tips, and exam taking tricks! 
  • Lifetime access to monthly product updates to help you stay up to date!
  • Coming soon: access to our online GCA course for on-demand study help
To find out if there is a Google Certification Academy near you visit

Don't see an option that will work for you? Host the GCA at your school! There is NO COST to host the GCA and host schools receive FREE registrations! Find out more here

Becoming a Google Education Trainer has been a very helpful and valuable experience for me. I'm excited to help others have the same experience. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Using Google Drive without Google Apps

I think Google Apps for Education is a great tool; especially Google Drive. There are a myriad of ways that Drive can be used to engage students.

While Drive is great, not every school is a Google Apps for Education school, which makes using Google Drive and other Google services a bit more challenging for a classroom teacher. I know; this was my situation for three years.

Here are four possible situations:
  1. Students have no email access
  2. Students have non-gmail access (provided by the school or via a personal account- Yahoo, AOL, Outlook, etc)
  3. Student have personal Gmail accounts
  4. Students have Google Apps for Education account provided by their school.
Google Drive CAN be used in each of these situations although your features and options will differ. Check out the infographic below for an overview of what will and will not be available:

Using Drive without email
Click to view the original
Ultimately, it is best if your school adopts Google Apps for Education so that you can take full advantage of the rich collaboration and creation tools that are provided. In the meantime, you can still use Google Drive with your students to some extent. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Data Security for Teachers: Know Your Data!

The first step in protecting your data and privacy is to know what data has been collected and is know about you. Most **good** data companies will give you full access to the data and information they have collected about you; that you are storing with them.

Google does a nice job of giving you access to the data it has gathered about you and that you have connected to your Gmail or Google Apps account.

To view your Google data, click on your profile picture in the top right corner of a Google service (Gmail works well) and select "account."

There is a wealth of information here, including all of the personal information that is connected to your account. Here you can change your display name, contact information, profile picture and more.

In the "security" tab you can change your password and view account permissions. I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to go through the "secure your account" section which will:

  • Display your account recovery email address and phone number. 
  • Display your login activity by location to ensure that only you are accessing your account. 
  • Display apps and devices that are connected to your account. It is a good idea to remove any devices or services you are no longer using. 
Once you have completed this security audit, I recommend that you click on the "data tools" tab and select "view account data". This page displays all of the data associated with your Google account by product. You can see how many emails you've sent, appointments are on your calendar, etc. Sign up for a monthly summary of this data by clicking the check box at the top of the screen. Each monthly, quickly review the email to ensure that no unauthorized devices or services are accessing your account and that there is no suspicious activity going on. 

The final step is to periodically (monthly) create a backup of your Google account data. Just find the "download your data" box and create a new archive (note: this is the Google Takeout service). You can leave it on the web, or download a copy to your computer (it may be large depending on how much you use your Google Account! My backup was 20gb!)

Once you know the data, devices, and services that are connected to your account, you can monitor, clean up, and manage that data to minimize the risk of unwanted intrusion or misuse of your information. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Data Security for Teachers - Setting Up Chrome Profiles

Google Chrome has become the browser of choice for the majority of computers users. Chrome is a great browser. One of the best features is the ability to "sign-in" to the browser and sync your settings, bookmarks, apps, extensions, and more across all of your devices that are running the Chrome browser. Here are all of the things that you can sync through Chrome:
Chrome Sync Settings: Chrome Menu --> Settings --> Advanced Sync Settings
Chrome Sync is incredibly useful, but also has the potential to cause a few issues.

If you log in to Chrome using your school provided Google Apps for Education account, all of your data will be connected to this managed account. Need to check your bank account during your planning period? Your bank username/password is now saved to your school account. Casually browsing the web in the evening on your laptop? Your "off the clock" browsing history is now saved to your school account. 

First of all, just because your bank password or personal browsing history is saved into your school GAFE account doesn't mean that your administrator or IT Director is sitting around sifting through your data. It is very safe and secure. The only way someone would be able to access this data would be to log into YOUR account by obtaining your password or resetting your existing password. 

The bigger issue/concern about your private/personal information ending up in your school account would be a FOIA (freedom of information request) that would force your school to search for information on a person or topic. 

To avoid this risk, you should setup multiple profiles in Chrome to keep your personal and professional data separate. This is also a good idea to do for each member of your family (if you have a shared computer).  With multiple profiles. each person can have their own bookmarks, settings, apps, and extensions. 

Watch the video below for instructions on setting up multiple Chrome profiles. The steps are the same regardless of whether you are using a Mac or PC. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Data Security for Teachers - The Basics

As we put more and more data into "the cloud," keeping your data safe, secure, and away from prying eyes is more important than ever! For teachers, this is especially true. Classroom teachers are using tools like Google Apps for Education, iCloud, Moodle, Office365, Chromebooks, iPads at an ever increasing rate. All of the data created and stored in these services and devices should be protected and safeguarded.

There are [at least] three "bad things" that can happen to your personal data stored "in the cloud:"

1. You get "hacked"
The term hacking is a very broad term that basically means someone without permission has accessed your account or information without your consent. Once someone gains access to your account they can:
  • Send email through your email account (most likely scenario)
  • Delete/copy/move data
  • Search for personal information (bank accounts, passwords for other services, credit card information, etc)
  • Lock you out of your own account by changing your password. 
2. You get "locked"
If your accounts get "locked", you lose access to the data and services you rely on; bad news. An account will get locked for several reasons: 
  • Suspicious activity like sending LOTS of email or performing repetitive actions much quicker than a normal human. This typically happens if you get hacked, but sometimes accounts can be locked if you deviate from your normal activity (like when your bank cancels your CC when you travel out of state/country without notifying them). 
  • Too many failed password attempts
3. Accidental Destruction
It sounds funny, but there are ways that you can delete, corrupt, deactivate, cancel or otherwise mess up important data and information. Always good to have a backup!

Common Sense Tips to Keep your Data Safe: 

1. Choose a secure password. 

You know this, but do you actually know what "secure" means?
  • Your password should be at least 8 letters. (lots of debate on this, but I wouldn't go less than 8)
  • Your password should contain uppercase letters, lowercase letters, a number, and a symbol.
  • Avoid dictionary words
  • Avoid using personal information as your password such as your birthday, address, or phone number. 
Teacher Tip: Use the "license plate rule" to create your password. Create a password that would fit on a license plate (8 characters). Shorten words and add special characters to make your "license plate" password more secure. 
Secure Password Examples (please don't use these!!)
  • English Teacher → Eng-tcHr
  • I Love Chemistry → i<3chemm li="">
  • Math Teachers → Y=mx+bee

2. Backup Your Data Regularly

Again, common sense here, but backing up important data is a good idea. As we have moved away from data stored on our computers, we've also become less concerned with backing up our information. Many people believe that if their data is "in the cloud" they don't have to back it up.

While cloud-based products have improved the redundancy of our data, if your account is hacked, locked, or you experience accidental destruction, you will be very glad that you kept a backup of your data.

There are two ways you can "backup" your information:

"Share" your information with a secondary account. 
If you are using Google products, many of them allow you to share your documents, calendars, sites, etc with other people. A great way to safeguard your data is by sharing important information with a second email account that you own. For example, if your schools uses Google Apps for Education, share all of your Google Drive files with your personal  Gmail account. This doesn't "mix" or combine the data, it simply provides access to a second account which can be removed at any time.

Download a Copy of your Data Periodically
It's never a bad idea to download a backup copy of important information, even if it is "in the cloud." Keep in mind that in a cloud based environment, you are worried about hard-drive failure. you are worried about losing access to your account.

Saving a backup file will vary depending on the service you are using. Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud allow you to download copies of your information.

You can also consider third party solutions such as Backupify, Spanning, or Mover to help you backup, migrate, and copy your cloud data.

Google Takeout - a FREE services
for Gmail/Google Apps users
Teacher Tip: If you are a Google Apps/Gmail user, take advantage of Google Takeout to generate a backup of your data across [most] of Google's services. With a single click you can backup your email, contacts, calendars, documents, and more!

If you've made it to this point in this post, hopefully you are thinking "wow, I knew all of that; can't believe I just read that entire article." If so, GREAT! The tips listed here are basic, common sense things that most of us don't do. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Get Updates on Google Education Products

Staying up to date on constantly changing  Google EDU products can be challenge. The help, I have started a monthly e-newsletter that will bring the most important changes, features, new tools, and exciting events to your mailbox!

Browse the archive below to take a look at some previous editions. If you would like to sign up to receive these updates, please complete this form.