Five Educational Android Apps for Chromebooks

Five Educational Android Apps for Chromebooks

When Google announced Android apps were coming to Chromebooks, I was not enthused. Chromebooks are great for learners and teachers because of the Chrome OS’s simplicity and lightning-fast boot-up. I was defensive about Chromebooks and not excited about change.

My love of Chromebooks for education is not universal. Joe Wilcox, citing kids’ love of iPhones, argues, “The PC, whether desktop or notebook, is obsolete in the classroom… If the fruit-logo company doesn’t seize the moment, a competitor will—and almost certainly selling devices running Android.”

But what if Chromebooks incorporated Android apps in a way that did not compromise the OS while giving teachers and learners the best of all worlds – mobile apps, keyboards, and touchscreens?

I recently purchased the ASUS Flip C302 which has Play Store access in the beta channel. My wariness of Android on Chrome OS was mistaken. Even though the device is not in the default stable channel, everything works great, including Android apps.

Long term, I hope companies make convertible flip touchscreen Chromebooks with a world-facing camera above the keyboard. This gives the device full tablet functionality. ASUS has done this with its C213. Time will tell if these Chromebooks are iPad killers. In the meantime, here are five educational Android apps to consider using with your students.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom’s web interface is great. One thing missing is the ability to instantly embed content from a laptop’s webcam and/or mic. The Classroom Android app allows this:

Further, John Sowash documented the app giving very useful notifications.

Pros:

  • Very mouse friendly. It actually works better with the mouse rather than the touchscreen.
  • Ability to embed directions and content using the webcam and/or mic.
  • Enhanced notifications.
  • The Android app allows teachers annotate on student work and saves it as a PDF.

Cons:

  • Why doesn’t Google Classroom’s web interface allow teachers to use their webcam and mic?

Google Expeditions

The Google Expedition Android app renders beautifully on a Chromebook. I made this screencast with it:

Pros:

  • Teachers can search for and preview Google Expeditions from their Chromebooks.
  • Teachers can lead Google Expeditions from their Chromebooks.
  • Students can view Google Expeditions from their Chromebooks like they would with iPads.

Cons:

  • None I have encountered yet.

Squid

Squid is an Android app for note-taking, Math, and sketch-noting. Thank you, Robby Payne of Chrome Unboxed, for turning me on to it. Have a look at me trying it out:

Pros:

  • Its simplicity of use.
  • Graph and lined paper in the free version.
  • Annotate images in the free version.
  • Notes can be exported as PDFs, JPEGs, and PNGs for free.
  • Premium is relatively cheap – $1/month or $10/year.

Cons:

  • The highlighter is a premium feature.
  • Importing PDFs is a premium feature.
  • Writing does not work with the mouse.
  • On my Chromebook, the only input that works is “Finger,” meaning it does not recognize pressure sensitivity with my stylus.
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Active pen does not work on my Chromebook.

Adobe Illustrator Draw

The Adobe Illustrator Draw Android app is a wonderful tool for art and sketch-noting:

Pros:

  • The mouse works for a lot of features.
  • It’s free!
  • So many beautiful options for colors, shapes, and brushes.
  • Images can be saved as PNGs – with transparent backgrounds if desired.

Cons:

  • Shapes cannot be manipulated by the mouse.

Google Jamboard

Google Jamboard is a $5,000 piece of hardware marketed at businesses. The device looks very fun to play with but at that price point, it is likely a non-starter for education. However, the hardware is powered by an Android app available for free in the Google Play Store. The app renders well on Chromebooks. While not perfect, it has great potential for students to collaborate in a fun way:

Pros:

  • Real-time collaboration.
  • Very fun!
  • Handwriting recognition.
  • Nice ability to clip anything from the web and add it to a jam.
  • Jams can be shared as PDFs and images to Google Classroom. This makes me hopeful there might be more education integration coming for the app in the future.
Google Jamboard exports jams as PDFs or images to Google Classroom.

Google Jamboard exports jams as PDFs or images to Google Classroom.

Cons:

  • A touchscreen is essential. The mouse does not play well with Jamboard.
  • The app renders nicely on Chromebooks but is not very useful on phones and rendered very darkly on my wife’s Samsung Galaxy Tab A.
  • Only five colors available for drawing.
  • Shape recognition not perfected.
  • Difficulty grabbing objects. Notice the difficulty I experienced in the video.
  • Google Drive files render very small.

Thank you for reading.  Are you curious if your Chromebook can run Android apps? Here is the list of Chromebooks that support Android apps. How would you use Android apps with your students? Please comment below or tweet me, @TomEMullaney.

Image sources:

Android logo (Wikimedia Commons)

Google Chrome logo (Wikimedia Commons)

Google Play logo (Wikimedia Commons)

Why This Teacher Loves Canva

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I sat in an eighth-grade math teacher’s classroom, working on problems she shared with her students using Mathspace. I do not usually enjoy multi-step math problems but found myself delighted and completely engaged. Reflecting on it later, I realized a significant part of the experience was Mathspace’s sleek, modern design. I like Google Classroom more than LMSs in part because of its beautiful design but it took my Mathspace experience to realize an important rule when creating digital learning experiences for students:

Design Counts!

If we want students to engage in digital lessons, we owe it to them to make learning materials visually appealing. Personally, I enhance imagery to make Google Sitesdigital breakouts, and YouTube thumbnails that look good and hook students. Canva is a great tool for teachers and students to create imagery that adds beauty to their creations.

Making an image in Canva is easy. Users can create images with template dimensions such as Facebook and Twitter posts, and, my favorite, YouTube thumbnails. Additionally, users can set custom dimensions such as 800 x 200 (Google Classroom images) and 767 x 280 (Google Sites banner images):

The Wikimedia Commons is a great source for copyright-friendly images to jazz up a lesson. Here is how to easily upload them into the Canva editor:

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Canva lets teachers make images more dramatic or cheerful with Instagram-like filters:

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A great tool to use in conjunction with Canva is the Colorzilla Google Chrome extension. It allows users to grab any color they see in an image and use it to make more elements. Additionally, Canva’s transparency tool is another way for amateurs to become instant graphic artists:

Canva is a great tool for students to use their creativity. My colleague Cristie Watson had students create six-word memoirs in Canva which inspired me to make my own:

Teachers looking for more ways to incorporate Canva into instruction should look at their lesson plans as well as tutorials and design resources.

There two small drawbacks. I use the free version of Canva so I cannot make images with transparent backgrounds. That is why I made this site’s favicon in Google Drawings. Additionally, images can only be cropped into rectangles, unlike Google Drawings which allows users to crop with different shapes. These drawbacks make Google Drawings a better tool for making digital badges.

We want our students engaging in the 4Cs in our classrooms. That engagement becomes inevitable when we engage in them ourselves. Canva is a great tool for tapping your inner creativity and drawing it out of students too.

Author’s Note: I have not been compensated for writing this. I have not collaborated with Canva. They were unaware I that I worked on this post.

Help Yourself to 30 Minutes of GAFE Professional Development

30 Minutes of GAFE PD

I recorded a Google Hangout on Air for the North Carolina Google Educator Group. Here are the video and the slides. Additionally, there are direct links to when I cover specific topics in the video.

 

 

Google Classroom

Assignments and Content

Feedback

Miscellaneous

Going Deeper with Google Classroom

Updated Going Deeper with Google Classroom

Google Classroom is awesome. Teachers can take it beyond substitution to redefine teaching and learning in their classroom. I have posted ten strategies to help teachers do so on the BAMNetwork Radio blog.

Going Deeper with Google Classroom – Part 1

  • Anchor Activities in the About Tab
  • Create a Question for Class Discussions
  • Easily Find All Google Classroom Files by Student
  • Google Classroom as Backchannel for Students to Help Each Other
  • Make it All Accessible to Absent Students and/or Convert to Blended Learning

Going Deeper with Google Classroom – Part 2

  • Google Forms for Do Nows and Assessment
  • Hyperdocs
  • Choosing a Theme Image
  • Make a New Google Classroom for Each Class Unit
  • A Strategy for Differentiation

Thank you for reading these suggestions. I hope they help you go deeper with Google Classroom. Please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom if you would like to chat more about going deeper with Google Classroom.

Google Classroom – A Differentiation Strategy

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I am honored to contribute to the BAM Radio Network EdWords Blog. In my first post there, I document a strategy for differentiation in Google Classroom. I hope its screen caps and embedded YouTube video help you make even better use of Google Classroom. If you would like to discuss further, please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom. Thank you for reading.

The Impossible to Fail Quiz in the New Google Forms

After Chris Aviles introduced me to the Impossible to Fail Quiz at EdCamp New Jersey, I liked it so much I used it with my students and created a tutorial to show other teachers how to make it. This quiz is a great strategy to deliver precise remediation to students who need multiple opportunities to learn. However, since I published that blog post, Google has since changed Google Forms. So here is my updated tutorial. 

Start by opening Google Drive and creating a new Google Form:

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Follow the pattern of adding a section and a question for as many questions as you want. I recommend keeping it short. I like five questions.

Now add the magic of the Impossible to Fail Quiz: videos! Wrong answers will direct students a video that reviews the concept addressed by the question. I use Screencastify to make videos with my ChromebookSnagIt works too, but I prefer Screencastify. Making your own screencast videos is great, but you can use any video on YouTube if you prefer. Keep the video short so students watch and quickly return to the question. To add videos to the quiz:

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Add a video corresponding to each of your questions in the order of the questions. The second video should help students answer the second question and so on.

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Now return to your multiple choice questions. You have to tinker with them so that correct answers advance to the next question and incorrect answers advance to the videos.

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Do this for each question.

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This is what students will see after they correctly answer the final question:

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Take care of one last detail on each of the video pages and you have an Impossible to Fail Quiz ready to go!

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With that, the Impossible to Fail Quiz is ready to go. Take the Google Classroom Impossible to Fail Quiz designed in this tutorial to acquaint yourself with the student user experience.

If you have any questions, please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom. Thank you for reading!

Google Classroom is not an LMS. It’s better.

I have encountered many strong opinions about Google Classroom. The overwhelming majority of these are positive like my own. However, some colleagues dismiss it by saying it is not a Learning Management System (LMS).

Even the leading expert on Google Classroom, Alice Keeler, says it is not an LMS. She argues that Google Classroom is neither an LMS nor a CMS (Content Management System) because it  does not automate course enrollment, have a grade book, or house content.

Alice Keeler is right. Google Classroom is not an LMS, it’s better.

She goes on to define Google Classroom as “Google Drive Management.” This description is accurate. Google Drive Management is more valuable to students and teachers than what an LMS provides because Google Apps for Education (GAFE) are essential for collaboration and feedback. Students hone future-ready skills when they collaborate and give and receive feedback in the Google ecosystem. Google Classroom automates the distribution of Google Drive files. Conventional LMSs force teachers and students into time-wasting workarounds to access and share Google Drive files.

Teachers are better off working in Google Drive than investing time building courses in an LMS the district might ditch a few years down the road. Even if Google Classroom goes out of vogue, all teacher files will still live in Drive. I know a teacher who has invested countless hours putting multiple choice questions into Moodle. If only he used Google Forms for assessment instead! Flubaroo would easily grade his assessments and he could copy and paste questions into Google Docs or Microsoft Word if he needed. Now his hard work is invested in an LMS that is falling out of favor.

One drawback of Google Classroom is its lengthy Facebook/Twitter feed that makes reviewing old content difficult. LMSs have modules that make going back easy for students. Play around with them in your school’s LMS. They are organized like traditional file cabinets, not like 21st-century tools. Google Classroom is user-friendly and intuitive for students and teachers. But what about organizing units?

Try this simple solution suggested to me by educator Todd Nasife at EdcampQC: make each unit it’s own Google Classroom. This is brilliant. It makes accessing old units simple for students. Look at this mock-up of what it would look like for a World History class:

Google Classroom Unit by Unit

Here is how to do it:

Most students and teachers I work with like Google Classroom.  I decided to poll my 7th-grade and 8th-grade literacy block students to generate some (admittedly crude) data about Google Classroom and LMSs used in my building. Check out their responses.

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Not a single student chose Google Classroom as their least favorite!

One final reason Google Classroom is better than traditional LMSs is its ability to grow and evolve. When released in August 2014, some complained that Google Classroom lacked integration with Google Calendar and the ability to co-teach classes. Since then, it has added both capabilities and so much more in less than 15 months:

  • Saving drafts
  • Questions (great for class discussions)
  • Google Form integration (no more cutting and pasting!)
  • Moving posts to the top of the stream
  • The ability to upload an image for the class
  • The Google Classroom mobile app
  • Reusing posts
  • The gorgeous redesign of the assignment view for teachers
  • The ability to archive classes

Google Classroom will continue to grow and respond to teacher and student needs. These improvements are faster and more plentiful than growth in traditional LMSs.

Care to discuss Google Classroom and other LMSs further? Comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom. Thanks for reading. 

Use EDPuzzle to Make YouTube a Powerful Educational Tool

Introduction

YouTube, the second largest search engine, is a transcendent resource for educators.  TEDEd is a great tool for engaging and assessing students after they watch YouTube videos. There is another great resource for ensuring students are getting it as they watch. This tool gives teachers the ability to add explanations during videos while individual students watch at their own pace. This free tool, EDpuzzle, is a great way to enrich video instruction.

Set-Up

To get started, go to EDpuzzle. Create a free teacher account:

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Use your school account to sign up. Edpuzzle has a “sign in with Google” feature that is great for GAFE schools. Students also have to set up accounts to log-in. This means teachers can easily keep track of assessment data.

Create classes and enroll students by sharing a unique class code, just like Google Classroom:

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Creating Lessons

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This brings the teacher to “My Content” where lessons are stored:

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To make a lesson with a YouTube video:

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An editor opens that looks like this:

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Teachers can add short-answer and multiple choice questions. To add a multiple choice question:

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Another good option for teachers is audio notes:

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EdPuzzle gives teachers the option to delete and re-record audio notes to get them just right. Teachers can also add a separate audio track:

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One Extra Benefit of EdPuzzle

EdPuzzle just added a “Share to Google Classroom” button:

EdPuzzle Share to Google Classroom for Blog Post

In Conclusion

YouTube is a great resource for teachers. However, it has nothing to ensure students are learning and engaged while watching. EdPuzzle changes that. Use it to make YouTube a powerful tool for your students. This is the EdPuzzle lesson I made in this post. If you have any questions about it, please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom. The video is The Forgotten War Hero – Milunka Savic by The Great War. It is well worth watching:

 

 

 

Ten Things You Can Do This Summer To Prepare For Teaching In A 1:1 Classroom With Chromebooks

Has your district told you your students will bring Chromebooks with them to class in the fall? Are you eager to integrate this technology into instruction but unsure how? Here are ten things you can do this summer to hit the ground running in the fall, brought to you by a teacher who has been in your shoes.

1. Ask your administration for a Chromebook to use this summer.

You want to know the Chromebook user experience before school starts. What better way to learn than by doing? This teacher loves Chromebooks in the classroom for many reasons. You will too, especially if you understand the platform your students use. See if your administrators are willing to loan you the same model students will use in the fall. Use it for everything this summer and you will be prepared.

2. Become a Google Educator.

If you want to successfully use Google Apps for Education (GAFE) in classroom instruction, you need to be proficient in them. Go through Google for Education’s process to earn Google Educator certification. The process involves online modules and five $15 (as of Summer 2014) tests. Author’s Note (6/28/15): This process has just changed. Please have a look at Google’s new options and see what works for you. Going through the modules will make you more than proficient in Google Apps. Taking and passing the exams will earn you a Google Educator certificate, a nice asset for your CV.

 3. Upload your files to Google Drive.

This is essential for you to work with your students in a 1:1 classroom. After the Google Educator modules, you should be able to easily upload folders to Google Drive. Or, you can watch this video about doing it with a Windows computer:

Or this one about doing it with a Mac:

 

4. Get to know Google Classroom.

First, watch this video introducing Google Classroom. Imagine the possibilities. Get excited!

Then, read up about Google Classroom and how to use it to do transformative things such as seamlessly include absent and home-bound students in your class.

5. Learn from the experts.

There is so much great content about integrating technology into the classroom. It can be overwhelming. Start small by following these eight experts on Twitter and reading their blogs regularly. If starting a Twitter account seems overwhelming, read Alice Keeler’s blog post about signing up for Twitter. Here are my favorite education technology experts. Their names hyperlink to their blogs.

6. Digitize your print documents.

Do this during the summer to save time during the school year. Once a print document is digitized, it can be altered and, hence, improved.

7. Convert your multiple choice assessments to paperless Google Forms your students can answer on their Chromebooks.

My visual tutorial will guide you through this process. Doing this during the summer will save you untold time at the photocopier and ScanTron machine during the school year. If you are curious about grading, read my grading tutorial, but it will not be necessary until you give your first multiple choice assessment.

Author’s Note (12/3/15): The visual tutorial linked above will work for you if you are working with the old Google Forms. If you are working with the new Google Forms, please read this post to get acquainted. 

8. Use TEDEd to change the way video is used in instruction.

Rather than have the whole class watch a projected video, you can add short-answer and multiple choice assessment questions, discussion prompts and links to further resources to any YouTube video. Make a list of your favorite YouTube videos used in instruction, and make them into powerful instructional tools with YouTube this summer. Students can work with videos at their own pace on their Chromebooks and you can use TEDEd’s tools to assess understanding.

Author’s Note (12/3/15): EdPuzzle is also a great tool for engaging students with video. Additionally, please read my Five Strategies for Using Video in the Classroom

9. Use PDFSplit to break up large curricular PDFs into smaller documents.

Instead of printing the pages of the PDF you want your students to read and scanning them, use PDFSplit to make original quality PDFs of the exact pages you want students to read. PDFSplit connects to your Google Drive to access your PDF. It makes a new file with only the pages you specify. Students then read beautiful PDFs on their Chromebooks, not scans of photocopies.

10. Join Google Plus education technology communities.

This will serve as another great source for education technology information. Just like with education technology experts on Twitter, start small. Here are four great communities to join:

Teaching in a 1:1 classroom with Chromebooks reignited my passion for education. I hope it does for you too! If you would like to talk more about successful technology integration in the 1:1 classroom, please comment below or send me a tweet at @edtechtom.