5 Reasons to Use the Google Classroom Mobile App

5 Reasons to Use the Google Classroom Mobile App

I’ve been a Google Classroom stan for years. I am still impressed by this relatively simple tool as it grows and evolves. This is especially true of the Google Classroom mobile app. 

The Google Classroom mobile app is great on iPads, Play Store enabled Chromebooks, Android or Chrome OS tablets, and phones. Here are 5 reasons to use the Classroom mobile app. Before we get started, be sure to install the app:

January 2019 Update: Google has updated the look of Classroom to match its material design updates. That update has now reached the Classroom Android app.

Screenshot of the updated Google Classroom Stream tab
The updated Google Classroom Stream tab in the Android app on my Chromebook.
Screenshot of the updated Google Classroom Classwork tab
The updated Google Classroom Classwork tab in the Android app on my Chromebook. Notice how the emojis in the topics pop? Use GetEmoji to copy-and-paste emojis into Google Classroom topics. Emojis make the Classwork tab more visually engaging.

Now that we have addressed the updated look, here are 5 reasons to use the Google Classroom mobile app.

☑️ Reason 1: Give Students Video Directions.

As the creator of a few digital breakouts, I can attest that the best place to hide anything is in printed instructions. Kids rarely read them! What better way to conquer this problem than with video!

All teachers should post lesson videos on YouTube but assignment directions don’t belong there. Instead, create the video directions as you create an assignment in the Classroom mobile app!

To do so, create an assignment. Add an attachment. Click “Take photo” on a Chromebook or “Use camera” on an iPad. Here is an animated GIF from my Chromebook:

Animated GIF demonstrating how to add a video to a Google Classroom assignment.

☑️ Reason 2: Give Students Written Feedback.

If a student works on a Google Drive file attached using “Make a copy for each student” or if they add a file to their assignment, teachers can annotate the file. What an easy way to give written feedback! The file becomes a PDF added to the assignment. Please note: At present (December 2018) the PDF saves to My Drive, not the assignment’s Google Drive folder. Please send Google feedback in the Google Classroom app. 

Watch as I demonstrate creating a PDF for student feedback:

☑️ Reason 3: Students Can Write on Assignments Too!

The ability to write on files in assignments extends to students too. The PDF generated is simply added to the assignment.

Want to have students digitally annotate? The Classroom mobile app makes it possible. Watch as I write on an attached Google Doc as a student:

A great application for this is students using emojis as they mark up documents. 

Animated GIF showing a student adding an emoji to a document using the Chromebook onscreen keyboard.
A student adding an emoji to a document using the Chromebook onscreen keyboard.

Watch as I demonstrate how to do this with a convertible Chromebook’s onscreen keyboard:

☑️ Reason 4: Rearrange Assignments and Topics by Grabbing and Dragging.

Need to rearrange assignments in the Classwork tab? Open the mobile app. and have at it! Check this out:

Animated GIF demonstrating how to rearrange assignments in the Google Classroom mobile app.

Better yet, change an assignment’s topic using this method:

Animated GIF demonstrating how to grab and drag to change an assignment's topic in the Google Classroom mobile app.

Please note: Topics can also be rearranged using this method.

☑️ Reason 5: Randomly Select a Student.

Need to randomly select students to group them, choose team captains, or any other reason? Look for this icon in the upper-right corner of the People tab: 

Watch as I use the student selector app:

What questions do you have about the Google Classroom mobile app? Comment below or tweet me @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.

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7 Tips for Google Earth in the Classroom

Remember when Google Earth was a slow desktop program? Thank goodness it is now has a sleeker web version (earth.google.com/web) that is perfect for teaching geography. This is especially true for students using touchscreen Chromebooks. Additionally, the iTunes Store Google Earth app is great on iPads. Here are 7 tips for getting the most out of Google Earth in the classroom.

Tip # 1: Use Google Earth for Geology Concepts

Do you teach about volcanoes, plate tectonics, seafloor spreading, or other geology concepts? If so, click the ship steering wheel in Google Earth to access Voyager.

The steering wheel in the Google Earth toolbar opens Voyager: Interactive stories and maps.
Look for the steering wheel.

Then click “LAYERS” and enjoy some very useful content. Watch as I demonstrate:

Tip # 2: Use Google Earth for History

Google Earth Voyager has plenty of great content besides Geography. Click the steering wheel and click “HISTORY.” Each unit of content, called “stories,” leads students through an interactive map. PBS Learning Media authored five of the History stories. Watch as I demonstrate how to access Voyager History stories and the first two scenes of the Underground Railroad story:

Tip # 3: Find Voyager Stories

There are stories in each tab in Voyager. The tabs other than Layers and History are Editor’s Picks, Travel, Nature, Culture, Sports, and Education.

The tabs other than Layers and History are Editor's Picks, Travel, Nature, Culture, Sports, and Education. 

This content is very useful but challenging to find because there is no search function inside Voyager. Scrolling is the only option for finding stories in Voyager. The good news is the search in the Google Earth toolbar searches Voyager stories. At present, a search term has to match a term in the story title. Watch as I demonstrate:

Tip # 4: Learn More About Countries and Cities with Points of Interest

Search Google Earth for a country or city. The search will take you there on the map and add points of interest in the right part of the screen.

Points of interest in Google Earth.

Each point of interest comes with content. What a great way to introduce foreign places. Watch as I preview Tanzania’s points of interest:

Tip # 5: Use Google Earth to Measure, Distance, Area, and Perimeter

The ruler in the Google Earth toolbar is useful for showing students real-life applications for the geometry concepts they learn in math class.

The ruler tool in the Google Earth toolbar measures distance and area.

The ruler measures the distance between points on a line. It also creates shapes and displays their perimeter and area measurements.  On the iPad, there are buttons for copying that data:

Screen capture of a shape in Google Earth. There are buttons for copying the area and perimeter measurements.
Notice the “copy” icon to the right of the area and perimeter measurements.

One drawback of shapes in Google Earth is they cannot be saved. To level up using Google Geo Tools to teach geometry, have students create shapes in Google My Maps. This is a great way to teach scale and how maps can be distorted. For example, maps show Greenland to be about the size of Africa. Is that true? Make a copy of this Google My Map and have your students move the shape to find out.

  • Click the [    ] in the upper right corner to view this map fullscreen.
  • Click the three dots. Then click “Copy Map.”


Watch as I demonstrate using shapes in Google Earth and Google My Maps:

For more information on Google My Maps, please read my blog post, Google My Maps Tips and Tricks.

Tip # 6: Perfect Image Captures on the iPad

The camera icon in the Google Earth iPad app.
Notice the camera icon in the Google Earth iPad app.

Pressing the camera icon results in a screen capture of the Google Earth screen without toolbars:

A picture produced by the Google Earth iPad app.

This also works in the Google Earth Android app. Watch as I demonstrate the Android app.

Tip # 7, Your Anchor Activity: Use I’m Feeling Lucky for Anchor Activities

All done reading the first 6 tips? Great! The Google Earth toolbar has a dice icon. When clicked, it functions as “I’m Feeling Lucky” and takes students to a random location. What a great anchor activity!

The dice in the Google Earth toolbar Is
Roll the dice. Or to be more precise, click the dice.

When students say, “I’m done,” reply with “Great! Click I’m Feeling Lucky and share three things you learned about your random location with the class during the last five minutes.” Watch as I demonstrate using the “I’m Feeling Lucky” dice:

Thank you for reading this post! What Google Earth questions do you have? Please comment below or tweet me @TomEMullaney.

Google Expeditions for Martin Luther King Day

I am a proponent of utilizing iPads and Play Store enabled Chromebooks to lead students on Google Expeditions for free. As such, I was honored to see a tweet by my former employer, Gravelly Hill Middle School, featured on the January 9 Google Expeditions Teacher Tip:

January 9 Google Expeditions Teacher Tip
January 9 Google Expeditions Teacher Tip

Here is the tweet referenced in the tip:

In the tweet, I am shown leading students on an expedition that taught them about Martin Luther King. Expeditions that are useful for teaching about Dr. King are:

Google Expeditions now has more than 700 expeditions available ranging from systems of the body, scientific processes such as photosynthesis, museums, oceans, and so much more. There are almost 200 accompanying lesson plans available as well.

If you want to talk about leading students on Google Expeditions, please comment below or tweet me at @TomEMullaney. Thank you for reading.

Images in this post:

Bring Collaboration to the Next Level with the Google Jamboard App

When Google debuted the Google Jamboard, it seemed unlikely a $5,000 piece of hardware had any implications for education. However, Jamboard was created to facilitate collaboration and to do so, Google created an Android app and an iTunes app so collaborators can participate in a Jam remotely. The app is free and does not require the Jamboard device to work. If your students have iPads or Play Store enabled Chromebooks, they can collaborate in the app tomorrow. Owners of a Jam can invite others to collaborate, just like in other G Suite apps and Google Hangouts can occur inside a Jam.

This post is about the Jamboard app, not the Jamboard device. The device is $5,000. The app is free. Now that we have that out of the way, please continue reading and consider ways the app could be used in your classroom.

To start, have a look at this video and imagine yourself and your students doing this not on a $5,000 Jamboard, but on an iPad or Chromebook.


Looks like fun, doesn’t it? To see what this looks like on a device and not the Jamboard, have a look at me playing with the app on my Chromebook:

Peruse this ThingLink for videos showing specific Jamboard app functions:

I enjoy using the Jamboard app on my Chromebook and showing it to colleagues:

After playing with the Jamboard app, here some ideas for using the Jamboard app in the classroom:

  • Use a Jam to document a group’s research for projects. If the teacher is added as a collaborator, they can give feedback using Jamboard’s emojis and Google Keep.
  • Divvy up topics in a unit to groups in your class. Each group is responsible for creating a Jam about their topic. At the end of the unit, the class can have a Jam Gallery Walk. Additionally, new students can catch up by being added as a collaborator in each Jam. That’s a lot more fun and useful than copying notes!
  • The shape recognition tool is very useful. In addition to converting scribbles into perfect shapes, it has the ability to draw angles including perfect 90° angles!
  • Use the Google Jamboard app’s auto draw feature to make beautiful storyboards! Thank you, Louise Jones, for this idea!
  • The Jamboard app was not designed for this purpose, but I have to say it is the best Android app for jotting notes on a Chromebook. I like using Squid and the Google Keep Android app for jotting notes but Jambord is even better. Jamboard has four pens, handwriting recognition, shape recognition, and auto draw.

    Google Jamboard Pens
    Four pens, handwriting recognition, shape recognition and autodraw.

More room to jot is always available by adding a new frame to a Jam. Simply click on the frames at the top of the screen to add another one.

Create a New Frame 2
Adding a new frame to a Jam. Like creating a new page when jotting notes.

The Jamboard app even has an embedded web browser accessible when jotting notes.

Jan 4 2018 7-40 AM - Edited
Tap “+” and then the globe icon to access a web browser.

  • Jams can be used as an artistic tool. One thing I have noticed as I play with the Jamboard app – Jams are messy! That is a good thing, but it makes me pause about assessing something made in the Jamboard app as a final product. The Jamboard app is probably better used as an ungraded collaborative tool. Not grading Jams might increase student engagement and focus on learning when using them. Having said that, students using the Jamboard App can produce some beautiful art. Witness my masterpiece, Sunset at the Beach:

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 2.33.31 PM
Created in the Google Jamboard app.

On a more serious note, just like Google Slides can render individual slides as images and whole slide decks as PDFs, the Jamboard app allows frames to be shared as images and whole Jams to be shared as PDFs. Just click the three dots in the upper right corner of the Jam:

Save Jam as PDF or Image
Share Jams as PDFs or individual frames as images.

I hope this post has convinced you to install the Jamboard app (links in the first paragraph of this post) and give it a try. If you would like to share your ideas about the Google Jamboard app, please comment below or tweet me at @TomEMullaney. Thank you for reading.

Google Jamboard Image: G Suite with Google Cloud

Update 1/20/18: I was honored to share collaborate with one of my favorite YouTubers, Mark from Promevo in Google Jamboard. Watch as I use the Google Jamboard app on my Chromebook in San Francisco and he uses a Jamboard in Kentucky

Update 1/24/18: Google has announced Google Jamboard is now a core G Suite service available to education customers

Update 1/30/18: I was honored to collaborate with Kim Mattina in the Google Jamboard app on The Suite Show

Have iPads? Use Them For Google Expeditions!

Google Expeditions is a great app for engaging students and broadening their horizons.

I led my colleagues on a Google Expedition at the NCTIES 2016 conference:

The app is marketed in conjunction with Google Cardboard and Android phones. This is fine but involves lots of moving pieces. The cardboards need to be cleaned frequently, especially during cold and flu season. Additionally, a complete Google Expeditions set for ten students costs $3,999.

The good news is that you can probably lead your students on a Google Expedition tomorrow. And you can do it for free with equipment your school owns if it has any functioning iPads. Google Expeditions runs on iPads in a “window mode” that gives students a 360 view. Having tried this with students, I can attest, they love it. Sure, the cardboard viewers are more encompassing, but no student has complained about not using a viewer.

A Brief Technical Note

To lead an expedition from one iPad to others, all devices need to be connected to the same WiFi network with peer-to-peer sharing enabled. Test this by using two iPads to lead and follow an expedition. If it does not work, ask your IT department about enabling peer-to-peer sharing.

Articulate Expectations

I beta-tested Expeditions with my literacy block. I led them on an expedition of the Empire State Building.

google-expeditions-empire-state-building

The kids loved it. They were very excited. I could tell they were not listening as I read the narration provided by Google Expeditions. This was a low-stakes beta test but I would have to ensure students would listen when I led expeditions as part of classes.

Since then, I have pulled groups of seven students to lead them on Google Expeditions. Keep the group numbers low if possible. Thirty students in a Google Expedition could become chaotic. Before I hand students iPads, I lay out my expectations:

  • Treat the iPads like precious treasure. We cannot afford to have one broken.
  • Google Expeditions is awesome. You’re going to go banana and I need you to listen as I explain what you are seeing in each scene.

Making those expectations clear at the start has made our Google Expeditions successful. I have led sixth-grade students on expeditions of pyramids in Egypt, the National Museum of Iraq, the Great Wall of China, the Palace at Versailles, and the human auditory system. My colleague Cristie Watson and I have documented some of these moments with our students.

cristie-tweet-about-tom-and-google-images_censored

Leading expeditions is easy. Teachers need to sign in with a Google account and then simply search for and download expeditions they want to lead. Students open the app and join the expedition, no sign-in required. Students can move their iPad to change their view of the 360 image. They can also use their fingers to change their vantage point. Swivel chairs are ideal but not essential.

Some Resources to Get Started:

If you would like to share your thoughts with me, please comment below or tweet me at @TomEMullaney. Thank you for reading.

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Update 7/15/17: I was honored when my colleague Cristie Watson gave me a shout-out for leading her students on Google Expeditions on iPads:

Update 12/28/17: Play Store enabled Chromebooks can also be Google Expeditions machines for free. Watch as I demonstrate an expedition on my Chromebook. Give it a try with the Google Expeditions Android app!

Update 1/9/18: I was honored when Google for Education included a tweet by my former employer, Gravelly Hill Middle School, of me leading students on a Google Expeditions on the January 9 Google Expeditions Teacher Tip.

The Google Expeditions logo I used in the image for this blog post.

Why This Teacher Loves ThingLink

ThingLink, a tool that allows for adding content that appears on top of images, is a great tool for both blended learning and student creation. Here are three reasons this teacher loves it:

Google Forms, YouTube Videos, and Google Slides

Scroll over this French Revolution ThinkLink to reveal that students can answer Google Forms and watch YouTube videos without ever leaving a ThingLink. No new tabs to open! Imagine how this can impact blended and self-paced learning!

The “Publish to the web” version of a Google Slides presentation renders nicely on a ThingLink. For an example, have a look at the ThingLink on my Sell World War I to the American Public digital breakout.

Add Sound and Images to Text

ThingLink is a great took for adding audio reading to text. Below is a screen capture of an old research paper of mine. I have added audio and imagery using ThingLink. This can open doors for students who benefit from an audio version of a text or need more than just text to learn.

Adding sound to images is especially easy with the iTunes Store version of ThingLink on iPads. It kills me to admit the iTunes app is superior to the ThingLink Android app.

Vocabulary

Check out how ThingLink can help students with vocabulary!

 

How do you use ThingLink with your students? Comment below or tweet me @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.

Author’s note: I originally published this is February 2016. I subsequently updated this post in April 2017 and September 2018.