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Welcome to the Apps User Group website.  Our purpose is to connect and assist schools in the use of Google Apps for Education.  The site contains resources for implementing and using Google Apps, news from the Google blogs, links to schools that use Google Apps, a discussion forum, and more.  All uses are encouraged to share resources, ideas, questions, and comments.



Below are the latest news posts for the site.  If you have news to share, please submit your article using this form.

Battlesheets!

posted Mar 8, 2014, 3:09 PM by Eric Curts

Normally when we think of spreadsheets, what comes to mind is numbers, statistics, and charts. But how about playing a game?

Since I am a Google Geek, I decided to create a playable version of the beloved Battleship game inside of Google Sheets. And with that, Battlesheets was born!

Here's how it works:
  • Basically it is an online game where each player uses a different tab in a shared spreadsheet, types in letters in one grid to place their ships, and then takes turns typing in X's in another grid to drop their bombs.
  • Pre-made formulas and conditional formatting then show you if you have hit your opponent and if they have hit you.
  • The game continues until one player has sunk all of their opponent's ships.
  • Replay is as easy as deleting the contents of your grids and starting over.
  • Detailed directions are included on the first tab of the spreadsheet labeled "Instructions".

Battlesheets is available as a read only spreadsheet template, which means you will need to make your own copy of the spreadsheet, and then share it with your opponent to play. To access the Battlesheets template click the link below:


To learn more about the Google Sheets features used to make the game, check out the Google help pages on topics such as conditional formatting, the spreadsheet function list, and specifically the IF function.

If you have any suggestions or feedback please let me know so I can continue to improve the game. Plus a big thanks to Doug Terhune for testing the game with me and offering great ideas for improvement.

So find a friend, drop your bombs, and let the Internet hear you cry "You sunk my Battlesheet!"


Lucidpress puts desktop publishing in your browser

posted Feb 23, 2014, 3:48 PM by Eric Curts   [ updated Feb 23, 2014, 3:55 PM ]

Desktop publishing has long been the unicorn of web-based applications. We have web-based versions of word processors (Google Docs), presentation tools (Google Slides), image editing application (such as Pixlr Editor), and even video editing programs (such as WeVideo). But when it came to desktop publishing, if you wanted to create a nice tri-fold brochure your only real options were traditional programs such as Microsoft Publisher or Adobe InDesign. Web-based desktop publishing was just a fantasy. That is, until now.

Lucidpress is a powerful web-based desktop publishing solution from the folks who created Lucidchart, the awesome online diagramming tool. Much like Lucidchart, Lucidpress comes with many templates and tools, integration with Google Dirve, and the ability to share and collaborate with other users. Best of all, it is free to use for educators and students.

You can add Lucidpress to your Chrome browser or Chromebook through the Chrome Web Store or to your entire Google Apps domain through the Google Apps Marketplace. Or you can simply go to the Lucidpress website. For more details read the press release below from Lucidpress.



Lucidpress brings desktop publishing to your browser

Lucidpress is a desktop publishing program that runs in your browser. Offering enterprise-quality technology without the high price tag, Lucidpress is free for educators and students. It’s the ideal tool for education because of its flexibility, easy-to-learn interface, and possibilities for collaboration. Beginners and advanced designers alike can make flyers, posters, and digital yearbooks. You can access your documents from a variety of devices: desktop computers, tablets, and even iPhones. Easily collaborate with students through comments and chat right from the editor—there’s no need to email copies back and forth, because multiple users can make changes simultaneously. 

Lucidpress also integrates seamlessly with Google Apps. This program is highly rated in the Google Apps Marketplace. Lucid products have been deployed by several top-tier educational institutions, including Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford University.

Lucidpress is intuitive—educators and students can start creating documents their first time in the editor. The application even has several pre-loaded templates which will jump-start your print and digital projects. Making a poster for a bake sale, a department brochure, or a cutting-edge digital yearbook has never been simpler, nor yielded such high-quality results.


Imagine that you are the editor of an on-campus magazine. Rather than sending endless article drafts and page layout mockups back and forth, you can let writers, editors, photographers, and designers all access the same document. This is a great opportunity for students to not only learn cloud-based desktop publishing skills, but understand how to work as a team and incorporate feedback from educators and peers. 

This video will give you a taste of how students and teachers can collaborate on documents:


Whether you're assigning homework or completing a classroom project, we have a variety of resources that can help. Check out our guides on how to make a brochure, how to make a flyer, and how to make a poster. If you'd rather start from a customizable template, you can also choose from the following categories:
  • Print
    • Invitations
    • Newsletters
    • Newspaper Supplements
    • Magazines
    • Reports
  • Digital
    • Flyers
    • Newsletters
    • Magazines
    • Photo Books
    • Presentations
    • Yearbooks
In the editor, you have access to all the tools you would expect from desktop publishing software. Once you’ve selected a template, you have a high degree of control over your layout, text content, and images. Here are some highlights of what you can do (and if you get confused, consult our detailed tutorials): 
  • Image importing and editing: Upload images directly from your computer or your Google Drive, Facebook, Flickr, or Dropbox accounts. This means much easier teamwork between photographers and writers on newsletters, yearbooks, and flyers.
  • Text import and editing: Drag and drop text from Google Drive and edit it in Lucidpress. Changes you make automatically back up to the cloud. No more lost files!
  • Sharing options: Control who can edit, comment, and view your document. Invite collaborators, push documents to social networks, and print—all from within the editor!

Sign up for a free account today. Lucidpress is currently in beta and free for all. We're pleased to continue our track record of free educational access by offering Lucidpress to all students and teachers.


Jeopardy Game Template for Google Slides

posted Feb 14, 2014, 8:15 PM by Eric Curts   [ updated Feb 18, 2014, 7:23 AM ]

Many years ago the height of technology integration was creating an interactive Jeopardy game in PowerPoint. So, I decided to go a little retro and recreate the Jeopardy game in Google Slides.

The key to making a Jeopardy game is to use the Link tool in Google Slides. Normally a slideshow is designed to be viewed sequentially, one slide followed by the next in order. However, Google Slides allows you to put links in slides that can link to any other slide in the presentation, regardless of order. By using links to other slides, a presentation can be created that is non-linear, in which the user can choose which slides to view.

Detailed directions on how to create interactive presentation with Google Slides can be found in my help guide linked below.
So, using this technique I created two Jeopardy Game Templates. One has five categories and the other has six categories. In each template all the items are already hyperlinked, so all you have to do is make a copy of the slideshow and then add your questions, answers, and topic descriptions.

You can open the Jeopardy Game Templates with the links below.
As an example of a completed Jeopardy game created from these templates, below is a link to a Math Terms game.
If you create your own Jeopardy games with these templates, feel free to share them with me at ericcurts@gmail.com and I will be glad to add them to my list of examples.

And finally, the obligatory disclaimer:

"These slideshow templates are for educational use only and are not affiliated with Jeopardy! or Sony Pictures Digital Inc. Jeopardy! is a registered trademark of Jeopardy Productions, Inc. ©2005 Jeopardy Productions, Inc. All rights reserved."




Using Google Spreadsheets for SLO's

posted Oct 23, 2013, 9:59 AM by Eric Curts   [ updated Oct 23, 2013, 10:01 AM ]

Ohio teachers are required to create Student Learning Objectives (SLO's). There are several documents to be completed for the process, and the need to share the documents with others in the school for approval.

There are many tools that can be used for the SLO process. However, because of the need to collect data, share the information, and collaborate with others, using a Google Spreadsheet would be an excellent option.

To assist with this option, I have create a Google Spreadsheet template that can be used for the various parts of the SLO process. This is the first draft of the template, so I welcome any feedback and suggestions for how to improve the template.

The link to the shared SLO Template is: http://tiny.cc/slo-template

Please send and feedback or suggestions to me at: ericcurts@gmail.com or eric.curts@email.sparcc.org




What's a Chrome Extension?

posted Mar 26, 2013, 7:17 PM by Eric Curts   [ updated Mar 26, 2013, 7:17 PM ]

With the recent launch of our new Web App Reviews site at www.WebAppReviews.org we are doing some cross-posting of material from that site.

Below is one of our introductory videos that explains what Chrome web extensions are, and how to find, install, manage, and use them.


Be sure to check out the full Web App Reviews site at www.WebAppReviews.org where you will find reviews for the best Chrome web apps and extensions for education.


What's a Web App?

posted Mar 25, 2013, 6:21 PM by Eric Curts   [ updated Mar 26, 2013, 7:18 PM ]

With the recent launch of our new Web App Reviews site at www.WebAppReviews.org we are doing some cross-posting of material from that site.

Below is one of our introductory videos that explains what Chrome web apps are, how to find them, how to install them, how to use them, and more.


Be sure to check out the full Web App Reviews site at www.WebAppReviews.org where you will find reviews for the best Chrome web apps and extensions for education.


Introducing "Web App Reviews"

posted Mar 24, 2013, 4:08 PM by Eric Curts   [ updated Mar 24, 2013, 4:09 PM ]

Today’s schools are moving more and more towards cloud-based services. Instead of installing software on specific computers, schools are increasingly using web-based programs that run entirely in the browser, often called "Web Apps".

These allow access from any computer whether its in or out of school, school-owned or personal, Windows,  Mac, or Chrome OS. Web apps open the door for collaboration between users, automatic updates, BYOD, online learning, improved engagement, and extend learning well beyond the four walls of the classroom. Best of all for schools, web apps are often no cost or low cost.

In this brave new world of web based applications, how does a school find high quality, teacher-tested, educationally sound resources for the classroom?

Enter Web App Reviews: www.WebAppReviews.org

Web App Reviews is a site dedicated to reviewing the best Chrome Web Apps and Extensions for education.  Each review includes a written blog post and a short video covering what the web app or extension does, as well as practical integration ideas.

Please visit the site at www.WebAppReviews.org, and share this information with fellow educators students, and administrators. Feel free to submit your own suggestions for web apps and extensions you would like to see covered. If you are new to the idea of web apps, be sure to visit our "Getting Started" guide with helpful videos about finding, installing, using, and managing web apps and extensions: www.webappreviews.org/p/getting-started.html

Web App Reviews is run by educators Eric Curts and Sean Beavers.  Both are Google Apps Certified Trainers and Google Certified Teachers who are passionate about transforming teaching and learning through technology. We welcome your feedback, comments, and suggestions.


Video Training for Gmail Safety and Security for Schools

posted Feb 18, 2013, 5:13 PM by Eric Curts   [ updated Feb 18, 2013, 5:43 PM ]

A new training video and documents are now available for "Gmail Safety and Security for Schools".

Google Apps gives you great control over staff and student email settings and permissions, allowing you to provide a safer and more managed email experience for your students. Learn how to configure Gmail through Google Apps to control allowable attachments, inbound and outbound content filters, who students can send email to and receive email from, access to group mailing lists, enforcement of bad word lists, and more.

The training video was recorded on February 11, 2013 as part of the Ohio Educational Technology Conference.  You can access the 50-minute video, printable help guide, and related documents right here in the "Presentations" section of the Apps User Group website at:



Power Up your Search (and your Brain)

posted Jan 15, 2013, 6:17 PM by Eric Curts   [ updated Jan 15, 2013, 6:28 PM ]

What is the difference between knowledge and intelligence? Certainly both are important and are interrelated, but they are also fundamentally different.

Knowledge is information. It’s facts. It’s state capitals and president’s names and atomic numbers. Information is good, but on its own it’s not enough.

Intelligence on the other hand is something different, and something more. Intelligence isn’t information, but instead it is the ability to find information, to assess the value of the information, and to draw valid conclusions from the information. Intelligence is critical thinking, the application of knowledge to real life problems.

Knowledge is knowing your math tables. Intelligence is using those math facts to calculate the best value at the grocery store.

Maybe there was a time in our history when knowledge would have been enough to get by, but now more than ever our students need to develop critical thinking. For many reasons...
  • There is too much information - When I was a teenager, the printed Encyclopedia Britannica was made of 29 volumes. Today if Wikipedia were to be printed in a similar manner it would take up 1,746 volumes. The amount of information in our world is constantly growing, and the best someone can hope for is to know a tiny fraction of it. However, anyone can learn how to access the information. 
  • Information is changing - Not only is information growing, it is also changing. The facts a student memorizes in middle school science or social studies class, may become history by the time they graduate. Our world is constantly changing, so it is not enough just to learn. Our students need to learn how to learn. 
  • Careers are changing - We have all heard it said that we are preparing students today for jobs that don’t even exist yet. To be successful in a new and different future, our students need the ability to access, evaluate, and analyze information, whatever it may be.
One critical area for moving from knowledge to intelligence is Internet searching. The Internet is the ultimate collection of information with at least 14 billion websites online. But to harness the power of all this information students (and adults) need to be able to...
  • Locate information - by improving their search skills to narrow in on just what is relevant.
  • Evaluate information - to determine what is most reliable and accurate (as pointed out by the “French model” in the State Farm commercial, not everything on the Internet is true.)
  • Apply information - to use the information to solve real life problems.
There are many excellent resources to help develop digital literacy, and two of them come from Google:

Power Searching with Google

Last year Google released a six-part online video course titled “Power Searching with Google”. The course was run live twice last year, giving participants the ability to interact with other learners. The archived course is still available for anyone to take at their own pace, and is a great place to start. The course can be found at:
http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/course/ps/course.html

Advanced Power Searching with Google

This year Google is releasing the follow up course titled “Advanced Power Searching with Google”. This video course promises “to sharpen your research skills and strengthen your use of advanced Google search techniques to answer complex questions”. The course begins on January 23, 2013, and registration is now open at:
http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/course/aps

I went through the Power Searching class last year, and now am signed up for the Advanced class this year and look forward to digging deeper.

I highly recommend these courses to students and adults alike. Rather than just learning some new information, you will learn new skills that will benefit you today and in the changing future.

Additionally Google has put together a search education site specifically for educators to use with their students including lesson plans on search literacy skills, the “Google a Day” challenges, and more. And here’s at least one thing you won’t have to search for, as all the details can be found at: http://www.google.com/insidesearch/searcheducation/


Why 2013 is the Year of the Chromebook

posted Jan 13, 2013, 6:52 PM by Eric Curts   [ updated Jan 14, 2013, 6:06 AM ]

Back in May of 2011 Google announced the general availability of Chromebooks. At that time they were still a new concept and people everywhere, including Google, were trying to figure them out.

Since then there have been several new versions of the Chromebook, made in cooperation with different vendors. The Chrome OS (operating system) has been improved and updated many times. And schools across the country have tested and implemented the devices.

It took about a year and a half, but Google has finally cracked the nut.

See below for four reasons why 2013 looks to be the year of the Chromebook: the Price, the Product, the Paradigm, and the PARCC.

Reason #1 - The Price

When the Chromebooks first launched, I put together an article mentioning the potential benefits of these devices but I also addressed the negatives mostly focusing on the prohibitive pricing structure Google had devised. Originally the Chromebooks were sold for $20 per month over a three year commitment, for a total cost of $720 each. You can see my original article why this was a terrible match for most schools.

My suggestion at the end of the article was for Google to drop the price to as low as $250, let schools buy them outright (rather than the monthly approach), and offer the management piece as a low cost optional purchase. Perhaps I should start buying lottery tickets, because that is exactly what came true.

With the new Samsung Chromebook the device is now priced at $249, with a one-time optional cost of $30 to add the device to the management console in Google Apps. This price hits the tipping point for schools, making the Chromebook an extremely affordable and desirable product.

Reason #2 - The Product

Price alone is not good enough to make the Chromebook a success, if it does not also have adequate specs. There have been lots of EdTEch products priced for the bargain bin, that belong in the trash bin. But not the new Chromebook.

I have been using my Chromebook for several months and am very pleased with its features and functionality. The Samsung Chromebook has the following specs:
  • 11.6 inch screen with a 1366 x 768 resolution - perfect for web use.
  • 6.5 hour battery life - great for a typical school day
  • Wifi
  • VGA camera
  • Two USB ports and an HDMI port
  • Bluetooth compatibility
  • 2.4 pound weight - making it extremely light and portable
  • Boots in 10 seconds - for no down time in class
  • Automatic updates - so you always have the latest, fastest, and more secure version
  • No need for anti-virus software
All of these features make the Chromebook a solid choice for schools.

Reason #3 - The Paradigm

Over the past few years we have seen an increasing migration from traditional computing with software installed on computers, to cloud computing where data and applications are delivered online through a web browser. There are many benefits to cloud computing including anywhere/anytime access and increased collaboration options (see here for more details and benefits).

The Chromebook is primarily a cloud computer. The intention is to use this device to access web-delivered content, services, and applications. When used as intended, the Chromebook should be mostly invisible, acting merely as a tool to connect you simply and securely to the information, tools, and services you need.

Of course without growth in cloud computing services, a Chromebook would be like a television with no channels to watch. Thankfully though there is an ever growing amount of web-based services including:
  • Email (Gmail)
  • Productivity (Google Docs)
  • Streaming media (YouTube, Netflix, Hulu)
  • Social media (Google+, Facebook, Twitter)
  • Image editing (Aviary, Pixlr)
  • Video editing (WeVideo)
  • Video conferencing (Google Hangouts)
  • And thousands of more apps in the Chrome Web Store
As more schools shift their paradigm to cloud computing, Chromebooks become a more viable option to replace traditional desktop computers and laptops.

Reason #4 - The PARCC


All the reasons listed so far explain why the Chromebook is a great fit for schools. However, the final reason is all about the motivation for schools to actually purchase Chromebooks on a large scale. It’s the push from the nest we are all getting whether we want it or not. For many of us, it is called PARCC.

PARCC is a 23-state consortium (including Ohio where I live) that is developing K-12 online assessments that will be required in many states. By the spring of 2015 students will be taking the PARCC assessments online in schools. That means schools need to have the quantity of devices to support their number of students, as well as the quality of devices to support the PARCC assessments. Many schools currently do not.

Recently (December 2012) PARCC released an updated guide with minimum requirements for the devices used for the test. You can see the full details here, but some of the key points include:
  • 9.5 inch screen size or larger
  • 1024 x 768 resolution or greater
  • Keyboard and mouse/trackpad
  • Microphone and headphones
  • 1GB of RAM
  • Security features that can be used to lock down the device
Many devices can meet these requirements from desktops to laptops to tablets. However, if a school needs to purchase new devices for the PARCC, the Chromebook is the lowest cost option I could find. Below are some rough costs for different devices to get them to match the PARCC requirements. I am sure for each example, someone can find lower and higher priced options, but this gives a good starting point for comparison:
  • Desktop - Dell Vostro 270 - $350 to $400 (plus monitor)
  • Laptop - Dell Vostro 2520 - $400 to $450
  • Tablet - iPad 4 - $500 (plus external keyboard)
  • Tablet - Nexus 10 - $400 (plus external keyboard)
  • Chromebook - $279 (including management license)
For schools that are moving to the cloud, and that need to buy additional devices for the PARCC assessments, Chromebooks will be a very attractive option. They provide a device that meets the requirements of the test, but can then be used by staff and students as an excellent mobile laptop for the rest of the year.

For states that are not part of PARCC, most are still moving to some form of online assessment, and will likely have similar needs.

Conclusion

Chromebooks have come a long way in the last year and half to become capable and affordable devices for education. They have even made a big impact in the consumer market, as they currently sit as the best selling laptop on Amazon. I believe they will still go much further in 2013 as they prove to be an excellent match for our educational needs.

If you would like to learn more, you can visit Google's Chromebook site. Also there is an excellent Google+ Community, "Chromebook EDU", devoted to the topic with lots a helpful discussions and links to articles. The community is located at: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/111885171520981887334


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