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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
What is the difference between knowledge and intelligence? Certainly both are important and are interrelated, but they are also fundamentally different.
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.
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 plac
e to start. The course can be found at:
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:
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/
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
- 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
Recently I had a chance to visit the classroom where I first began teaching some 20 odd years ago. The building has not been a school for many years, but instead has been used for storage and offices. Now even that is coming to an end as the building will soon be gutted and demolished.
I wanted to get one more chance to see where it all began for my career in education. I stood in the empty, dusty room and could picture the rows of students, the overhead projector (no such thing as data projectors then), and me 20 years younger (and at least 20 pounds lighter). And I could picture the decorations that used to be on the back wall. The big blank wall above the lockers.
And with that memory came a reminder I think we all need to hear from time to time. A story about educational ruts, narrow thinking, and forgetting the purpose. This is something we see often with EdTech, since technology has a way of changing much quicker than people may be willing to keep up with.
Here’s the story...
I first began teaching in 1992 in Room 301 on the third floor of North Canton Middle School. It was an old building that had no air conditioning, few electrical outlets, but very tall ceilings. In the back of my room was a row of lockers, and above the lockers was a good seven or eight feet of nothingness. Just a giant, blank wall.
As a new teacher just out of college, I did not have much money to spend on room decorations. I needed something very big, and very cheap, to cover the large space. So I got creative. I spoke to the local movie theater and several local video rental stores (yes, we used to have lots of those as well). I asked if they could give me their old movie posters when they were done with them so I could use them in my classroom. They were happy to help out (perhaps through pity) and soon I had a constant supply of posters.
The movie posters were a great way to cover up the wall, brighten up the room, and engage the interest of the students. Better yet, since I got new posters each month, I would give away the old posters as prizes that the students could earn. It was a great solution all around.
Then several years later something changed. To accommodate the growth in enrollment, our school district built a new high school. This meant our middle school would now be moving to the old high school, which for us was newer and bigger, and I would be moving to a new classroom.
My new classroom was very nice. It had air conditioning, and brighter lights, and more outlets, and new whiteboards … and lower ceilings. As I unpacked and set up my room I quickly noticed the “problem”. There was no big blank wall available in my new room. How was I going to hang up my movie posters. I thought through all the options. Maybe I could cover up one of the whiteboards, or perhaps I could hang them sideways, or could I possibly stick them to the ceiling?
And then it hit me. What on earth was I thinking? The only reason I had put up movie posters in my old class was to cover a giant empty wall, which I no longer had. Sure they had served me well, had brighten the room, and provided the students with some rewards to earn. But they weren’t the purpose (to create an engaging classroom). They were merely the process to reach that purpose at the time.
Thankfully I realized this with my movie posters. But I’ll admit, it was difficult to let them go. I had come to rely on them as a way to decorate my room and motivate my students. They were safe and comfortable and part of my routine. But my world had changed, and it was time for me to change, and grow, and try new things.
It is a dangerous thing when we become so attached to a process, that we lose sight of the purpose. This can put us into educational ruts, make us narrow minded, and cause us to be resistant to change.
The same thing can be especially true with technology in education. For example, consider printing.
Printing is a technology process that has gone through many changes over my career. When I first began teaching we still had (I am not making this up) mimeograph machines. You know, the ones you hand-cranked, made everything blue, and had a headache-inducing smell. Since then I have seen printing evolve from personal deskjet printers to high-capacity, high-speed network copiers that do double-sided, cover sheets, stapling, and hole punching.
And now that is all being threatened by change. Over the last couple of years we have been getting an influx of devices that don’t communicate easily (or at all) with these printing machines. We have Chromebooks, Nexus tablets, iPads, smartphones, and thousands of other BYOD items brought in by our students and staff.
And despite the benefits of these devices, some people are always quick to ask the famous question... “How are they going to print?”
But how about the question, “Do they need to print at all?”
If we go back to the ideas of process and purpose, we realize that printing is merely a process. The purpose it serves is to display and share student work, instructional content, and other information. And there are many, many processes that can do that now.
With Google Docs a student can write the rough draft of their term paper, digitally share it with their teacher, the teacher can add marginal comments for feedback, the student can edit the document, the teacher can see changes in the revision history, and the final product can be completed and graded without ever seeing a single piece of paper.
And information can be shared many other ways than printing such as through presentations with Google Slides, videos on YouTube, posts on Blogger, web pages with Sites, 3D models in Sketchup, live broadcasts with a Hangout, and much more.
Besides printing, we can also get “big blank wall” thinking with many other processes...
Consider the purpose of providing instruction to students. The traditional process is to teach from the front of the class while students take notes. A new process may be flipping your class by recording your instruction on video through a Google Hangout so that students can watch that at home. Then you can help the students work through the application of the material and dive deeper when in class.
Or consider the purpose of providing technology access for all students. For years the traditional process has been a few computers in the back of each class and/or a couple computer labs that teachers can sign up for. A new process is to break away from uniform, but limited, school-owned computers, and to embrace BYOD, allowing students to bring in their own web-enabled devices and access cloud services such as Google Apps.
Or consider the purpose of assessing student progress. Traditionally our process has been paper and pencil tests, which take time to grade, and put unfortunate space between the form and feedback. However a new process can be to use Google Forms to provide students with online assessments which can be graded automatically with a script such as Flubaroo. By making quizzes digital, teachers can increase the frequency of formative assessments and students can get immediate, valuable feedback on their progress.
In all of these situations though, the purpose must remain the focus. No process in and of itself it either good or bad. They are just tools. Just because a process is old does not mean it is no longer valuable. Nor is every new technology appropriate for our needs.
The key though is to focus on the “why” so we will be open to trying new “hows”. No matter how good our intentions, we are creatures of habit, and can easily blind ourselves. When the big blank wall changes, we can’t be so in love with our movie posters that we can’t change as well. Because whether we like it or not (or realize it or not) our educational world is changing. Changes in economic situations, changes in homelife, changes in future job opportunities, changes in current educational options.
Although I missed my movie posters and big blank wall, the change pushed me to grow, and stretch, and discover new, exciting, and wonderful things. And of course by being a learner, I became a better teacher. As we always will.
So how about you? What big blank walls are changing in your schools, and what movie posters are you, or others, hanging onto? What new processes are available to meet your purposes? Leave a comment below to share your story.
Back in mid-December, Google announced that they would be discontinuing several services
and features including Appointment Slots for Google Calendar
). According to the post, users would no longer be able to create new Appointment Slots as of January 4, 2013, although existing Appointment Slots would continue working for one year. Later Google extended the end date for the creation of slots to be January 30, 2013.
This came as unfortunate news to many user of Google Apps who had come to rely on Appointment Slots as an easy way to schedule office hours
, reserve resources
, and arrange conference meetings
. In my school district we have been using Appointment Slots successfully for the past two years for our Parent Teacher Conference scheduling
. (For more details see this article
and this video
With Appointment Slots quickly coming to a close, many users are now looking for alternatives. Depending on why you were using Appointment Slots, your alternative may vary. In our case we have been using them for Parent Teacher Conference scheduling. So far the best option I have found for our need is YouCanBook.Me
Below is a list of benefits I have found for this particular service:
- It is free. There is a paid option for premium features, but for what we need, the free version works fine.
- It integrates with Google Calendar. This is excellent since I want to stay within the Google Apps ecosystem as much as possible. This also means we can continue to use the same conference calendars our teachers already created, rather than starting from scratch.
- It integrates with Google Apps. By this I mean that I can install YouCanBook.Me for my entire Google Apps domain through the Google Apps Marketplace. This will place a link directly to the service in the “More” drop-down menu of the standard black Google services bar. The Marketplace listing can be found here: link
- My teachers can easily create the time slots they are available for conferences.
- Their appointment calendar site will get an easy to remember custom URL such as username.youcanbook.me
- Their appointment calendar can be password protected so parents would need go through some form of authentication.
- Teacher can add custom questions to the booking process to collect information such as the parents’ names, the parents’ email, the name of their student, and any questions or comments the parents would like to leave. This can provide helpful information prior to the meeting.
- A custom email can be sent to you after a booking is made.
- A custom email can be sent to the parents after a booking is made.
- The parents do not need a special account to make book an appointment. They simply need the link to the teacher’s appointment site, and optionally a password is the teacher has set one.
All in all the service looks to be a perfect fit for anyone wanting to computerize the process of scheduling Parent Teacher Conferences. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is a better solution than what we were doing with Appointment Slots
. It is free, still works with Google Calendar, but now the parents do not need Google accounts to access the service.
For additional information on using YouCanBook.Me for Parent Teacher Conference scheduling see this helpful site from Krista Moroder
Of course there are many other alternatives
out there, and some may fit your needs better depending on what you were using Appointment Slots for. Below are links to several other services that may be worth investigating as alternatives to Appointment Slots (with thanks to Robin from Google for curating this list).
I hope to explore these other options, but unless I find something better, my plan will be to move our school over to YouCanBook.Me for our conference scheduling.
How about you? If you have experience with any of these or other services, please leave feedback
in the comment section below. It will be very helpful to hear how others are adjusting to the end of Appointment Slots.
Spare tires are a necessary evil. They are something you pay good money for, in the hopes that you never actually have to use them. You purchase one, hide it away under your car or in your trunk, and as long as everything goes fine you simply forget about it. Of course if (or when) you eventually do hit that nail in the road, in the dark, far from home, you are thrilled that you have an easy to access, easy to use, reliable spare tire.
Well Google Vault
is a lot like a spare tire. Vault is an email archiving and E-discovery service from Google
(replacing the Postini archiving solution from before). In the past Vault was only for businesses, but recently it has been made available to Apps for Education
) and at a great price.
This is great news for schools, since email archiving is a requirement
for us. Emails sent by school employees can be considered “public record” and as such schools can be required to produce copies of them when requested. Since this is not an option, schools need to have an archiving solution that is easy to use and as affordable as possible. Google Vault is a great option.Pricing
First things first, how much does it cost? Normally Vault is priced by the month at $5 per user per month. However, schools get special educational pricing of $10 per user per year
. Additionally the cost is only for school employees, as all of your students are included for free
. So for my school district we pay for our 600 staff members, but we get Vault for free for all of our 4,800 students. This is a great price, especially when you look at the features.Features
Vault has many excellent features including:
- Email and chat archiving
- Retention policies for as long as you want
- Powerful search tools for when you need to retrieve emails and chats
- Legal holds on accounts as needed to prevent any deletions
- Export of messages in standard formats
- Auditing of the use of Vault to see what has been searched, exported, and viewed
We have only had Vault in our school district for a few months, and already we have had the need to put it to use, and just like a good spare tire, I was so glad to have it. From my personal experience with Vault, here are some of the benefits I have seen:
- Retroactive archiving - It turns out that Google already archives everything in their system whether you use Vault or not. Having the Vault service does not turn on archiving for your school, but rather gives you access to what is already being archived. The amazing benefit of this is that once you activate Vault, you will get access to every Gmail message since you activated your Google Apps for Education domain.
For us that means that even though we just turned on Vault a few months back, we have access to all our emails since we enabled Google Apps three years ago. Better yet, when we did our switch three years ago to Google Apps, we migrated all of our email from our old Exchange server, and all of those messages were also available in Vault.
Other archiving services just start saving your email from the time you begin their service. If they do have an option to import old email, that is an extra service and extra charge. With Vault all historic emails are there immediately.
- Speed - Thanks to Google’s expertise with search, Vault is very fast at retrieving needed messages. We have done queries with several search terms, spanning multiple years, and covering thousands of users, and have gotten search results in a matter of seconds, as well as full exports in only a few minutes. To keep using the analogy of a spare tire, searching with Vault is like having a NASCAR pit crew with those fancy air guns changing your tires.
- Definable roles - Also with Vault it is easy to set up and manage user access to the tools. This makes it easy to give people just the amount of access that is appropriate for the situation. From the Apps Control Panel, under “Domain Settings”, you can create different roles with different access levels for Vault. You can then go to “Organization & users” and assign those roles to specific people.
Vault is a great solution for a school’s need to archive email for public records requests. However, I am excited about additional features to come. Just like Gmail, Google already archives all of our other Google Apps data. I imagine that support for Docs, Drive, Calendar and more
will be added over time in addition to the numerous feature improvements we've come to expect with the core Google Apps suite.
As more and more data gets stored in the cloud through Google Drive and other Google services, Vault really has the potential to become much more than a “spare tire” for email. Vault can be a one-stop shop, letting users know that all their cloud data is backed up, safe, and accessible. And as with all Google Apps products, Vault will continue to improve over time at no additional cost to the customer.For more information