Monday, January 26, 2015

Make a Copy of a Google Doc for Each Student... The Easy Way!

Last week at OC Taylor, three fourth grade classes were going to be completing their Plan, Do, Study, Act goal sheet for this semester.  The teachers wanted the students to complete it digitally using the PDSA template found in the GCISD Template Gallery.  The problem is... the gallery is fairly complicated to access from an iPad.  We decided to use a cool feature in Google Drive that works with any Google Doc, Slides or Sheets file.  Here's how it works:

1.  Every Google document has a unique URL that ends with the word "Edit".

2.  Change the word "edit" to "copy" in the URL bar and press Enter.

3.  When students access this URL, it will ask them if they want to make a copy.  They simply click the blue "Make a Copy" button and a copy will be created in their Google Drive account for them to edit!  (If they're not already logged in to their Google account, they will be asked to login before they get to the screen above.)

Tips for sharing the URL with students:
  1. Post the link to Edmodo or Google Classroom.
  2. Use a URL shortener like or
  3. Paste the link into your favorite QR code generator.  I like (which also shortens the URL at the same time) or
  4. Install a browser extension so that it's just a click of a button to create the QR code or shortened URL.  I use Chrome and my favorites are the " URL Shortener" and "The QR Code Extension".  More info about the QR Code Extension can be found HERE.  More info about Chrome extensions in general can be found HERE.
OC Taylor teachers shared the URL with students via this QR code (feel free to use it too!) and it worked great!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Google Classroom App

There is now a Google Classroom app for iOS and Android devices.

To use all the features of the Classroom app, you will also need the Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps installed on the device.

What TEACHERS can do in the Classroom app:

  • Create a class
  • Post announcements and comments
  • Check if assignments have been completed and keep track of who turned in work
  • Using the Google Drive app, view any attachments that students add to an assignment
  • Communicate with students in real time

What STUDENTS can do in the app:
  • Join a class and view their current classes
  • Communicate with classmates/teachers in real time (using their district email account)
  • Post to the class stream
  • View, complete, and turn in assignments
  • View their assignment planner

What CANNOT be done using the Classroom app at this time:

  • Teachers cannot create or grade assignments
  • Teachers cannot change any class settings or permissions
  • Teachers cannot archive a class
  • Students and teachers cannot view an archived class
  • Teachers cannot use the View the List of Assignments feature in the app
As with all things Google, watch for updates to this app!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Have you tried Blendspace yet?  It's a great way to collect and share lesson resources.  Signing up is easy... just login with your GCISD Google account!  The company has created a great step by step handout for getting started with Blendspace.

Check out some GCISD teacher created examples here: 
(I'd love to add your examples!  Send them to me via the form below.)

How can you use Blendspace in your classroom?

  • To collect all your resources for a particular lesson or unit in one place so that they're easily accessible.
  • To provide students with extra practice or enrichment for specific skills or topics 
  • To create choice boards to give students options for personal learning time
  • To "flip" your lesson

What kinds of things can be added to Blendspace boxes?

  • Links to webpages for research
  • Links to videos
  • Images
  • Google Docs or Presentations
  • Text instructions for hands-on or digital activities
  • Files (PDF, video, etc) from your computer

Other things I love about Blendspace:

  • It's easy to collaborate on Blendspaces with teammates to save time!  Just click the Share button and then choose Collaborate.
  • There is also a large, searchable gallery of already created Blendspaces that you can copy to your account and modify to meet your needs.
Check out the Blendspace I created for learning more about Blendspace:
(If you're viewing this blogpost via email and can't see the embedded Blendspace below, click this link.

How have you used Blendspace in your classroom?  Please share in the comments or share your Blendspace URLs in the form below:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


I originally shared Thinglink in a blog post last year ( but I wanted to remind everyone about this amazing resource that now has a free teacher account that makes it easy to add and manage student accounts.

Things I love about Thinglink:

  • It can be used in ALL subjects in ALL grades.  
  • It's an easy way for student to "smash" or "layer" products (video or picture) from other apps into one final project.  
  • It's a website and an app ( Perfect for 1:1 or BYOD classrooms.
  • It's a great way to combine paper products with digital.  For example: students can draw/illustrate a diagram of the water cycle on paper and then use a picture of it as the background of a Thinglink with video explanations for each phase.

How To Create a Free Teacher Account:
1.   Go to the Thinglink Education website:
2.  Login with your district Google account.

Add Your Students:
1.  Click the Students icon at the top.
2.  Click the "Register Students" link in your class (or create additional groups if you have multiple classes).
3.  Type (or paste) a list of your students... just their first and last name.
4.  Thinglink will generate a list of user names and passwords.  Warning:  They definitely aren't pretty!  You'll want to print the list of logins AND save it as a PDF for future reference. 

Sharing Completed Projects (from the app):
  • Students can easily share their Thinglink on KidBlog by tapping the Share icon below their published project and choosing Copy.  This will copy the URL to the clipboard.  Students can then create a new blog post and paste in the link.
  • Students can add their Thinglink to the class "channel" by clicking the first icon below their image after they publish (it looks like a stack of pictures).  Then students will be able to see the work of their classmates via the class channel.
Check out my initial blog post on Thinglink for more ideas and instructions.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

OpenClipart, Thesaurus, and Easybib: Three Simple Add-Ons to Google Docs

Today's guest post comes to us from Julie Brem, librarian at Colleyville Heritage High School.  You can follow Julie on Twitter @juliebrem 
Do you find yourself living more and more in Google Drive world, and less and less in Microsoft Office-land?  If so, you probably still reach for features you expect to be in Google Docs that  are part of much-beloved Word.  However, sometimes these features seem to be missing from Google Docs’ relatively pared-down menu.  It may be time to discover that choice nested between “Table” and “Help”--Add-ons.  There you will find a multitude of options bridging the divide between the old school and new, “the ground” and “the cloud”, i.e., Word vs. Google Drive.

Despite recent news that Microsoft is actually abandoning its ClipArt Gallery, we have all become accustomed to putting a little guy in a desk on our handouts, amidst apples, pencils and the usual K-12 fare.  So where is the little guy in the desk in Google Docs--or  

*Gasp*  Where did she come from?  Well, thanks to Google apps being open to add-ons by external developers, clip art can be added via something called OpenClipart.  To add this feature, simply click on Add-Ons from the menu of a Google Doc, select “Get Add-Ons”, and scroll to find OpenClipart or search for it.  From there you can click on the “Free” button to install it.  Afterwards, you will forever find OpenClipart on your Add-ons menu in every Google Doc you create.  You can search for clip art and when you click on a piece, it will automatically insert into your document.  Note that you can choose to wrap text or break the text around your art, drag it around, as well as resize it.  So rejoice!  We can now continue to put worms coming out of apples on our handouts.

Then there’s the thesaurus.  Where is the thesaurus in Google Docs?  Well, it’s not built in, but it’s available as an add-on.  Once again, go to your Add-ons menu, click on Get Add-ons, browse for and install Thesaurus.  Then you can highlight words, go to the Thesaurus from the Add-ons menu, and get cool synonyms or as the thesaurus suggested, “equivalent words.”  

And now for something really awesome that you probably want to share with your students (mostly secondary students): Easybib has a Google Doc Add-On.  By now hopefully you know how to get Add-ons, and once you get this one, here’s what it can do: you can enter a book title or journal article title, ISBN (or DOI for journal articles), or keywords, and Easybib will find the book, create a citation, and allow you to insert it.  For websites, you paste the URL and Easybib will start a citation for that as well from what information it can gather.  This Easybib Add-on, together with the Research Tool from the Tools menu, allows writers to possibly complete an entire paper, from researching to drafting to peer-editing, commenting and submitting, all from within Google Drive (and/or Google Classroom for the assigning and submitting part).  Pretty sweet!

Microsoft has had decades (yes, decades, believe it or not) to develop a myriad of features as a fully-functional word-processing program.  However, Google Docs, with the help of Add-ons by external developers, is quickly catching up and is more and more able to meet our everyday word processing needs and more.  These are just a few of the many Add-ons available, so have fun exploring and utilizing these cool tools!
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