Ed Tech

6 new free Google tools to upgrade your classroom

Presentations look much sharper with the right slide template and eye-catching photos. These tools will improve your slide shows and more. (Flickr / Danny Sullivan)

Presentations look much sharper with the right slide template and eye-catching photos. These tools will improve your slide shows and more. (Flickr / Danny Sullivan)

When my students and I work with Google Apps, there are two common struggles that we face:

1. Options for slide templates are scarce (and the ones in Google’s directory aren’t very good).

2. When we add Creative Commons images to our work, adding accurate attribution can be tricky.

Thankfully, I’ve come across some solutions in the last couple days. They may not all be brand new, but they’re new to me! (Hat-tip to the Google Educast podcast, where I came across a few of these.

These sites, as well as a few others, will help upgrade what you do in class if you and your students utilize Google Apps frequently. Not all are technically products of Google, but they all improve work done on Google apps.

1. Slides Carnival (slidescarnival.com) This site helps your slide presentations look awesome. Choose from hundreds of high-quality, well-designed Google Slides templates. Open the original Google Slides file, then save a copy to your own Drive. Each presentation includes dozens of variations of slides, including slides for quotes, charts, maps, statistics and more. Below is a template called “Nathaniel” that I love:

A Creative Commons photo added through Photos for Class.

A Creative Commons photo added through Photos for Class. (Click for full-size image.)

2. Photos for Class (photosforclass.com) — Finding Creative Commons images through a CC Search is a good option for students. But getting students to attribute those photos correctly can add time to the work exponentially. Photos for Class removes that hassle. It automatically adds a black ribbon across the bottom of the image with the appropriate attribution. Plus, it provides a link to the original in Flickr, in case you want the image without the attribution on it so you can add it somewhere else. Here’s an example.

3. Speech Recognition add-on for Docs (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/speech-recognition/idmniglhlcjfkhncgbiiecmianekpheh?hl=en) — “OK, Google … write my document for me.” If you’re familiar with Google Now or giving commands to your Google Chrome browser with speech, this will seem very comfortable to you. Speech Recognition will add the text that you say to your document. For added accuracy, it allows you to choose your language and even the dialect of that language (i.e. for English, there’s U.S., Australia, United Kingdom, etc.). This add-on could be very valuable for younger students, students who struggle with keyboards or students with certain disabilities.

Play geographical trivia in Google Maps using Smarty Pins.

Play geographical trivia in Google Maps using Smarty Pins. (Click for full-size image.)

4. Smarty Pins (https://smartypins.withgoogle.com/) — Smarty Pins makes geography fun with gamified trivia using Google Maps. The game asks location-based questions. Drop a pin on the map as close to the correct answer as possible. The farther away you are, the more miles it deducts from your score. Earn extra credit miles for answering quickly. Topics include Arts & Culture, Science & Geography, Sports & Games and more. I’m using this one in class today.

Bonus — Want to do more with Google Maps? Check out Jeff Utecht’s posts, “10 ways to use Google Maps in the classroom”.

5. Move It Chrome extension (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/move-it/kopilngnmfklhhjocdfdlokmodibcbmk?hl=en-US) — If you haven’t followed students around from class to class for a while, you might be surprised at how sedentary their lives are at school. They’re constantly sitting. A quick activity break can do wonders, especially for younger students (but also for older ones, too!). Move It suggests quick physical activities students can do to get their blood pumping.

6. Google Translate with Word Lens (http://mashable.com/2015/01/14/google-translate-word-lens/) — Google Translate isn’t anything new. Even though at times it feels like the bane of my existence as a foreign language teacher, it certainly does have its viable uses. Now, the Google Translate app will translate visual text for you on the fly with your camera. Google Translate has integrated Word Lens, an app that translates on the screen of your camera. If you’re traveling to a foreign country and aren’t familiar with the language, this option could be a life saver.

[reminder]What Google tools (or Google-related tools) are your must-haves? Which of the ones listed above would be most useful for you?[/reminder]

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