Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Use Gmail's Vacation Responder for Automatic Replies during Vacation

In my family we say the following phrase a lot as we approach a vacation: "We have ____ more days. Anyone can do ___ days." Every year I feel like I am crawling to Thanksgiving, but this year I really wasn't so sure I could make it! As a result, I'm planning to maximize my break. Part of that plan is to turn on the Gmail Vacation Responder.

Gmail Vacation Responder can be found in the General tab of Gmail Settings. It allows you to send out a canned response to everyone who contacts you during a certain period of time. It's a good day to let the emails pile up without feeling guilty for lack of responding, plus it is a good reminder that a break should be just that. I made a 90 second video that shows how to set it up and turn it on:

I'm wishing all my fellow educators a restful break. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Fast, Fun, and Free: A Vocabulary Game


In a recent grad school class, the professor directed us to head to the UpGoer Five Text Editor website and use the tool to write a definition for the word "molecule" using only the "ten hundred" most common words in the English language. This gave me an idea for a vocabulary activity for my classroom.

When I started my recent AP Chemistry unit on thermochemistry, I wrote new vocabulary words on index cards and handed them out to my students. I challenged them to write a definition for the word using the UpGoer Five Text Editor. At first, they claimed this was impossible because, as so many kids do, they wanted to copy a definition as they see it in a textbook or online and pretend that since they wrote a definition, they understood the definition. Using the text editor forced them to convey the meaning in simple terms, and they had to really dig into the meaning to do that. I gave them an example ("endothermic" = hot stuff goes in) and then they rose to the occasion.

Once all the definitions were done, I collected the index cards. After a quick shuffle, I read the definitions to the class and asked them to guess the words. At first, I offered a word bank, but several students said this made it too easy (!), so we eliminated the word bank. This second use of the vocabulary words gave them the reverse challenge - guess the word from the simplified definition - with a gaming element. Trying to guess the word gave them additional practice in thinking about new concepts in simple terms. 

Here are some of the examples:

Temperature: how hot something is

Heat: thing that moves from one area to another (hot to cold) and is hot

Thermal Equilibrium: when two things share warm or cool stuff until they match

Exothermic: lets go of the warm

Thermochemistry: field using admitted warm taken in

I used a couple of these definition cards to start class each day. If I forgot, my students reminded me. As an alternative, I could also have typed the words and definitions into Kahoot or Quizziz for a whole class competition. This was a fast, fun, and free way to introduce new vocabulary and I will definitely keep using this strategy in my classroom.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Make a GIF with Keynote

A couple of days ago I posted about making GIFs with Google Slides. If you haven't checked out that post, it's a very easy process of using a slide deck like a digital flipbook -- create an image or scene, duplicate the slide and move something just a bit, and repeat until you have created all your images. Then use a second tool to export it to a GIF. My students did this as a culminating activity at the end of last school year. Many students enjoyed the project and their results were terrific.

When we completed this project in May, my students actually used Keynote because students use MacBooks as part of our 1:1 initiative. With Keynote, creating a GIF is even easier. The slides creation part of the project is the same. Make slides, duplicate them, move images and repeat. 

Here are some screenshots to show how to export to GIF in Keynote. 

Go to File and drag down to Export To. Select Animated GIF.


Choose the slides you want to export and the speed of the frames. Experiment here to get it to look just the way you like. Click Next.

Then name your GIF and save it. Once you have it saved, you can use it anywhere you would use an image. 

Give this a try. It couldn't be easier! 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Make a GIF with Google Slides

One of my favorite lessons from last year was when my students made chemistry GIFs using a slide deck. The kids were allowed to illustrate any process, concept, or problem solving strategy by using a slide deck like a flip book. Once the deck was created a second tool is used to convert it into a GIF.

 I prepared the video below for the SPARCC conference.  Take a look to see my student examples and the process we used to make the GIFs.


Sunday, January 3, 2021

A New Habit for a New Year: Schedule your Gmails

I am a notorious late night worker. I get my second wind after 9 pm and can be very productive into the wee hours. For years, people have asked if I ever sleep because the time stamp on my emails betrays me. One of the new habits I am going to try to adopt this year is to schedule my emails for during business hours.

It's been almost two years since Google added the email scheduling feature, but I still don't take regular advantage of it. In the one-minute video below, I model how to use the feature. There is a small drop-down arrow next to the word Send. Click it to reveal the scheduling options. Some default dates and times will appear, but you can also pick a custom date and time.

Let's say you're an administrator getting caught up on work during a school vacation. Instead of sending out emails that probably won't get read or attended to during vacation, schedule their send for the first day back from break. Now you're crossing things off your to-do list and increasing the likelihood that your staff will add these items to theirs. Or you're a teacher sending out missing work notifications at the end of a day. Maybe try scheduling those emails to go out so they are seen first thing in the morning. A secretary who has to compose the welcome back message? Write it days or weeks ahead of time and schedule the send so you don't have to add the welcome message during the return to school craziness.

I've known how to do this for a while, now I have to develop the habit. When I go to click Send, I'm going to think about my timing. If timing IS everything, this easy feature could mean everything to my work.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

A Year of Puzzles

Yesterday I saw this tweet Annie Perkins tweet and immediately loved the idea of this puzzle. The idea is to use the pieces to cover up everything except for today's month and date. I love puzzles, but this one is a special puzzle that changes every day! Annie shared this link so that admirers could buy one. I did and I hope people will buy one because, in addition to being fun, it looks beautiful. But, if I want to use this puzzle in my classroom, especially in my socially-distanced-pandemic classroom, with all my students, a digital copy makes a little more sense.

As a result, I set out to make a digital version of the puzzle. At the risk of venturing into long-winded-descriptive-recipe-blogger territory, I'll briefly describe my process. Lots of Google re-creations for me are Google Drawings, so I started there by inserting a Table. Then I used the shape tool to make a square that I used as a template to adjust the width and height of the table's cells until they were squares. I shaded in the cells of the table that I didn't need and added text and numbers to complete the puzzle frame. Then I copied and pasted my square template to build all the pieces out of identical squares. Then used "Group" to lock the squares together into the pieces. Voila! Digital puzzle. 


You can click here to get your own view-only version. It doesn't look nearly as lovely as the original physical version, but it will do the job. Make a copy (File menu > Make a copy) for one you can edit or share with your own students. When you click on a piece, you will get blue handles. Hover on the circular one to click and turn it. You can use the Rotate function (Arrange menu > Rotate) to rotate the pieces over if you need to flip them. I like the idea of giving each student a copy to solve daily, like a personal puzzle table. 

Final thought: It was easier for me to make the puzzle than to solve the puzzle!

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Pro Tip: Restrict Access to Worksheets in Google Sheets


Let's say you're tracking data on students and you want to look at all the data for your students in one spreadsheet, but you'd like to share certain data on certain students with various people. Seems like it should be easy to give different people access to different tabs, right?

Several times this year I have wanted to have a spreadsheet where I accumulate data of one type or another and I share one or more worksheets (or tabs or pages) of the spreadsheet with people to view. What I have found is that while you can give people editing rights to certain worksheets, there is not a native way to restrict viewing access to one worksheet. I did find a workaround and I am sharing it here in case you also need this functionality. I admit that the workaround is not as easy as clicking the share button and making some changes, but it's not as hard as it might initially look either.

  1.  Create a spreadsheet that will hold all the data that you want to share. This will be your master copy of the data that only you can access. Organize the data in a way that will make it easy to export and share.
  2. Create another spreadsheet that will pull data from the master copy. This new spreadsheet is the one you will share with viewers.
  3. In the spreadsheet you will share, click in cell A1 and type this formula:


           Replace the items in red above with information from your master copy of the data.

spreadsheet URL: Copy the web address of the spreadsheet that is your master copy of the data and paste it between the quotation marks.

worksheetname: Between the quotation mark and the exclamation point, type the name of the worksheet (or tab or page) from the master copy of the data where the data you will export can be found.

cell range: list the first and last cell from the worksheet you selected that you want to import. The first and last cell will be separated by a colon. The cell range A1:J30 will import data in cells A1 through J30.

The first time you import the data, you may have to grant permission for the spreadsheets to talk to each other, but after you grant permission, if you update your master copy of the data, the second spreadsheet will automagically update as well.