Google Goodies

  • Google Classroom End of Year Tasks

    Posted by Vince Butler on 5/19/2021 12:00:00 PM

    Classes that teachers create in Google Classroom are typically only intended to be used for a single school year. Google for Education has produced a short video that explains for teachers what tasks they should perform at the end of the school year in order to properly close out old classes to make way for new classes next year.


    Google Classroom - What should I do at the end of the school year? (video, 4:43 min)


    For more helpful videos from the Google Classroom Video Series, click here to view the entire list.

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  • New Google Meet Features

    Posted by Vince Butler on 3/2/2021 3:00:00 PM

    Google has enabled some new features in Meet that address some of the common frustrations that teachers experience!


    Image showing an example of the Mute All button

    Mute All: In the Participants panel, there is now a Mute All button which does just what it says - it mutes all attendees in the meeting. It does not prevent attendees from unmuting themselves again, but it's a useful tool to quiet the class if you need to get a word in.



    End Meeting for Everyone: This is one of the most requested tools teachers have requested - the ability to close the meeting and eject all attendees. This is super useful to ensure students don't hang around and socialize after the teacher has left, and it also prevents "orphaned meetings" hanging around that students find later and use as hangout rooms. When the meeting organizer clicks the hangup button they now have two choices: Just Leave (which leaves the meeting running for the remaining atendees) or End the Call (which ejects everyone and closes the meeting).

    Image example of options when ending a Google Meet

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  • Open a document quickly right from the Chrome address bar

    Posted by Vince Butler on 10/5/2020

    If you have a document you want to open quickly and you know the file name (or part of it), just type it into the Chrome address bar like you were doing any other kind of search. Google will list the most likely file match from your Google Drive in the list of search suggestions.


    GIF demonstrating search

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  • Google Meet Early Access Program

    Posted by Vince Butler on 9/16/2020

    I have signed the district up for the Google Meet Early Access Program, which gets us access to a slew of new features before they are publicly available. Keep in mind that these are still technically works in progress and may still have some kinks to work out. Also, if you have extensions installed that enhance Meet (like grid view, attendance, etc) you may want to disable them if you experience issues using these beta features. Some of these features are only available to the meeting owner which is the person who *starts* the meeting, so for you teachers who have other staff joining your meeting (aides, student teachers, etc), please make sure you are always the first one in!

    Below you will find instructions from Google for using the following pre-release features:
    • Polls and Q&A
    • Layout improvements (view up to 49 attendees on your screen - no more Grid View!)
    • Breakout Rooms
    • Whiteboarding (hoping this works well for those of you on touchscreen Chromebooks)
    • Background blur

    Polls and Q&As on Google Meet

    With large groups participating in video meetings, engaging an audience is difficult without everyone talking over each other. New Q&A and Polling features in Google Meet allow meeting hosts to ask and answer questions and poll participants to get audience feedback and consensus. These features will be available exclusively for users in G Suite Enterprise and G Suite Enterprise for Education plans once they are generally available.


    Learn more about Q&A in Meet

    Engage participants in meetings by allowing them to ask and upvote questions. Participant Q&A is also great for large meetings when you want to limit interruptions but still want participation from the group. 

    Create Q&A in Meet on Web Browsers

    1. To use the Q&A feature (available to all meeting participants in the meeting), click the Meeting Tools icon in the top right corner of your meeting.
    2. Select "Q&A"
    3. If you are the moderator of the meeting, you must toggle "Allow questions" on to allow participants to ask questions in the meeting. This option is available in the Q&A panel. Note that by default, question submission will be disabled. 
    4. Participants can click "Ask a question", type the question, upvote questions, and click “Post”. 
    5. Moderators will be able to mark a question as answered, hide or delete a question.
    6. Following the meeting, if the Q&A feature was used, Moderators will receive an email linking to a Sheet with all Q&A data.


    Learn more about Polling in Meet

    Engage participants in large meetings with real-time polling. Polling is a simple way to gather data from your audience and share results. 

    Create Polls in Meet on Web Browsers

    1. To create a poll (note: only available to meeting moderators), click the Meeting Tools icon in the top right corner of your meeting.
    2. Select "Polls" and click "Start a Poll" to populate the fields with a polling question and multiple choice answers. 
    3. Once you've finished your poll, you can either Save it (to launch later) or press Launch to post immediately. 
    4. Once you've launched your poll, you can choose if you'd like everyone in the meeting to see the results or only allow the moderator to see the results. 
    5. Following the meeting, if the feature was used, moderators will receive an email linking to a Sheet with all polling data.



    • Will these features be available for users not in the early access group?
      • If the meeting host/moderator has these features, they will be available for all attendees of that meeting during early access. Q&A and Polls will be available exclusively for moderators in G Suite Enterprise and G Suite Enterprise for Education plans once they are generally available.
    • Will administrators be able to enable/disable these features during early access?
      • The feature is available to all users in the group enrolled in the early access program.
    • Will Q&A and Polls be available after the meeting ends?
      • Following the meeting, the moderator will receive an email with a link to a Sheet containing their polling data. 
    • Will the moderator be able to delete or hide questions that have been answered during the Q&A? 
      • Yes, questions can be hidden or soft deleted (and still available in the export).
    • Will participants joining on a mobile device be able to see Q&A and Polls? 
      • No, this feature is only available for web browsers during early access.


    Learn more about Layout Improvements

    • By default, the maximum number of tiles you’ll see in
      • Auto layouts is 12
      • Tiled layouts is 20
    • You can use a slider to increase the maximum number of tiles you see up to 49 tiles for Auto and Tiled layouts options


    Enable 49 Tiles

    To enable 49 Tiles, follow the steps below while on the Meet call on a web browser.

    1. Click on the “...” to the right of the bottom action bar > Change layouts
    2. Move the slider to the number of tiles you desire e.g. 49


    Layout Improvements FAQs

    • Why do I see less tiles than the number I selected in the slider?
      • We show fewer tiles for smaller browser window sizes.
    • What do I do if I run into performance issues?
      • Some lower-end devices may have a degraded experience with 49 tiles due to the CPU demands of so many concurrent video feeds. If you or your colleagues run into issues, you can reduce the tile count using the slider in the layouts dialog.
    • How do I add my self-feed to the grid?
      • You can hover over your thumbnail at the top right corner to add or remove your self-feed from the grid.
    • Will video tiles be prioritized over tiles with no videos?
      • Video tiles are prioritized over non-video tiles unless the active speaker has video off.


    Learn more about Breakout Rooms

    • Moderators have the ability to define up to 100 breakout rooms while on a call on a web browser.
    • Participants can join their allocated breakout room, as well as move back and forth between their breakout room and the main room. 
    • Moderators have the ability to join individual breakout rooms and switch between them.
    • Moderators and participants will not be able to use the feature on mobile devices during early access.
    • Breakout rooms will be available exclusively for users in G Suite Enterprise and G Suite Enterprise for Education plans once it is generally available.


    How to Start a Breakout Room as an Organizer of the Meet call

    1. Click on the bottom-right menu of the Meet call while on a web browser.
    2. Select the Breakout Rooms menu option
    3. Next, configure the rooms and participants
    4. Click the Create button to invite the participants to their corresponding rooms


    Breakout Rooms FAQs

    • Will breakout rooms be available for users not in the early access group?
      • Users who are not whitelisted in the early access program cannot join breakout rooms. They will appear as “unsupported” in the breakout room UI for the moderator.
    • Why don’t I see the Breakout room menu option?
      • Only the meeting organizer will see the Breakout Room option while on a web call.
    • Will administrators be able to enable/disable this feature?
      • No. The feature is available to all users in the early access program.
    • Is there going to be a limit to the number of breakout rooms that can be created
      • In early access, there is a maximum limit of 100 breakout rooms. 
    • Which devices are supported?
      • In early access, Breakout Rooms is supported for desktop/laptop web browsers.


    Learn more about Whiteboarding in Meet

    • Create and present a whiteboard during a meeting
    • Join a whiteboard initiated by others during a meeting
    • Attach a whiteboard to a recurring meeting 
    • Share your whiteboard with others to view or edit


    Creating a Whiteboard in Meet

    To start a whiteboard session, follow the steps below while on a Meet call.

    1. Click on the three dot overflow menu in the bottom right corner of the Meet meeting screen
    2. Select ‘Whiteboard’ in the menu
    3. Select ‘Start a whiteboard’ 
    4. A whiteboard will open in a new tab automatically or in a new window


    Whiteboarding FAQs:

    • Does every meeting participant have access to view/edit the whiteboard?
      • Anyone in the meeting can use the whiteboard. The whiteboard creator is prompted to share access to the whiteboard with meeting participants. 
    • Will the whiteboard be available after the meeting?
      • Whiteboards are available for you and sharing recipients  in Google Drive and the Jamboard application. Meeting participants who are given access to the whiteboard also receive an email with a link to the whiteboard. 
    • Will the moderator create the whiteboard? 
      • Anyone in a meeting can create a whiteboard and share it with all meeting participants. 
    •  Will you be adding more features to Jamboard Web (i.e. the whiteboard accessed from Meet)?
      • Yes, and ideally based on your feedback!  Please keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming email with a brief survey for feedback on your experience.

    Learn more about Background Blur

    To help limit distraction in your meeting, you can blur the background of the video in Google Meet on the web. Meet will intelligently separate the user from the background and will blur the surrounding while keeping the user clear and in focus. Background Blur works directly within your browser and does not require an extension or any additional software. 

    Background blur is currently available for:

    • Computers with 4+ core CPUs with hyperthreading or equivalent
    • Chrome browser v84 and higher
    • Temporarily disabled for ChromeOS


    Background Blur FAQs:

    • How do I turn on Background Blur?
      • Background Blur is OFF by default. To turn Background Blur on, use the virtual background button before joining a meeting or use the contextual menu and select “Turn on background blur”. 
    • Will background blur be a sticky setting? 
      • The sticky setting for background blur is still being decided.
    • Is the feature available on IE, Safari or Firefox?
      • The feature is only available in Chrome version 84 and higher.
    • Why can’t I see the background blur button? 
      • This feature requires Chrome hardware acceleration to be enabled to function properly. To turn it on, follow the steps below:
    1. Click Chrome Menu 
    2. Select Settings
    3. Select Advanced option
    4. Select System 
    5. Turn on “Use hardware acceleration when available”
    6. Restart Chrome
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  • Google Meet keyboard shortcuts

    Posted by Vince Butler on 5/11/2020

    Many of us are spending so much time in Google Meet nowadays so you may find these keyboard shortcuts useful. The Google Meet meeting must be the active tab when you use these.

    To quickly mute/unmute yourself
    Chromebook/Windows: Ctrl+d
    Mac: ⌘+d
    To turn your camera on/off
    Chromebook/Windows: Ctrl+e
    Mac: ⌘+e
    To view other keyboard shortcuts available in Meet
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  • Using Meet inside Classroom

    Posted by Vince Butler on 4/13/2020

    To improve the experience of using Classroom as a distance learning tool, Google is rolling out a Meet integration to all Classroom users. It will allow you to create meetings right from within Classroom.

    Using this integration, educators can create a unique Meet link for each class, which is displayed on the Classroom Stream and Classwork pages. The link acts as a dedicated meeting space for each class, making it easy for both teachers and students to join. Only teachers can access class settings to create the Meet link. All Meet links created by the Classroom integration are nicknamed links, so students can’t join without the instructor present.

    To learn more, visit the Start a class video meeting page.

    How Meet keeps your video conferences protected

    Google is committed to building products that help protect student and educator privacy, and provide best-in-class security. Default-on measures help keep your meetings secure, including:

    • Encrypting all data in transit by default between the client and Google for video meetings on a web browser, on the Android and iOS apps, and in meeting rooms with Google meeting room hardware.
    • Supporting compliance requirements around regulations including COPPA, FERPA, GDPR, and HIPAA.
    • Making it difficult to guess the ID of a meeting and make an unauthorized attempt to join it by using codes that are 10 characters long, with 25 characters in the set.
    • Leveraging Google Cloud’s defense-in-depth approach to security, which utilizes the built-in protections and global-private network that Google uses to secure your information and safeguard your privacy.
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  • Originality Reports in Google Classroom (i.e. plagiarism checker)

    Posted by Vince Butler on 2/25/2020

    With this Google Goodie I wanted to shine a light on a cool new feature within Google Classroom - Originality Reports. Similar to third-party paid tools like Turnitin, Originality Reports allows teachers to easily identify text in submitted student work that may be "borrowed," poorly paraphrased, or not properly cited.

    Besides being built into Google Classroom (and therefore free), one of the cool things about this feature is that it allows students three opportunities to run originality reports on their assignment before turning it in, enabling them to turn in their best work instead of not knowing about the mistake until after the assignment has been graded.
    If you are taking advantage of Google Classroom to assign writing assignments to students and allowing them to submit them digitally, simple check the "Originality Reports" checkbox when creating your Google Doc assignment. Grading writing assignments can be time consuming, so hopefully between this new feature and the improvements that Google has made to streamline assignment feedback in Classroom (such as rubrics and comment banks) you will find that handling writing assignments digitally can be a huge time saver over paper!
    Please note that our Google licensing enables our teachers to have access to unlimited originality reports per class so you don't have to be selective about which writing assignments can utilize this feature.
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  • Awesome Screenshot

    Posted by Vince Butler on 2/10/2020

    If you are looking for a lightweight app or extension for annotating screenshots, then Awesome Screenshot might be for you. Installable as either a dedicated app or an extension, it makes it easy to take a screenshot and mark it up with a variety of tools.

    Click here to install the dedicated app version (Chromebooks/Chromeboxes only)
    Click here to install the Chrome extension version (any platform). This version includes a limited screen recorder feature, but Screencastify is still recommended for those tasks.
    annotated screenshot example.png
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  • Creating a new doc *fast* and Google Classroom tip for assignment numbering

    Posted by Vince Butler on 1/21/2020
    Need to create a new Google Doc, Sheet, or Slides in a hurry? In your address bar in Chrome just type in one of the following and hit enter to instantly get started on a new blank file. The new file gets saved in the root of your Google Drive, but after you name the file you can use the little folder that appears next to the name to easily organize it into a folder.
    For our teachers using Google Classroom, here's a tip from Alice Keeler's blog that suggests numbering your assignments during the year as an easy way to match up assignments from Google Classroom with your gradebook. It can also make conversations with students easier; students can simply say "I have a question about assignment 47" instead of having to keep track of individual assignment names. It's an older tip on her blog so you may already know it, but I thought it was pretty handy!
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  • Use Autocrat to mail merge with Google Docs

    Posted by Vince Butler on 11/20/2019
    Are you looking for a way to mail merge with Google Docs? Maybe you want to generate letters with individualized addresses so you can use windowed envelopes instead of printing labels, or you want to create a batch of award certificates from a list of names. Check out Autocrat, an add-on for Google Sheets to do this and more. There are too many different ways to use this tool for me to share in this single email so check out the Autocrat website for more info. But here is a basic outline of how it works after you have installed it:
    1. Create a Google Sheet with the data elements that you want to merge into your document. First name, last name, address, etc.
    2. Create a template document in Google Docs, using merge tags for the elements that will be merged in. For example, instead of starting a letter with "Dear Vince" you would start it with something like "Dear <<First Name>>"
    3. Back in your Sheets document, go to the Add-ons menu and choose Autocrat. A wizard will start and walk you through the steps to select the template you created, map your unique elements to the variables in the template, and generate your files.
    There are lots of options for different situations. You can generate the merge as a single PDF file for easy printing, or you can even generate individual Google doc versions and automatically share them with the recipient (including an email notification). Check it out!
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