Monday, February 23, 2015

Mainframe 2 - run Windows apps on your Chromebook!

Happy (?) Snow/Cold Day!

One of the biggest complaints I hear from students is that they can not access Google Earth or SketchUp from their Chromebooks.  For a year now, I have commiserated with them - even keeping a Windows computer lab open so that they could use these applications.

This weekend, I discovered Mainframe2 during one of my PLN chats.  Mainframe2 will allow you to run those Windows apps from a Chromebook. How can you do this?  Mainframe2 runs your apps in the cloud via their servers, very much like a Virtual Machine (VM).  Everything is browser-based, no apps to install on the Chromebook.   According to their website, you can even invite collaborators to work on the same project. I've not tried this yet so I'm not sure how well this works.   Apparently, this is a new tool for education as they launched their EDU product at TCEA 2015 earlier this year.

I requested an invite from their website.  Once the invitation was received (less than 24 hours), I created a free (so far) account for my school in a matter of minutes.  I chose the Workstation account which provided approximate 100 hours of use.

Once I was signed in, I downloaded my school's license of SketchUp Pro via the Chrome browser that was a part of my account's installation.  It installed easily and was ready quickly.  (Note - you install your apps in a sandbox site and can then move it to production once you've tested it and made sure it works.)  There are a few apps installed by default, Google Earth is one of them!  You can try their installation of Google Earth on their website -  

Couple of things, I'm not sure how long this will be free.  Once I run out of hours, I don't know how much it will cost to continue to use it.  I've not figured out entirely how to push the apps out to my users, but then, I've only got about an hour of time put into this so far!  If nothing else, my students will be able to explore the earth via Google Earth as long as the VM is available on their website.  Also, their Terms of Service states this is only for students over 13.  I will be using this with my high school students so we'll be good to go there.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Add-ons for Google Apps

There have been quite a few updates made to the Add-ons available for many of the Google Apps.  Here are some of the ones I find most useful.  Add-ons are a great way to enhance your use and the capabilities of the different apps.

Google Forms

1)  formLimiter

formLimiter turns off a Google Form after a max number of responses, at a set date and time, or when a spreadsheet cell equals a value.  Best use I can think of is to turn off access to a form at the end of the period/day for testing purposes.

2)  docAppender

docAppender appends Google Form question responses to the bottom of selected Google Docs.  This would be great for peer reviews of student docs.

3)  g(Math)

Math teachers.....  you've been wanting to know how to insert graphs and complex math equations directly in your forms.  Now you can with g(Math)!   Also available for gSheets!

Also, did you know that you can now shuffle the question order in forms?  Great for helping to keep wandering eyes from look for answers on a neighbor's Chromebook!

Google Docs

1)  EasyBib

EasyBib allows you to automatically cite books, journal articles, and websites by entering in titles or URLs.  You can format you citations in either MLA, APA, or Chicago style.

2)  Thesaurus

This add-on will allow you to search for synonyms, antonyms, and more from within gDocs.  There is support for multiple languages as well!

3)  GFormIt 

This add-on lets users create Google Forms based on the content of Google Docs.  This will auto-generate Forms without having to create it from the Forms editor.

How do I find the Add-on in Docs, Sheets, or Forms?

It's simple!  Once you have opened your document, sheet, or form just go to Add-ons in the Menu bar and click "Get Add-ons". 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

OETC 2015 and my Personal/Professional Learning Network

Sometimes, we can't rely on our Professional Development Committee to provide the training we want.  It's not their fault, there's just a lack of funding to send us to all the meetings and conferences we want to go to.  That's why I like to volunteer at conferences in exchange for free admission.  That's what I've done this week at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference.  OETC is the largest state sponsored educational technology conference and I'm proud to say it's in my home state.  I've attended this conference several times and it's outstanding!  OETC has a side conference, or "un-conference" as they like to call it, called OETCx.  This was an amazing day sharing tweets and experiences with people like myself (EdTech professionals) sharing their passion for learning and their students.  People like @ericcurts, @rmbyrne, @mdroush and more keep me energized about my love of technology and motivated to do more!

I've learned alot about useful websites and tools for the classroom as well.  Plickers is my new favorite! It's a great high-tech, low-tech assessment tool.  Print out enough cards for the students in the class, create your class on line, and have your students hold up their answer with their card and scan your whole class with your iPad/iPhone.  Easy for students and teachers to use - plus it will graph your data for you!

I've been tweeting a lot as part of my Personal/Professional Learning Network (PLN). This has been the best thing I have done for myself this year.  I've connected with educators and edtech folks from all over the world and participated in Twitter chats.  There are soooo many to choose from, an extensive list can be found here.  I choose to participate in #edchat, #edtechchat, #ohedchat, and #gafechat on a regular basis.  The topics on many of these challenge me to rethink about the way I feel about education and the changes going on.  It also gives me the opportunity to share what works for my school with others and to help them incorporate tools such as Google Apps for Education in their classroom.  Technology has made the world a global classroom.  We are no longer limited by our geographical boundaries.  I can chat with my counterparts in New Zealand, California, England, wherever from the warmth and comfort of my own home.  TweetDeck has been a huge help to me!  I can follow conversations easily and even see if anyone else likes what I have to say!  Always a good ego boost for someone new to the Twittersphere!  

Another tool that works well with Twitter is Storify.  Storify allows you to capture Twitter conversations by hashtag.  You can also include posts from Facebook and Google +.  There's a Chrome extension as well! Here's an example of a Storify from @StacyHaw from a keynote this week.  Just think, you could have a classroom discussion outside of the typical school day and make a Storify from it for students to review.  Lots of possibilities here!

Google+ is another piece of my PLN.  There are lots of communities or circles you can follow for all sorts of things.  My favorites are Connected Classrooms Workshop, Educators on Google+, GEG Ohio, GAFE Admins, and many, many more!  You can post questions, share articles, find classes around the world to collaborate with, and bounce ideas off of the heads of other educators.   This has been an invaluable piece of my PLN group.   Conversations are easier to follow on G+, in my opinion.  An added plus is that if you have a Google+ account, you can also host/broadcast Hangouts on Air as well (and then post those Hangouts on YouTube!). 

Last but not least is Pinterest.  Don't laugh, but Pinterest is a valuable part of my PLN.  I'm able to create boards for different topics of interest.  For example, I have boards such as Education, Chromebooks and Google Apps, iPads in Education, and EdTechieness.  These are great places for "pinning" ideas and resources to use later.  These can be websites, pictures, YouTube videos, and more!  There are a lot of times I don't have the time to review entire sites, but I can pin them to come back to later.   Of course, I also have my recipes, travel ideas, and other fun boards as well.  :)  It's nice that I can share a link to these boards to share ideas with others as well.  

I'd like to encourage you to try these resources or find even more to create your own Personal/Professional Learning Network.  You'll make lifelong connections with other education professionals from around the world.  Professional development is no longer just the responsibility of your school, it's the learner's responsibility as well.

You can follow me at @nsattler on Twitter, +NickieSattler on Google+, and here on Pinterest.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Teacher Life Hacks for Chromebooks!

Ok, so I know I said I'd do Chromebook apps for Science next, but I've been working on a presentation all week for work.  So.... I thought I'd share it with you first!

Hope you find some helpful tips and tricks!  Feel free to leave a comment on what you like best!