Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Scripts and extensions galore with Google

A few days ago, a teacher asked me about finding a tool to translate speech to text. Since our district does not supply tablets to all students and teachers, an app like Dragon was out of the question. Therefore, I turned to Chrome extensions--a great tool to use if you haven't already.

How do you find Chrome extensions? Click on your settings box in the far right of your Chrome browser. It looks like three horizontal lines. Select tools-->extensions. If you already have some extensions, it will open up to your existing ones so just click on "get more extensions." From there, you will enter the Chrome extensions store and can browse for a variety of extensions from video downloaders to speech to text tools.

Simple Dictation is a free extension that appears as a microphone in the top right of your Chrome browser. When you are ready to dictate, simply click on the microphone. It will open up a new tab with a microphone and text box. Click the microphone (again) in this screen and begin speaking. It will stop recording if you stop for more than 5 seconds. When you start talking again, it will erase your old speech. However, it will appear at the bottom under "Previous Dictations." There is also a button to compose an email from the Simple Dictation screen. When you click on it, it opens up your gmail account and pastes your most recent dictation into the email body. The accuracy is fantastic and--even better--it's free! It's definitely worth a try.

Aside from Chrome extensions, scripts are another way to take a Google product above and beyond. AutoCrat is probably my favorite script (along with Flubaroo--the self-graded quiz script). AutoCrat is like mail merge on steroids. Here's what it does: it takes data in a spreadsheet and merges it into a Google Docs template that can be automatically emailed out to people. However, that description doesn't do it justice. If you recall, a spreadsheet can also be a form. So, in that sense--AutoCrat can merge data entered into a spreadsheet into templates. Why is that so neat? For one, I am having students apply to become a Tech Star at our elementary campus. When they complete the online form, they are required to type in the name of two teachers who could give recommendations as well as a parent or guardian's name and email address. I also have a recommendation letter template composed that has fields for the teacher's name and student information. Therefore, as students submit forms, their information is merged with the recommendation letters and the letters are automatically sent out to the teachers to complete. And, the best part is that AutoCrat creates a new column in the data spreadsheet with links to the newly created merged documents. There are a variety of times that you could benefit from having documents autogenerated from forms that others complete. If you like this, read this informative article on AutoCrat (complete with instructions).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chrome extensions...try them!

Just another reason why I prefer Chrome over Internet Explorer--extensions. Within your Chrome account, you can add extensions that will be available on any computer where you are logged into Chrome.

How do you add extensions?

Click on the
extensions box in the far right

Then, choose Tools--Extensions

You are now in the Chrome Apps store and you can choose from a variety of extensions available in your Chrome account.

Check out the academic resources here:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Speech to text?

At the elementary level, we have several students who have difficulty writing and typing their thoughts. So, how do you get them to use what they know--speaking--and put that into written form? How about Microsoft's speech to text tool? Of course, there are lots of apps like Dragon that are free and do this same task. However, those only work on tablets/phones. What if you need a desktop solution? Most other solutions cost money. However, Microsoft's comes standard with Windows XP and above. It's not perfect, but it is a good solution.

Check it out!: 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Free student response systems?

If you are in the market for student response systems and online polling, check out Celly and Socrative. Both sites rely on students' Smartphones, laptops, and/or tablets to create a student response system.

Celly combines social networking with student response systems whereas Socractive is strictly a site for online polling and information-gathering. For younger audience, Socrative is better-suited. However, high school students may find either Celly or Socrative more fitting.

Give them a try! They are perfect for Bring your own device schools and schools where tablets/Smartphones/laptops are in student hands. And, it's incentive to move your school in that direction if it is still debating.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Adding pics to Google Forms? With a little HTML, you can do it!

Ever wanted to add  pictures to a Google Form? Well, with a little help from HTML, you can do it.

First, you need to create a form. Where you want pictures, just leave your options as text. For instance, if you asked the question--what is your favorite food--and you wanted to give picture options of hot dogs, burgers, and pizza, you would still list those as answer choices--as text. Those will be place holders for when you add in the <IMG SRC> tag.

Once your form is finished, go into the Live Form view. Right-click somewhere on the form and choose: View Source.

It will give you the html code for the form. Copy the entire source code.

Paste the source code in a Web editing program like Notepad, Microsoft Expression Web or Adobe Dreamweaver (the latter two options give you the ability to preview your work as you go).

Now, find your images. If you want Google images of the items above (hot dogs, burgers, and pizza), you could do an image search for each item. As the searches populate, right-click on the respective picture and choose "copy link address." Repeat this for all pictures. You will need URLs for the pictures so if they come from your hard drive, upload them to Google Drawing and get the URL. Save the URLs in a separate .txt file so you can come back to them.

Now, go into your Form source, look for your answer choices. You will see a <label> tag nested in a <li> tag. At the end of the answer choice, you'll see a </label></li>. You will need to insert the following code in between the </label> and the </li>. You will repeat this for any answer choice where you want a picture. Here is the code:

<img alt="Hot Dogs" height="32" src="" width="32" />

Replace the highlighted section with your image's URL.

Once you have added in all images, copy the entire completed code and paste it in a Blogger page or Google Sites page (any area where you have the ability to paste in HTML code).

*Tip--I recommend keeping your form theme as blank. If you don't it will apply that theme to your entire page.

That's it! Click here to see what a completed form with pictures looks like. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Google goes cultural

If you don't subscribe to the Official Google blog, you should. Google releases important updates to products and features in an easy-to-read format.

Today, Google announced the Google cultural institute. Though, Art Project and Body Browser have been around for sometime, the cultural institute was new to me.

Some other projects to check out are:

Check out some of these great resources brought to you by Google!!!

Monday, October 8, 2012 do you say that?

Pronounced Tag-see-doh, this is a Word Cloud generator similar to Wordle, but with several added functions: saving and more layout choices. For instance, you can set your Word Cloud to any image you upload or select from the gallery. In the example below, I set the transcript of the 2012 Presidential debates to the face of Abe Lincoln.

  • Click on Load to enter in text, paste a URL where text can be found, or upload a document where text already is

  • You have options to change the word shape, edit the theme, change the layout, save (as many file types, URL, or embed code), or print/share. For training purposes, choose the Web tab so you can grab a URL.

  • My finished product: (the 2012 Presidential Debate transcript set to the face of Abe Lincoln). That’s it!
  • FYI--You may want to save it rather than grab the URL as the URL seems to have some issues with Silverlight.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Want S'more?

Then, try s'more. This free site allows users to create newsletter-like pages that are embedable and shareable. They also work with Twitter and Facebook.

Users have the ability to change the background, font, and colors. They can also add in pictures, text, links, events, videos, audio, bios, and more. And, it's as easy as clicking on the "Start a page" button.

You can make the page private or public, giving you the ability to share the URL or embed the page in another Website.

This tool is a great way to divert from the traditional paper newsletter!

Check out one I created:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

You can book it!

I am a Google-nut; however, one big drawback to their applications are the need to have a Google account for most things. Now, for our students and faculty (we are a GAFE district), that is not a problem. But, we are often trying to collect data from parents who don't have Google accounts. And, that poses a problem.

So, what's the solution: You Can Book Me

It's available as an add-on to your Google account. So, that means that you can create an appointment calendar with You Can Book Me that books events to your regular Google Calendar. And, it's fairly simple. You have a multitude of options--from sending reminders to those who signed up (something you cannot do in appointment slots) to custom URLs and designs.

Check it out!