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Showing posts from 2013

A brief guide to mail options in Google Apps for Education

This is a brief video tutorial on the mail policies that you can configure in Google Apps for Education. You should view this alongside the Google Enterprise Support Guides which go into detail on all of the settings. - alternative to Lucidcharts

I'm a big fan of Lucidcharts and use it a lot for all sorts of charts. However, started playing with today and found it a real alternative. Its free, integrates with Drive and seems to work really well. You could use it for all sorts of things, mind maps, organisational charts, network maps and so on. You can export the results as an image file and dump it into other docs with ease. I've added it to the domain so you will find it at school if you look in apps - give it a go. Its actually quite good fun just to play with it! Brief demo below:

Brief Guide to Creating Users in Google Apps

This is a brief video guide to creating users in Google Apps for Education.

ChromeOS Management - a 30 min overview.

I see quite a lot of posts about how to make stuff work on Chromebooks in schools. So I thought I'd do a video to give some sort of overview. You should view this alongside the Google guides, that can be found at  - these are good - but take some going through. Any questions feel free to ask.....

How to Deploy and Manage Chrome in Schools

I've been asked a lot over the last few weeks about managing and deploying Chrome in school - especially those thinking of moving to Google Apps for Education. So if that's you, this might be useful. Its aimed at whoever manages the network as it assumes knowledge of Group Policy, Network Shares and Active Directory. But you can always point the right person towards this.

Google Short url's

OK - something I learnt at the Google Teacher Academy this week (think everyone else knew it!). You can create short urls for sites and google documents very easily - just go to Copy the url of you doc or whatever in and hit shorten url - thats it!

Using Google Drawings to Create mind maps and more.

While I like tools such as LucidCharts and MindMup for making diagrams, both of these tools require users to do something before they can use them - agree to permissions etc. There is also a bit of a learning curve involved. This is where Drawings come in. Google Drawings is the least used of the Google tools that is there by default in Google Drive - at least in out school domain. Not because its not useful - in fact I think it is one of the best tools, but because people don't really understand what you do with it and how it links to the other apps. So I have a mini campaign to get people drawing at the moment. Here are a couple of my doodles - one serious and one no so much: There are lots of really good YouTube videos about using Drawings - you can look up as well.

MoveNote for Education

Just an update to my original MoveNote post. This app is deployed domain wide - so if you are signed into Chrome or on a Chromebook you can use it. Basically allows you to put video commentary to anything in your Google Drive. Brief video below:

Simple YouTube timers for Google Slides

I've done a few simple timers that can be added to Google Slides. There are lots of these on YouTube - but I thought I'd put a few in one place to make it easy to find them. YouTube Timer Playlist e.g: Feel free to use in any way you want. If you want other times, or ones with sound - let me know (Post a comment etc).

Realtimeboard for Education

Just noticed that you can now get Realtimeboard for Education free if you are a student or work in a school. Just add the App Realtimeboard for Education from the Chrome Webstore. You will need to register with your school Google Apps for Education email address and then a little while later you should have an invite to Realtimeboard Pro. OK - an update - recorded this via a Hangout on Air: Seems to work really well and has loads of features. Similar to other 'board apps' but without the restrictions of not having a paid for account. Will do a little video when I have time. Screenshot below:

How to give Google Sites a friendly url

For a while now we have given all our important Google Sites and friendly url using DNS mapping. If any user at Wheatley Park School want a nice name for their site, just share the site with me and let me know what you want it called. Can be If you have not used this feature before, below is a brief video guide for Google Apps Admins.

Mind Mapping Google Drive App

There is a rather good Mind Mapping App you can add to Google Drive out now. Its very easy to use and you can create complicated maps really quickly. You can find on the Chrome WebStore here . Brief demo video I made below:

Server 2012 R2 upgrade for one of our Terminal Servers

Just upgraded one of our terminal servers to 2012 R2. This brings a number of benefits which include: The return of the start button! Go straight to desktop (this option can be set in the local group policy editor). Better rdp performance. Couple of things to be aware of - You need to remove the taskbar pin for powershell and admin tools. These can be found in C:\programdata\microsoft\windows\start menu\ - remove anything you don't want users to play with. I copied these and popped them in another folder on the C drive so I can still access them. You need to make a mandatory profile to do what I've done here - plenty of guides on YouTube! Brief video demo:

How to make a certificate based reward system using the Autocrat script

You can use the Autocrat script alongside a Google Form and a certificate template to create a system where a teach simply fills in a Google Form and a certificate is the n generated. This might go to the admin team for printing, get emailed home or to the student or all of these. You would embedded to form somewhere that the teachers can easily find - and all they have to do is fill it in to award a certificate. The form will keep a record of all rewards for you. To set this up take about 20 mins for a subject. Most of this time is in the design of your certificate and what you want to give awards for. This is a brief walk through from beginning to end of setup.

Master Slides in Google Presentations (Slides)

Google Presentations just got a bit better today. You can now edit the master slides - so add formatting, images, logos etc that appear on all the pages in the same place for example. Couple of screen shots below - find it in 'View' 'Master Slide'. Full widescreen support also comes with this release.

Recording Audio on a Chromebook (or anything with a web browser)

Couple of people asked me about recording audio on Chromebooks - for things like students pod-casts. So I looked up a few ways of doing it. The closest to the experience of an application like Audacity on a PC I could find was an online app called TwistedWave . As normal - just sign into the app with your Google Account. Works well as far as I can see and exports straight to your Google Drive. Demo of it in action done via a Hangout on Air on my Chromebook:

Photos and Videos in Google+

I use photos and videos quite a bit in Google+ now, especially as you can instant upload from your phone. Its useful when you do a video of a presentation of take a photo of a piece of work and you want to show it to the rest of the class for them to feedback on it. So I did a bit of a video to show you the basics - probably better guides out there - but at least these are real examples.

Lucidpress Launched

I've been using Lucidcharts for quite a while now for organisational diagrams, mind-mapping and the link. Today sees the launch of Lucidpress which gives you full blown desktop publishing with Google Drive integration and sharing. Sign up with your Google Account at You can also link to your drive by going to your Google Drive and 'Connecting More Apps' Screenshot:

How to add and arrange pictures in your Gmail signature

Brief tutorial I did to do this below:

Nice Graph plotting App

I've always been one to plot graphs on graph paper and have tended to tell students to do this. However, there are some good graph plotting apps out there now. One I've recommended to my students in . Just visit the site or add it as a Chrome App. You can login with your Google account. Did a brief tutorial for my chemistry students:

Editing MS Office Files directly from your Google Drive on a Chromebook

A few members of staff at school have asked me if they buy a Chromebook, how do you edit Office files? Well I suppose the purist view is you convert them into Docs format. However, if that's not the answer, there are a few options now: Use QuickOffice Use OpenOffice Remote onto the school site - cheating as you have to download the file to edit it.... Brief demo of these methods done from my Chromebook below:

Research Tools

I've probably mentioned Research Tools before, but I spoke to a group of 6th Form students (16/17 year olds today) and few of them knew how to use them. They thought the automatic citation facility was particularly neat. Brief demo below if you have not used them before:

Quickoffice App now free

Quickoffice is now free. It allows you to edit MS office documents on Android and iOS devices. It links to your Google Drive and you just open and edit docs as you would Google Docs. Editing options are limited - but if you need to edit these files, then its really handy. Download from Google Play or the App Store now. Quickoffice is also available on Chromebooks. If you are on the dev/beta channel its enabled by default, if on stable you have to enable it in chrome flags . Just search for 'document editing' and select enable. See below: I believe it will be on by default when the stable channel hits 30.

Google Forms Update

Few new features in Forms today. Add videos, progress bars, section breaks and more: Need to have video rounds in the sixth form quiz now!

Some New Features of Sites

Just been looking over some of the new editing tools in Google Sites at the end of the school holidays. There are a few new 'Insert' options in the editing window that are quite nice. Need to experiment with the chart option - but otherwise her is a little demo if you're interested:

Packaged Apps for Chrome

The Chrome Store has recently had a makeover and now separates websites from what are called packaged apps. Packaged apps can run offline and look like local apps rather than opening up as a Chrome browser tab. A few of my favourite packaged apps are in the brief vid below:  

New Web Based Google Earth

If you had not noticed, you can now get the new Google Earth via a web browsers - part of the new Google Maps. This allows you to use Google Earth on a Chromebook or on a PC with no software install. Quick demo below:

Edit Word and Excel Files on a Series 3 Chromebook

Editing Office files is coming to Chromebooks. If you want to give it a try - switch to the developer channel on your Chromebooks and enable document editing in chrome flags. Seems to work OK with the few files I've tried. Still being developed - so is likely to get more stable and better functionality with time. Brief demo: Just an update - you can now get this in the latest beta channel. Has some improvements as well - handles images now. So did a brief demo on my Pixel:

Hangout Online with ConceptBoard for online lessons/tutorials

Had an idea to run Conceptboard (I've posted about this before) with screen-sharing in a Hangout Online. I got a plan to do this for my A-level chemists throughout the coming year. Maybe AS one week, A2 the next. All that is involved is starting a Hangout online from Google+ and clicking on the screen-sharing button and choosing the window that has your Conceptboard open. I shared the Hangout with my chemistry circle and Chemistry Community in G+. They can then join the discussion if they want to. I also shared the link to the Conceptboard with the students + the link to my YouTube channel so they could  review it later if they wanted to. This is my first effort! Will get better with time....

Google Keyboard for Android

You can download the new Google Keyboard for Android devices now. It have an excellent gesture keyboard and the voice recognition is very good - good enough to dictate documents to Google Docs on your phone/tablet. Get it in Google Play now.

New Inbox Options

GMail has gained some new inbox options. These automatically filter messages into some predefined categories. You can enable these now by clicking on settings (the cog in the top right corner): Select configure inbox and then choose the categories you want to appear: If you pick them all the top of your messages will now be sorted into a number of categories: You can pick the categories you want and go back to your old inbox in your inbox settings in options. Seems to work well at the moment. 

How to pin Chrome Apps to a Windows task bar and show the Chrome App Launcher

We the release of Chrome 27 on the stable channel recently, you can now pin Chrome Apps and the Launcher to your task bar in Windows if you want to. Makes it look a lot like a Chromebook! You will need to add the packaged app call TEXT to Chrome. You can find this here . Its not that easy to find! However, gives you a nice Chrome based text editor. Brief video below to show you what you can then do:

Using Drawings in Google Documents to create more complex layouts.

You can use Drawings in Google Documents to create more complex layouts fairly easily. This includes more complex table layout, image arrangements and shapes. I've done a brief video on the sort of things you can do: Hopefully some users will find it useful.

Using your phone as a remote for Google Presentations with speaker notes

You can the extension 'Presentation Remote' to Chrome which enables you to use your phone as a remote for Google Presentation. Seems to work well. The apps you need are shown below in the screenshot from the Chrome WebStore: You will need the 'de Mobo' app on your phone as well. Find in the iOS Appstore or Google Play. Brief demo video:

Send SMS messages from your Gmail

If you are a fan of Mighty Text (allows you to send SMS text messages from Chrome), you can now send SMS directly from GMail. Just install the Gtext extension to Chrome and refresh GMail. You do need to have Mightytext setup on you phone - iOS and Android apps and the Mighttext Chrome Browser extension linked to your phone. Both App and Extension take you through how to link the two. Some screenshots of Gtext:

How to Record the Screen on a Chromebook

You can use Google+ and Hangouts on Air to record the screen on a Chromebook (also works on a PC). You will need to link your Google+ account to your YouTube Channel to do this. This is easy and Google+ will prompt you thought this - you need a phone number to receive the authentication code. Did a brief demo below: Seems to work quite well and its nice you can easily switch between you and the screen recording.

Google Drive Android Update

If you use the Google Drive App on Android, check out the latest update. Things I've noticed: Can switch between views like in drive on a PC - so grid/list Seems to loads files much faster. Get mini preview of files like on a computer. The new file option has a scan option - so you can scan documents to pdf straight into your drive - very cool. Looks like s good update.

flickr upgrade

flickr upgrade You can use your Google Apps account to sign into flickr . You click on the sign in with Google button to get started. You free flickr account has 1 terabyte of storage for pictures and videos. These can be shared with individuals or made public in a similar way to the stuff on your drive. While Google+ gives you unlimited storage for images up to 2MP, this might be a better option for those of you who want to store lots of stuff at full quality. You can click on objects and share, more ways to share and embedded items into say Google Sites. The whole interface has also got a makeover - looks a lot more like Google+ photos now!

New features in Google Forms

There are a few new features in Google Forms that are worth taking a look at. The 'Add Item' option now includes images and dates. So you can now create you picture round questions with ease! Simple sample form to illustrate images and the date function: Loading...

Google Keep Native App

A Google Keep native app has just landed in the Chrome Apps Store. This is a great little note taking app - see my previous post about Google Keep. Got the apps pinned to my Chromebook taskbar now as I use it for all sorts of notes note. Screenshot:

Prezi for Education

Prezi is a nice alternative to more traditional presentation tools such as Google Slides and MS PowerPoint. Free accounts have very limited space and your work is public and cannot be make private. However, you can get an education account as long as you have a email address with the same domain name as your school. Sign up here  for an Edu account. You get 500Mb space and your Prezi's are private by default. There is also an app in the Chrome Webstore. Been using it on my Chromebook - works well. You can have up to 10 people working on the project at the same time - bit like a Google Slide presentation.

Hyper-links in Google Slides

If you want to make presentations a bit more interactive - maybe a quiz or just a bit less linear or something for students to interact with in their own time, adding links can help. This is a brief vid on how to do it if you have not added navigation/links to presentations before:

Open Source Gateway, Content Filtering and Firewall for School

We have just switched broadband providers and hit a problem that the content filtering that they provided remotely did not really meet our needs. There main issues were with WiFi, BYOD devices and number of proxy exceptions needed to make Google Apps work. For BYOD, users had to input the proxy and an unrealistic number of exceptions. Our WiFi system did not work correctly with the content filter. Without a load of exceptions, Google Docs did not work correctly on any device and as we use Google Apps this was sort of important. This forced me to look at alternative solutions. We had been using ClearOS 5.2 for DNS and a few other things for some time and a knew it could do content filtering. So I setup a test VM (running on ESXi) of ClearOS 6.4 Community . The content filter on this seemed to work well and the proxy ran in transparent mode - so no pesky proxy settings or exceptions. For a production system, more system resources were needed. This involved buying a dedicated (a

Custom Chrome Webstore for your domain

If you have Chrome devices managed on your Google Apps domain you can manage chrome and the chrome webstore. In settings, chrome, user settings there is an option to deploy apps to chrome devices and also point users to 'for yourdomain' entry in the webstore. They will see this assuming they are signed into chrome with there domain account. So these settings result in this in the webstore: Apps that you don't already have will appear in the For yourdomain section. This makes it easy to users to find apps that you suggest. Seems to work well.

Google+ instant uploads

I was asked today about instant uploads. This is basically means you take a photo or a video on your smartphone and a few moments later (depending on connect speed) it appears in your photos in Google+. Works really well. To do this you need the Google+ app installed on your phone. Once you have this you can go into the apps settings and configure how you want instant uploads to work. I have it set to automatically upload photos and videos if I'm on WiFi. You can do it on 3/4G but it obviously uses a lot of data - so this depends on your tariff. Classroom uses You might have a group doing a presentation of performance and want to upload the video. Perhaps a good bit of work and you want to upload the photo. Assuming you are of a fast connection, you can show the class the video/photo a few moments later on your computer. They will appear in 'Photos' in Google+ and be put into instant upload. You can then organise the photos/videos into albums. These albums/photos you c

Google Keep

Google Keep has been launched a few days ago. If you missed this, it is a note taking application. Works in a web browser and Android via the Keep app you can find on Google Play. The online apps can be found at  . No Chrome app yet - imagine there will be one soon. Its very easy to use - you can make text notes, add images, record voice notes (via the Android app) and create lists.  Screenshot of the online app below. I'd reckon it quite a good note taking app to use in lessons  as it is quick and easy to use. It does not have some of the advanced features of Evernote or Onenote - but this makes it much more accessible for most people. The video (from Google) if you are interested:  

Context Filling in Spreadsheets

This has been posted around on G+ lately - but its here if you have missed it. If you put something in a cell (two works better than one - better chance of getting the right things) - select both cells, hold Ctrl down and click on the little blue square in the bottom right of the bottom cell - drag down and you will make a list of related things. So capitals, types of wine, rivers or whatever you want.

Table Function in Google Docs

This is a brief guide to the table function in Google Docs. On one level it is no different than using the table function in Word, however, it does allow you to do some quite nice things when you know how it works. The table function is probably the easiest way of making quite complex layout really quickly. I've tried to illustrate this is a brief video.

Basic Google Site Building

Just a video for the folk at who want to build a site but are not quite sure where to start. I know many of you have a made great sites - but this is a guide if you are not sure where to start and just want to have a go. Couple of things to remember - student sites should be linked to and staff ones to the staff site. I can do this for you. I can also give you a nice address on request. Best to watch the vid full screen in 1080p.

Chromebook Pixel

So I bought a Chromebook Pixel - as a Chromebook user I just could not resist this device especially as it comes with a terabyte GDrive. There are lots of reviews online already - so this is my personal views on the device rather than another analysis of the specs. To consider buying this device you need to be sold on the idea of cloud based working and in particular Google Docs/Apps. I use it with my school Google Apps account and my private Google Account. I own a Samsung Series 3 ARM based Chromebook - after unboxing it I just logged on and got going. From turning it on to working with all my apps was probably less than a minute (most of that was typing in my WiFi key!). This is what I like about Chromebooks and Google Apps - log on and get going. If I had bought a new Windows machine, I'd still be installing software a couple of hours later. I've got to the point where I like an easy life! The Hardware Very solid construction - perhaps a tiny bit heavy. Keybo

Using LucidCharts

LucidCharts - for Mind Mapping I've mentioned LucidCharts before - but the mind mapping options are really quite good - so I've done a little video to illustrate them. If you have Apps for Education you can request the full version of LucidCharts for your domain for free.

Add back 'Create from template'

Add back the Create from Template option. The new version of the 'Create' button in Drive makes it easier to make things with additional Apps. However, the 'Create from Template' can only be accessed by creating a document first then selecting the option from the file menu. There is an addon to add the option back. Just go to this site  and click the authorize button and the option will be back as below:

Image building procedure for Windows 7/8 with FOG

Using FOG to image Windows 7/8 machines. We have been using FOG to image Windows 7/8 machines for a while now. For information our procedure is shown below. It requires an appropriate unattend.xml file to work. To make this you will need to install the Windows Automated Install Kit (AIK). I can supply a basic one on request. You will need one for Windows 7 and a different one for Windows 8. We also have one for Windows 7 Thin.


Another interactive board space for Google Drive Conceptboard is an interactive space for users collaborate - sort of an interactive online whiteboard that works well with Google Drive. Done a little demo video below.

New Google Forms

New Google Forms Just in case you have missed the news about the latest Google Forms - here are a couple of vids that have been posted around the web:

Enable offline editing of docs and slides

Ever want to edit Google Docs or Slides (Presentation) without a connection? You can enable offline mode in Google Drive. This allows you to edit Docs and Slides and view Spreadsheets. You changes get synced when you get your connection back. Handy when on a train with a Chromebook and the 3G is a bit dodgy. Screen shot of how to enable: Just click on more in your drive (under Recent) and click on Offline Drive and enable it. Job done.

Learn how to search better - for staff and students

Google Search Education Centre Google has a site dedicated to teaching people how to do more effective searches. Search Education  has a wide range of feel resources and lesson plans that are quite useful. Even if you think you knew everything there was to know about search engines - this might throw up a few surprises. Latest series of lectures here  - these are on Power Searching.

Hyperlinks in Google Spreadsheets

How to add hyperlinks in Google Spreadsheets Was linking a few sheets together using =importrange and wanted to put a quick link back to the linked sheet. Had to look up how to do this as it was not obvious. You use the function =hyperlink. So type this into the cell =hyperlink("url of website","Link text to appear in the cell")

Easy private cloud

Easy private cloud with Asus RT-N65U Just got one of these routers at home to replace my old BT HomHub 3. Mainly for the duel band WiFi which is great. However, you get two USB3 port in it. The storage you plug in can be turned into your own little private cloud. This is accessed (along with any samba shares on your local network) can be accessed via the Asus AiCloud apps on phones or visiting a secure website that you choose the address for. So you can download and upload files to your usb device pretty much anywhere and on any device. Small Screenshot:

Learn a language with Duolingo

Duolingo You can find Duolingo in the Chrome Webstore. Its an app that allows you to learn French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian from scratch. I've been learning German. My eldest son uses it at home to help with French and German and really likes it. For a free course its a seems really good. Screenshot: I never liked languages at school - but this makes it rather good fun! You need a decent headset to get the most out of it.