Early Adopter Review: Team Drives

Back in November, Google offered our district the chance to try “Team Drives.” I promptly applied and was granted access shortly thereafter. So far, it’s been a pleasant experience. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes!

Team Drives

For early adopters, Team Drive is a link under My Drive. The idea is simple — You can upload files to a folder under Team Drives. From there, users can edit and share files as normal. Should someone leave the team, the files stay in Team Drives.

This will prove useful when grade-levels are sharing content. For example, our second grade team created a plethora of content, but this fall teams were rearranged. I suspect it was quite a challenge to share content with the new members of the team. Team Drives would have eliminated that hassle. Honestly, team-level or subject-specific curriculum could be housed in Team Drive with the collaborators being all teachers of that content, curriculum coordinator, and any technology integration specialists.

I was thinking, however, that people could not delete content in a Team Drive folder. That is not the case. I ran a test where I jumped into someone else’s Team Drive folder, and I started deleting content. It is still entirely possible to delete files out of a team’s Team Drive. Additionally, I was not able to move entire folders over to Team Drive. Any folders have to be downloaded and reuploaded. I suspect that will quickly change. Lastly, I was not able to “Save to Team Drive” from Gmail. Again, I’d have to download the file and then upload to Team Drive. I’m betting that one will change too.

Despite those few gaps, our staff is really enjoying the Team Drive experience. The tool supports teachers that want to share and collaborate on curriculum and projects. If you’re interested in learning how Team Drives can work for you, take a peek at the Early Adopter program.

Exploring Documents and Using Google Maps


1933833_10153799229983376_7718396254117353176_nToday I picked up a book from my late mother-in-law’s history collection titled The Faces of Grant County. Basically, it is a collection of photographs and accounts of life in Grant County dating back to the mid 1800s. It’s a gem of a text! My 7-year-old son took to the book right away asking me all sorts of questions. He stumbled upon an old house in the photo dating back to the 1900s. He asked if the house was still standing today. I didn’t know, but the authors included the street intersections of the home. I quickly grabbed the iPad and launched Google Earth. Between the two of us, we carefully typed in the intersections into Earth and waited for the results. Sure enough, the house was still standing, although the front had changed considerably. Then we discussed the reasons for the changes. The expansive porch has been completely redone and simplified significantly. The roof is now covered in aluminum and the siding is now vinyl. He was blown away that he was able to conduct this investigation nearly on his own. His father walked into the room about 15 minutes after our discovery, and Matthew recounted his find in detail. I’m betting that if we are out tomorrow, he’ll ask to do a drive-by.

The old book was a golden find that really ignited his interest in local history. The use of Google Maps was just mind blowing. He really felt empowered that he was able to ask and answer his own questions.

The book on the left - The house in question is in a circular picture. The iPad on the right -- The house today.
The book on the left – The house in question is in a circular picture.
The iPad on the right — The house today.


This is a really great example of how Google Maps is a compliment to history lessons. Technology isn’t a replacement; it enhances the amazing resources we already have. Google Maps allows up the opportunity to compare the past to the present and it opens discussions of change and community evolution. The best part — it is a user-driven tool. My son was able to direct his own inquiry, search for the answer, and propose explanations for his discoveries. How engaging is that?!

You have to check out Google Maps. It does so much more than give directions!



Getting Started in Google Drive

If you’re new to Google Drive, getting started can be awkward. You really have to stick with it on a nearly daily basis. Once you start making the Google Apps journey, you’ll quickly discover that there is a lot to learn. The faster you can pick it up, the better you’ll be able to plan transformative lessons.

The following video will cover just be bare bones of getting started in Google Drive. I think it’s pretty common for teachers to participate in a training, leave feeling okay, only to return to their classrooms the next day thinking, “Now how do I do that?” This video should help. In a future video, I’ll cover the options you have when it comes to sharing documents since that’s probably next on your todo list.

Why Use Google Apps?

Google Apps. Oh, Google Apps. What an amazing tool! Google Apps has, in part, revolutionized the way students learn. As I engage with the tool every day, I see several reasons why Google Apps has become indispensable.

  1. Unnamed image (12)Google Drive items save every two seconds. If you’ve been teaching even more than five years, you’ve probably seen the defeated look on a kid’s face when he or she closes out of something without saving. Those days are gone.
  2. Users can collaborate together. Remember the days of putting students in teams of three? Usually, the most computer-savvy kid sat in the middle driving the mouse. The other two sat on each side contributing ideas, hopefully. If there was a fourth person, that individual was almost always distracted by another group. Regardless of the combination, the one doing the most learning was the person driving the mouse. And inevitably, THAT kid was absent the day the paper was to be turned in or presented and no one else had a copy. Those days are over now too. Of course kids can still sit together, but 1.) they don’t have to, 2.) they each have a copy.
  3. Work is accessible anywhere you can get to the internet. No more having to find a machine that had the software you needed. If you can get to the internet, you can get to your documents.
  4. Updates are pushed automatically. If you’ve had a Windows laptop before, you’ve seen that dreaded screen — “Installing 1 of 63 Updates. Please do not shut down.” Ughhhhh…..great. Or, do you remember having to give up your laptop or desktop so the IT department could re-image it. Most people didn’t know what that all entailed, but you knew it meant you wouldn’t have your machine for several weeks. With Google Drive, there’s no reimagine or installing 50+ updates. Updates are pushed automatically so the next time you log into drive, the update will already be in place.
  5. Work can be shared globally, if desired. I think back to when I first had students making webfolios. Blogging hadn’t been invented yet, and Google was several years out. I actually had students creating websites in Microsoft Word, and they would save them as html files in a shared folder. I would then copy and paste each file to the public side of our school’s website. If students made changes, we would have to repeat that process all over again. Then Dreamweaver came out, and we moved to that tool. I remember when Blogger came out, and I thought I won the lottery! Goodness gracious, have times changed. Google Apps offers lots of opportunity to publish globally. Google Sites allows users the opportunity to make websites within minutes. Google Drive allows users to share files with public links, and Google Hangouts allows for video conferencing. Imagine what teachers can do with these tools. The walls of the classroom are just physical constructs.

Although my stories make me sound like a dinosaur, I started teaching in 2001. Really, that’s not that long ago. The web 2.0 explosion around 2006 changed how teachers integrated technology. I would say in a short 8 years, everything I knew about integrating technology, changed. I mean, I still knew to use sound pedagogy when integrating technology, but the options and reach completely changed.

As you enter the amazing world of Google Apps, you might experience some frustrating moments where you’ll want to revert back to Windows. Don’t do it, if you don’t have to. Stick with Google Apps. Your kids deserve these opportunities.




Quick Google Tip: Add Websites to “All Apps”

Once in a while I’ll meet a teacher that wants website to show up as apps in Chrome, but there isn’t an app in the webstore. There are several ways to remedy this problem. My preference would be to just bookmark it, but as with all Google tools, there’s more than one way to float your boat. There is a way (kind of) to add a website to your Chrome “All Apps.”

This video provides a short tutorial. Disclaimer – When you “add to taskbar” it does add a link to your apps pages, but it also add the app to your taskbar. That could get annoying if you try to do this a lot.

Chrome Remembers Where You Left Off

I love Chrome, just love it! One of the many features I adore is the fact that Chrome remembers where I left off. It’s common for me to have eight to ten tabs open by the end of the day. Those tabs often become my todo list for the next day. Thankfully, when I close out of Chrome, my tab selections are remembered on that computer. The same goes when I’m in the classroom. Chrome remembers my open tabs for each computer I use. If you want Chrome to do this, click on the three hotdogs in the top right corner, scroll down to “Continue where I left off.” Whaaaalaaaah!

Gliffy Diagram

I was just reviewing how the TPACK model fits in with Google training, and I thought it would be important to take some notes on that matter. I launched a blank document and started writing. I was quickly thwarted when it came to draw TPACK. Sure, I could have turned to a Google search, but I 1.) like making my own stuff, 2.) wanted it Google flavor added to the model. I started using Google Drawing, but man, that was looking ugly. So, I turned to the Gliffy ad-on. What a nice surprise!

Omnibox Searches Drive Too

I am lovin’ the Omnibox in Chrome this morning. Not only can it execute unique searches, you can use it to search Google Drive. This morning I needed to access a syllabus for my course “Ed Media Apps.” I opened a new tab in Chrome and started typing the first few letters. Whaaallaaah!!! Chrome searches my Google Drive account too. If I were to keep typing, Chrome will eventually stop searching in Drive and just conduct a normal search in Chrome.


I love being able to search Drive right from Chrome. How amazing this that?!

Reflecting on Google Maps #WCSS15

This March I had the privilege of presenting at the Wisconsin Council of Social Studies conference in Madison, WI. This conference is new to me since I haven’t really taught Social Studies as a class before. What a gem of a conference! I decided to share something I enjoy — Google Map tools. After becoming Google Certified and attending a Google Academy, I’ve made a commitment to immerse myself into Google Apps as much as possible. Google Maps happens to be one of those tools that just melts my mind. A good friend, Kurt Wismer, taught me a lot about Google Maps at the Midwest Google Summit in the Fall of 2014. I wanted to share bits and pieces of that with the WCSS folks. Google Maps is useful for any teacher, really. It just happens to be even more useful for Social Studies teachers. In my hour-long presentation, I only covered a handful of tools. Below you’ll find a list of the tools I introduced. Note that I write If I were a classroom teacher because I’m not a K-12 classroom teacher. I teach in Higher Education. So, yes, I’m a classroom teacher, but I don’t teach classes that would benefit from Google Maps integration.


Basic Functions in Google Maps: I love the fact that if I don’t have an actual address, I can just search in generalities like “Historical Places in Milwaukee.” Google Maps will generate a list. It functions more like a search engine in that instance, only more focused. I also appreciate being able to drag my peg man on the map for street views; furthermore, I like to search for that orange dot. The orange dot signifies an interior Google street view. If street view doesn’t float my boat, I can just open the tray at the bottom and look at user-submitted photos or street views. In some of the bigger cities, I can even see floor plans. For example, check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Not only do I get a floor plan, I can change levels. MAPSOf course, getting directions is a blast, but I appreciate the fact that I can look at directions for walking, biking, driving, public transportation, and even via plane. Note, that both the public transit and plane options give you prices as well. Although these are considered basic functions, they really are quite layered. Google Maps is feeding in content from other sources, including users.


Fun Tools:

Google Maps Gallery (w/Data): This tool is a gallery of user-created Google Maps. For example, I made a map of Maker Spaces in Wisconsin. I see that map is now accessible in the gallery.

If I were a classroom teacher, I would comb this for interesting maps that might speak to lessons learned in class. For example, if I were talking about transportation options in various communities I could use this bike rental map to spur discussion on why this type of business might exist in the city of Chicago.


Google Night Walk: This tool sends the user on a street-view journey in France where people with beautiful accents describe your surroundings. It is fabulous if you’re a French teacher, or if you’re studying culture. During my presentation, the wifi and/or internet speed was not sufficient to make this behave as it normally would.

If I were a classroom teacher, I would use this if we were looking at France or if we were talking about European landscape or culture. I especially like the audio support. I, of course, would be sure to walk all of the paths first.


World Wonders (explanation vid): This tool gathers up multiple fantastic locations around the world and layers that information on Google Maps. I can view exhibits, items, street views, et cetera.

If I were a classroom teacher, I would use this to support global studies. The writing is above elementary writing, so I would support students in large group explorations or in small. I would also focus on examining the visual imagery.


Explore the Barrier Reef: Nuff’ said. Check this out. It’s awesome!

If I were a classroom teacher, I would have students explore the barrier reef under water. We would look at life under the water, and probably squeal at the sharks.


Earth View from Google Maps – This is a tool a student shared with the class. It is a Chrome Extension that when you click a new tab in Chrome, a high-resolution Google Earth image becomes your homepage for that tab. You can click on the name of the location, and you’ll be brought to that location in Google Maps for further study. If you don’t want to do that, you can use the omnibar to conduct a search or click “Default New Tab” to return to your usual home page.

If I were a classroom teacher, I would install this extension and use each new tab as an opportunity for discussion. Maybe once a day we could explore a new location. This extension makes the process really easy.


Build with Chrome – This tool is a favorite for my kindergarten son right now. Basically, I’m provided with a Google Map. I can plunk in an address or search for a location. Once I have selected my location, the tool drops a large base lego for me to build my building. My son worked on recreating our house.

If I were a classroom teacher, I would assign each student a community building in my town. Their objective is to make a simplified replica of that building. If that were to tough, students could design a model building of a particular community building might look like. I might save this tool for my kids that have a clear interest in Minecraft.


Indoor Maps (Loc) – This tool allows me to see interior “street-views” of select locations. It’s easiest to see this in Google Maps when I drag peg man over the map. As usual, the map will light up with blue lines to indicate a street-view. When I see any orange dots, I drag peg man right over those dots and let go. So far I’ve been in historical museums, cafes, and hotel lobbiesUnnamed image.

If I were a classroom teacher, I would be searching for an indoor map of every place we are studying in class. For example, when discussing transportation, I would walk through an airport if my students have traveled much. If we were talking about historical buildings, I’d walk through museums like this.


Go Back in Time – This tool allows me to see street views from today to “back in time,” often 2007. During my presentation, I accidentally dropped myself in front of a library in Madison. Little did I know, that library was built back in 2007, so when I went back in time, I was able to see the evolution of the building. To do this, I simply moved the timeline back to the desired year.


Google Crisis Map – This tool allows me to look at national weather conditions over Google Maps.


Google Sightmap – This tool takes all of the user-submitted photos and creates a heat map of those locations. The more the areas draw in user-submitted photos, the brighter the color. I can easily see that uploading to Panaramio is much more common in Europe than it is in the states. Or maybe people take more photos in Europe. 🙂

If I were a classroom teacher, I would use this with 4th or 5th graders depending on the scope and sequence of my district’s social studies curriculum by connecting locations, people, or events in history or readings to locations in this tool. I’m a bit torn on this one because while I love the layering with user-generated information, I can’t ensure that 100% of the information is safe.


My Maps – This tool allows me to create custom maps to share with others. For example, I made a map of locations to take field trips in Southwest Wisconsin. I have also made maps by having people fill out Google Forms. I then imported that spreadsheet data into My Maps and wha-lah!

If I were a classroom teacher, I would email a form home to parents asking them to share a Google form with as many family members as possible. The form would simply ask where respondents are from. That data would then be plugged into a Map to show how far our families reach. This also might spark future connections for Google Hangouts. I would also use My Maps to create custom maps that reflect places traveled in a book or places learned in Social Studies lesson.


Add Photospheres of your community – This tool allows me to create my own photospheres. A photosphere reminds me of a virtual tour of real estate. You’ve seen those before, right? Same thing. Except now we all can do theme using the Photosphere setting on your phone or tablet. You can also download Google Camera, although the app crashes on my phone. I have only done this successfully once using my Nexus 7 tablet. I went into the center of the Wisconsin Capital and snapped a series of shots that produced a 360 degree spin. I chose not to upload it because 1.) I messed up in one spot, 2.) Several people ended up in the photosphere. I felt weird about publishing it. Just an FYI — Read the directions on how to make a good photosphere. I neglected to keep my hands at the same position. I would think a tri-pod with a good swivel would solve that problem.

If I were a classroom teacher, I would find as many devices as possible and teach my students how to make a photosphere. I then would take them to a local park or government building. Students will learn about the community by engaging with it.


Add photos using Panaramio  – This tool allows users to upload photos to Panaramio. Each of those photos include a description and map coordinates. If approved, those photos are then visible in Google Maps and in Google Earth. I forget that I have to be really patient. The approval process can take a month. I have an old Panaramio account with about 40 mapped photos; here is my new account I started this spring.

If I were a classroom teacher, I would find as many devices as I could for field trips and assign them to responsible students or chaperones. Students then would photograph memorable places on the field trip. That night, under my account, I’d upload all of those photos to my Panaramio account. I might indicate the original photographer with initials if I could figure that out. I think the students would get a kick out of knowing their photo could eventually show up in Google Earth and/or Maps. I wonder how that would improve their ability to notice landmarks, important features, and artifacts. 🙂


Each time I start writing about a new tool, I find myself wanting to write, “This is my favorite Google Maps tool!” In reality, I love all of them, and I even skipped a bunch. Google Maps has now become a multi-layered, user-influenced, research tool that knocks down classroom walls. I can’t wait to keep learning!


Here is a slide show of my presentation:

Participate in the #MWGS Conference From Afar!

Midwest Google Summit

The Midwest Google Summit is the premier event for Google workshops. This year the conference sold out in five hours! Many people that wanted to attend, could not. Despite that bad news, teachers all over the globe will still be able to participate thanks to Twitter and Google+.

On Monday and/or Tuesday, visit twitter and search for the #mwgs hashtag. There you will find the top Google teachers in the Midwest talking everything Google. I promise you’ll 1.) find new people to follow, 2.) connect with amazing educators (Yeah, you should talk to them!), and 3.) pick up great ideas for Google integration that you will need!

#MWGS on Twitter

Midwest Google Summit on Google+

Here’s what you have to do for me:

  1. Jump on twitter during Monday or Tuesday during the day and search for the #mwgs hashtag. You’ll be flooded with chatter! Talk to people. Ask questions. Retweet awesome finds. Follow new people. Bookmark cool finds! Tweet discoveries to your followers using the hashtag #SOE2010, #SOEPDS, or #SOE4090.
  2. Make a stash of awesome stuff you find because of your participation. You could just send all of your great finds to Diigo, Pearltrees, or Pinterest.

When I return on Thursday, I’m going to have you share your findings. Your findings have to come from new people tweeting with the #mwgs hashtag. Trust me, you’ll find an amazing amount of information!


Your mind will be flooded with great ideas. 🙂