GAFE tricks and tips
The more you work with Google Apps for Education, the more quick hacks and tricks you find to make them work best for you. As much as we all love GAFE, no tool can do it all, and you need to be adaptable in order get things done that help you and your students succeed. If you're like me, you been shown, and discovered, some quick tips and tricks for many of the GAFE components. I thought I'd start a list (that will inevitably grow) of some of the ones I've found most useful:
1. Force copy - Unless you are handing something out through Google Classroom you've probably run into the trouble of making sure other people are making a copy of your work and not editing your original or have trouble with the process of copying. Use force copy to shorten the process and ensure the recipient has a editable copy of your document all to themselves. All you need to do is replace the end of the link from your edit screen with the word 'copy' and copy that link to anywhere easily accessible to your desired audience.
I have used the force copy link to share out templates with students and to allow professional development participants easy access to documents they can customize or take notes on. You can use the force copy trick for just about every GAFE tool (Docs, Sheets, Forms, and Drawings) So stop worrying about outsiders ruining your documents and start spreading the love!
2. Tables in Google Docs - You are probably familiar with the ability to insert tables in a Google Doc, but have you redesigned the purpose of this ability? When first implementing Google Docs many teachers jumped at the chance to create digital worksheets, but quickly had issues with where the content created by students should go to make the activities easy to view and provide feedback for. By creating a simple 1x1 table underneath a question you require a written response for, you now have a text box that will grow with any amount of content and keep answers organized on the page.
No need to stop at a 1x1 table. Inserting a mute-cell table enables you have students respond to more complex questions and help continue developing critical thinking questions and answers.
3. Page size in Google Slides - Adjusting the page size in Google Slides is a quick and easy way to adapt the standard presentation format into something different and engaging for the students. A simple change to 8.5in x 11in will create a great magazine template that can be easily shared and worked on by an entire class.
One of our AHS English teachers used this formatting trick to create a wonderful literary magazine (Nepsamerg 2016) that her students were able to quickly and easily edit and publish. The formatting made basic graphic design easy for all students and enabled each one to put a personal touch on the final product.
4. Google Slides backgrounds in Google Drawings - If you have really taken on the use of Google Slides as a presentation and student-work tool in your classroom then you need to take advantage of your ability to customize the backgrounds using Google Drawings. Change the page size to match your slide and create a slide background that cannot be manipulated or erased by another user (unless they change the background as a whole...). This is a great way to make assignments using Google Slides that can be shared out via Google Classroom.
Make sure once you have created an image you want to use as a Slides background that you download it as an image file type (preferably a .jpg or .png) or Slides won't recognize it as a viable option.
5. Pre-filled Google Forms - Are you using Google Forms to collect all types of information from staff and students? In the case when you want to collect some individual information, but also have pieces that will be the same for anyone submitting you can utilize pre-filled forms to get what you need and keep a consistency for certain questions. Our district has found this extremely useful when creating registrations for in-district courses for staff. The pre-filled Google form creates a great roster that can then be shared with HR.
This is used in my district to have staff create registrations for in-district course offerings that require rosters for HR. Course Instructors can then easily collect information from interested staff members while keeping some of the important information for HR consistent.
6. Photo editing in Google Drawing - Photo editing can be complicated, but if you're in need of basic and simple changes insert you picture into Google Drawings for a quick way to resize, crop, fade, brighten, contrast, or recolor.
This skill set is very similar to creation of Google Slides backgrounds mentioned in trick #4. One thing to remember is to make sure to download the file as a photo (.jpg, .png, or .svg) in order to have it be recognized by other programs as an image.
7. Limiting Sharing Options - When you want to share a document with your colleagues or the world you may be hesitant to put it out there for anyone to take share with others or create their own copies and use your work without giving you credit. Recently added are two options to limit others abilities to share you documents. When you go to 'advanced options' options you can now select to "Prevent editors from changing access and adding new people" and "Disable options to download, print, and copy for commenters and viewers".
These options are great for sharing sensitive information that you would only like a specific group to see or safely sharing others work with a larger audience without the worry of work being taken without permission.
There you have a few ways to get the most out of your GAFE tools. The more we use GAFE the more ways we find to make sure they work best for our needs. I have no doubt that I'll be updating this post with more tips and tricks as time goes on, but if you have any that work for you, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Director of Technology for Traverse City Area Public Schools. Level 2 Google Certified Educator. Former Tech Integration Specialist and 4th grade teacher at Aspen School District and Spartan for life! Go Green!