Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Google Keep - under-utilised but very useful

Google Keep is a free service that is simple to use, surprisingly powerful and has a lot of potential to be useful to students. Basically, it's a simple note-taking app with a bunch of little features that add up to a great deal of value. 

Every individual thing that Keep does is probably done better by either Google Drive, EverNote or Trello. The difference with Keep is that it does ALL of these things in one place, and is really simple to use.


It's Google, so everything can be shared, just like Google Drive. No great advantage over Google Drive, except when combined with other features from elow, such as lists...


Google Keep is brilliant for shopping lists (I've been using it for years) not just because it's quick and easy, but also because it does tickbox lists really nicely. A shared tickbox list could be really useful when you're trying to organise something...

Location-based reminders

Keep does the usual time-based reminders, but also location-based reminders. So when you get to a place, it will do the reminder you wanted it to.


Just like Trello, everything can have colour-coded customer labels. These could help students to keep their different subjects separate


Using the Keep app on your phone means you can take photos for your notes. Students regularly take photos of notes on the whiteboard etc - if they did this in Keep, they could then have them separate from their normal photo stream, and use labels to organise them by subject topic.

Text recognition

If students take a photo of text, Keep can turn it in to actual text

Convert to Drive document

Anything in Keep can be exported as a Google Drive document

Audio notes and text-to-speech

A note can be a recording made on your phone. Which will be automatically converted to text - reasonably reliably in my experience!

Works across devices

I have the Keep app on my phone, and also in a web browser. Great for "on the go" updates to lists, checking etc.

Final thoughts

If you look online, there are some great examples of how students can use Keep as an effective learning tool. It's not particularly high-powered, but it is really low friction. And all the little features addu pto one big pile of usefulness. You could encourage individual students to use it, if they're struggling to organise their learning, and it may even be a whole-class tool. Plus of course, you should have it on your phone, as it's a really handy little tool for keep ing quick notes, either text, audio or organised photos.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Adding Forms as Assignments in Google Classroom

There are advantages to adding a Google Form as an 'Assignment' in Google Classroom instead of just sharing it or adding it as an announcement. Watch the video or scroll down for more details.


  • It will automatically show which students have 'DONE' and 'NOT DONE' the form
  • It allows you to make sure everyone completes the form efficiently 

How to:

  • Create the form in Google Drive as a normal form
  • In Google Classroom, add an assignment the normal way then browse to drive and locate the form to add
    • Note 'Google Forms' and other items from drive will always be located in drive, so always use the Google Drive symbol not the 'paper clip' symbol to access them

Extra Links:

Remember there are a lot of tutorials online for Google Forms and Google Classroom Assignments etc... 

Google Classrooms Assignments:  

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Trello - workflow software

If you have students who need to organise their tasks in complex outcomes then you might well want to look at Trello. It's a useful planning and productivity tool for individuals that is also particularly good for groups.

Here's a 5 minute overview: http://help.trello.com/article/899-getting-started-video-demo

Trello is not the only option for this kind of productivity software, but it is widely used because it is powerful and intuitive to use. And free!

"Sign up with Google" is a Trello option that works with our student accounts. I insist that students do this so there's no danger of forgetting passwords etc.

The Trello website has excellent resources on how to use it https://trello.com/guide but I want to share how it can work in the classroom. A picture says a thousand words, so here's two thousand words worth. These are screenshots of "Live" Trellos actually being used by students.

The minimum useful columns for an agile Trello are "To Do", "Doing" and "Done" but there's no rules - go with whatever works for the students, and let them decide for themselves. Once they've got these columns they can start breaking down the project into cards in the "To Do" column.

Students often need guidance in breaking down tasks. I find that if I don't do this, students will create very general cards such as "Do all graphics" or "Complete game", which are actually no help in chunking and allocating tasks.

Students working in a group will share a single Trello board. One option is for each card to be assigned to a person, but in a small group or small project this is probably unnecessary.

You can use labels to colour code different categories of task (i.e., we often have a "Programming" label and an "Asset creation" label). Again, this might just be unnecessary overhead for smaller projects.

As you can see from the screenshots, Trello is being used here in an authentic way that actually contributes to a high-quality outcome. These students are using the tool because they see the value in it, not because I told them to.

The Trello mobile app is great. What can work well is to set up most of the Trello board on a "proper" computer, and then use your phone as a quick and easy way to update status of tasks.

Finally, don't overlook the value of Trello in your own life! I've found Trello to be genuinely helpful when completing complex tasks such as organising school trips or getting renovations done. Try it for yourself and you'll have a much better idea of how to use it with students