Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Chrome Apps, Extensions & Add-Ons: Another Round!

Minus the snow, a pretty accurate description of my days lately!
As of this writing, I have been on break for about a week and a half.  My last official day of work for 2016 was Friday, December 16.  I went into work on Monday, December 19 to work with my technology partner on completing an inventory of my school's Chromebooks (we have over 800 and the inventory lists were a mess!), but other than that, I have been somewhat "off the grid" for the past week or so.  I have kicked out a few tweets here and there promoting some upcoming events that CUE-NV is hosting (for me information and registration info, see my previous post here), listened to a few messages on Voxer (all of my Voxer friends must be off the grid too, it has been very quiet), but that is about it.  Like many people in education, I wanted/needed a brain break for a few days.  So instead of focusing on work, I have spent time with my family, my mother and sister came to visit for a few days, I took my 5-year-old daughter to see Rogue One (she fell asleep, but it gave me the opportunity to focus, and I thought it was an excellent film, I look forward to seeing it again before it leaves the theatre), and I have caught up on the DVR that continuously piles up during a typical work week.  However, that doesn't mean that I haven't had ideas or the itch to write during that time.

In the past few weeks, I have discovered some more great Google Chrome apps, extensions, and add-ons that have made my professional life easier.  I am sure that if you haven't used these tools before, you will find them to be just as amazing as I do!

If your account has been given
access to Team Drives, you will
see the option in your Drive like
in the image above.
Team Drives:  If you have a GSuite for Education account (formerly known as GAFE account) for your school and district, you may have seen this option appear in your Google Drive.  Essentially, Team Drives is an easier way to share and edit documents with a group of people.  The possibilities for employing Team Drives are endless!  I envision them to be used effectively for PLC teams, departments, grade levels, administrative teams, and so much more.  So how do Team Drives work?  A person creates a new Team Drive from their account and adds people to the Drive.  You can set different permissions for each person, from as little as view only to full access that allows people to add others, add files, edit files, and delete people and files from the Team Drive.   When somebody adds a file to the Team Drive, it automatically shares it with the other people within the Drive, NOT directly to their Google Drive.  All edits are in real time, just like a regularly shared Drive file.  If a person is removed from the Team Drive, they no longer have access to the files.  I have created a Team Drive for the technology team at my school to share all of our inventories and other technology related documents.  In addition, I created a Team Drive for my school's administrative team for easier access to documents like school/district policies, staff evaluation resources, sports schedules, and other files.  There are a few kinks that Google needs to work out, such as the ability to add an entire folder, rather than just files, but so far, Team Drives is a great new tool that will make the sharing and editing of files between individuals much easier.

Find both of these great add-ons in Google
Sheets by using the Get add-ons option 
Power Tools & Yet Another Mail Merge:  If you are like me, you used Google Sheets extensively.  You also need to communicate with your colleagues on a regular basis via email.  Two add-ons for Google Sheets, Power Tools, and Yet Another Mail Merge make using Sheets and communication more simplified.

Power Tools has numerous functions within the add-on that allows you to modify data within a sheet.  Some of the options include removing data (duplicates, extra spaces, blank rows/columns, etc.), clear data by type, change the formatting of numbers, split data into columns, and so much more.  I use the remove duplicate and remove blank rows function the most in my daily work.

Yet Another Mail Merge is a great way to send personalized emails to your colleagues.  Using data tags, the program will pull information from a spreadsheet, such as names, and insert it into an email draft that you create in your Gmail account.  You can send the email immediately or schedule it to be sent at a later time.  It even has a tracking function that allows you to see who has opened the message.  The free version of YAMM allows you to send to 50 recipients in 24 hours.  Since I communicate with about 150 people regularly, I spent $25 to buy the premium version for one year, which allows up to 1500 recipients in 24 hours.  I have yet to try it out, but you can also send personalized attachments to recipients through YAMM!

A QR code for my blog created using
The QR Code Extension.  
The QR Code Extension:  QR codes are a great way to differentiate instruction, share materials, and disseminate information easily.  The QR Code extension makes it easy to create a QR code for any web page!  The extension allows you to modify the QR code, even personalizing it with images (requires a third-party account, which is free).  Once you have created a QR code, you can modify the size of the code and download it as a .png file for placing in documents, presentations, websites, etc.

It even has a scanner embedded that allows users to scan QR codes using the webcam of a laptop, Chromebook, etc.  So instead of needing to use your smartphone or a tablet with a QR code scanning application, you can use the Chrome browser to scan a QR code!  Simply open the extension, select scan a code, and hold up a QR code to the webcam to scan it!

In closing, I can't help but take a moment to pay tribute to Carrie Fisher, who left us this morning (as of this writing).  Unlike many, or even most Star Wars fans, I did not become a fan until I was an adult.  I was never a big fan of science fiction growing up and my experience with the original trilogy as a kid was very limited.  I definitely did not see the prequel trilogy until recently.  However, I am definitely a full-on fan of the franchise (even the prequel trilogy, I don't think it deserves the relentlessly negative press that it gets; sure it's not as good as the originals, but what is?), my 5-year-old absolutely loves it, and I am working on my 20-month-old son.  Carrie and the rest of the cast of the 7 movies of the saga and Rogue One have definitely made an impact on me, my family, many of my friends, and society as a whole.  Not to mention her voicing of Angela on Family Guy is always good for a few laughs.  She will be missed and like too many other greats that passed on in 2016, she was taken way too soon.  As educators, we fight each day to revolutionize our craft and make our students and the world a better place.  Until next time, in honor of Princess Leia and the Star Wars franchise...