Tech Tip Tuesday: Favorite Google Tools

For our last Tuesday Tech Tip of the year, MaryFran and I decided that we should share our Five Favorite Google Tools.

Mary Fran’s Favs

Five…how could we possibly narrow the number of favorite Google Tools to 5? It has been more challenging than I would have guessed In the end, I decided to chose the five tools I use most.

Most people have their first encounter with Google through Search. They expect to be able to ask a question and get their answer in return. I am continually amazed at the quality of the results and the number of Search Features Google offers. Recently, the Google Search team put together a series of 15 Second Search Tips. The topics range from Unit Conversion to finding local Movie Times. It’s always good to go back and refresh your memory on all Search has to offer.

Search Options, added to the Search page in May, lets you filter your results by type, time, and even offers suggestions for related searches. If you haven’t yet looked at Wonder Wheel you ought to give it a try.

Custom Search
A feature of Search that I like that we haven’t covered is Google’s Custom Search Engine. Being a third grade teacher, setting my students loose in the World Wide Web can sometimes be a bit scary. When I assign third graders to do a research presentation on spiders in the Media Center, I don’t want to have to worry about what results they are going to get for [black widow] and since I want to incorporate teaching skimming and scanning skills, I want to make sure my primary students can read the results they get. So, I set up a Google Custom Search to limit the sites they have access to by simply dropping the URLs for the websites I’ve pre-screened into a form.

My favorite characteristic of Docs is its collaborative feature. It has helped Colette and me coordinate our schedule, my third grade team and I work together on the Educational Action Plan while I spent two weeks in Buffalo in September, my grade level team share grades for our rotation students, and my students to put together two presentations while working on it at the same time in the Media Center (thank you, Kelli Glass for putting up with the noise and confusion). And because it is all stored in “the Cloud,” I have access to my Docs wherever and whenever I have a device that can access the internet. This came in super handy when I went to give a presentation with my laptop and forgot to bring along the connector to hook my Mac up to the projector…I was able to turn on their Dell and access my slides!

Another favorite feature of Docs is Forms. I used it to collect phone numbers and e-mail addresses at back-to-school night, thus avoiding having to decipher a parent’s handwriting :-), to collect information from students on science observations, reactions to our field trips, to “vote” in the November elections, to gather “book report” information, and so much more. It is so easy to set up and the summary information provides instant graphs, and the kids love working online in the classroom or from home.

While it took a bit getting used to, I love, love, love, Gmail’s threaded conversations. It is so nice to have all of the communication on a subject right there, in chronological order to refer to. But when that doesn’t work in finding that e-mail I want to refer back to, Search Mail always seems to come through for me.

It is very easy to filter messages to have them go to separate folders, and Google has done an amazing job at keeping SPAM out of my inbox. I also like getting a view of my Calendar and Tasks from the one screen I use most.
I am very excited to see how Google Wave will transform the “email” experience.

Colette’s Fab Five

My favorite Google tools are similar to MaryFran’s choices – but I guess that shows how valuable these products are.

I’ve been using Gmail since it first was in Beta and love it.  It keeps getting better and better.  I first loved how the conversations were linked together and have learned how to “search” for mail instead of wasting time organizing my mail into folders.  The integrated tasksand calendar features are really nice.

Docs / Forms
Using Google Docs& Spreadsheets this year with my HS Computer students has been transformational.  Students are much more willing to collaborate on projects instead of relying on one student to do more of the writing.  We have found so many uses for Forms, like surveys, data collection, and quizzes.  I am even moving all my lesson planning documents online to keep them updated and accessible from anywhere.

Personally I use maps all the time.  How did I ever find any location before Google Maps?  But now I find that I first go to maps to choose restaurants, accommodations and parks by using the “search nearby” feature.

My students also enjoyed mashing up Google Maps with photos, text and video this year.  Having the ability to go between Google Maps and Google Earth is also pretty cool!

I’ve convinced my whole family to start using Google Calendarthis year and now its easy to remind them of important dates and upcoming events.  I color-code different categories (family, school, PD, etc) to make it easier to glance at my calendar and see what’s happening or sort by category.

Last but not least is Google Search.  I love the new Search Options that I wrote about last week.  I use search for everything — recipes, questions, health information, current events – you name it.  I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t use Google search for something.  I find the results relevant and accurate but always have the option to narrow down or broaden my search with advanced search or the new options.

MaryFran and I met nearly a year ago at the Google Teacher Academy. At the end of a jam-packed 12 hour day, we were challenged to stretch ourselves to learn more about all that Google has to offer and to make a plan to share what we learned with other teachers. As one of our three projects we were asked to commit to, we decided to take on the task of putting out a weekly tech tip for our staffs. It’s been great for the two of us and hopefully you learned something too.

We will not be doing Google Tech Tips Tuesday again next year but I am planning on continuing weekly Tech Tips but branch out to other technology resources.

Once again, thank you for all support and encouragement you’ve given us over the year.
~MaryFran Lynch and Colette Cassinelli

Tech Tip Tuesday: new Google search options

This past month Google unveiled some very helpful Search Options.  Search Options are a collection of tools that allow you to view your results in new ways.  After you search, click on the “show options” link in the upper left hand side of your screen.  This reveals ways you can redefine your results.

The options are grouped together by their type and you can combine options for more precise searches.  The explanation for these features is taken from the Google Search help:

Video: You can sort videos based on their attributes, such as length or date.

Forums: For each result, you can see, among other details, how many people have contributed to the discussion and when the last reply was posted.

Reviews: See results from sites that specialize in posting reviews.

Recent Results: Google automatically optimizes the time period used for your filter to make sure that the most relevant and recent results are included. (This option is only available when All results is selected in the first group of options.)
Past 24 hours / Past week / Past year Use these options if you want to find web pages from a specific period of time.

Images: See image thumbnails from the page alongside the snippet for each result.

More Text: Snippets give you a preview of how words from your search term are used within each result. Click this option to get longer snippets, which will let you see more examples of your search term for each result. Longer snippets can also be useful if you have a lengthier search phrase

Related Searches / Wonderwheel: If you’re ever unsure about the precise terms you should use for your search, start out with a broader search term (e.g. [ principles of physics ]), then use the Related searches and Wonder wheel options to discover alternative search terms.

  • The Related searches option puts related searches at the top of the results page.
  • The Wonder wheel visually presents connections between related searches and your search term as an interactive diagram. Click the different nodes in the diagram to see how searches can branch out.

Timeline: See results along a timeline, which is a handy view if you’re researching information about a historical person or event. You can click any section in the timeline to zoom in on that time period.

Don’t want to see the search options on the sidebar?  Just click on hide options and your search results turn back to normal.  Also don’t forget to clik on the Reset Options to stop filtering if you choose to narrow your search by time or category.

Ideas for classroom use:

  • Use Wonder Wheel to teach students how to narrow down their search results by clicking on one of the related terms on the wheel.
  • Use the Timeline view to see when certain terms (like: swine flu) show up throughout history.
  • the Past 24 hours option is great to help you find information about current events.
  • Use Reviews to assist is making purchases for the classroom.

Watch a video overview of search result options

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Tasks

By MaryFran Lynch

About this time in the school year there seem to be so many things going on I am constantly afraid something important will slip through the crack. I’ve always written lists on paper, but then as often as not, find myself in a different place than my list or rewriting my list as I cross things out or want to add to it. Enter Google Tasks.

Google Tasks helps you keep track of everything that needs to be done by creating lists and setting due dates, and, because it is stored online, it is available whenever and wherever you have access to the internet.

Tasks in Gmail

To use Tasks in Gmail, you’ll have to enable it in your Gmail Settings.

Find Settings to the right of your e-mail address at top of the page.

Once in Settings, select Labs, and finally choose to enable Tasks. Don’t forget to Save your changes before you return to your Inbox. Once this is done, you’ll find Tasks right below Contacts in the left-hand side bar.

When you select Tasks, it’ll open at the bottom right of your window. To begin your list, just click in the Tasks window, start typing, and press enter. You can now enter another task. You can also enter tasks by using the + button at the bottom of your list.

Add dates and notes to your task by selecting the arrow at the right of your task.

Here you’ll be able to enter a due date and add notes to your task. You can switch tasks between lists using the drop-down list.

Actions will let you create a list with sub-tasks, reorder your list, or sort your list by due dates.  Don’t forget to check off a completed task, to have that great feeling of accomplishment. You never have to delete a completed task. You’ll be able to “Hide completed tasks” to get an uncluttered view of what’s on your list. Later, you can chose to “View completed tasks” to see how much you’ve done.

Notice that many of these tasks have keyboard short-cuts for the busy person.

Most people like to keep their lives segmented, keeping their work to-do list separate from their home chores list, etc. You can create as many lists as you need by clicking on the list icon in the bottom right-hand corner. Google Tasks helps you keep track of it all.

Probably the coolest thing about using Tasks in Gmail is automatically adding a task to your list while reading an e-mail. While the e-mail message is open, press Shift + T and the title of the message will automatically be recorded in your list of tasks. You can then edit it for due date and add notes. Right beneath the task will say “Related email.” Click on in, and you’ll be taken back to the original email, saving you time!

Tasks in Calendar

Any task lists you have created in Gmail will automatically appear in your Google calendar. When you choose the Tasks link, the Tasks list will appear on the right side of your calendar.

You add and manage tasks much like you would in Gmail, but with a few added features. Tasks that have due dates will automatically appear on your calendar in the All Day section. To add a task with a due date, click in the All Day section of a day, or on the date in Month view. You’ll get an “Edit details” balloon. Select Tasks to enter information. It is easy to change the date of a task in Calendar. Just drag the task to the new date (just like you would with any calendar event).

Even More

If you like keeping track of things on your iGoogle page, you can choose to add Tasks as a gadget.  You’ll have to search for it; just type [tasks] in the “Search for gadgets” box. It’ll return “Tasks (Labs).” Choose “Add it now” and it will appear on your iGoogle page.

Not only can you now access your tasks from any computer or device that is connected to the internet, you can even access and manage your Tasks list from your iPhone or Android mobile phones. Now there is no longer a need to carry scraps of paper with notes around.

For more information about Tasks check

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Groups

If you have a club, team or any type of group that you need to communicate with – consider creating a Google Group.  Google Groups allows you to manage and archive the mailing list for your group.  You can share files, create shared webpages within your group, and archive posts. Group members can create profiles including a photo and quote.  Group administrators can customize the look of the group site and members can read posts online or sign up for email notification.

Here are some other ways you can use Google Groups:

  • Organize meetings, conferences or social events among a private list of group members
  • Collaborate on projects or presentations using customizable wiki pages and file storage sections
  • Find people with similar hobbies, interests or backgrounds
  • Learn more about topics of interest such as sports, health or philosophy
  • Stay in touch with old classmates, coworkers and friends

To get started just follow these steps:

  1. Click the “Create a group…” button on the Google Groups homepage If you’re not already signed in to your Google Account, sign in, name your group, and fill out the other required information.
  2. Enter the email addresses of the people you’d like to invite to your group. If you’d prefer to directly add your members, click the “Add members directly” link. (Copying and pasting an existing list of email addresses into this form is one easy way of populating your group.)
  3. Write an invitation or welcome message, and select an email subscription option for your members if you’re directly adding them.
  4. Click the “Invite members” or “Add members” button. Google will send notifications or invitations to your group members.

There are two ways to submit a post to your group:

1.  Visit the homepage and click the + new post button in the colored Discussions bar on the right side of the page.

2.  You can also send an email to your group’s email address. The subject line of the email will be the title of the post, and the body of the email will be the content of the post.  Remember:  You can reply to anyone’s post on the discussion page or by email.

Many Google Groups activities don’t require you to have a Google Account, while many others do.

Activities that don’t require a Google Account:

  • Reading posts in public groups
  • Searching for groups, posts, or authors
  • Posting to groups via email if they are unrestricted or you’re already a member
  • Joining a public Google Group via email

Activities that require a Google Account:

  • Creating and managing your own Google Group
  • Posting to groups via our web interface
  • Creating pages and uploading files
  • Subscribing to a Usenet newsgroup and receiving posts via email
  • Joining a Google Group via our web interface
  • Changing your subscription type (No Email, Abridged Email…)
  • Reading a restricted group’s posts online

Don’t have a need to have your own group?  Consider joining one of the many public Google groups located at the Google Groups directory

For more information how to use Groups or manage your group go to

Tech Tip Tuesday: Picasa 3.0

By MaryFran Lynch
Cross-posted at

Look out iPhoto, Picasa 3.0 is about to give you a run for your money.

Picasa is a free, downloadable, photo editor now available for Windows XP, Vista, Linux and Mac platforms. It is easy to download and not only keeps track of your photos no matter where they are on your computer, it also has some photo editing features I haven’t found for free anywhere else. It super easy to use and fun to play with. There are a lot of great features, but before you can get started, you’ll have to download a free version.

Getting your Free Software

Here are the links to download the version you need. One word of caution, you’ll need to have an Intel Mac to take advantage of Picasa 3.0. If you have an older Mac, you’ll still be able to use Picasa Web Albums. You’ll want to check back next week, when we talk about those.

Once you download the program, you’ll have to install it like you would any software program. Decide where you want to have it reside, and open.

If you think you’ll need more help installing Picasa, here is a website that’ll help:  MyPicasaDownloads

Picasa will scan your computer and find your pictures and movies wherever they are on your computer, including ones you even forgot you had. Picasa won’t move them, it’ll just keeps track of where they all are. On a Mac, it will even integrate your iPhoto library. The program works with JPEG, GIF, BMP, PSD, and movie files and is compatible with most digital cameras. Just think of the time you’ll save trying to locate that photo you knew you took on vacation in 2004.

When Picasa is done, it’ll open the Library page. You’ll notice that your media will be organized in Folders or in Albums.

Folders in Picasa contain your media and will appear in chronological order. They represent actual folders on your computer’s hard drive that contain photos. Be careful because changes you make to folders in Picasa will affect the corresponding folders on your computer’s hard drive. For example, if you delete a photo from a folder in Picasa, it will delete the photo from your hard drive. There are different views of your Folders available, you’ll Albums, however, exist only in Picasa. You can create an album that contains combinations of photos from multiple folders. For instance, you might want to have an Album of your favorite photos. While they can be found inthe album, you’ll also be able to find them in their folder. Unlike Picasa folders, your albums don’t correspond to real folders on your hard drive. When you delete or move photos from an album, the original files remain in their original locations on your hard drive.

The main part of the window is called “The Light Box.” Beneath it, you’ll find a status bar giving you information about the Folder you are viewing. Beneath that, you’ll see the Photo Tray. Here is where you drag your photos when you want to create an album or edit them.

As you are adding a number of photos to your tray, you might have some you know you want to hold onto. The green lightening icon “Holds” the selected picture in the tray until you “Clear” it by selecting the red circle. The bottom icon in that row, adds the pictures in the tray to an Album.

Basic Editing

Picasa never changes the original image of your photo. It just keeps track of the changes you made and you’ll be able to see them in a copy. Select a photo you’d like to edit. It will appear in your Photo Tray and the Editing menu will appear on the right. You can select Basic Fixes which includes things like red-eye reduction and cropping, but also lets you straighten a photo, add text, or retouch the photo. I’m Feeling Lucky lets the computer figure out auto contrast and auto color changes to your photo.

Tuning lets you add light to a dark photo by using the slider, or add warmth to a bright photo. It’s also where you can touch up a photo. The wands on the side are the “I’m Feeling Lucky” changes you can ask the computer to automatically suggest. Notice the “Undo Tuning” tab in the left bottom corner. It will return your photo to the version you last had.

Effects gives you thumbnail views of the different effects.

There are four choices (the ones with the “1” in the corner) that simply give you one version of that effect. The rest all have sliders that let you adjust the amount of filtering,focus, or color saturation you’d like.

It is really fun to play around with these, and when you have the photo exactly the way you want it, the new version will be saved. Remember, Picasa never changes your original. It will always be saved in an “Orginals” sub-folder.

The best way to really learn about Picasa is to get in and play with it. Here are a few resources you might want to check out:

This is a video from Google introducing Picasa 3 to PC users. While some of the features are not yet available on Mac and Linux versions, there is still a lot of good information on Picasa.
Introducing Picasa 3 on YouTube

Here is a link to a HelpMeRick YouTube video, it is geared toward PC users but there are tips here for any Picasa User
Using Picasa – Part 1 on YouTube

This is the Google Help site for Picasa
Picasa Getting Started Guide

GeeksOnTour has a combination of free and paid subscription

Next week, we’ll talk about how to share your photos and Picasa Web Albums. In the meantime, enjoy learning about and playing with the photo editing features on Picasa.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Blogger

Blogger is Google’s blogging platform. A blog (short for Web log) is a Web page that serves as a publicly accessible journal for an individual or group. Typically updated daily, blogs often reflect the personality of the author or are based around a hobby or theme. The postings are organized chronologically. A blog post can be “commented” on by others, allowing for a dialogue on a the topic of the post.

blogger2Educators have embraced blogging as an authentic way to encourage reading and writing throughout the curriculum. It’s also a great way to share resources with other educators. More uses for blogging in education.

To get started with Blogger, go to and enter your Google username and password. Click the Create a Blog link to get started. Choose a name and address (URL) for your blog and one of the pre-designed templates. You can customize your blog’s design and add gadgets such as slideshows, user polls, or photos. If you want more precise control over your blog’s layout, you can also use the Edit HTML feature. Finally you can add information to your personal profile and customize how your blog looks.

bloggerAdding your first post is simple. Choose a title and add your information in the post area. You can choose basic formatting features such as fonts, colors, alignment, and bullets/numbering. You can insert images along with your text as well as hyperlinks and videos. Blogger accepts AVI, MPEG, QuickTime, Real and Windows Media files but they must be less than 100MB in size.

When you’re writing a post, you’ll have a space at the bottom of the form marked “Labels for this post. This allows you to create keywords for your blog posts.

By default, your blog is completely public, and can be read by anyone on the Internet. However, if you want to keep it private, you can do that, too. Your blog can have up to 100 authors and you can limit your blog to only be view by authors – which is great for private groups and organizations.

Check your school’s policy about using Blogger with your students.

Here are some examples of classroom or educator blogs that use Blogger:

Sarah, Plain and Tall Book Blog –

Student Reflections on Night –

Tech 4 ESL –

Web 2.0 Book study –

Math 306-04 –

Link to directory of educational blogs

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Sites Examples

Last week you learned that Google Sites is a completely online-based tool that allows you to create a simple or extensive web site. With a few clicks, you can create multiple pages, embed rich content, and even allow others to add and collaborate on content.  Sites brings together all of the other great Google tools – letting you easily embed Google Docs, Calendar, Picasa albums, and much more!

Types of Pages

  • Web page – A basic page that allows you to write content and embed gadgets.  This is your basic blank slate.
  • Dashboard – A two column webpage with four placeholder gadgets to make it easy to get started creating an overview of information or embed gadgets.
  • File cabinet – A page where you can upload and share files.  You can create folders for different subjects.
  • List – This page can be used to create to-do lists or assignment lists.  You can easily add or remove items.
  • Announcements – This a perfect tools for adding recent announcements to your page.  While much of your content remains static, this lets place time-stamped information anywhere on your site.

Exemplar Google Sites from schools or educators:

A Study of Politics for the Digital Generation…
At this site you’ll find links and lessons to help your students participate and learn about American political elections with online tools from Google. Explore ways to infuse 21st Century Google tools into your classroom during the election season and beyond. Next set up your own participatory Google Site for your students.

Digital Photography Lessons for All snapshots, this online workshop will explore the variety of ways digital photography enhances all curricular areas by integrating the elements of art and the geography of place into projects and assignments for students.

World History An example how a teacher uses a Google Site with his history class.  Includes syllabus, unit plans, assignments, and announcements. Love the embedded slide show of French Revolution hat projects!


Gone Google A website with listings of lesson ideas that incorporate Google tools.  Lesson ideas for Art, LA, Science, SS and Multi-discipline.

Greetings from …” Postcard Geography This is an online Postcard exchange Project.  Classes are invited to participate in a collaborative Google Map project. It is open to classrooms of all ages and any location. The main goal of this project is to share famous landmarks, locations, or unique aspects of your home state or region.

Online Learning Circles:  Building Knowledge through Collaborative Projects Learning circles is a structured form of collaboration that balances the value of individual ownership with collective responsibility for accomplishing shared learning goals.  This site is devoted to helping others understand what online learning circles share in common across all of these settings.

Seabasticook Valley Middle School Using sites for student projects and have quite a bit of integration with the other Google tools like Picasa Slideshows, Calendars, Links to blog posts in Blogger, etc.

Creating an Interactive Portfolio  with Google Sites – Using examples from my Google Sites portfolio developed by Helen C. Barrett, Ph.D

Tech Tip Tuesday Archive of weekly tips for using Google tools and products.

You can see that Google Sites can be used for any grade level or any subject area.  If you are looking for a flexible and easy to use online website creator – then Google Sites will work great.  You can even use it with your students to share projects, track assignments, share document sources and project planning. The pages can be customized with themes and your own logo!

Because Google Sites is built on a wiki foundation, all versions of your document are saved. This means you can always go back to early versions of the document and compare changes between different versions.  Another great feature is that Page subscribers can be notified when the page is updated.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Sites

By MaryFran Lynch

With Google Sites you can create custom web pages. As with many of Google tools, one of the great things (besides being free) is that you can collaborate with others on the creation and content of the pages. It is easy to share video, presentations, and calendars. You decide the level of sharing you would like to permit, and you can limit access to your site to small group or you can make it viewable by the public.

To get started, you will need a Google account. Once you sign in, you can find “Sites” under the “More” drop-down menu, or you can go to Here, you can choose to “Create new site.” It’ll take you to the page you will use to name your site, set up your initial security option, and chose a theme.

Once you create your site, adding content is as easy as using many text editors. Choose “Edit page.” You can now rename and add content to the page.

In the Edit mode, you can easily insert video, Google Docs documents, spreadsheets, spreadsheet forms, presentations, Picasa photo slide shows, calendars, or gadgets You can change the format, insert a table, or chose to have a two-column layout.

Once you save your page, you are taken back to your “home page.” To grant permissions and manage security, go to “Site settings” and chose “Share this site.” Here you can invite owners, collaborators, or viewers. While collaborators can add edit and add content to the site, owners have advanced permissions. If you would like to limit viewing to only a select group, make sure you have unchecked the “Advanced permissions” box. Now only people you invite by email will have access to the site.

Under “Site settings,” you can also “Change appearance” of the site. Add a custom logo, change the theme or the colors and fonts of the site, add background photos. The combinations are as endless as your imagination. Don’t forget to save your changes before returning to the site.

Each time you add a new page, you will have to “Edit sidebar” if you would like it listed. This is found at the bottom of the sidebar or can be done under “Site settings” > “Change appearance.” Under “Navigation” chose “edit.” You will need to add the page to the sidebar. Once there, use the arrows to move the pages around until they are in the order you’d like.

There are so many uses for Google Sites. My students use it to share their writing and class projects with family and friends. Colette has used it to manage an Online Safety Voice Thread project her students did.

Next week, we’ll feature websites that other people have made using Google Sites. But if you’d like to get started making your own Google Site, here are some resources to help:

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Earth curriculum ideas

by MaryFran Lynch

Google Earth can be wonderful to use to introduce your students to the places in their text books. You may want to create your own lessons or use some that have been made available to compliment your lessons. Here are a few you may be interested in:

Language Arts

Whether your class is reading,  Possum Magic by Mem Fox, By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleishman, or The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Google Lit Trips can take your students to the setting of the book and make the story come more alive with the pictures and resources available in the placemarkers.

Older students will enjoy seeing the places in Shakespeare’s Plays,   Jane Austen’s Life and Work, or John’s Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. These sites are found in the Google Earth Community along with numerous other resources.

Social Studies

Also found in the Google Earth Community is a map showing the westward explorations of Lewis and Clark.  The placemarkers take you to the website for more information.

See the California Missions Alta California and in  Baja California by exploring these sites.

Find out about the Crisis in Darfur or track the US Unemployment Rates at the Google Earth Outreach website. Look here for other Google Earth files from community and environmental action groups.

See what Ancient Rome looked like in 3-D. Walk down the streets of Rome in 320 AD and explore the insides of ancient buildings, all recreated in Google SketchUp.


Here are some places to check out for using Google Earth in math


Can you think of a better tool to teach geological map interpretation? Here is great lesson from On the Cutting Edge to help you get started.

Study the effect of Global Warming with this lesson from David R. Wetzel.

Just for Fun

  • Send a GeoGreeting . Have your message spelled out with buildings found in GoogleEarth.

There is so much available for Google Earth, and more resources being posted all the time. All it takes to implement these ideas is a free downloaded version of Google Earth 5.0 , and your lessons can take you (and your students) places.

Tech Tip Tuesday – Google SketchUp

SketchUp is a free downloadable software from Google that you can use to create 3D models of anything you can imagine.  People use SketchUp to create architectural, landscape, and woodworking models or just for fun!

You can build models from scratch, or you can download what you need from the Google 3D Warehouse . This is a huge, searchable directory of models – and just like most things from Google – it’s free.

How does SketchUp work?

First you must download the software and install the program on your computer.  It’s compatible with both Macs and PCs.  The latest version is Sketchup7 .  Schools can download Sketchup7 Pro for FREE.

To build models in SketchUp, you draw edges and faces using a few simple tools.  For example, you draw a rectangle and then use Sketch Up’s push/pull tool to make it 3D.  The models you made can be completely accurate to precise measurements.  You can use SketchUp’s Paint Bucket tool to paint your model with materials like colors and textures. There are many advanced techniques to make your models look realistic.

Younger students can “play” with the software to create models or diagram while at the same time practice important geometry concepts.   The 3D Warehouse contains puzzles and geometric mosaics that would be great for introducing math concepts.

Google Earth Integration

Creating models for Google Earth presents a unique challenge compared to everyday SketchUp modeling. You can place the models you make in SketchUp into Google Earth but you might want to watch these video tutorials first . Click HERE to view basic instructions of how to place your model in Google Earth.

Another thing you can do is include real world context for your models, such as aerial photos and terrain from Google Earth.

Case Studies

Check out the following case studies that have been submitted by the SketchUp K-12 Education community.  Apartment model (right) made by elementary student.

You might spark an interest in engineering or architecture by giving a student access to SketchUp.

Here are some ideas of how you might want to use it in your classroom:

  • Build a 3D model of your school.
  • Use SketchUp to visualize the geometry concepts you are teaching.
  • Create a 3D model of the California Missions and then incorporate those models into Google Earth.
  • Have students build a model of their houses.
  • When studying architecture of the past, create a 3D model of an ancient pyramid.
  • More ideas at Google SketchUp Teacher Guide


Tech Tip Tuesday: Even more … Google Earth

Guest post by MaryFran Lynch—even-more

Once you’ve downloaded Google Earth, you’ll be able to take advantage of some of Google Earth’s features you won’t find in Google Maps. Here are three features worth exploring.

As we all know, more than 70% of the Earth is covered by water. Google recently unveiled Google Ocean.

With Google Ocean, you can explore the deepest part of the ocean with marine experts, or learn about climate change and how it is affecting the ecology of the ocean and its inhabitants. To access this feature, click on Ocean in Layers in the left sidebar, and begin to explore the ocean depths by choosing the different features. Travel beneath the surface with Jacques Cousteau, watch BBC videos on the ocean, or search for shipwrecks. In the State of the Ocean layer, you can find out about the work the Monterey Bay Aquarium has been doing in their Seafood Watch program.

Prefer to explore the skies? Google Earth has a feature to help you explore stars, planets, and constellations.

Switch to Google Sky in the tool bar along the top of the screen. You navigate around the Sky, much as you do in Earth. Mouse over the upper right-hand part of the screen and your navigation controls will appear. Here you can zoom in or out. Chose a specific location to explore by using the search box as you would in Google Maps or Earth.

You’ll find lots of information in the Layers, once again found in the left-hand sidebar. You’ll find lots of great information by exploring the layers. Learn which constellations you can expect to see tonight from your backyard, and how to identify them by clicking on the Backyard Astronomy drop down features. The date and time slider in the upper left-hand corner lets you see how your view will change through a specific time frame, or you can watch the orbit of planets.

The Mars option features awesome images of our closest neighbor planet taken by NASA, along with detailed information we’ve learned from the Mars Rover.

Another recently added feature is Historical Imagery. Find this feature under the clock in the tool bar.

Use the slider to see how a location has changed over time.

Google Earth has so many educational applications! Google has teamed with Discovery Education to help teachers integrate Earth, Sky, Oceans, and Historical Imagery into your lessons. Here is a list of websites to help you get started:

Take a tour and discover what Google Earth has to offer. Now you can truly have the world at your fingertips.

Tech Tip Tuesday – Google Earth

by MaryFran Lynch

The nice thing about Google Earth is that if you have played with Google Maps at all, Google Earth is kinda like the next step. One of the big differences, however, is that you will have to download Google Earth to take advantage of its many features. As with many Google tools, you can download a version of Google Earth for free.

When you first open Google Earth, you’ll see a globe. You can “Fly to” anywhere by typing the location into the search bar. Once at that location, you’ll be able to move around much like you did in Google Maps. By mousing over the top right hand side of the image, you’ll activate the controls. With the zoom slider, you can zoom in or out. As you do, “Eye alt” in the lower right hand corner will tell you the elevation of your vantage point. As you get closer to the ground, the earth tilts to give you a different perspective.

There are two joystick controls, the look joystick, with the eye in the middle, use this to look in any direction and the move joystick, to navigate around.

Once you’ve had a chance to play with the controls, it’s time to explore the many features of Google Earth that make it different from Google Maps. Many of these are found in the “Layers” at the bottom of the left-hand column. Layers displays different information on top of the globe and can be turned on or off. My favorite layers are the “Terrain” and “3-D Building” layers. These layers make the world pop out. It is especially fun to explore volcanoes or canyons. Try looking at Mt. St. Helens with your students and ask them to tell you the direction of the lava flow. You can spend hours learning about the world by exploring the layers.

I’ve used Google Earth in my classroom to make the places we are reading about come to life. At the beginning of the year, we read The Talking Cloth by Rhonda Mitchell, and learned about the tradition of the adinkra cloth made in Ghana. At the same time, we were learning about the Ohlone Indians who were the original inhabitants of our area. Students were amazed at the similarities of their villages, and how different our neighborhood looked to the one in Ghana on Google Earth. In contrast, we recently read Night of the Pufflings, set in Iceland, by Bruce McMillian. When I asked students how they thought their lives differed from those of Icelandic children, one student offered that they played video games, while the students of Iceland probably didn’t know about video games. A quick “flight” to Reykjavik convinced them otherwise.

Next week we’ll look at some of the newer features of Google Earth. In the meantime, you might like to check out the Google Earth User’s Guide, or if you are a bit more adventurous, try taking a virtual flight to your next vacation destination and don’t forget to turn on the Panoramio layer.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Custom Google Maps

Custom Google Maps are a fun and interesting way to get students involved in map reading, measuring distances, learning about historic places or connecting places and literature.  There are so many ways you could incorporate Google Maps into your subject area – either by using existing maps made by users or creating original ones.  Consider using the Distance Measurement Tool to calculate the distance from one location to another in a custom map or check out some of these Google maps (need a Google account to view custom maps):

  1. Earthquakes in the Last week
  2. Famous places in USA – made by VCS 8th Graders
  3. California Missions(This is actually a Google Earth file but can be opened in Google Maps too),-119.817402&spn=8.488761,11.733398&z=6
  4. Horatio Alger’s New York – These are the places referenced in Ragged Dick, or Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks – 11th graders,-73.988854&spn=0.123562,0.183334&z=12
  5. Presidential Historic Sites
  6. Map your Clean Up the World Activity- A cool Google Map project
  7. Google Lit Trips
  8. GMdir:  an unofficial Google Maps Directory
  9. 100 Things to do with Google Maps Mashups Thanks to Angela Maiers for sharing this one!

There are also some cool gadgets you can add to your Google Maps to view clouds, contours, virtual tourism videos, crop circles, Wonders of the World and more at

Creating a custom Google map is easy. Here are the basic steps (you need to be logged into your Google account).  These are selected directions from My Maps User Guide :
Creating a Map

Creating a map is easy. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Go to Google Maps.
  2. Click My Maps > Create new map.
  3. Add a title and description for your map. You can make your map public or unlisted. Learn more.
  4. Use the icons in the the top right corner of the map. These include:
  5. Select button Selection tool. Use this to drag the map and select placemarks, lines, and shapes.
    Placemark button Placemark tool. Use this to add placemarks. Learn more.
    Polygon button Line tool. Use this to draw lines. Learn more.
    Shape button Shape tool. Use this to draw shapes. Learn more.

You can return to your map at any time. Just go to Google Maps and click My Maps. Sign into your Google Account and select the map from your list of maps.

Adding and Editing Placemarks

To add a placemark to your map:

  1. Create or open a map.
  2. Click Placemark button. Your cursor changes into a placemark icon with an “X” crosshairs. The crosshairs indicate where the placemark will fall.Placemark icon
  3. Move the cursor to the appropriate location. If you want to dismiss this placemark, press the Escape key.
  4. Click your mouse button to place your placemark. It should bounce into place.
  5. Add a title and description.
  6. You can also change the icon for your placemark by clicking the icon in the top right corner of the info window.
  7. Click OK to save your placemark.

To move or edit a placemark:

  1. To move any placemark on your map, drag and drop it to the new location. Note that you can only edit or move placemarks on your maps, not others.
  2. To edit a placemark’s title or description, click on it to open the info window. Edit the title and description and click OK.

Adding Rich Text or HTML Descriptions

By default the descriptions of your map items are in plain text. However, you can use rich text or HTML. To do this:

  1. Create or open a map.
  2. Click the appropriate placemark, line, shape. The info window appears.
  3. Click Edit.
  4. Choose Plain Text, Rich Text or Edit HTML.
  5. To edit rich text descriptions, select the text and use the icons above the description field:Rich text icons
  6. To use HTML descriptions, add HTML in the description field. Some HTML may be stripped from the description if it is considered unsafe or malicious.
  7. Click OK to save your changes.

Adding Photos

You can add photos to your map, as long as they are hosted online. Please use a service such as Google PicasaWeb or Flickr to put your photos online.

To add photos:

  1. Create or open a map.
  2. Click the appropriate placemark, line, shape. The info window appears.
  3. Click Edit.
  4. Choose Edit HTML.
  5. In Edit HTML mode, use the <img> tag to add photos. For example, <img src="" width=150 height=55> adds the Google Maps logo to your map with a width of 150 pixels and a height of 55 pixels.
  6. Click OK to save your changes.

Sharing Maps

Once you have created a map, you can share it with others. To do this:

  1. Open the map you want to share.
  2. Click Link to this page in the top right corner of the orange title bar. This will put the map’s URL in your browser navigation bar.
  3. You can share this URL with your friends by sending it in an email or posting it on your blog or website.
  4. You can also click the Email link in the top right corner of the orange title bar to open your default email client with the map URL in the email body.

Public and Unlisted Maps

  • You can choose to make your maps public or unlisted.
  • Public maps are maps that you want to publish and share with everyone. Public maps will be included in the search results on Google Maps and Earth.
  • Unlisted maps are maps that you only want to share with a few select people. Unlisted maps will not be included in the search results, so they are accessible much like an unlisted phone number — anyone who knows the specific URL of the map can view it, but there’s no directory or search for finding unlisted maps.

Viewing Your Maps in Google Earth

If you have Google Earth installed on your computer, you can view your maps in Google Earth. To do this:

  1. Create or open a custom map.
  2. Click the KML link or icon in the orange title bar. Google Maps uploads a KML file to your computer that you can open in Google Earth. How cool is that???

More information at My Maps User Guide.

An archive of all tips from Tech Tip Tuesday is located at

Tech Tip Tuesday – Intro to Google Maps

Most folks today rely on Google Maps to look up locations and print out directions to where they are going but there is so much more to Google Maps and new features are constantly being added.  You don’t need to have a Google account to use Maps unless you are going to create your own custom maps (more about that next week).

The Google Maps HELP page has a great diagram that describes some of the features available in Google Maps and you can even  watch easy-to-follow video tutorials.   Some features include:

  • Search, get directions, add destinations, save, share & print maps
  • Various views:  street, traffic, satellite, terrain
  • Layers:  photos, videos, Wikipedia
  • Left panel, Info window, navigational controls, my profile

A few of the features of Google Maps that I use often are the user reviews, more info and search nearby.

The “More info” link can contain great information such as photos of businesses, descriptions, restaurant reviews, links to driving directions and much more. Need to access the map again?  Save it to My Maps (need a Google account).

Let’s say you are thinking of checking out a new restaurant.  Search for the name of the restaurant on Google Maps.  Once you have located the placemarker on the map, open up the Info window.  Look for a link for “user reviews”.  Most of these reviews are from websites like,, and more (source).  Of course the reviews on the maps are not as detailed as the ones on the websites, but it can probably give you the information you need.

You can search maps in a variety of ways if you do NOT know the name of a particular business:

Just last term I wanted to order pizza for the Computer club but since I do not live close to school I did not know what businesses were nearby.  So, I first search for the name of our school and clicked on the placemarker to open the “More Info” window.  Then I selected “search nearby” and searched for pizza.  The next map that appeared show the location of our school and all of the pizza locations nearby.  How easy it that??

Of course, my students love to play around with Street view, turn on the photos, or zoom in on specific locations.  Next week I will give you ideas on how to use custom maps in your classroom and how you can open them in Google Earth.

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Tech Tip Tuesday – RSS and Google Reader

Stop spending hours looking for information online – have the information come to you. How can make this happen?   By using Google Reader and RSS

What is RSS?  RSS (real simple syndication) is the ability to “subscribe” to changes made on a website or blog. (Click here to view a video: RSS in Plain English)

First, you need to access your Google Reader.  Go to and sign in with your Google Account. This is where all of your subscriptions will be stored.

If you are not aware of which websites have RSS feeds, you can search for them by clicking on Add Subscriptions” button and search for feeds.  The search results will list websites that have RSS feeds for your topic.  Choose the one that interests you by clicking on the “Subscribe” button to add this information to your reader.  Now whenever that website has an update, you will be notified in your reader.  Unread messages are saved in “bold” until you read them.

If the RSS feed in incorrect or no longer useful, you can unsubscribe and you will no longer receive updates in your Google Reader.

There is another way to add feeds to your Google Reader. When browsing on a website, look for the standard RSS icon for subscription options. Click on the standard RSS icon. Most blogs have feed autodiscovery enabled, meaning the site will automatically tell Reader where to find a blog’s feed. If this doesn’t work, you’ll have to add the URL of a site’s feed directly. Find the RSS logo on the site in question, click it, and copy and paste the link into the ‘add subscription’ box.

If you can’t find an RSS logo on the site, the site may not offer RSS feeds.

Once you get into the habit of subscribing for news or information, you will find that you search less.  Stay up to date with breaking news, School updates, latest blog posts or news from your favorite website with RSS and Google Reader.

Once you become familiar with Google Reader, make sure you check out these cool features:

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