10 great obscure Google tricks for school, life

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Monday, September 1, 2014

10 great obscure Google tricks for school, life

10 great obscure Google tricks for school, life

Google’s products are widespread, so knowing all of them are next to impossible. Here are 10 you migh not know that can help your classroom or life.

Google is such a behemoth.

It’s next to impossible to count all of the apps it has produced, let alone all of the extra services and goodies that hide within its catacombs.

Google has a unique work atmosphere. It’s famous 20 percent time program (where employees have had freedom to pursue projects that interest them for 20 percent of their working hours) and atmosphere of collaboration.

Thanks to that atmosphere, we have some great tools at our disposal.

Unfortunately, there are many that we’ve never heard of — or have heard of but can’t remember how to find.

Here are 10 of them that you can incorporate into education or into life in general, and I’ll bet there’s at least one you didn’t know about!

obscure google teach parents tech1. Teach Parents Tech — This site, developed by some Googlers, is a tongue-in-cheek initiative to get the less tech-savvy some help. It allows users to generate messages to react to their recent technology use, provide them with tutorial videos and sign it with a personal touch. Videos include:

  • the basics (i.e. copy/paste and taking a screenshot)
  • the World Wide Web (i.e. creating a stronger password or making bookmarks)
  • communication (i.e. video chatting and changing an e-mail address)
  • media (i.e. resizing a picture and cropping photos)
  • finding information (i.e. how to check the weather or find a pizza restaurant)

Classroom use: Some of the videos are very useful things that I wasn’t exactly sure how to do. They might be worth showing students as a tutorial or posting on a class website for later reference.

2. Turn Off the Lights — Ever think that videos on websites would be better if there wasn’t as much distracting stuff around them? If you’re using the Chrome web browser, you can install an extension (click the menu button that looks like three lines, then go to “Tools” and “Extensions”) called “Turn Off the Lights.” This extension darkens the rest of the screen, giving more focus to the video that’s playing.

Classroom use: If you don’t want to make a video full-screen that you show in class, this is a simple way to keep students focused.

3. World Wonders Project — This project takes you places. Literally. (Well, digitally.) Produced by the Google Cultural Institute, this project delivers street view imagery and 3D modeling of great places around the explorable world and beyond (i.e. the Great Barrier Reef).

Classroom use: This is a great tool to use with virtual field trips. Take students to these places that they may visit. You could also play a “Where in the world are we?” game where you drop students in the middle of a World Wonders site and let them guess where they are.

4. Gone Google Story Builder — There’s something about watching people type words on a screen that somehow grabs our attention. Gone Google Story Builder takes advantage of that, allowing users to create music-infused text videos. Name the characters that do the typing and type their words for them. Then it shows up in a creative video form that can be displayed or shared.

Classroom use: Teachers can create Story Builder videos to show what historical characters would say (umm … type) if they were alive today. Students can create a dialogue between themselves and a teacher or someone else explaining what they’ve just learned.

5. Search Education — Googling something is easy. Googling it well and finding what you want (on a credible site, no less!) is much harder. Search education provides teachers and students with lots of resources for finding what they need in a search engine. It offers lesson plans and activities, a power searching tutorial, live trainings and more.

Classroom use: Any class that touches a Google search can benefit from this resource. This is a skill that students will likely need throughout their entire lives.

6. A Google A Day — A Google A Day challenges students to find very specific things online and then later gives them the answer to see how they did. It also provides coaching on which tools to use and how to use them well. They include culture, geography, history and science.

Classroom use: Language arts, math, social studies and science classes could potentially integrate the A Google A Day questions directly into their instruction. Students could do them in self-directed learning, and teachers could complete the challenges and then find ways to adapt them to their own content.

obscure google correlate7. Google Correlate — Ever wonder how often people searched for a certain keyword or term on Google over time? That’s where Google Correlate can help! It plots searches over time and shows correlated keywords as well. This search for the term “textbooks” shows how cyclical searches for them are. (Don’t think the “Ditch That Textbook” guy didn’t notice that searches for them were tailing off over time, either.) If it seems too confusing, there’s an awesome comic book explanation of how it works.

Classroom use: Searching for terms related to whatever your class is studying could yield some pretty interesting conversations in class.

8. YouTube Time Machine — (UPDATE — It appears that YouTube Time Machine is no longer active.) Remember that McDonald’s commercial from the 80’s where people would “Do The Arches” and make the McDonald’s “M” with their arms? The YouTube Time Machine will help you find videos like that and much more. Do a search for a specific keyword or move the year slider to find videos for a particular year. (By the way, here’s where you can watch the “Do The Arches” commercial.)

Classroom use: Classes can see how things have changed over time (public perceptions, designs, technology, etc.) or how certain things in history were portrayed by viewing videos on the YouTube Time Machine.

9. ViewPure — If you show YouTube videos in class and you’re like me, you’re normally worried about inappropriate ads and comments popping up at inopportune times. ViewPure can change that. It strips the ads and comments away from videos and allows “view pure”.

Classroom use: Display videos without worry to your classes.

10. OneTab — So many of us are “tab addicts,” keeping tons of tabs open in our web browsers and slowing down the performance of our computers. OneTab is a Chrome extension that takes all of your tabs and condenses them into a list of hyperlinks. If you want to go back to a tab you had open, just click the link in the OneTab tab in your browser to open it back up. Faster computer performance and a fix for your tab addiction.

Classroom use: Students can save links to recently-used tabs using OneTab. Teachers and students can share their tab lists with others using the share feature.

Do you know of other great Google products that others might not know about? What was the one you’re most likely to try/use? Share either in a comment below!

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  • Kathryn Zetts says:

    I was disappointed in viewpure. Maybe I originally misunderstood what it does.

    I was hoping that (since youtube is usually blocked from student devices) I could give the students a viewpure link to a youtube video, which they could then view on their own and answer questions about. However, this did not work, and the IT coordinator reiterated that the district does not allow youtube videos to be viewed on student devices. I went back to a youtube video on viewpure and realized that there were the words “youtube” down in the lower right-hand corner of the screen; clicking on that took me straight back to the normal youtube site, complete with possibly inappropriate comments and “what to watch next” suggestions.

    I appreciate that I can show a youtube video via viewpure without having to worry about potentially inappropriate stuff being shown.

    However, I’d still like to get those youtube videos into my students’ hands so that they can watch them at their own pace. Does anyone have any ideas of how I might do that? Many thanks!

  • barbara says:

    Do you know of HS Algebra 1 teachers doing this to refer me to through twitter?

  • We’re just digging into our Google Apps for Education suite and these will be a fantastic compliment. Thanks for the tips, Matt!

  • Great post Matt! Thanks!

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