Monday, October 22, 2012

Extemporaneous PD - Google Docs and PBWikis

On Oct 22, 2012 I met with most of the teachers at KBZ in plenary, my first opportunity to meet with them and explain to them what we were implementing with Google Docs since I arrived here in September.

Google Docs

I explained why we were using Google Docs and addressed privacy and security vis a vis Google's strong commitment to education on the Google system of services.  I explained that Google Docs or Google Drive were the same, and that there was an old classical (easy to use) interface that one could revert to, or use the new interface, which was not as intuitive.  I showed teachers how to revert to the classic look in Google Drive if they wished,

I explained how they can organize their folders (Google calls them 'collections). I showed them how they can apply filters.  For example HOME is the default filter, but you can filter on any folder, or remove all filters, and the last file changed should be the first to appear in you list, and anything that has been changed since you last opened it will be in bold.  Also, you can file your docs in collections (folders, remember?) and then right click on any file and select Don't Show in Home (this prevents it from showing in two places at once, HOME and the place you filed it). Once you've taken control of filing this is a great feature.

One problem was that the new interface is asking teachers to download the app which synchs Google Docs (Drive) on the computer you download the app to (not something you want to do in the ILC; but on your laptop, why not?).  This in theory backs up your Google Docs to your personal PC and then synchronizes them after that.

I showed how we are committing two of our KBZ files to Google Docs, the KBZ schedule and the ILC schedule with activities entered.  I showed how the files are shared with teachers (editing allowed, or view only) and how teachers with editing rights (our normal sharing method) can share files with each other and newcomers.

For example there is a third document, the KBZAC Share list, where teachers can find each other's Gmail addresses.  There is a graphic there to explain how they can copy the list of addresses and paste them in a share field to make their documents available to everyone.  Since all teachers have edit rights over this doc they can also share it with other teachers who might have just arrived or somehow been left off the share list. They can also share any other doc to which they have been given editing rights with any other teacher who might need access to that document (no need to put in a request to an administrator for permission to all so and so to view a document).  The KBZAC Share List of all teacher Gmail addresses is here:

The other two documents in question will open for you if  you are logged on to Google and if they have been shared with you.  Test these two conditions here:

More about Google Drive

In November, Google made the new Google Drive view mandatory.  Before that, many of us were reverting to the old Google Docs view.  Consequently, I experimented and learned the following:

Downloading Google Drive to your PC

If you enter in a browser when you are not connected to the Internet, it directs you to the Google Drive mirror on your own PC.  You can open docs and work on them normally, but you are informed that you are working offline.
When you later connect that computer to the Internet, it synchronizes that computer with your Google Drive mirror in the cloud.  I presume it keeps the latest version there (so if you work on that document on a connected computer at a later date, it probably ignores your earlier changes, or maybe it asks you which version you want to synch; I haven’t encountered this yet so I don’t know how it works).

This is a recommended way to work with Google Drive.  Obviously this keeps backups of your cloud service in local storage, so it is to your advantage to install it on devices which are private to you.  DO NOT install it on devices which others might have access to.


I showed everyone where the help documents I created for students are kept in the Google Docs tab at the Toolkit4Learning blog (i.e. the blog you are most likely viewing now, note the tabs at the top).  Here you can find helpful screenshots showing how to force Google into English, create documents, rename them, etc. This blog and tab are here (scroll to the bottom for the screencaptures):

To get there I had to remember where it was.  I myself, the creator of this blog, cannot off the top of my head recall its name on demand.  Fortunately there is another entry which links back to this one, where I track teacher performance on the PD sessions started in September in much the same way as I model for my classes.  This one is easier to recall:

One of the next goals of this PD effort would have been to model for teachers how such sites can be created for students.
At you can see exactly what I am doing with the 43 class Academic Communication students (and the students in those classes can too). In the sidebar you can see materials I have created when I am 'covering' classes on an ad hoc basis at KBZAC.  These sets of materials in general incorporate websites which can be adapted to language learning (in this case Prezi and Samorost). Here you can find sreenshots made with, download handouts I've given students (in Word), and interract with vocabulary follow-up exercises created either at or (the latter is free; the former is $25 a year for the person creating the exercises; free for students of course).

To wind up the PD session I showed where these two sets of materials are located online. To find them, you can go to and look in the sidebar for Games and Prezi.  The links you want are, obviously, Samorost under games, and Getting Started with Prezi.  Here are the direct links:
Prezi is a creative online presentation tool that students like to use, and the Samorost is one of many games available online where players have created walkthroughs (also called cheats, or spoilers) to help other players with the game.  When the game is played in conjunction with its walkthrough, there accrue opportunities for practice in reading, writing, speaking, and vocabulary.

There were two more tools that came up in questions.  The first tool is useful in case you create a very long URL - say, a Google Doc which you make available to 'anyone with the link' and then change its settings so that anyone with the link can edit it. This DOC will have an unwieldy URL but you might want all your students to visit it so they can write on it collaboratively.  You can create a shorter URL at and tell your students to visit the shorter URL, and this will take them to the long unwieldy one.

A second tool I use in the ILC is to create a backchannel room in and have my students visit that.  For example I created one at  When my students are in the ILC creating Prezis, they can visit their Today's Meet space and put the links to those Prezis in the chat and I can easily transfer their Prezi links to the wiki where everyone can see what the students have created.  Later, we can also use this link in class for them to present their Prezis to the class by clicking on the links on this page.

This was a F.U.N. and informative session and I hope everyone enjoyed it and learned something they didn't know before.

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