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screenshot of map

Add Pin to Map in Google My Maps

Here is a quick video showing how to use the search feature to add and customize a pin in Google My Maps. By customizing a map with their own pins, students can show what they know in a variety of content areas. These can include places where historical figures were born, where events took place, where literary characters lived, where scientific or mathematical discoveries occurred, etc.


Alternative to the Subscribe to Post Button

Google Sites are a great tool for teachers and students. They can be student e-portfolios, collaborative writing sites, and much more. On the teacher side, they are a wonderful way to communicate information about your class to students and their families. If you create a page using the Announcements template, you communicate current news and information or homework assignments and keep the newest posts at the top. Families can subscribe to the page and get an email message whenever you update it.

The problem, though, is that the default “Subscribe to posts” button that appears on the page doesn’t work for all browsers and can’t be removed. The good news is that there is another Google tool, Feedburner, that gives people a way to subscribe to your updates. There are several steps, but it’s actually very easy to do.

  1. Log into your Google account. Create or go to the page on your website that visitors will subscribe to. Make sure you the page uses the Announcements page format. If you need to change the page format, click the gear menu in the upper right and go to Page Settings.
  2. Scroll down the page until you locate the orange “Subscribe to posts” button. This may not be visible until your site is public.
  3. Right click on the subscribe button (control + click on a Mac) and copy the subscription link. Depending on your browser, you might see different wording (Copy link location in Firefox, Copy link address in Google Chrome, Copy link in Safari).
  4. Open a new tab (File > New Tab or Command + t). Go to Feedburner. Because it is a Google service, you should already be signed in and see your email address in the upper right corner. Locate the box marked “Burn a feed right this instant.”
  5. Paste the URL you copied in step 3 into the box. DO NOT CLICK NEXT!
  6. Edit the URL. Change https to http. Now you can click Next.
  7. Give your feed a name. This is the title people will see in their email when they subscribe. Make it short but descriptive. Do not worry about changing the feed address. Click Next.
  8. At the bottom, click the tiny “Skip directly to feed management” link.
  9. On the screen that appears, click Publicize, then Email Subscriptions, then Activate.
  10. Scroll down the page and copy the email subscription code. Be sure to highlight all the code before copying.
  11. Return to the tab with your website. Click on the pencil icon to edit the page, then click on the HTML link at the upper right.
  12. Paste the code you copied in step 10 into the box, then click Update.
  13. Add any extra text you want to the page, then save your changes. For example, you may want to add something along the lines of: “Please be aware the Subscribe to posts link below does not work correctly for all browsers. To receive an email message when this page is updated, click the Subscribe to Class Announcements by Email link here:”
  14. Pat yourself on the back. You did it!

Change the Size of Your Google Drawing

Google Drawing is a wonderful tool that has many classroom implementations. Students can use it to develop advertising posters for invented products during an economics unit, build custom headers for a website, make infographics to show information on any number of topics, and much more. Sometimes, though, when you are working on a Drawing, you discover that you need to change its size. There are two main ways to do this.

Option 1: Click and drag the diagonal lines in the lower left corner.

diagonal lines   

This is easy if you want to make your drawing smaller or wider, but if you want to make it taller, you need to adjust the view first so you have room to drag it down. Simply go to View and choose a small percentage or Zoom Out. This will give you room on your screen outside the canvas to drag the corner down.

view options         empty space below image

Option 2: Use File>Page setup.

You c an choose one of the standard sizes (these will match the size of the slides in Google Slides exactly) or a custom size. When opting for a custom size, you have the option of measuring your drawing in inches, centimeters, points, or pixels. If you will be printing your drawing, you will want to use inches, centimeters, or points, but pixels are useful when creating website headers or other drawings that will be shared online and need to have specific dimensions. Whether you choose a standard or custom size, don’t forget to click OK when you are done.

page setup options2015-05-13_20-41-39

Send form and share buttons

Share a Google Form as “View Only”

At a recent training, I was asked how to share a Google Form as “View Only” so collaborators could make a copy of the form and adapt it for their own needs without the original form being changed in any way.

Forms are a different kind of Google app. Where other apps have a big blue Share button in the corner, Forms have a Send Form button.

Send form and share buttonsIf you want to share your form with others, you can go to the File menu and choose “Add collaborators.” The problem for some is that your only option is to give people editing access to the form. If you don’t want those with whom you have shared your form to be able to edit it, you need to find another way to give them access.

form sharing settings

Of course, you could send them the link to the live form, but that doesn’t give them the ability to copy the form so they can edit the questions on it. The key is in the warning note Google has added. warning note

For Google, Forms are merely a way to get data into a spreadsheet. If you want to give people view only access to a form so they can make and edit their own copies of it, all you need to do is give them access to the spreadsheet that contains the responses, even if there are no responses yet.

At the top of your form, click the View responses button.

view responses

When the spreadsheet opens, click the blue Share button and add your collaborators, giving them view only access. Instruct them to make their own copy of the spreadsheet.

Once they have opened their copy of your spreadsheet, all they have to do is go to the Form menu and select Edit form. This will give them access to their copy of your original form, which they can edit and change to meet their own needs.

Edit form


Important: If your form responses contain sensitive data, you should not share the response spreadsheet. In this case, I would recommend that you make your own copy of your form. The questions will be the same, but the spreadsheet with the responses will be empty, so you can share it without worrying about revealing information that should be kept private.

Embed PDF in Google Sites

One of the things I have been struggling with lately is how to embed a PDF in a Google Site. It turns out if you have the PDF saved in your Google Drive, it’s not that difficult. All you have to do is click on the PDF in your Drive, pop it out into a new window, and copy the embed code. Then you head over to your site, click to edit, choose HTML, and paste in the code. Update and save, then sit back and congratulate yourself on a job well done!

See the step by step instructions and animated GIFs of the process below.

Step 1: Open PDF in your Drive and click on the Pop Out window icon. This step is the key; you can’t get the embed code unless you pop out the window.

Pop-out window location

Step 2: In the new window, click the 3 vertical dots (more options) and choose Embed item…

Get embed code

Step 3: Copy the embed code.

Copy embed code

Step 4: Go to the page on your Google Site where you want to embed the PDF. Click the pencil icon to edit, then click HTML.

Open HTML editor

Step 5: Paste the embed code into the HTML editor. Click Update at the bottom.

Paste code and update

Step 6: Don’t forget to save!

Don't forget to save!


Animated GIFs of the process:

Getting the embed code
animated GIF of part 1 of embed process

Pasting the embed code
animated GIF of part 2 of embed process



QR Code Generators

A number of people have asked me recently about QR (Quick Response) codes. QR codes are those square, blocky looking barcodes that are seemingly everywhere these days. They can be read by mobile phones and tablets and can store website URLs, wifi network credentials, email addresses, calendar event information, preset text messages, and more.

They have many applications in education. You can have students scan a QR code using an iPad to visit a website instead of asking them to type in the URL. When giving an assignment, you can link to examples of quality student work. During Open House, you can use QR codes to identify the student creator of a “Who Am I” project? Add QR codes to book covers that link to student audio or video reviews of the book. Make scavenger hunts for your students or, even better, have them make scavenger hunts for each other or other classrooms. Create a QR code that brings up a text message for parents/students to use when subscribing to services like Remind (Thanks, David Bayne, for that idea). You are limited only by your imagination.

QR codes are easy to make. You can create them for free on many different websites. Whichever generator you choose, you will need to download and save or copy your QR code in order to use it. The QR codes below link back to this website and were generated by some of my favorite sites. I think it is interesting that they all look different, yet link to the same place.

  • Google’s short URL creator also gives you QR codes that link to websites. Simply visit, paste in the link to the webpage and click Shorten URL. The shortened URL appears on the right of your screen. Click the Details link underneath and you will see your QR code. If you use Chrome, you can install ShortenMe or another extension to generate a QR code through for any webpage without leaving that webpage.
    Pros: Google Analytics, Chrome extensions
    Cons: Can only be used with webpages

  • Via This site is very easy to use and allows you to create codes for a huge variety of uses. Just select the type of content the QR will link to, then fill in the blanks, set your color (yes, you can make colored QR codes!), and preview your code. When you are satisfied with the color, download the code by clicking the download button. The site is a little more cluttered than the others mentioned here, but it is still easy to use.
    Pros: Colored QR codes, ease of use, one click download
    Cons: Students may choose colors that do not provide enough contrast and the resulting QR code will not work

  • QR Code
    QR Code Generator

    QR Code Generator: This site provides a limited number of options for the contents of the QR code (text, URL, contact, phone number, or SMS), but it offers several choices for the resulting image. You can set the size you want, and you also have option of copying embed code or a direct link to the image instead of downloading and saving if you prefer. Students like seeing the code change as each character of the input is typed.
    Pros: Ease of use, choice of output
    Cons: Limited input sources

  • qr code This is another site that allows you to make colored QR codes and see the barcode change as you enter information. The layout of the page is very clean and straightforward, so it simple to use. It works with a wide variety of input types and the generated code can be downloaded in a number of formats, or you can copy and paste the direct link or embed code for the image.
    Pro: Colored QR codes, ease of use, adjustable size
    Con: Possibility of QR codes not working due to low contrast color choice

Thank you to Lisa Nowakowski for recommending

If you have a great way of using QR codes with students, please share in the comments.


Missed the Hour of Code? It’s not too late!

My students had a great time coding up a storm over the last two weeks. I know the Hour of Code was Dec. 8-14, but I only see the kids every other week, so our Hour of Code was Dec. 8-19. If you didn’t do any coding with your students because you didn’t know where or how to start, here is a Thinglink resource for you to use. I encourage you to get started and give it a try. Anyone can code!

Base image by Geralt via Public domain.