This summer I gave a presentation about Google add-ons and extensions. Part of my information came from the following great resources:
- Free Technology for Teachers (@rmbyrne): 10 Good Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms Add-ons
- Cool Cat Teacher (@coolcatteacher): 15 Best Google Drive Add-Ons for Education
In preparation, I experimented and tried to figure out what would be most helpful for an audience of K-12 teachers at varying degrees of Google proficiency. The available list of add-ons seems to be changing quickly. For example, in Google’s explanatory video below, they mention MailChimp as an add-on, but I can’t find it in the store. I guess, like all things in education and technology, we should remain flexible.
We spent a long time working with the Kaizena add-on for Docs. I am excited about Kaizena for two reasons:
- Teachers can easily provide audio feedback. If teachers can make this work, we can get close to the one-to-one writing conference model. With the reality of large class sizes, trying to talk in person to each student writer can feel impossible. The audio comments feature on Kaizena presents a possible solution.
- Teachers can link to pre-made “lessons.” If you notice that you keep commenting on the same problem on multiple papers, you can make a lesson in Kaizena and link the lesson to the student’s Doc. Yes, this is a lot of work up front, but it could have big payoffs in the end. I mean, I have probably written the following advice thousands of times: “Delete the exclamation points. Use your words to show strong feeling.” Instead, I can make the lesson once and paste the link as many times as I need to.
However, there is a downside to the Kaizena add-on. As it currently exists, it takes some time to load, and it takes me more time to remember exactly which buttons to click. I suspect using Kaizena with every student would take a lot longer than simply using Google Doc’s commenting function. There is a lot of potential there, but I’m not sure if it is worth the extra time for a teacher who is trying to read through 160 essays.
Ultimately, the best part of the workshop was when I implemented 20% Time (click the link for a great article by A.J. Juliani for Edutopia). Teachers spent the last 30 minutes of the workshop testing out different add-ons. This proved to me once again that you have to do it in order to learn it. Teachers reported their conclusions on this Google Form. The results are published in the table below: