Google Productivity Tools for Everyone

At The Fletcher School, we use G Suite for Education and associated apps. Our teachers and students use Google Classroom, Google Drive with Docs and Slides, and Google Calendar on a daily basis. Hopefully,  you are also using Google apps in your personal digital life. BUT IF you are NOT I urge you to give it a try. Many individuals use Gmail with a Google account but are not accessing the other tools that are associated with the account. You can sign up for a Google Account here if you don’t already have one. If you are a parent, this will give you a window into the digital interface used by your child.

As we become more mobile with phones and tablets and move away from a traditional (I can’t believe I said that about a computer!) desktop computer and file storage we need to be aware of the tools available to replace how we worked on a desktop. And with a Google Account, many of the same tools that we use with G Suite for Education are also available to everyone else.

But are you using these tools? What are they? Are you still storing files on your home computer? Are there items you could access from other devices?  What if you could share files and allow edit rights to other collaborators? With a Google account, you have the resources of all the associated apps.  For this post, I will focus on Google Drive but don’t overlook the possibilities of other apps such as Calendar, Photos and Sites. 

From the Google search screen, log into your account and check out the ‘waffle’ on the right side of the screen. Here you will see the Google tool icons that are associated with your account. Select the Drive icon and see what might already be in there. 

If other people have shared documents with you, you will see those files under Shared with me. Check out Google Drive Help to get oriented and start to create documents, share them or upload files from a computer. Google Drive gives you 15 gigs of storage for free.

How can Google Drive work for you? With family activities, clubs and projects, sharing documents with others gives everyone access to information and duties and spreads ownership around. (Yes, they too would need to create a Google account.) Make a Christmas shopping list doc and add a new list each year. Now you can track gifts year to year and watch for patterns. Use a Google Doc to keep track of family login information and share the doc with all family members. When an account needs to be changed, update the document and everyone can find the new information. Use Google Sheets to maintain a family budget with a sheet for each month.

When my parents transitioned into assisted living and left a big house for us to empty and sell I made a spreadsheet keeping track of plans, furniture, repairs. As a family, it has been wonderful to be able to have all the information and details (and there are so many details) in one place where everyone can see it and add their own notes and stay informed about what is going on without sending countless emails redistributing the latest news. As my sister said, “A lot of people aren’t aware of all the apps they can use and to be able to all contribute to the same document in real time and add their own thoughts is a powerful tool.”

The reason for using technology has to relate to your interests and needs. Think about what you are doing that can be expedited with Google Apps. Do you have a babysitting Co-op, Book Club, or Carpool Schedule to keep track of with others?

When my daughters got married, I created a spreadsheet that could be shared with the bride, groom and bride and groom’s families to enter guestlist members and address information simultaneously. Right after their engagements, I set it up, shared it with them and the new in-laws and watched the invitation count grow. As you can see my son-in-law had the most friends! I shared my Wedding Guest List template with Google and over 2000 other people have used it and you can too.

I have highlighted the capabilities of Drive but that is only one component of Google’s apps. I created a website for my Supper Club to archive our events. That gave me experience in a personal way with websites and improved how I would use a website as an educator. You, too, could host your own website using Google Sites. The new interface is drag and drop and is a great place to start building a website for a club or activity. Using Google Photos as a way to archive photos, view across devices and keep your phone’s camera roll to a minimum is another valuable tool.

These and other Google Apps are available on any mobile device, IOS or Android. They can be shared with others which can allow everyone access to edit the same file in real-time. Hopefully, you are finding ways to leverage these Apps to your own advantage to enhance the many activities and interests you have.

Google Hangouts on Air – A Morning News Show Tool

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Our very own FNN debuted on Monday, January 11, 2016!  What is FNN, you ask? FNN stands for Falcon News Network and is a daily morning news show produced, directed and filmed by Fletcher students. Under the direction of Kit Verica and behind-the-scenes technical support from the Fletcher Ed Tech Team, the Falcon News Network has worked diligently these past few months preparing to take over the morning announcements.

Back in the fall, Don Goble, a broadcast journalism teacher, came to Fletcher to help us prepare for the implementation of our student-led morning news show. Don’s expertise provided us with the information we needed to begin the process by envisioning a mission and gathering up all of the elements needed to run a show.  Last year we converted an office into a green screen studio. Transforming the tiny room into a news studio required a few additional steps. We brought in professional lights, a webcam, a MacBook for recording the broadcast, a high-quality microphone and a teleprompter.

IMG_9125The FNN team was selected based on teacher recommendations and students’ dedication to arriving early each day. Branding was another important part of the process. First, the team asked students to submit name ideas, which were voted upon by students, faculty and staff through a Google Form. The name, FNN was the clear winner!  In the next phase, the team asked students to submit designs for the FNN logo contest. The winning logo was created by Justine G and Abby F and has now become the official branding of FNN. We even purchased a pop up banner with the FNN logo to serve as the backdrop behind our news anchors.

IMG_9739The workflow of FNN is entirely digital, starting with the morning announcement requests, which are submitted by faculty and staff through a Google Form. Directed by Alex K, Max  and Alex M compose and add the submitted announcements to a teleprompter – an iPad on a tripod loaded with the PromptSmart Pro app. The webcam and microphone is set up in front of our news anchors, Jeffrey and Tyler, and plugged into a Mac. Ned and Henry work on the production side and use Google Hangouts on Air to film the live broadcast.

FNN1Each morning at 8:15 am, each grades 6-12 classroom teacher turns on their projector and Airplays their Mac screens to the Apple TV so that the students in each class can watch the show live. To watch the show LIVE, all viewers go to to tune in.

If you’d like to watch previous recordings of the show, you can go to Don’t forget to subscribe to the FNN Channel!


We are so proud of our FNN team and can’t wait to check out the next episode!

Modeling Programs With Cell Models or Student Cellfies!

Every year Mr. Elliott has his students create a model of a cell. This year I had our students take photographs of their cell models with either cell phones, iPads or cameras. We used the photos to create digital projects supporting the lessons about cells and organelles that they had learned in Science class.

Hannah used the picstitch app on her phone to build a collage of cells.

We learned to extract the cell image to make our cell into clipart using Pixlar Editor, a Google App.

With the extracted images we collaborated on a presentation in Google Docs where each student worked on their own slide in the same powerpoint.    1st Period Cell Project

And finally we imported the powerpoint into Prezi to experience another tool and how to use it.

Cell Model Prezi

We will continue to use content from other classes to explore programs and applications such as Glogster, Scratch, Kidblog and more!

Kathy Poe