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Google Drive: Docs, and Spreadsheets, and So Much More!

Google Drive Logos

Written by: Evan Sanderson

Google Drive isn’t just a great way to organize your personal documents and spreadsheets; it can be an extremely effective tool for the classroom as well! Drive includes a document editor, a spreadsheet creator, a form aggregator, as well as several other tools. Each of these tools synch to the cloud and can be accessed anywhere you have an internet connection (and through any device).

Want to have students submit a paper to an online drive? Need a way of collecting student information? Have an spreadsheet that needs editing, but you don’t have your personal laptop on you? Google Drive can help with all of those issues and more!

To learn more, watch CTRL’s video on Google Drive here:

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Google Forms: Making Your Life Easier, One Form at a Time

Google Forms Icons

Written by: Evan Sanderson

You’re standing in front of class, passing around a sign in sheet, and thinking: There’s got to be a better way to gather my students emails. Or maybe you’ve just taught a particularly tricky concept, and you want to make sure your students have grasped (most of) it. Wouldn’t it be easy to have a system that designs and administers the form for you?

Google thought it would be, and that’s why the came up with Google Forms. Accessible through Google Drive, Google Forms allows users to design and administer “forms”. Pedagogically speaking, forms can take the shape of quizzes or polls, and Forms will even collate and organize the data for you.

To learn more, watch the CTRL instructional video on Google Forms here:

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Video is Worth A Whole Bunch of Words

TLR Happenings Logo

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth ten thousand.”
That’s the theory, anyway, when it comes to online content. Video is increasingly becoming the lingua franca of the digital realm. As advertisements, educational technology, and entertainment all train us in the visual and auditory vocabulary of this content style, it becomes incumbent upon us as educators to incorporate this skillset into the classroom. It’s a powerful tool in the toolbox of the educator.

To that end, the Teaching and Learning Resource Group has unveiled a new project that will put this theory into practice. We looked around our office and saw not only a wealth of information on a variety of instructional technologies and methodologies, but a group of engaging and creative teachers. Why not (we asked ourselves) create a video repository to leverage our collective knowledge? And so we have begun to do just that, figuring that if video is the language of the Internet, then it can also serve our purpose to supplement our workshops, events, and trainings.

Beginning this month, we plan on releasing a series of videos illuminating some of our favorite instructional technologies. From Google Drive, to Prezi, to RSS feeds–we want to develop a range of content that will be accessible and useful to AU faculty and staff. The videos will function as both promotions for various instructional aids, and as primers for their specific functions.

Take, for example, our Google Drive promo. We created this video specifically for educators, focusing on how Docs can be used to comment on students’ work, how Google Presentation can be used in lieu of PowerPoint to develop classroom lessons, and how Forms can be used to administer tests and quizzes. These videos are selected and designed for you.

If you have any suggestions for future video topics, or questions about the process, please feel free to contact us at And stay tuned for our first video on Google Drive, to be released later next week!

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Mobile Tool Review: Google Drive

This Mobile Tool Review was written by Kate Burns, CTRL Trainer and Consultant.

Google Drive

Google Drive is flexible, easy to use, and excellent for collaboration.


Free, although upgraded storage space can be purchased.


Online through all modern Internet browsers as well as free iPhone and Android apps.

What does it do?

Google Drive is a cloud storage system and document-editing tool that provides 15 gigabytes of free space for over 30 different file types. With Google Drive, you can create text documents, surveys, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings—and then share and/or collaborate on these documents with colleagues or classmates. This means that students can work on one document simultaneously. Additionally, users can view, comment-upon, and/or update a file depending upon the document’s settings. Instructors can collect and respond to homework electronically and without the need to attach files through email (and worry about opening attachments).

Which class can you use it in?

I use Google Drive during lectures and in writing intensive courses. I use it as a tool to take notes, share drafts of essays with peers, and give/receive comments on written work. I find Google Drive to be an excellent tool for peer review.


Google Drive offers 15 gigabytes of free storage space, compared to Dropbox’s 2 gigabytes. If you need more space, Google Drive also has the advantage, as its about half the price for 100GB extra space. Unlike Dropbox, Google Drive offers multiple-user editing—meaning that more than one person can view and edit a document synchronously. In addition, Google Drive is integrated into students’ American University Webmail, which is hosted by Google. Unlike Blackboard, Google Drive can sync with your desktop files so that they are always accessible and documents are always saved automatically by Drive. Also, with Google Drive, you do not need to upload and/or use email or share files.


AU Gmail and Google Drive is currently only available to AU students, so staff and instructors will need to set up a (free) private account. In addition, functions like grade book and email are already available through Blackboard and are integrated with each other.

Overall Grade


Additional Information

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Collaborative Research using Google Drive

The importance of peer collaboration keeps rising, for students, business, and research. Fortunately, the tools for collaboration keep improving, too.

One great tool, available to all AU community members through Google Apps for Education, is Google Drive. If you think you know Google Drive, but haven’t used it for a few months or a year, you should check it out again – Google is continually adding features to Drive products.

google drive

Google Drive is a cloud-based software and storage system that allows users to create, upload, and save documents online in multiple formats. That means you can either use it just as a storage drive, by uploading your Word documents, pictures, or many other formats, or you can create new documents using several native software formats. These include Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Forms, and others. Users at American University can access Google Drive through their email account. All you need to do to collaborate using the Drive is to share your document or folder with other users and set their level of permission. If all shared users can edit, you can all work on your research at once, with no need to email multiple copies back and forth.

Here are a few of the newer features that unique to online software systems like Google Drive, rendering them great collaboration tools:

1. Research in Documents

One of the previous shortcomings of Google Docs/Drive was that it did not allow for footnotes or connection with citation programs, like EndNote. Now, using the “Research” tool located under the “Tools” menu in a Document, Google Drive allows users to search for their sources directly from the web, or from Google Scholar, and then insert that source directly as a citation. You can even select the citation format, including APA, MLA, or Chicago. It’s really one of the easiest ways to cite sources around. Plus, it allows for you to conduct and save online research directly in the document, which means that multiple users can work together in both the researching and writing stages.

research tool

2. Comments in Documents

Writing is a part of the research process, and one that’s especially hard to perform collaboratively. Microsoft Word has some useful collaborative tools such as Track Changes and Comments, but usually only one user at a time can work on the document and you have to keep track of multiple versions. In Google Documents, multiple users can make edits at the same time, and inserting comments can be a great way to communicate about the edits. If the issue in the comment has been dealt with by everyone, then the comment can be marked as “Resolved.”


3. Creating Lists in Google Spreadsheets

This is a cool feature that really takes advantage of the fact that the software is online. If you type in two related items in adjacent cells in the Spreadsheet, highlight both cells, Click on the small box in the corner of the highlighted cells, and then press CTRL while dragging the box down to later cells, Google spreadsheets will pull information from the internet to auto-fill a list based on the items you’ve entered. Excel can do this with certain items, like numeric patterns or common entries like days of the week. But Google will pull lists from Wikipedia or the CIA World Factbook, too. (Maybe it’s not as much a collaboration tool as it’s just pretty cool.)

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4. Google Forms

This software allows you to create custom surveys, set your fellow researchers as editors, and then email the link to your survey respondents. Once you get all of your results in, you can convert the data to spreadsheet format or export them to your preferred data analysis software. The respondents you send the survey to don’t have to be Google users, and you and your research partners get to share and save all of the results in Google Drive. The tool is meant more as a planning tool, like Doodle, but it can be used for data collection, like Survey Monkey – the advantage over these programs is that you don’t have to create and keep track of separate accounts.



That’s all we’ll cover in this post, but please, share with us what your favorite features of Google Drive are in a comment, or let us know about other online tools for collaboration!

How to make many placemarks at the same time on Google Earth

If you are familiar with Google Earth, you know that making placemarks and editing bubbles can actually be fun once you get the hang of creating them. However, when you have 50+ placemarks to create in your layer, you don’t want to spend your entire evening making little pinpoints everywhere, adding information, photos, videos…you have better things to do, like play the flight simulator.

We at the lab bring you good news: the awesome guys at Google actually created a spreadsheet where you can put all the data about your layer in one place and upload it to Google Earth. This is done with the Google Earth Spreadsheet Mapper.

It basically works like this: Download the Spreadsheet Mapper from Google Earth and open it in Google Docs. You’ll see that Google has cells for your to fill out the basic information about your layer, such as the name of the project and URL if you have one, and also instructions on how to connect your spreadsheet to Google Earth [example below]. In the tabs at the bottom of the screen, you’ll find the space where you input your coordinates and the additional data that goes in each placemark bubble. The template tabs help you customize the bubble template you choose for your placemarks.

Just plug in your information in the designated cells

Things to remember before you begin:

  • You’ll need coordinates in decimal form, not in degrees-minutes-seconds. You can find a converter online.
  • First check out the six bubble templates that Google Earth provides to get an idea of what you want your bubble to look like. Then, choose one of the templates for your layer.
  • Have all your images uploaded to a server. You’ll need the URL to add pictures to your bubble.

If you’re still confused, or need more information, the Spreadsheet Mapper website provides video tutorials and more detailed instructions on how to add your layer information.

Creating a Chart in Google Docs

Step away from Excel for a few minutes and marvel at the chart building possibilities available on Google Docs.

If you have a Google account (and if you’re an AU student, of course you do), log into your Google account and get to Google Docs. You know that you can upload text files and spreadsheets there. Click on one of the spreadsheets you have (and if you don’t have one uploaded, you can take a spreadsheet you’ve been working on in Excel and upload it to Google Docs).  Up at the top is a little button that looks like a red and blue bar graph. That is where the magic happens.

Click on the “Chart button” and begin building your chart. You can choose from line, bar, pie, trends, map, and other graph options.

On your spreadsheet, select the data you want to include in your chart. Or, you can do that under the “Start” tab once you’ve opened the Chart box.  Google Docs will recommend a chart for your first, but if you decide that is not what you want, you can move on to the “Charts” tab and select another option.  (Google Docs will even let you know if a certain chart is not possible with the data you provided). You’ll be able to preview the chart once you’ve made a selection. Create the title and other labels for your chart in the the “Customize” tab.

When you’re happy with the chart you built, click on “Insert” and it will appear on top of your spreadsheet.

It’s that easy!

For more instructions, read it from Google themselves.

How to build fancier bubbles in Google Earth

In Google Earth, you figured out how to create place marks and create descriptions to go in the little bubble that appears after you hover over them.  But for some reason, the bubbles don’t look fancy enough to you. How can you add a photo to the bubble or change the background color? What if you want to have scrolling text on the side? How did those people in the Google Earth gallery make their bubbles so darn awesome?

Google has the answer for that (are you surprised?). If you want to make your bubble look a bit more professional, you can download one of the templates provided by the Google Earth team at Google.

Warning: There is a wee bit of coding involved. If you have prior knowledge to HTML, using the template will be easy, because the templates are basically HTML code that you embed in the description section of your bubble. (If you don’t have any HTML knowledge and are determined to learn this to create the best Google Earth bubble ever, please do not hesitate to contact the lab for assistance!)

Google provided an easy-to-follow video to accompany the templates. After you paste the template into your bubble, you’ll just need to edit the code the way you want it.



Again, if you have an interest in creating these bubbles and need help doing, please let a consultant know and we’ll help make your Google Earth bubbles unique for your data visualization!

Use Google Fusion Tables to Visualize Data

Many of us already know the perks of having a Google account: checking email, sharing documents, and chatting with friends, of course! In addition to the many wonders that a Google account can give you access to, you can also use that handy account to use Google Fusion Tables, a neat way to visualize data.

Google Fusion Tables is a modern data management and publishing web application that makes it easy to visualize and publish data tables online. You can import your own data and visualize it instantly on tables, maps, graphs, and more.  That’s right. You can take that Excel data sheet you’ve been working on all summer and actually SHOW others what all those facts and figures mean for your research. You can also:

  • Share tables with other publicly or view other public tables
  • Merge your own data or merge other people’s data
  • Other data visualization tools available: line graph, bar graph, pie, scatter, motion, timeline, and storyline

Use Google Fusion Tables to visualize data in your table, on a map, or on an intensity map. What’s an intensity map, you ask? Here’s an example below:

Using Google Fusion Tables to visualize civil liberty scores

Google uses geo-coding to take data for each country in the world and uses different colors and shades to represent intensities of data. The darker shades represent lower scores of civil liberties, in this case.

To get started, you will need to have a Google account. On Google’s Homepage (, Select More > Even More > Fusion Tables.  If we haven’t convinced you yet, Google provides additional tutorials on how to best utilize the Fusion Tables.

Consider using Google Fusion Tables for your research this semester! If you have additional questions on how to use it, just drop by the lab and ask a consultant.

Google Earth Pro now available in Hurst lab

pinpoint Google Earth Pro

The Hurst lab gained a new addition to the family of supported software! Google Earth Pro, an upgraded version of the traditional Google Earth, is now available as a specialty program on one of our machines. Just look for the monitor labeled Google Earth Pro – that will be the only computer with the software installed.

The Pro version includes all of the same functions that regular Google Earth has, such as the satellite imagery database, the ability to explore any point on the planet or space, and the ability to search for buildings, streets, and parks. You will also find the tools to rotate and tilt the view in 3D or draw on your map on both versions.

It is different from Google Earth in four main ways:

1. High-resolution capability:
Google Earth Pro uses the same imagery database as the free version, so there are no changes to the locations you see in Google Earth Pro. However, with Google Earth Pro, you can print these locations at a higher resolution. You can save images in 1400, 2400, and 4800 pixels.

2. Includes GIS data input tools:
Import point, lines and path, and polygon vector data.

3. Area measurement:
In addition to measuring with a line or a path, you can measure with a circle radius or polygon. This is handy for finding the area of nontraditional shapes and sizes.

4. Movie maker:
You can use the Movie Maker feature of Google Earth to record 3D viewer imagery and save the recording as a movie file. You can either set the recorder to record your interactions with the 3D viewer in real-time, or you can set up a tour and record the entire tour without interruption.

Google Earth Pro is generally used for commercial use by NGOs and businesses, and now it is available to the students and faculty at AU. Grab the world by the click of a mouse and check out Google Earth in our lab. Regular Google Earth is also available on all the computers in the Hurst and SPA labs.