What did I learn? Search Google News Archives

I wrote (most of) this on the plane ride home after the Google Apps for Education New England Summit last week…

If I’m going to blog publicly, I can ask myself… what did I learn this weekend? I usually learn something new at each summit… from dropping in on sessions, or from good questions asked in my own sessions… or, of course, from new tools or features released since I last ran my sessions. :)

Thanks to an attendee question, I relearned how to search the Google News Archives using the new interface. If I post this to my blog, I’ll have to re-record a new video of it. It’s awesome. In short, though, you can now access the Google News Archives by simply visiting Google News, and clicking on the drop down arrow in the search box. One of the options is to search in the archive – and you can limit your search by date as well.

Here’s the video… my first screencast using my new Linux laptop. I used RecordMyDesktop to create an ogv file and then uploaded it directly to YouTube. I forgot to turn up my audio input first… and YouTube seems to have crunched the resolution down pretty far, but considering I wasn’t up for a second take, I’m pretty happy with how it gets the point across. :)

Given my difficulty in articulating what else I’ve learned this weekend, I think another take away is this: I’ve got to make it more of a priority to spend substantial time in the other sessions in order to learn something new each time (and to take advantage of where we are, and who we are with). It will also help me have an even better idea about how each presenter runs their sessions and how the events are going. Right now I stick my head into every session (when I’m not presenting) to see how it’s going. I busy myself taking pictures (as unobtrusively as possible)while I get a sense for how the energy in the room, but I don’t usually stick around for the content. Most of the content is of course familiar to me, but I still pick up nuggets here and there, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the speakers at these events have vastly different experiences and expertise from mine – that I could benefit from if I put more time into listening.

That being said, I did learn A LOT this weekend, but not necessarily about educational technology. I continue to learn a lot about business… and about people (and organizations)… and about myself. These things just might not be appropriate for an educational technology blog. Depending on the reflections, though, they might work here (it is an “and life” blog too after all), or they might work on a separate blog – or perhaps on an anonymous blog. Or perhaps only in a private file – in a hidden directory on an encryped drive. I’ve been doing some journaling too. ;)

Quick and Easy IF Formulas for Grading Google Forms

I recently led a Google Docs session at Whittier Christian High School and was asked to provide a quick demo video illustrating the way I used formulas (and in particular the IF formula) to grade a quiz made using a Google Form. Apparently my explanation plays well face-to-face but considerably less well from memory. ;)

For this video I cut right to the chase and did my best to explain the IF formula for beginners… while keeping under a 5 minute time limit. I hope it’s helpful for you and your colleagues and I hope you’ll let me know what you think.

Incidentally, there was a minor error in one of my formulas at the end, but I fixed it live rather than record (yet another) take. I like to think it’s good time management, and good modeling of verifying and troubleshooting a spreadsheet formula. Oh, and I wouldn’t necessarily “reteach” if half my class failed a quiz and the other half got As… but that might be a good time for some targeted intervention. ;)

Also, here are the slides I used in the middle segment of the video… in case they might be helpful to you as well (the last slide includes a copy-and-paste-able “nested” IF formula for generating letter grades from percentage scores):

Up next in the screencast category: Using Transpose to share individual results of a teacher observation (by an admin) or student rubric (by a teacher or peer), complete with a demo template. :)

Quick and Easy Mail Merge in Google Docs

The features are limited, but here is a quick screencast revealing how to do a simple mail merge in Google Docs. This uses the Template Gallery and the Scripts Gallery, but you don’t really need to know how to use either to “stand on the shoulders of giants” and benefit from the work others have done before you.

As always, let me know if this is at all unclear, or if you have anything clever to add yourself. :)

Search Google News Archives Full Text for Free

When I was presenting on “Killer Research Tools” at the Google Teacher Academy in London, Googler Dana Nguyen asked me why I didn’t include Google News Archive Search. I responded, “because I don’t like it.” Naturally, Dana used to work on that project… and was gracious enough to show me the light. In short, I didn’t like it because so many of the archived articles cost money from various services. But, it turned out millions of articles were archived full text by Google and are freely available – if you know where to look. Like so many great Google features, this one was well buried, so I created a screencast to capture what Dana showed me right away.

As always, let me know what you think… and if you’ve used this in a clever way with students… or if you know any similar tricks. :)