Friday, 25 April 2014

April 25, 2014 - 'Add-On' to Your Google Know How

Happy Sunny Friday everyone!!

This week I would like to share a new Google tool which is meant to be used in conjunction with Google Docs and Sheets on the UGCloud.  You may have noticed the ‘Add-Ons’ in the tool bar within the Google Docs page and wondered about its use (see image).

Similar to Google Extensions (Read&Write, Google Dictionary, etc.), Add-Ons improve ease of use and increase the possibilities linked to the documents you (and your students) can create.  Some ideal add-ons to begin with include:
Openclipart- access to over 50 000 clip art images while working in a Google Doc

Easybib – have a bibliography created for you in APA, MLA or Chicago style by pasting in a book ISBN, title or web address into the search box

Table of contents – creates a table of contents right in your document for you

Thesaurus - an in-document thesaurus to aid in word choice and selection

To download an add-on, click on "Add-ons" in the top menu bar and select "Get add-ons."
A pop-up window will open with a variety of add-ons to choose from. You can search out the preferred add-on by typing in the search box or simply browse for something that catches your eye.

 Once you find the one you wish to install, you can either hover over it and then click on ‘free’ or click on it for more information, and then tap ‘free’ to download it to your account.  A final window will appear asking for permission to access your information; simply click ‘Accept’ and the add-on will be available to you immediately in your document or spreadsheet.

To access your add-ons while working within the document, simply click on the ‘add-ons’ drop down in the tool bar and select the add-on you wish to use.  The add-on will open a communication box on the right and side of your document where you can utilize its capabilities and resources.   

Add-ons you no longer feel as desired can be removed by clicking on the add-on drop down menu and selecting ‘manage add-ons’.  Then click on the ‘manage’ box linked to the add-on you wish to have removed and when the drop down menu appears selecting the ‘remove’ option.

I have found many of these tools to be extremely useful (especially Easybib!) and hope that you too can benefit from them.  Please give them a try and let me know if you have found any others that need to be shared 

Have a great weekend!

Friday, 11 April 2014

April 11, 2014 - Use Password Protection

Happy Friday everyone!!

This week there has been a great deal of media attention given to the ‘Heartbleed’ security glitch and it appears that it is going to be getting worse before it gets better.  Although technically not a virus or security bug, Heartbleed is an error in programming that could leave you vulnerable to hackers and cyber-criminals. The Canadian Revenue Agency has temporarily halted their e-file online tax submission option for fear over concerns that the public’s information may be compromised and several other major companies may be affected.  Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Dropbox and even Minecraft may have been affected to some degree.  So how do you ensure the safety of your online information? Here are a few tips…

     Don’t save information on your computer
When shopping online or filling in forms online, the website will often ask if you would like to ‘save password’ or save information for later’.  This is strongly not recommended.  What will save you a few seconds in the future could cost you your identity. 

     Watch what you do on public wifi systems
Recently many public spaces such as your favourite restaurant, library and even the Town of Orangeville have chosen to offer free wifi to individuals as a courtesy, however you need to know that the information you are transmitting could be viewed by others in the system.  So save the internet banking for at home over a secure wifi connection.

     Create a strong password
It has been estimated that hackers can break into a 5 character password in as little as 10 seconds, a 6 character password in 1000 seconds, a 7 character password in 1 day and 10 character password would take 3000 years to identify – so as passwords go, the longer the better.  Use a variety of numbers and letters and even include punctuation if possible.  Instead of using a simple password such as ‘money’ try using ‘m0n3y!’  The addition of punctuation and combination of letters and numbers will make it more secure. Also don’t use the most frequent passwords – ‘aaaaa’, ‘abc1234’ and ‘password’ You can even use a sentence to make up your password, by using the first letter of each word.  For example, the sentence ‘I love my special dog Spot’ could be changed to ILMSDS; a very random mixture of letters which are not likely to be hacked but simple enough for you to remember.

     Change your passwords frequently
Although we run the risk of forgetting our new passwords when we opt to alter them, the recommendation is to change them once every three months.  Additionally we should not be using the same password for several accounts.  If a hacker discovers your password for one account they can then easily follow the trail of social media, etc. and use the same password to hack several of your other accounts. 
     Use an app or tool to help you remember
There are several trustworthy online tools and apps which can assist you in maintaining your passwords for you. Lastpass ( and 1Password ( securely encrypt your passwords and maintain them securely for you so you never have to think up an outside-the-box secret word.  Further, many personal computers now have finger swipe encryption or a ‘Simple Pass’ fingerprint reader which can be used to safely log into several accounts so you never need to remember that complicated string of letters.

While this current threat to security can be frightening, you shouldn't shy away from using technology.  You simply need to be smart about your virtual conduct and behave as you would in real-life.  Don’t give out private information to strangers and be sure to be secure.  Starting students on this path to virtual security early can have a significant impact later in life. Don’t leaver yourself vulnerable to cyber-criminals.


Thursday, 3 April 2014

April 4, 2014 – Get In Touch With Your Students With Socrative

Happy Friday everyone!!

With the Upper Grand District School Board rolling out BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) system wide, I thought this week I would highlight a student response web tool called Socrative.

Similar to a clicker system, but without all of the specialized equipment, Socrative communicates immediate feedback on student knowledge and understanding, while engaging students in a fun and interactive classroom experience.  Teachers and students can access Socrative on any device with a web browser (tablet, smartphone, laptop or iPod touch).  By logging into a free Socrative account ( with their email and a chosen password, teachers are given a ‘room number’ which is their own personal identification for all of their activities.  Students access the website (no need for an account or log in) at  and enter the room number their teachers have been specified.  

Once they have entered the virtual classroom they will be able participate in the activities that the teacher creates.  These activities can include multiple choice, short answer, exit ticket and true/false questions and teachers make up the questions as they go along or have a preset exit ticket prepared in advance.  Results are displayed immediately in graph form showing the number of respondents for each answer.  Questions can be answered anonymously or with student names and Socrative sends teachers live reports that include grades for all questions asked (except short answer). 

Give it a try and let me know what you think of this engaging and accessible web tool.  If you have an idea for a future blog topic, please feel free to pass it along to me.