Google Extensified, Google Extended

| By Allison Sheppard

In June, the DigitalJLearning Network had the pleasure of taking 15 Jewish Day School educators to the 2015 ISTE Conference in Philadelphia, PA. We asked the participants to share what they learned and how the conference inspired them to take action in their schools. Allison Sheppard, Director of Technology at Margolin Hebrew Academy, shares her thoughts in the ninth installment in this new blog series.

 

Google is ubiquitous. Google’s web browser, Chrome, offers thousands of apps, add-ons and plug-ins to make our web-browsing easier and more convenient. The sheer quantity of the available helpfulness screaming to make your Googlelife easier can be very daunting. With this post I seek to be your guide through the weeds of Googledom by introducing you to some basic extensions that do awesome things!

First things first: there is a difference between a Chrome App and a Chrome Extension. Google Apps are actual programs (techspeak: applications) that will open in your browser when you open a new tab. Examples of these include: Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc. On the other hand, an extension is a tool that runs in the background of whatever web page your are visiting. It adds functionality on top of another web page.

My school uses Google for email, document sharing, and video-conferencing. Chrome is our browser of choice, and recommendation for browsing. Our 5th-6th graders are currently experiencing a roll-out of 1:1 Chromebook devices. With this introduction to Google Chrome Extensions, I have tried to speak individually to the academic applicability of each of these apps/extensions, and I hope that you can imagine the wide range of uses within your classroom.

The variety of extensions is incredible! Here we go:


Chrome logo/Wikipedia Commons

Extensity
After reading this article and you get into the full swing of adding extensions, you might want to take a moment to add this one. With one click of a button - you can turn on or turn off an extension. Extensity is a great way to keep all of those happy extensions from bounding out of control. Within our 1:1 Chromebook program, this is the first extension that we have our students install. It is extremely helpful with organizing students’ own access to their extensions and also offers a quick drop-down menu displaying what extensions are installed for use.

AdBlock
One of my favorite extensions is called AdBlock. This handy little extension block ads from all web pages, even Facebook and Youtube. I think this is pretty amazing since, reportedly, more than 90 percent of Google’s revenue comes from advertising. AdBlock is especially helpful for teachers that may want to show a Youtube video or display an article from a national news media minus the annoying and sometimes inappropriate ads and gif’s. Please be aware that there some websites that have chosen to block delivery of content if an application or extension such as AdBlock is enabled. In other words, on some websites, you may have to turn AdBlock off in order to see all of the content. In my opinion, it’s alway worth keeping this extension on in the classroom.

OneTab
If you are anything like me, I always have at least 25 tabs open in my Chrome browser. OneTab is a great extension that will consolidate all of your tabs into one nice, neat webpage so that you can go back and reference them at any time! I used OneTab with a lesson plan recently in which I played several audio clips for my audience. As any teacher would, I found all of the clips in advance. Instead of having to re-find all of these sites again on the day of the lesson or copy and paste each URL into a document, I opened all of the Youtube clips I wanted to show, then clicked OneTab. It created a list of all of my webpages and saved it for quick access on the actual day of my lesson. Special note: In OneTab, the default settings do not keep your URL lists forever. If you want to keep your OneTab for the long-term use, be sure to export them or share them as a web page. These options to save or export are located in the tools menu pictured in the upper right-hand corner of your OneTab page.

Save to Google Drive
Okay, so many of us have said - “Yes, I should save that to my Google Drive,” but this great extension allows you to avoid having to download, copy, or paste. Simply install the extension and then when you click you can save web pages, images, and more, right to your drive! This is especially useful for students who are researching for projects or papers. Instead of having to save to a local machine and then uploading to Drive, or copy the image/text, then paste into a document, this is a short-cut! We also encourage students to create a project folder so that anything they save using this extension can be readily organized and ready for compilation later.

Readability (**According to online reviews, this tool is not currently working properly. We hope it's back up and running soon!)
Why is there so much other stuff on the page - when I just want to read my news article? Enter Readability. It clears the clutter from web pages so that you can read what you actually surfed there see!  Students who are easily distracted may find this app helpful. Additionally, teachers who just want to ensure that all students focus on a specified topic may appreciate this extension.

Data Saver
Do you go over your data plan every month like I do? If so, then please install the Data Saver extension. It compresses web pages so that you use less data while you are surfing.

Google Dictionary
With this extension, highlight any word on any webpage and get a bubble’s-worth of defining information. Many words also have an audio pronunciation option.
 

**Disclaimer: You need to be logged into Google Chrome for any of these apps and extensions to be available, appear on your toolbar, or actually work! Happy Googling, Happy Googlelife.

This blog post was inspired by an ISTE 2015 presentation given by Mike Marotta (www.mmatp.com) and Meredith Martin (www.techforteachers.com.)