Google + Hangouts Best Practices

posted Mar 7, 2013, 10:42 AM by Kay Schmalen

Hangouts Logo

AEA 267 staff are quickly discovering the enormous benefits of using Google+ Hangouts to communicate with each other, either for those short 30-60 minute conversations to those 2-3 hour meetings.  For those of you not familiar with "Hanging Out" yet, here's a little run down of Google Hangouts.

Hangouts are a video conferencing tool that is part of Google+. Some features that make it an indispensable tool include:

  • With Google Hangouts you can "Hangout" with up to 9 other people and chat face-to-face.
  • You can host a virtual meeting.  Google Hangouts allow you to share screens and collaborate on Google Docs, right within the Hangout.
  • Google Hangouts can be recorded and archived for distribution to others with Hangouts on Air.

As with any tool, there are some things to keep in mind regarding best practices:

  1. Honor other's time and be punctual to the meeting.  If you haven't been on a Hangout before, contact a colleague or one of the Google Trainers to test the technology out ahead of time.  Our AEA 267 Website has some tutorials to help you set up your Google+ account and how to initiate or participate in a Google Hangout.  If you are the facilitator of the meeting, start the meeting on time and end on time.  
  2. Don't make distracting noise.  Avoid typing on your keyboard and turn off or quit applications (e.g email) that may make notification sounds. Also, silence cell phones and don't text.
  3.  If wearing jewelry, be cognizant of the sounds that your jewelry makes .   When your jewelry hits your desk, the mic or your computer, the noise can be distracting and louder than what you realize on the other end.
  4. Mute your mic and/or camera if needed.  If you do need to take a phone call or someone comes to speak to you while on the Hangout, MUTE your mic and/or your camera.  Just because you aren't talking with the group, they can still hear and see everything that you say or do.
    Mute Mic
    Mute Mic
  5. Eliminate background noise. If you are in a location with a lot of background noise, go to a room that is quieter.
  6. Maintain eye contact by looking into the camera.  Note what your picture looks like and adjust it so that everyone can see your face.  Avoid the "Wilson Effect".
    Wilson Effect
    Wilson Effect
  7. Feedback can be the death of a meeting. The purpose of a video conference is to connect with people at-a-distance.  If you happen to be in the same place or room with someone that is also in the same Hangout, note that your computer's mic will pick up everything, including the sound coming from another's computer.  This will create feedback that can be annoying to others in the group.  Some options to consider when sharing the same physical location:
  • Option 1: Use one computer with a projector and speakers.  Make sure that everyone sits close enough to the computer so that the computer's mic can pick up everyone speaking.
  • Option 2: Each person uses their own computer, but uses headphones with a mic.  Make sure that the sound is coming through the headphones and the mic is working.  People in the room may have to spread out so that the mics don't pick up other's voices easily.

Google + Tips

posted Feb 18, 2013, 2:06 PM by Kay Schmalen   [ updated Feb 18, 2013, 2:07 PM ]

Snow storm
Google+ and the Hangouts are an effective tool for communicating across the agency (or across the office).  As I wait for the next major snow storm, it is nice to know that I don't have to worry about traveling on Friday, as my group is planning on using Google+ Hangouts to hold our meeting. Now that many of you have already created a Google+ account, I did a little tutorial on some of the other features of Google+, such as how to edit your circles and how to share a post with a group of people or one other person.  Which is especially helpful if you wanted to share a blog post or website with a group of people and discuss the post. 

Also, a great place for help is our own AEA 267 Website, under Technology Integration, then Google Apps.   If you have a request for a specific tutorial, please let me know and I would be more than happy to post it here, as well as on the site.

Google Forms, Refreshed

posted Feb 1, 2013, 12:39 PM by Stacy Behmer   [ updated Feb 1, 2013, 12:43 PM ]

Google Forms, Refreshed


Posted by: Nick Santos, Software Engineer 

(Cross-posted on the Google Drive blog.) 

With Google Drive, you can do more than just create, store, and share stuff. A variety of apps can help with everything from editing spreadsheets to signing documents electronically.

Forms let you easily create questionnaires and automatically collect responses in a spreadsheet. Today a new version launches, rebuilt to bring you a faster, cleaner, and more collaborative experience. 

Now with collaboration 
Create a form faster than ever. Just as with Docs, Sheets and Slides, you can now collaborate with others in real-time. If you need to work with two colleagues on a survey, all three of you can work on the same form simultaneously and even have a group chat on the side, without leaving the form.

Better editing 
Even if you’re working solo, some new changes will make creating and editing forms easier. All your changes are auto-saved and you can quickly undo/redo edits. Improved copy-and-paste will let you copy a list of bullets from the web or multiple rows of text from a spreadsheet; then, when you paste into a form, each line will be appear as an individual answer. And you can use keyboard shortcuts to get things done more quickly. 

Some things unchanged 
With the new Forms editor, you can continue using all the features you’re already familiar with: 

  • Scale: Whether you’re collecting responses from ten friends for a baby shower or ten thousand attendees at a conference, you can count on Forms to reliably collect data for any number of responses. 
  • Analyzing: See the responses you’ve received right in Google Forms or collect them neatly in Google Sheets. And you can now download a .csv file for more detailed analysis and reporting. 
  • Sharing: If you share a form directly in Google+, anyone in your circles can respond without leaving their stream. Or if you send a form via email, respondents can submit their answers right from Gmail.

This update to Forms will be rolling out to Rapid Release over the next few days, and to Scheduled Release in the coming weeks. You can create forms directly from Google Sheets or Drive, or install the Chrome Web App for easy access from your browser. Also check theGoogle Drive +page all week for tips and tricks. 

Copy and Paste a List- Google Forms

New Chromebooks and Virtualization of Chromebooks!

posted Jan 17, 2013, 7:22 AM by Stacy Behmer   [ updated Jan 17, 2013, 11:50 AM ]

For schools: The new Lenovo ThinkPad Chromebook
Google's newest partner Lenovo has announced a Chromebook based on their popular ThinkPad laptop. Meet the new Lenovo ThinkPad X131e ChromebookClassrooms have unique hardware and software needs and this new Chromebook combines the hassle-free experience of Chrome OS with the ThinkPad’s rugged design for the classroom environment. With specialized features like a rubber bumper around the top cover, stronger corners, reinforced hinges and hinge brackets, and a high definition (HD) LED anti-glare screen, the Lenovo ThinkPad X131e Chromebook is ready for schools. Lasting up to 6.5 hours* with a latest-generation Intel processor, the ThinkPad Chromebook will keep up with even the most active students and teachers. Read more in Google's Blog Post.

Chromebooks are becoming increasingly popular in schools.  But what about schools that still use Windows applications?  There was a  Google Hangout on Air - Virtualization for Chromebooks - that featured an interactive discussion between a panel of current Chromebook schools/districts on enabling Windows application access with virtualization. In addition, Richland School District 2 shared some ways they use Ericom's AccessNow HTML5 RDP solution for accessing Windows applications from Chromebooks.

Take a look at the Hangout:

Uploading to Google Docs

posted Dec 5, 2012, 7:08 AM by Kay Schmalen

Google Drive lets you store up to 5 GB of files in your Google Drive account.  Frequently, we have something on our computer that we want to edit as a Google document so the file will need to be uploaded to Google Drive.

Recently, Google changed their upload settings, so even if you modified your settings in the past, check the settings to make sure they are set as recommended at the end of this post.

To clarify, Google Drive allows you to upload documents with the following options:

You can upload...

  1. a Word, Excel or PPT to Google Drive so that when you upload it you can edit it as a Google Doc. You can edit it in the browser. This is the most common type of upload.
  2. a Word, Excel or PPT to Google Drive so that when you upload it, it does NOT change. It is simply a file that is stored in your Google Drive. If you want to change it, you will need to download it and open it in whatever application it was created in.
  3.  a PDF to Google Drive, so that when you upload it, Google takes a "picture of each page" and converts the page best it can to text so that you can edit it.
  4. a PDF to Google Drive, so that when you upload it, it goes NOT change.  You are storing that PDF in your Google Drive and you cannot edit it, but you can share it with others (they can't edit it either).
  5. Any other type of file (images, Keynote, etc), but there is not a way to edit as a Google Doc.

You can tell the difference between files that Google Docs and files that are Word, PPT, or Excel by looking at the icons next to the file name.  Google Drive documents (editable in Google Drive) have the following icons:

Google Doc      Google Spreadsheet    Google Presentation- 

Lastly, check your upload settings.  To get to your upload settings, open your Google Drive, click on the gear or wheel in the upper right hand corner, then click on upload settings, please set your settings to match these in the image below.

Check out the AEA 267 Google Apps Website for additional resources. You’ll also find a list of upcoming workshops that are available in each of the AEA 267 offices.

5 Google Tips You Can't Live Without

posted Dec 3, 2012, 6:46 AM by Kay Schmalen

Using Google Drive can be a blessing and a headache at the same time.  Files are appearing in your Google Drive left and right, you have no idea where they came from or how to get rid of them! Luckily, I have 5 helpful tips that can make your life a little easier when it comes to using Google Drive.

1.  Organize, Organize, Organize.

Take advantage of those organization tools.  When you go to Google Drive, there is an option to create Documents, Presentations, etc. there is also can option to create folders?  From there you can move files into those folders by selecting the document and then clicking on organize.


(Be careful that you don't move files out of a shared folder though!  It will remove that file for everyone who has access to that folder.)  These folders work just like your folders on your laptop or desktop computer.  You can name them accordingly, nest them and change the colors of the folders.

2.  Use the Search Toolbar

Google Drive has its own search toolbar.

Using this tool bar, you can search your entire Drive.  When you put a search term in the textbox, it searching EVERYTHING in your drive  for that term.  It searches titles, descriptions and text within files, even PDFs. You can also apply some search operators to help narrow your search.  For example, use quotes around a phrase to search for that EXACT phrase.  Use the word OR to search for more than one word, use a hypen (-) to remove words from the search results.  There are some other powerful search terms:

title: search within the title only
owner: search documents that are owned by a certain person (use their Google account info, e.g.
to: search for documents that were shared with a certain person (use their Google account info, e.g.

Google also provides documentation on these search terms.  If I can't find something, the Search Toolbar is my go to tool!

3.  Have more than one Google Account?  

Remember if you have a Google Apps account provided for you by AEA 267 (or your place of employment), it should be used only for work related materials.  Therefore, I have two Google accounts, one that I use for work and one that I use for personal things, such shopping, kids activities, etc.  When you are in one Google account, it is a pain to log out of one and go to the other.  Google provides something called multiple log ins.  When I am logged in to my Google account and click on my name in the upper left hand corner of the web page, I see something like this.  This way I can easily navigate between my two accounts.

To set this up, log into one account, then click on Add Account, and log in to the other account.

This is a great feature, and if you choose to use it, please keep in mind that it is ultimately your responsibility to know which account you are in.  You can check this looking in the upper right hand side of your browser window.  

Also, if you are using a company owned computer, keep in mind that ANY activity that you do on that computer, regardless of what account you are using, is subject to your employer's Acceptable Use Policy. 

4. Bookmark Common Documents

Because each Google Document has its own unique web address, just like your favorite web pages, you can bookmark any Google Doc the same way as you would a web page (even ones that you don't own). For example, I have a document called Contract Days that I update frequently.  Instead of opening up Google Drive and locating it in my list of files, I have the document bookmarked or listed in my favorites.  This way I can easily locate it by clicking on the link that I have bookmarked.

5. Organize, Organize, Organize

Ok, I know that I've already said, but it bears repeating, and Google Drive has more than folders to keep you organized.  If you have a file or files that someone has shared with you that you don't need anymore (e.g. old agendas, committee notes that you are no longer part of, documents that are no longer relevant, etc.) you don't have to keep them.  I'm giving you permission to remove these items from your Google Drive.  To do this, click on the box next to the file that you no longer need then click on the trash can icon at the top.

If you don't own the document or if you own the document and it isn't shared with others the document will disappear and you will receive a notice at the top saying that the item(s) was removed. If you own the document and it is shared with others, it will be moved to the trash and you will receive a notice at the top, that it was removed and is no longer shared with others.  In other words, those who you gave permission to the document to edit it, view it, etc, will no longer have access to it.  

If that is not what you wanted to do you can Undo it, by clicking on the blue Undo button, or going to your trash and restoring it.  (Once you empty your trash, you cannot recover it.)

Lots more tips coming! 

Also, check out the AEA 267 Google Apps Website for additional resources. You’ll also find a list of upcoming workshops that are available in each of the AEA 267 offices.

Google+ to K-12 Domains

posted Nov 16, 2012, 8:02 AM by Stacy Behmer

Google Plus Logo

Google+ is now available for K-12 Domains. It must be turned on in the control panel for people to use. 

Reminder, G+ is currently turned off for students, but new premium features have been released today.  Check out our current settings, and watch this video

More resources about Google+ will be coming to the site!  Contact your AEA if you have questions. 

New Chromebooks!

posted Oct 23, 2012, 12:10 PM by Stacy Behmer

Just sat in on an OnAir Hangout about the new Chromebooks! If you or any of your districts are interested in them, take a look, it's only 20-30 minutes maybe, but covers a lot!  Here is the link that will have the recording shortly!

"We just announced a new Samsung Chromebook. At $249 per device it offers an even more affordable way to bring Chromebooks and the power of the web to the classroom.
You can learn more about it in this blog post:(" - Google

Docs, Sheets and Slides in Chrome!

posted Oct 23, 2012, 12:01 PM by Stacy Behmer

An update about Google Apps products:

To make it even easier for you to create stuff quickly, Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations–now called DocsSheets, and Slides–are now available as apps in the Chrome Web Store. Once installed, shortcuts to these apps will appear when you open a new tab in Chrome.

This blog post tells you more information.

Hiding Rows and Columns in Google Spreadsheets

posted Oct 17, 2012, 11:21 AM by Kay Schmalen

Google Spreadsheets work much in the same way as other Google tools, in regard to sharing.  For this reason, it is great to have the features of spreadsheets along with the option to share with it with your colleagues who need either viewing and/or editing rights to the spreadsheet. While Google spreadsheets work in much the same way as Excel, there are some nuances.  One of them, is hiding rows and columns.  One resource that I use when I want to learn something in Google, is Google Gooru.  He has video short video tutorials that many times address those little known tips and tricks in Google. In April, he produced a video, Hiding Rows and Columns in Google Spreadsheets. If you have any questions or suggestions don't hesitate to contact one of the Google trainers: Kay Schmalen (kschmalen@aea267.k12.ia,us) Clair Judas ( Jon Kruse ( Dave Schaefer ( Brian Unruh (

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