Google Classroom Update: A Themes Expansion

gClassroom music theme banner

It has been a long time coming, and in the most recent update to Google Classroom the number of available themes has exploded to 78 possible choices!

  • The gallery has expanded from two categories to six.
  • Categories include English & History, Math & Science, Arts, Sports, and Other.
  • The primary color of the banner theme will dictate the color scheme for the tabs, post icons, and Topics menus.
  • Note that the class code is now available directly from the Classroom banner as is the option to display it in both large font and full screen.

Users still have the option to upload their own image to be their Classroom banner. Unfortunately the Upload photo option still does not support inserting an image from Google Photos (hint-hint Google).


For more information on this and other updates coming to Google Classroom, please check out Google’s The Keyword blog.

Google Classroom Update: Drag-&-Drop Finally Arrives!

Drag-&-Drop a Topic with assignments to a new location in Classroom

When Google introduced the new Classwork tab last fall, one of its new features was the ability to move individual assignment posts and Topics up or down the list. The downside of this was that you could only move an item up or down one space at a time. Last week Google announced that they were enhancing this organizational feature to include drag-&-drop support. No need to click on a specific icon or menu option, just click-&-hold on the item you wish to re-organize and drag it to its new location.


For more information on this and other updates coming to Google Classroom, please check out Google’s The Keyword blog.

Does Google Classroom’s “Gradebook” Make the Grade?

gClassroom Card with Gradebook beta con

A few weeks ago I shared that Google had released the beta version of their locked mode option for Google Forms with managed Chromebooks. At the same time, Google announced the beta version of a new Gradebook tool inside of Google Classroom. To request early access to the Gradebook tool, you can sign up using this form


The Interface

  • The new beta Gradebook can be accessed from any Google Classroom card that you are a teacher of by clicking on the upward-inching arrow to the left of the Google Drive folder shortcut. From inside a class, you will now see a Gradebook tab across the top as well.

  • Inside the Gradebook beta tool, you have access to all of your assignments that have been currently posted to the Classwork tab along the top row of the interface.
  • All of the assignment names are clickable and will take you to the details page when clicked.
  • Hovering over any assignment will display the three stacked dots to access the ability to Edit or Delete the assignment.
  • Additional information including due date (if provided) and point value (out of # or ungraded) can also be found here.
Classroom assignments row

  • Down the left-hand column will be your student roster and can be sorted by first or last name.
  • Clicking on a student’s name will take you directly to the YOUR WORK interface (click here for more on this tool).

  • At the center is the grade information for each student for each assignment.
  • Assignments set to Ungraded will be blank until students TURN IN the assignment, then will display a checkmark when you return it to them.
  • Assignments that have passed the due date and still have not been turned in will show the Missing status in red font.
Classroom Gradebook assignment grades & status info.
  • Hovering over any grade box will display the three stacked dots to access the ability to Return the assignment (assignments that have already been Returned will have the text grayed out).
  • Select the View submission option to go directly into the assignment details screen and view any artifacts assigned and/or added to the assignment by the student.
Classroom Gradebook stacked dots option for grades

Grade Calculations & Categories

Once the Gradebook option has been enabled, two additional options will be added to the Settings page in Classroom:

  • Grade Calculation: Allows you to choose a grading system that best fits your needs. Options include:
    • No overall grade calculation
    • Total points calculation
    • Percentage-based category weighting
  • You also have the option to make overall grades visible to students or not.
Classroom Settings Grade Calculations and Categories
  • Grade Categories: Assign categories and their desired weight/point value. Once created, these categories will show up when creating assignments from the Classwork tab as a drop-down menu option.
Classroom Gradebook Categories option from assignment details window

My Assessment

Because my school uses standards-based grading, much of the grade calculations and weighted categories do little benefit to my situation. Where I do find value in the Gradebook tool is having a big-picture overview of how each of my students are doing in my class by assignment and over time. I really like the ease with which I can scan for students who have missing work and who have been consistently turning in assignments late, as this affects their HOWL’s score for Responsibility.


For more information on the new Gradebook beta please check out the post on Google’s The Keyword blog. If you’d like to take the Gradebook beta tool for a test drive, then you can sign up using this form

Google Forms & Chromebooks “Lock” Hands

Google Forms Locked Mode icon

Back in late summer Google announced that they would allow educators the ability to administer assessments with Google Forms in a distraction-free or “locked” environment. Last week they finally announced that the beta program is finally ready and are looking for help from us to test this new feature out (pun intended).


[NOTE: This feature is currently in beta and not available to all users yet. If you’d like to try it out, then you can sign up using this form.]


How it works

  • Once enabled, navigate to a Google Forms file that you have setup to act as a quiz and click on the Settings gear icon.
Google Forms Settings icon
  • In Settings click on the QUIZZES tab to locate the Locked mode on Chromebooks option that is currently in Beta.
  • Check off the box below to Turn on locked mode.

Notifications (teachers)

  • Once enabled, a notification will be added to the front page of the Google Form stating that this assessment has the locked mode option enabled.
Google Forms locked mode notification msg.
  • A similar reminder will be displayed on the assignment description window for teachers in Google Classroom.
Google Forms locked mode indicator inside of a Google Classroom assignment
  • Note that once locked mode has been enabled, certain options under the GENERAL tab in Settings will be turned off as well.
Google Forms General tab in Settings

Notifications (students)

  • If a student attempts to access the Google Forms assessment from a non-Chromebook device, they will receive an error message:
Google Forms locked mode error msg.
  • Otherwise, students using managed Chromebooks will be greeted with the following message window upon accessing the assessment:
gForms locked mode student notification
  • Once students click the START QUIZ button, the browser window will switch to full screen mode and disable any shortcuts, touchpad gestures, etc. that could allow them to leave the Google Form. Students do have the option to exit by clicking on the CLOSE QUIZ button located in the top-right corner, but if so then none of their responses will be saved.
  • NOTE: In addition to the window/tab navigation tools being locked down, other features like taking a screenshot have also been disabled.

For more information please visit Google’s The Keyword blog which contains additional information include a step-by-step guide, Help Center directions, and a link to sign-up to participate in the beta program. And if you do decide to sign-up please don’t forget to send Google lots of constructive feedback.

A Dashboard of Activity in Google Docs, Sheets, & Slides

UPDATE (March 19, 2019): Google announced several changes to the Activity Dashboard.

  • The “View time” tab has been renamed to “Viewers.”
  • The new “Viewers” tab icon has been changed from a clock to that of a pair of people.
  • For more information, please refer to this article from the G Suite Updates blog.

(The original post continues below)…

Activity Dashboard icon

When working in a collaborative environment it can be helpful to know who and how many users are taking advantage of the resources you have shared. Google provides various tools with this in mind, from the Details tool in Drive to Version History inside of any Google Doc, Sheet, or Slide file. Now there is a new player joining the team called Activity Dashboard.


Activity Dashboard menu option

How it works

  1. Open any Google Doc, Sheet, or Slide.
  2. Locate the Tools menu option.
  3. From the drop-down list, choose Activity Dashboard.

View time

  • In the first of three panels, the View time panel lets you see who the file has been shared with and when they last accessed it.
  • Click on the Last viewed column header to adjust the sorting of users.
  • Think of this as a way to see how many students have chosen to take advantage of a resource you’ve shared with them.
Activity Dashboard's View time window
  • If you would like to contact select users and send a follow-up email, then you can do this directly from within the Activity Dashboard.
Activity Dashboard's Email follow-up window

Viewer trend

  • In the second panel, Viewer trend lets you see access activity over time.
  • Use the drop-down menu in the top-right corner to adjust the time frame, or use the line graph across the top to set a custom time frame.
  • Think of this as a way to track how often students have chosen to use a resource you’ve shared with them. Did they access the resource only when you first introduced it? Did they access it right before an assessment? Have they been using the resource throughout the unit of study?
Activity Dashboard Viewer trend window

Privacy settings

  • In the third panel, use Privacy settings to control access to the Activity Dashboard for all Docs, Sheets, and Slides files or for this specific file.
Activity Dashboard Privacy settings window
  • The details on the Activity Dashboard are only accessible to users who have “Edit” permissions to the Doc/Sheet/Slide file.
Activity Dashboard access denied message

For more information on the Activity Dashboard please refer this post on the G Suite Updates Blog.

“Copy Formatting” Enhancements Come to Google Slides

Paint Format tool icon in Google Docs, Slides, SheetsIn a previous post, I talked about how users can use the Paint Format tool to quickly transfer format settings to other objects inside of a Google Doc. In addition, double-clicking on the Paint Format tool will lock it into the “on” position or what Google calls “persistent” mode. This allows the user to transfer the format settings to multiple objects throughout the document. While the Paint Format tool has been available in other Google Drive apps, the ability to lock the tool into persistent mode has been available in Google Docs exclusively…until now.

Google Slides now has access to the “persistent” mode option for the Paint Format tool, allowing users to quickly and easy apply a specific formatting design to multiple objects across multiple slides.

Animated GIF showing persistent mode of the Paint Format tool


For more information, please refer to Google’s post from their G Suite Updates blog.

Gmail Mobile Update: All Inboxes

Gmail iconOne of the things I love about the mobile Gmail app is that it can support multiple Gmail accounts and makes it relatively easy to switch between your different inboxes. However, for some the ultimate interface would include a way to see all of one’s emails from across different accounts in one inbox. Now you can.


How it works

  • The best part of the All Inboxes feature is that it doesn’t require any setup on the user’s part. Just use the app update procedure on your device and get the latest version of the Gmail app.
  • Now, when you click the sandwich icon in the top-left corner of the app you will see at the top of your labels list the new All Inboxes option.
  • Note that this configuration affects your VIEW of your email only and does not share emails across accounts.

Gmail mobile app with All Inboxes option highlighted

A couple of other points to note:

  • Gmail mobile compose iconOnce you have entered into All Inboxes view and you click on the compose pencil icon, the email address that will be used to send the email will be the account that you were in last. So for example, if the last account I was in before I turned on All Inboxes was my school Gmail account, then that will be the account used to send my email and not my personal gmail account.
  • To exit out of All Inboxes, click the sandwich icon in the top-left corner to slide out the side drawer and then select the Everything label. Otherwise, the app will remember your choice and continue showing you All Inboxes under that account until you choose to switch it off.

Gmail mobile All Inboxes and Everything options


For more information, please check out the post from the G Suite Updates Blog.