Gmail Gets a Facelift & It’s Looking Good!

Last week Google announced a major refit to one of their core GSuite apps: Gmail. The updates to Gmail blend many different tools and settings together, with some pulled from what used to be available only through their Gmail Labs tab or from their other Email app: Inbox. The new Gmail can be activated now on personal accounts from the Settings gear icon; organization Gmail accounts (i.e. enterprise and education) will need to wait for their Google admin to turn this feature on.

Try new Gmail menu option

To get a quick rundown of the features that come with the new Gmail you can check out this summary on their Keyword blog, or you can read this product guide from the Gmail Help Desk. I would also encourage you to check out this video from our Technology Department that shows some of the key features in action:

NOTE: I mentioned earlier the Labs tab in the classic Gmail. This information is still available but the tab has been renamed to “Advanced” in the new Gmail interface.


Behold! Custom Links for your Google Sites Navigation

It has been a long time in coming, but the often-requested feature of being able to add custom links to the new Google Sites navigation bar has arrived. Adding custom links allows the user to connect to other pages and whole sites that are outside of the immediate website. As a teacher, the immediate use for this is to add a link back to my school’s homepage. If you work as part of a team and that team has a team website, then that is another example of how the custom navigation link can find value.

Where is it?Old Google Sites menu

  • If you go to, (which is the old interface) then use the link in the left-hand column to access the new Google Sites. You can also add /new to the address above to go directly to the new Sites interface.
  • Remember that the new Google Sites can also be accessed from Google Drive, both pre-existing sites as well as the ability to create a new one from the menu.


Create a new Site from Drive

How it works

  • New Sites Pages tab with Home, pages, and subpage examplesOnce you are in the new Google Sites editor, look to the tools panel along the right-side of the editor and at the top there are three menu tabs: INSERT, PAGES, and THEMES, with INSERT active by default.
  • Select the PAGES tab. This will show you an outline of all of the pages that have been made for this site. It is also where you can designate the order that the pages will be displayed in your navigation bar as well as which pages are to be subpages (i.e. creating a drop-down menu of pages connected to a theme like field trips, classes, galleries, etc.).
  • At the bottom of the PAGES tab there used to be a circular button that would allow you to create new pages. This has been upgraded to now include the ability to add a new link to your navigation bar.

New page button becomes New page and New link button

  • New link properties windowOnce you select the New link option, a properties pop-up window will be displayed where you can enter:
    • the name you want displayed in the navigation bar.
    • the link that you want the name to point to.
    • do you want a new tab to be created when the link is selected.
  • Click DONE to add the custom link to your navigation bar.


Making changes

Edit a custom link

  • If you need to edit or delete a custom link, then locate it by name under the PAGES tab.
  • Hover over the item to reveal the traffic light icon (three vertical dots).
  • Selecting this will display a pop-up menu with the options to edit the custom link (Properties), hide it from the navigation bar, or delete the link altogether.

Google Team Drives Now Have Email

When my school district transitioned to GSuite for Education, one of the culture changes we went through was how to notify each other when we wanted to share a file/folder. You could go with the traditional method of using the Gmail app to notify the user of your sharing, just as long as remembered to 1.) attach the item, and 2.) set the sharing permissions on the item correctly. Slowly, we learned that you could achieve this same effect by using the email feature built-in to Google Drive’s sharing tool.

Google Drive share window with email message

Enter Team Drives…

Team Drives have become a valuable addition to the Google Drive environment, allowing groups to easily manage not only their files but also who should have access to those files over time. It removes the need to manually setup sharing permissions for the team since files are permissioned automatically when they are created or added to the Team Drive. But, there still may be a need to notify the team members about a new file/folder addition or changes to the drive contents. That’s where the new “Email Members” option comes in. Think of it as having a pre-made email contact group for each Team Drive you are a member of.

How it works

  • Team Drive drop-down menu optionsSelect a Team Drive from your left-hand navigation menu inside of the Google Drive app.
  • Locate the name of your Team Drive at the top of the window interface and select the disclosure triangle at the end. This will reveal a drop-down menu with the option to Email Members of the Team Drive.
  • A pop-up window will be displayed showing the list of members for the Team Drive and several checkbox options to help you select who you would like to notify. Depending on how you’ve setup your Team Drive permissions you may see additional options such as to email only “Guests” or users who have specific levels of access such as full, edit, comment, or view.
  • Once you have selected your audience, you can compose an email with subject directly from this window.
  • When ready, select SEND to transmit your message.

Team Drive Email Members window

  • You can access the same feature from inside a Google Drive file as well. Navigate to the File menu and from the drop-down select Email Collaborators.
  • If you use this method, then the title of the file you’re in will automatically be used for the Subject line of your email so that you don’t have to spend time adding this to your message.

For more information, please refer to this post of Google’s GSuite Updates blog.

Join Google & OK Go For Some Sandbox Fun!

OK Go Sandbox logoGoogle recently announced a collaboration with the music group OK Go to use their amazing music videos to explore the worlds of science and math. Called the OK Go Sandbox, this site has been designed to facilitate exploration, imagination, and play. There are resources for both students and teachers to take advantage of.

For Students

Q&A module: The One Moment of MathIn addition to being able to watch the actual music videos, students also have access to Q&A interviews with the band members about what went on behind the scenes and the skills they needed to pull them off.  Students learn how geometry and time factor in to how video cameras capture events to change our perspective in The One Moment. Using the music video This Too Shall Pass, the band takes students on a exploration about simple machines. And last but not least, students can see how math and music are intertwined by way of their Needing/Getting music video.

For Teachers

Each of the three modules contains multiple challenge activities, from exploring how gravity affects objects of different sizes and masses based on The One Moment video to using sensors to make sounds just like they did in Needing/Getting. Each challenge comes with an Educator Guide in PDF format to download, while some challenges also include a Student Guide as well as guides that integrate with Google’s Science Journal app for Android-enabled devices.

OK Go Surrounding Sounds Challenge materials

For more information, check out Google’s Keyword blog post.

The Chrome Music Lab

Chrome Music Lab Harmonics ModuleIf you haven’t explored The Chrome Music Lab, then you have been missing out! Designed to make the learning of music more “accessible through fun, hands-on experiments,” the music lab now has 13 different modules to choose from. After I shared this out to my staff in an email, it wasn’t long before I could hear the familiar sounds of both professional and amateur music makers coming from up and down the hallway.

The different modules explore different aspects of music and sound manipulation, from Harmonics to Oscillation to their newest module: Sound Maker. Each module provides a playful space to experiment, explore, and be creative. Some modules like Spectrogram can tap into your device’s microphone so that you can be the source of the music.

Chrome Music Lab Spectrogram with microphone option

For more information, please check out the post on the Google Keyword blog.

EquatIO & Google Forms: A Formula for Success

Google Forms and EquatIO icons shake handsIn a previous post I highlighted a great tool to help teachers generate mathematical formulas and equations, EquatIO, which is now FREE for teachers. And now with the help of the EquatIO Chrome extension, you can insert formulas and equations into questions and answer choices in Google Forms.


  1. If you haven’t done so already, get setup with an account with EquatIO and then apply for a FREE premium teacher account (directions can be found here).
  2. Next, add the EquatIO extension to your Chrome web browser.
  3. Create a new Google Form or open a pre-existing one.
  4. Create/select a question and hover over the question field and/or answer choice field to see the blue EquatIO icon. Click the icon to activate the extension.
  5. A toolbar with pop-up at the bottom of your window with all of the EquatIO editor tools at your disposal including text, graph, handwriting, and speech input editors.EquatIO toolbar icons
  6. Once you have created your equation, click on the blue INSERT MATH button in the bottom-right corner to add it to your form. Equations act the same way as if you were using the ‘add image’ tool in Google Forms.
  7. In the screencast below I demonstrate how to use EquatIO to add a formula to a Google Forms question as well as several answer choices.


Recent Updates to Google Classroom

Google recently announced some updates to their Google Classroom app with a focus on improving communication with students as well as with parents/guardians. If you’d like to watch this review online then click here.

Comment Settings move to STREAM

Classroom commenting tool drop-down menuThe configuration box for controlling the commenting ability of students has been moved from the STUDENTS tab to the STREAM tab. The actual functions haven’t changed; you can still set the public or “class” commenting privileges for students, just that the tool is now located on the tab where the commenting actually takes place:

  • Students can post and comment
  • Students can only comment
  • Only teachers can  post and comment

Manually send Guardian Summaries

Email student or guardians envelope iconGuardian Summaries are a way for parents to get regular updates on how their child is doing in their classes through Google Classroom. Go to the STUDENT tab and click on the name of a student in the list to take you to their “Your work” tool. By clicking on the envelope icon in the top-right corner, now teachers can manually send a Guardian Summary to a student, the guardian(s) of the student, or both the student and the guardian(s). After selecting your receiver, there is a space below to enter a quick message. Don’t forget to check off the box to Include student work summary if you want that information included in the transmission. NOTE: A guardian must have accepted the invite prior to this point in order to include them in this communique.

Guardian summary email tool

Teachers & Co-Teachers

About section-teacher managementNothing much to say here except that the footprint of this module has been made smaller. You still use this tool to add co-teachers to your class, remove them, email them, or transfer ownership of the class to another. Students still see the list of co-teachers for the class and an envelope icon to send an email to them.

As always, if you like these changes or have suggestions for some new ones then please do not hesitate to send Google feedback via the question mark “?” icon located in the bottom-left corner of the window.