My Top 4 Chrome extensions

August 10, 2015

Google Chrome is awesome a browser.   There are those who prefer it to other browsers and I can see why.  For an individual, it’s very customisable and while this can cause issues for schools, it’s an up-to-date, easy to use browser.

Let's face it, if you're reading this post, you probably already have a certain viewpoint

Let’s face it, if you’re reading this post, you probably already have a certain viewpoint

Added this one for balance

Whatever your opinion on Chrome, it’s extensions are really powerful, so much so that I keep a list of them to be able to reinstall them when Chrome decides to clean them out or I accidentally hit reset all (that happened this morning and it was like losing a family album 🙂 ). I thought I’d share this list with you – which also has the happy side effect of making it easy for me to find them again 🙂

Open in IE

open_ie_icon

Link to Chrome Store

Google Chrome considers it a security issue to be able to open a link in Windows Explorer.  The trouble is that this is a really handy thing to be able to do if you’re managing an intranet server. Annoying, Google does allow you to open the Chrome downloads folder on its own downloads page, but I can’t find the code to duplicate this.  If anyone does know how, please tell the world (and me).

This extension offers the chance to open a link in Internet Explorer when you right-click on a link.   So, if you’ve got a page with a link beginning file:// the extension opens IE, which then opens Windows Explorer (and closes IE as a bonus).

There is a problem with the current extension though, it uses NPAPI which Google have announced they are shutting down by version 45.   On that day, I will be wearing a black armband.

These instructions on the Chrome help page will allow you to use this really useful plugin until then (note the slightly smug “if you must use…”  – yes Google, we must use it – make your browser better and we won’t have to!):

How to temporarily enable NPAPI plug-ins
If you must use a NPAPI plug-in, there’s a temporary workaround that will work until Chrome version 45 is released later in 2015:

  1. Open Chrome.
  2. In the address bar at the top of the screen, type chrome://flags/#enable-npapi
  3. In the window that opens, click the link that says Enable under the Enable NPAPI flag.
  4. In the bottom-left corner of the page, click the Relaunch Now button.

Window Resizer

window_resizer_icon

Link to Chrome Store

I’ve got a HUGE desktop monitor.  I know, size isn’t everything, but sometimes inches do count.   It’s really handy for me to have multiple windows all visible at the same time.  Honest.

As any web designer worth their salt will tell you, it’s very important to design pages that fit on your target audiences screen.   It’s so easy to make a page too wide without realising it, or to have an important message below the “fold” (the bit not visible until you scroll down).

Window Resizer is a brilliant way of quickly resizing your browser to the size of the user’s screen.   We have multiple devices in school now; desktops running at 1024×768, others running 1440×900, mobile phones and Chromebooks.

Being able to quickly check what a page looks like, gives me a chance to catch mistakes and produce a better looking product.  You can customise the screens and shortcuts too, which just adds to my love for it.


User-Agent Switcher

ua_switcher

Link to Chrome Store

Speaking of designing for multiple devices, User-Agent switcher allows you to quickly check how your page looks on a range of devices and browsers. There’s not much more to say about it really.

It’s helped design our mobile VLE site and is really handy when identifying problems when users complain their phone doesn’t see something.


Clear Cache

clear_cache

Link to Chrome Store

For some bizarre reason, CTRL + F5 works in Chrome, but doesn’t completely clear the cache.   Isn’t that the point of CTRL + F5, to clear the cache and refresh the page?

Apparently not. This handy extension takes care of the problem at least.

It’s the Ronseal of Chrome Extensions.

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Google Email Content filtering

May 20, 2015

At Cramlington, we use Gmail for our student mail.  It’s a good system that ties in with the devices we provide to our students through 1:1 schemes (Android tablets and Chromebooks).

Chuck Norris Gmail

Modding Gmail

There can be some issues using a third-party external email service.  For instance, we made the decision to prevent students having external email access.  They can’t email anyone outside the school.  If you are an administrator for your school’s Gmail system, you can control this access through the Routing section in the Advanced settings of the Admin Console.

Outbound Routing Settings for Gmail

Outbound Routing Settings for Gmail

Stop swearing!

Swearing meme

The other side of student email is teaching responsible use.  If we don’t prepare students for interacting appropriately with others online, then we have failed as educators.

Students are like everyone else.  I’ve used swear words in personal email, but I don’t think I’ve ever sent an email which included profanity from a professional account.  It’s just not professional.   I don’t think kids are unique in not understanding the difference between personal and professional, but at least we can help teach kids the differences.

Gmail has content filtering possible.  If you go into the Advanced settings of the Gmail Admin Console, there is a section marked Objectionable Content.

Objectionable content settings

Objectionable content settings

I’ve no idea where it came from originally, but here’s a spreadsheet of inappropriate words, alternate spellings etc which can be uploaded to the Objectionable Content:

Banned_words.xls
(Don’t judge me on the contents)

Any email that comes through containing one of these words gets re-routed to my email inbox.  One additional aspect that was a bonus is this also works if a student shares a document or comments on a document which also contains inappropriate word.

Side effects

I’ve already touched on students using their emails for (very) personal communication.  Spelling mistakes and abbreviations have also caused emails to be blocked.  I generally scan the email to see what the problem word was.  I’ve removed a few words from the list (e.g. job) which is only inappropriate in certain context.

I do wish our teachers would stop shortening ‘Assessment‘ documents to ‘Ass‘!

There have been a few instances of party invitations being blocked because kids insist on using text speak:

Will you cum to my party?

For some reason, we also get quite a few copied-and-pasted rap lyrics emailed round.

The content filter has led to a few detentions and highlighted some bullying issues.  In the few instances parents have been called in to discuss their child’s email language.  Seeing the email printed out has never failed to produce an appropriately annoyed response. 🙂

I don’t like having this access.  On one occasion an email was re-routed due to a mis-spelling.  Scanning the email, I saw it was a student talking about how upset they were as their pet had died.   I was really tempted to let her tutor know, so they could be supportive.  In the end, I didn’t.  It was an invasion of privacy and while accidental, there was nothing I could do which would make that invasion appropriate.


Google Forms – passing user details from a VLE

November 27, 2012

The tutorials for how to do this already exist on Google Docs, but whenever I see a survey posted on our VLE, this extra is never included.

Getting started

I’m assuming if you’re reading this you already know how to set up a Google form.  I’m assuming that not because I want to make anyone (including me) an ass, let alone recite a cliché.  No I’m assuming, gentle reader, that you know how to make a form in Google for two reasons:

  1. You want more functionality from your forms
  2. It’s really easy

    Create a form in Google Docs

    This is the current Create button in Google. By the time this post is published I fully expect Google to have changed the design completely

Quick primer

Just in case, I’m going too fast:

  • log into Google Docs
  • click on the Create button
  • click Form

Once your Form is opened you can set about adding questions in all sort of styles, from text entry and paragraphs to multi-choice, scales etc… But let’s be honest, you know all this.

Get to the “fun” bit

Alright, I went as fast as I could.  So, assuming (there I go again) you’re using a similar set up to Cramlington, where surveys are posted as links inside notices and do not require our students to be logged into Google Docs, you will have no idea who the student is who is completing your survey.Easiest solution is to include a username field.   Generally our students are honest and will fill this out, but that’s assuming they spell correctly and include the tutor code part of their username.   It would be so much simpler to just pass those details from our VLE.

Fortunately, we use the Frog VLE which exposes the user’s username in a simple Frog tag: [user_username]

This username can be added to the Google Form address in the following manner:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=lots of letters&entry_0=[user_username]&

What does that do?

The actual address of the form is:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=lots of letters

There’s a link to the form at the bottom of the edit page.  The rest comprises of:

& tells your browser that the formkey variable has ended.

entry_0 is a new variable and corresponds to the first field in the form.  If you put entry_1 you could set the second variable in the list and so on.

[user_username] is our Frog tag

You can see the example for yourself here:

And that’s it.  Simple.

Now all I have to do is make our 100+ teachers read my blog.


Google App Inventor

July 13, 2010

I’ve just come across this very intriguing site from Google.  Called the App Inventor, it is going to allow non-programmers to build Apps for Google Android devices.

Google App Inventor

This is going to make the mobile market very, very interesting.  Right now, Apple leads the charge on App numbers for their iPhone and iPad.  They’ve also resisted attempts to allow non-Mac owners and non-programmers to be able to create Apps.

Google, by offering this App Inventor, will no doubt see a massive surge in their market place and I can imagine this will quickly draw them level with Apple.   Add to the mix the number of different Android tablets scheduled to come out this year and Apple are going to have a fight on their hands.

That’s the business report out of the way.  For us regular users interested in e-learning, I suggest buying an android phone next time your subscription is up.  Imagine building your own quizzes and getting your students to complete them from their own mobile devices?  Or how about building a GPS game and watch as your students conduct mapping and measuring exercises.   Augmented reality – how about virtual teachers located around field trip sites?

If Google pull this off, the future of e-learning could get a LOT more mobile.  I’ve signed up already and am waiting for my account.  Expect e-learning App posts soon!