Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: google

Google in a time of lockdown

2020 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the beta version of Gmail, Google’s first move beyond being just a search engine. Since then Google has created an extensive suite of applications many of which are extremely useful for teaching and learning. In this blog I’ll be looking at some of, what I think, are the most useful apps and why, during the current lockdown, Google can be useful in helping deliver online learning.

Possibly the most useful change Google has made in light of the lockdown was to extend video conferencing (Hangouts Meet)  to all GSuite accounts allowing up to 250 participants in any online meeting. Setting up an online meeting using Hangouts Meet can be done via the Google calendar thus notifying participants automatically. While this particular app lacks some of the functionality of Webex, it is useful for hosting and running a simple meeting or online seminar.

In this time of distributive learning, collaboration can still be facilitated and Google provides tools such as jamboard that will allow students to contribute to online tasks and discussions. Jamboard provides a pin-board style interface onto which students can pin their ideas and contributions to group tasks. While apps such as Google docs do clearly provide opportunities for online collaboration, jamboard provides a tool for more focused tasks with a clear and easy to read interface.

On the Degree Apprenticeship programme, we make major use of G Suite including Shared Drives and Google Docs, indeed without these, it would be difficult to see how we could manage some of the required administrative tasks. The ability to enhance the functionality of some Google products such as sheets, also means that they can be tailored to best meet the needs of our students. For example, all degree apprenticeship students are required to keep a log of their off the job training activities, such as their weekly University sessions, to help them complete these logs we use Google forms linked to Google sheets. Being able to add a script to the sheets means that emails can automatically be sent out allowing course administrators to more easily monitor log entries.

In terms of teaching and learning, one of the most useful Google products, and certainly the most ubiquitous in terms of videos, is YouTube, bought by Google back in 2006. By virtue of having a Google account, all members of the University automatically have a YouTube account. This, combined with the unlimited storage offered by Google, provides staff and students with an invaluable teaching and learning platform. Google’s screen capture app, Screencastify, integrates nicely with Youtube allowing users to edit and then upload directly to their YouTube channel.

So, out of the range of apps, Google provides, which ones are my favourites?

Having worked with apprenticeship students in the Business faculty for over two years, helping them with their ePortfolios, I’ve become a convert to Google Sites. I found the old version while having plenty of functionality, a bit clunky and not that user-friendly, often having to write HTML to achieve what I wanted. A downside of New Google Sites was the lack of template functionality, but this issue is being addressed as the addition of templates is currently in development.

But, on a day to day level, Google docs and Shared Drives have pretty much transformed the way I work, simplifying working collaboratively with colleagues and students. 

The pace of development of Google products is also impressive and I’m looking forward to making use of Smart Compose ( and neural grammar correction, currently in beta. While Word does ship with far greater functionality and even slightly complicated Word documents do not convert well to Google, for the majority of users, the tools available with Docs are generally more than enough and thinglink ( is great for those new to Docs. Google has also made it slightly easier to share documents with non-Google account holders, users can now use their existing email address to set themselves up with Google to enable access to shared Google docs, Sites etc. while a PIN verification system, currently in beta, will remove the need to set up any kind of Google account at all.

The current situation has thrown up considerable challenges in continuing to provide engaging and high quality teaching and learning especially in terms of students working collaboratively, Google clearly does not provide all the solutions required, but its suite of apps are certainly a good starting point.

Image by Saveliy Morozov  from Pixabay

Guest Blogger: James Lenthall – Google Apps Script

Google Apps Script (GAS) is an extension for some Google Suite applications that allow for customisation. It could be compared to macros for Office or ExtendScript for Adobe. My experience of using it is mostly through Google Sheets so that’ll be my focus.

It’s incredibly versatile allowing you to read and write data, create your own functions, menus, pop ups, side bars and even entire web sites. This combined with integration that’s readily available with other Google services makes for an impressive toolkit for creating solutions for a wide range of tasks.

Why should you use it? Being cloud based with the ability to save versions as you work there’s no worry about losing anything, plus you can edit from anywhere. If you regularly do repetitive tasks, part of, or perhaps the entire task could be automated. Google forms don’t have the functionality you’re after? Build your own that can also populate a sheet. Trying to work out post dates? A custom function can automate that based on another cell’s data. Perhaps the most compelling reason to give it a try, taken from “7 Reasons Why Google Apps Script is a Great First Programming Language to Learn”; there’s no setup required and it’s completely free. 

If you are already familiar with front end web development then it is quick and easy to pick up. GAS is entirely written in JavaScript. It’s very well documented so finding your way around is easy. There’s also sites such as Stack Overflow for assistance as more often than not, someone else has already asked the question you have.

I know there have been other cases in the University where it has been used to email all users on a spreadsheet or simply whichever row you’re on. Personally, as a follower of Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY) principles I use GAS or similar tools anytime I have a repetitive task.

To give a very specific case where publishing a Google Sheet as a web application has helped. In our team as we handle all the drop boxes, instead of having administrators update a spreadsheet and send us emails of changes each time or not at all, we have them fill out a form and overnight the developers are sent a single email with a list of requests.

If you’re ever thinking “there’s got to be a better way,” Apps Script might be your answer.

If this is something you’re interested in and want to find out more, email:  

Feature image: Photo by Arthur Osipyan on Unsplash

NEW Add-on for Grackle – Now Available for all UoP Students and Staff

You’ll be pleased to hear that Grackle – an accessibility checker for Google Docs, Slides and Sheets – is now easily available for you to use when creating documents so that everyone can enjoy your content.

Grackle is simple to use – login to your UoP Google account, select the Google document that you want to check for accessibility issues. Once you have your document open, select Add-ons from the toolbar and then Grackle > Launch from the drop-down menu.

Screenshot displaying 'Add-on' location

Grackle’s accessibility checker panel will then appear on the right-hand side of your screen and  produces a checklist of common accessibility problems and highlights any of these issues in your documents. 

The example below illustrates where Grackle has identified missing Alt text. However, the add-on offers so many more useful tips to improve the accessibility of your documents.

Grackle checklist screenshot

Take a look at this website to find out more about the handy features of Grackle.

Guest blogger: David Sherren – Copyright when blogging

David Sherren
Map Librarian – University Library, UoP

Copyright guru – David maintains the Copyright Guidelines at the University and endeavours to answer any copyright questions that come his way which, given the ambiguity of the subject, can be a challenge!

When producing content for a blog post it’s very easy just to ‘borrow’ material from other web sites and blogs. However, it’s important to remember that all web sites, emails, blogs and photographs are protected by copyright. Don’t assume that giving someone credit for material you use means that there is no copyright infringement.

Here are some things that you can do:

  • There is a copyright exception that allows you to quote from someone else’s work, provided that:

(a)  the work has been made available to the public;

(b)  the use of the quotation is fair (so it doesn’t affect the market for the original work);

(c)  the quote is relevant and its extent is no more than is required by the specific purpose for which it is used; and

(d) the quotation is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.

Note that copying a photograph is not normally allowed under this exception. 

  • You can use material that is in the public domain.

This public domain image, for example, comes from You could also search among over a million public domain images released by the British Library and made available on Flickr Commons.

  • Use materials with a Creative Commons (CC) Licence that allows re-use. For example, the most accommodating licence is the Attribution (BY) Licence, which allows you to distribute, remix, tweak and build upon someone else’s work as long as you give the original creator credit. Appropriate images can be found by using, which links to various search services. Alternatively you can find licensed material by using the advanced search option in either Google or Flickr. The image below is available under a CC licence and is shown with its appropriate attribution, which includes the title of the work, the name of the author and a link to the work.

Technology Enhanced Learning This Way by Alan Levine is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There is some basic information about copyright in our Copyright Guidelines.

If you have any questions about copyright issues then please contact:


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