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Makerspaces | Information & Resources

“A makerspace is a place where students can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials.”

A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools.

These spaces are open to kids, adults, and entrepreneurs and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, cnc machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines.

A makerspace however doesn’t need to include all of these machines or even any of them to be considered a makerspace.

If you have cardboard, legos and art supplies you’re in business. It’s more of the maker mindset of creating something out of nothing and exploring your own interests that’s at the core of a makerspace.

Learn more about what others say about makerspaces, research on the practice, and plenty of resources including videos, lesson plans, and websites to get you started in the right direction.

Continue to Google Docs…

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How to Recognize Phishing Attacks

What is phishing?

Phishing is the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. It happens a lot, and it’s worthwhile to stay vigilant. Not all phishing attempts will be via email, as some occur over the phone, or in other formats. Here’s how spot and recognize phishing.

Read more here:

How do you recognize them?

It’s not easy. Phishing attacks often try to mimic another legitimate service, like an email from your bank, or a share notice in Google Drive, or other file sharing service that you may be familiar with.

Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, banks, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure unsuspecting victims. Phishing emails may contain links to websites that are infected with malware. Attempts are typically carried out by email spoofing or instant messaging, and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one.

The best defense is to know what the legitimate communication looks like. For example, what do emails from you bank look like, and what email address are they sent from? Most services are upfront with how they will communicate with you, and most will never require you to respond with your password or other sensitive data.

Phishing Examples


This is a phishing attempt to get you to click on the link. It mimics Google Drive, or other file sharing system you may have used and are likely to click on. Notice the spacing in the words, and often awkward sentence structure / grammar issues.


This is a real share notice from Google Drive. Learn to recognize what they look like.

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These kinds of emails (Nigerian scams) are never legitimate. Here, Google Mail has even helped in identifying it for you. No one from Nigeria will ever send you money. Ever.

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This is a good example of spear phishing, where the email is very tailored, including my name, and my place of work, and is in reference to an event that may have actually taken place. Notice the link to unsubscribe – in this case, this leads to the malicious website that will attempt to capture my information.

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This kind of email (above) is very common – asking you to reset your password. At Kenston, we will never ask you to send us your password in an email, or reset it this way. Few legitimate places do, but plenty of people click on these links to make it worthwhile for the hackers.

Here are a few more ways to spot phishing attacks:

  • Unrecognized sender. This is usually a big giveaway. If you don’t recognize the sender, treat it with suspicion. Even if the recipient appears with the same domain, always question this as clever phishing attacks can use the same company domain to trick users.
  • Unexpected emails. Unless you’re expecting an email from a company i.e. a delivery shipment notification, or a lottery win, treat this with suspicion. If unsure about a delivery shipment, contact the official company – acquiring their contact details through their official website.
  • Prompts to open up attachments. Avoid clicking any links or opening attachments.
    Odd looking website addresses. Another clue to phishing emails are links in the email having suspicious website addresses, which can redirect you to a dodgy website.
  • Odd looking or out of place emails. If you’re able to look at the sender’s details, see what email address it displays. Most of the time their email domains will not match the company they claim to be from. For instance, an email claiming to be from your bank could have domain. This is an obvious giveaway!
  • Impersonating institutions and companies. As mentioned earlier, be suspicious of so-called emails posing to be Banks, the IRS, Social Security Office and so forth. They rarely contact users through email. If in doubt, contact them directly and not through any telephone numbers given in the message.
  • Poorly written English and grammar. Many phishing emails contain poorly structured sentences and grammatical mistakes which sound like they’ve been written by a ten year old or a non-native English speaker.

What Can You Do?

  1. Create and use strong passwords, and never give out your passwords to anyone, especially if they ask for it via email or over the phone.
  2. Manage your profiles online, and don’t use the same password for multiple services.
  3. Learn to recognize what actual, legitimate, communication from companies and online services look like.
  4. Report suspected attempts to your IT crew – forward us an email you suspect, or tell us what you did right before noticing strange behavior in your inbox.


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Effective Use of WordPress @ WordCamp North Canton #WCNC2014

Here are the slides from my presentation today at WordCamp North Canton 2014 – Effective Use of WordPress.

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Click to download!
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How to Communicate Effectively with Collaborators

Working together online can be tricky, especially when you’re trying to get ahold of people that need to see edits, provide feedback, or supply information. Here are three quick ways of making communication on projects easier.

1. Notifications in the Comments

When working together in a document, it’s easy to provide feedback to collaborators using comments. Simply insert comments, and everyone that has access to the document can see all comments, and take action. However, if you want to get ahold of a specific person, or direct attention to specific people – that’s easy too.

Fig 1. – Pinging specific people in the comment stream.

When leaving a comment, simply insert the ‘+’ sign, then the user name of one of the collaborators of the document, and they’ll get an email prompting them to pay attention to the comment itself. They can reply to the comment right from the email, without having to open the document. This is great for when a group of people work on a document over a longer time period, and not everyone accesses the document every day to see updates, etc.

2. Emailing Collaborators

A second way to get your collaborators’ attention in a document is to email them directly. However, composing a new email and making sure all the collaborators are included might present a bit of a headache. Luckily, you can email them directly from within the document itself.

Start by selecting ‘File’, then ‘Email collaborators…’.

Fig 2. – Emailing collaborators.

You’ll have quick access to everyone you’re working with, you can customize the message, and you can even select which of the collaborators that will receive it. Depending on the email system(s) your collaborators are using, you may wish to paste the item in to the email itself – but that may not work for everyone. I have yet to figure out why I should send myself a copy, so if you have insight into that one, please share!

3. Emailing Calendar Event Attendees

If you’ve invited people to a meeting and need to send them an update, it’s easy to generate an email from the calendar invite itself. Simply click the link to ‘Email guest’ located by the Guest List, then compose your message, and send it to all invited. You can edit the list a bit, but it’s not as handy as the email function in a document.

Fig 3. – Emailing guests from a Calendar invite.

4. BONUS – Keeping Track of Changes

If you’re working in Google Spreadsheet, you can make yourself aware of updates to the spreadsheet by setting up Notification rules. Click on the ‘Tools’ menu in the spreadsheet, then select ‘Notification rules…’.

Fig 4. – Notification rules in Google Spreadsheet.

Depending on what you’re working on, you can set the notification rules any way you want, from keeping track of all changes to just a specific set of cells. Furthermore, you can select immediate notification, great for keeping track of form submissions that are time sensitive, or daily digests, which are best for overall project review.

Now you won’t have to worry about hiding away from the document, or changing data without anyone knowing. Go get to work, and start communicating with collaborators in a whole new way!

Andreas Johansson is the Director of Technology Integration & Curriculum for Kenston Local Schools in Ohio, a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer, and knows how to get ahold of absent collaborators and keep track of updates! You can find him here.


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5 Tips on Mastering Google Slides

Google Slides got a major update last week, adding the ability to edit the master slides for a presentation template. Before, in order to standardize a template for use by others, or to customize a presentation for a topic, you had to make your own template of sorts, editing each type of slide, then copying and pasting to create more that looked the same.

With this update, you can now edit the master slide layout, then you can simply add more slides using the ‘New slide’ command (or, the quick add button), and your formatting is done for you. It’s great for organizations who want to keep a uniform template, and for longer presentations where formatting really matters. Here are a few pointers to get it just right.

1. Editing the Master Slides

Open the Master Slides by clicking ‘Slide’, then ‘Edit master’. A set of slide layouts will appear, and you can begin editing the layout. One major benefit of working with master slides is that, should you make changes later on, all your slides will update. For example, if you decide halfway through a presentation that you’d like the headings in a different font, updating the master slide will update the heading font on all slides at once, instead of requiring you to go back and edit each slide.

Fig 1. – Editing the master slide layouts – want the same font on all the slides, but hate having to edit each slide all the time? Simply edit the master slide!

Working with the master slide layout is a lot like working with text formatting in Google Docs, where you can edit Normal Text, Heading 1, and so on. By using slide formatting, or text formatting, it’s easy to keep things uniform, as well as to prepare larger documents to ensure a consistent look throughout.

Once you have your master slides formatted the way you want, close the master slide layout interface. Now, add new slides like normal, and enjoy your formatting on each slide. Notice that if you have graphics involved, like logos on the master slide, you won’t be able to edit that media on each actual slide — you’d have to edit that element on the master slide again.

Fig 2. – Slides will still be added and accessed in the same way you’ve always done it, except that the formatting is now set according to your master slides. Notice the dragon – you won’t be able to edit him on your ‘normal’ slide; to move or change him you’d have to do it on the master slide, and that change to the master would be automatically applied to that type of slide throughout the presentation.

Depending on your workflow when adding new slides, you might continue as normal by clicking the ‘+’ button, which will insert a new slide quickly. Notice that it will insert a ‘Title and Body’ slide after the Title Slide, and after that, will continue to insert the type of slide you were just on. If you require a different kind of slide layout, such as a ‘Title and Two Columns’, you’ll have to click on the drop down arrow next to the ‘+’ button to make that selection. If you’ve formatted the master slides, you’ll now see your new layouts, and you can choose accordingly.

Fig 3. – Selecting new slides using the drop-down arrow menu next to the ‘+’ button – notice your new formatting across the board that matches your edits to the master slides.

If you don’t need all the slide types, don’t edit them in the master slide layout. For example, if your presentation is only using the ‘Title and Body’ slide type, then edit that one and leave the rest alone. No need to waste your time editing masters that you won’t be using.

2. Working with Graphics

I find that working with graphics and other media in Google Slides can be a bit challenging — depending on the type of media you’re using, it can be a real pain to get it look the way you want it to. For example, unlike Keynote on the Mac, Google Slides does not have the capability to make a logo transparent on the fly. You’ll have to edit that using some other program that can manipulate image files (one I’ve been using lately is Pixlr, which does a nice job removing white backgrounds from logos and other images).

Moving media can be challenging, too. Instead of using the mouse, I tend to use the arrow keys to get logos and other images placed where I need them. Holding down the SHIFT key allows you to move pixel by pixel – a real help when nudging things into place.

I typically search for and use graphics in the .png format, which seems to work really well overall, and many are already transparent. However, when placing them on the master slides, or on any of the slides internal to the presentation, masking doesn’t work well. You’ll notice that you can still see the image outside the slide borders, and it’s something you’ll have to work around and deal with. There’s no need to worry, though, since the image will look just fine once you’re in presentation mode.

3. Tips on Making It Look Nice

Whenever I design a template for use with a presentation I’m giving, I try to find some inspiration, and work off of that. I’m a big fan of the highlighted text, like you’ll see in many magazine layouts for example. It’s an easy way to draw attention to text, and pops for added emphasis.

Don’t underestimate font choices. Make sure they’re easy to read, and think about the presentation screen you’ll be displaying / projecting your presentation on. When I travel with my own projector it’s easy, since I know how color values come through, but with a projector at a big conference center you may have to be ready to reevaluate your color choices in the minutes before you’re ready to present. Again, the option to edit master slides makes that a snap, so take advantage of that ability!

Use less text, and more images for all of your presentations. Slides are merely there to support the story you’re telling – not for you to read from. You’ve seen it yourself: the presenter who keeps turning to his slides to remember what to say, or to keep on track – don’t be that guy!

Instead, practice your presentation over and over again, and deliver with confidence. People remember what you look and sound like as much as (or sometimes even more than) what you actually say, so make sure your presentation looks good!

4. Additional New Features of Google Slides

A new choice when in Google Slides is the size of slides. Google’s rationale for the new slide sizes is that many use wide screen displays nowadays, and so their slides should match. I’d be cautious with this functionality, however. Many projectors still only display in ‘regular’ mode, and won’t support HDMI or wide screen projecting. Make sure you know what projector you’ll be using and plan your presentation layout accordingly.

Fig 4. – Slides go wide – you can always play with the slide settings, but prepare your slides accordingly.

5. Old Features Not to Forget

Don’t forget some of the old features you may have overlooked in the past. There are three ways of running a presentation, and depending on what screen you’re presenting on (your own, extended, new screen, or with speaker notes) you might make adjustments accordingly.

And speaking of notes (located at the bottom of the slide), you can print your slides with or without notes. Check out the ‘Print settings and preview’ on the ‘File’ menu, and play with the layouts available.

Fig 5. – Printing slides – lots of people like printouts of three slides per page with places where they can take their own notes. That is, if you have to provide printed reference slides at all; if you’ve “gone green” you can always post your presentation on your website and email out a link to participants rather than printing.

Don’t forget to share your slides with others, either using a link available for everyone, or by publishing the presentation to the web. I like to embed my presentations on my website for easy access, and the added bonus is your site traffic. That often makes finding your slides easier, since generating a link will almost certainly require you to shorten the link with a service like

Oh, and for those who say Google Slides is not as sophisticated as PowerPoint or Keynote – you’re right. After all, PowerPoint’s been around since 1985. On the other hand, you can’t collaborate with a group of ten people at a time using PowerPoint or Keynote, so there’s still at least one great benefit to Google Slides.

Andreas Johansson is the Director of Technology Integration & Curriculum for Kenston Local Schools in Ohio, a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer, and has presented at local, state, and national edtech conferences using Google Presentations! You can find him here.


ajoBlog Edtech – it’s finally here!

I’m super excited to see finally online! The promise of easy to use page layout tools, that saves to your Google Drive, is here!

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5 Power User Tips to Gain Control of Your Gmail Inbox

Over the past few years I’ve worked with thousands of people, helping them transition to Google’s email from other systems, and it’s always surprising to see someone’s face when I show them a basic feature that really changes their life. Here are five features of Google’s Inbox that you might have overlooked, but will really change the way you handle your mail. Put that Inbox to work!

1. Labels

Other email solutions, such as Microsoft’s Outlook, use folders to store and organize mail. In those instances, the email physically moves to a folder for organizational purposes, and it’s hard to retrieve an individual email unless you know where you put it. Also, you’re only allowed to put an email in one folder. In Google’s Inbox, a label (select a conversation, then click the label-looking button in the toolbar) allows you to sort your mail under your terms, often labeling one email multiple ways.

For example, you might designate one label for the person automatically (find out more about filters next!), and also sort based on subject matter, like “new recipe,” or something similar. That way, when you click on the label, you’ll get other emails that have been labeled with “new recipe,” but that may have been sent from someone else.

Notice, in the example below, the email is labeled with a couple of different labels, first for the company (Branditarians), then a sub-label with the client name, and last ‘Web Design’ that indicates that the email is a web design project email. Selecting any of these labels later would result in finding this email automatically.

Labels are really mini-searches performed by Google, as opposed to an actual folder, and that’s what allows you to label an email multiple ways. Some people find it helpful to think of this as tagging. Either way, it’s a smart way to organize your inbox.

Fig. 1 – Labeling an email with multiple labels helps in retrieving old conversations quickly. Adding a dash of color adds visual clues to the message’s importance or allegiance.

2. Filters

Filters take the labeling of emails to the next level by automatically labeling emails as they comes into your inbox. Filters are often called “rules” in other email programs, but they’re quick and easy to set up, and make your inbox really pop with all the colors of the rainbow – all of which makes your job of identifying priority emails so much easier.

Simply select a conversation, or multiple conversations, and build a filter using the parameters that fit your need. You might start off by building filters based on who the email is from, and then apply a label to that email, which causes labels to be automatically applied and saves you time. The best part is, once an email has been automatically labeled, you can simply archive the email; to retrieve it, just click the label in the left hand menu below the ‘Compose’ button.

Fig. 2 – Once a conversation has been selected, click the ‘More’ button in the toolbar, select ‘Filter messages like this’, and start building your filter. Notice all the options you have for email handling, like applying labels, skipping the inbox altogether, or sending canned responses. 

3. The Priority Inbox

Many people trudge along with thousands of emails in their inboxes, and use that as a to-do list. I see it all the time, and more often than not the poor souls can’t find the email they’re looking for, or have to ask someone else to resend an email from last week. In addition, all email becomes equally important, and whatever’s on top gets the most attention. That’s a terrible way of dealing with your inbox!

A better way is to enable the Priority Inbox. Click Settings, then Inbox. Select Priority Inbox to have Google help you automatically, by showing important and unread emails at the top, starred emails (stuff you need to follow up on later) in a middle section, and everything else at the bottom.

Furthermore, help your inbox identify what’s important by clicking the little yellow marker next to an email – on for important, off for not. After a while, Gmail begins to recognize what type of emails you consider to be important, and your inbox will truly begin to take shape. You’ll go straight to the top for the critical stuff, and leave the email from your local car dealer at the bottom, waiting for later. And when you’ve cleared your important stuff, your inbox even celebrates with you!

Fig. 3 – This is the best part of the day – your priority stuff has been handled, and you can check other, less critical mail (that mail generally displays below the important section, though you can tweak the sections of the Priority Inbox however you like.)

4. Searching the Inbox

Most people forget that Google was founded on search, at least when they’re in email. Don’t! The search bar at the top unlocks the true potential of the inbox by allowing you to quickly find information otherwise stored inside emails, in your contacts, or someplace else.

Simply searching for an email address, and then hitting your enter key retrieves all emails that match that address. Sure, you might have to learn a few commands like ‘from:’, or ‘has:attachment’, but you could also click on the tiny down arrow in the search field to reveal advanced search options with a fill-in-the-blanks service to dig up even the most elusive emails. After all, you’re not deleting emails, are you? (Well, maybe the one from your local car dealer…) You can keep it all archived instead with Google’s amazing, and free, storage quotas. And search to find it when you need it! Even if the email you’re looking for is from 2008.

Fig. 4 – You can get pretty specific with the advanced search – no email stays hidden for too long, and this is often faster than trying to remember what label you gave it in the first place! 

5. Keyboard Shortcuts

Saving the best for last – I can’t stress enough how much time I save by using keyboard shortcuts when dealing with a full Inbox on Monday morning. First you’ll need to turn them on in Settings, about halfway down the page, and then you can let the magic begin. Here are a few of my favorite power moves:

  1. Hit the letter ‘c’ to bring up the compose window for a new email.

  2. Type in the recipient – if it begins to autopopulate, just hit your ‘tab’ key to accept. Tab again for the Subject line.

  3. Tab once more to type your message.

  4. Tab, then ‘enter’ to send the email. And nowhere did we use the mouse or trackpad! Score!

Here’s another:

  1. Move up and down in your inbox using the keys ‘j’ and ‘k’ – look for the blue indicator next to each email to tell where you are.

  2. Select an email by hitting the letter ‘x’. You can select multiple emails that way.

  3. Then, with a few emails selected that you’re not going to read but want to keep (‘cause remember, we don’t need to delete email, right?), just hit the letter ‘e’ to archive them. Done! How easy was that?

Fig. 5 – Find all the power combos by hitting ‘SHIFT+?’ (using your right hand) which brings up all the possible keyboard shortcuts. Remember, you don’t need to know them all, and I certainly don’t, but just learn a few that make sense and begin taming that Inbox of yours. The goal is to celebrate at the end of the day, see Fig. 3, and the fastest way to do that is to leave the mouse behind!

These power moves can be lot for some newbies to the Google Inbox, but companies like Synergyse make it easy to remember the little things – their training tips live right inside your real inbox, so you never have to leave, visit another website, or worry about a blocked video. Simply click on their training menu, select a topic you want to review, and 30 seconds later you’re back in action.

In the end, it’s all about doing what works for you, and many never realize there’s a better way. Try one, or a few of these techniques today, and you’ll soon see the benefits from effectively dealing with emails that cluttered your inbox in the past. One more tip, but don’t tell anyone – why not make a filter that automatically sends an email with the word ‘unsubscribe’ in it to the trash? You’re not reading those anyway…

Andreas Johansson is the Director of Technology Integration & Curriculum for Kenston Local Schools in Ohio, a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer, and puts his Inbox to work every day! You can find him here.


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30 Things You Didn’t Know Google Could Do! (My ISTE 2013 Presentation)

Here’s my presentation from ISTE 2013 in San Antonio – 30 Things You Didn’t Know Google Could Do!

All the resources, including more on the Mantis Shrimp, is located here.

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Abundant Learning via Will Richardson