Save quotes instantly with Citable

Highlight text, click the extension and save the quote

The online document editor and storage service Google Drive is a great way to keep research organised, and a new extension has recently made it even more powerful. Citable lets you highlight web text and send it automatically to a Google Spreadsheet.

Once you’ve installed Citable you can select text on any webpage, hit the shortcut button and choose where you want to store the quote. Citable will automatically fill in the date & time accessed, author and address of the page. You can also add tags to help keep your quotes organised.

The extension works in the Chrome browser and doesn’t require a login. However, you do need to give Citable access to your Google Drive account, but like all apps you can revoke access at any time. You can download any files created by Citable from your documents and edit the document manually at any time. 

Visit the Chrome web store to install Citable. If you need help getting started then here is our step by step guide to installing and using the Citable extension.

Integrated apps added to Google Drive

Google Drive has been adopted by many schools and educators as a powerful and flexible cloud based documents editor. The service (formerly known as Google Docs) is now even more useful as you can install apps to create and edit a range of documents.

While Google Drive has always replicated the Microsoft Office suite in being able to create spreadsheets, word processed documents and presentations, now users can also install apps like image editors, mind mapping software or even graphing calculators.

In order to see a full list of apps that integrate with Google Drive login to your Google Drive account. Once you are logged in select  Create> More> Get more apps. (See below)

Install apps from the Create menu

If you are using any browser other than Google Chrome you will get a message saying that you need to download and install Chrome to use these apps. I’ve been able to install and use several of the apps in Firefox, but you will probably find the services do work more reliably in Chrome.

Now you will see a list of all of the apps that integrate with Google Drive. To install an app hover over the icon and click +Install or +Add to Chrome. You will also be asked a series of confirmation questions regarding what the app can access. As always, read these messages carefully and don’t give an app access to your data if you are not comfortable with the level of access it is requesting.

Once the app is added to Google Drive you may notice that some of the icons of your files will change. This indicates that the file will open in the related app or you can create a new file using the Create>More option. If you’d like to uninstall any apps you can return to Google Drive and select Settings>Manage Apps (see below).

You can uninstall any apps from the Settings menu


If that all seems a bit confusing, we’ve put together a short video demonstrating how to install, use and uninstall apps to your Google Drive account (3.08 min).

With this addition Google Drive is certainly becoming an even more tempting alternative to Microsoft Office. To get you started, here are some of the integrated apps that we recommend:

Pixlr Editor – a powerful photo editor with a number of features found in high end software like Photoshop. The Pixlr Express app is also a good option for adding simple frames, filters, stamps and text.

Mindmeister– a very attractive mind mapping tool, with lovely graphics and some powerful export options

Floorplanner– a fun but powerful app to plan out rooms. Includes 3D furniture and displays floorplans in both 2D and 3D. Just make sure you draw in a floor first!

Floorplanner lets you design your ultimate room

Google Research Tool

Google have added an interesting new feature to Google Docs, the Google research tool. When you open up a document you will now see a sidebar which allows you to perform a web search. Results are displayed in this panel and can be quickly added to a document. If you can’t see the sidebar, you can display it by selecting Tools>Research.

We had a look at this new feature this morning, and recorded a quick screencast of our first impressions. Have a look at the video below to see how it all works. The drag and drop features certainly looks to be a time saver and the automatic referencing is also a handy tool.

At this stage only results from Google search are displayed, but we probably couldn’t expect other search engines to be included, could we? We hold out hope that other search options may be included in future versions. Once again, this may again lead to a discussion with students about the importance of cross checking information and using a range of reliable resources.

Despite this minor quibble, Google research tool certainly looks like a handy way to get started with research and to keep track of any resources accessed.

Have a look at our first impressions below.

Back up your Google Docs with Insync

Go to Insync

While cloud based storage services offer a convenient way of backing up your data, it is also important to back any data stored in the cloud. Many of us make use of Google Docs to store documents and collaborate with colleagues. Have you considered what would happen if you lost access to these files? Thanks to Insync, there is an easy way to store copies of your Google Docs on your computer for safekeeping.

Insync has a very similar interface to Dropbox, but it actually accesses your Google Docs account and synchronises all files to a folder on your computer. Apart from providing a backup of your documents this also gives you the added benefit of being able to access your Google Docs even when your internet connection is not working. You can edit these documents on your computer and then update the documents back into your Google Account. However, in our experience this can cause conflicts and leave you with out of date files. At this stage the service seems to work much better as a simple backup tool.

While the chances of you losing access to your Google account are pretty slim, Insync will provide you with an extra level of protection just in case a problem occurs. It takes very little time to set up, but is great insurance when it comes to protecting your data. Insync is available for Mac and Windows and can be downloaded here.


Suggest a book

I really love the way that Monarch Academy Elementary (Primary) Librarian Keisa Williams has incorporated Google forms into her already excellent library wiki.

Screen shot 2010-10-12 at 8.14.39 PM

Students get involved in the library and get experience using web 2.0 tools such as Google Docs, while Keisa gets an organised documents with records of all student requests, along with names, date of request and so on.

Another clever idea from Keisa; one that is relatively easy to implement.

Feature blog – Glenys Lowden’s tech blog

Regular readers of Bright Ideas will recognise Lowther Hall AGS‘s Glenys Lowden as an avid developer of Web 2.0 tools for learning and teaching. This time Glenys shares her new tech blog, the cleverly named Lowd en clear.


Glenys explains why the blog was born:

I decided to also set up my own blog for practising new tech and including other things that might be relevant. I am trying to consolidate all the things I have been learning from so many sources. I thought that if I practised in this space using different tools then this would help my learning. I am currently Head of Library and have been a teacher since 1977. Phew that is a long time. I only moved into the Library field in recent years and prior to that had been Head of Welfare and Head of Humanities at a number of different schools. I am not quite sure yet how I will set out the blog but I will start with this format and see how I go.

I have an introductory activity that I used with Year 7 orientation in the first week of term on there. It is very short but I didn’t have much time with the class. The IWB section of the activity is not there but I have tried to briefly explain what I did. They really enjoyed using the mobile phone as the source to photograph and record their answers.

Glenys has started her blog in a brilliant way by sharing her year 7 orientation lessons. The RevolverMaps widget is a nice addition. Looking forward to seeing the blog develop and evolve. Well done again Glenys.

Tania Sheko’s Flickr project

Extremely creative Whitefriars College teacher librarian Tania Sheko has developed another engaging and interactive piece of work for her students. Using Flickr as its basis, Tania explains how the project went from idea to reality:

In his book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman says that there are certain ‘flatteners’ that promote and allow for connection, collaboration and creation via distance. He was referring to technological applications which shrink geographical barriers and make global connections possible. This is my aim for a special project at my own school – a project which would enhance teaching and learning through ‘connection, collaboration and creation’, taking the students out of the classroom and into the world.

In 2009 I decided to take up a Flickr challenge to upload a photo every day for a year and post it to appropriate flickr groups. As a result I connected with others through interest and dialogue, and three of us – Marie Coleman, Sinikka Laakio-Whybrow and I – agreed that a similar project would be an enriching experience for students. I was lucky to find a teacher who was interested in the project and who has supported it wholeheartedly.

In the planning stages, we collaborated in a Google document, using Google spreadsheets and slideshow (thanks Marie!) to brainstorm and formulate our project. The geographical time differences weren’t a problem at all, and occasionally Sinikka would catch me in Google chat before going to bed if I was online early enough in the morning.

The final product is an 8 week project with a weekly assignment based on a photo and written description following a theme. The first assignment is to take a photo which ‘is not you, but represents you as a person’ – so, an introduction to initiate the sharing of personal information and interests. Although almost every student included sport and music in their introduction, there were diverse details which created interest in the group. The cultural differences were obvious conversation starters, and the similarities brought the students together through shared interests. I know that our boys, being in a single sex school, were interested in the opportunity to connect with the girls!

The project is quite simple but with very rich results. The weekly themes set diverse tasks. Some themes ask for the sharing of personal, cultural or geographic information, some encourage photographic creativity (‘Take a photo: of something you go past every day and take it from an interesting new perspective”), while others require deeper thinking and creative solutions (‘Take a photo that goes with the title or lyrics of a song’ or ‘Take a photo that somehow represents learning to you’).

We have used Flickr as a platform for this project. Flickr provides an easy way to upload photos, an automatic photostream for each student, and a profile for identification. Our group, Through global lenses, is a one-stop shop for the whole operation. It holds all the members from the three schools, allows for instructions and program, as well as storing all essential information such as netiquette, creative commons, commenting guidelines, etc. It even has email.


Following a weekly theme and guiding questions, students’ task is twofold. Firstly, to take their own photo – this requires thinking and reflection, creativity, individuality, and it is hoped that, as students become accustomed to the challenge, they will become more creative and try different things. Secondly, to write something which responds to the theme, answers prompt questions, and informs and entices readers.

When students view each other’s contributions, this sparks curiosity, natural questioning, and ensuing dialogue. It also brings out a desire to do as well or to do something different. Students are not writing for the teacher, but for a peer audience, sharing generational views and tastes, and learning about cultural differences.

It really is one big conversation, with everyone getting a go, and nobody feeling they can’t get a word in. Several people can engage in dialogue under the same photo. Conversation arises from shared interests and curiosity about cultural differences. Students encourage each other and develop trust and respect for each other. The result is writing from desire instead of duty.

Differences in language are often the subject of conversation. Students ask and explain linguistic and semantic differences, for example, the first week’s photo has resulted in a discussion of the differences between American and Australian football.

Challenges for us include encouraging students to move away from ‘chat language’ and to write correctly and fluently. Despite our instructions, I’ve noticed in the early stages students reverting to their preferred chat in the comments.


It’s easy to keep up with who is commenting on your photo, or further conversation in photos you’ve commented on, when you visit the homepage for the group. Another useful feature is the availability of editing comments or writing. Teachers can ask students to improve or correct their writing at any time.

Reading through comments in the early stages, I can already see the conversations developing as more people enter the conversation, as questions are answered and elaborated on, and the desire to develop the dialogue becomes self motivating. This is very different to writing for your teacher which is a static exercise. Here the writing is interactive and can continue at any time. The Flickr Group Pool can be viewed here.

I’ve noticed that our boys seem different in their writing and comments to the way they present themselves at school. In the comments they seem unafraid to say that something is beautiful, comment on cute dogs, and be generally more open. I guess that’s what comes with writing to a peer audience. That and writing to connect with kids like them from distant places. For these reasons I’m excited about this project which, even in its initial stages, has sparked authentic and engaged conversation, and which will no doubt develop for each student his/her voice through images and words.

Isn’t it interesting that the students are more open to authentic and honest commenting via Flickr than they were previously in face to face situations? It seems that the ways the boys communicate will be a lasting effect from this project, which is absolutely fantastic. It is also another excellent way of students committing to writing and enjoying what they write; being aware of a (possible) international audience means that they really think, write and polish. The project is also a lovely way to engage in dialogue about cultural differences and similarities.

This is an edited version of a post that first appeared on Tania’s excellent blog. Posted here with Tania’s permission.

Online surveys

There are some useful free survey tools available on the internet. They include Google forms and SurveyMonkey.

Google forms can be accessed through Google Docs. Once in the docs account, just click on ‘new’ and select ‘form’. Questions can be added and edited quite easily and users can select from a number of different question options such as multiple choice, text box and so on. Once  the survey is finished being written, users are given a link to email or embed into a website. Here is an example of a survey  created with Google. Responses are then automatically recorded by Google docs for analysis at a later stage.

SurveyMonkey comes complete with themes and supports the use of any language. It is easy to write questions and SurveyMonkey gives guidance and options about type of questions as well as having the option of a spellchecker. Once the questions have been written and the survey is ready to be sent, users are given the option of a URL or having a survey pop up on their web page. If the URL option is selected, then the URL can then be added to a blog or wiki as a link or the URL can be emailed to contacts.

SurveyMonkey home
SurveyMonkey home
Data collection from survey responses can be limited by date or number of respondents. Survey results can be viewed in real time and converted to charts and graphs. There is a limit of ten questions for the free account, however that can be overcome by splitting surveys into two parts.
SurveyMonkey does have a premium service and there is at least one school in Victoria that subscribes to it. As they survey all students in relation to Principles of Learning and Teaching and SurveyMonkey does complex analysis for them, they see the investment of US$200 p.a. as a good investment. SurveyMonkey is infinitely more attractive than Google Forms. Here is an example  of what can be achieved in minutes with  a free SurveyMonkey account.
SurveyMonkey is an extremely useful and usable tool and their surveys have a more attractive and professional look than Google forms.

Cloud computing

The Horizon Report recently listed ‘Cloud computing’ as one of the major trends in computer use in 2009. But what does it mean? Simply, the increase in use of sites such as Google Docs, Flickr and so on to store all of our work and personal documents rather than using our computers to store them.

Advantages of cloud computing are:

  • you can access your documents anywhere that has Internet or broadband access
  • you never have to worry about forgetting or losing your USB
  • easy collaboration with others
  • programs and software are often free
  • your documents, photos and so on are safe from things like fire or theft of a laptop
  • users will only need a cheap ‘netbook’ computer with limited hard disc space.

Disadvantages are:

  • there are still some questions about the security of documents
  • broadband cost and speed in Australia is not what it needs to be if we all decide to use ‘the cloud’
  • availability depends on Internet access
  • sometimes developers discontinue their development and/or support of programs.

Netbook computers are ideal to use for ‘cloud computing’, and as they have smaller hard disc drives, they are cheap and cheerful (around A$300.00).