TL Advisor Blog

Google Drive gets add-ons. Yeah or Eh?

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March 16, 2014 By: Lisa Nielsen

Mar 16

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3/16/2014 1:11 PM  RssIcon

I was stoked this week when I learned Google Drive now has these cool add-ons which you can get to right from the menu bar.
There are a number to choose from.
What especially excited me this week was that one of the add-ons is EasyBib. How fortuitous! I happened to be working on creating citations, so I went to work and tested it out. My elation slowly subsided. One after another I was getting a message that the resources couldn't be found, but...don't worry.  I could upgrade to a version of Easybib that could account for that.
I learned that among other things, EasyBib isn't so hot when you want to cite a PDF and with the free version, there was not a way to put in the actual source yourself.  
On to the next one. I decided to try "Hello Fax" because there are still people stuck in the 20th century who don't realize we should just be emailing documents. I was excited to add Hello Fax on to my menu.  But disappointment set in again :(
You can only send five pages before you will be charged. 
It's starting to seem these add-ons are really just a way to sell cloud services.  Hrrmph!
I dug a little further and found that you can search add-ons by topics like "education," but found that there weren't many options there.  Here is what that looks like.
Turns out Kaizena is a really neat free tool that lets you comment on work using typed comments, spoken comments, or with video or other resources.
That was free and fabulous, but all the add-on really does is give you a shortcut to the program. You can't work inside the existing document. If you could, that would be more helpful.  
The third add-on was the Highlighting Tools. This allows you to highlight documents in a variety of colors and can also pull all the highlights out.
Next up is Table of Contents. I was pretty excited about this add on because the Google Table of Contents has some issues. The main one being that it doesn't show page numbers. I downloaded the add-on and was not happy.  It just takes what Google already does, but puts it in the sidebar. Not helpful. 
Translate is offered and the translation tool works within the text which is nice. Once you select the section you want translated, you can insert it. The choice of languages is limited to the five in the image below.
ProWritingAid is a nice add-on that is not only helpful for innovative educators in their writing, but it is also a helpful tool for students. It provides instant feedback on a variety of writing techniques including consistencies, acronyms, grammar and more.  You can check out what that looks like below.  

My final add-on was "Track Changes." This was a winner. It does just what you expect track changes to do. It indicates what has been modified and who is doing the modification. Then changes can be accepted or rejected.
The Verdict
It's a mix of yeah and eh.  Yeah for the add-ons that work within the docs like Highlighting Tools and ProWritingAid. Eh for those that are just short cuts like Kaizena. Yeah for add-ons that work as you expect them to like Track Changes. Eh for the add-ons that are really just advertisements for products like EasyBib and Hello Fax.
In all fairness, Google add-ons are in their infancy and will hopefully improve. When you are ready to go ahead and get some add-ons, now you know to expect a little bit of Ye-Ah! and you won't be surprised to find some, eh too.


Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

 

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

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