Last week Google Docs and Spreadsheets received an update called Add-ons. This new Add-ons tab connects documents with third party tools that add new features or functionality to the document. The Add-ons Store looks and feels very similar to the Chrome Web Store. One of the new Add-ons that I feel could have great benefit in the classroom is the Text Help Study Skills highlighter. This is a premium feature in the Text Help Read and Write for Google extension so the fact that it is being released for free in the Add-ons store is notable. The new Add-ons tab is easy to use. You'll find it located on the Google Docs or Spreadsheet toolbar. Click on Get Add-ons to browse the Add-ons store.
The Study Skills highlighter could be very helpful for teachers who like to mark-up student work by denoting specified colors for certain errors. The Study Skills highlighter makes this much more convenient than in the past using the built-in highlighting. The clear highlights option makes removing these mark-ups much simpler as well. But one of the more exciting features of the Study Skills highlighter is the ability to extract highlights into a new document. This feature could be used to structure close and critical reading activities where students identify vocabulary, main ideas, and supporting evidence from a text, and then using the extract highlights tool as notes and/or as a form of assessment. I demonstrate this scenario in the video below.
In the video I also feature the http://newsela.com (a website for leveled expository text and news) and the Clearly extension. I'm looking forward to exploring the potential of the new Add-ons for Google Docs and Spreadsheets. Have you found a good Add-on? Please consider sharing by replying in the comments section.
Newsela looks like an interesting new resource for teaching current events and reading strategies that dynamically adjusts reading levels for differentiated instruction. The site integrates with Google Accounts for easy sign-up and sign-in and allows you to create class groups for assigning and monitoring students. In addition, some of the articles include reading comprehension quizzes.