Comment with Emojis in Google Docs

đź“Ł Guess what’s here? Emoji Reactions in Google Docs!

Smiley face! Face with open mouth! Thinking face! Face with tears of joy! Pile of poo! We all love emojis and now we can use them in lieu of comments in Google Docs.

Now, if you highlight some text you’ll see 3 options on the right side of the screen: add comment, add emoji reaction, and suggested edits. Other people who have editing or commenting access can then click on the same emoji to upvote (now it’ll show the same emoji with a 2 next to it) or they can highlight the text and add a different emoji.

How to add emoji reaction in Google Docs as Comments

You can add multiple emojis to the same spot as well.  If you click an emoji reaction that you’ve already added, it’ll make that reaction go away, or if there are more than one of it, it’ll reduce the number by one. When you hover the cursor over them, you can see who the emojis are from. They can also be resolved just like comments. These emoji show up in the comments menu in the top right corner, near the share button.

Emoji reactions are just like comments – they can only be added or viewed if you have editing or commenting access. People who are only viewers will neither see the emoji reactions nor be able to add reactions of their own. 

I love that Google made it possible to add ANY emoji, not just a handful, like thumbs up or smiley faces. Plus, when appropriate, there are different skin tone and gender options, including gender-neutral emoji.

(This update is available in ALL Google accounts including free ones.)

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Free Canva Course for Students!

🎨 Canva is offering a free design course for students…

More than 75% of the folks that filled out my podcast launch survey are Canva users . . . but what about their students? If you’d like to get your students using Canva, they have a free Canva Design Skills for Students course available! It features 7 video lessons totaling about 20 minutes.

Each video lesson has an activity attached to it, so kids watch for 2-5 minutes, then actually make something—which is fantastic.  The lessons are on searching for and editing elements, uploading and editing media, recording yourself, adding and styling text, editing photos, adding animations, and using apps.

The activities are filled with slides for each element of that lesson. On the left, those slides show a short video of how to complete the task, then on the right is the space to complete the task.  It really is a great format. To be honest, I think I might go through this course myself just to upgrade my Canva skills!

If you do it, you’ll learn how to upload photos, videos, and audio, record yourself and your screen, use the photo background remover, use the built-in draw, QR code, and YouTube apps, and more. Or use it as intended and your students will learn to do those things!

Below is an glimpse into the course, with their first short lesson—on searching and editing elements:

I think this would work great as a fun end-of-the-year activity, but I could also see it being fantastic at the beginning of the year so that your students can use those skills all year long!

This course is free for all and Canva for Education is free for all K-12 educators and students. Go directly to the course by clicking HERE.

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Google adds Dropdown Menus and New Smart Chips to Google Docs!

⏬ OMG you can have dropdown menus in Google Docs now—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

“Use new table templates and dropdown chips in Google Docs to create highly collaborative documents”

 These additions primarily relate to the Google Docs smart chips menu that pops up when you type in an “@” symbol. Well, it now features a boatload of goodies. Many of them are just quick access to things we already had access to within the regular toolbar menus, but some surprises popped up recently.

Let’s run through all of the stuff that’s in there— 

  • First we have people, which lets you tag people in your doc
  • Building blocks, which let you insert templates that Google provides for things like meeting notes and email drafts
  • Files, which let you add little links to Google Drive files
  • Checklists, numbered lists, and bulleted lists
  • Images, drawings, and charts
  • Dates (which, TBH, I don’t see a whole lot of use in, but oh well)
  • Your text formatting selections (normal text, heading, title, etc.)
  • Calendar events
  • Page components like page numbers, page counts, headers, footers, page breaks, and watermarks—by the way, it’s crazy easy to add watermarks to Google docs now, have you tried it?
  • A table, plus some slick table templates that Google provides
  • Horizontal line, table of contents, bookmarks, footnotes, equations, special characters, and links.

Most of that is not that big of news, and almost all of it can be accessed from one of the normal menus at the top of the screen.

The big one is the last option in that “@” menu, which I left out in that list— Dropdowns!

You can select one of their pre-made dropdown sets or, the big news for teachers, you can make your own set. 

You can put in as many options as you want (at least as far as I can tell—I added 30 in my test).

You add the text and then select the color for each option. If this is a dropdown you’ll use regularly, you can even save it to use in the future! Plus if you copy the dropdown, you can then paste it elsewhere with the same options! It’s really rad.

Dropdown is also in the Insert menu at the top of the screen, so you can get to it from there too. 

There are lots of potential applications in the classroom from multiple choice questions, to a work feedback cycle, to management of student-paced or personalized learning setups, and more!

These dropdowns and the smart chips are available to ALL GOOGLE USERS.

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Seesaw Improves How Students Interact with Teacher-Created Assignments

Back in March, Seesaw announced a set of updates that I’m pretty excited about.

For those of you not familiar with Seesaw, I often compare it to a combination of an LMS, a digital portfolio tool, and a parent/guardian communication tool.

Screengrab from Youtube Video showing the Seesaw app interface and the new updates for locking and unlocking items

It’s most often used by elementary teachers – case in point, 29.2% of the people who responded to my podcast survey use Seesaw, and of them almost 37% of them were PreK-6th grade teachers, and 0% were 7th-12th grade. (The other 63-ish% were in other roles like tech coaches etc.) It’s crazy though because it’s great for all ages.

Let’s talk about the updates!

  • In the past, if you sent an activity to your students, they were able to delete pages from the template. Now, students cannot delete the teacher-created pages, but they can create pages that they add.
  • In a similar vane, students were previously able to unlock parts of the template that the teacher had locked in place. Now, that option has been removed. If you lock it, your students cannot unlock it.
  • Previously, students could also reorder activity pages—typically by accident when scrolling—this has now been fixed. As the release says, they have ”adjusted the sensitivity of the reorder action in the Pages menu and disabled page reordering on drag gestures to prevent this issue..”
  • In the past, there were also problems with students accidentally creating new pages while drawing. They have now fixed that issue as well. 
  • And, finally, while many activities require students writing or drawing, some involve manipulatives that need to be moved around the screen. Previously, when opening one of these pages, the pen tool was selected and students ended up drawing on things instead of moving them.  Now, the app intelligently starts with the move tool if there are movable shapes and the pen tool if there are no movable shapes.

[Image Source:, featuring the app interface from]

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Google is letting us go pageless in Google Docs…

If we only print a fraction of the Google Docs we create, why are our docs formatted for 8.5” by 11” paper, when our computer screens are not 8.5” by 11”!?

Well, Google finally realized this and offered up a pageless documents setting. 

Just go to File > Page Setup and select Pagelesss to start! You’ll notice that your page looks pretty much the same except for the boundary around the page disappearing. 

Pageless Google Docs Setup Process

Sure, page breaks will disappear as will headers, footers, and footnotes, but the width of your text will still fit a typical piece of paper.

You’ll now want to click on View > Text Width and select a different text. Then, when you change the normal zoom option that you see in the toolbar, it’ll make your text larger without zooming in to the page itself.  The real benefit is being able to make tables and images as wide as you’d like.  I think this feature has some room to grow, but I’m really glad to see it added!

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Microsoft’s Reading Progress tool – New Features!

Microsoft has added a set of additional features to its Reading Progress tool, and you’ll want to use them…

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Reading Progress was originally launched in July 2021. It is as their site says, “a free tool to help teachers improve the process of creating, collecting, and reviewing reading assignments with powerful data and insights.

I remember about 10 years ago being a part of a big RTI (Response To Intervention) push at my old school. It’s probably partially because my wife was the school psychologist there and was in charge of the RTI program, but anyhow… we were doing lots of reading fluency and comprehension assessments and then putting interventions in place to support students. 

Reading Progress is a tool that seems to digitize all of that. It’s been around since July, but the real news is they have now added new features. The first, to quote the announcement, is “Actionable Insights [to help] educators quickly generate assignments based on the words that students struggled with most.” So, when an issue appears, the teacher doesn’t have to put in as much legwork to create practice assignments: the tool does it for them.

Teachers can now also return assignments “for revision so students can see fully marked-up passages . . . to learn from their mistakes” and then the students can do the assignment over again. You can then see if they have improved.

Back in November, they also added a “Return to Student” feature which allows educators to send a report back to students about their fluency passage performance. They’ve now added additional options for the teacher, letting them fully customize that report so that the students receive the information that you think is best for each of them.

Do you want them to see their correct words per minute? 

Their accuracy rate? 

Their mispronunciations? 

There are 10 different pieces of data that can be included and you can pick which ones your learner sees!

They’ve also added the ability to pick a page from a OneNote Class Notebook as a Reading Progress Passage – so the passages that they do for practice and for measuring their progress can be out of a OneNote Class Notebook. Prior to that addition teachers could add passages from ReadWorks, from a Teams file, from a OneDrive file, or from a file uploaded from your computer. Now, you can also grab a passage right from a OneNote Class Notebook. 

Finally, part of Reading Process is students recording videos of themselves reading the passages.

Previously, they could do that on desktop and web versions and, I assume, Windows devices, but now they’ve added the ability to do this on the iOS and Android apps as well.




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Google Classroom “Practice Sets”

Google is beta testing a formative assessment tool…

Illustration of students using Google Classroom's Practice Sets

Back in March Google announced a new Google Classroom feature called Practice Sets. Before I get too deep into this one, I want to point out: it’ll only be in the Teaching and Learning Upgrade or the Google Workspace for Education Plus (i.e. part of the paid plans).  It’s still in beta at this point, but I think it’s something that, if you have access to it, you’ll probably use. It’s a tool that combines formative assessment and automated feedback right inside Google Classroom. 

The teacher starts by adding (or typing up) a question, or set of questions. Practice Sets jumps right into gear by scanning the question using AI, tagging the content and skill, and preparing automated chatbot style hints and resources. I’m skeptical of this part – I mean, haven’t we all had that chatbot pop up on a site that we really needed help from and suggest irrelevant resources to us when we just wanted to talk to a human? We’ll see what we think of this!

Anyhow, it looks like it’ll have multiple choice, short answer, and extended response and will provide a math keyboard as well. Plus, students can respond with text or a drawing tool and, check this out math teachers, if the kids show their work, you’ll be able to see that too.

Most importantly, this tool auto-grades for you right inside Google Classroom, and your students will see if they were correct right away. Those built in hints and resources will pop up automatically if they’re wrong—or kids can click a button to see them if they need them.

On the back end, teachers get good data, a view of what students did, and automated insights. Again, it’s still in beta and it’s part of the paid plans, but it looks like it’s going to have lots of potential when it comes out! 

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Record your screen anywhere, with Chrome Extension ScreenPal

There’s a new free tool for video comments and video emails…

Screencast-o-matic recently announced a new Chrome Extension called ScreenPal, and it may just be a perfect addition to your edtech toolbox!

It is FREE, it lets you record your screen or webcam (or both) for up to 5 minutes, and it lets you do it from just about anywhere on the web.

You might be thinking, Jake, that sounds kinda like regular Screencast-o-matic or, for that matter, Screencastify or Loom. What’s different, though, is that it’s built to work in comment boxes and text boxes. 

ScreenPal Chrome Extension allows cropping of recordings and inserting screen recordings into comment and text boxes as an Edtech tool.In those boxes, you’ll see a tiny ScreenPal button—Grammarly users will be reminded of the Grammarly button. Anyhow, you click the button, select screen, webcam, or both, and then press record. You then preview the video to trim or crop it, and finally, insert that recording into the text box or comment box you were in.

I can’t believe that you can actually crop the video in this simple little tool!

Want to give a student feedback? Click the extension and pop it right into the comment box in Google Docs, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, or whatever LMS you use. Now, it won’t work IN your Google Doc or Google Slides, for example, but it’ll work in the comments within those platforms. It also works in tweets within your email window so that you can explain with video (when you don’t feel like typing). You can access all of your recordings, too, which means you can reuse them later if needed! 

The only issue I see (so far) is that if you have both Mote and ScreenPal running, the buttons are on top of each other in some platforms—I’m going to send them that feedback.

Otherwise, this looks like a great tool.

And, elephant in the room, this tool is really similar to Mote – the major difference, of course, is audio vs. video. But, as I always say, there’s not one right tool for every person, or every situation. This one is definitely worth checking out.

BTW, if you have Screencast-o-matic Premium you’ll also be able to edit those ScreenPal videos later within the Screencast-o-matic site. I should note – since the videos are stored on their server, you’ll want to look into how that fits with your privacy and data regulations in your school.

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New changes to the Gimkit Pro Plan

Gimkit is letting us play games with more students for free . . . 

In a recent post on the Gimkit blog, Josh Feinsilber, creator of Gimkit, announced changes to the Gimkit Pro plan.

I’m really excited about this, because the previous iteration of their Pro plan limited free users to only 5 players per game. It let you play any game, but only with 5 students. 

Gimkit DashboardNow they’ve announced in the “new free plan you’ll get unlimited access to our currently featured modes.” Those featured modes will change throughout the year, but other “modes are available to you, but with a 5 player limit.”


Gimkit Pro users then have unlimited access to every mode. There are a lot of fan favorites out there – like Trust No One, Floor is Lava, and Draw That – that you’ll be guaranteed access to. 

According to the blog post, Gimkit Pro users will also be able to upload images, record audio, & create assignments.

(Gimkit Pro costs $9.99 a month or $59.99 a year)

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A new Social-Emotional Learning Tool: Microsoft Reflect

Microsoft is giving us an amazing new learning tool . . . 

with their recent launch of Reflect in Microsoft Teams for Education.

Reflect prompts students to check in about how they’re feeling, and even uses emojis and little monsters to connect facial expressions and body language to emotional vocab. This might help students with limited reading respond, but may also help students who are working on understanding social cues like facial expressions and body language. 

Reflect is a FREE tool!

The tool also lets students see their responses over time to look for patterns. Of course, another key step is teachers following up on concerning responses.

In March, they added the ability to build these self-assessments into OneNote. Reflect has increased functionality in One Note. As the blog post says, it lets students self-assess their “Progress and satisfaction in learning, motivation to learn, confidence, and effort.

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