October 2021 – This post has gotten a much-deserved update! Seven add-ons and extensions isn’t enough anymore. Read on for my favorite nine!
This post continues a back-to-school series about tech tools for the music classroom. One useful feature of Google Chrome is the ability to customize your browsing and creating experiences using add-ons and extensions. Add-ons go with specific G Suite applications to add new capabilities. Chrome extensions are small software programs that work with Google Chrome to enhance browsing. For music educators, there are several add-ons and extensions that are not only practical, but fun!
Add-ons work within individual Google tools, such as Docs, Slides, Gmail, etc. They are literally something you “add on” to the tools. To install an add-on, look for the “Add-ons” menu in your application, and select “Get Add-ons.” You can also find add-ons in the G Suite Marketplace.
Flat for Docs
Hands down, Flat for Docs is the add-on I use and love the most. Flat for Docs allows you to insert musical notation directly into Google Docs or Slides! You can insert a single staff, two staves, guitar and ukulele tablature, or an unpitched staff. This is great for creating digital materials for students, or having your students create their own compositions. Check out this blog post to learn more: Flat – Music Notation for Google Docs.
Autocrat is an add-on for Google Sheets that works as a merge tool. It will take data from a Google Sheet and merge it into a document by way of a template. For a busy music teacher, Autocrat is a huge timesaver! The information starts on a Google Sheet – most times for me, this information has been collected by a Google Form. You then create a template in either Google Docs or Google Slides, using tags to indicate where content will be added. Run Autocrat through Google Sheets and your merge will be completed! It will either create a single document for each entry, or one long document with all entries. You can even have Autocrat send an email with the document attached!
I have used Autocrat to create music stand name tags, certificates, participation forms, and more. To make the music stand name tags I created the template in Google Slides, and flipped one text box upside down so when folded over the music stand, the name was right-side up on both sides. Here is some more info about using Autocrat: How to Use Autocrat Add-on for Google Sheets .
Pear Deck is an add-on for Google Slides that turns a static presentation into an interactive experience. It allows you to add interactive questions that students can engage with on their own devices. Not only does this get students participating in the lesson, but it also provides a means of formative assessment throughout the lesson. Using the free version of Pear Deck you can ask students short answer or multiple-choice questions. With the premium version there are additional question formats. At the end of the lesson, you can download all responses and collect data!
I will often use Pear Deck in band rehearsals, asking students a question during each transition. Anytime you are presenting something in Google Slides, this will help make it more interactive and engaging for the audience. Pear Deck has a lot of information and tutorials on their website: www.peardeck.com
Bonus! Two Other Add-ons
Two other add-ons I discussed in a previous post are Unsplash and the Noun Project. Unsplash is a Google Slides add-on you can use to insert free, high-resolution images into your Slides presentation. With the Noun Project add-on you can insert icons into Google Slides and Docs. For more info about either of these resources, check out the post Four Easy Tools for Creating Digital Resources.
Chrome extensions work with your Chrome browser. They extend its capabilities, allowing you to customize the browsing experience based on your needs. To find chrome extensions, look in the Chrome Web Store. There are extensions available for productivity, organization, entertainment, and more.
Loom is a Chrome Extension that allows you to record your screen and voice to create videos. Using Loom you can record just your screen, just your webcam, or the screen and webcam! Videos can be downloaded or linked for easy sharing. A basic Loom account is free, but educators can also get a free pro account to access additional editing features.
Consider using an extension like Loom to create tutorial videos for your students to demonstrate various tech tools they will use this year. You can also record video lessons with the ability to share your screen. Having the webcam on makes your videos more personal and helps the students feel connected to you.
Mote is a chrome extension that allows you to leave voice comments in Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Classroom. This not only creates a more personalized feedback experience, but it is also more efficient as many people speak quicker than they type. After you leave the voice comment, students just need to click the play button to hear the feedback. By enabling transcriptions, students have the option to hear or read the comments! Mote has great resources on their website for teachers looking for training and inspiration: The Learning Hub.
The Slides Timer extension was created by a talented friend, Clay Smith. This extension gives you the ability to insert a timer directly into Google Slides! Now you can give students a specific amount of time to complete a task without ever leaving your Google Slides presentation. This is great for the beginning of class as students are getting their instruments set up, during breaks, or any kind of independent work.
This is easily the least serious of the recommended extensions, but it can be valuable in teaching music, especially if you are teaching remotely this year! The Bitmoji extension allows you to insert your Bitmoji just about anywhere! This is another simple way to personalize content for your students and add some fun to your digital resources. Looking for more ways to use and customize your Bitmoji’s for the classroom? Check out these great resources: There’s a Bitmoji For That and More Bitmoji Fun.
It’s hard to imagine teaching music without this next extension. The Transpose extension allows you to change the pitch and speed of videos online – including YouTube videos! When a video is playing in your Chrome Browser, simply click on the Transpose extension to access a menu of options. From this menu you can transpose the key of the video, adjust the pitch, adjust the speed (without impacting pitch), and loop sections of the video. It’s amazing! With the transpose feature, you can easily put a song in a more appropriate key for your students. You can also adjust the tempo to make it easier to sing or play along with! The Transpose extension was a life-saver when teaching guitar class.
Tango is a relatively new extension that has great features, especially for giving online instruction. This extension will help you create step-by-step guides using screenshots, with very little effort! Tango takes screenshots for you every step of the way and compiles them (with instructions) in a step-by-step tutorial you can share easily. Here is a sample tutorial I created: Installing Google Add-ons. This is a great tool for teaching students how to access and use various online platforms, such as Smart Music, Noteflight, or Flipgrid. It could also be used to help colleagues learn to use new tech tools!
New add-ons and extensions become available every day. The trick is finding ones that will save you time or make tasks easier. Though occasional entertainment is never a bad thing either! Always be sure to do your research before installing an add-on or extension. Since they are often created by third-party users (not Google), it’s good to know your information is being kept safe.
Looking for even more extensions? Here’s a Wakelet collection created by Todd Davis: Chrome Extensions for Teachers.
Interested in learning more about tech tools for the music classroom? Check out these posts: