Cool Tools for Schools, Thing 25: Power up Your Browser

Momentun Tab
A screenshot of one of my Momentun tabs for this week

I decided to focus my browser extension exploration on my work computer and thus, Google Chrome (I have a MacBook and use Safari at home but, it’s getting old and slow so I didn’t want to mess with adding any extensions or plugins to that).

Task 1: Explore the settings in your browser 

I must confess I didn’t think there would be much to see or learn looking at my browser settings (or much I would be allowed to change since it’s a work computer and IT departments tend to have that stuff on lock down). I’ve messed with my settings in the past and I was still pretty familiar with most of my options there. But, I did still find three things I was able to change and play with that I hadn’t noticed before this Cool Tool assignment.

  • Control over fonts-I hadn’t noticed before that I could control the default fonts and font sizes my browser uses. I knew I could make those changes in my Gmail settings but not for the actual browser settings.
  • Control over downloads folder-I had no idea I could change what folder my downloads automatically go to on my computer. I hate digging for that folder within a folder on the network so I often send my downloads to my desktop so I can find them faster when I need them. With that in mind, I created a folder on my desktop called downloads and changed the downloads setting to make that the default folder and not the one in my network drive folder. Much faster for me to find and now I don’t have to manually ask for it to happen each time.
  • Guest Browsing-I had no idea what this option meant so I did a quick Google search. Guest browsing is a way to let someone else use your internet browser without giving them the ability to make any setting changes, see any of your browsing history or, leave any cookies/browser history of theirs on your computer. In researching what guest mode is I also learned that you can create supervised users on an account and control what sites they are allowed to visit. This is an option I’m intrigued by and think could be useful with the library computer lab. Obviously the district already employs things like safe search but, there are other more annoying, time waster websites that the safe search doesn’t block. I’d like to experiment with this option but I think I’m going to be limited. If the computer lab is signed on with the designated computer lab account I don’t have the same freedoms I have on my account so I don’t think I’ll be able to create supervised users under that account. But, I don’t want the library computer lab logged onto my account either! It’s an intriguing idea but not one I think I’ll be able to get much use out of with the current library computer lab setup.

Task 2: Explore the extensions 

There are so many Google Chrome extensions to explore! Many of them seemed a bit silly or downright useless but there were quite a few I wish I’d known about back in my other life as an administrative assistant! After thinking about what I actually do when I’m finally at my desk at the end of the day, I found a few extensions and bookmarklets that I think will be handy for me.

  • gLinks- gLinks allows you to create and open web files directly from Google Drive and keep all your files and bookmarks/links together in your Google Drive folders. I shared during the productivity post how I use the Elementary Librarian lesson plans I purchased last summer and how I love that she also curated all the additional resources for the lessons on her webpage. All of the computer based centers she created offer a list of potential activity sites that are links. Now, I can use gLinks to make that list a Google Drive document and store it with the other centers for that grade/month in my Google Drive folders. I wont have to go to both Drive and her site (and log in and follow a bunch a links) when I create the center materials each month! Any time saved is a victory for me (and my dogs who rightly assume I’ll spend that new-found time with them).
  • One Tab-I am the queen of browser tabs. I see something I want to read but not right this second, bam! open a new browser window. I had high hopes for this extension but it just didn’t float my boat. I actually kind of hated it. I spent more time trying to figure out how I got the pages to open back up every time I used it than I would care to admit. It just wasn’t intuitive and smooth for me. However, I LOVE that it can turn a bunch of open tabs into a single web page of links. This will definitely be a huge help when I put together resource lists for teachers and classes during research. I see me using this at lease once during my annual summer library website revamping.
  • Google Drive Templates I have become a die-hard Google Drive convert. However, one of the things I actually miss about MS Word, and there isn’t much believe me, is their templates. Now, I don’t have to miss anything about MS Word. The Google Drive Templates extension lets me search, find and use pre made templates for Google Docs! Now, I can make an eye-catching and professional looking sign fast and easy and still have access to it anywhere I have internet.
  • Momentum-Momentum is an extension that replaces the standard new tab page. Everyday it shows you a new, beautiful, inspiring image. It give you a spot to record your main goal for the day (front and center), it gives you a place to record a running to do list, shows you the weather, lets you search from that screen and easily lets you navigate back to the usual new tab screen if you need to do so. Even with all that going on, it still looks really clean and soothing. I tried it for a few days and I loved seeing that as my default screen whenever I popped into my office to grab something in between classes. I also like that the lack of space forces you to really think about what your main goal is for the day. You still get a to do list but only one thing will really fit on the goal line so I had to think about what my true priority was for each day. I read a productivity book last year and that was one of the tips I remember clearly: write down the top 3 things you really need to get down each day and try to get them down first thing in the morning. I don’t think Momentun can control when I do that main task but at least it forces me to come up with one and keeps it front and center in my mind throughout the day…
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