Enhance Your Web Browsing Experience!

By: Autumn DeGroot


As educators, we search for tools to improve efficiencies, increase engagement, and assist students in their learning processes. Working in a school that utilizes the Google Apps for Education suite, I discovered that Google Chrome contains a gold mine of tools to help meet these goals. Chrome is one of several popular modern web browsers, yet it feels like much more than a browser.

Features such as its robust app store, ability to log in to multiple devices, flexible options for working with tabs, and powerful Google Omnibox, all greatly enhance an otherwise basic web browsing experience. Chrome apps and extensions arguably contain some of the greatest features available to users, and their benefits in a classroom can seem unending.

Chrome apps can most concisely be described as robust websites. Examples of popular Chrome apps include Google Maps, Google Drive, Google Docs, Evernote, Kindle Cloud Reader, Desmos Graphing Calculator, MindMup, SoundCloud, Lucidchart, and Pixlr Editor. Apps run directly in the web browser, and generally do not require any download or installation, while Chrome extensions are small programs that change the way your browser functions, therefore they must be downloaded and installed on your web browser. This article will explain how using Chrome extensions can change the way you interact with Google Chrome as you use the internet.

What are Chrome extensions?

Chrome extensions are small programs added to the toolbar of your Chrome Web Browser upon installation. Once enabled, extensions alter the functionality of your web browser to perform a specific task. The functionality of most extensions applies to all websites that you visit within Google Chrome, rather than being specific to one particular site. Chrome extensions are continually being developed and added to the Chrome Web Store, and can be helpful to both teachers and students in many ways. This article focuses on a few categories of extensions that could be immediately implemented. Categories are presented with a brief idea for use, followed by a few key features of each extension.

Screen Captures / Screencasting

Useful for creating instructional documentation or videos.

SnagIt

  • Capture all or part of your Google Chrome screen as an image.
  • Download the images directly to your computer, or automatically synchronize to a Google Drive folder.
  • Record screencast videos of any actions within the Chrome browser, including voice recording.

Awesome Screenshot
Capture all or part of your Google Chrome screen as an image.

  • Enhance screen captures with callouts to identify specific information, add text, or blur sensitive information.
  • Download the images to your computer or save to a Google Drive account.

Comfortable Reading

Effective for presenting articles to a group or assisting distracted readers.

Readability

  • Make web pages clean and easy to read by removing all excess clutter (such as advertisements, unrelated photos, and links).
  • Save cleaned articles to read later.

Manage Tabs

Ideal for those who are known to have too many tabs open at once.

The Great Suspender

  • “Suspends” any tabs that have been unused for longer than an hour, freeing up system resources (suspended tabs remain open in the browser window, but appear greyed out).
  • Time limit and list of suspendable websites are customizable.

OneTab

  • With a single click, condense all open tabs into one web page as individual links.
  • Restore all tabs at once or reopen each tab individually as needed.
  • Dramatically reduces system resource use and improves battery life.

Avoid Distractions

Helpful for blocking distracting websites and reducing off-task work.

Strict Workflow

  • Locks distracting websites for a specified amount of time.
  • Audible alarm rings when time has expired.

Grammar and Vocabulary

Beneficial for reinforcing classroom grammar instruction and encouraging expanded vocabulary.

Grammarly

  • Checks grammar and spelling while you type.
  • Works all over the web, including social media websites.

Google Dictionary

  • Quickly look up definitions by double-clicking on words in Google Chrome.
  • Additional information is available by clicking on the link beneath the definition.

Searching, Citing, and More...

Search by Image (by Google)

Want to know more about an image you found online?

  • Right-click (control-click) on an image in Chrome and select “Search Google with this image.”
  • Searches the internet for information related to the selected image.
Google Translate

Translate web pages. Although this will produce the common translation errors of any automated tool, it could present possibilities in a classroom setting; consider accessing authentic resources from a different country!

  • Quickly access Google Translate with the click of a button.
  • Translate highlighted text from one language to another.
  • Language settings are customizable.

If you are ready to give it a try, follow these simple steps from your Google Chrome browser:

  • Go to the Chrome Web Store (https://chrome.google.com/webstore).
  • Search for the name of an extension by typing in the “Search the store” box.
  • Select the “Extensions” category to narrow the results to only Chrome extensions.

Feeling adventurous and want to discover more? Skip step #2 from above and browse through the numerous Chrome extensions available. This article presents only the tip of the iceberg and you will certainly gain new ideas from the Web Store categories, including: Editor’s Picks, Productivity, Everyday Extensions, Writing Essentials, Hold that Thought, Get Organized, and more. If you become attached to your Chrome extensions, you’ll never have to worry about losing them when you work from a different laptop or desktop computer. Simply sign into the Google Chrome web browser on any computer and your extensions will automatically appear (along with any bookmarks, themes, or apps you have installed.) Explore, examine, and discover the Chrome extensions that work best for you and your students. You will begin to enjoy a customized and powerful web browsing experience before you know it!


Autumn DeGroot is a technology integrator for grades 6-12 at University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods, MI.
adegroot@uls.org

Published in AMLE Magazine, October 2016.

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