Laura Gibbs

A Google Drive Strategy to Surface New Content

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Jul 22, 2017

Okay, yes, it's still July, but I did the math: school is starting up VERY soon for me, so I am now in "let's get ready!" mode. Last week I wrote up a timeline to help me stay on track, and last week's big focus was building a Learning by H.E.A.R.T. space in Canvas that works like the Exploring Growth Mindset Canvas space I built. I am really happy with how it turned out: I have the five dynamic pages now with live Diigo/RSS feeds for Health/Happiness, Empathy, Attention, Reading, and Time, and I now have the Challenges page in place too! That's what I want to write about in this blog post, because I am really happy with a simple Google Drive trick I am using to highlight new content in that space. Here's how it works:


1. Google Drive public folder. I create a public folder in Google Drive which is where I keep the Challenges. You can see that folder for Growth Mindset where I have a LOT of Challenges now: Growth Mindset Challenges folder. In the HEART folder, I only have a few challenges so far (I am in the process right now of migrating the Challenges from my old blog-based approach).


2. New Challenge file. One file in the folder is named *** See the NEWEST CHALLENGE here. The asterisks are important: that means when the files are sorted alphabetically, it always shows up at the top.


3. Create a new Challenge. Each individual Challenge also has a file in the folder. When I create a new challenge, I create a new file document, write up the Challenge, and then put it in the folder, where it shares the same public permissions as the file overall. (Or sometimes I just copy a file already in the folder if I am modeling one challenges on an existing challenge, which does happen pretty often.)


4. Update New Challenge file. When I have finished creating the new challenge, I then do highlight-all and then copy, and then I paste that into the New Challenge file. It takes literally just a second to do that. Same file; new content.


5. Display New Challenge file in Canvas. Then, in the Canvas Challenges page, I have a LINK to the folder with all the challenges, and I also EMBED that New Challenge file. That means when I create a new challenge and update that file, it AUTOMATICALLY displays the new Challenge in Canvas. Students can click the link and go to the folder to browse all the challenges, or they can zoom in on the newest challenge which they see displayed right there. Once this Page is set up, I don't have to do anything: the New Challenge shows up automatically. As soon as I copy-and-paste into that document, presto, the new content is there in Canvas... and I don't even have to log on to Canvas to do that. It's automatic.


Why is this important? I like to be able to create new content on the fly (I see some cool article or infographic and I write a Challenge about it), and I also like for students to know which content is new; that can be really helpful for students who do this assignment every week and are curious if there is new content. This  procedure automatically highlights the newest challenge for them, at practically zero cost of time for me! It's just a natural part of my workflow now.


Here's how that looks in the Learn by Heart Challenges page today, after I just added a new Challenge. Depending on when you read this post and click that link, you may see something different on the page. I need to add 3 or 4 challenge pages each day to have this ready to go when school starts in less than a month, and that Canvas Page will be updating every time I add a new one. :-)


happiness jar screenshot


Of course, you could also use this method to highlight a "Featured Challenge of the Week" or any kind of featured content you want to surface week by week or day by day. My design philosophy is to keep presenting students with something new whenever they arrive at the course site: either something new by random (see my randomizing widget warehouse), or something new based on a daily/weekly feature approach. Lots and lots and lots of content for them to browse and explore and choose from, but with strategies to also continually surface and resurface that content in dynamic, unpredictable ways.


There's nothing like a static list of links to put students to sleep... instead, you can use automation to help surface your content new (or like new!) every time the students come to your online space. :-)