Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Two Easy Ways to Blur Faces and Objects in Your Videos

Recording short video clips and posting them on your classroom or school website is a great way for parents and other community members to learn about the great things that are happening in your classroom and school. When you do that you wan to make sure that you're not accidentally sharing something that shouldn't be public or showing the face of someone who doesn't want to be in a public video. Fortunately, it is easy to blur faces and objects in your videos before you publish them for the whole world to see. 

For years YouTube's built-in editor has included a tool for blurring faces and objects in your videos. The editor has two blurring options. The first option is "automatic face blurring" which automatically detects faces and blurs them. The downside to using that option is that it will blur all faces for the whole length of the video. That's fine unless you want to selectively blur faces or you want to blur something besides a face. The other blurring option in the YouTube editor is to selectively blur. That option lets you manually place a blurry box or oval over a section of your video. Both blurring options are demonstrated in this short video

Screencastify's recently updated free video editor also offers an easy way to blur faces and objects in your videos. In Screencastify's video editor you can choose to blur any face or object for as long as you like in your videos. You can also have multiple blurs running simultaneously in your video. Screencastify's object blurring feature is demonstrated in this video

Two Ways to Make Timelines Based on Books

On Sunday evening a reader of my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter replied with a question about creating timelines. She was looking for suggestions for a timeline tool that her tenth grade students can use to create a timeline based on books they've read. This is something that I've done in the past with some of my own students so I had a couple of suggestions at the ready. 

Timeline JS is my first choice for making a timeline based on a book. I've been using Timeline JS for nearly a decade to make timelines that include text, images, videos, and links. Timelines created with Timeline JS can have events separated by as little as a minute because you can specify the date and time of each event in the timeline. Watch this video for a short demonstration of how to use Timeline JS. 



Using one of Canva's timeline templates is my second choice for making a timeline based on a book. While it doesn't support as many media types as Timeline JS, you could argue that the aesthetics of Canva timelines is much better than those of Timeline JS. Here's my demo of how to create a timeline in Canva.


By the way, the image in this post is a picture of the cover of a fun read titled Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure. The book retraces Harry Truman's steps as he drove from his home in Missouri to New York and back during the summer of 1953. 

Monday, September 20, 2021

Tract - Project-based, Peer-to-Peer Learning

Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Tract is a new service that offers fun lessons for elementary school and middle school students taught by high school and college students. The lessons and corresponding activities cover a wide array of fun and interesting topics. On Tract you will find lessons about photography, gaming, cooking, music, sports, and much more. Students can earn digital and physical prizes for completing the lessons and their corresponding activities.

Tract is designed so that students (age 8+ is recommended) can complete the lessons and corresponding activities, called missions, on their own. Of course, there might be some activities that some students need a little assistance to complete. Fortunately, as a teacher you can create your own Tract account and watch your students’ progress to know when they might need a little help from you.

20% Time, Genius Hour, or Just Plain Fun!
The core idea behind Tract is for students to learn from other students. The subjects and concepts taught in Tract are chosen by students for students. That’s why you’ll find fun lessons about Minecraft, TikTok algorithms, and music production throughout Tract. These are lessons and activities that are perfect to use during 20% Time, Genius Hour, or any other name that you use for project-based enrichment activities.

Head to http://teach.tract.app/ and use the code BYRNE to get your free Tract teacher account and view all the growing catalog of fun lessons for students by students.

How to use Tract - Student Perspective
Students can sign up for Tract by using codes provided by their teachers (use code BYRNE at http://teach.tract.app/ to get your free teacher account). Once they’ve signed up students can explore the paths and missions within Tract. Think of the paths as the video lessons and the missions as the activities that students complete after watching the video lessons.

When students find paths in Tract that they like they can watch the video(s) for that path and then complete the associated mission(s). Some paths have multiple videos and missions for students to complete. Students complete missions by uploading a file as an example of their work or by writing a response. For example, in the path about nature photography students watch a video lesson that outlines how to take better photographs. Then to complete the missions they upload two pictures that they have taken that demonstrate their use of the techniques taught in the video.

Students earn digital coins for completing each path. Paths that have more missions earn more coins than those that have fewer missions. Students can redeem their coins for digital and physical prizes. With the exception of Tract swag (tee shirts and hats) all of the prizes are digital prizes that benefit others. For example, students can redeem 250 coins to make a donation of one meal via Second Harvest of Silicon Valley toward the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger. 

How to use Tract - Teacher Perspective
As a teacher you can sign up for a free Tract account at http://teach.tract.app/ (use the code BYRNE to get access). Once you’ve created an account take some time to explore the paths and missions within Tract.

Within your teacher account on Tract you can create classrooms for your students to join. Each of your classrooms has its own unique code for students to enter to join your classroom (students do not need email addresses). Then within each classroom you can see the paths your students have chosen and the missions they have completed. You can also review the submissions students made to complete missions and moderate those submissions if necessary. For example, if a student is working on the nature photography path but uploads pictures that aren’t aligned to the mission, you can remove those pictures and they will have to try the mission again.

In this video I demonstrate how Tract works from a teacher’s perspective and from a student’s perspective.

Share Voice Notes via Mote QR Codes

Earlier this year Mote emerged as one of my favorite new tools of the year. Mote is a Chrome extension that works with all of the core products in Google Workspace. With it you can add voice comments to Google Classroom, Google Docs, and Slides. You can also use it to add voice notes to Google Forms. And last week Mote added another new feature. 

The latest feature added to Mote lets you record a voice note and share it via QR code. With Mote installed in Chrome you can simply click the Mote icon then record your voice note. When you're done speaking simply click the share button and you'll have an option to view and download a QR code. Anyone who scans your QR code will be able to listen to your voice recording. Watch this short video to learn how you can share voice notes via Mote QR codes. 



Applications for Education
My first thought after trying Mote's voice QR codes was to have students record short teasers or previews of books then print the corresponding QR codes to place on the inside flap of library books. Then when their classmates are looking for a new book to read they can scan the QR code to hear a student's perspective on the book. 

Free Presidential Timeline Poster for Your Classroom Courtesy of C-SPAN

C-SPAN Classroom offers some fantastic resources for teachers of U.S. History, civics, and government. One of those resources that has been offered in the past and is available again this year is a free poster depicting a timeline of American presidents. The poster shows each President's time in office, a short biography, the era of American history in which each President served, and a couple of major events that happened during each President's time in office. The poster is free for anyone who has a free C-SPAN Classroom account. 

Applications for Education
C-SPAN Classroom offers a number of suggestions for using the poster in your classroom. One of those suggestions is to have students complete a Tournament of Presidents. The Tournament of Presidents asks to evaluate each president and compare them in a bracket-style tournament with the best in each bracket advancing to the next round. Here's a little video about it. 

When I was teaching U.S. History I had an earlier version of this poster in my classroom. One fall I let my students choose a President from the poster and create a short video biography of their chosen President.