Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Reuse Custom Themes in Google Slides - And Other Enhancements

Earlier this fall Google added the option to create custom themes in Google Slides (the Google Drive presentation tool). Today, they added the option to reuse those themes throughout your presentations. Now when you create a new presentation in Google Slides you have the option to choose a theme from another presentation.

Another enhancement to Google Slides to note is the option to add any object to a theme. After adding an element to a slide, right-click on it to add it to the theme. This could be useful if you want to put a school logo on every slide in a presentation.

The final enhancement is one that should bring order to the occasionally chaotic process of collaborating on Google Slides. Now when you and your collaborators type on a slide your names will appear next to the cursor as you type. This should enable you to see who is typing what and when.

Click here to see screenshots of the new Google Slides features.

Webinar Recording - Backchannels In the Classroom

This afternoon I conducted a free webinar on backchannels and informal assessment. In the end fifteen people were able to attend. There were a lot more emailed me to say that they couldn't attend the live session, but would like the recording. The recording is now available. Unfortunately, the questions that popped-up in the chat box weren't captured by the recording. All of the other content was captured. In the webinar we covered using TodaysMeet, Padlet, Socrative, and Infuse Learning.

If you're viewing this in RSS, you may have to click here to see the video. 

The Gunpowder Plot and the Story of Guy Fawkes

Today is Guy Fawkes Day so I went searching for some short videos on the topic. I found that the BBC's documentary The Gunpowder Plot is available (in legally licensed form) on YouTube. I've embedded that below.

For a shorter overview of the story of Guy Fawkes watch this four minute animation produced by Red Beetle Films.

QuickCast - Quickly Create Screencasts

QuickCast is a free screencasting app available to Mac users. QuickCast allows you to capture all or part of your screen while you talk. The app allows you to record for up to three minutes. Your recordings can be saved directly to your computer and or shared online through the QuickCast website. Each of the recordings that you publish is assigned its own URL that you can share with anyone. Recordings can also be embedded into blog posts and webpages.

QuickCast provides tools for adding short intro and outro text. If you want to include your face in your screencast, you can do that with QuickCast by just turning on your webcam before you start your recording. QuickCast can also be used to create animated GIFs.

Applications for Education
There is no shortage of screencasting apps available on the web. QuickCast is another option to add to your toolbox to access when you need to create a short instructional video for your students or colleagues. Creating screencasts can be a good way for students to practice giving clear and direct presentations of information.

The QuickCast code is open source so there is a chance that it will be available for Windows at some point. 

Listen to The Iliad In Ancient Greek

Between yesterday's post about a Shakespeare iPad app and this post, I'm on a bit of a classical literature kick. Last night I listened to part of The Iliad in ancient Greek. The recording, featuring Stanley Lombardo doing the reading, is available on YouTube. If you would like your students to attempt to follow along with for a minute or two, you can find a free copy of The Iliad in Greek on Google Books.

Applications for Education
Unless I was teaching an advanced course on classical literature or teaching a course in Greek, I wouldn't make my students listen to the whole recording. But in a high school classroom I might have my students listen to a minute or two of the recording just to give them a sense of how it sounds.

H/T to Open Culture.

The Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge - Great Blogging Activities for Kids

This semester Edublogs is once again hosting a student blogging challenge. The Student Blogging Challenge offers a series of blogging tasks designed to help students (and teachers) improve their blogging skills. Completing the tasks of the challenge will help students not only learn how to write better blog posts, but also how to be better online communicators in general. The topics range from cyber safety to cultures of the world to sharing information about your town. The Student Blogging Challenge is open to all classroom blogs and individual student blogs. You do not have to use an Edublogs-hosted blog in order to participate. Participation is free for all.

Applications for Education
Communicating effectively through online mediums such as blogs, is a very important skill that today's students should learn. The Student Blogging Challenge will help you help your students develop that skill. If you already have your students blogging, you can work most, if not all, of the challenges into their current blogging habits.

Watch the First Google+ Connected Classrooms Field Trips

Yesterday, Google launched a new project called Connected Classrooms. Connected Classrooms uses Google+ Hangouts On Air to take students on virtual field trips to museums and zoos. In these Google+ Hangouts On Air students may have the opportunity to ask questions of the museum and zoo experts that are leading the virtual field trips. You can find a complete schedule of virtual field trips on the Connected Classrooms website. On the same site you can find links to the recordings of the first Connected Classrooms field trips that were conducted yesterday.

Watching the recordings of the Connected Classrooms field trips probably won't be an engaging experience for your students, but it will give you a sense of what to expect when your class joins a live session. I've embedded below the recording of the Connected Classrooms Hangout with the Seattle Aquarium.

Applications for Education
I prefer virtual field trips that put students in charge of navigation and direction of their experience, the Connected Classrooms Hangouts don't seem to do that. That said, if you're looking for your students to learn first-hand from experts on a particular topic then the Connected Classrooms Hangouts could be useful.