Monday, April 9, 2018

PrepFactory Offers Individualized SAT, ACT, PARCC, and SBAC Prep

Disclosure: PrepFactory is a long-time advertiser and supporter of

PrepFactory began as a free service providing SAT and ACT review videos. In 2017 they switched from video-based to interactive question-based instruction. At about the same time, they expanded their offerings to include middle school subjects. Recently, they expanded again to offer study guides for PARCC and SBAC test prep for students in grades six through ten.

What differentiates PrepFactory from run-of-the-mill test prep websites is a focus on individual student diagnostics. In the PrepFactory programs, each student is continually evaluated across all topics applicable to his or her test. The program then allows the student to skip over the content they’ve shown mastery of and it encourages students to spend extra time improving in areas they have not yet mastered.

Another nice aspect of PrepFactory is that its various interactive questions formats are  similar to the style of questions on the computer-based versions of PARCC and SBAC assessments. This familiarity in question look and feel can go a long way toward helping students relax and perform their best on test day.

Students can work through PrepFactory independently or join a virtual classroom under a teacher's account. Teacher accounts have additional features including creating assignments and monitoring student progress. Fully-featured student and teacher accounts can be created for free.

The folks at PrepFactory are always developing new features for teachers and more content for students. Look for more of both to be rolled-out later this year.

5 Ways to Use YouTube Live in School

Last week I shared how to create a live broadcast from your laptop by using YouTube's new live broadcasting option in the Chrome web browser. This afternoon I used that feature to make a live broadcast of five ideas for using YouTube live in school settings. The recording of that broadcast is available here and as embedded below.

Can't see the video or just want the talking points? Here they are:

  • Streaming morning announcements so that parents get them as well as students. 
  • Hosting live review sessions for AP and other exams. 
  • Video blogging of weekly reflections.
  • Streaming school sporting events and other live events. 
  • Streaming and recording classroom lessons. 

Publishing an Example of Copyright Infringement

Update: after filing a DMCA takedown notice, this copyright infringement issue was resolved.

Thanks to a friendly reader, I was tipped-off to the latest case of an educational technology "expert" committing an egregious copyright violation. It has been a few months since a good example like this has come across my desk. In this latest instance a gentleman named Ric Robinson running a consulting business called Tri Learning has decided to republish every blog post, including one about copyright, on his site without my permission. In this particular case the offending party hasn't responded to email, Twitter DM, or a phone call about the matter. So I'm making the most of it by publishing some reminders about copyright and blogging. (And this post will probably end up getting republished without permission by the same person).

FAQs About Copyright and Blogging

A webinar about copyright.
Beth Holland and I hosted a free webinar in which we talked about copyright concerns that frequently appear in schools. As you can see the video of the webinar (embedded below) it was a casual conversation during which we shared some stories, fielded some questions, and shed some light on common misconceptions about copyright.

Short overviews of copyright from Common Craft.
The following two videos from Common Craft provide excellent overviews of these topics.

What to do if someone steals your blog posts or pictures.

If you cannot see the videos, click here for part 1 and here for part 2.

Adobe Launches Spark for Education

Earlier this year at the BETT Show Adobe announced that they would launching a new version of Adobe Spark designed specifically for school use. That new version is finally here. Earlier today Adobe launched Spark for Education.

Spark for Education is a free service that Adobe has launched to address the concerns that schools have had about Spark since it's launch a few years ago. The biggest of those concerns being use by students under the age of 13. Spark for Education is designed for school-wide deployment (much like G Suite for Education) in a manner that is COPPA compliant. The school will be able to manage student and teacher use of Spark including access to the service itself. Additionally, Spark for Education will provide students and teachers with free access to all of premium features of Adobe Spark.

Applications for Education
From a previous post that I published about Adobe Spark, here are ten ways to use Adobe Spark.

Post is the part of the Adobe Spark that lets you create graphics like posters, announcements, and Internet memes.
  • Students and teachers can create simple posters to print and post in their schools to announce club meetings, campaigns for class elections, or to post encouraging messages to students.
  • To help students understand and show that they understand what propaganda messages look like, I have had them create simple early 20th Century-style propaganda posters of their own. Adobe Spark has built-in Creative Commons search that can help students find pictures to use for those posters. Students can also upload pictures they've found in the public domain.
  • Create a meme-style graphic to share on your classroom, library, or school website. The graphic could be intended to encourage students and parents to remind each other of an upcoming school event. You could also create a meme to encourage students to continue reading over the summer. 
As the name implies, this is the Adobe Spark tool for creating videos. Videos are created by adding text and images to slides. You can record yourself talking over each slide. A library of free music is available to layer under your narration or you can use that music in lieu of narration.

  • Create a short flipped-lesson with Adobe Spark. The recording tool makes it easy to precisely record your narration over the slides in your lesson. 
  • Have your students create video lessons. The slide aspect of Adobe Spark's video tool lends itself to students creating short Ken Burns-style documentary videos. Have them use Spark's search tool to find images to use in their videos or have them use a place Flickr's The Commons to find historical images. I've had students make this style of video to tell the stories of people moving west across the United States in the 19th Century. 
  • This is the time of year for end-of-school assemblies and celebrations. Use Adobe Spark's video creation tool to make a video of highlights of the school year. Rather than narrating the video you can use music from Adobe Spark's library. 
Page is the tool for creating simple web pages to showcase pictures, posters, videos, text, and links. 
  • Create an event invitation page. Create a page that outlines the highlights of an upcoming school event like a fundraiser or open house night. Include images of past events, images of prizes, or include a video about the event. Should you need people to register for your event, include a link to a Google Form. (Learn how to use Google Forms).
  • Create a digital portfolio. Spark pages provide a great format for digital portfolios. Students can organize their pages into sections to showcase videos they've made, documents they've written, and their reflections on what they've learned. 
  • Make a multimedia timeline. While it wasn't designed specifically for making timelines, Spark Page's formatting does lend itself to timelines. Ask your students to research a series of events, find media representative of those events, caption the events and media with dates, and then place them into the proper order.
  • Write an image-based story. Students can write a story about themselves by using pictures they've taken placed into a Spark Page. Another way to think about image-based stories is to have students search for images and use them as writing prompts. Ask them to choose five pictures and write a story that connects the images. 

Adobe Spark works in your web browser including on Chromebooks. Adobe Spark is also available as a series of iPad apps for Page, Video, and Post. 

YouTube Makes Copyright Clear as Mud

Larry Ferlazzo recently shared a video that YouTube produced about options for using music in videos. The video started out well but quickly became a muddy pile of confusion. While I was able to follow it, I think that a lot of people who aren't already familiar with copyright regulations would tune it out. But, if nothing else, the video does highlight just how confusing copyright can be. The solution is to always use music that is either in the public domain, is your own original creation, or is available with a Creative Commons license. Three of my favorite sources of public domain and Creative Commons licensed music are featured here.

And if you are interested in learning more about copyright as it pertains to classroom projects, please watch the recording of a free webinar that Beth Holland and I hosted last fall.

Sympathy for Padlet

Last week when Padlet's founder and CEO Nitesh Goel announced the changes to Padlet's pricing model the online ed tech community was upset. Some of the Tweets and Facebook posts that I saw about it were a bit harsh to say the least. I'm sure that Nitesh saw much worse in his inbox than I saw online. For the record, I understand why Nitesh had to make the changes, I support his decision, and I'm actually surprised that he didn't do it earlier. Read Nitesh's full statement on the changes right here and you might be on his side too.

I can tell you from first-hand experience that running a mostly free service is expensive and often thankless. I spent over $12,000 last year to keep Free Technology for Teachers running. And every time that I hosted a free webinar last year I got complaints about everything from the scheduling to the requirement to enter an email address (ironically, that complaint was emailed to me). I can only imagine the email that Padlet gets from users of the free plan.

Padlet is a team of six dedicated people. You might be surprised to learn that many of your favorite ed tech services are run by similar size teams. In almost every case they're dedicated people who want to do the best for their customers. They care, but running a service that is mostly free is expensive and they have bills to pay just like the rest of us. So before you send your angry Tweet to Padlet, please remember that they're nice people who are just trying to do their best like the rest of us.