Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Use a Zoom Virtual Background for Lesson Outlines

One of the many challenges of teaching in a hybrid classroom setting this fall is giving the kids who are attending virtually a similar experience to those who are attending class in-person. To that end, one of the things that I'm trying this week is using virtual background in Zoom that lists the bullet points for the day. I have three or four bullet points for the day written on my whiteboard in class every day. I do this as a way to let kids know what the goals and big points for day are. I'm now trying to remember to do the same in Zoom with virtual background for the kids who are joining virtually for the day. 

There are other uses for virtual backgrounds in Zoom besides my bullet point idea. If you're teaching from home, you might just want to hide or improve the background. If you've positioned your webcam/ laptop in your classroom in such a way that the background includes other students, you might want to use virtual background to hide them. Or you might simply want to use a virtual background as a means to inspire curiosity. If I was still teaching social studies instead of computer science, I'd be tempted to use pictures of UNESCO World Heritage sites in my Zoom virtual backgrounds. 

If you've never tried using a Zoom virtual background, watch this short video in which I explain how to use a virtual background and share some good places to find virtual background images. 

Two Short Lessons on Checks & Balances

Today is election day in the United States. While the election is fresh in our students' minds, it is a good day to review how the three branches of federal government work in a system of checks and balances. 

In addition to voting for President we'll also be voting for members of the House of Representatives and some will be voting for Senators. Those are two thirds of the branches of federal government. The other branch is judicial branch which is not elected by the people. If you'd like a couple of videos to share with your students, here are two that I recommend. Show these live or put them into EDpuzzle to make sure your students actually watch them. 

How is Power Divided in the United States Government? is an older TED-Ed lesson but is still a good one. In three minutes it covers the origin of the office of the President, the adoption of the Constitution, and gives an example of what each branch of the government is responsible for. 



A little more in-depth overview of the system of checks and balances is found in Crash Course's Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances. While the TED-Ed lesson is good for elementary school and middle school, the Crash Course lesson is appropriate for high school students who have a little bit more background on the basics of the structure of the federal government.



Bonus video!
Tom Richey made this popular video about the structure of the U.S. Congress and the roles of the House and the Senate.

How to Use Vimeo Record to Create and Share Screencasts

Last week Vimeo released a new screen recording tool to use in Google Chrome. That tool is simply called Vimeo Record. While it didn't do all that well in my comparison of similar screencasting tools, it is rather easy to use and does provide a nice alternative to using YouTube or Google Drive for sharing your screencast videos. If want to see how it works before you install it, take a look at this short video overview of how to use Vimeo Record