Sunday, August 21, 2022

Mailbag - Three Answers to Frequently Asked Reader Questions

I regularly invite readers of Free Technology for Teachers and subscribers to my newsletter to send me questions. Many of the questions that I receive are fairly similar and in my lane, but every once in a while I get some that are a little different. Here's a smattering of questions that I've received this summer and the answers that I've given. I hope you find the questions and my answers helpful.

#1 - My school has Chromebooks and we've always used Screencastify for making videos. Now that Chromebooks have a built-in screencast tool is there any reason to keep Screencastify?

As I write this, I don't think the screencasting tool that is built into Chromebooks is quite up to the level of Screencastify (or Loom for that matter). I wrote about this in more depth in June, but in short, the Chrome screencast tool just doesn't have enough editing options for my liking. 

#2 - My new school district is all-Google Workspace and they don't want us using Flipgrid because they have some privacy concerns. I used it a lot at my old school and loved it. Do you have any suggestions for alternatives that I could use? 

That's a bummer about your school not wanting you to use Flip (the new name for Flipgrid). I'm not sure I understand their stance on Flip privacy. Nonetheless, here's what I'd do. I would use Padlet to create a Flip-like environment. You and your students can use the camera function in the notes on a Padlet to record videos. As a teacher you can moderate video submissions and you can disable comments if you like. Here's a tutorial on recording videos in Padlet

#3 - I'd like to have my students create "about me" videos to start the year. Do you have any recommendations on the best tool for doing something like that?

I'm not entirely sure what you have in mind for the finished product, but I'm guessing you want the vides to be relatively short. I'd use Canva to have students create a few slides about themselves then turn those slides into a video. Here's a short demo of how that works. 

DIY Tech Fixes for Teachers

The content of this post originally appeared on my other site, and subscribers to my newsletter got a copy of this poster sent to them as a high resolution PDF

Many of the problems that people experience with their computers and with web-based tools, can be remedied through simple fixes like running updates and rebooting. But if you’re not aware that these simple things can fix your problem, you might not try them and skip right to calling the IT help desk. To help you fix your own classroom tech problems, I’ve put together a short list of simple fixes.

The following list isn’t meant to be all-inclusive. It’s simply meant to address common problems and their solutions. If you’re a person who is called upon to help with classroom tech problems, feel free to forward this article to your staff.

1. Run updates. If you see that updates are available for your computer, run them. This will probably mean restarting your computer which can be inconvenient, but it’s not as inconvenient as having a computer that isn’t running well. Additionally, using a computer and software that is not updated can make it more vulnerable to security breaches.

2. Turn it off, count to ten, turn it on. Even if your computer is up to date, restarting it can fix glitches. This is particularly true when dealing with issues related to connecting to things like printers and projectors.

3. Cookies! Do you have cookies enabled? Many websites (web-based apps) require cookies in order to offer you the best possible experience and or full functionality. Similarly, you may need to clear cookies in order to clear information stored in your browser for a particular site. Here’s a short video on how to do that.

4. Close a few tabs and background apps. If your computer is running slower than you’d like, the problem might be that you have too many unnecessary things running in the background. If you’re not sure what’s running in the background on a Windows computer, press CTRL+ALT+Delete to open the task manager. On a Mac open the Activity Monitor to see what’s running in the background.

5. Enable pop-ups. It is not uncommon for web apps to use a pop-up window for account log-ins and for additional functionality like audio recording (WeVideo is one web app that comes to mind as an example). If the pop-up is blocked, you won’t be able to log-in or see those additional functions.

6. Are you on the right network? Many schools have different networks for students and staff. There may be different permissions granted to staff than to students on those networks. Additionally, broadcasting your screen on a wireless projector and screencasting from your computer to your students’ computers usually requires that you’re all on the same network.

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