Friday, October 23, 2020

Tools for Scheduling Parent-Teacher Conferences and Other Meetings

The end of the first quarter or third of the school year is almost here for many of us. That means it's time for parent-teacher conferences. At my school, we have to schedule those meetings with parents. Based on the questions I've seen in my inbox this week, my school isn't the only one that requires teachers to set conference times. I use the appointment slots feature in Google Calendar to set my schedule and let parents sign-up, but that's not the only way it can be done. 

JotForm
JotForm is a good alternative to Google Forms and Microsoft Forms. In JotForm there is an option to add appointment registration questions. You can set appointment slots of 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes. Once an appointment has been claimed it can't be claimed by anyone else visiting your form. 

Choice Eliminator 2
This is a Google Forms add-on that will remove answer choices from a question as they get used up. To use it you should make a question in Google Forms that has all available appointment times listed in a drop-down menu. Once a time has been chosen by one form respondent it cannot be claimed by anyone else. 

A known quirk of Choice Eliminator 2 is that there is a lag between when a choice is made and when it actually gets eliminated. That means it is possible that two people could make the same choice if they're filling out the form at the same time.

Calendly
The free version of Calendly will let you easily create appointment slots with just a click or two. More importantly, people who want to schedule an appointment with you just have to click a time on your calendar and enter their names in order to reserve an appointment. Visitors do not have to have a Google Account to view or enter information into an appointment slot. Visitors who make appointments with you through Calendly can sync the appointment to their own Google Calendars, iCal, or Outlook calendars.

Google Calendar Appointment Slots
Using appointment slots in Google Calendar makes scheduling very easy compared to trying to use email, a spreadsheet, or even a shared Google Calendar. Watch this video to learn how you can make appointment slots in your Google Calendar.



Here's how to combine Google Calendar appointment slots with Zoom and Google Classroom.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

An Unplanned Benefit of Using Your Own Pictures in Blog Posts and Presentations

Last week I went on a bit of a rant about copyright and fair use. If you didn't read it, the gist of it was "no, you can't use any picture you find on the Internet and call it Fair Use because it's school-related." The best way to avoid accidental copyright infringement is to just use your own pictures. An additional benefit occurred to me this week when I was filing yet another DMCA takedown notice for a website that was copying all of my blog posts. 

When you use your own pictures in a blog post, in a video, or in a slideshow that you post online you don't have to worry that you've infringed on someone else's copyright. Additionally, if someone then tries to improperly use your work without permission, you have an additional claim that you can make against the infringer. In the case of a blog post, I made the claim in my DMCA takedown notice that my writing was used without permission and my image was used without permission. Why that matters is because of the time it takes to file these kinds of claims. A claim for writing is takes more time than a claim for an image, especially if the image is a selfie. 

I realize that many of you will never have to file a DMCA takedown notice to protect your work. But if you do, I hope this helps. And for everyone else, I hope it's another little story that you can share with your students and colleagues when educating them about copyright and fair use. 

A Helpful Update to Canva's Image Background Removal Tool

Late last year Canva added an image background removal tool to the menu of options for editing your graphics and presentations. Yesterday, when I used that tool to create an image for my blog post about TED-Ed's lesson on milk I noticed that there are two new options in the background removal tool. 

The new options in Canva's image background removal tool let you specify which parts of the background that you want to remove. You can choose to use a fine eraser tool or a coarse eraser tool in addition to the automatic background remover. The fine eraser tool is nice to use to "clean up" any mistakes made by automatic image remover. 


Applications for Education
This feature is available to all Canva for Education users. Canva for Education is free to teachers and students. Using the background removal tools is a good way to remove any sensitive information that you don't want displayed in a picture that you're going to post online. 

The background removal tool provides a good way for students to create cut-outs of themselves to then place onto other backgrounds. That's something I demonstrated and talked about in this video that demonstrates another background removal tool called Remove.bg. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A TED-Ed Lesson Exploring the Pros and Cons of Types of Milk

TED-Ed released a new lesson this week. The lesson is all about milk. The title of the lesson, Which Kind of Milk is Best for You? doesn't accurately portray the number of lessons and questions that can be raised when students watch the video. 

Which Kind of Milk is Best for You? explains the basics of the nutrition of dairy milk and plant-based milk products like soy, almond, and oat milk. That part of the video is fairly straight-forward. It starts to get interesting when information about how the various milks are created and the environmental impacts of each. It is through the combined lenses of nutrition and environmental impact that the video presents the answer to the question "which kind of milk is best for you?" (Spoiler alert: TED-Ed is not going to be getting any Christmas cards from the dairy farmers of America). 


Applications for Education
When I started watching this video I thought it would just be an overview of nutritional value of the various milks and perhaps how plant-based milk is created. I wasn't expecting it to take a turn toward environment. And as I watched the second half of the video I started to think about the questions and arguments that might be raised by students depending upon their personal backgrounds. For example, students who come from farming families (I have two right now and have had many over the years) might view this lesson and raise some arguments that students who don't have a farming background might not even consider. The video could also lead into discussions about farm and industry subsidies and or their respective lobbying groups. 

An Easy Way to Search in Google Classroom

Twice this week I've had people ask me if there is a search function in Google Classroom. Unless, I've been overlooking something obvious, there isn't a native search function built into Google Classroom. What I have been telling people to do is use Control+F on Windows computers or Command+F on Mac computers to search within a Google Classroom stream or classwork section. It's not a perfect solution, but it's better than just scrolling through dozens of announcements or assignments to find the one that you want. In the following short video I demonstrate how to search in Google Classroom by using Control+F. 
 

Applications for Education
We're getting to the point in the school year that many of us have a lot of announcements and assignments posted in Google Classroom. If you or your students need a quick way to look for an item in your assignments or announcements, this is the way to do it. 

If you have a question for me, send me an email richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com and I'll include it in the weekly free webinar series that I co-host with Rushton Hurley