Sunday, January 15, 2017

Tips for Accessing Sites Blocked by Your School

I originally published this a few years ago. I'm bringing it back up because I was recently asked about this issue again.

For those hoping that this post might teach you how to bypass filters, I'm sorry there is nothing in this post about bypassing filters. That's not a strategy that I endorse. 

I can't tell you how many times I've presented a website or tool at a workshop and a teacher has said, "that's great, but my school blocks everything." Having useful sites blocked is frustrating for everyone. I've been there. In the fall of 2009 I returned to school after the summer break to find that all of the sites (VoiceThread, Wikispaces, Blogger, Animoto, and others) that I had planned to use were blocked by the new filter that had been in place. Fortunately, my principal was willing to listen to me and some of my colleagues and he overruled the network administrator. If you find yourself in a similar situation, try these things before throwing up your hands in frustration.

Tactics for getting access to the websites that you want to use.
1. Attitude: don't sit back and complain quietly, don't sit back and complain loudly. Rather you should go to the top with research and a plan. Straight Talk from the DOE is a good place to start that research.

2. Relationships: if I didn't have a good working relationship with my principal I wouldn't be able to walk into his and have him seriously consider what I ask for.

3. Persistence: changing a school's or a district's policy isn't going to happen overnight.

4. Recruit supporters: if it's just you leading the fight you might be looked at as "that crazy teacher," if there is two of you you might be looked at as "those crazy teachers," but if you can get a third supporter then you've started a grassroots movement. This is an idea that I borrowed from this Ted Talk by Derek Sivers and from Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant.

Update: Shortly after this post went live Doug Johnson emailed me with a link to something he wrote on the same topic a couple of years ago. Doug outlines ten steps in his post. But what I like best about his post is the chart that he uses to show the correlation between "knowledge of educational uses" and "permissiveness of internet use." Take a look at Doug's chart here.

FormLimiter - The Solution to Slow Responders

A couple of days ago I received an email from a reader who was looking for advice about Google Forms. The problem he was having wasn't so much with Google Forms as it was with his colleagues not completing Forms in a timely manner. He wanted to know if there was a way to control when the Form would or wouldn't accept responses. There is a way to do that and it is through the FormLimiter Add-on for Google Forms.

FormLimiter is a Google Forms Add-on that lets you specify a time a which a Form will stop accepting responses. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use FormLimiter.


If you're new to using Google Forms, take a look at my on-demand Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners training.

EDpuzzle - Readers' Favorite App

At the end of December I asked you to submit your nominations for favorite educational apps. The nomination form was divided into three sections. Those sections were iOS, Android, and Web/Chrome apps. In all three sections EDpuzzle was nominated more than any other app.

If you are not familiar with EDPuzzle is a neat tool that allows you to add your voice and text questions to educational videos. On EDpuzzle you can search for educational videos and or upload your own videos to use as the basis of your lesson. EDpuzzle has an online classroom component that you can use to assign videos to students and track their progress through your video lessons. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use the main features of EDPuzzle.



EDpuzzle offers a Google Classroom integration. The video below demonstrates how to use that option.


You can see the complete spreadsheet of nominated apps here.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Short Guide to Using Adobe Spark in School

I have received a lot of questions about Adobe Spark since I published my latest post about creating videos on Chromebooks. Many of the most common questions about Adobe Spark are answered in the free Adobe Spark Edu Guide (link opens a PDF). In the guide you will find answers to questions about data privacy, using Adobe Spark with kids under age 13, and what each part of Adobe Spark does.

Watch my video embedded below to learn how to get started with Adobe Spark.


The following video will show you how to insert videos within your videos on Adobe Spark.



Here are a few ways that you can use Adobe Spark video in your classroom.
  • 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 year-in-review videos. Use Adobe Spark's video creation tool to make a video of highlights of the year. 
Adobe Spark is one of the tools that I recommend for creating Quick & Powerful Video Projects

SeeSaw Now Supports Text Labeling - 15 Lesson Plans for Using Labels

SeeSaw, a great digital portfolio platform, recently added a new text label feature. The labeling tool in SeeSaw lets your students add text labels to any picture or diagram that they have stored in their portfolios. There are eight pre-made labels that students can apply to their pictures and drawings within SeeSaw. Students can also create their own custom text labels to apply to their drawings and pictures.

Text labels are available in the iOS and web versions of SeeSaw (Android version available later this year). Learn how to use the text label option in SeeSaw by watching the videos embedded below.



Applications for Education
SeeSaw offers fifteen lesson plans that utilize the text labels feature. Those lesson plans include explaining the steps of solving mathematics problems, practicing sight words, and explaining aspects of a piece of art.