Thursday, March 19, 2020

Create a Simple Website With Canva and Use It as a Digital Portfolio

Canva has been my graphic design tool of choice for the last five years. Lately, I've been using it to create slideshow presentations and videos in addition to simple graphics like the featured image in this blog post. In fact, the last two free webinars that I hosted featured slideshows designed in Canva.

One of the things that I like about using Canva for slideshows is that when I want to share the slides with a wider audience I can publish as a nice, clean and simple website. When I publish the slideshows that I make with Canva all of the links and videos that embedded in the slides continue to work. In the following video I demonstrate how to publish Canva slideshows as a simple stand-alone website.

Applications for Education
A few of my current students absolutely love using Canva. One of the things that I plan to do when we get back to having school in the school building is to have my students take pictures and record short videos about the projects they're doing in my classroom. Then they'll put the pictures and videos into slideshows in Canva and publish them as simple websites to share them as digital portfolios. Yes, they could do the same with Google Slides or PowerPoint, but Canva's presentation is just a little bit cleaner from the viewer's perspective.

Why I Make Video Tutorials

Yesterday afternoon someone wrote on my Facebook page that she was going to stop following the page because I had too many videos and not enough written tutorials. The fact of the matter is that I've published nearly 15,000 blog posts and less than half have videos in them (I counted last night). But I can see how she had that impression because for the last two years I have made a concerted effort to publish more tutorial videos and fewer written tutorials. I'd like to explain why. So here it is in list format.

1. Copyright issues. If you have followed this blog for more than a year, you're probably well aware of the many issues I've had with people stealing my work and pawning it off as their own. The most egregious cases have involved people using my work as their own in conference presentations! It's a heck of a lot harder to pass off my video as your own than it is to copy and paste my writing and images.

2. Discoverability. Depending the report you read, YouTube is the second or third most visited website in the world. Putting videos on YouTube helps more people discover my tutorials and this blog.

3. Clarity. Even when I write tutorials there are still some parts of the process that are better shown than told. A video solves that problem.

4. Time. I have a full-time course load and a family to raise and I try to stay in shape by racing my bicycle (masters category, baby!). I can produce a screencast video in the same or less time than it takes to make a series of written instructions.

Could my videos be better? Sure they could. But I wouldn't be able to make as many and many of them are made as a direct result of a request from a reader. So it all comes back to trying to help as many people as I can. It appears that video is the way to do that. Someone recently gave me the compliment that my videos have a "nice homemade feel." I'll take it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

How to Create Contact Groups in Gmail

Yesterday I shared the time-saving tip of scheduling emails in Gmail. Today, I have another time-saving Gmail tip. Creating a contact group or a contact label in Gmail makes it possible to simply type the name of a group into the Gmail composition editor and have all of the addresses in that group populated at once. This can be a huge time-saver when you need to send the same message to a group of students and or their parents.

The process of creating a contact group in Gmail has changed since the last time I published a tutorial about it. The video that I created today outlines the current process for making contact groups in Gmail.

How to Create Annotated Screen Capture Images

This morning I got an email from a reader who was looking for a screen capture tool that included tools for drawing straight lines, arrows, boxes, and generally making screen captures look a little more professional. One of the tools that I recommended was Nimbus Screenshot.

Nimbus Screenshot is available to use as an extension in Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. There is also a Nimbus Screenshot Chrome app for Chromebook users who want to be able to capture more than just a browser window. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Nimbus Screenshot to create annotated screen capture images.

Applications for Education
When explaining to students how to use a new tool it's often easier to show with them with a screen capture than it is to write out an explanation. Over the next couple of weeks my high school computer science courses will be online so I'm sure that I'll be making lots of screen captures to highlight pieces of code that need to be altered.

Free Historical Coloring Pages

If you're looking for an offline activity that you can recommend to parents for their students to do at home, take a look at the New York Academy of Medicine's Color Our Collections website. The site contains contributions from more than one hundred museums and libraries around the world. The participating museums and libraries offered of up PDFs of black and white drawings that visitors can print and then color. In other words, Color Our Collections is a huge collection of historical coloring book pages.

Applications for Education
Color Our Collections offers coloring pages covering a wide range of topics and themes. The Getty contributions feature animals, the contribution from the Library of Virginia covers the topic of Women's Suffrage, and Brunel University's collection features trains. Contributions from some museums and libraries cover topics in medicine. Because of the wide range of topics in the collection I'd recommend either curating a collection from the collection to send home or advising parents to pick and print from the website rather than sending students directly to the website.