Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Sometimes It Pays to Pay - Or When a Webinar Crashes to a Halt

Much of my online reputation is built on free technology for teachers. That said, there are services I do pay to use because I've not found other options that are as good. Case in point, I pay $200 per month to license GoToWebinar because I've never found anything to be as reliable. In almost ten years of using it for hundreds of live events, it has only failed me twice. Which is why I feel a little foolish for trying a different service for a free webinar that I hosted yesterday. That other service failed miserably during the webinar that I ran yesterday. I'm going to run the webinar again tomorrow, but it will be back on GoToWebinar where I know all of the functions I need will work reliably.

The last 18 months have been pretty lean around here so I've been looking for ways to cut costs. One of the ways that I thought I could do that was by trying another webinar service. My GoToWebinar subscription and my ConvertKit subscription (the service I use for email mailing lists) are the biggest costs of keeping Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech running. The service that I tried yesterday offered a free trial and was 75% cheaper than GoToWebinar on a monthly basis. It even had slick templates for making registration pages! Lesson learned, again, sometimes what looks good and cheap is just cheap.

If you were in yesterday's live webinar, Three Strategies for Remote Instructional Technology Support, thank you for putting up with the clunkiness and the screen sharing not working. If you were waiting to see the recording, it came out so poorly that I'm not going to distribute it. I'm going to host Three Strategies for Remote Instructional Technology Support again tomorrow at 1pm ET. It will be run through GoToWebinar. You can register here. A recording will be available afterwards.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Video Puppet Turns Your PowerPoint Presentations Into Narrated Videos

Video Puppet is a new tool that you can use to quickly turn your PowerPoint presentations into narrated videos. If you have less than twenty slides in your presentation you don't even need to create an account on the site to turn your slides into a narrated video.

To use Video Puppet simply head to the site and click "create a video." You'll have the option to upload a set of PowerPoint slides or upload a written transcript. After you upload your slides you can customize your video by choosing the voice that you want to narrate your video, background music, and the aspect ratio of your video. When your video is done you can download it to post on your favorite video sharing sites or just save it in your favorite cloud storage service.

Applications for Education
Video Puppet could be a good tool to use to quickly create some short instructional videos from your existing PowerPoint slides. Google Slides users, don't forget that you can download your slides as PPT files that you could then use in Video Puppet.

Before you try Video Puppet for the first time you should know that it works best with slides that have speaker notes including in them.

How to Use Google Forms With Students Who Don't Have Email Addresses

This afternoon someone Tweeted at me at to ask how elementary school students who don't have active email addresses can view the results of quizzes that they take in Google Forms. There are three ways that that can be accomplished. I made a new video to demonstrate how those methods work.

In the following video you can see how you can create quizzes in Google Forms and how your students can see their results even if they don't have active email addresses.

Five highlights of the video:
  • Quiz settings that let students instantly see their results. 
  • Using Flubaroo to distribute quiz grades via Google Drive even if a student doesn't have an active email address. 
  • Creating and distributing quizzes through Google Classroom. 
  • Returning quiz grades to students via Google Classroom. 
  • Student view of their quiz grades in Google Classroom. 

Watch the video below for an overview of Google Forms question types.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Three Ways to Make Whiteboard Videos on Your Chromebook

Last week I published a video on how to make a simple video on a Chromebook without installing any extensions or apps. That video was fairly popular and it prompted some follow-up questions from readers and viewers who wanted my recommendations for making whiteboard videos on a Chromebook. Besides just recording in front of an actual whiteboard (I have a small one like this at home that I use) here are the three recommendations that I have been making.

#1 - Make a Whiteboard Video in Flipgrid
Last fall Flipgrid added an option for creating whiteboard videos. That feature lets you start video using just your webcam then transition into using a built-in whiteboard function to teach a lesson. This feature has also been integrated into the Flipgrid video tools that are available in Wakelet. Watch my videos below to see how you can make whiteboard videos in Flipgrid.

#2 - Make a Whiteboard Video in Seesaw
Seesaw offers a recording tool that you can use to draw and talk at the same time. To do this just create a new announcement or assignment then select the "draw" option when attaching an item. In "draw" you'll find a microphone icon that you can click to start recording while drawing. The recording and drawing will sync together. Students can watch the recording in their Seesaw accounts.

#3 - Use the Drawing Tools in Screencastify
Screencastify had already made most of their features free to teachers before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now they offer all of them for free. To record a whiteboard style video with Screencastify first open a blank white Google Slide then start recording. While recording use Screencastify's built-in drawing tools to draw over that slide while you're recording your video.

Five Search Tools Students Often Overlook

In our new remote teaching and learning environments students may find themselves having to look things up online more than ever before. Even if you're hosting online class meetings in Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams there will still be lots of time when students need to do some research on their own. This is a good time to remind students about some basic search strategies like creating a search checklist and consulting vocabulary lists as part of the search process. Once they've done those basics it might be time for them to try some other search tools that often get overlooked.

Google Books
My favorite feature of Google Books is the option to search within a book. You can do this with any book that is listed by Google Books as free or in the public domain. You can also do this with many of the books that are listed as "preview only." All of the free books can be read online and or downloaded as PDFs. Watch the video below for an overview of how to search within Google Books.

Google Scholar
High school and college students can use Google Scholar to find court rulings, articles from academic journals, and patent filings. Using Google Scholar can get some students off of the hamster wheel of sorting through pages of lower-quality articles discovered through a typical search.

Dataset Search
Dataset Search is a tool that Google launched in beta around this time last year and made fully available in late 2019. Dataset Search does exactly what the name implies, it helps you find publicly available datasets on a wide variety of topics. Many of those topics are related to economics and demographics.

Refine Google Results by Date
Depending on the topic, the recency of an article can play a significant role in its current accuracy. Refining search results by date is a good way for students to find the most recent information about a topic. Similarly, if they're trying to see how information about a topic has changed over the years, students might restrict results to a set of prior dates.

Refine YouTube Search Results
Depending upon the day and the source, YouTube is often one of the three most-visited and searched sites in world. My comp sci students have been using it a lot lately when they need a little coding tutorial and I'm not available. Depending upon the topic, your students may also be doing a lot of searches on YouTube. They can refine their results by date of publication as well as length of video.

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