Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Preparing for the Worst With Zoom, Dual Monitors, Microphones, and More

In the last couple of weeks I've received a bunch of emails and Tweets from people who are panicking about going back to school and having to simultaneously teach students in their classrooms while also live-streaming and or recording their lessons for students who are staying home. I think it is completely unrealistic to expect teachers to be able do this. It's hard enough to keep a group of kids engaged in a physical classroom. It's even harder to keep a group kids engaged in an online classroom (especially if those kids don't want to be there). All that said, there's a good chance that I might end up having to do that this fall (my school has not made any official decisions). Here's what I'm doing to prepare for that potential situation. Hopefully, this helps some of you too.

Zoom
Until Google actually rolls-out all of the new Google Meet features they teased in June, I'm anticipating starting the year using Zoom for virtual classes. In the set-up for my Zoom meetings I'll enable the option to mute all participants on entry, use meeting passwords, and enable the waiting room option. My district doesn't want us recording live meetings. If your school district allows it, I'd do it.

Dual Monitors/ Dual Computers
I'm fortunate to have access to high quality laptops and desktops in my classroom. My plan is to use one for monitoring the live broadcast and one for instruction. An alternative is to use two monitors connected to one computer. If you're a Windows user, follow these directions for setting up a dual monitor display. If you're a Mac user, follow these directions for setting up a dual monitor display. Hopefully, your school is willing to at least invest in a second monitor for you. One that's adequate for the purpose can be had for under $75.

Microphone
For many years I've used Blue Snowball microphones when recording videos and hosting webinars. But being tethered to my computer won't work when I need to be able to move around my classroom and broadcast my audio for those participating remotely to hear. So I've invested in a wireless microphone and receiver set-up that I can plug into my laptop. I just tested it this morning and it worked for recording while up to about 50 feet away from my computer. That should be adequate for my classroom. I am a little worried about potential for interference if a bunch of teachers are using the same set-up in their classrooms. But my bigger worry is forgetting to mute the microphone when I don't need to broadcast (those of you who are my age or older may be haunted by this infamous Leslie Nielsen scene).

Bottom Line
As the new school year get closer I'm more nervous about the first day of school than I was on my first day of teaching nearly two decades ago (gosh, where did the time go?). I hope that we call can adjust to our new normal as seamlessly as possible.

Monday, July 27, 2020

How to Make a Digital Bookshelf in Google Slides

This summer I've had more requests for book recommendations than I ever have in the nearly thirteen year history of this blog. I've also had a ton of requests for help making things like digital choice boards. So to address both of those requests I made the following video in which I demonstrate how to use Google Slides to create an interactive, digital bookshelf. The process is simple and can be used to create all kinds of digital choice boards.

In the following video I demonstrate how to create and publish a digital bookshelf with Google Slides. There are really only five simple steps to it. First, create a blank Google Slide. Second, upload a picture of a bookshelf. Third, upload pictures of book covers. Fourth, insert links to the books. Fifth, publish the slide. All of those steps are demonstrated below.



Here are the links to the books in my shelf:
Invent to Learn
Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning
Draft Animals
Digital Minimalism
eSports Edu
The Boys in the Boat
The Joy of Search
The River of Doubt
The Ultimate Book of Dad Jokes

Historical Scene Investigations - A Great Way to Get Students to Use Primary Sources

Historical Scene Investigation is one of my favorite resources for U.S. History teachers and students. I've used it and referred people to it for years. HSI presents students with historical cases to "crack" through the use of evidence found in the form of primary source documents.

Historical Scene Investigation contains thirteen cases in which students analyze "clues" found in primary sources in order to form a conclusion to each investigation. For example, in the case of The Boston Massacre students have to decide if justice was served. HSI provides students with "case files" on which they record the evidence they find in the primary source documents and images they are provided. HSI provides templates for students to use to record observations from the evidence.

HSI is produced by College of William & Mary School of Education, University of Kentucky School of Education, and the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program. My video overview of HSI is embedded below.


As I mentioned in the video above, once you have done a couple of these with your students it becomes easy to craft your own HSI activities or have them craft HSI activities for each other to solve.

On a related note, Common Craft has a good video that explains the differences between primary and secondary sources. That video is embedded below.


Disclosure: I have an in-kind relationship with Common Craft. 

Two Ed Tech Guys Return to Answer Questions - Free Webinar Next Week

This past spring Rushton Hurley and I hosted a weekly webinar series called Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. We went on hiatus in June and July, but we're going to be back and better than ever in August! And we want you to join us!

We'll be recording live at 4pm ET next Thursday. You can join us to ask questions or to just listen to the soothing sounds of our voices. Whichever you choose to do, register here to join us next week for Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. And if you can't join us for the live session, we'll still take your questions via email.

You can see the recordings of our spring episodes on this page hosted by Next Vista for Learning.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Week in Review - So Many Webinars

Good morning from Maine where I'm sitting on my back porch drinking coffee and watching the fog clear out of the valley below me. The scene reminds me of the old saying, "fog in the hollow, good weather to follow."

This week I wrapped up the third session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. In all nearly 200 people participated in June and July. Thank you! And combined with webinars that I hosted for other groups, I've conducted 35 webinars in the last three weeks. Next week, I'm not hosting any as I'll be spending most of the week doing fun things with my daughters. The first of those fun things is today as we head to the lake to play. I hope that you also have something fun planned for the weekend.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Use Whiteboards in Google Meet Without Screensharing
2. Convert Handwritten Notes Into Google Documents
3. Quickly Create Online Whiteboards for Your Students
4. Create Talking Pictures of Famous People
5. How to Create Labeling Activities With Google Drawings and Classroom
6. 5 Alternatives to Traditional Book Report Projects
7. 5 Ways to Make Whiteboard Instructional Videos in Your Web Browser

Back to School PD Opportunities
This week I received a bunch of requests to host PD webinars for the start of the school year. If you'd like to have me host a PD session for your school, please send me a note at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more about how we can work together.

Thank You for Your Support!
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides FreeTech4Teachers.com and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and it includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - more than 26,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 400 Google tools tutorials.  
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  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last thirteen years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.