Thursday, August 20, 2020

Five Tips for Live Online Instruction

Whether you use Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams for online class meetings there are some universal things that you can do to make the experience better for you and your students. The following five tips for live online instruction are an excerpt from my recently published 2020-21 Practical Ed Tech Handbook.

Elevate your camera and plug in a mic: 
Besides the obvious, “no one wants to look up your nose” reason, elevating your webcam makes it easier for students to see your eyes during a live meeting. And you should keep your webcam on because students want to see you and make a connection with you and not just your voice whenever it is possible.

If you have one, use an external microphone for your live classes in Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams. Using an external microphone, especially one with a USB connection will improve the quality of your audio. Even pairing Bluetooth earbuds to your computer can improve the audio quality of your online meeting.

If you're looking to purchase an external microphone, for years I've used and recommended the Snowball iCE microphones made by Blue. For those who would prefer not to have another thing on their desks or are looking for a microphone that works with smartphones, try this lapel microphone.

Share an outline:
Just like you would put a daily agenda on the board in your physical classroom, share an agenda with your students at the start of each online class meeting. It gives students a sense of what to expect during the class and how the meeting will last. Don’t forget to give kids a break during the meeting if you’re going to have them on for more than twenty or thirty minutes.

Assign roles: 
Kids want something to do during a class meeting besides just listening to you drone on. Consider assigning roles like meeting secretary, fact-checker, or even co-moderator in your online meetings.

Silence is okay: 
It’s natural to want to fill every moment of an online class meeting with your voice or your students’ voices. You don’t have to do that. You can give students a task to work on during the meeting then just leave your webcam on and the call going to support them if they have questions while working on the task. Zoom’s breakout rooms function can be useful for this kind of meeting structure.

Announce recordings: 
If you plan to record a meeting, let your students and their parents know at the outset of the class.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Five Features of Microsoft Teams to Note

This year I added a section on remote teaching to the Practical Ed Tech Handbook. What follows here is an excerpt from that section.

Whiteboards: To use the whiteboard in Microsoft Teams meetings simply open the screen sharing menu then choose “whiteboard.” You can turn the whiteboard on or off at any time during your meeting.

Grid View: An option to see all of your students in a grid display in a Microsoft Teams call was released in July of 2020. As of this writing (August, 2020) it is available for some, but not all users. Additionally, it only works in the desktop version of Teams. Here’s a short video demo of how it works.


Custom and Blurred Backgrounds: This is another feature only available in the desktop version of Teams. With this feature enabled you can insert a custom image to use as your background or simply blur your background. Find this function in the ellipsis menu next to the screen sharing and recording options in a meeting.

Attendance Reports: This is a relatively new feature that must be enabled by your IT administrator before you can use it. Once enabled, you can download a record of who attended your meeting. Mike Tholfsen, Microsoft EDU project manager, offers this video tutorial on how to use attendance reports in Microsoft Teams.



Recording: To record a meeting in Microsoft Teams your IT administrator has to enable that function. Once it is enabled you’ll see a small recording icon within the ellipsis (more actions) menu during your meeting. It’s important to note that the recording will not capture shared notes or a whiteboard. Learn more about recording here.

13 Big Topics in the 2020-21 Practical Ed Tech Handbook

Earlier this week subscribers to my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter received notice that the 2020-21 version of my Practical Ed Tech Handbook is now available to download for free. This year's version of this annual publication contains 64 pages of information on a wide range of educational technology tools. The table of contents for the 2020-21 Practical Ed Tech Handbook is copied below. To get your copy, head to this page on PracticalEdTech.com.


1. Communication with students and parents - page 5

2. Creating Blogs & Websites - page 9

3. Web search strategies - page 17

4. Digital citizenship - page 24

5. Video creation and flipped lessons - page 26

6. Audio recording and publishing - page 37

7. Backchannels and informal assessment - page 39

8. Digital portfolios - page 42

9. Augmented and Virtual Reality - page 44

10. Intro to Programming and Makerspaces - page 47

11. Accessibility Tools - page 51

12. Ten Time-saving ways for teachers to use tech - page 57

13. Remote Instruction Tools and Strategies - page 59

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

How to Use Grid View in Google Meet - No Chrome Extensions Required!

For months teachers have asked for a grid view option in Google Classroom without having to use a Chrome extension. That wish is starting to be granted. In Google Meet there is now an option to display all meeting participants in a grid view. The grid can be up to a 7x7 display.

Enabling the grid view in Google Meet is super easy. All you have to do is start your Google Meet then once people have joined you can open the "more options" menu in the bottom, right corner of your screen to change the layout. In the layout options you'll see a grid. Watch my short video that is embedded below to see how to use grid view in Google Meet.

How to Create Split Screen Videos in Flipgrid

A couple of weeks ago Flipgrid introduced some new features and product changes for the 2020-21 school year. One of those changes was a slight relocation of the whiteboard recording tool. At the same time a new whiteboard option was added. That option is to have a split screen while recording your whiteboard videos in Flipgrid. This option allows you to display your webcam on half of your screen while the other half is used as a whiteboard. But it doesn't have to be a 50/50 split. You can choose how you want to divide your screen. You can see how that's done by watching my short video embedded below.


Applications for Education
Keeping your face in the video is one of the things that I always recommend to teachers who are making instructional videos for their students. Putting your face in the video helps students connect to you which in turn can get them to pay attention to your video just a little bit longer. Using the split screen option in Flipgrid is one convenient way to keep your face in your whiteboard instructional videos.