Tuesday, August 25, 2020

A Handful of Videos to Help Students Understand the Electoral College

You can't go to a news site today and not see something about the upcoming U.S. Presidential election. When you do go to those sites you'll often find current polling data about the popularity of a given candidate and or the probability of a candidate winning. Those polls don't always predict who will win because the most popular (nationwide) candidate doesn't always win. That's due to the Electoral College system that we use to pick a president in the U.S. This is a concept that baffles a lot of students. Should you find yourself looking for some videos to help students understand how the Electoral College works, consider one of the following.

Does Your Vote Counts? is a TED-Ed lesson that offers a short explanation of the Electoral College by answering the question, "does your vote count?" The video for the lesson is embedded below.


How the Electoral College Works from C.G.P. Grey gives a nice overview of the Electoral College. The video isn't perfect, I wish the producer had included that the number of Electoral votes a state receives is tied to the number of Senators and Representative it has. Instead the video simply stated that the number of Electoral votes is tied to population. Overall, it's not a bad summary of the Electoral College.


Electing a US President produced by Common Craft provides a concise overview of the election process. The version embedded below is an update to the original that Common Craft released and I used in my classroom during the 2008 election.


Keith Hughes produced two videos about how the Electoral College was developed and how it works. The first video below is just one minute long. The second video, The Electoral College for Dummies, goes into much more depth.



Disclosure: I have a long-standing, in-kind relationship with Common Craft.

Tools for Displaying YouTube Videos Without Distractions

On Monday I answered a question from a reader who was looking for some recommendations for tools to show YouTube videos without displaying the "related" content that appears next to and below videos on YouTube. The first two tools that came to mind were Watchkin and SafeShare.tv. Another option is to put the video into Google Slides or PowerPoint to display. And a fourth option is to use the browser extension called Quietube. I demonstrate all four of those methods in the following short video.


To be clear, none of these tools are for downloading videos. Doing that would be a violation of YouTube's terms of service and quite possibly infringe on the video creator's copyright. It should also be noted that these tools may not block all pre-roll advertising.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Certify'em Introduces New Features

Certify'em is a Google Forms add-on that I've been using and recommending for the last few years. Certify'em makes it quick and easy to send personalized certificates to students who pass a quiz in Google Forms. I've also used Certify'em to distribute certificates to people who participate in my webinars and workshops. Last spring the developer of Certify'em added a couple of new features. And for this fall another batch of features is available in Certify'em.

Certify'em now offers gold and platinum plans to go along with the standard free plan. The free plan will continue to allow you to do everything you've been doing with Certify'em including using custom certificates, use in an unlimited amount of Forms, and set minimum passing scores. The only change to the free plan will be the addition of a small "made with Certify'em" mark in the lower, right corner of the certificate. That marking won't start appearing until October 26th.

The gold and platinum plans for Certify'em will remove the Certify'em watermark and give you access to many new features including the ability to edit responses to Google Forms (helpful if a student makes a typo), save copies of all certificates in Google Drive, customize the certificate ID prefix, and provide direct customer support via email.

To be clear, everything that you currently do with Certify'em is still available for free, but you can do even more with the gold and platinum plans.

Watch my video below to learn how to use Certify'em to send personalized certificates to students.

How to Use Nicknames in Google Meet - And Why You Should Try It

One of the best features of Google Meet is one that is front and center at meet.google.com but is often overlooked or misunderstood. That feature is the option to give your meeting a nickname.

Using a meeting nickname in G Suite for Education is an excellent alternative to displaying and using the Google Meet link that is assigned to your Google Classroom. You can choose a nickname in advance and tell your students what that nickname is, but they can't join your meeting until you start the meeting. You can re-use your nickname for multiple meetings.

In the following video I demonstrate and explain how to use nicknames in Google Meet and why you might want to try using them yourself.



On a related note, here's how to use grid view in Google Meet.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Three Ways for Students to Join Google Classroom

A few weeks ago Google announced the addition of some new features to Google Classroom. One of the features teased in that announcement was an option to distribute a "join link" that can be used in place of sending an email invitation or having students use a "join code" to join your Google Classroom. The option to use "join links" is now widely available in G Suite for Education.

The new "join link" feature and two other options for students to join your Google Classroom are demonstrated in my new video that is embedded below.


Applications for Education
Depending upon the age and skill of your students, the "join link" might be the quickest way to get students into your Google Classroom. You can distribute the link through a variety of means including texting it via Remind for students and or parents to use at home.