Wednesday, August 26, 2020

How to Use Remind to Send Text Messages from Your Computer

Remind is a service for sending text messages to your students without having to reveal your real phone number. I've been recommending and using it for years. One of my favorite aspects of Remind is that I can schedule and send messages from my computer and respond to messages from my computer.

In the following video I demonstrate the basics of getting started with Remind to send text messages to students and their parents from your computer.


It should be noted that if your school or school district subscribes to a school-wide paid Remind plan then the process of setting up your classroom and importing students is slightly different. However, the process of sending messages is the same whether you use an individual Remind plan (free) or a school plan.

Free Webinar Tomorrow - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff

Every week Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I host Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. The next episode is tomorrow at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT and you can sign up here to join us for the live broadcast.

The webinar is exactly what the name implies plus a little more. In addition to answering the technical questions that you might expect us to get, we'll also get into questions around pedagogy and planning. And we've been known to recommend a book or two during the webinar. For example, last week I mentioned re-reading Seymour Papert's Mindstorms. And we always recommend Rushton's books like Technology, Teamwork, and Excellence.

Watch the recording of one of the previous episodes of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff to get a sense of what the show is all about.


The Five Things I've Been Asked About the Most at the Start of the New School Year

Every week I receive dozens of emails from teachers asking me for advice on all kinds of things related to education and technology. Many of those questions get answered during Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff on Thursday afternoons. Many of the questions I answer directly via email. As many of the questions I'm receiving lately are similar in nature, I thought that I'd address them broadly in a blog post.

Timed Quizzes/ Cheating Prevention
I've received a lot of questions along the lines of "how do I make sure my students are looking up answers for quizzes?" and "how can I give a timed quiz online?"

Back in April I published this video on how to give a timed quiz with Google Forms and Classroom. On the question of preventing cheating when students are taking online quizzes at home, I have a couple of significant concerns. First, if your quiz or assessment is easily aced by students Googling the answers, you might want to reconsider the questions that you're asking. Second, without installing monitoring software on students' computers and requiring webcams to be on (and opening up a whole can of worms regarding privacy) there isn't a way to force students to stay in one browser tab while taking your quiz.

Microphones
Like many of you, this fall I'll have some students in my classroom and some joining remotely. For the times that I can be at my desk I'll be using my Blue Snowball microphone that I've had for years. When I'm not at my desk I'll be using this handy wireless mic and receiver combination hooked up to my computer.

Earbuds/ AirPods
Related to questions about microphones, I've had a bunch of questions about using earbuds or AirPods instead of dedicated microphone. Rushton and I addressed this issue in the last episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. The short answer is it will work, but there are better options. One of the key points to consider is that if you are wearing earbuds/ AirPods to broadcast to a remote audience while also trying to teach students in your classroom, will you be able to accurately hear the kids in your classroom? I know that I can't.

Video Lesson Production
I use Screencast-o-matic Deluxe on my desktop to produce most of my videos. If you're looking for a browser-based video creation tool, Loom is a solid choice. One easy way to make short instructional videos is to record a screencast over an existing set of slides. Another easy method is recording over a white background and drawing on the screen.

Flipgrid is quickly becoming a go-to tool for making screencast and whiteboard videos. Here's a quick overview of how to make a whiteboard video with Flipgrid.



Zoom vs. Google Meet

Many of us are not getting a choice of Zoom or Google Meet. Instead, we're just told by the IT department which one we have to use. If you do have a choice, here are a few things to consider.

At this time Zoom has more meeting controls and options than Google Meet offers for free. Google does appear to be trying to catch up in that regard, but it's still a long way off. For example, green screen and virtual backgrounds are still not possible in Google Meet. At this time, breakout rooms are a great Zoom feature that Google Meet doesn't have. And while you can use meeting nicknames to control the start of a Google Meet, it's still a clunkier process than using waiting rooms in Zoom.

The one slight advantage I'd give to Google Meet over Zoom is the option to have an assigned Meet link readily displayed and re-usable in Google Classroom.

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.