Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Blurred Backgrounds and Custom Grids in Google Meet

Yesterday, I shared news about a new teacher control in Google Meet. Today, there are two more new Google Meet features to note.

The latest announcements from Google about Meet carried the news that you're now able to customize the grid view in your meetings and you can now blur your background in Meet. Both of these features started to roll-out this week and should be available to all G Suite for Education users by the end of the month.

Blurring backgrounds during a Google Meet provides the benefit of removing potential distractions from your background as well as preserving privacy when you're in a place where you might not be alone. Initially, blurring backgrounds in Google Meet will only be available in Chrome on a Mac or Windows computer. Blurring backgrounds in Google Meet on Chromebooks and phones will be available at a later time that Google has not yet announced.

Customizing the grid view in Google Meet will let you specify how many tiles you want to see at one time in a meeting. You'll now be able to have up to 49 tiles displayed at a time. If you're not sure how to access the grid view in Google Meet, watch this short video.


It's important to note that Google has said that using third-party extensions to customize Google Meet may cause the new native features (grid and background views) to not work correctly or at all.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

StudentCam 2021 - Student Documentary Contest

Every year C-SPAN hosts the StudentCam video contest for middle school and high school students in the United States. The 2020/21 version of the contest has been announced and submissions will be accepted beginning on November 1st.

This year's C-SPAN StudentCam contest asks students to produce a 4-6 minute video based on the prompt of, "explore the issue you most want the president and new Congress to address in 2021." C-SPAN suggests that students include historical context of the issue and various viewpoints of the issue they choose.

The StudentCam contest is open to U.S. students in grades six through twelve. Submissions will be accepted beginning on November 1st. The contest deadline is January 20, 2021. All videos must include some C-SPAN footage. This year more than $100,000 in prizes will be awarded. There are separate judging categories for middle school and high school submissions. Students can work individually or in teams of up to three members. Complete contest rules can be found here and the prize list can be found here.

Google Adds Another Control for Teachers Using Google Meet

Eleven days ago Google announced the launch of new Google Meet controls for teachers. Those new controls were the ability to specify who can or cannot share screens in a Google Meet meeting. This week Google announced the launch of another meeting control for teachers using Google Meet.

The latest update to Google Meet introduces a feature that Google is calling Quick Access. This feature will let students within your G Suite for Education domain join a Google Meet without "knocking" first. Fortunately, Google is giving teachers the option to turn off the Quick Access feature. The Quick Access feature for Google Meet can be turned off or on for every meeting that you host.

Quick Access in Google Meet will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks. G Suite for Education domains that are on Google's "rapid release" track will see it sooner than others.

Remember, if you're worried about students joining a Google Meet before you get there, you can turn off the Google Meet link in Google Classroom and use meeting nicknames instead. Here's my video overview of that process.

Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know

Last week I hosted a Practical Ed Tech webinar titled Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know. Afterwards I had many requests for accessing the recording of the webinar. The webinar is now available on demand. If you missed it, the webinar is available as an on-demand webinar right here on Practical Ed Tech.

What's the Webinar About?
Too often our students don’t get beyond the first few pages of search results before declaring, “Google has nothing about this!” Why? Because the average time spent on a search is just 1 minute! And the average search term only has three words!* We can help our students do better than that.

In this recorded webinar you will learn why informational searches are the hardest types of Internet searches for students to conduct. You will learn how to help students break-down complex search topics into manageable pieces and then put the whole picture together. You’ll learn how to help your students save students tons of time by thinking before searching. And you’ll learn how to develop instructional search challenge activities to use with students of any age.



*Source: Moz – The State of Searcher Behavior.

Monday, September 14, 2020

How to Create and Use a Digital Sign-out Sheet in Google Classroom

In the past, I've always been fortunate that I didn't have "wanderers" who signed-out for the bathroom and never re-appeared. That's largely due to the fact that my classes are electives that kids choose to attend to begin with. So I never kept great records of when kids signed-out and signed-in from trips to the bathroom. But this year, for contact-tracing purposes, I have to keep much better records of when students leave my classroom than I have in the past. Rather than keeping a paper sign-out/ sign-in sheet, I'm using a Google Form that I have posted as a material in Google Classroom.

In the following video I demonstrate how I created a sign-out/sign-in sheet in Google Forms, how I post it in Google Classroom, and how students utilize it. In the video I also provide a possible modification of the Form.