Sunday, November 15, 2020

Two Quick Ways to Check if a Website is Down or If It's Just You

My sophomore students have just started learning how to use the ping command to analyze various aspects of network connectivity. Reviewing that lesson with one of my students last week gave me the idea to create a short video that demonstrates using a ping command. But then I thought that if I titled it that way no one who could learn from it would watch it because it sounds "too techy." So instead I created this video that shows two ways to check if a website is down of if it's just you. The first method uses a website called Down for Everyone or Just Me. The second method shows you how to ping a website from the command prompt in Windows 10. The ping method will make you look super techy in front of your non-techy friends.
 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Week in Review - Roll With the Changes

Good morning from Maine where it has been a week all about rolling with the changes (insert REO Speedwagon earworm here). On the weather front we went from unseasonably warm temperatures early in the week to cold rainy to end the week. In school we went from hybrid classes to full online classes in the span of one staff meeting (on Zoom, of course). This is the second time we've gone to 100% online classes this year. Since August we've had weeks of fully in-person classes, weeks of hybrid classes, and weeks of completely online classes. In short, this fall has been all about rolling with the changes and doing the best we can for our students. 

I'm looking forward to spending some time offline this weekend. I hope that you have a chance to do the same after you take a look at this week's most popular posts. 

These were the week's most popular posts:

Through Practical Ed Tech I'm currently offering an on-demand course called A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video

Thank you for your support! 
  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course or webinar this year. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • Pixton EDU is a great tool for creating comics and storyboards. 
  • Wakelet is a great tool for making collections of resources, recording video, and more!
  • GAT Labs offers a great, free guide to using Google Workspaces in online classrooms.  
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 30,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of edtech tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for thirteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • And if you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.

How to Improve Audio Playback in Zoom

On Thursday morning one of my colleagues asked me how to improve the quality of the sound when he plays videos in Zoom meetings. Zoom actually has a simple way to do that built right into the screen sharing menu. 

To improve the quality of the audio when playing a video in a Zoom meeting you need to enable the option to share computer sound. By doing that you'll be broadcasting the audio as it comes out of the video instead of broadcasting the audio that is picked up by your external microphone. Making that switch can eliminate some of the echo and distortion that can occur when sharing a video in Zoom. In this short video I give a demonstration of how to change the audio setting when screen sharing in Zoom. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

An Easy Way to Have PDFs Read Aloud

Yesterday, during Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff I answered a question about how to have PDFs read aloud. Specifically, the person asking the question wanted an option for having PDFs that are stored in Google Drive read aloud. Additionally, Read & Write for Chrome wasn't doing the trick. So my suggestion was to give Microsoft Edge a try. 

Microsoft Edge has built-in read-aloud function. You don't have to install any third-party extensions or software in order to have a PDF read aloud in Microsoft Edge. I made this short video to show how you can use the read-aloud function in Microsoft Edge to have PDFs read-aloud. It should be noted that while this video is specifically about PDFs, the read-aloud tool in Edge works the same way for webpages. 

Create Animated GIFs in PowerPoint

Years ago Common Craft made a fun little guide to understanding the World Cup. The guide featured a bunch of animated GIFs. It was a great example of using silent animations to explain a topic. In the years since then I've encouraged teachers to think about having students make animated GIFs to illustrate and explain concepts. For example, a few years ago I worked with a middle school science teacher who used Brush Ninja to have students make animated GIFs to explain forms of energy. 

Brush Ninja is a tool that was created specifically to make it easy for anyone to draw and create animated GIFs. There are lots of other tools that you and your students can use to create animated GIFs. One of those tools is PowerPoint. 

Mike Tholfsen recently published a new video overview of how to create animated GIFs in PowerPoint. If you're interested in learning how to do that, I encourage to watch his explanation on his YouTube channel or as embedded below.