Saturday, November 28, 2020

Inexpensive Equipment to Improve Online Meetings

I usually don't write about hardware because it doesn't fall under the banner of "free." However, I've been asked about this topic a lot this year so I thought I'd cover it. 

The last nine months have put most of us in front of a webcam more than ever before. Which is why I've had more questions about webcams and microphones in this year than in the previous twelve years combined. One of the things that I've been telling people when they ask about webcams is to first make sure you have good lighting around you. Good lighting can make you look good on even an average webcam. Likewise, a good microphone can make a world a difference in the quality of your online meeting hosting experience and your students' viewing experience. 

The lighting set-up that I use in my home office consists of three inexpensive gardening lights positioned over head and one small ring light positioned in front of me just above my webcam. The ring that I've been using is fine, but lately I've noticed that it's not quite as bright as it was when I got it a few years ago. Therefore, I jumped on a "Black Friday" deal and ordered this 10" ring light with a tripod from Amazon. 

The microphones that I've used and recommended for years are Blue Snowball microphones. I own two of them and have lugged them all around the globe to use in workshops. Unfortunately, they've become so popular that they are hardly ever in stock these days. My school tried to buy some at the start of the year and couldn't. Instead, we ended up getting these Fifine microphones and they've been fine but I still like my Blue Snowball better. Either one is a great improvement over using the built-in microphone on a laptop. Speaking of built-in microphones, when you show videos in Zoom be sure to change the sound input settings to pick up the computer sounds instead of just the microphone sounds. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

How to Create Online Word Games to Share With Your Students

On Wednesday morning I looked out my window and watched the snow start to cover the rock wall in my backyard. Doing that made me think about my kids making snowmen which in turn reminded me of the snowman word game template offered by Flippity

Flippity's Snowman word game is a game in which students have to correctly guess the letters of a word in order to prevent their snowmen from melting. The template lets you make your own variation on the game with words and hints of your choosing. Your game can be shared with students via its assigned URL. Students don't need accounts in order to play the games that you create. 

Here's an overview of how to create your own online word games by using Flippity's Snowman template

An Easy Way to Find 360 Videos to Use VR Headsets

Last week Google announced that June 2021 would be the end of the Google Expeditions app. I published a short list of alternatives to Google Expeditions. One of those alternatives was to simply use YouTube's search refinement tool to find 360 videos to view in your Google Cardboard or other virtual reality headsets. If you're not sure how that works, watch my short video on how to find 360 videos on YouTube

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Join Us Next Week - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff

Usually, at this time on Thursday afternoon I join Rushton Hurley for our live webinar series titled Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. But since today's a holiday we're taking the week off from the webinar. We'll be back next week at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT and we'd love to have you join us. It's a fun and free half-hour webinar in which we answer all kinds of questions and share some neat things that we've found on the web. 


Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Listening

It's Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. I usually celebrate the day with my family in Connecticut watching the road race in my hometown. Unfortunately, that tradition is on hiatus this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions here in New England. One Thanksgiving tradition that isn't going on hiatus is listening to Alice's Restaurant. If you'd like to join me in this tradition, here's Arlo Guthrie performing Alice's Restaurant
 
Happy listening! Happy Thanksgiving!



Fun fact! If you search for the song on Wolfram Alpha you will find a chart of Wikipedia traffic for the search term "Alice's Restaurant." So the question/ cultural history lesson for students is "why do people search for that term around Thanksgiving?"