Friday, December 11, 2020

Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams

Breakout Rooms is one of the most popular features of Zoom. A similar feature is now available in Microsoft Teams. Just like in Zoom you can assign your students to a specific breakout room or have them randomly assigned to a room. You can breakout and regroup as many times as you like during your meetings. 

A couple of good features of Breakout Rooms in Teams that you should note include the ability for students to use a whiteboard and the ability for students to ask you clarifying questions without disturbing others. During a breakout your students can jump out of the breakout room to ask you a question and you can answer it without having to bring the whole class out of their breakout rooms. 

Mike Tholfsen has a great video demonstration of how to use Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams. You can watch that demonstration on his YouTube channel or as embedded below. 

Mix Landscape and Portrait Layouts in Google Docs

If you have ever wanted to use landscape and portrait layouts in the same Google Document, you're going to like the latest announcement from the Google Workspaces blog (Google's official place to announce updates to Google Docs). Starting today and by the end of January all Google Docs users will be able to mix and match portrait and landscape modes within the same document. 

This feature is already available to some users. I haven't seen it in any of my five Google accounts, but I hope to have it soon. You can check if you have the feature by simply opening any multiple page Google Document that you own and then right-clicking on a page to look for a menu that allows you to choose a page layout for a section of your document. Take a look at Google's announcement of this feature to see an animated GIF of the new layout menu. 

Applications for Education
Being able to mix portrait and landscape layouts within the same document could prove to be helpful to students and or teachers who want to include landscape-oriented tables and charts in a document without having to write the entire document in landscape mode. For example, I can think of a few documents that I use in my networking course that would benefit from having diagrams in landscape mode instead of the portrait mode they're in right now. 

On a related note, if you've ever wondered how to change the default font on your Google Docs, follow the directions in this video

A Chat With Canada's Funniest Teacher!

Yesterday I wrote about a new show called Mr. D The Gym Teacher coming to Amazon Prime. This morning I got the chance to talk to the star of the show, Gerry Dee. Gerry was a history and physical education teacher for ten years before his stand-up comedy career took off. We chatted about his teaching experiences and how they contributed to creating a sitcom about teaching that is really enjoyable to watch as a teacher. I was super-excited and nervous to talk with Gerry but I enjoyed it and I hope that you enjoy the recording of our conversation. You can watch it right here on my YouTube channel or as embedded below. 

You can find all eight episodes of Mr. D The Gym Teacher on Amazon Prime in the U.S. right now! If you don't have Amazon Prime, you can get a 30 free trial right here.

Clips of the show are available on Gerry Dee's YouTube channel as well as on the CBC Comedy YouTube channel

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Google Made Some Meet Settings Sticky

Google has steadily added features to Google Meet throughout the fall (spring for my friends in the southern hemisphere). The latest feature is one that should prove to be a time-saver for some teachers. 

The latest update to Google Meet makes some settings "sticky" after you implement them. Now when you disable screen sharing and or chat messages for students in a meeting, that change will apply to future meetings that you host in Google Meet. I like this change because it's just one less thing that I have to think about at the start of a meeting. Of course, if you want to undo the sticky setting you can do that by just re-enabling screen sharing or chat in your next meeting. 

This isn't a huge update, but it should prove to be convenient for many teachers. This update is rolling-out now and should be available to all teachers using G Suite for Education in January. 

If you have colleagues who need an overview of key Google Meet features, please share this video overview of Ten Google Meet Features for Teachers with them. 

A Show About Teachers That I'm Looking Forward to Watching Again

Back when I was spending a fair bit of time in Canada there was a show on the CBC that I loved to watch whenever I could. It was called Mr. D and I couldn't get enough of it. A season or two of it has been available on Hulu here in the U.S. in the past and now it's coming to Amazon Prime in its entirety. 

On Amazon Prime the show will be called Mr. D The Gym Teacher instead of just Mr. D as it was on the CBC.  The show is loosely based on the stories of teacher-turned-comedian Gerry Dee. Yes, it's a sitcom about teachers, principals, and school librarians. And yes, it's hilarious!

Mr. D lasted eight seasons which is far longer than any other sitcom about teachers that I can remember. That was possible because the show featured an actor and writer who actually spent years teaching instead of just relying on some cliché Hollywood ideas of teachers. You can watch some snippets of the show on Gerry Dee's Facebook page and Twitter account

We all need something to look forward to that we can do at home these days. Flipping on Mr. D The Gym Teacher and having a good beer or wine cooler (a joke you'll get if you watch the show) after my kids go to bed is what I'm looking forward to on Saturday night. If you don't have Amazon Prime you can get a 30 free trial right here