Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Videos

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

Many of us are making more videos than ever before as a way to deliver instruction and or to simply keep our students updated about school. With time and practice you might become adept at using the editing functions in your favorite video software. You can also improve your videos without having to learn a bunch of editing tricks. Here are some simple things that we can do to improve our videos without having to learn a whole bunch of editing techniques.

1. Look at the camera, not the screen. 
It's natural to look at the screen on your phone or laptop while recording. When you do that, you're not looking at the camera and not making eye contact with your virtual audience. Practice looking at the camera.

2. Elevate your camera.
Put your camera at eye level or slightly higher. Doing that accomplishes a few things. First, people aren't looking up your nose. Second, it makes you look a little thinner and can improve your lighting. Third, I've found that elevating the camera makes it easier for me to remember to look at my camera instead of the screen.

3. Adjust Your Lighting
If you can, try to use relatively bright and even lighting around yourself. Doing this can eliminate shadows being cast on your face and can improve the overall visual clarity of your video. A ring light can be helpful in casting an even light but even just adjusting the position of a lamp on your desk can improve your lighting.

4. Pay attention to your background. 
Try to make your background interesting but not distracting. A large bookcase can make a nice background that is interesting but not distracting. An outdoor setting also makes a nice background, outdoor backgrounds can make lighting tricky. Try to record at a time and place that doesn't cast a lot of shadows. If you want to attempt making a green screen video, here's how you can do it with Zoom.

5. Adjust your sound. 
If possible, try to use an external microphone instead of the microphone built into your laptop or mobile phone. even a simple 3.5mm microphone can reduce background and echo sounds. Often the wired earbuds that come with some smartphones include a microphone that can be used for recording. If an external microphone isn't an option for you, just turning off audio playback (muting your speakers) while recording can improve the quality of your audio recording.

Rubrics for Assessing Videos, Podcasts, Blogs, and More

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

Over the years I've referenced the University of Wisconsin Stout's collection of rubrics for multimedia projects. It has been a few years since I last featured it so I think it's time to highlight it again.

UW Stout's collection of rubrics is organized by task or project type. There are sections in the collection for presentations, eportfolios and websites, social media, group work, graphic organizers, videos, games, writing, and the research process.

The section containing rubrics on the research process is new since the last time that I wrote about UW Stout's collection of rubrics. In the section on research process there are rubrics appropriate for elementary school, middle school, and high school students. There is even a link to Joyce Valenza's question brainstorming template that students can use to help them refine their searches.

Applications for Education
What prompted me to revisit UW Stout's collection of rubrics was the need for a podcast rubric. Sure enough, there is one right at the top of the presentation section in the collection. The rubric isn't a perfect fit for my needs, but it does provide me with a great starting point for making my own podcasting rubric.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Use Zoom and Adobe Spark to Make Green Screen Videos

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

This year more of us used Zoom than ever before. As is the case with many tools, the more that I used Zoom and answered questions about Zoom, the more I developed new ways to use it. One of those ways was to take advantage of the custom backgrounds option to make green screen videos. In the following video I demonstrate how you can use Zoom and Adobe Spark together to create a green screen video.

Zoom's desktop client has an option to replace your background with any picture that you want to upload to your Zoom account. Host a Zoom meeting without any participants in it, replace the background, and start talking. When you end the meeting you'll have an MP4 that you can import in Adobe Spark for further editing and or combine with other video clips.

Watch my video embedded below to see how you can create a green screen video with Zoom and Adobe Spark.


How to Use Flipgrid to Make Screencast Videos

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

On Wednesday afternoon Flipgrid announced the launch of a new recording feature for teachers and students. You can now create screencast videos within Flipgrid. The feature is kind of hidden so I made a screencast video to show you where Flipgrid's screen recording tool is found and how it works.

As I demonstrate in the following video you can combine screencast videos with regular webcam video clips in Flipgrid. You can also combine screencast videos with whiteboard videos in Flipgrid. And you can combine all three video types into one video in Flipgrid. Best of all, you don't have to install any browser extensions or download anything in order to use Flipgrid's screen recording tool! Watch my video to see how this is done.



Applications for Education
As soon as I saw this feature I thought of an old colleague of mine who used to have her students create screencast videos to explain how various pieces of software on their laptops worked. She used to have to then organize those videos in a Google Drive folder. Now that same thing can be done in Flipgrid. The other nice thing about Flipgrid's new screen recording function is that you don't have to install any browser extensions or download any software.

Three Neat Things to Create With Google Sheets

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

Earlier this week my friend Beth asked me for some tutorials on Google Forms for beginners. As a follow up to that I've selected three Google Sheets tutorials from my library. These tutorials are for doing some interesting things with Google Sheets besides just looking at information collected through Google Forms.

Create a Random Name Picker in Google Sheets.


Create a Progress Tracker With Google Sheets


Create a Map of Spreadsheet Data