Monday, January 25, 2021

Citizen DJ - A Free Tool for Remixing Music and Spoken Audio

Citizen DJ is a free tool for remixing and creating new songs from audio files that are in the public domain. The tool was developed by Brian Foo who is an Innovator in Residence at the Library of Congress

On the Citizen DJ website you will find large collections of audio files that are in the public domain. Pick one of the collections to start remixing a song or spoken audio track with drum tracks. Citizen DJ lets you select and isolate notes and rhythms from an audio recording to then mix with drum tracks that you can also remix. You can mix and match as much or as little as you like. When you've developed a remix that you like you can record it and save it as an audio file on your computer. Watch the video below that was created by Brian Foo to learn more about how Citizen DJ works (those viewing this in RSS or email may need to click through to see the video). 

Applications for Education
My first thought when I tried Citizen DJ was that it could be a good tool for music teachers to have students use to experiment with rhythms and sounds. 

Another way to use it would be to have students create remixes to use as sound tracks in video or podcast projects. All of the music and spoken audio files available through Citizen DJ are free to use and remix which means the new works that students create will also be free of copyright restrictions. 

How to Edit Your Videos by Typing in Type Studio

On Friday morning I published a blog post about a new video editing tool called Type Studio. At the end of the blog post I mentioned that I'd be publishing a tutorial video about Type Studio on my YouTube channel. That video is now available. 

In this short video I demonstrate how to use Type Studio to edit your videos. As you'll see in the video Type Studio generates a transcript of your video (fifteen languages are supported). You then edit your video by editing the transcript. If you delete a part of the transcript, the corresponding section of the video is deleted as well. 

Tips to Help Busy Teachers Get and Stay Fit

This article originally appeared on one of my other blogs,

In December of 2018 I was the biggest I’ve ever been in my life. The nice suits that I’d purchased just a year before no longer fit and I was down to just one pair of jeans that fit. Worst of all, I was having back pain that made it difficult to get my daughters out of their cribs in the morning.

In short, two years of putting fitness on the back burner as “life got busy” with two babies at home caught up to me. Does this sound familiar to you? I had to choose to either do something about my fitness or sail off into my forties with an ever-expanding waistline. I chose to do something about it. 25 months later I’m not only back in shape, I’m in better shape than I was before my kids were born.

Here’s how I’ve managed to get in shape and stay in shape while balancing the responsibilities of teaching, raising a family, blogging, and hosting professional development events.

1. Set clear, realistic daily/ weekly goals.
“Get in shape” is a fine goal, but it’s not a clear goal. It’s too vague to measure and it takes too long to accomplish to give you the gratification you need to keep working at improving your fitness.

Rather than saying, “I want to get in shape” or “I want to lose 15 pounds” set a goal of “30 minutes of vigorous exercise on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.” If that sounds too structured for you, try “150 minutes of vigorous exercise this week.”

Short term goals that focus on the process (time spent exercising) rather than the outcome (improved fitness) are easier to measure. It feels a lot better to say “I spent 150 minutes exercising this week” than to say “I lost one pound this week.” When you accomplish that measurable goal you’ll have the confidence that you can do it again which makes it more likely that you will keep going and do it again the next week. String together six weeks of accomplishing the goal of “150 minutes of vigorous exercise” and your fitness will improve even if you don’t see immediate changes in the mirror or on the scale.

2. Conduct a Time Audit
Most people, myself included, have some habits that eat away at our time without actually being good uses of our time. Take a good, hard look at how you spend time during your day. Are you checking Facebook for “just a minute” in between the essays that you’re grading? How many times a day do you check your email?

Identify those habits that are eating away at your time and cut them out or cut them down. Use that time toward more efficient completion of your “must do” tasks.

3. Go on a Social Media Diet
If your time audit reveals that you spend an hour a day on social media, it’s time to go on a social media diet. A simple way to do this is to turn off the notifications from the social media apps on your phone so that you’re not constantly losing a minute here and a minute there to social media. Another good option is to use a web browser extension that limits the amount of time you can spend on social media sites throughout the day. I use Stay Focusd for that.

Perhaps you don’t use any social media. If so, that’s awesome! But if you have other ways you waste time online, Stay Focusd can also help with that.

4. Use Time Blocking and Automation
Time blocking is a strategy that I learned about from Cal Newport (author of many good books about productivity). The basic idea is that instead of doing a task like checking email ten times throughout your day you set a block of time when you check and respond to email. If you can stick to time blocking (I have weeks when I’m better at it than others), you’re less likely to feel distracted and will actually have more time throughout your day for the things that matter most. You can read more about the strategy and Cal Newport’s work on his blog. I’d recommend starting with this post or this one.

Time blocking can be aided by automating some of the more mundane or routine tasks in our lives. Using canned replies and smart compose in Gmail saves me a ton of time. Likewise, using the scheduling tools in Google Classroom allows me to use time blocking for developing and posting materials for my students. After sitting down and knocking out a block of lessons, I schedule them in Google Classroom so that I’m not scrambling every morning to post assignments. If you’re not a G Suite/ Google Workspaces user, there are plenty of automation tools available within the Microsoft ecosystem to explore (Mike Tholfsen’s YouTube channel is a good place to start).

5. Focus on “Why”
Two years ago I stumbled upon Dr. Judson Brewer’s TED Talk titled A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit. My big take-away from his talk was to ask myself “why am I doing this? And what will I gain?” whenever I am tempted to stress eat a bag of chips or plop down in front of the television instead of doing my planned exercise. 90% of the time just asking myself those questions gets me to make the better choice.

Finally, focus on why you want to exercise that day. For me the “why” is to help me hit my weekly goal. When I hit my weekly goals of time spent exercising my fitness improves and my health improves in the long run.

Extra Note for Those With Families
I have two young daughters (ages three and four). They can’t be left alone while dad and mom exercise. This means that we (dad and mom) have to communicate our daily/weekly fitness goals to each other so that we can get the time we need to hit our goals. When I decided that I wanted to participate in the Unbound Gravel 200 (I got in), I knew that I would have to up my weekly training hours. Communicating what the big goal is and the smaller weekly goals helps both of us get on the same page so that neither of us feels like we’re not getting the support we need.

We also try to include our daughters in activities that help us reach our weekly fitness goals. For example, my daughters are learning to ski right now. Rather than riding the surface lift AKA “the magic carpet” with them, I skate up along  the side as they’re going uphill and I meet them at the top. That gives me a good interval workout.

The bottom line is that you need to communicate your fitness goals to your partner and get on the same page so that neither party is feeling unsupported.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

G Suite Audio, Accessibility, and Timelines - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we play outside even if it's cold and snowy. Sometimes that means doing traditional snow activities like skiing and sledding while other times it just means knocking some snow off the swings and having fun in our snowsuits. Whether the weather is hot or cold where you are, I hope that you also have some time for fun in the fresh air this weekend. 

The inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris was the story of the week. Larry Ferlazzo and Terri Eichholz each compiled excellent collections of resources about the inauguration and Amanda Gorman's poem. You can find Larry's collection here and Terri's collection here. On a related note, Larry is always incredibly fast at compiling resources for events in the news. His blog is where I go for resources about events in the news.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. My Favorite Chrome Extensions Right Now - And What They Do
2. Mote - An Easier Way to Add Audio to Google Slides
3. How to Check and Edit the Accessibility of Word Documents
4. How to Quickly Record Audio in Google Slides, Docs, and Classroom
5. How to Quickly Check and Improve the Accessibility of Your PowerPoint Slides
6. Six Good Tools for Making Multimedia Timelines
7. ReadWorks Adds an Offline Mode for Students

Professional Development Opportunities 
Through Practical Ed Tech I'm currently offering two on-demand learning opportunities:
Thank you for your support! 
  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course in 2020. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • BoomWriter is hosting a unique creative writing contest for kids. Check it out!
  • Pixton EDU is a great tool for creating comics and storyboards. 
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 32,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology 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.

My Big List of Padlet Tutorials

On Thursday morning I published a video about how to use Padlet to create multimedia timelines. As I mentioned in Thursday's blog post I've been using Padlet for more than a decade. In fact, when I started using it it was called Wall Wisher. Over the years I've made a lot of tutorial videos about how to use various aspects of Padlet and shared a lot of ideas for using it in variety of classroom settings. What follows isn't all of the tutorials that I've made, but it does include all of the most popular functions and some "hidden" features of Padlet. 

The Basics of How to Use Padlet

How to Remake and Reuse a Padlet Wall

How to Create a Multimedia Map in Padlet

How to Make a Video Playlist in Padlet

Nine Ways to Add Notes to Padlet Walls

How to use Padlet Reactions

How to enable commenting on Padlet

Sharing & Privacy in Padlet

How to Use Padlet Mini

How to Embed Padlet Walls Into Google Sites - Two Options

How to Create an Online Art Gallery With Padlet and Google Sites

How to Create a Backchannel on Padlet

Even more tutorials are available here on my YouTube channel

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