Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Significant Changes to Screencastify's Free Plan

Screencastify is a versatile screencast recording tool that I've used over the years to create many kinds of instructional videos including Common Craft-style videos and virtual tours. As I write this blog post, I still prefer Screencastify to the new built-in recording option in Chromebooks. That said, it should be noted that Screencastify has just introduced some significant changes to their free plan. 

Here's What's Changing in Screencastify

The new free version of Screencastify increases the recording time for your videos from five minutes to thirty minutes. That's a huge change! The trade-off is that you now can only store ten videos in your free Screencastify account. That's also a huge change! The previous free version allowed unlimited videos as long as they were under the five minute limit. You can still export all of your videos as MP4 files. So if you find that you bump up against the ten video limit, you can export one or delete one to get back under that limit. 

Ways to Use Screencastify in Your Classroom

How to Use Virtual Backgrounds in Microsoft Flip

Virtual backgrounds and background blurring are features of Microsoft Flip that can be helpful to you and your students in a few ways. First, virtual backgrounds and blurring are useful in protecting student privacy when they are recording at home or anywhere else outside of your classroom. Second, you can use virtual backgrounds as a teaching aid (see my video below for more about that). Third, virtual backgrounds are just fun and provide a nice way for you and your students to express a little personality. 

In the brief video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to use virtual backgrounds and how to blur backgrounds in Microsoft Flip videos

Learn more about Microsoft Flip in the following videos:

How to Convert Word Documents and PDFs Into Microsoft Forms

There are many little features of Microsoft Forms that shouldn't be overlooked. And there is a new big feature of Microsoft Forms that definitely shouldn't be overlooked. That feature is the ability to import Word documents and PDFs into Microsoft Forms. 

The import feature in Microsoft Forms makes it possible to quickly take a quiz that you've written in Word and have it automatically turned into a quiz that students can complete in Microsoft Forms. Likewise, you can do the same with a quiz that you have in a PDF. This feature works with quizzes that are written in multiple choice, true/false, and short answer format. 

Watch my video that is embedded below to learn how to convert Word documents into quizzes Microsoft Forms

Applications for Education
If you, like me, have quizzes or tests that you wrote years ago before Microsoft Forms and Google Forms existed, this new import feature in Microsoft Forms could be a huge time-saver!

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Google Classroom Now Has Add-ons - For Some Schools

Yesterday afternoon Google made an announcement that had some teachers on Twitter buzzing. That announcement was that Google Classroom now has add-ons for teachers to use. Those add-ons are supposed to make it easier to access popular tools like EdPuzzle, WeVideo, and Pear Deck from Google Classroom. 

But before you get too excited, at the end of the announcement Google mentioned that add-ons are only available in schools that have Google Workspace for Education Plus edition or Teaching & Learning Upgrade. In other words, it's only available in the paid versions of Google Classroom

If you do have Google Workspace for Education Plus, the new add-ons look like they could be helpful to you. From a classroom management perspective, the add-ons should make it easier to get students signed into tools like EdPuzzle, WeVideo, Kahoot, and a dozen other popular educational technology tools. Here's a little video overview of Google Classroom add-ons. 

For those who will be introducing colleagues to Google Classroom add-ons, Google offers this slide presentation.

Search Tip - How to Find Published Google Workspaces Files

Refining Google searches according to domain is one of my favorite ways to get students to look beyond the first couple of pages of their typical Google search queries. Students can specify site or domain in Google's advanced search menu to limit results to those that are only from top-level domains like .edu. They can also specify a subdomain like In fact, that's a great way to find publicly shared Google Documents. It also works for finding publicly shared Google Slides, Forms, Sheets, and Drawings. 

How to Find Public Google Workspaces Files:

Watch the following short video to learn how to find public Google Workspace files or follow the steps outlined below.

  • Go to:
  • In "site or domain" specify one of the following domains to locate public Google Docs, Slides, Forms, Sheets, or Drawings. 

Applications for Education
Searching for publicly shared Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, and Drawings can be helpful to teachers and to students. For teachers, it can be a good way to find some ideas for lesson plans and assessments. For students, it can be a good way to find materials that have been published by teachers. Of course, it is worth noting that it's possible for students to find public documents, make a copy, and try to pass it off as their own.

Aside from finding Google Workspaces files, searching by site or domain is a good way to get students to look at websites and materials that they might not otherwise find because of where they rank in search results.

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