Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Updated - Screencasting on Chromebooks - Built-in Tool vs. Third-party Tools

Back in June Google introduced a new screencasting tool for Chromebooks. Back then I wrote a comparison of the Chrome OS screencast tool and some others that are available to use on Chromebooks. Since then Screencastify has changed their free plan and Flipgrid has been renamed as Microsoft Flip. So I think it's time that I publish an updated overview of the screencasting tools available for use on Chromebooks. 

Chrome OS Built-in Recorder
The obvious benefit of using the built-in recorder is that you don't have install any third-party extensions. Additionally, your recordings automatically save to your Google Drive. And because the video is saved in your Google account, it is incredibly easy to share your videos with your students. The best aspect of the built-in Chrome OS screencasting tool is that your video is automatically transcribed for you and your students can have that transcript translated into the language of their choice. 

The shortcomings of the Chrome OS screencast recorder are the limited drawing tools and limited editing tools. It will probably get better in time, but right now it doesn't have nearly as many drawing and editing options as other screencasting tools like Screencastify and Loom. 

Screencastify was one of the first screencasting tools developed specifically for Chromebooks (it should be noted that it can work on any computer running the Chrome web browser). Over the years it has improved in leaps and bounds. Today, Screencastify offers more than just a tool for recording a video of your screen. It offers a complete video editing platform. 

With Screencastify you can record your screen, use a wide variety of drawing and zoom tools, and edit your recordings in your web browser. Recordings can be automatically saved to your Google Drive account, downloaded as MP4 files, and shared to other services including Google Classroom, YouTube, and EDpuzzle. 

The editing tools in Screencastify include cropping, splitting, and merging clips. It also provides tools for blurring faces and objects in your videos. Finally, you can use Screencastify to build must-answer questions into your videos before you share them with your students. 

It should be noted that on October 3, 2022 Screencastify introduced some severe limitations to the features mentioned above for those who are using Screencastify's free plan. Those limitations include a limit of having only ten videos in your account, a limit of only 30 minutes of export time (the total amount of video that you download from your account), and videos can't be exported as MP4 files. Those limitations make Screencastify's free plan not nearly as a good an option as the Chrome OS screen recorder or Loom's free plan for educators. 

Loom is a popular screencasting tool partly because they offer a generous list of free features for teachers and because those features work really well. Perhaps my favorite of those features is the ability to record a screencast directly from your Gmail inbox or from anywhere else in your Chrome browser. Loom also offers automatic transcript generation, viewing insights (get notifications when people watch your videos), and a tool for suppressing background noise in your recordings

Loom lets you download your recordings and MP4 files and share your videos directly to variety of places including YouTube. 

Here's a demo of how I used Loom and Google Jamboard to make whiteboard videos. 

Microsoft Flip
Although it's known for it, Microsoft Flip does offer a convenient screencast recording tool. It doesn't include a capability to draw on the screen while recording, but it is easy to use and easy to share your recordings with your students. You can also combine a screencast with a simple webcam video or whiteboard video that you make in Flip. Here's a demonstration of how to make a whiteboard video in Microsoft Flip. If you want to know more about Flip's other uses, take a look at this playlist of videos

Creative Storm - A Student Video Contest

Creative Storm 2022 is the title of the latest Next Vista for Learning video contest. Like previous Next Vista contests, this one is open to students and teachers. There is a category for student-produced videos, a category for teacher-produced videos, and a category for videos created through the collaborative efforts of teachers and students. Regardless of the category, all videos must teach a lesson in 90 seconds or less. The lesson can be about almost any concept a person would learn about in elementary, middle, or high school.

Entries into Next Vista's Creative Storm video contest must be received by December 16th. There is a small bonus for those who submit their entries by November 18th. Contest winners receive Amazon gift cards and the pride of showcasing their videos for a larger audience. Complete contest rules and instructions can be read here

Take a look at this video made by a Kindergarten class or any of the previous contest's finalists here for some inspiration.

And for some ideas and instruction on making videos take a look at Creating Animated Explanations

Monday, October 3, 2022

The DMCA Scam Returns in the Form of Nationwide Legal Services

As you may recall, last spring I unravelled a scam in which someone pretending to be an attorney sent out phony DMCA takedown notices. That scam was centered around a website that pretended to be the law firm of Arthur Davidson Legal. Eventually, that website was suspended by its web hosting company. Well it appears that scam has popped-up again. This time in the form of a website that pretends to be the law firm of Nationwide Legal in Austin, Texas. 

Over the weekend I got an email from someone pretending to be a trademark attorney with the law firm of Nationwide Legal. I won't link to it, but you can find it at nationwidelaw (dot) org. The email had all of the same tell-tale signs of being a fraud as the previous scam that employed a website pretending to be the law firm of Arthur Davidson. Those signs include not actually addressing me by name and not asking for anything other than a link to some shady website. Take a look at the screenshot of the email below and see what other signs of a scam you can spot. 

Other signs of the scam:

When I went to the website, I found the picture of the person who pretends to be "Alicia Weber, Trademark Attorney." I then did a reverse image search of her picture and found that she also goes by the name of Maria and is a professor of history at MetaTeaching and appears on dozens of other websites. 

A variation on the same attorney website domain has already been suspended by its host. And once I report this one to its hosting company, I'm sure it will also be suspended. 

The lessons!

1. If you get an email from someone claiming to be an attorney, don't believe it if they can't even bother to address you by name. 

2. Don't be a sleazy, lazy scammer.

Using Focusable as a Progress Journal

Disclosure: Focusable is an advertiser on my websites.

About a month ago I started using Focusable to help me focus on my work even when I really didn’t want to. That includes working on a particularly frustrating project that I have to get done. The project is rebuilding my Practical Ed Tech website from the ground up. That includes rebuilding and or editing some databases and doing a lot of quality assurance checks. The work is rather tedious, frustrating, and something I’d just pay someone else to do if I could.

I started using Focusable to help me focus on the work of rebuilding my Practical Ed Tech website. It has helped a lot! I’ve gotten more done in the last few weeks than I did all summer. Last week while recording my reflection in between time blocks in Focusable I realized that I was journaling my progress. In each reflection I was stating what I had just tried and what I was going to try next.

When I start to work on my project again today after a weekend away from it, I’ll watch my last Focusable reflection video to remind myself of where I was when I stopped and where I need to start the next step of the project.

Applications for Education
Focusable was built for the purpose of helping students learn how to focus on their work while ignoring distractions. An ancillary benefit of using Focusable is creating a little journal to document progress on a project. If you give students a little direction like “state what worked and what didn’t,” they can use Focusable to develop the skill of focusing while also documenting their progress on a project. You can then use your Focusable teacher account to view your students’ progress.

See A Great Tool to Help Students Learn to Focus for a complete overview of how Focusable works.

Webinar This Week - Search Strategies Students Need to Know

Many students will spend just a minute or two looking at search results before declaring, "Google has nothing on this." If you have ever had a student say that to you, you know that they think of search as a function and not a process. In a webinar this Thursday I'll teach you how to get students to approach search as a process and employ a variety of strategies to discover new information. 

During Search Strategies Students Need to Know on October 6th at 4pm ET you’ll learn the tools and strategies that students need to know to conduct good online research. Register Here!

Highlights of this webinar include:
➡ How to formulate search lessons for your students.
🔎 The alternative search tools students often overlook.
🔖 Tools and tips for organizing online research findings.
🏫 How to make your own school-safe search engine.
🤔 Why you should be on a first-name basis with your school’s librarian.

Join Live or Watch the Recording!
The live webinar is at 4pm ET on October 6th. It will be recorded for those who register in advance but cannot attend the live session. Register here!