Thursday, October 6, 2022

Everything You Need to Know About Computer Monitors

Back when I taught computer repair we got all kinds of old computers and monitors donated to our classroom. One of the seemingly never-ending challenges was matching monitors with computers. That was particularly true when my students would be confronted by units that had only VGA or DVI inputs. And there was always an conversation that included phrases like "this monitor is so old" and "can this monitor work with this input?" All that to say, I ended up spending time at the start of the course explaining various monitors and connections. I wish I had had Monitors Explained by PowerCert Videos back then. 

Monitors Explained by PowerCert Videos provides an excellent overview of monitor types, panel types, refresh rates, contrast ratios, and response time. 



Applications for Education
This video is obviously helpful for students who are in some type of computer repair class. It's also good to watch from the perspective of becoming an informed consumer before purchasing your next computer monitor.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Tutorials for Getting Started With the Smithsonian Learning Lab

The Smithsonian Learning Lab allows teachers to create and search for documents, images, videos, interactive animations, and lesson plans from a wide range of Smithsonian-hosted resources. It also lets you create collections to share with others as well as create assignments to give to your students. To start the new school year The Smithsonian published a collection of new tutorial videos that teach you how to collect, customize, and share collections of resources in the Smithsonian Learning Lab. You can watch all of those videos here. I've embedded a couple of them below. 





Applications for Education
The Smithsonian Learning Lab's collections feature on its own is great, but the collections are better when you can share them with others. In the Smithsonian Learning Lab you can create a classroom. Students join your classroom by entering the password that you choose for your classroom. Once students have joined your classroom you can share resources with them. You can also distribute assignments to students through your Smithsonian Learning Lab classroom.

How to Create Green Screen Videos in Canva

A couple of weeks ago Canva held an event to announce a bunch features that were going to be added over the coming months. One of those features is now available in the form of a background remover for video clips. Just like you can use Canva to remove image backgrounds you can now use Canva to remove the background from your video clips. 

By using Canva's background remover and video editor you can now create green screen videos even if you don't have an actual green screen to record in front of. Now you can simply record a video clip, upload it to your Canva account, and then use the built-in editor to remove the video's background. Once you've replaced your video's background you can replace it with any stock image available in Canva or any image that you own and upload to your Canva account. 

Watch my short that is embedded below to learn how to create a green screen video in Canva





You can find even more Canva tutorials in my playlist of more than 45 Canva tutorials.

Applications for Education
As someone who spent years teaching world geography classes, one of my favorite uses of green screens is to have students create "on location" video reports about places they've researched. Canva's new video editing options can make that process easier than ever before. 

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
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
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