Friday, 9 March 2018

Google Hangouts - your FREE (portable) document camera!

A very blurry picture of Matt & me
@ ISTE 2017
This morning, on my commute to work, I was listening to the Google Teacher Tribe (#GTTribe) is a weekly tradition.  I love the podcast because it has great ideas for new and veteran Google users alike.  This morning, one tip that Matt Miller (aka Jimmy Matt) shared really wowed me -
How to use Google Hangouts as a (free!!!) document camera.

Here is what he shared.
Hook your computer up to a projector and start a Google Hangout.  On your mobile device join the hangout.  Select the box for the mobile device so it is the one projecting.  Put a document in front of the camera and it is shared!  You can also do this as you walk around the class with the device, or pass the device to have students share their work where they are seated.

Such an easy and extremely useful hack.  Thanks Jimmy Matt! 

Note: This also works if you want to show how to do something on a mobile device.  Generally, I use airplay on my Mac but it doesn't always work and this is a great way to have devices on different platforms talk to one another (e.g., PC desktop and iOS device).

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The Wipebook

A few weeks ago I entered a Twitter contest run by Wipebook and I won a Wipebook Mini Notebook and the Wipebook Flipchart.  I was really excited to see how these dry erase products would work.

I currently spend about $1 a month on a notepad I love from Dollarama.  That said, I am mostly digital in my role so I would likely be spending be more if I were in the classroom taking more on the fly notes.  The costs of the mini notebook is $25USD so a bit on the high side for me....but I LOVE that I am being much more eco-friendly. 

I really like crossing things off my to do list - but I also like a clean list and the notebook is PERFECT for this.  As soon as a task is done, it disappears!

The feel of the glossy paper took some getting used to - and I find the pen can dry out at time so having a second one is handy. (I picked one up on Amazon.)

The pages erase very easily with the eraser on the pen or a damp cloth if you want to get it super clean. 

The pen fits nicely into the coil binding but it has fallen out a few times forcing me to dig through my bag to find it.

I tested it with my left-handed son and there was no smudging of the ink - although he is in Kindergarten and writes slowly so a faster stenographer might smudge a little.

There is an app to go with it and you can upload notes to a variety of place (Google Drive, etc.).  I used it a little and it worked well...the quality of the image is a little grainy though so not great for my sketchnotes - I will stick to traditional paper for that.

All of the above holds true for the flip chart as well.

Overall, I like the product and since I only have to buy one, the cost is not an issue.  I think it is worth the investment for chronic list makers like me!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Flipgrid for the camera shy

Click the image to access the slide full of links.

While working with a school this week, one teacher (shyly) admitted that he liked Flipgrid, but he did not feel comfortable filming himself.  This was not the first time I have heard this.  I like to challenge people to venture outside their comfort zone but I am not always successful.  I fear that there are educators and students who are avoiding this great tool because they think they need to be on camera.  I'm here to tell you that is not the case!  Flipgrid has an option to upload a video rather than film live.

The best part is you don't need fancy video production tools to film...there are plenty of free, simple tools you can use. 

In the spirit of curating, and not dumping (see The Cult of Pedagogy blog post if you don't get my reference - it is a superb read), I have curated a list of 5 (well 6) tools you can use to create videos to upload to Flipgrid. 

Note: For the first three tools you need to Appsmash (using multiple apps in conjunction with one another to complete a final task) with my favourite free screen casting tool - Screencat-o-matic.  I love screencast-o-matic because in the free version you can record up to 15 minutes, crop the recording area, and trim the recording.  All videos can be saved to your local drive as mp4s. now works on Chromebooks!!!

So...let's look at the tools:
  1. Voki
    In the free version of Voki you can use pictures from a selected, customizable list of Avatars and backgrounds.  Then you can record your voice, type a message that can be read in a voice of choice, or upload a pre-recored message.  Published Vokis can be shared on Twitter, Facebook, G+, email or via link, but for Flipgrid, appsmash with Screencast-o-matic to record the video.
  2. My Simple Show
    My Simple Show is a video explainer.  You write a script, it suggest photos to insert into the presentation, and (in the free version) it narrates for you.  You need to upgrade to record your own voice BUT of you appsmash with screencast-o-matic and you can mute the narration and record a voice over!
  3. Stop Motion with Google Slides
    This is one of my favourite slides activities.  Essentially, you put a character on a background, make tiny tweaks on each slide and them publish to the web to make a mini movie. This tutorial by Kim Pollishuke and Sandra Chow is a great resource to teach how to make stop motion videos using Google Slides.  Again, appsmash with screencast-o-matic to add narration.
  4. Chatterpix (iOS app)
    Chatterpix is likely the easiest tool to use.  You to upload a photo of your choice, then you draw a line across the mouth in the photo.  You can record your voice and add filters and stickers to your recording.  When you are done you can emails yourself the .mp4 file that can be uploaded  to Flipgrid.  Best of all - it is free!
  5. Sock Puppets (iOS app)
    Sock Puppets lets you create your own lip-synched videos.  The videos feature sock puppet characters, customizable backgrounds, props and scenery.  Finished videos are saved to your camera roll and can be uploaded via the Flipgrid app.
Check out my Grid for quick examples of each tool and get even the most camera shy participant Flipgridding (yes, I made it a verb - that's called anthimeria btw) in no time.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

My Week on a Chromebook

Inspired by conversations between Jonathan Wiley and Mindy Cairney on their podcast The EdTech Takeout, this week I decided to try to use only my Chromebook.  I often have teachers ask me if a class set of Chromebooks would work for a 1:1 environment, and while I have used my Chromebook, I have always had my Mac as my primary computer.  I figure to best advise, I should dive into the Chromebook to see what limitations it might present.

Here is what I found:

Keyboard Shortcuts
I am a really big keyboard shortcut user.  I missed those A LOT.  A quick Google search led me to a cheat sheet of Chromebook keyboard shortcuts.  This was really handy.  Some of the ones I used the most:
  • Alt+Backspace works as the Delete Key
  • CTRL + Right Arrow jump from word to word (although it didn't quite work like my beloved CMD +right arrow to get to the end of a line.)

Quickly Flipping Between Accounts 
I have both a Gmail and EDU that I toggle between constantly. I didn't think I could have two accounts logged in to the Chromebook at the same time but apparently, you can!  #HappySurprise.  I could never figure out getting my second gmail though.

No Firefox
I have one system at work that I need to access via that was something for which I had to jump to my Mac.

No iMessage
I love the integration of iMessage on my Mac.  My whole family is on it...but so long as I kept my phone close I made it work.

Split screen
Love the ease of this.  All I had to do was drag windows to the corners to see multiple windows open at the same time.

Small Screen
Don't love the small screen...I could get a bigger one, but the one I have is only 11".

There are little blue dots when a tab (email, twitter) has notifications. That was cool and not as distracting as the notifications on the Mac.

Spoke to a Chem teacher - for the purpose of his course he has tools that plug into the computer to do experiments programs that need to be downloaded - students would not be able to do that.

Speed - or lack there of.
OK, this was the BIGGEST drawback.  It was SLOW!  There were a number of times during the week I had to jump to the Mac because the Chromebook came to a stand still. (I imagine this had something to do with the millions of tabs I had open.)

All in all, I think a class set of Chromebooks would be fine for students.  The week was not as difficult as I thought it would be.  But for my uses, I think I am sticking to my Mac.  (Although, I am not adverse to checking out a more powerful Chromebook with touch screen and app capabilities.)

For more advanced Chromebook users what I have shared might seem straightforward, but if are on a Mac and wondering...these were my insights. 

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Advice for coaches

Yesterday in #12daysTwitter, we were challenged to tweet out a question to people in our curriculum I sought one piece of advice from other coaches...

The sketch that prompt it all...

I tagged a whole boatload of coaches, a great Twitter tip if you want to get a conversation going, and got some great tips.  So for anyone out there who are some points to ponder.

Relationships are key

  • Find ways to ignite other's passions by taking the time to know them. Also, your enthusiasm will be contagious and one of the most effective tools to promote new ideas and learning that will carry on when you leave the building! -@TheKyleKitchen
  • Establishing a relationship is key in order for coaching to work. We cannot ask Ts tough questions if they do not trust us. -@StephGarand12
  • At the end of the day, it is about relationships. You sometimes have to go slow to go fast. Small steps are still steps. -@dlcoachalli
  • Remember to be empathetic, patient and kind...we’ve all been there when we’ve needed support from someone who is willing to listen, guide, and learn with you. -@ChrisQuinn64
  • Champion others. Expect to be amazed. -@RobinTG 
  • Be in the moment, cut the mind chatter and listen to your colleague...ACTUALLY listen to your colleague! - @TBurrTHM
  • Being a good listener... Hearing teacher's needs and supporting their efforts. -@LHighfill
  • Learn how to listen, and be the last to speak. -@JProfNB
  • Listen. Hear. Wait. Respond. -@IdeaSmashing
  • Be patient. -@MrBadura
  • Build those relationships, trust goes a long way. -@MeganBaker0724
  • Relationships matter. Without them, you’ve got nothing...  - @JCareyReads
  • Avoid saying you “should” do this/that. Try saying you “could” or “you might consider” doing this/that. -@TonyVincent
  • Champion others. Expect to be amazed. -@MrsTJohnson11
Contributed by @WickEdTech

It is all about the mindset
  • Replace the words “I can’t” with “I’ll try.” -@LemmerAnn
  • Make sure you love what you do! The excitement that you bring with you can be contagious! -@MrsFierrosClass
Watch your pacing
  • Less is more. Focus on one or two practices, tools, or ideas to help implement and push forward. -@Cogswell_Ben
  • It is not a sprint. It is more of a marathon. Take joy in the small steps teachers and students take to explore innovative learning experiences in their classrooms. -@WickEdTech
  • The goal should never to tell but always to meet people where they are. Everyone is on a continuum. Meet them where they are and you'll move more people. -@MrSoClassroom
  • We must always try to remember that everyone starts at a different point. It is also ok to finish at a different point or take a different path to get there, right? -@WickEdTech
How to get your ideas out there
  • To introduce new tech ie hr of code, find a small group of students & do a test run. Then offer 1 "special" class for a few interested students. When you introduce it to the school, you will have kinks worked out, and the kids will do your promo! - @Jeni_Richline
  • Reach the ones that want to be reached first! They will be your best advocates too. - @DevEducators
from @CreativeEdTech

And two last tidbits of overall greatness
  • I think a coach’s job is to connect dots between initiatives and help see the big picture. Work smarter, not harder. -@TeamCairney
  • Prioritize where you spend your time. Coaching is a balancing act keeping many things going at once. Think spinning plates. As a coach, spin too many of them and they will fall & crack. Focus most of your time on 1-2 big ticket items and give the others a small spin now and then. -@Cogswell_Ben
Did any of these tips resonate with you?  Grow your PLN and follow the person who offered the tip on Twitter!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Aurasma in the learning commons

I keep hearing how AR could be the next big thing in education.  I also hear people who say they have no clue what it is - other than for Pok√©mon Go!  Today I worked with a friend in my district who runs the Learning Commons in a High School on some AR and thought I would share.

Essentially she wanted to create videos students could view when they had question around the learning commons.  Videos would include instructions around how to load money onto their accounts, how to use the photocopier, how to access Overdrive, etc.  (Note: We both know that she could have certainly done this with a simple QR code, but she wanted to play with AR, so this was the path we chose.)

We decided, based on the work in another LC in the district, to use Aurasma.

Auramas is an Augmented Reality tool which uses a device's camera to recognize real world images and then overlay media on top of them in the form of animations, videos, 3D models and web pages. It is available on desktopsiOS and Android devices.

To achieve our goal, we first made little signs that we would hang up around the Learning Commons.  We took a screen shot of each slide and saved them locally to our computer.  These would become our triggers.

Scan me in Aurasma!!

Next, we made videos which became our overlays.  I used (the amazing tool) Camtasia but moving forward we will be using the Screencastify Chrome Extension to make the videos.  Again, we saved locally to our computer.

Then, we used the Aurasma Studio to create the Auras (that's what it is called when you link the picture and the video).  This video shows how:

In our final step we were stuck.  We could not see the auras I created in my account on her device.  Turns out, you need to follow someone to see the aura.  Sure soon as she followed me...there is was.  Want to check it out?  Download the app, follow "virtualgiff" and scan the picture above.

How do you use AR in eduction?

Thursday, 30 November 2017

V is for Version History

#NaBloWriMo Day 22...last day of November...although I think I will finish the alphabet.

As an English teacher, the paper struggle is real!  There have been a number of occasions that I have needed to collect process work and had a TON of papers to bring home.  Version History in G Suite apps has made that a little less of a struggle!

Versions history give you a snapshot of all the changes that have been made over time in a document.  When you go to File --> Version History, the window will change slightly and a text box appears on the right hand side of the screen.  In this text box is a list of dates and names under each date.  If you click on a date it will show what that version of the file looked like and show you who made which change via highlighting.  You can also revert to that version.

In terms of process work, I can see changes over time in a student's document.  You can even rename versions.  So, in terms of process work, I can have students name versions (e.g., draft 1, peer review, self reviews, etc.) and there would only be a single file I would need to access.

I also love that you can track who made which changes in a file.  This has been great for tracking participation in group work.  It has helped me facilitate those "Miss, I have done all the work, my group has done nothing" conversations.

Naming sessions helps if you continuously make changes in a document.  For example, I have slide decks I use when presenting at conferences and summits.  I like to name the version according to the version I presented at each event.  This helps me remember exactly what I said when people reach out after the fact! 

Versions History is a real life saver.  I once had a teacher reach out after 3 hours of her work was erased by a colleague accidentally.  What made the situation worse was that the colleague had then put 3 hours of her own work into the file.  We simply copied the work from the second teacher into a new Doc, restored the version that Teacher 1 had worked on, and pasted the work from Teacher 2 back in.  What would have meant hours of other work, turned into a 3 minute fix.

If you have any other great uses, please leave a comment below!