A Google Slides Hack to Replace ChatterPix or Blabberize

This idea–a true moment of educational duct tape (using technology to solve a classroom problem or goal)–actually came to me while recording an episode of my Educational Duct Tape Podcast!

In Episode 5, I played a question that Linda Hummer shared to the Educational Duct Tape Community FlipGrid along with Abbey Thomas’ answer.  Linda’s question was, essentially, what is an alternative to Chatterpix that works on Chromebooks?  Abbey’s answer was Blabberize. And the question was answered!  Or, so I thought…

After the episode aired, Dan Gallagher shared on that same grid some words of caution: Blabberize’s Terms of Service indicate that it’s not appropriate for all ages.  So, in Episode 6, I shared this and then, on the spot, found a hack for a solution:

I’ve posted about #StopMotionSlides a number of times (here are my tips for making them) and they make a pretty good solution for this.  Put a picture into a slide, use some careful cropping and then leverage a stop motion technique.  Not only can you make the mouth move up and down, but you can then publish the animation (#13 in these tips) and then record them with Screencastify (or your screencasting tool of choice) with a voiceover (#14 in these tips)!

Voila!  Not as easy as Chatterpix, but at least it eliminates the need of adding another tool and another set of terms of service to what you use with your students: you likely already use Google Slides & Screencastify!

Plus, unlike ChatterPix or Blabberize, you can have multiple characters, your characters can move, the scene change…  You–and your students–can get super creative!

Here’s an animated GIF of the process, followed by a step-by-step breakdown.

Google Slides ChatterPix Blabberize Hack Animation

Continue reading A Google Slides Hack to Replace ChatterPix or Blabberize

Pre-Format Student Answers

Grading stinks.  Anything that we can do to make it better–without sacrificing the quality of the pedagogy or feedback–is worth doing!  Here’s a little trick to make it easier to locate student answers in Google Docs (or other files) that you assign in Google Classroom . . .

Pre-Format Classroom Answers Animation

Keyboard Shortcuts in Google Calendar

The new school year started for my colleagues and I a few weeks ago.  One process that I have to go through at the beginning of each school year is getting all of the year’s events onto my Google Calendar.  This is a tedious process, but it’s an important one for me.  The main task here is copying events from our school’s calendar onto my calendar.  The school calendar is jam-packed with stuff and I only need a subset of those events.

While going week-by-week through the school year, I thought “There has got to be a quicker way to navigate through this!”  Well, I did a little poking around and found my answer! Keyboard Shortcuts!

If you go into Settings, you can turn on Keyboard shortcuts.  First, let’s look at how to do this and then I’ll share some of my favorite shortcuts.

So, that animation showed you our first 2 keyboard shortcuts:
– / brings up the search, all ready for you to find that special event you were looking for.
– ? brings up all of the keyboard shortcuts, for when you forget some of them (which you will).

Here are the other ones that I’ve added to my repertoire:

Continue reading Keyboard Shortcuts in Google Calendar

Add a Popup Message to your Google Docs

Ever wish that you could tell people something when they open up your Google Docs? Maybe “Make a copy of this document, answer the questions and share it with your teacher!” or “This is a draft!

Well, it’s possible.  Some simple coding in the script editor and you can make it happen.  I know that some of you are thinking “Simple . . . . coding. . . !?” while making this face, but it’s true.  Just follow the steps below and you’ll make it happen.

Before we jump into the how, or what it looks like, a few notes:

  • Only Editors will be able to see the popup.  In my testing, someone who is “can view” or “can comment” does not see the popup.  Also, they have to be explicitly shared as editors, not just “anyone with the link can edit.”
  • If you copy the document within your own account, the popup will appear on the copy as well.
  • If someone shared on the document makes a copy, the popup will NOT appear on their copy.
  • If you send the document out on Google Classroom as “Make a Copy for Each Student” it will NOT include the popup in those copies.  I was bummed when I discovered this, because it would have been huge for teachers.

Now that you know those notes and limitations, let’s dive into it.  First, an animated GIF of how to do it and then, below the GIF, the step by step with code that you can just copy and paste.

Add Popup Message to Google Docs Animation

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. From within your Google Doc, click on Tools > Script Editor.
  2. Click on Untitled Project and rename the project.
  3. Replace the words myFunction with onOpen. (This is what tells it to run automatically)
  4. After the { type DocumentApp. (include the period)
  5. From the menu that pops up select getUi : Ui
  6. After {DocumentApp.getUi() type a period.
  7. From the menu that pops up select alert(String prompt) : Button
  8. In place of the word prompt type your popup message.
  9. Add quotation marks around your message (and inside of the parentheses).
  10. Click the save icon.
  11. Go back to your Doc, refresh and check it out!

Another note: You can actually edit the appearance of the popup with some HTML and CSS coding, but that would take me longer to explain that 1 GIF can handle!

Credits: I learned this from one of Google’s Applied Digital Skills Courses in the “Code Welcome Screen” Activity.  You can learn about adding some formatting to your popup in that course.

Lunapic – Create Images with Transparent Backgrounds

When presenting about #StopMotionSlides, someone inevitably asks about cutting the background out of a picture so that it has a transparent background.  Up to this point, my answer has been Microsoft Word, but I wasn’t satisfied with that since it wouldn’t work on Chromebooks or on computers without Microsoft Word.  And then I listened to Episode 13 of the Shukes and Giff Podcast.  In it, Kim Pollishuke shared about Lunapic.

Lunapic is a free, web-based photo editing platform.  Along with a lot of other features (seriously, go to it and explore!), is the ability to make the background transparent.  If it’s a solid colored background (i.e., green screen), there are tools that automate it.  For images that don’t have a solid colored background (or have backgrounds that include colors that are in the main part of the image), you can also do it manually.  Check it out in the animated GIF below!  Side note: there’s even a Chrome extension so that you can edit images you find online more conveniently.

Lunapic Transparent Background Animation

GIF Creation with Screencastify

Screencastify isn’t the best screencasting tool, but it might be the easiest one for in the classroom.  And the numbers prove that: 22 million videos were recorded in Screencastify during the 2017-18 school year.  There are good reasons for those numbers, too: it’s free, it’s easy to use and it syncs up with Google Drive.

If you happen to have access to Screencastify Premium, you have the ability to create GIFs, too!  Just click save to disk and export as animated GIF after recording a screencast.  That’s it!  Since you’re using Premium, you can even do some editing prior to exporting the video.  Check out the process in the animated GIF below (note: I made the GIF in Camtasia, not Screencastify):

Screencastify GIF Creation Animation

SketchUp on Chromebooks!

When my friend Dave Ternent and I started teaching a middle school STEM course back in 2012, one of the first tools for the course we selected was SketchUp.

SketchUp is a free 3D modeling computer program made by Trimble and, for a while, owned by Google.  It was the perfect introduction to 3D-modeling, architecture and engineering for middle schoolers: powerful, but relatively easy to learn.

We had our students make shapes with certain dimensions as they learned to use it (see image).  After that, they moved up to creating a 3-hole putt-putt (mini-golf) course that fit within a certain area (see image).  They got very creative with those courses, which is great, but you could also extend this to tons of curriculum standards!  Surface area, Roman architecture, volume, locations from literature, measurement, earthquake-resistant houses, perimeter, developing cities . . . I could go on and on.  But I stopped using SketchUp.  Why?  It didn’t work on Chromebooks.

Until recently! SketchUp is now available on the web, which means that you can use it on Chromebooks!  Check out the animated GIF below showing me using SketchUp.  Imagine the possibilities for students!

SketchUp Shapes
In this activity, students had to create certain shapes based on provided descriptions. i.e., Create a right triangle with a 5-foot hypotenuse.
One student’s 3-hole putt-putt course, complete with Spider-Man as an employee!
Another student’s 3-hole putt-putt course, complete with a small shed for the employee & storage
SketchUp on Chromebooks Animation

 

3 Screencastify Features You (Probably) Didn’t Know About

Screencastify is my favorite “lightweight” screen recording tool. I prefer it because 1) it works on Chromebooks, 2) it syncs to Drive and 3) it has all 3 important options (webcam, screen and webcam + screen).  Recently, I discovered 3 features that I hadn’t realized were there – and I’m guessing you hadn’t either.  So, here we go!

 

1. Move, Resize & toggle the webcam

I believe that including webcam video in a screencast is best practice.  However, it doesn’t need to be there for the entire video and sometimes it gets in the way.  So, in Screencastify’s Tab Recording mode, it’s super convenient that you can toggle the webcam off, resize it and move it – mid-recording!  You can also flip the camera, which is nice if you need to hold up something with text on it or, you know, if you have a non-symmetrical hairstyle. 🤪  Note that (currently) you cannot customize your webcam in Desktop Recording Mode.

Screencastify Tab Recording Webcam Features Animation

2. Cursor effects

If you’re recording a tutorial on your computer, cursor effects–like click animations or highlighting the cursor–are essential.  They’re available in both Desktop and Tab Recording Mode.

Screencastify Cursor Effects Animation

3. Switch tabs

Tab Recording Mode is nice for a number of reasons: it lets you reference things “off camera,” lets you customize the webcam window (see above), creates smaller file sizes and lets your computer run more smoothly. But, what if you realize that you need to record a different tab mid-video? Just click on the extension and select “Record This Tab.”

Screencastify Switch Tabs Animation

Note: I learned of many of these features on Screencastify’s blog.

The Ultimate App Smash Lesson

 

Recently, I was fortunate to be a guest on the awesome Google Teacher Tribe Podcast.  Not only are Matt & Kasey rockstars, but their show is my favorite education podcast.  It was an honor and a blast.

It’s a tradition on the show for the guest to create a lesson plan that listeners can use.  I chose to take a few ideas that I’ve posted about here and combine them into the Ultimate App Smash Lesson.  The lesson combines #StopMotionSlides, Screencastify & FlipGrid.  It can be used with any just about any content and is appropriate in most grades, starting in around 3rd grade.

You can find the lesson at bit.ly/ultimateappsmash.  I hope you enjoy it . . . and I’d love to see some of what your kiddos create when you use it!

Comparing GIF Creation Options

**Originally posted in December 2017, edited in August 2018 and then editing again in October 2019 to reflect new options that have become available or that I have discovered.  Also in October 2019, I added the new table format below.**

In February of 2017, I found my niche in the online #edtech world – and a new passion – creating #eduGIFs.  In the time since then, I’ve been asked dozens, if not hundreds, of times how I create them.  Here I’ll dive into 1) a little background on what I do & why I use the tool I use, 2) other options to consider and 3) my advice on what to use (feel free to skip to there). Continue reading Comparing GIF Creation Options