When my friend Dave Ternent and I started teaching a middle school STEM course back in 2012, one of the first tools that we selected for the course 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.
After seeing the awesomeMatt England present at a local tech conference about his use of SketchUp with middle schoolers we even had information from someone who had used it about how to best introduce it. Matt was kind enough to share his resources during the session.
Based on Matt’s information, 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!
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.
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.
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.”
In a blended classroom, it can be tough to see who is on and off task and know who is behind on their work. One trick that I often used in my STEM classes was to open the Google Drive folder that all of my students’ work was in and click through the previews of their docs. The previews weren’t always the most current version (it’s likely the status of the file when you most recently opened up Drive), but I could easily identify students who maybe behind (or off task) and then open up their docs to check for sure. It was much faster than opening all of the docs would have been! I also used this occasionally when assigning some pretty simple grades, especially if they were completion grades.
**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
I’ve done a number of posts about Screencastify, but recently I was reading a blog post that presented an idea that I had not previously thought of. In it, the author talks about using a screencasting tool to give both visual and auditory feedback on a student’s work. It seems to me that this would be so much more useful for a student than just comments on the doc. Plus they’d be more likely to view it.
Add in the ease of use with Screencastify – quickly sharing in Google Drive – and you’ve got a win-win. Below is a GIF I made to share the process. In the GIF, I am giving (fake) feedback on a Google Doc, but it could be anything. I could even show how it falls on a rubric within the video!
You could even have students give each other feedback this way!
One last note – if you start doing this regularly, you could create one folder in your Drive for each of your students and then drag the videos into those folders for the students to view.
Need slides running on loop during an Open House or other event? Here’s how to do it!
It’s super simple!
File > Publish to the Web
Link (not embed)
Select the amount of time between slides (unfortunately, all slides have to be same length. Need some slides to show for longer? Duplicate them so that they show twice.)
Decide if you want it to start playing as soon as you open it.
Decide if you want it to loop (restart).
Access the link. Hit the full screen button. That’s it!
Note: If you’d like it to be a slideshow of pictures that are in your drive, I recommend the Drive Slides extension (by Matt Miller & Alice Keeler) for getting those images quickly into a slideshow. It’s limited to 50 images/slides, but you could always make separate slideshows and then import the slides from one into the other.
Note: if this is for a permanent hallway display or sign, you should try out Chrome Sign Builder.
You can also select embed to easily embed the auto-playing, auto-looping slides into a non-Google Sites webpage, like this:
This post originally appeared on the Screencastify blog, here.
We all know how important it is for students to demonstrate
their understanding of a particular subject or problem by “showing their work.” If your students are using tablets, there are a number of great interactive whiteboard recording apps that allow students to write with a stylus, annotate images and provide audio explanations.
But what about the large student population who are using Chromebooks, not tablets? Some new Chromebooks have touch screens and a small number are ready to roll with Android apps, but for the majority of our students, this type of recording feature is nowhere in their near future. And it’s a great feature! What’s better than telling a student to “show their work”!? Telling them to “explain their work” or, better yet, narrate it.
As an educational technology advocate and problem-solver, I am always looking for a hack. And, here’s my hack for this. Tell your students: “click on the Screencastify extension, select Cam, spin the computer around, aim it at a piece of paper, starting writing or drawing and explain away.” In short, spin it around, write it down, explain with sound.
There are plenty of flash cards sites, apps and ideas out there. And many of them are great. But… it’s nice to not have to add another tool to your classroom, another site to your list of resources, another password for your students to remember and possibly another account for your students to access.
So, if you don’t need a fully-featured flash cards solution, stick with what you’ve got (and know): Google Slides.
Students can work together to create the cards.
You can assign each kid a card to make . . . and 5 minutes later you have a whole deck.
Cards can involve pictures from a Google image search, pictures from students’ Drive or webcams, drawings and videos.
You can project it in class to have a class-wide review.
Students can use it to study from their cell phones and other devices.
If you have a class website, you can embed the Slides on the site.
Students can make a copy of the Slides to make them their own, add information that helps them, delete cards they already know and add cards for terms they struggle with.
*Disclaimer: I’m really not a flash cards, vocabulary kind of guy. Knowing the lingo has some value, but in general… memorization of stuff that fits on a flash card is just that: memorization. Since I know that it’s an important part of a lot of classrooms, I want to share this strategy for doing it, but I hope that you do it along with other types of learning experiences, like Project-Based Learning and other inquiry-based strategies.
Never gonna go to war, never gonna drop a bomb
Never gonna shoot a gun and hurt you
Switzerland is never gonna say let’s fight
Never gonna tell a lie, Neutrality
These are not lyrics by Rick Astley. They’re by me, and they’re really lame. But. . . .they serve as a pretty good intro to the idea of having students record their own videos/songs of pop hits recreated with content-related lyrics.
If you know me, you know that I love a good “Rick Roll.” You also know that I love the idea of students proving their mastery of content by creating things rather than by filling in bubbles.
This idea mixes students love of 1) being creative and 2) lyrics videos on YouTube. Here’s a video (with even worse lyrics), followed by the steps.
As another school year comes to a close, many schools are packing up their Chromebooks for a 3rd, 4th or even 5th year. These older Chromebooks are likely (or will soon start) experiencing battery issues. This is a great time to check their battery health in preparation for next school year. Here’s how (there’s also a GIF at the bottom of the post):
Close all open tabs.
Open Crosh (Chrome OS Developer Shell) using Ctrl+Alt+T
Type “battery_test 30” and press enter.
The first number that reads out is your battery’s health (from 0-100%). The higher it is, the better. As a general rule of thumb, if it’s over 50% on an older Chromebook, you’re in pretty good shape.
After 30 seconds (the number you typed in above) you’ll see how fast your Chromebook is discharging. You could’ve typed in a smaller number to make it go faster, but the test may not have been as reliable. If it’s discharging at a rate of more than 0.10% in 30 seconds, you may have issues in the future.
Of course, a weak or rapidly discharging battery is not a big deal if the device can be plugged in throughout the day. But if you’re in a 1-to-1 school where students carry Chromebooks from class to class, a battery that is under 50% health and discharging faster than 0.10% in 30 seconds won’t make it through the day.