Using Screencastify Free in the Classroom!

One of the most important tools in remote learning, face-to-face blended learning, or a hybrid setting is a tool for recording videos in order to deliver content to students. While there are a handful of great options, Screencastify is one of the most commonly used, especially in gSuite for Education schools.

Check out the video below to learn about using the free version of Screencastify in your classroom!

Trying to decide whether to use Screencastify or Loom? Check out this post.

Using Loom Pro (Free for Educators!) in the Classroom!

For years I recommended Screencastify as the best, if not only, screencasting tool for the classroom. Well, times have changed. It’s still one of the best, but it’s certainly not the only.

When more educators than ever before turned to screencasting to deliver content to their students in the Spring of 2020, many flocked to Screencastify… but many also flocked to Loom.

And now that Loom has given educators and students free-forever access to the Loom Pro plan–unlimited videos with unlimited length and more!–it’s not a surprise that many of them are trying out Loom.

Check out the video below to learn about using the free pro version of Loom within the Chrome browser (or on Chromebooks)!

Trying to decide whether to use Screencastify or Loom? Check out this post.

 

 

 

 

Filtering by Color in Google Sheets

Sometimes when I’m working on a project in Google Sheets, I shade cells a certain color to visually organize them. I’ve always wished that there was a way to just see the green ones.  Or the red ones.  Or the yellow ones.  Sure, I could add some kind of indicator in a separate cell that I can filter by, but I wished that I could just do it by color.

Well, now I can! Recently, Google added the ability to filter and sort based on the cell color and the font color. Check out how it works with filtering in the EduGIF below! The step-by-step instructions are underneath the EduGIF.

This animated GIF shows the process by which cells in Google Sheets can be filtered by color. Step-by-step instructions are included in the blog post.
See the pausable version of this EduGIF here.

Before I share the step-by-step instructions, one last note. In the EduGIF, I did not share the process of sorting by color. When sorting by color, you’re selecting the color group (red, green, or white, in my GIF) that will come first. The other colors are then grouped after that. Within the color groups, the values will also be sorted in the default format (largest number to smallest number, in my data set). Continue reading Filtering by Color in Google Sheets

UPDATE: Google Meets Remote Learning Improvements

Teachers have been scrambling over the last week or so to figure out how to connect with and instruct their students during extended school closures. One of the first questions that many seeked to answer was “How can I do a synchronous video chat or lesson with my students?”

People rushed to test out Google Meet (formerly Google Hangouts), but red flags appeared quickly:

  1. Students were able to mute classmates in the meeting.
  2. Students were able to kick classmates out of the meeting.
  3. Students were able to access the meetings later, without the teacher’s “supervision” to continue chatting (Jake’s note: I’m not sure this is a bad thing.  They do this in our hallways and playgrounds, right?)

Well, Google for Education has reacted swiftly and effectively.  Last night, they released an update to Google Meet for gSuiteEdu users.  This update remedies the 3 issues listed above.

In my tests so far today, #1 and #2 above are already fixedIssue #3, however, still persisted in my test and it looks like it’s because that part of the rollout won’t be quite as swift (the post lists that it may take as long as 2 weeks to roll out to everyone).

Don’t come down to hard on ol’ Google here

I have already seen some “too little, too late” comments on Twitter about this. I do NOT agree with that.

First off, if you switched to Zoom because of this issue with Google Meet, there’s no reason to switch back to Meet.  You’ve got a solution that is working for you.  Just stick with it.  Don’t ask your students to learn a new platform.

Now, if you want to say “You were too late on this, Google!” slow. your. roll. Like every other tech tool that we’re using, Google Meet was not built for synchronous remote video lessons. They could’ve easily said “too bad, That’s not the intended use of Google Meet,” but instead they said “We’ll fix that for you.”

And not only that, but they went from becoming aware of the problem to fixing the problem within 1 week.  1 week!  That’s tremendous.

Not only is that the kind of proactive, growth mindset, seeing a problem and fixing it mentality that we want our tech companies to have, it’s the kind of mentality that we want our teachers and students to have!

Think about that: they tried something out (essentially, a beta, as they call it in the tech world or a pre-assessment as we may call it in education), observed a flaw, listened to feedback and put improvements in place.  In the classroom, we call that formative assessment.  In the landscape of remote learning?  We call that awesome.

Slides Timer Extension

Two and a half years ago, I made an #EduGIF about adding timers to Google Slides using YouTube Videos and posted it on my site. Well, it’s time to introduce a new option.

Clay Smith is an educator in New York City. He’s also a talented coder. And that coding talent extends to gSuite Add-Ons and Chrome Extensions.  The newest in his repertoire of projects is Slides Timer, an extension that makes certain text placeholders in Google Slides text boxes come to life as timers when in present mode.

As Clay’s site explains, the extension accepts 3 different placeholders:

  • <<5:00->> will count down starting at 5 minutes.
  • <<2:00+>> will count up starting at 2 minutes
  • <<time>> will display the current time in AMPM format

Judging by the feedback form on Clay’s site, I’ll guess that this extension is still a work in progress. There are a few things that I’d change, if I could, but it’s already an awesome option as it is!

Check it out in the #EduGIF below!

Animation shows the use of Clay's Slides Timer Extension in action.
Pausable version of this #EduGIF available here: youtube.com/watch?v=16iqS5cWVZ0

Adding Audio to Play on a Set of Google Slides

Not long ago, Google finally added the functionality of adding audio to Google Slides for all users.  And, not long thereafter, we started asking for improvements! 😬  Hey, it’s what we do! 😃

In this post, I’m going to share with you a hack to get the most asked for improvement.  It’s not an elegant hack (that’s an oxymoron, I think) but it’ll do until Google adds the actual functionality.

When you add audio, the main choice that you’ll have to make is
– “Do I want this to stop playing when I advance to the next slide…
– or do I want it to continue until the audio ends…
– or do I want it to loop until the end of the slideshow?”
Unfortunately, there’s no option to have it play on Slides 1, 2, 3 and 4 and then stop on Slide 5.

But what if that’s what we want?  In this post, I’ll show you a hack to set your audio to play for a subset of slides, but not for others.

My first idea for a hack was adding a different piece of audio on Slide 5, but that just leads to both audio files playing simultaneously.  Back to the drawing board.

My second idea worked.  So, here it is…  #EduGIF first, step-by-step instructions next.

This animation shows how to add audio for only a subset of the slides in a Google Slides file. The steps are typed out below the image.

Continue reading Adding Audio to Play on a Set of Google Slides

Searching for Images with Transparent Backgrounds in Google Image Search

There are lots of reasons that you might need images with transparent backgrounds! Maybe it’s for a #StopMotionSlides project!  Maybe it’s for a graphic design project!  Maybe it’s for a green screen video or image!

No matter what your reason is for wanting an image with a transparent background, the easiest option is the same: do a Google Image Search for images with a transparent background!

There are ways to take images and remove their background, but if we can start with no background, that’s even better!

Search in Google > Images > Tools > Color > Transparent

Note: Unfortunately, this is not a perfect process.  Using this strategy misses some images with transparent backgrounds and includes some images that it should have left out.

Check out the #EduGIF below.  A Pausable #EduGIF is available here.

Google Transparent Image Search Animation

4 Tips for Assessing Growth in Student Writing in Google Docs

It’s safe to say that most educators agree that feedback should be given to students not just at the end of an assignment, but also during.  Many educators would even say that the “during” feedback is more important, especially in writing.  But, how do we do that efficiently?  Reading & assessing student work twice takes up lots of time.

Well, I have 4 tips that I think can help.

By comparing a rough draft (or earlier draft) to the final draft (or most current draft), the teacher can assess the changes being made and decide if additional changes are necessary.  It’s also a great way for teachers to see what areas for improvement students are and are not catching.

Google Docs offers some great functions for doing this.  In this post, I’ll share 3 tips with you to help with this process.

Continue reading 4 Tips for Assessing Growth in Student Writing in Google Docs

Graphic Design Tools in Google Slides: Align, Distribute & Center

On the Google Teacher Tribe podcast (one of my favorite podcasts) Kasey Bell & Matt Miller often refer to Google Slides as the “Swiss Army Knife of gSuite.”  And I agree!  There are so many things that you can do in Google Slides.  In this post, I’m going to show you 3 super useful Graphic Design tools that are available in Slides.

Align – When you select 2+ objects (images, shapes, text boxes, etc.) you can align them horizontally (left, right or center) or vertically (top, bottom or center) with each other!

Distribute – When you select 3+ objects (images, shapes, text boxes, etc.) you can distribute them horizontally or vertically in relation to each other.  This spaces the objects out evenly.  It’s important to note that it’s based off of the positions of the leftmost and rightmost objects.  So, get your left and right objects into place and then use this tool to distribute everything else out evenly in between.

Center on Page – This tool does exactly what you’d expect it to, but with one nice bonus – if you have multiple objects selected it will center them as a group.  So, the objects themselves may not be in the center of the slide, but they will be arranged with the center of the group at the center of the slide.

A note for the Google Drawings fans out there: each of these items are also available there and work in the same manner.

Check out the EduGIF of these 3 tools in action below and, if it moves too fast, check out the Pausable EduGIF here.

Align, Distribute & Center in Slides Animation

Making Silhouettes in Google Slides

Adjacent Possible.  Have you heard of it?  If you listen to the Educational Duct Tape Podcast, you probably have.  It’s this theory that a new set of possibilities is enabled by taking one step beyond the current state of things.  Every step opens up new possibilities, just like every conversation with a person can lead to new possibilities that you had not considered.

Well, I had an Adjacent Possible experience a few days ago while interviewing Tony Vincent for Episode 26 of the Educational Duct Tape podcast.  Tony was responding to a question about how to help students get to know each other.  He shared with me about this activity that he had done where his students took side profile pictures of themselves and then turned them into silhouettes of in Google Slides.  They then added in images and words that showed their interests.  The students presented their slides to their classmates and, later, those same slides were played on a loop on a screen in the room.  What I love about this activity is that, on the surface, it’s a great “getting to know each other” activity.  But, underneath that, it’s also a fantastic way to teacher kids some new skills with a tool that the teacher planned on using in class.

This is actually an activity that Tony teaches participants in his fantastic Classy Graphics course. If you’re interested in learning Graphic Design with Google Tools, you should check it out!

There are certainly ways to make these silhouettes that would be easier.  But that’s not the point. The point is, opening students’ eyes to the possibilities within the tools that they have access to.  As Tony shared in the episode, his students became highly capable at using Slides to create all sorts of things.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not surprised.  By doing this activity, his students saw slides as more than just a tool for presentations.  They saw it as a creation space.

Well, as you have probably already guessed, I was compelled to turn this into an #EduGIF, so here it is.  After the GIF, I’ll share step-by-step instructions for making these.  By the way, I’d be honored if you used this GIF and these instructions with your own students in class.  You can repay me by showing me some of their creations!

Continue reading Making Silhouettes in Google Slides