Google App Rescue

November 7, 2017

google app GMy coworkers came to me with a problem: We needed to host four webinars for school principals but had limited space in each.  Could I find a way (with minimal work and communication to leaders) to limit registration?  Google apps came to my rescue, or rather I went to Google apps for my rescue-I was in the driver seat after all.

The first thing I did was create a Google doc explaining the process to sign up and showing the dates and times for the webinars to choose from:

initial google doc without links

Then I created a separate Google form for each date and time.  I used the copy feature to save time in producing four of them.  On the Google doc I linked to the corresponding form:

google doc links for dates

Back on the Google forms I installed the add-on “Form Limiter”.  On the Form Limiter I set the number of attendees I would allow in each webinar.  When the form/registration was full the person would receive a message referring them back to the Google doc to choose another date and time.  I was also notified when the limit was reached and I went back to the Google doc and eliminated that choice for future responders.

form limiter pop up settings

Voila!  It worked pretty well.  I just hope the add-on is there the next time I need it.  I’ve seen add-ons come and go on Google apps.

Would this solution work for you?  Are there other ways to solve this problem in the future?  Let me know via comments.  I’d love to hear from you.

Open to New Webinar Tools

September 14, 2017

ZoomLogoSmallIn my career I’ve tried to keep myself tool agnostic-not sticking to a single tool in my software box.  When it comes to webinars it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Adobe Connect for all its professional features.  But this year I’ve been using two other webinar platforms for certain situation- Zoom and Big Blue Button.  I’ll share my experiences with them here.

Big Blue Button is the webinar tool that comes with our current LMS-Schoology.  I like the fact that it’s available to everyone who logs in and they can run as many webinars as they like.  I think it’s particularly useful for teachers to use as office hours or help sessions for their students.  It has a fairly intuitive interface.  The main drawbacks that I see are 1. In our version, recordings only last for 7 days and 2. The screenshare function has too many hurdles for most users to overcome (clunky plugins).

I’ve used Zoom webinars in several different settings.  For a large scale meeting with almost 200 principals we bought a large webinar subscription.  For smaller meetings, 8-20 people, I’ve used their (mostly) free meeting version.  It has an intuitive interface and pretty good audio and video quality.  In particular I like the phone call in numbers that attendees can use for audio only.  I also really like how attendees can adjust the windows/frames to personalize their experience.  The main drawbacks is that it doesn’t let me load and share files ahead of time like the way I setup a lobby room in Adobe Connect.  I hope to figure out a workaround in Zoom for this function.

So, with these additional tools now at my disposal I meet with people planning webinars and discuss their specific needs/objectives.  After that needs assessment I will choose/recommend the webinar tool that best fits the wishes of the users and try not to play favorites.

Top Five Takeaways from Schoology Next 2017 Conference

August 17, 2017

Schoology Next BadgeAs most of you know, after I attend a conference I share my top takeaways.  I was very fortunate to attend the Schoology Next Conference in Chicago this summer.  Here are my top five discoveries:

1. Great tips on Gamification in PD

Jared Lopatin led a session with more tips than I could imagine.  Having us join the gaming in his course we first were divided into teams by responding to an Egg Sort Quiz in Schoology.  Based on our question response, we were placed on a team with a unique name.  Design tips from Jared include:

  • Using teams helps keep a social element that tempers individual competition
  • Use the word “challenge” instead of “assignment”
  • Go big with points, think 100’s for any activity, more points means more excitement
  • Create a video intro to each challenge
  • Use individual and team leaderboards
  • Don’t display who is on which team so that participant and to instruct with each other to find out
  • Award bonus points for activities like the discussion boards.
  • The weekly discussion boards became extremely active due to fun questions/challenges.

Given Jared’s advice, I may gamify one of my future courses.

2. How to prevent students from eluding the post first before reading other posts restriction.

A good control feature to elicit original posts on a discussion board is to set them so that students must post first before seeing the posts of fellow classmates.  I learned that students were eluding this by posting anything(even a single word), reading others, and then deleting their initial post.  To prevent students from doing this, set the discussion board so that students can’t edit/delete their posts, and let them know about this additional accountability setting, so that they’re not surprised by any consequences.

3. Using Schoology during F2F workshops

Throughout the conference we referenced a Schoology course that contained folders for every session.  This was a great way to find/share/save resources and save a lot of paper too! Folders contained slide presentations (Google Slides), links, videos and handouts.  In addition to just storage/reference, presenters also used the poll features to do live polling of the audience, and discussion boards for ideation, sharing, and questions that could be answered afterward in followups after the conference.  I’m still participating in some of the discussion boards weeks after the end of the conference!  I highly recommend everyone create a Schoology course for every face-to-face workshop you facilitate.  AT DPS we’re doing this for an upcoming professional development day where I’m giving a workshop.  I have a folder ready for all my material and activities.

4. Adult Learning Theory Applied in PD

Gina Harman and Rachel Gorton gave great examples of how they design blended courses.  They focus on the Why-telling what the benefits will be for teachers and their students.  They model adult learning principles by letting teacher choose their own path, including cohort collaboration and sustaining their course over nine months.  They’re fond of using simulations that put the learners at risk in situations.  Then they learn through feedback (automated in the simulation) and in the end receive digital badges and certificates to reward their achievement.  You should know that I’m a fan of digital badges/microcredentials.

5. Back Channel app  backchannelchat.com 

I’m a strong believer in the power of backchannel chats, and was so happy to find this app.  You can find it by going to your home page in Schoology and looking on the left for App Center.  Click on this and scroll down, find Backchannel app and add it to your courses. It will say “starting at $15” but educators can get a FREE account.  This app solves the problem of how and where to host real time chat and get backchannel discussions going.  What I really like about this app is not only does it fully integrate with Schoology, but it also has K-12 friendly features of teacher moderations, profanity filter, upvoting, teacher pinning, search and teacher locks.

Gifs in a Jiffy

June 9, 2017

gif-iconTo support an upcoming streaming event I needed to create a gif. (Let’s not digress into a debate on how to pronounce gif.)  Denver Public Schools has a commitment box that is made available at all large culture-building events.  Since this upcoming event will be solely online I came up with an idea to make a virtual commitment box to interact with.

First, I needed to create a gif showing someone dropping a commitment card into the box.  I searched for gif creators that could do the job for free and with the least amount of hassle.  I tried giphy.com, Imgflip and gifmaker.me  with the latter winning out for ease of use.  I shot a four photo sequence of my coworker, Anna, dropping a commitment card into the box.  When I uploaded the images to gifmaker.me the interface was intuitive and simple.   Although all I had to do was upload and reorder the images, there were multiple choices available to me: resizing, animation speed, repeats, and even the option to add music. In about a minute total working time, I had my gif downloaded.

My next task was to create the Google form and add it to the top.  Google forms is becoming more and more open to customization.  I chose a blank form, changed the color to match the card Anna holds in the animation and then uploaded the gif to the description area of the form.  You can take a look at the finished product here:

I think this is going to work out pretty well for the event.  What do you think?  What is your favorite gif maker?

Cool Quiz Feature in Google Forms

May 22, 2017

google forms iconRecently I had a request to create a check for understanding quiz at the end of a screencast.  Leveraging my updated Camtasia software with interactive hotspots, I was able to add a link to a Google form.  I chose Google forms to ease the access and share reporting with a group of people who would need to see the data.

This was my first time using the quiz features in Google forms and I found the process to be fairly straightforward and intuitive to setup. After opening a form and creating some questions.  Click on the gear icon (settings) to bring up this menu.  Choose Quizzes and toggle the swtich to “make this a quiz”

quiz settings screenshot

Full instructions are here.

Here are some tips from my experience:

  • Don’t forget, after creating your form/quiz to share it with the “send” button, rather than your editing link.
  • Always let users see if they were correct or not.
  • Add some language to the bottom of the form such as “After submitting, click on ‘view your accuracy/score’ to see how you performed.”
  • Even if tallying points isn’t crucial to your quiz, add points anyway to give people an idea of how well they performed and it adds a dimension of gamification.
  • Consider giving detailed feedback when someone answers incorrectly.

Are you using Google forms for quizzes/checks for understanding?  I’d love to hear your examples too.

Top 5 Takeaways from CBOL 2017

May 12, 2017

CBOL 2017 logoAfter attending any conference I try to share my top takeaways.  Here are my top five from the Conference on Blended and Online Learning (CBOL)  held this year in Colorado.

1.  Personalized Learning in Jefferson County:  Students have control over the pace and path of their learning in the Virtual Academy.  Despite it’s name implying a 100% online experience, there are face-to-face days with tutoring, guidance and enrichment.  This makes me think that the metastudy done years ago by the Department of Education is still valid-Blended (hybrid) course delivery is the best of both worlds.

2.  DIY Personalized PD discoveries: The smartest person in the room is the room (crowdsourcing, leveraging everyone as experts).   The best PD is developed by teachers for teachers.  Take a look at their presentation here.   During this hands-on, group-sourced session, we came up with these ideas.  Besides this being an engaging session and producing group notes and artifacts, I loved the fact that they walked the talk.  I don’t know why more PD sessions don’t leverage google docs for collaborative notes.

 
3.  From that session, I proposed this metaphor to describe personalized learning:  Drinking from a water fountain as opposed to a firehose:  water fountain personalized learning metaphorI think the metaphor works pretty well.

4.  Becky Nusbaum gave a captivating, interactive presentation where she both showed how Twitter could be used to cultivate PLN (Personal Learning Network)s for teachers, while at the same time we tweeted to each other and added ideas to the session.  I thought that this was a good way to have participants dive right in to the tool being discussed.  Two good resources she shared were  Twitter for Teachers, Chatting and Best Practices  and the Directory of Ed Chats.  It’s on my to-do list to develop a workshop for teachers on developing PLNs.

5.  The keynote speaker, Tom Vander Ark, shared his 18 tips for student-centered learning.  Tom talked about many of these tips as “must do’s” such as: Every student should work on publicly publishing something (as a team) HS level.  Every student should have work-based learning…work-study at Christo Rey for an example.  “High school kids can change the world right here right now.  Let’s give them the skills to live and succeed in this complex world.”   These are powerful ideas and his enthusiasm for them is contagious.   Here is a link to his presentation.  I highly recommend looking at his list.

It’s All Happening at the Library…

May 5, 2017

c811bd04107310c47788d5b937d7cc32Once upon a time, libraries contained books, microfiche, and maybe some film and LP records.  Today, libraries like the Denver Public Library are chock full of computers, but they also have some brand new 21st century resources we can all use.

Recently I visited the central branch of the Denver Public Library.  Of particular interest, to me, is their new digital media labs.  In one space, pictured below, is equipment to digitize analog music and video material.IMG_0026 In the next room is an audio recording facility.  IMG_0020These rooms can be reserved with a library card! For free! Also on this floor is another media lab with 3D printers and another audio recording booth.  If you’re a Denver resident and interested in learning more about these facilities and perhaps booking a room and/or a tutorial, you can find more info here at their website.  The room is called the Idea Lab.  I highly recommend you visit your local library and find out what new media resources may be available to you, for free.

Canva Rocks

March 13, 2017

Canva LogoThere are a lot of infographic tools out these days but none have won me over like Canva has.  My coworker Mattea turned me on to this online application when we were tasked with creating an infographic for our bosses to illustrate some workstreams.  Here’s what we produced:

PLC Schoology Support Highlights

Canva has a lot going for it.  Thousands of templates for web and print use.  Much of the material is free.  You only have to pay for Canva images when you use them (usually $1 a piece).  To avoid the cost you can upload your own images and avoid custom fonts.  One of the things that make it most appealing is the ease of use.  You can create an infographic, poster, invite, or web graphic in minutes-really!  And you don’t need a heavy background in graphic design due to the fabulous templates and the alignment tools that are built in.  When you’re finished with your design it’s automatically saved online and you can download in pdf, jpg or png formats.  Canva scores a 10 from me and you should try it out!  Here’s the link.  Let me know what you think.

Powerpoint Karaoke

February 13, 2017

microphone-closeup-by-paulRecently we held a Powerpoint Karaoke event at work to bookend our workshops on creating better presentations.  The purpose was to have fun but at the same time make clear the difference between great and awful slides.

So, what exactly is Powerpoint Karaoke?  It is an event where volunteer presenters come up to the front of the room and narrate slides that they’ve never seen before.  The slides change automatically and the presenter must improvise with every new slide.  The slides may or may not be related.  For the audience it’s usually a laugh-inducing event.  For the presenters, it can be a chance to show off their improv and presenting skills with welcome humor.

How did we do it and how can you do it?  Here is the way it worked:   First, we sent out a flyer advertising the event with a link to more info and a signup form.

powerpoint-karaoke-flyer

Since we only had one hour or less for the event I decided to have only 10 performer/presenter slots.  Each volunteer presenter would get 9 slides that would show for 20 seconds each.  The total running time of 3 minutes seemed reasonable for possible embarrassment or boredom.  I preselected slides with an intentional mix of good and bad examples.  This assortment added flavor and at the same time demonstrated the power of a well-designed slide.

Because I needed to control the breaks between presenters, I advanced the slides manually with a stopwatch app to measure the seconds.  You could do this with automation, but if so, then I would recommend a blank slide or two between presenters.

After the last presenter/improviser was done I brought out my iPad and opened a free app called Decibel 10th and we metered the applause for each presenter, going down the list and recording the number achieved.  The top applause winner chose one of the items I brought-a gift card, the book Slideology by Nancy Duarte, and a copy of Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  Second and third place winners chose from the remaining prizes.

This was so much fun that we are definitely doing it again in late Spring.  The next time we are also going to hold it in our public lunch space to draw a larger audience who might just stumble upon the event as well.  There is talk about doing this after-hours at a bar/restaurant to enable presenters full freedom in their speech.  I’ve seen this done at other places…just do a search on Youtube on Powerpoint Karaoke and you’ll see what I mean.

Finally, I want to note that this is also a great way to learn more about the talents of members of your team.  Let me know if you try it with your group.  I’d love to know how it went.

Getting to the (foam)Core

January 13, 2017

microphone-blue-lightSomeone was throwing out a very large piece of foamcore and, as I’m in K-12 budget world, I grabbed it for re-use.  The first purpose I used it for was as a light reflector for video and photography shoots.  Then a new need arose.  Our English Learning Acquisition (ELA) office asked me to make an audio recording of 4 narrators who would act out a screencast sequence.  I already had microphones and a usb audio mixer, but I knew that I needed some separation from each microphone during the live recording.  I grabbed the oversize piece of foamcore, cut it in half,  and made two slits in the center, just going halfway up the edge.foamcoreslits8x5

I then slid them together to form a +plus sign and set it on the table.  I placed microphones at each corner and proceeded with the recording of the narration track. foamcore-dividers-8x5

You can take a look/listen here to evaluate the results.

The only thing I would do in the future for this type of setup is to get an even larger piece of foamcore.  This one was originally 3′ x 4′  before I cut it into two pieces.  I might have even added some sound absorbing material to the sides.  But in any case, I’m ready for next time.

I hope this quick tip helps you if you ever need to make a low-budget audio recording of multiple voices.

Always innovating and problem-solving, Paul.