Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

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.

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.

Camtasia Recording Tip for Capturing Phone and Tablet Screens

April 8, 2016

DR-Camtasia-148x148Camtasia remains my favorite screen recorder because of it’s flexibility and editing capabilities.  Recently someone asked me to make a screen recording from their iPad.  After updating my operating system and Camtasia software I was ready to try this out.  Everything looked good-Camtasia saw the attached device.  But when I made a recording it was a failure.  After some sleuthing on the web, I found the answer which was not intuitive.

camtasia and iphone recording

If you’re using Camtasia to record the screen of a mobile device, make sure you select BOTH your microphone AND audio from the device, even if you don’t plan to use the audio from your device. Don’t worry, even if you don’t need that audio source, you can always mix/edit/delete it because Camtasia puts it on a separate track, as seen here:

separate camtasia tracks

Well, that’s my quick tip for this week.  I hope to return to being more active in my blog posts, it was just another crazy winter that I went through.

As always, I welcome your thoughts , comments, and feedback.

Adobe Connect to the Rescue!

February 22, 2013

Thanks to suadmissionsadobeconnectthumbnailperstorm Sandy last fall our admissions department had to cancel quite a few presentations on the East Coast.  They approached me to discuss the possibility of using Adobe Connect to reach out to the potential students.  What really impressed me about the folks in the admissions office was how they took my advice and did everything to assure a successful webinar, and it was a huge success.  What did they do?  They came in and learned about the software and tried it out for themselves in some test situations first.  They took their spectacular presentation that was in Mac Keynote format and changed it to pdf, with adjustments where necessary to make it look perfect in Adobe Connect.  They used a good USB microphone (AT 2020) and we monitored the sound from another room, with headphones.  Also, as you can see in this photo, one person presented while another facilitated, answering questions.  We  had a few more people on hand who were also monitoring and answering questions from prospective students by using the chat window.  Because it was such a success, I know they’re planning to use it more in the future and will probably add some interactive survey questions too.  Preparation, testing and employing best practices=success.

Other Uses for Powerpoint (or Keynote)

September 28, 2012

Besides the obvious use of Powerpoint for presentations, there are other creative purposes for this ubiquitous software.  Many folks in the K-12 realm are probably aware that you can set up a Powerpoint presentation to act as an interactive Jeopardy (or other type) game.  Some examples and templates are here.

A few weeks ago a staff member asked me how to make a collage in Photoshop.  I explained that rather than deal with all the layers and their attributes in Photoshop, you can create a photo collage in minutes with Powerpoint. Resizing and setting transparency are a snap.

For training purposes I often include screenshots of programs so that learners will know exactly where they should be navigating.  If I drop the screenshot into Powerpoint, it only takes me a moment or two to add arrows and text boxes.  And with the addition directions in text boxes, it may not even need audio narration or further explanation.  Of course, I often “save as” a pdf or jpg for easy attaching to emails and problem-free viewing by recipients.

When it comes to creating fliers for events, Word has more templates these days, but for quick free-form composing you can’t beat Powerpoint for mixing images and text.  By clicking on Page Setup you can change the orientation to vertical and even choose an 11X17 size. Here is a tutorial that shows some cool tricks for creating fliers or combinations of text and images that you can use elsewhere.