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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Simple Video Presentations with Google Slides and Screencastify

This is an updated process I first highlighted on this post from 2015. I used to use SnagIt to record the video, they stopped supporting it a few months ago. I've started using Screencastify. Below I have two updated tutorials that show how to record presentations using it.

The idea of these projects is that students make a slideshow presentation, then they record the screen and their voice as they present it.

Here is an example of how the final video might look. (Note that this is the same example I used in my post from last year, so it was actually recorded with SnagIt.)

Screencastify is a great Chrome extension for this process. It makes it very easy to record the presentation on a Chromebook or laptop. It also links directly to Google Drive, so students don't have extra steps of uploading video files to Drive.

This tutorial shows the setup process, which has to be done the first time you use the extension. It's very intuitive to click through, but you might want to watch this before you try it with a class, just so you'll know what to expect.

Then this tutorial shows how to actually record the presentation (which is limited to 10 minutes if you're using the free version of Screencastify). As it says in the video, there are three things students should do before recording:
  • Do the process shown in the video above to set up the extension.
  • Make the slideshow. I suggest doing this in Google Slides, but you can use any slideshow app.
  • Practice! It's very important to rehearse the presentation because these have to be done in one take.

As you can see from the tutorial, the resulting video ends up in Google Drive. From there it's easy to share or turn it in through Google Classroom.

There is a paid upgrade of Screencastify which removes the time limit and watermark. It also allows for some basic editing. I haven't paid to upgrade yet, but the option to edit is very promising. 

If you have any questions about this process, please let me know. I'd like to improve these resources so they benefit many students!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Few Free Templates for Notes and Reflection Using Google Apps

I love reflection activities that get students thinking about the learning in a deeper way. These usually amount to just asking good questions and they do not have to involve technology at all. As our district is using a lot more Chromebooks, though, I have been creating more templates that use Google Apps to make it easy for teachers and students to manage the work digitally.

When you click the links for the templates below, you'll get a copy in your Google Drive. From there, you can edit them any way you need to for your lessons. I also hope they give you ideas for other templates specific to your teaching style.

Learning Target and Reflection Journal

As our district is focusing on learning targets this year. Andrea Thelen, one of our English teachers, came up with some reflection questions to direct students to the targets. Her students complete the form below at the end of class a few times each week and they do a summary activity at the end of the week.

I put the original in this Google Document and we shared it with other teachers who have adapted it to fit their needs.

Note-Taking Template

This one is based on the Cornell Note-Taking System and what I read in Marzano's book, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works.

I created the Note-Taking Template as a Google Slides presentation because that allowed me to add a background image that wouldn't be edited accidentally when students typed in the text boxes. 

A Slides presentation also makes it easy to keep multiple pages of notes in one place. To make more pages, students can just right click on a slide on the left of the screen and choose to duplicate it. Of course if they plan on using multiple pages, it's best to always duplicate the first slide before typing on it, so they always have a blank one to duplicate later.

Students will need to use the zoom tool to zoom in once or twice to easily read the template and their notes. The "presentation" that it refers to could be anything--your lesson, student presentations or a movie, for example. 

If you want to edit the background image, on the Slides template, I created it as a Google Drawing. Just edit this Drawing so it looks how you want, then download it as a PNG file. Use that PNG as the background on your Slides template.

Lab Poster Template

I created this Lab Poster Template for a science teacher who wanted a simple way for students to report about their experiment. It's a Google Drawing and it serves as an example of how easy this tool is for making digital posters for any learning experience. (See this post on my other blog for another fun example.)

Students can add tables, clip art or even photos they take. To get those photos into the Drawing, I suggest uploading them to their Google Drive using the Google Drive app on their phone or tablet. Once in Drive, it's easy to import them into the Drawing.

See my video below if you or the students are unfamiliar with Google Drawings. It's a very informal tutorial I created so the teacher could help his students get started. It explains basic editing and how to insert images.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Finally! Collect Files in Google Forms

This past week I was presenting a session about Google Forms when I noticed they activated the File Upload question type. This is an option I have wanted for a long time, so I was glad to see it!

Note that it's only available on my G Suite for Education account. I don't know if they plan to release it for regular Google accounts or not.

While teachers can easily get file submissions from their students through Google Classroom, this upload option makes it possible to get files from anyone. I can see it being very useful for gathering pictures from families for a yearbook or for collecting documents that might be posted on the school website.

Here's how it all works.

First, start a new Form like you always would. Type the text you want for the "question". In this case it will probably be directions for which types of files you want the user to upload. In my example, I used the text, "Please upload the photo." (Note that you can add other questions to your Form like always. In this example I'm only focusing on the File upload question.)

A)  Select File upload as the question type. It will first give you a warning that any file submitted through the Form will go to your Drive.

B)  After you continue past that warning, you'll see two other options appear under your question. If you click the first dropdown, you'll see different file size limits you can restrict the file to. The second dropdown lets you accept any file type or limit it to certain media like audio, images, presentations, etc.

When you share or post your Form so others can respond to it, the next picture shows how these questions will look. It has the text you type and an "ADD FILE" link. When the user clicks that link, he or she will have an option to upload the file from a computer or from Google Drive.

Note that when a user chooses a file to upload, it immediately goes into his or her Google Drive. 

Once the user submits the Form, a copy of that file (not a shared file) is uploaded to your Google Drive. You will be the owner of that copy. It goes into a folder that is automatically created and that will be given the same name as your Form. It also adds the user's name to the end of the file name, as you can see in the next picture below.

You can easily access the uploaded files in the Responses tab of your Form. You'll see in the picture below they are listed under the text you entered for the File upload question. You can also click the VIEW FOLDER link to open the Google Drive folder that contains all uploaded files. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Creating Self-Grading Quizzes with Google Forms and Administering Them Through Google Classroom

Here are two videos I created to show the teachers I work with the self-grading features of Google Forms. This makes a great option for a quick formative assessment.

This first video shows the basics of making a quiz with Google Forms. I focus more on the quiz aspect than the question creation steps. You'll notice I say that Gmail is not an option for students, but that's just because in our district we have it turned off.

This second video shows how you can assign that quiz to your class using Google Classroom. It also shows the steps for accessing the results and returning it.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Announcing My Game Design Project Packs

This week I went live with my game design project pack website. You can check it out at

The project packs are collections of resources that help students make fun, simple games based on your lessons. Some key features are:
  • Through group discussion and individual reflection, students will explore the class content in order to apply its themes to a simple, novel game.
  • Creative teachers and students can use the project in many subjects, but they work best as creative projects for social studies and language arts.
  • The games are non-digital, so you won't lose class time while students learn to program a computer.
  • All resources are created in Google Apps, so it's easy to assign and students can collaborate on the games.
  • The project is very flexible. Teachers can focus on the game design process as much or as little as they want.
Right now I have two project packs, both of which appeared on this blog in two series of posts. I plan to add at least two other packs by the end of the month.

Another part of the site I'm excited about is this page designed for students. It offers several resources for those who want to dig deeper into game design.