Monday, December 22, 2014

Favorite Chrome Extensions for the Week - December 22nd

It is winter break here in the United States, which generally means two weeks off from school. This is a much needed time for educators to recoup and get refreshed for the second half of the school year. Although this week isn't a set theme I did pick these extension with a purpose in mind. Here is why each of the extensions were chosen:

  • Clear Cache - take this time to clear your head
  • Symbaloo Bookmarker - create a webmix of all the things you vow to do this coming year.
  • Speed Dial - create your own online experience to ensure you are as productive as possible. 
  • Pin It - come back from the break ready to engage the students with creativity.


#1: Clear Cache
Type: Developer Tools (I think it is more Productivity)
Summary: Let's be honest, how many times has an IT person from your district said, "try clearing your cache and see if that fixes the problem." To many people that doesn't mean anything. Here is a quick (non-techie) description of what it means to clear your cache: when you visit a webpage your computer downloads a copy of the webpage and stores it locally(cache data), so the next time you visit that same page the browser will load the page quicker. Sometimes you need to clear your cache in order to stop an older version of the webpage from being displayed. This extension clears your cache for you, so you don't have to remember the steps to complete this action. 



#2Symbaloo Bookmarker
Type: Productivity (online bookmarking)
Summary: Quickly add links to your Symbaloo webmixes with this extension. 


#3: Speed Dial
Type: Accessibility
Summary: This extension allows you to build a new tab experience. Add an image, sync and organize your bookmarks, show your Chrome Apps, display the sites more visited, add widgets and more. 


#4: Pin It
Type: Productivity
Summary: Quickly and easily pin something you find on the web. Also, hover over images and a pin it icon will appear.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

YouTube Can Do THAT!?!

You mention YouTube and the first thing people think about is watching videos. Most people don't know that YouTube is more than just a place to stream and store videos. 

I put together a presentation to show some neat things available through YouTube. You will see ideas like:

  • create & share a playlist
  • get a video to start at a certain time
  • create a webcam video
  • edit a video
  • create a slideshow
  • upload videos from mobile device
  • and more...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Favorite Chrome Extensions for the Week - December 15

So this is one of those random weeks. There is no set theme, but still all great extensions. I hope there is at least one on the list you didn't know about.

#1: EdPuzzle
Type: Productivity (video)
Summary: EdPuzzle, is a great site for creating video lessons from your own videos or videos you find on YouTube, Khan Academy, and more. This extension adds a button next to the YouTube video to easily make them into your next lesson. This is a must have extension for any flipped classroom. 



#2: Diigo 
TypeProductivity (social/online bookmarking)
Summary: If you use Diigo for online bookmarking, then you need this extension. It is allow you to highlight webpage information and it automatically bookmarks it for you. You can add sticky notes, see annotated list, and share the annotated pages via Social Media.


#3: Any.Do
Type: Productivity
Summary: This extension helps you remember everything; drag & drop to plan your agenda, add reminders, attach notes, embedded gmail features. Great for making those list of to-dos.



#4: Page Eraser
Type: Productivity
Summary: This extension is great for students who get distracted by all of the extra information found on websites. The best part about this extension is that you can pick and choose which parts of the web page to erase. Simply hover over and click to remove. 



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Google Apps for Education - A Solution to Your Video Needs

There is a ton of video solution companies out there, such as Kaltura/Media Space, LifeSize/Video Center, Safari Montage, etc. They cost money and in some cases a lot of money, and while some districts have the means to spend the cash there are many out there that are in a bit of a financial bind. 

A video solutions company is nice if you want to have a central location for your staff and/or students to be able to create and store videos. I am not 100% against one, in fact, my district does use one, but I am not 100% on board either. And that is just my opinion. I am not going to bad mouth spending money for video solutions. Instead, I am going to try and offer some suggestions to Google Apps for Education (GAfE) districts out there that just can't afford to or simply don't want to pay money to go this route.  

First off, if you are not a GAfE district, you should be. It is FREE! There are Google Education Trainers, like me, all over the world who can help get your district started. 

I chose the top five features (in no particular order) people look for in a video solutions company. I will show Google tools you can use to complete these needs. If you are in a district where YouTube is blocked for students, don't worry because I will show solutions for the students who don't have access to YouTube.

1. House (store) videos
YouTube is the best solution. Google does not limit the number of videos that can be uploaded and there is no per video charge. Users have the ability to upload videos and set as:

  • private (personal use only)
  • unlisted (people have to have the video URL)
  • public (anyone in the world can come across your video during a search).
If YouTube is blocked for students, then the next best option would be Drive. Now every GAfE Drive account has unlimited storage and the ability to upload a file 5TB in size. Do you realize how long and extensive a video file would have to be to reach 5TB. In Drive, students can set the video to:

  • private
  • share with specific people
  • post for anyone with the link (or anyone within the domain with the link)
  • public.  


2. Record webcam videos
Many people think that YouTube is just a video storage app, but it is so much more. You can record webcam videos straight from YouTube. Teachers can use this to explain a concept and students can use this to show their understanding of a concept. 




If YouTube is blocked for students, then students can use a Chrome Extension, like Screencastify, to create a webcam video. The free version of Screencastify allows for a video up to 10 minutes and can be uploaded to Google Drive (or YouTube).



3. Create screen capture videos
To my knowledge there is not screen capture feature in YouTube, but if I am wrong, please let me know. Screen capture means recording the screen of your device while you walk people through steps or a concept. It is a popular form of video tutorials for web-based tools. I recommend Screencastify as your screen capture tool. The free version allows for a video up to 10 minutes, and to be honest if your screen capture is longer than 10 minutes you have lost the audience anyway. It will upload the video directly into YouTude or your Google Drive, if YouTube is blocked.



4. Live Video Streaming
YouTube allows for live streaming, which is nice when you are wanting to conduct or watch a webinar. Google doesn't charge you a streaming fee or restrict you on the number of videos streamed per month/year. 



Google Hangouts, part of Google+, is another great option for live streaming. You can do a regular video conference (Hangout) or a scheduled event and broadcast it live (via Google+ or YouTube). The recorded Hangout on Air broadcast will be immediately uploaded to your YouTube channel.

I haven't found a free option for live streaming if YouTube AND Google+ are blocked for students. I am always open to suggestions though. 




5. Video Editing
You have the ability to edit your videos and create new videos from a collection of your videos directly in YouTube. There are creative commons videos and audio files that you can choose from to create new videos.

If YouTube is blocked for students, then they can use a Chrome application like WeVideo, to edit a video. When you use the WeVideo Chrome application the video is saved into Google Drive for students to easily access and share with others. The free version gives you 5GB of storage space. Once you publish your video to Google Drive you can remove from WeVideo to gain more storage space back. You just need to make sure you aren't going to edit it anymore.



I know there are more features that companies offer, but for the sake of this blog not becoming 20 pages long, I choose to go with the top five. 





Monday, December 8, 2014

Understanding Chrome Extensions

I was doing a Chrome extensions training last week and I made a fatal mistake. I took for granted that not everyone out there knows the purpose of Chrome extensions. I get so excited about sharing the extensions that sometimes I don't stop to pre-assess where my audience is in relation to their understanding. That is my fault. I know better than that! 

I created this quick visual that will hopefully help people better understand what a Chrome extension can do and why you would want to use them. I will be putting this visual in my presentations so I start with the why and not the what! Funny I have seen the Simon Sinek 'Start with Why' video a ton of times and here I was starting with the what (specific extensions) without sharing the why (how extensions can better your browser experience).


I highlight four extensions every Monday in my 'Favorite Chrome Extensions of the Week' blog. Check out my past blogs to find extensions that will work for you and your students.

Favorite Chrome Extensions for the Week - December 8th

This week's focus is on productivity. The first extension is tagged as a developer tool and I agree with that. But I see it saving a person time in the long run, so that falls under productivity as well. I am pretty sure I can talk myself into anything...

#1WhatFont 
Type: Developer Tools
Summary: Have you ever found a font on a web page and wondered what is was. WhatFont takes the guess work out. When the extension is enabled a font will appear next to your mouse when you are hovering over the text. It is the little things that make a Chrome addict so happy!!!




#2: Draftback
Type: Productivity
Summary: This extension is way cool. It turns the revision history of a Google document into a movie. Great way to see the progress of a story that a student has written or the transition from notes to full lesson plans. 



#3: 1 Click Timer
Type: Productivity
SummaryQuickly set a timer and go on with your work. Plays a guitar melody when time is up. That is so much nicer than the annoying honking sound that so many of the timers play.


#4: QR Code Extension
Type: Productivity
Summary: There are a lot of extensions out there that will create a QR code for you...no biggie. BUT this extension will scan a QR code, which means that classes that have Chromebooks and/or laptops with a webcam can now use QR codes with students.