Invasive Tech Species: What’s the Right Solution?

Every day, schools struggle to select the right technology to institutionalize in their environments. Limited resources (e.g. staff, funding, time) prevent adopting ALL technologies. And, what’s worse, each company (e.g. Apple, Google, Microsoft) is working to improve their hold on their respective markets. After all, their goal is to be the top predator in their area. Winner takes all, “here can be only one” kind of fight.


Over the last 6 months, I’ve had the chance to hear similar questions to the one that appears below:

My school currently uses O365 which includes OneNote and OneDrive, but is thinking about moving to GSuite… I can see the clash between the two systems being email – would you use Outlook or Gmail?  As the email account forms the basis of both systems, can these work together in some way or do they not play nice together at all?  If you have to choose one or the other as your school email platform, does that rule out using the other system entirely?  Any tips and advice (even if it is “we tried this and it doesn’t work”) would be greatly appreciated.

This is a challenge that many school districts face. When you add technology equipment to the mix, you are facing an expensive problem. What a great chance to have a chat about your school district’s values.

In my role as a technology consultant, I have the opportunity to work with various school districts. Some have chosen one solution over another and moved forward. Others remain paralyzed, leaving the end user the choice of what system to use in the classroom. The classroom teacher must answer the question, “Should I use Apple iPad, Google Suites or Office 365?” And, they have to do this in the midst of a turbulent school climate which may not even support technology use except as an unsupported mandate. “Make it work IF YOU can.”

While self-selecting technology remains a key skill for all learners, this isn’t a question of choosing the right device. Rather, it’s about putting into place background processes (e.g. Single Sign-On) that make using complex, inter-related systems work in an effective, consistent manner. Unfortunately, vacillating between multiple solutions makes each unusable. One example involves automated account management and creation for “Classroom” solutions.

My suggestions include aligning equipment purchases (and existing equipment) to a particular system. If you have Surface Pro tablets, want all your students to take advantage of OneNote, then it’s a no-brainer to jump into the Microsoft world. If you’re 1 to 1 iPads, then chances are, you are going to be buying Macs for folks and creating online content with iBooks Author and iOS apps. If you’re Chromebook heavy, then Google Suites is where you should be headed.

While you can certainly take advantage of some devices in each system, you can’t forget that the vendors are fighting to lock you into their world. Forget this at your peril. What works on one day, may not the next.

Pick the one you would like to be locked in and provides your learners, K-Adult, the most options, aligns to your technology, and stakeholders can support. Anything else is an exercise in frustration for all and a waste of precious funding.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Lessons from Chromebook Educators

Note: This blog entry originally published at TCEA’s TechNotes blog.

“Figure out which toys your friends can play with,” I remember my Mom saying to me before a sleepover with classmates. “And put the ones you don’t want to see damaged, lost, or stolen away.” It’s advice that I took to heart and shared with my own children before they had friends over. Here’s some advice you may want to consider before deploying Chromebooks in schools…or, consider leaving your “best practices” in the comments.

Best Practice #1 – Establish procedures before issuing Chromebooks.

Setting ground rules can certainly help you avoid trouble and heartache down the line. The advice is definitely worth taking when it comes to inviting students and staff to use any kind of device, even durable Chromebooks, in your classroom, library, or school. TCEA member Erin Laughlin (@MrsErinLaughlin) recommends that you consider your responses to questions like the ones below:
  • How will students be issued Chromebooks?
  • How should students be advised to transport Chromebooks?
  • What happens when there is a substitute teacher in the room? Will students be permitted to take advantage of the Chromebook?
  • What should be done when a Chromebook suffers damage?
In response to the last question, one teacher in Fairfield ISD during their Eagle Leadership Academy,pointed out that damage had occurred to a school-owned Chromebook issued to a student. “What did you do?” I asked, wondering if the student was to be forced to reimburse the district or forced to replace the device. “We made sure it wasn’t malicious and then just worked to get it fixed or replaced. No action was taken since this was an accident.” Erin also suggests having rules like these in place:
  • No food or drinks should be in sight when Chromebooks are out.
  • Carry Chromebooks with two hands at all times.
  • Do not get a Chromebook if teacher is out of the room.
  • Nothing should be on the desk except the Chromebook unless told otherwise.
  • Students should only be on websites assigned or approved by teacher.
  • Have students and parents sign a statement saying they will abide by the rules.
  • Have reasonable consequences for students who aren’t following the rules (taking away the Chromebook should be your last resort).
As you might imagine, some common-sense suggestions include assigning a student to be in charge of the Chromebooks, ensuring monitoring of issuance and receipt of devices by class members. Also, consider including a Google Form to let students report how a Chromebook was damaged. Another point to consider is to be sure to label your class Chromebooks so they will be easy to locate in case they leave your classroom. Finally, Kim from Fairfield ISD suggests that the teacher and students get in the habit of plugging in Chromebooks correctly so they are charged for the next group.

Best Practice #2 – Teach Chromebook basics along with digital citizenship.

“You can’t issue students devices until they’ve had digital citizenship lessons required by eRate.” And, of course, digital citizenship lessons also ensure that you can discuss important issues about caring for other people’s equipment. In my experience, students often take great care of equipment issued to them when there is a culture of care cultivated in the school as a whole. Keys aren’t ripped off keyboards in classrooms where the teacher makes every effort to care for his/her technology and assigns students the jobs of cable management, removing dust from devices, and cleaning keyboards/screens. Yet every device brings its own challenges, and Chromebooks are no different. Providing an overview of Chromebook and Google Apps tips ensure that students feel confident in using new technologies, rather than frustrated.

Best Practice #3 – Promote collaboration.

“My two favorite tools for a 1-to-1 classroom,” I shared at the recent Tots and Technology Conferences that took place in Galveston and Frisco this past summer, “include and” Each of these provides critical tools that you need as a teacher to share your screen and presentations with students, as well as collect their work. Nearpod serves as a presentation and eyeball management tool for you, pushing your screen out to all student Chromebooks. Seesaw serves as a digital portfolio that collects students’ digital and physical work in one virtual space that is easily shared but manageable.
ChromebookNote: Scan the QR code shown right using the Seesaw app on your device of choice to get Seesaw Plus for free for 30 days!
Let’s quickly explore some other top tips for promoting collaboration:
  • Quiz tools: Other ways to engage students include quizzing tools like and Quizizz allows students to login with their Google account, and all completed assignments are reported and available in Google Classroom.
  • Easy video assessment: Use tools like EdPuzzle and/or FlipGrid to take already existing videos from YouTube, Khan Academy, etc. or put your own online, then add your voice and questions to create an interactive video lesson. You’ll be able to see how many times your students watch your interactive video lessons, how many times they attempt a question, and the responses given.
  • Share web links with Google Tones: Facilitate the sharing of complex uniform resource locators (URLs) using Google Tone.
  • Take screenshots or record video screencasts: Use tools like the Nimbus Screenshot/Screencast extension for Google Chrome to quickly capture your screen for a flipped lesson or explanation.
  • Use Google Classroom to create a virtual classroom presence for students, blending in Google Calendar and YouTube videos to facilitate online learning.
  • Use badges in your classroom: TCEA member Joe Camacho (@CamachoEdTech) recommends setting up and issuing badges to celebrate student learning and sharing. Students can learn Google Apps tools such as Sites, Classroom, Forms, Docs, Drawings, and Slides, as well as other tools in use like DocHub, Flubaroo, Edpuzzle, Kahoot, Quizizz, creating screencasts, and Padlet.
Another neat tip for promoting collaboration and sharing comes from Erin Laughlin again. She suggests creating a “shark tank” in your classroom, having older students create products that are evaluated by younger students serving as “the sharks.” Older students pitch their solution to a problem using Google Hangouts, bridging the distance between their classroom at one campus and another. Of course, this activity can also be done at even greater distances. If that is of interest, consider the Connecting for a Cause website, where students create a Google Sites web presence that represents their cause.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Backup To and Transfer Between Cloud Storage @cloudhq_net @multcloud

Just two weeks ago, I helped a colleague migrate their Microsoft OneDrive data from a Microsoft-based OneDrive account (personal) to an Office 365-based OneDrive for Business account (work-related).

Adapted from this image from Budget

There are several ways to accomplish moving data, whether Google or Microsoft or something else:
  1. Use  You can sync content back and forth between a variety of services, which makes it a pretty neat deal at $9.90 per month (if you need that level of redundancy) also offers the opportunity to have a 15-day free trial, which works well for staff who are leaving and may just need a one-time task. However, you can obtain additional days of usage by referring to friends and colleagues. Another benefit is that you can set ownership for documents that are transitioned to a new location. There is also a Chrome add-on, Gmail Label and Email sharing, worth investigating (watch video) when transitioning from one email system to another.
  2. Try Using, you are able to “transfer, migrate, backup, sync, move, integrate, manage many cloud drives such as Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, MEGA, SugarSync, Amazon Cloud Drive, Amazon S3 as well as FTP, WebDav, etc. And, transfer files across different cloud drives, such as transfer data from Dropbox to Google Drive.” has also created a Chrome add-on that you can use to easily move/copy content. 
Making backups of critical data is important. These these tools make accomplishing that easy!

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Exploring Virtual Teaching Environments

This blog entry originally published at Read it there!
While learning management systems (LMS) of yesteryear (e.g. Moodle, Blackboard, Sakai) remain powerhouses of centralized control for educators, most of the teachers I speak to are no longer interested. 
It’s as if they are saying, “Ok, why does virtual class management have to be so difficult? I want simple solutions that help me get my work done rather than force me to learn arcane workflows.” As a result, we’ve seen educators eschew solutions like Edmodo, ever on the hunt for the easiest, most powerful tool.
Consider new classroom tools as the latest iteration of learning management systems. For example,  Moodle and Blackboard provided one iteration, Edmodo and Schoology another, and now Google Classroom and Microsoft Classroom are the latest iteration. Let’s explore this most recent iteration.
Update: Since this blog entry was first submitted for publication, both MS Classroom, OneNote Class Notebook and Google Classroom have released powerful new updates that may not be reflected in the feature list below. For example, OneNote Class Notebook now has a “take it on the go” feature. Click links above for more info about each. More video tutorials will be added below to illustrate features so be sure to check back from time to time!
Watch these MS Classroom Video Overviews exploring various features.

What Is Classroom?

The goal of any virtual classroom system, or LMS 3.0, involves providing a suite of online tools that empower students and staff to connect, create, collaborate, and facilitate organization. Microsoft Classroom, like Google Classroom, offers integrated word processing, spreadsheet, slideshow presentation, and cloud storage. Yet it goes one step further with OneNote Class Notebook, facilitating the grading of assignments and full integration with MS Classroom Assignments. MS Classroom, by itself, is a powerful classroom collaboration tool. But add OneNote Class Notebook,and you’ve made it simple for educators to distribute assignments, draw/use digital ink to create and annotate content (e.g. an algebra teacher writes the pythagorean theorem with a stylus or the tip of her finger on the screen and OneNote’s “ink to text” feature converts it into typed text). Then you can add audio comments and feedback to student work along with digital ink feedback.

Features and Benefits

Both Google and Microsoft have a wealth of features. Let’s take a peek, adapting this support document to facilitate a feature comparison. I’ve also added components (e.g. MS Snip/video links to the MS Classroom side or links to Google’s support page) to the “Yes” response if they include items readers new to MS Classroom may be unaware of.

Feature List

Microsoft Classroom


Google Classroom

Save Teachers Time
Add students easily. Yes, and you can add students through a quick search as well as throughSchool Data Sync*. Students can join a class with a code, giving you more time to teach..
Manage multiple classes—Reuse existing announcements, assignments, or questions from another class. Share posts across multiple classes, and archive classes for future reference. Yes, you can post assignments to multiple classroomssimultaneously.

Reuse existing announcements, assignments, or questions from another class. Share posts across multiple classes, andarchive classesfor future reference.
Teach together—Co-teach a course with other instructors. Yes, you can easily add co-teachers. Co-teach a course with up to 20 other instructors.
One-click worksheets—From a worksheet template, create an individual document for each student with one click. Yes, with OneNote Class Notebook integration, you can create individual documents, as well as provide templates for students to use in a content library. From a worksheet template, create an individual documentfor each student with one click.
Rich assignment materials—Add materials to your assignments, like YouTube videos, Forms, PDFs, and other items from your cloud storage. Yes, a wide variety of media (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, MS Sway, Slideshare) can be embeddedby pasting in the link. Documents can be included in Conversations component of MS Classroom as well as embedded in OneNote Class Notebook. Add materials to your assignments, such as YouTube videos, a Google Forms survey, PDFs, and other items from Google Drive. Teachers and students can draw on, write notes, and highlight documents and PDFs in the Classroom mobile app.
Customize assignments—Add optional due dates, create customized grade values, and track which assignments are graded. Yes, each assignment can have due dates and times, as well as custom grade values. You can also quicklyassign grades via a connected OneNote Class Notebook, grades auto-synching to MS Classroom. Add optional due dates, createcustomized grade values, and track which assignments are graded.
Prepare in advance—Draft posts and assignments, or schedule them to automatically post to the class stream at the scheduled date and time. Yes, you can schedule assignmentsin the future. Draft postsand assignments, orschedulethem to automatically post to the class stream at the scheduled date and time.
Quick exit tickets and polling—Post a question to students, then view results within Classroom. Yes, as well as take advantage of Microsoft Forms or Excel Online Surveys. Post a question to students, then view results within Classroom.
Customize your class theme—Change the default color or theme image for your class. Yes, custom banners, icons and titlesare available. Yes. Change the default color or theme image for your class.
Keep resources in one place—Create a class resource location for documents, such as your syllabus or classroom rules. Yes, use OneDrive for centralized location for online documentscreated, and/or OneNote Class Notebook with built-in search, passworded access to sections, and more. Yes. Create a class resource pagefor documents, such as your syllabus or classroom rules.
Keep students organized—Classroom creates a Calendar for each class, adding assignment due dates to the calendar. Students can view upcoming work in multiple places. Yes, create assignment due dates and see those appear in calendar immediately. Students can view upcoming assignments, as well as review completed ones. Students also have a “Mark Done” option they can select and that turns the work in.
MS Classroom also features a private “chat” between teacher and student for feedback regarding a particular assignment.
Yes. Google Classroom creates a Google Calendar for each classand updates the calendar with work and due dates. Students can view upcoming work in the class stream, on their work page, or in the class calendar.
Keep teachers organized—Review student work, including assignments, questions, grades, and previous comments. View work by one or all classes, and sort by what needs reviewing. Yes, one place to review assignments, student comments/questions, as well as the option to view items in OneNote Class Notebook. Yes. Review student work, including assignments, questions, grades, and previous comments. View work by one or all classes and sort by what needs reviewing.
Grade quickly and easily—Sort students by first or last name, see who has turned in work, draft grades to share with students later, add private comments when returning work. Yes. Yes. Sort students by first or last name, see who’s turned in work, draft grades to share with students later, and add private comments. Plus, add annotations and visual feedback to student work in the Classroom mobile app.
Transfer grades—Export final grades to spreadsheet format or to a CSV file for upload elsewhere. Yes, you can export grades through a CSV file. Yes. Export final grades to Google Sheets or to a CSV filefor upload elsewhere.
Integrate with other favorite teaching tools—Sync your existing Classroom classes with partner applications. Yes, OneNote Class Notebook allows for integration with multiple LMSs, including Edmodo, Google Classroom, Moodle, MS Classroom, Schoology and many more. Also, Office 365 Suite of online and installed programs (e.g. Word,Powerpoint, OneNote, Excel). Yes. Sync your existing Google Classroom classes with partnerapplications.
Communicate and Collaborate
Access anytime, anywhere—Access Classroom on the web or via the  Android and iOS Classroom mobile apps. Yes, iOS  and  Android apps are available. Also features OneDrive cloud storage and OneNote apps for all platforms (e.g. iOS, Android, Windows, Mac). Yes.
Real-time feedback—View, comment, and edit student work in real time. Yes. Yes.
Create class discussions—In the class stream, post announcements, engage students in question-driven discussions, or move important topics to the top. Yes, you can use MS Classroom Conversations feature. Yes.
Manage class discussions—Control who can post to the class stream and mute individual students from posting or commenting. Yes. Yes.
Share content—Share links, videos, and images from websites to Classroom. Yes. Yes.
Push content to students’ screens—Push web pages instantly to a class. Students can also share their screen with their teacher. Yes*.

*Note: You can push or “distribute” content instantly using OneNote Class Notebook(which is “baked into” MS Classroom). These pages are instantly available via OneNote Online for students.
Easy Admin Support
Affordable and secure—Like other services, Classroom contains no ads and never uses your content or student data for advertising purposes. Yes. Yes.
One sign-in—Teachers and students can sign in to Classroom with a single sign-on. Yes. Yes.
Professional development —Get your teachers using Classroom quickly with free online training. Yes. Professional learning online is available and a click away in OneNote Class Notebook. Yes.
Personal data protection—Classroom is covered. Yes. Yes.
*More on MS School Data Sync: “School Data Sync imports school roster data from the school SIS (like PowerSchool) and synchronizes it with Azure Active Directory and Office 365 so that Classroom (or any other application) can use the roster data to create online classrooms, have context about the student, and even enable single sign-on.
Schools can also use Microsoft School Data Sync to automatically create classes and add students based on the school’s student information system (SIS) roster.” Watch this short video about School Data Sync!
And, this chart doesn’t even mention online surveys and/or forms, both of which are available through Google Forms and Microsoft Forms (read this post by TCEA Board Member, John Bimmerle, on Microsoft Forms). That will be the subject of a future blog entry.


These two third generation LMS players are quite evenly matched, offering school districts who are looking for an alternative to Google Classroom that relies on robust, familiar MS Office tools a rich alternative. Given the speed with which Microsoft is working to add new features, both should reach parity soon. However, OneNote Class Notebook, OneNote Learning Tools, Collaboration Space, and the ability to quickly disseminate handouts and resources to students via the Content Library give Microsoft Classroom the edge. What’s more, OneNote serves as a great ePortfolio solution that can integrate with a variety of learning management systems, including Google Classroom. Depending on your needs, there is no reason why your district or school couldn’t mix and match the various tools (e.g. Google Classroom + OneNote Class Notebook, MS Classroom with YouTube) to get the desired results.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Google-Animated Book Display for Your Library @kristawelz

Krista Welz (@kristawelz) has shared an incredible use of Google Slides to create what she calls, “animated book displays.” This allows you to feature your school library’s new books or a specific genre collection. 

Note: This blog entry originally appeared in TCEA TechNotes award-winning blog at

She has even created a template to go with it. Krista describes it in this way:
Feature your school library’s brand new books or a specific genre collection with this animated book covers display. The display is made on Google Slides – yes, Google Slides. It is a slideshow with preset animations on each book cover.
She offers this template for download; when you click it, you will be given the option to make a copy of it into your own Google Drive (you will want to be signed into your Google account).
Here are her step-by-step instructions with some minor edits.
  1. Create a new Google Slides file. Set your background to white.
  2. Create a list of the books you want to display on your animated book covers slideshow. You can type them in a list on Google Docs or use any list-maker method you prefer.
  3. Create a folder on your desktop titled “book covers.”
  4. Go to and search for a book on your list. Right-click on the book cover image and save it to your desktop folder labeled “book covers.” Repeat this step for every book cover you need to save. Once you have saved all the book covers to your folder, you will start inserting them into the slideshow.
  5. The animating book covers slideshow is set up with two rows and five columns. You are going to start inserting your book cover photos and arranging them in two rows and five columns. All book covers have to be resized to the same height and location. They need to be consistent and match each other. Once the books are perfectly resized and aligned correctly, you will add the animations to them.
  6. Now you are going to animate each book cover in a zigzag pattern.
    1. If you click on the first book cover labeled #1, you are going to add an animation to it by clicking on the Insert menu and choosing Animate. The Animation window pane will pop up on the right of the screen.
    2. The animation you want to choose is “Fade In – After Previous.”
    3. Next, choose the book labeled #2, click on Insert, choose Animation, and then set it to “Fade In – After Previous.” You are going to do this for all 10 books.
    4. There is only one change to the animation that you are going to make. The change occurs on your sixth book. Instead of choosing the animation “After Previous” – you will choose “With Previous.” This change in animation reduces the choppiness, giving it a smoother flow.
Please take note of the animations listed on the right-side of the Google Slides slideshow. You must follow this exactly as it is shown to have a beautiful, flowing animated book display.
Some other points that Krista makes:
  • Once you access the slideshow, all you have to do is right-click on each book image on each slide and then choose Replace image.
  • You will then select Choose an image and then upload the book cover(s) from your desktop folder of saved book covers. All the animations and slide transitions are already timed for your convenience.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Flipped Learning with Podcast #flipped #screencasting #msftedu

Amazingly, someone (names changed to protect the innocent) wrote me yesterday with this request about flipped learning:
This is Rachel from Jeremiah Middle School in a large urban school district in San Antonio, an admirer of your mad tech skills. Here’s the scoop: I am in need of a quick and fast mini-lesson on the topic of “flipped lessons.” The teachers are now being asked to compose several flipped lessons for the upcoming year. If you can tell me what information I may be able to instruct the staff on, it would be greatly appreciated.

What Is Flipped Learning?

If you are not familiar with flipped learning (#flippedlearning Twitter chat is nice to get caught up), here is how I describe it to others:
In a typical flipped classroom, students listen to pre-recorded video lectures beforeclass and perform other learning activities in class. In this flipped structure, students are exposed to material before class via videos and readings, and they attain deeper knowledge in class via activities. Why would you want to go to the trouble of doing flipped learning? Because the research says it works. I like to point folks to 10 Published Findings and Studies that offer qualitative and quantitative results in support of flipped learning, as well as Sophia Learning’s Flipped Classroom online course (free!). And keep in mind that flipped learning can work with students of any age.

Overcoming Technical Obstacles

Unfortunately, many teachers who are uncomfortable with technology to begin with get hung up on the technical aspects of flipping the classroom. Here are some practical suggestions for helping them in professional learning:
1) Show teachers how to storyboard their content first, then create a video about their lesson with the tools they have on hand. All the tools are free to get started. (A few of my favorites appear below.)
2) Keep videos short, 5 to 10 minutes max (shorter is better). You can always create more videos. Think “bite-sized chunks” that students can nibble on their way to/from school, sitting somewhere waiting for an adult to do something, or during the gap in a basketball game on television or in person.
3) Figure out where the videos will be posted. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT question to get answered before you start encouraging teachers to start sharing flipped video lessons. If you’re using Google Apps for Education, you have unlimited storage. If you are using Microsoft OneDrive for Business/Schools (Office 365 through your district), then you have one terabyte of storage space. If you are using YouTube, no problem. Video hosting is VERY important because it has to be accessible by both staff and students.
4) Plan for intensive classroom activities, and don’t be surprised if part of your class needs to watch the video in class (set up a pod of computers or devices where that can happen) while the rest of the students wrestle with a real life application of the flipped learning.

Arden Curtis

Listen to Practitioners

In a hallway at the annual TCEA Convention & Exposition, you can learn a lot if you stop to chat with folks. One person that I met during the TCEA 2014 convention was Arden Curtis (@ardencurtis), a ninth grade biology teacher at the time. This was an off-the-cuff conversation that yielded quite a few insights into flipped learning. Be sure to listen to practitioners like Arden.
Listen to Podcast of Arden Curtis (@acurtisteach),
9th Grade Biology Teacher, Veteran Flipped Classroom Teacher

Flipped Learning Tools

Looking for some quick tools to get started?
  1. Microsoft Snip: If you are on a Windows computer, then give some serious consideration to Microsoft Snip, which allows you to snap a picture of your screen (e.g. a technical diagram, student work that needs feedback, whatever) and then record audio as you annotate it. To get an idea of how this works, play the short Snip I recorded .
  2. “When I started to design technology training for our district, I knew that to reach all the members of our school community, I would have to offer multiple delivery methods. Screencasting was a perfect solution for that as it affords teachers and students the chance to learn at their own pace.” – Dr. Roland Rios (@drrios), Fort Sam Houston ISD. If you’re exploring flipped learning, the word “screencasting” is one you will hear often. As Dr. Rios points out, screencasting affords teachers and students the opportunity to learn at their own pace. Here are some commonly used screencasting tools:
    • Chromebook and/or Chrome-friendly tools that work for any computer that can run the Chrome browser, including Chromebook, Windows, and Mac:
    • Windows/Mac Computer: TechSmith’s SnagIt+Camtasia Studio. I highly recommend SnagIt ($29.95), as well as Camtasia Studio ($179.90) if you need higher end video capture and editing. These are the tools that Arden, featured above, has used.
    • iOS/Android: Reflector 2 app + one of the solutions shown above. For Android only, try AZScreenRecorder
Are you an iPad fanatic? Lots of people are and these devices make for perfect flipped learning platforms. With iOS devices, give serious thought to one of these three apps:
  • Explain Everything Interactive Whiteboard. This is my must-have app on iOS devices. There is so much you can do with the app, yet it has a deceptively simple starting point for those unfamiliar. You can find tons of tutorials online. This app is available for Chromebooks, too. A different version of Explain Everything, known as the Collaborative Whiteboard, offers hosting for videos at a price.
  • Touchcast. This free app makes green screen, flipped learning, video newsletters so easy. While it may be initially complex because of all the options, I have no doubt a short session and time spent watching others use it will get you ready to create flipped learning for your students. It is well worth learning all the bells and whistles in this app. Ample tutorials are available.
  • Educreations. This free app has long been on the preferred list for teachers and students. Not only is it easy (view tutorial), but it solves the problem that many educators don’t want to deal with in their particular district: where to host the video created. Educreations will host content, of course, offering additional features at a price.
Finally, since flipped learning involves working with video files, I must share some tips on the technical process of dealing with it:
  1. Choose a screencasting tool that allows you to export directly to MP4 video format. This is the most commonly used video format and works with all devices. Anything else will just result in headaches. MS Snip, TechSmith’s SnagIt/Camtasia, ExplainEverything, and Touchcast allow you to do this without much fuss.
  2. The new HTML5 friendly video format is also known as WebM and you may need to convert from that format to MP4 to easily share the file with others. Nimbus Screencast and Screencastify are both Chromebook apps that will save to WebM. You may need to rely on a web-based video converter to get these videos to MP4 format, depending on where you host them. YouTube, though, will accept WebM format.
  3. Take advantage of video conversion tools like the cross-platform Miro Video ConverterFFMPEG GUI, and AnyVideoConverter, to get video the target “codec” you want or need. For a web-based converter you do not have to install (great for Chromebooks), use Online Video Converter.
  4. Decide ahead of time where you will publish your video. The best solutions include Google Apps for Education (GAFE) Drive since you have unlimited space, OneDrive for Business (Office 365), or YouTube. You can also set up your own video hosting solution or take advantage of one like Vimeo.
But, wait, there’s more! Once you have your video recorded and ready for students to access online, you may want some way to determine if they have watched it. Mix in a Google Sheet Reflection with a Flubaroo feedback form that triggers when they submit something, an Excel Online Survey form that allows them to submit their reflections, or have them create something online, anywhere. 
Virtual spaces like Google Classrooms, Microsoft Classroom, Edmodo, Diigo Outliner (free for educators), and Sophia Learning all offer ways to help structure flipped learning content. You can also combine tools like OneNote with Microsoft Sway embedded in OneNote pages to create a virtual “closed space” or an open one, depending on what the culture of your teaching and learning environment.
Whether it’s a piece of writing, a Vocaroo audio file they can send you the link to or a video reflection they can post on YouTube, flipped learning reflections can empower students to become consumers and creators of academic content.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

App-Smashing with #GoogleApps Tools #gafe

This blog entry originally published by TCEA TechNotes blog
“How do you blend tools to solve a real-life problem?” That’s a question that pops up often for me. A popular concept from using iPads is “app-smashing,” which involves taking what you made in one app and dropping it into another. Usually,this results in a refinement of the initial product, enhancing it with audio or video, so that the overall product is improved. You can do the same with Google Apps tools.
Let’s consider these real-world scenarios which may all be solved by combining key Google tools such as Sites, Forms, and Sheets:
Classroom Scenario:
Students have asked how they can know who else has signed up to attend an after-hours, academic field trip. To automate the process, you realize you can create a Google Form to capture student registrations, which are saved to a Google Sheet, and those responses can be displayed on a Google Sites location.
District Scenario:
Staff have a variety of questions regarding a new initiative. They want to make sure you, the administrator, are getting the responses. To eliminate email traffic (after all, who needs more email?), you want them to fill out a Form with their question. Then, you and your team are able to record your response in an additional column. Both their questions and your responses appear in a Google Sheet housing the responses.
Create a sample Google Sites location that provides some background information on the event, has the Forms link, and displays the responses (as well as any additions you have made). Share the link via social media or email the link to the Sites location to those who need it.
Let’s walk through what this might look like:

Step 1 – Create the Form and Sheets spreadsheet which houses the responses submitted.

To begin, develop your list of information queries. For example, in the case of the classroom scenario, you might want to include queries like the following:
  • Your First Name
  • Your Last Name
  • Your District Email
  • Staff or Student?
  • Attend Field Trip?
Once the person has completed the form, they would be shuttled off to the Google Sites location that is to be created in Step 2. In truth, you could probably complete Step 2 first to get the link, or just come back and edit the form. Another key component of this step is to create the Responses form and designate where those responses will appear in a Google Sheet. To verify the form is working, submit a fake response. Once the response has been submitted, you will notice that the Responses Google Sheet has placed your responses beneath a column corresponding to the information queries.
After the last column in your responses, add another column entitled “Status.” In this column, you and/or your team will update the status of each form submitted. In the case of questions, you can type a short response, being sure to set the format for the column to “wrap text.” You will also want to set up notifications on your Google Sheet featuring the responses to the Form so that you receive an email every time the form is completed. Here’s one example with data partially blurred to protect the innocent:
Note: This Sheet’s responses shows the request and status for unblocking content.

Step 2 – Create the Google Site

Create a Sites location with three tabs to include the following:
  1. Home – This tab is your “Welcome” screen that allows you to provide background information for visitors to the Google Sites location.
  2. Ask for Help – This tab includes a link to the “Ask for Help” Google Form. The form is actually embedded in the Google Sites page, enabling visitors to fill it out and submit it without having to leave the Sites location.
  3. Check Status – This tab features an embedded copy of the Google Sheet which houses your responses.
Once your Google Sites location has been created, you can share it with others, even using a URL shortener to make it easier to share.
As you can see, you can add even more information to your Google Sites. But this makes it easy to quickly capture and share information and questions without being inundated via email with people’s requests for assistance. It also more quickly organizes the information for your review, and externalizes it so that anyone you designate can look it up via Google Sites. This eliminates people calling or emailing you repeatedly to ask for the status. And it helps create a knowledge database that facilitates information sharing with interested individuals.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Bend It Like Beckham, er… Google Sheets! #edtech

This blog entry first appeared at TCEA TechNotes Blog
“Bend it like Beckham” is a term that meant little to me as someone not interested in soccer. That is, until I saw an engaging movie with my family a few years ago. One of my favorite movies, Bend It Like Beckam, is described in this way by Wikipedia:
The film is about the 18-year-old daughter of Punjabi Sikhs in London. She is infatuated with football (a.k.a. soccer in the United States) but her parents have forbidden her to play because she is a girl. She joins a local women’s team, which makes its way to the top of the league. Its title refers to the football player David Beckham, and his skill at scoring from free kicks by curling the ball past a wall of defenders.
So what does that have to do with Google Sheets? The idea is that you can use a technology (such as the free Google Sheets) to score and to get the job done, in spite of difficulties and obstacles. At a recent Google Educator Level 1 Certification class I had the opportunity to help facilitate, I had the opportunity to share some of my favorite Google Sheets add-ons and tools. Here is a quick overview of those:
Mail Merge ToolsLooking for a quick way to send out bulk email to others? Take advantage of one or both of these tools, listed in order of preference:
  • FormMule – Allows you to quickly add create information in Google Sheets, then “email merge” it together. This is a great feature because it allows you to organize the mail merge fields in columns in Google Sheets, then drop the column headers into the text of the email, blending them together. It’s my go-to tool when sending email via Gmail and there is a need to send complex instructions or links that are customized for each individual (represented by a row in the Google Sheet).
  • Yet Another Mail Merge – Allows you to quickly “spam” or bulk email people.
Styles: This add-on allows you to customize the look and feel of your spreadsheet, adding headers, coloring rows in alternating colors (e.g. row 1 is grey, row 2 is white, row 3 is grey, row 4 is white, and so on). It meets a need those of us who use MS Excel have to quickly customize the look and feel of a table in a spreadsheet. The Styles add-on makes it easy to achieve a similar effect.
QR Code Generator: This is an easy way to generate QR codes for students or to inventory items. One of my favorite uses for this involves creating HTML or web links to various resources with a QR code, then having QR Code Generator auto-create them. After that, it’s just a matter of printing them out on sticky labels or having students stick them on their intended targets. This add-on also makes it easy to create a text label for each QR code generated so you are not left guessing as to what you are looking at, or trying to scan it with your smartphone’s cross-platform (e.g. Android, iOS, Blackberry) Inigma QR Code Reader app.
Split Names: This is an absolute must-have add-on. Although you can use complex formulas to split names (e.g. “Juan Guhlin” to “Juan” and “Guhlin” in different columns), Split Names makes it a cinch. You are also able to separate out salutations and other elements commonly included.
PowerTools: This particular add-on has so much to offer, you probably will want to read the web site for it. Some of its best features include making the process of dealing with extra spaces, formulas and data in the wrong format, inserting or deleting cells and shifting adjacent data, changing case, or swapping values easier. Also, you can click once to AutoSum numbers in every row or column, as well as sum and count cells by color. PowerTools also makes it easier to search all selected sheets for certain values, formulas, notes, and hyperlinks, as well as split values in a column by any delimiter, string, or by position (think Split Names with more features). You can also automate a variety of tasks, and much more.
What are some of YOUR favorite Google Sheets’ add-ons that help you “bend it like Beckham?” That is, get the job done for free? Please share them in the Comments section below.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Open Educational Resources (OER) – Amazon Inspire and More

Be sure to check out my latest blog entry at TCEA’s TechNotes:

TCEA’s TechNotes blog has a new look! Check it out!

Here’s the start of the blog entry:

High-quality OER (Open Education Resources) can save teachers significant time and effort,” points out this article at Edutopia, “on resource development and advance student learning inside and outside the classroom. Further, open sharing of resources has the potential to fuel collaboration, encourage the improvement of available materials, and aid in the dissemination of best practices.” Given that OER is increasingly available in education space, representing various “big players” like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft’s, it’s worth taking a look at new offerings in this space.
What will these services mean for school districts and teachers? And, more important questions linger, such as, “Should teachers and school districts be trying to create their own content when so much is available online already? If not, who curates OER content?”
Let’s explore three current and future sources of open educational resources

Read the rest of this blog entry online at TCEA….

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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