Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Merge Table Cells In Google Docs Now Available

I've been waiting for this one for a long time and it's finally available.  You can now merge cells inside tables in Google Docs.  After inserting a table, simply highlight the cells you want to merge, right-click on the selected cells (2-finger click on Chromebooks) or choose the Table menu, and choose Merge Cells.  Let the custom formatting begin!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

No Tech Can Revolutionize Education, Just Relationships

Earlier this morning, while reading a post on the te@chthought blog, I learned about the video This Will Revolutionize Education recently posted on the Veritasium YouTube channel.  I really enjoyed the video and agree with most of the points made, especially the statement "The job of a teacher is not to deliver information. It is to guide the social process of learning. The job of a teacher is to inspire, to challenge, to excite their students to want to learn."

There is no single tool, application, or other technology that will ever revolutionize education.  It will always be about relationships.  The relationships between the students and their teachers, between students and their peers, between the educators and their colleagues, and between all the stakeholders and the leadership.  I wholeheartedly believe that the district I work for gets this and that is one of the many reasons that moving to a 1:1 teaching and learning environment over two years ago has found so much success at Leyden.  Because it's not about the tools.  It's about relationships.

One topic not covered in the video, that I have certainly witnessed at Leyden over the past 2+ years, is how effectively used technology can foster those ever important relationships and improve the guidance of the "social process of learning".  Our 1:1 environment has connected everyone far beyond what can be accomplished in a single 50-minute class period or 7-hour school day.  From the always available digital presence of a class in our content learning system to simple email communications, everyone is connected to information, resources, and each other.  In addition, the synchronous and asynchronous collaborative tools that we all use provides an opportunity for everyone to be a part of the process of learning and working instead of evaluators and reviewers of products.

While no single technology can revolutionize education, the collection of effectively integrated technologies can certainly strengthen relationships and maybe, just maybe, that will lead to a revolution.

Here's the video:

Friday, November 7, 2014

Proud To Be A Public District On The List

It was a real honor to find Leyden High School District 212 on Tom Vander Ark's (@tvanderark) 100 Schools Worth Visiting post on GettingSmart.com today.  What I am most proud of is that Leyden is one of the few truly public school districts on this list.  That is a huge testament to the Leyden Board of Education, the administration, the faculty, staff, community, and most certainly the student body.  We are now in our third year being fully 1:1 with all 3.400 students getting issued Dell Chromebooks and have been happy to share our story with thousands of educators around the country by way of opening our doors for site visits, hosting a 3-day 1:1 summer symposium each of the last two summers (and doing it again next summer), participating in webinars, sharing at conferences, and much more.

I have been attempting to archive as many resources as I can remember to add to the 1:1 at Leyden page on this blog.  You can also access this list using bit.ly/Leyden1to1Resources.  I hope you find something there that helps and please feel free to reach out with questions.  I am always happy to share and learn from others, as well.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Shade Alternate Rows in Google Sheets

A few days ago I learned about shading alternate rows in a Google Sheet using the =ISEVEN(ROW()) formula in the Conditional Formatting tool from the Digital Inspiration blog: How to Color Alternate Rows in Google Sheets.

I followed the steps and put together a screencast:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tech Orientation for New/Transfer Students During the Year

There are so many positive components to our Tech Support Internship (TSI) class here at Leyden.  Those of you following our 1:1 digital evolution over the past 2+ years may already know that TSI is our Level 1 tech support for the entire district and all of the students work on learning pathways when they are not actively engaged with a support ticket.  Yet another way that TSI is used is to provide a tech orientation for every new/transfer student that arrives throughout the school year.  Here's a list of what gets covered:
  • Proper Chromebook Usage & Care
    • Storing/carrying the Chromebook (case usage)
    • Preventing screen damage
    • Preventing charging port damage
  • Introduction to the Chromebook
    • Logging into the Chromebook
    • Capabilities of the Chromebook
    • Finding files/downloads
  • E-Mail
    • Sending, replying to, and forwarding emails
    • Organizing emails into folders/labels
    • Using tasks to stay organized
  • Google Drive
    • Creating a document, spreadsheet, and presentation
    • Sharing Docs (view vs. edit permissions)
    • Creating new folders
    • Using/accessing automatic class folders (set up by Teacher Dashboard)
  • Google Calendar
    • Creating new calendars
    • Accessing automatic class calendars (set up by Teacher Dashboard)
    • Adding events to a calendar
  • Chrome Apps & Extensions
    • Accessing the Chrome Web Store
    • Extensions vs. Apps
    • Adding extensions and apps
    • Common educational extensions and apps
  • Chromebook Troubleshooting
    • Shutdown vs. sleep mode
    • Clearing the history/cache
    • Deleting extensions
    • Accessing the Internet at home
  • Home Access System (our student management portal)
    • Logging into HAC
    • Grade checking and other features
  • OpenClass (our content/learning management system)
    • Purpose of OpenClass
    • Accessing classes in OpenClass
Sure, this may take an entire period to complete, but the new/transfer students walk out of TSI connected to our critical systems and with a general understanding of how we operate in our 1:1 environment.  It's an invaluable service offered by our TSI students and it provides them with additional ownership over what we're doing here at Leyden.  The best part of all... this service was completely thought up, designed, presented, and implemented by the students and teachers!

Leyden TSI rocks!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Leyden at ISTE 2014 = The Recharge I Need

photo credit: thetechbuzz via photopin cc

Every year at this time I need a recharge.  While most are enjoying their summer break, I am submersed in closing out/rolling over about half a dozen of our systems; putting together and uploading files into our state database; setting up and managing systems for summer school; managing big summer projects like getting new Chromebooks for all of our students and setting up a new VOIP phone system; preparing for our 1:1 Summer Symposium; running a multi-day technology orientation for our new teachers; overseeing new laptops being set up for about one fifth of our faculty and summer maintenance for the rest; planning for and executing the upgrade to a few of our curriculum specific computer labs; and trying to find time to write evaluations for my team members.  I often find myself staring at my extensive to-do list, or adding to it, and not knowing where to begin.  I need a recharge!

Enter stage right, the ISTE conference.

I enjoy lots of conferences from the perspective of both presenter and learner, but there is something special about ISTE.  Yes, the keynotes and sessions can be informative and inspiring.  Yes, the workshops provide some great takeaways.  Yes, you can connect with members of your PLN in person to create lasting memories.  Yes, you can even expand your PLN with new contacts.  Yes, you can feel like a kid in a candy store in the exhibit hall.  Yes, you can get a rush from delivering a presentation that others find helpful.  Yes, yes, and yes.  But for me, honestly, ISTE is special because I get to bring teachers from my district with me.  Some of them have never even attended a conference.  Hands down, my biggest thrill comes from seeing the excitement in their eyes, witnessing them connect with others, watching them present, and learning about the fires that get lit under them.  That is exactly the recharge I need!

Here is the Leyden group that will be attending ISTE 2014 and a few of the places you can find them.  I hope some of you that are reading this and attending the conference will get a chance to connect with them.

The Group:

  • Mike Fumagalli (@mfumagalliELHS) - Science teacher
  • Maura Gavin (@MauraGavin) - Social Studies teacher
  • Marisa Kapinos (@KapinosELHS) - Science teacher
  • Michelle Marchese (@MsMarchese1)- English teacher
  • Justin McCabe - Special Education teacher (hopeful that a Twitter account is in the near future)
  • Stephanie Zeppetello (@SZeppetello) - Math teacher
  • Todd Veltman (@leydenateam) - Instructional Technology Coach
  • Mikkel Storaasli (@LeydenASCI) - Asst. Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction
  • Jason Markey (@JasonMMarkey) - East Leyden Principal
  • Anita Huffman (@MsAHuffman) - New East Leyden Assistant Principal starting July 1
  • Me, Bryan Weinert (@LeydenTechy) - Director of Technology

The Presentations:

  • Student empowerment, choice and voice: Authentic learning, making and leadership
    Poster session by Anita Huffman
    Sunday, June 20, 8:00-10:00 am
    GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 29
  • Principal leadership for digital age schools
    Listen and Learn Panel including Jason Markey
    Monday, June 30, 10:45-11:45 am
    GWCC B303
  • Writing in the Cloud: Best Practices for Student Feedback/Virtual Writing Conferences
    Google Playground Presentation by Jason Markey and Michelle Marchese
    Monday, June 30, 2:00-2:30 pm
    GWCC Building A, Level 3 (near Room A313) - Stage B
  • Teacher Dashboard: The Missing Piece to Our 1:1 Puzzle
    Booth Presentation by Bryan Weinert and TBD
    Monday, June 30, 2:30-3:00 pm
    Exhibit Hall booth #3014
  • Using Google Apps to implement Next GSS in 1:1 environment
    Poster session by Mike Fumagalli
    Monday, June 30, 4:00-6:00 pm
    GWCC Murphy Ballroom Galleria, Table 20

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Our End-of-Year Chromebook Procedures

I still can't believe it!  It's May 15 and today is the last day for our seniors.  This year, like most, has just flown by.  I thought I'd share how we are ending our year and transitioning to new Dell Chromebooks for the 2014-2015 school year.  If you've been following my blog, you may recall that at this time last year we were gearing up to collect the Chromebooks from all 3,400 of our students (Chromebook Check In at Leyden - 5/23/13).  Things have certainly changed this year.  Here's an overview of what we're doing:

  • All students are being given the opportunity to purchase their assigned Samsung Series 5 Chromebook (and only their assigned device) for the low price of $25.00.
  • Seniors are being required to stop by a designated location at their home campus after their last final exam today to check-in their Chromebook and charger (we're letting them keep their cases) and either purchase their device or turn it in.
  • All Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors are being allowed to keep their Samsung Series 5 Chromebooks over the summer.  When the new Dell Chromebooks arrive, we'll send out some mass communications and allow the students to stop by our summer school Tech Support Intern (TSI) room to either purchase or turn in their Samsung and check-out their new Dell.  If students don't stop by over the summer, they will complete this process the week before school begins during our traditional registration/book pick-up event.
  • We set up a web-based system for students to access in order to verify the serial numbers of the Chromebook and charger that are assigned to them or look-up the owner of the equipment they may have in their possession if it's not theirs.
  • We put together the following check-in form for our students:

  • Any Samsung Series 5 devices that are not purchases will either become loaner devices next year, put on our district bid-list for community members to purchase, or sold off for parts.

Well, it's 9:00 a.m. and I've got to go start the training for our staff that is going to run the senior check-in.  And so it begins... or ends.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The New Chromebook For Leyden Is...

Leyden High School District 212 is currently in our second year of being fully 1:1 with all 3,400 students getting issued Chromebooks. Our current device is the original Samsung Series 5. For the past few months we have been evaluating the new models that have hit the market (HP 11, HP 14, Acer C720, Acer C720P, Dell 11, and Toshiba 13) with the hope of selecting a new device for next year. Here is the process we used to evaluate the new models:
  • Purchased two of each new model as soon as it became available.
  • A few administrators and I used the new devices for a couple weeks.
  • Two of our Tech Support Intern students used the new Chromebooks as their primary devices for 7-10 days and wrote up a review that I posted on my blog (HP 11, HP 14, Acer C720, Acer C720P, Dell 11, and Toshiba 13).  FYI... Our Tech Support Intern class acts as the Level 1 support for all tech-related issues in our district, including the repair of Chromebooks.  Here are their websites:  East Leyden TSI and West Leyden TSI.
  • My tech department team then disassembled and reassembled each device and took notes about the support of each device.
  • Our Tech Support Intern classes were then asked to disassemble and reassemble the devices and provide feedback through a Google Form.
  • My team read as many reviews about each model as possible.
  • My team spoke with all the vendors and asked them lots of questions.
  • We analyzed all the information.
Some of the variables we took into consideration when evaluating the devices included the following:  cost, projected durability, ease of repairs, size, user experience, and vendor support systems.  The two models that made it to our final round were the Acer C720 and the Dell 11 (both 4GB versions).  Here's how they measured up with regards to our key factors:

Dell 11 Acer C720
Note: The Dell 11 is no longer that much more than the Acer C720.  Contact your rep. 

Projected Durability
Ease of Repairs
User Experience
Vendor Support
 The Acer support seemed very good.  One of the reasons we gave the edge to Dell is because we have been using their support system for years and have been very pleased with it.

In the end, especially after some very aggressive pricing provided by our Dell rep, we have decided to select the 4GB Dell 11 as our Chromebook for the 2014-2015 school year.  Earlier tonight, I made a final presentation to the Leyden Board of Education and they agreed to move forward with the purchase and refresh our entire fleet of 3,400 Chromebooks for next year!

The tech-infused culture of teaching and learning in Leyden High School Distirct 212 marches on!

If you'd like to learn more about what we are doing here at Leyden, please consider joining us for our 1:1 Summer Symposium from July 31 - August 1, 2014.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Student Reviews of the Toshiba Chromebook

For the sixth and probably last time this school year, I have asked the same two Leyden Tech Support Intern students to use another new Chromebook as their primary device for a little over a week and then write up their reviews.  This time it's the Toshiba Chromebook.  If you haven't already read their previous reviews you can check them out here:

Now, on to the Toshiba reviews...

Student 1 - An East Leyden Senior

Hello.  I am Bryn, a junior at East Leyden high school and a first year Technical Support Intern.  Over the last few months I have tested multiple Chromebooks including the HP 11, HP 14, Acer C720, Acer C720p and Dell 11.  This review will be dedicated to the Toshiba Chromebook and will highlight the Toshiba’s speed, battery life, and aesthetics. 

To start things off I will be discussing the speed of the Toshiba Chromebook.  When it comes to using a Chromebook in an educational setting, this is one of the most important factors.  On the Toshiba website, they state that the Chromebook “start(s) up in seconds” and has a “reliable Intel® Celeron® processor”.  While they do not provide a specific boot up time, I found that the Chromebook booted up very fast, allowing me to get to work quickly.  I was also easily able to multi-task and navigate through multiple tabs at a rapid rate.

Toshiba claims that this Chromebook has a 9 hour battery life.  As a student who uses the Chromebook to complete assignments using Google Drive, listen to music and watch YouTube videos, I found this to be true.  In fact, the Chromebook lasted a full two days without needing to be charged.  When it did need to be charged, it took approximately 90 minutes to reach 100%.  

While many other reviews on the Toshiba Chromebook mention its lack of visual/design appeal, I actually found the Chromebook to be very appealing.  The silver color is enhanced with a slight dot design on the top cover that makes the Chromebook look very sleek and sort of futuristic.  The Chromebook is significantly lighter than other models (3.3lbs) and the screen is large at 13.3 inches.  In other Toshiba Chromebook reviews, it was mentioned that the resolution of the screen (1366 x 768) leaves a little to be desired; however, it was not an issue for me especially since the device is being used for educational purposes.  The overall size of the Chromebook is larger than other models (aside from the HP 14) and makes the device feel like a more traditional laptop computer.  I did not mind that is was larger because it was so light in weight.  The Chromebook has two 3.0 USB ports, HDMI output port, headphone jack, built-in webcam, security lock and SD card slot. 

One interesting thing that I noticed about the Toshiba Chromebook was the warning that was displayed in both English and Spanish on the underside of the device: “Caution: PC base can become hot!  Avoid prolonged contact to prevent heat injury to skin.”  Having never seen a warning on any other Chromebook, I was immediately curious and extra aware of the heat while using the Toshiba device.  While I did not experience any significant “hot” heat from the Chromebook, it did feel warm to the touch at times.  I did not find this to be an issue while using the device and did not notice any negative effects on the performance of the Chromebook.

Overall, I think this Chromebook could be a good choice for a school’s 1:1 environment.  One of the best selling points is it’s long battery life.  Of all the Chromebooks tested, the Dell Chromebook is still my favorite for use in educational settings.

Student 2 - A West Leyden Senior

The Toshiba 13 Chromebook is the latest, and probably last, new Chromebook model I tested in school. It mostly resembled the HP 14 that I tried some months ago, and the HP 14 looked like a MacBook; therefore, the Toshiba looks like a MacBook. I even had some students and teachers ask me if it was MacBook. As always, they asked me if those would be the ones they would get next year.

I was surprised by the weight of the Toshiba Chromebook. The last Chromebook I tried was the Dell 11, and they felt about the same in weight even though the Toshiba is larger.

Compared to the color of the flamboyant, sparkly pink HP 14, this Toshiba was much more neutral. It seems that metallic gray is the only color choice for this Chromebook, but it would be a good choice for an educational setting.

The startup and loading speed was no surprise. It takes no more than seven seconds to boot. Websites like YouTube only take about five seconds to load, and simpler webpages like our district homepage appear in no time. The speed was much like the HP 14.

The battery life is what stood out to me the most. One day I set the brightness to the max and forgot about it. I also forgot to charge the Chromebook. Surprisingly, the Chromebook lasted two days on full brightness and volume without needing a charge.

The webcam was actually quite decent compared to those in other Chromebooks. Movement was not too blurry, and video looked sharp. I do not know if these qualities remain when streaming via Hangouts or other video call services because they are blocked.

Like almost all other Chromebooks, the Toshiba has two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, SD slot, headphone jack, charging port, and a lock port. There is an orange/green light that shows when the Chromebook is charging/done charging.

One problem that occurred while using the Toshiba Chromebook was that it spontaneously restarted. I had not pressed any buttons, and there were no pending updates. I think the more likely culprit would be the Chrome OS software -- or at least the version that was installed when it happened.

Another thing to be aware of is the durability and rigidity of the device. As I inspected the Chromebook while writing this review, I noticed some scratches and dents on the side that usually touches the ground in my backpack. As the tester of new Chromebooks, I have been and am very careful with the devices, so in the hands of other students, the wear and damage may be worse. The size of it would definitely require different cases than the ones we have already.

The Toshiba Chromebook most closely resembles the HP 14. The size of the Toshiba screen is only about an inch smaller, but the speed is about the same. The only thing that really set it apart from the other choices was the battery life, but even so, the HP 14 had a fairly large battery pack. In fact, in my experience all Chromebooks have lasted at least until the end of the school day. This Chromebook did not offer anything special that would make it superior to the HP 14 or the Dell 11 that I had previously elected as the best choice. Nevertheless, it was a better device than the good ol’ Samsung Series 5.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Student Reviews of the Dell 11 Chromebook

For the fifth time now, I have asked the same two Leyden Tech Support Intern students to use a new Chromebook as their primary device for about a week and then write up their reviews.  This time it's the Dell 11 Chromebook.  Here are their previews reviews:

HP 11  |  HP 14  |  Acer C720  |  Acer C720P

It's looking like the possibility of upgrading the Chromebooks for all of our students next year just may happen.  My team and I are currently analyzing all of the available devices and will certainly be using the reviews of our students to help make our decision.

Student 1 - An East Leyden Junior

My name is Bryn and I am a Junior at East Leyden High School.  I am also a first year student in the Technical Support Internship course.  During the year, I was given the opportunity to test new model Chromebooks  So far I have tested five with the Dell Chromebook 11 being the fifth.

All the Chromebooks I have tested have performed better than the Samsung Chromebook (our current Series 5 model) and this Chromebook is no exception.  In this blog post, I will specifically be discussing the Dell Chromebook’s speed, battery life, accessories & aesthetics.

I was unable to find any information from Dell on the Chromebook’s boot up time; however, in my experience it took approximately 8 seconds to boot up after complete shutdown and 4 seconds to boot up from sleep mode.  With a processor speed of 1.4 GHz, I was able to load pages and work in Google Docs at a quicker speed than my fellow classmates.

According to Dell, the Chromebook has a 10 hour battery life.  On my first day of using the device, I made an attempt to drain the battery by using it as much as possible at school and at home in the evening.  The Chromebook lasted for an entire day of use and then some.  The device has a considerably good battery life and a quick recharge time.  While charging, a white LED light on the bottom right of the device was illuminated.  The light turned off to indicate a full charge.  I did notice that the device did get really warm at times. This may be due to the location of the air vents.

The accessories on the Chromebook are nice. They include a charging port similar to a Dell laptop port, a HDMI port, two 3.0 USB ports, and a headphone jack.  Like all other Chromebooks, the device also has a webcam.  The Chromebook itself is a little larger than the Samsung Series 5 but not as large as the HP 14.  Aesthetically, there is nothing exciting about the Dell Chromebook.  In truth, I found it rather plain and bare-looking; however, it is nicer looking than both previously tested Acer models.  It has smoother edges and a more sleek design.

The Dell Chromebook definitely seems like a more reliable device than the Samsung Chromebook.  I don’t like this particular Chromebook as much as the HP14 Chromebook (my favorite thus far), but it is more convenient due to its smaller size.  I think this device would be a nice option should Leyden decide to change devices in future years.

Student 2 - A West Leyden Senior

This week, I tried out the Dell Chromebook 11.  It is a simple, elegant, yet durable-looking device.  It’s black with a glossy Dell insignia on the front cover and has a glossy screen.  The keyboard and area around the keyboard are made of a rubbery material.  The trackpad and keyboard are responsive and clicky. The Dell gave me a good first impression.  Even its charger set itself apart from the others, with a neat light at the tip of the cable.

HDMI, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, SD, and headphone ports seem to be the standard on new Chromebook models, including the Dell.  Since a lot of classroom equipment lacks HDMI input, an HDMI-VGA adapter may be needed to connect the Chromebook to the projector, monitor, etc.

The Chromebook starts up very quickly in around five seconds.  In terms of speed of startup and loading pages, the Dell may be one of the fastest I’ve tried.  It is on par with the speed of the Acer C720/P.  It lets me start searching almost right after booting up.

I had a few problems when using the Dell.  One time, it seemed to have frozen at the login screen.  There was no backlight, and I could barely see the picture and password field.  I tried pressing buttons and clicking, but it did not wake up.  I also tried restarting it, but pressing the power button did not work either.  I brought it to the attention of Mr. Weinert, and he managed to restart it by pressing and holding the power button for a while.

The second problem also involved the Chromebook freezing.  It happened at home while I was doing homework and listening to music.  The Chromebook just stopped responding and I could not click on anything, though I could move the mouse.  Restarting it worked, but because the administrator settings (at Leyden) force the enrolled devices to load certain tabs on startup, the tabs I was working on went away.

The sleeves/jackets that we have now (for the Samsung Series 5) do not fit the Dell Chromebook very well.  It is possible but difficult to put the Chromebook in, and it requires stretching the jacket.  Electing this device to refresh the 1:1 system may also require new cases.

The Dell Chromebook 11 was a great device in my experience. Albeit it had some issues, they were not significant enough to make me completely say no to it as a choice.  In fact, all things considered, I may have to say that the Dell Chromebook seems like the best contender for an educational setting.  It feels more solid than any other Chromebook; it is faster than most other Chromebooks; and it is as responsive and smooth with the same capabilities as the other Chromebooks.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Leyden at ICE 2014

Here is the schedule of ICE 2014 presentations by Leyden teachers and administrators:


  • Thursday, February 27
    • 10:00 am - Salon I
      Empower Your Students Through 1:1 Access
      by Digital Principal of the Year, Jason Markey and a few special guests
    • 11:00 am - Salon I
      Who is Telling Your Story?
      by Digital Principal of the Year, Jason Markey
    • 1:00 pm - Exhibit Hall Spotlight Stage
      Empower Your Students Through 1:1 Access (repeat of 10:00 am session)
      by Digital Principal of the Year, Jason Markey and a few special guests
    • 1:00 pm - Ruby
      A Panel Discussion: Examining Different Approaches to 1:1 Initiatives
      Leyden's Director of Technology, Bryan Weinert, will be a member of the panel
  • Friday, February 28

Friday, February 14, 2014

EDpuzzle Gets Better

Last week I blogged about EDpuzzle (Supercharge and Personalize Videos for Your Students with EDpuzzle).  Since my original post, I have learned about two new fantastic updates:

  1. New feature: "Project Based Learning" - Teachers can assign a project to their students and the students are the ones that use the video editing tools to create a lesson. Then the teacher receives (privately) all the videos and gives feedback and grade each video. Finally and the coolest part of all, the teacher can save the best lessons and assign them to the rest of the class.
  2. Now available as a Chrome App

I really think this could be a tremendous tool to be used with students, especially in a 1:1 teaching and learning environment and to expand learning opportunities beyond the classroom walls.  Anyone using it yet?  What do you think?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Supercharge and Personalize Videos for Your Students with EDpuzzle

By now, most educators have found that video can be a powerful tool to integrate into their lessons.  Some are creating their own.  Some are just finding and sharing clips with their students.  Some are even going as far as flipping their classrooms.  Whatever the use, video adds another engaging layer to good teaching and can expand learning opportunities to outside of the classroom that students can pause, rewind, and replay.  Yesterday, I learned about an incredible new tool from Kelly Tenkely's outstanding iLearn Technology blog called EDpuzzle that allows teachers to first supercharge and personalize the videos they want to use before sharing them with their students.  Some of the key features of  EDpuzzle include the following:
  • Creation of "classes" that students can easily join with an access code
  • Ability to find or upload videos
  • Ability to crop videos to only use what is needed
  • Ability to add your own voice as audio notes or voice-overs into the videos
  • Ability to embed questions at any point into the videos to check for understanding or serve as a quiz
  • Ability to assign videos to be watched
  • Class progress reports to determine which students have viewed each video and the "grade" they received from the questions they answered
  • Student overview reports to view how each student answered the embedded questions
If you use video with your students, this is definitely one tool to look into!  If you're not creating your own videos yet, this tool might just help jump-start your recording and producing career.

I recorded a screencast of the demo from their website.  Check it out:

UPDATED INFO (to original post)

I just learned about another great feature that was just added to EDpuzzle earlier this week.

  • "Project Based Learning" - Teachers can assign a project to their students and the students are the ones that use the video editing tools to create a lesson. Then the teacher receives (privately) all the videos and gives feedback and grade each video. Finally and the coolest part of all, the teacher can save the best lessons and assign them to the rest of the class.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Narrate your presentations with Movenote

Have you ever reviewed the slides from a presentation and wished you could hear "the rest of the story" behind each slide?  Giving a good presentation is truly an art form and any good presenter knows that less is more when it comes to each slide.  This, however, does not translate well when the slides are published online.  Some of the key points get lost without the narration and the charisma of the presenter is not available to add the extra emotion.  One possible solution would be to narrate your presentations first before posting them.  I recently learned about Movenote which could help fill this void.  Movenote is a Web-based tool that allows the user to import a variety of media (slide decks, documents, images, and other files), organize the materials, and then run through the presentation while recording audio and video of the presenter.  Even better, for Google Apps users, it integrates with your Google Drive.  The finished products can be shared to your favorite social media site or blog, sent via a link in an email, embedded into a webpage, and even downloaded as an mp4 video file.

Teachers could certainly make use of this tool to record their presentations and post them for their students to play later as a review, as a substitute for the "live" version if they were absent, or as a first-time viewing in a flipped classroom model.  Another idea for use in education would be to have students substitute live, in-class presentations that take up valuable time (unless the goal is to work on public speaking/presenting) with Movenote presentations and then have each student review the presentations and provide feedback on their own time.  Teachers could easily create a Google spreadsheet and share it with their students to add their URL's so they are all located in one place.  This process is even easier if the teachers have access to a tool like Hapara's Teacher Dashboard to share out the spreadsheet with all of their students.  A gentle reminder to the students that the revision history of the spreadsheet will show who changed the document and when should prevent any accidental or intentional tampering with the info.

This tool appears to work on most platforms, including Chromebooks.  Here's where you can get it:

There are plenty of tutorials on the Movenote website for each platform.  Here is one specifically geared toward use on Chromebooks:

I'd love to hear about other uses for Movenote and other comparable tools.  Please comment below.

Student Reviews of the Acer C720P Touchscreen Chromebook

Once again, I have asked the same two Leyden students to review another new Chromebook model.  This time it's the Acer C720P touchscreen.  This is the fourth new Chromebook they've used as their primary device for one week and then written up a review.  Here are their previous reviews:  HP 11, HP 14, and Acer C720.  Hopefully, by the end of February, we will have a plan in place to begin replacing our current fleet of Samsung Series 5 Chromebooks.  I hope you enjoy these reviews and stay tuned for a review of the new Dell Chromebook in a week or so.  We just got them in yesterday!

Student 1 - An East Leyden Junior

My name is Bryn and I am a Junior at East Leyden High School.  I am also a first year student in the Technical Support Internship course.  In total, I have been able to test 4 new Chromebook models in an educational setting.  The opportunity was granted by Mr. Jason Markey, East Leyden’s Principal, and Mr. Bryan Weinert, the Director of Technology.

This week I tested the Acer C720P Touchscreen Chromebook.  This Chromebook has all the same specs as the Acer C720 I previously tested (click here to read my review on the Acer C720).  The only difference is the addition of a touch display.  

Since I addressed the loading time, keyboard/trackpad performance, screen, and ports of the Acer C720 in my previous post, I will use this post to address the boot time, touch display, audio capabilities and battery life of the Acer C720P.

According to Acer, the C720P has a 7 second boot up time.  I found this to be true.  The device was very quick to boot.  This 7 seconds is quicker than the Samsung Series 5 boot time of 10 seconds.  Although I mentioned web site loading time in my previous post of the Acer C720, I did want to emphasize that the loading time of this device compared to the Samsung is significant.  I found this particularly true when trying to access multimedia sites.

This is the first Chromebook I have tested that has a touch display.  It is a rather fun addition.  The touch display is precise to the touch and in most cases, I preferred using it over the trackpad.  For me, the best part of the touch screen is that I can drag the screen right or left to access previously loaded pages.  There were times, though, when the page would freeze when sliding left or right.  Overall, I believe I was able to work more quickly due to the touch display.  Due to this, I believe it could be very helpful in an educational setting.     

While the Samsung’s volume is incredibly low in both strength and sound, the Acer C720P Chromebook bypasses the Samsung with ease.  In fact, many students commented on the volume of the music I played when using the speakers or my headphones.  I definitely approve of the sound quality and strength.

The biggest downfall of the Acer C720P is the battery life.  According to Acer, the battery life is “up to 7.5 hours”.  Unfortunately for me, my Chromebook never made it to the 7.5 hour mark.  The Chromebook died before getting to last period (approx 6 hours) on all days that I was using it.  The fact is that many students use the Chromebook for non-school related purposes (ex. using YouTube to listen to music) and have multiple pages open at all times during the day.  This is a serious blow to the device when it comes to using it in a 1:1 computing environment as it may require students to bring their charger to school and possibly charge during class.  On the bright side, the recharge time was very quick.

Overall, I believe the Acer C720P is a good Chromebook for personal use and the addition of the touch screen adds an element of fun.  However, I would not recommend it for use in schools due to its limited battery life.

Student 2 - A West Leyden Senior

For the fourth time, I received a new Chromebook model to try out and review.  This time it was an Acer C720P, essentially a C720 with a touchscreen.  The color, materials, weight, size, and overall appearance were the same as the C720.  They are both dark gray aluminum, weigh lightly, and operate impressively fast.  They both have the same ports (USB, HDMI, SD), vents, and general specs.

I already covered the C720 a little more specifically in a previous review.  The focus and highlight of this C720P Chromebook was its touchscreen.  It was a nice glossy 11” HD screen, which looked better than the screen on the C720.

As soon as I saw this Chromebook, I tried thinking of cool, productive applications or programs to use with a touchscreen.  It did not come with a stylus pen, unfortunately, so I had to use the touchscreen with my finger.  It was pretty accurate, but I had to get accustomed to precisely executing maneuvers in order to write and select on the screen.

I looked in the Chrome store for applications that could be useful, and I came across Sketchpad 3.3.  This application allows the user to draw on the screen.  The problem with it was that it had a very limited canvas.  It was also kind of glitchy when I drew using certain tools.  I tried using this app as scratch paper for classes like math, and it worked okay that way.

Another application I used was express.smarttech.com.  It is a very simplified version of SmartBoard Tools.  The user can add multiple pages, kind of like adding slides in a PowerPoint, and draw on each of them.  I used this once in AP Calculus, but it was difficult to write and take notes quickly.  I resorted to regular pen and paper the next day.

As I mentioned, the real highlight of this Chromebook compared to others is its touchscreen.  I would anticipate problems with this feature because it would give our Tech Support class a new problem to deal with.  I do not know how hard the process of troubleshooting and replacing a touchscreen is, but I cannot find any settings that could provide a starting point within the OS.  I also tried a few stylus pens on the screen, but they did not work.  The idea of reducing paper consumption would work great with a device like the Acer C720P, but it needs to be at least as easy as using pen/pencil and paper, and from my experience, it was not.

I would choose this model over the plain Acer C720, but I would need to see better functionality and accompaniment for a touchscreen on a Chromebook.