Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Screencastify Keyboard Shortcuts

Over the last several posts, I've been focusing on creating screencasts for instructional purposes. I've looked at why teachers should consider making screencasts along with examples, how to create a screencast with Screencastify, and how to manage/distribute your video content to students. These resources are by no means exhaustive as there are many means by which a teacher can create video content for students, but it at least scratches the surface. However, one part I left out is how students can use Screencastify. 

Students could create instructional videos much like the teacher. Another way a student can use Screencastify is to record a presentation they create for a project. By using the Chrome extension, students will have to click on the extension to launch the recording and then press the "present" button on whichever presentation tool that they use. In this post, I demonstrate how the user can use the "keyboard shortcuts" (I like to call them hotkeys) to launch, pause, and stop a recording. This will create a cleaner version as students can quickly transition between the launch, switching slides, and stopping without any opening of menus. 

Locate and Change Keyboard Shortcuts

Users can customize their keyboard shortcuts that will launch Screencastify. The user can click in the box and choose which key combination will launch the process listed beside it. Otherwise, the user can just use the default keyboard shortcuts.
Screencastify Default Keyboard Shortcuts

Using Keyboard Shortcuts

Using the keyboard shortcuts will require some practice. Don't be surprised if you become frustrated because you cannot remember which command to use to stop or pause your video. It would be best if you had them posted somewhere so that you can quickly reference it while recording. This video demonstrates how the keyboard shortcuts are handy during a presentation. 

Other Uses for Screencastify

Students could use these keyboard shortcuts to capture much more than a Google Slides presentation. Here are some other ideas. 
  • Record a text being read aloud for the purpose of working on fluency or for the enjoyment/education of younger students. 
  • Record an explanation over a thinglink activity describing all the links placed over the image. 
  • Create a "My Map" in Google Drive to create a voiceover through different geographic regions or historical locations. 
  • Create a Popplet, Mindomo, or Mindmeister mind-map and communicate your thoughts on a project idea or do a full presentation through the tool. 
  • Create an infographic to demonstrate data or facts on a topic using Google Drawings or Piktochart
  • Create a stop-motion video using a Google Drive folder with the picture preview. Start on the first image and click quickly through each image to make the images appear as an animation. If teachers have a document camera (iPevo P2V or Ziggy), it is easy for a student to plug into their Chromebook, snap the necessary images, and piece together in a Google Drive folder.
There are quite a few more ideas out there, but that should be enough to get the idea wheels turning. What ways can you picture Screencastify being a useful tool for you and your students? Leave a comment. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Screencastify and Distributing Video

Google Drive

In my two previous posts, I have information regarding why teachers should make videos with some examples as well as how to use Screencastify to create those videos. So the next question should be...how do I distribute the content? The answer to that question is actually quite overwhelming due to the numerous options. So I will throw several options out there because it really depends upon what device the students are using, what grade level, and the teacher/student comfort level.

LMS (Learning Management System)

There are a ton of learning management systems out there (Google Classroom, Schoology, Edmodo, Canvas, etc). I'm only going to focus on Google Classroom as the majority of teachers at MSD of Steuben County have made this L.M.S. their choice. Either way, a learning management system provides a great way to distribute and receive content. I made a couple videos on inserting videos into Google Classroom from Google Drive and Youtube. By inserting videos into Google Classroom, the teacher is able to organize instructions along with a video.

  1. Google Drive - In this video, videos are inserted from Google Drive as either an assignment or a question. These two types of posts allow students to interact with the content differently. By having the students complete an assignment, they have to upload their work from a separate document, image, or video. If teachers ask a question, the students type their response directly in Google Classroom. 
  2. Youtube - Youtube provides a great platform for video due to the ease by which you can share video and compatibility with all devices. If you have concerns about your videos being on Youtube, users can set the videos as "unlisted" so that random users will not come across them.

Google Drive

Google Drive provides a great place to store all your videos if students need to find a specific one. The trick is to organize them. Using multiple folders to breakdown your videos into categories can help students sort through and find a specific video that they need. This is especially handy if you are allowing students to move at their own pace. After you have videos organized, create a shareable link so that users can access the videos easily or share directly with your students with "can view" access.

A final benefit of using Google Drive is for your students using iPads or Android Tablets. The mobile app allows for offline saving and viewing. Students can turn on offline access and in a matter of minutes, the video is available regardless of wifi signal.

QR Codes

Have elementary students? Have mobile devices? (iPads or Android tablets.) Then QR codes provide a great opportunity to distribute video content. A teacher could essentially have a table with a QR code with video directions along with all the learning materials the students need. This would be great for centers or  projects where the students will need to review content and gradually build to represent their learning. I imagine QR codes would work really well for elementary makerspaces so that learning content is ready for students to access quickly without the bother of typing in a URL. For my last little bit of information about QR Codes, I highly recommend using QR Reader by Scan as it works extremely well and is free. You just point your camera at the QR code while the app is open and off it goes. If you would like download it on iPad, click here. If you have an Android device, click here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Quality teaching is an art form. Being a technology coach of sorts, I get to visit a variety of teachers and see them in their finest moments. Often, I think about how much I wish I had started recording these moments right from the beginning. Watching master teachers work their magic is an awesome experience. So how can we better capture those moments?

Screencastify (click to download) is a free Chrome extension. There are premium features that can be purchased. With the free version a teacher can record their screen, webcam, or document camera for up to ten minutes. These videos could be recorded when the students are present or during prep time. Either way, teachers have an incredible opportunity to essentially multiply the number of teachers in the classroom by having video resources available. (Here are four reasons teachers should record their teaching.)

For more information in regard to Screencastify, feel free to visit their website at www.screencastify.com

Screencastify Basics

This video gives an overview of all the features within Screencastify. It goes through how to launch the app, create multiple types of recordings, and how to manage your videos. 

Screencastify with a Document Camera

The following video covers the specifics on how to create a recording using Screencastify and a document camera (Ziggy HD). Many teachers will feel more comfortable with the idea of using a document camera because they can use physical materials (paper, pens, etc) instead of digital tools for the purpose of teaching. In this sample, I made a video using Legos to demonstrate addition. (I apologize for the length of the video, but I included my entire lesson sample in it. You can see the results of the video by clicking here.)

Screencastify a Presentation

Another option for content delivery would be to screen record a presentation that you made. This could be Google Slides, Powerpoint, eMaze, or any other presentation tool you like. The idea is that you have your content already laid out digitally and record your voice over the content. In this sample, I actually found a good presentation on Slideshare made by another teacher. 

Final Thoughts

So how is this useful for you? Think about how often a student is absent due to sickness or being pulled for other various reasons. Think about how often you get a new student and how difficult it is to catch them up with the rest of the class. How often do you have a parent communicate that they aren't sure what is happening in class and do not know how they can assist their child? Recording your lessons can help solve these issues.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Four Reasons to Record Your Teaching

"Flipping the classroom" has been a great means for instruction that has become very popular in the last decade. Students watch a video of instruction at home, perform an activity in class while the teacher facilitates collaboration and conversation, and students master skills at their own pace. It is extremely powerful, but flipping the classroom isn't the only reason to make video of your instruction. Students can also watch videos of instruction during class while you work with individuals or groups of students.

Four Reasons to Record Your Teaching

  1. Personalizing learning is a buzz word right now amongst teachers. Making a video of yourself teaching allows you to do just that. One of the most difficult things about making learning "personalized" is the fact that there is only one of you amongst the whole class of students. You are certainly outnumbered. By making an instructional video, you are freeing up class time to work with individuals or small groups of students that need to head in a slightly different direction. The instruction and task you want the kids to accomplish can all be a part of the video. 
  2. Teach it the way you want it taught. There are a ton of instructional videos out there, but how many times do you run across one that you wish would have been explained differently. Maybe a video that includes a part that isn't applicable to your students and you really didn't want it in there. Ultimately, if you make your own video, you know what is being taught. You know what content is in there. You know your students' needs and what materials are going to best meet those needs. 
  3. Students take control of learning. If a student doesn't understand a concept that was to be learned through your video, then that is there own fault. The biggest advantage of video is that the students can pause and move throughout the video to wherever they need to go. My daughter, when she was in kindergarten, learned how to tie her shoes through a Youtube video. It worked great because she was able to watch the video over and over until she had it mastered. At the age of six, she was able to move the video to the parts she needed to make sure she grasped each part. This worked great for her...and was a lot less frustrating for me!
  4. Not all students are present all the time. Sometimes students are absent. Sometimes they are pulled out for various interventions or other opportunities. Anymore, I hear this complaint from teachers more than any other. It is difficult to teach because not all of the students are there at the same time. So there might be gaps, and a video may work great to fill those gaps. Another option to fill this void would be to just video yourself teaching in front of the whole class...which I have an example later where a teacher actually chose to do just that. 
With this thought, I went ahead and made a few samples so that teachers could see what it might look like.

Sharing Friends Math Video

Below is a video I made for first graders on how to create your own addition story. I made this using Screencastify and an iPevo Ziggy camera. I taught this lesson like I would have in front of students using real objects. I also asked them to do the same activity with their own objects.

Google Classroom and Dochub 

In this video, students learn how to use Dochub to write on a PDF from Google Classroom on their Chromebooks. This video would work great as you first start assigning these documents as a reference for students that forget steps. All you have to do is include it as part of the assignment as a reference guide. The students can go back and find the pieces of the puzzle they are missing.

Mrs. Minick's ToDo Math Video

After I made my first grade lesson, I sent it to one of my first grade teachers to just get an opinion. The very same day, I received two videos from Mrs. Minick  on tutorials she made for iPads apps her students are using. The video I'm including was made with her students in class. Any students that missed it, will be able to watch her video and catch up on the material later. Also, the video would be useful for the following school year. Mrs. Minick really captured the essence of saving time as it only takes a few more seconds to push record on Screencastify and let it go. I look forward to seeing more from her! 

Where to Start

Screencastify for Chrome is a great resource for making recordings of your screen or even using a document camera. I've used multiple tools that perform the same task, but Screencastify is unique for the ease of use and streamlined process. Users can dump their videos straight to their Google Drive or Youtube account, adjust the privacy settings of the video, and have a direct link to it all within Screencastify. This allows the user to find all their videos from Screencastify instead of searching through their Google Drive or Youtube account. 

I will be making more specific instructions on how to utilize these tools in the near future. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Slides in Sites

Flipped PD

This year, I'm attempting to streamline my "flipped" professional development opportunities. I ultimately want to be more efficient with not only my own time, but the teachers' time as well. Flipped PD opportunities also lend itself to more possibilities for personalization. I have more opportunity to analyze specific needs as a group of teachers come ready to communicate their thoughts and opinions. 

Here is a rundown of my format: 
  • Teachers are to attend a session with a prerequisite for participation. I typically have a blogpost that I want them to look over that has a video of some sort. 
  • Then when we have our training session, they have a lot of the legwork out of the way. The bulk of our actual meeting time can be on discussion and specific needs that need addressed in relation to the topic. Here, we way may just chat about practical applications of a piece of technology, or specific questions that they need addressed.
  • Teachers digitally communicate concerns, needs, or goals so that I can address them at a later time. Follow-up may be through email or in person. It may include more resources or further training. 
Now, is my format a guaranteed success? I have no idea. I'm just letting everyone know what I'm up to. :) If you have any tips or thoughts for flipped professional development ideas, please add a comment to this blog.

Sites on Slides

Last week, I had a session on Google Sites. The prerequisite for attendance was to go over my colleague's (Kelly Clifford) Google Sites resources to fill in any holes that they had from previous training opportunities. During the session, teachers expressed their needs on a shared Padlet.com page that I built. Here, I posted the link to the resources as well as posed the opportunity to communicate thoughts, frustrations, and goals. (The same could be accomplished through a Google Doc, but I like the format of Padlet as it looks like digital post-it notes.)

While teachers were plugging away, I came to the conclusion that we need to find ways to streamline Google Sites; ways that teachers can update their websites without putting a lot of time into it. There are quite a few ways to go about accomplishing this task, but I went ahead an busted out using a Google Slides presentation in a Google Site so that all that has to be done is the updating of a few slides here and there. Frequent updates = traffic to your site. Parents and students will not look at your website if it is rarely updated.

Here is how to put a Google Slides presentation into your Google Site:

One teacher in attendance noticed that this same concept could be done for a list of links. If a teacher wanted to quickly communicate a list of websites/resources for students/families to access, publish a Google Doc and insert it into your Google Site. Same goes for a picture slideshow. Want to show a few pictures from a field trip? Create a slideshow, insert images, and embed it in your site.


The main purpose for this blogpost was actually a form of follow-up for my teachers that attended. I wanted them to have access to a resource that would run them through the steps again. I also will be addressing the other details teachers communicated through my Padlet. That's what I'm doing right after I publish this post.  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Chromebook Games


I'm not typically a fan of posting about skill n' drill gaming apps/websites. However, I get quite a few requests for these types of tools. So when I go on a rampage attempting to find a bunch of tools to fill a void for teachers, I'll go ahead and post about it for a couple reasons. First, it makes it easier if I can just send a few blog post links to teachers when they need them. Second, I'm very forgetful. Just like students, I have to create to lock something in my memory permanently (that's secretly why I make so many videos). 

So here we go with some fun learning games available on Chromebook in the Chrome Webstore...

(Click the titles to go to the link of the chrome app.)


Sumon is a free math puzzle game where the user attempts to add two or more digits to equal a target number. The user has a limited amount of time to select a correct combination of numbers to equal the target number. If a user does not accurately answer, time continues to wind down. If the user does not answer correctly during the allotted amount of time, the game is over. 

I remember playing Mahjong on my old Windows 3.1 machine back when I was in elementary/middle school. (That and Minesweeper was my other addiction.) Here is a fun words version where you don't match words or letters, but you build words with the letters on the board. There is also a math version fittingly titled Math Mahjong.

Word Quest is just plain fun. Here you have to create words with the letters provided to attack monsters. By building words with more points, the player will more quickly defeat the enemy. How do you get more points? Just like in Scrabble, the tiles have point values and the values relate to the rarity/difficulty of that particular letter. The version that is here is free. However, I believe that there are premium features that you can pay for. What that entails, I didn't exactly investigate deeply. It may mean more levels or abilities. I guess your students will find out when they only get so far into the game. Either way, please make sure you look at this game for yourself as it does have a character with a sword. So if you are uncomfortable with the level of violence in the game, you won't want to have your students download it to their Chromebook. 
WordIt 2 is a fun one if you are looking for a word building game that involves some strategy. Users have a set of tiles on a board that is much like a Scrabble board. You have to arrange all the tiles so that every one is used to make a word in some way, shape, or form. (This is where it is extremely handy to know the two letter combinations that are acceptable within Scrabble.) Once all the tiles are arranged, you receive points based upon using the tiles to make words and how the words are arranged to maximize point totals. Just like in Scrabble, rarer letters are worth more points. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Read and Write for Google

Read & Write for Google Chrome is a great asset to students and teachers as you can take any website or document and have it read aloud. It also has a lot of premium features available (highlighters, picture dictionary, fact finder, etc.), but I'm just looking at the value of the free version and the needs of our students. 

Having the text read aloud gives teachers a method by which they can better differentiate their instruction. Struggling readers can take advantage of the text being read aloud when a teacher provides content that is just too difficult. It allows them to not only hear the text read aloud, but highlights the words as it is reading.

I also like the idea of using this tool for when a student is revising their own writing. Hearing the text read aloud helps the students listen for mistakes or possible revisions that need to take place. It is easy for students (and adults) to miss revisions that need to be made when left to reading the text with their own eyes. 

Here is the basics of how to get Read &  Write for Google Chrome ready to go: 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

VoiceNote II

Image from Chrome Web Store

At MSD of Steuben County schools, the elementary teachers are going through quite a transition as third through fifth grade teachers are moving from iPads to Chromebooks, and my Kindergarten through second grade teachers are getting devices (iPads 1:1) for the first time. Due to this change, I often get questions about tools that worked on the iPad and compatibility on the Chromebook. Today was one of those days as a teacher was asking for a substitute for Dragon Dictation so that students could speak their writing instead of type. VoiceNote II is the tool that I came across in the Chrome Web Store.

This Chrome app is easy to use as it accurately dictates your speech. When recording, I found it to be helpful to press on the microphone for pausing between sentences to collect my thoughts and/or decrease mistakes. Also, the user can correct mistakes one sentence at a time as they dictate instead of going through the entire set of text later. If you keep the microphone running, VoiceNote II will continue listening and will attempt to dictate anything said (as what happened to me in my video demonstration). After students dictate their sentences, the student can then download the text as a text file or they could just copy and paste the text into a document.

Click in the text field and hit control + A to quickly select all the text.

Control + C will copy the text
Go to a Google Doc and paste text by pressing Control + V

See how to use VoiceNote II