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Monday, January 25, 2016

Educational iOS Apps that Support Chromecast

Our district has been using the Reflector app for mirroring our iPads to the projectors. While that has been working OK in most situations, we are beginning to explore whether or not the Chromecast would be an option as we introduce more iPads to staff. Why the Chromecast over the Apple TV? Mainly cost. While you can still purchase older versions of the Apple TV at half of what a new one costs, they are still twice as much as the new Chromecasts
The problem, and why many schools go with the Apple TV, is that the Chromecast doesn't mirror the iPad like an Apple TV or an adapter does. It's designed to stream video and audio. Which is why I'm compiling a list of iOS apps that support Chromecast that our teachers could use in the classroom. Admittedly, there isn't a lot. That's where a conversation with a teacher comes into play. What are they planning on projecting from the iPad? If it will routinely be something that can't be shared by one of the apps below, then maybe a Chromecast isn't the right option for their classroom. But if they plan on sharing websites and their Google Slides notes, then why pay twice as much for what they need? Because we are focusing on iPads, Android apps that could be used for educational purposes are not included below. And yes, there are 1000s of apps that support Chromecast, but most are for entertainment purposes. The apps below I can at least make an argument for educational purposes!





All teachers need the Chromecast app to connect and set up their device. 








Google Chrome - this web browser shows students what you are looking out, although, because it doesn't fully mirror, you can't see web URLs. Utilize Google Classroom to get URLs to students.






Google Slides - we encourage staff to put all of their presentations and notes online anyway, so Cast them with the Google Slides app.






YouTube - we encourage staff to use YouTube for sharing video content, either their own or someone else's. 







Also YouTube Kids for teachers sharing brain breaks via their iPad. 



Since it is cold out right now and indoor recesses occur frequently, I'll mention Connect4 Quads which brings the popular Connect 4 game online. Hasbro has a couple game apps available.




Some other resources:
Possibilities for Chromecast in the Classroom - Synergyse

Have other apps that should be included? Mention them in the comments below!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Screencastify - An Alternative to YouTube Webcam Capture

YouTube announced last week it was closing down it's (I guess not very) popular webcam capture feature that allowed you to record a video directly to YouTube instead of having to record somewhere else, then upload. This was a huge blow to our speech teacher, who has kids set their Chromebooks on a table to record their speeches so they can reflect and critique themselves.
The alternative we are using is the Screencastify Chrome extension. I've mentioned Screencastify in the past as a screencasting tool, but there is also the option to just record what the camera sees, basically the same thing that the YouTube capture did. Just like screen recordings, the video is then saved to either Google Drive or YouTube, whichever the user prefers. In talking with the speech teacher this morning, he said that it actually seems to be working better than the YouTube webcam capture. They would periodically have videos that stop uploading to YouTube and students would lose them. They haven't had those issues so far. The free version limits you to ten minutes of recording, but most of the speeches that students are recording fall under that limit. The Google Drive option could also be a little more reassuring for students who many be a bit apprehensive about accidentally posting their practice speech to the public on YouTube. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Not Always My Favorite

I think it's very important that students create stuff. Having to transfer what you know into a new product it's extremely valuable for really understanding a concept. What tool is used to make that stuff can vary greatly and is largely irrelevant to the bigger goal of increased knowledge. Just like students, teachers have their own favorite tools for creating stuff for students. Like everyone else, I have my favorite apps for different tasks on my iPad or iPhone. As apps change, my preference changes. I used to be a HUGE Penultimate fan (see why here) until they "improved" their app. I was one of many who couldn't stand the new update. While they've made some changes (shameless plug that I was once quoted on TechCrunch), it's never been the same and, although it was once a staple of my iPad dock, it's no longer anywhere on my iPad.
On the other hand, there are some tasks that have two apps that switch back and forth between being my favorites. Screencasting on an iPad is a great example. For a long time, I was in the ShowMe "camp" because of how much I liked their online community. Then Educreations added multiple pages. I sway back and forth depending on their most recent update. I generally tell people to try out both and pick one you like.
Another one is book creation. My two favorites, in alphabetical order, are Book Creator and My Story. Unlike the screencasting apps, these two go back and forth of my "favorite" depending on the situation I'm in. If I'm creating a book for myself, it's definitely Book Creator. It's layout is hands down more "sophisticated" looking. It also allows you to add video within your book, something My Story doesn't do. However, for younger students, the My Story layout is much more friendly. Just recently they introduced the ability to share My Story books between iPads.
1st graders creating books on how to make no bake pies.
We used this to make a template for 1st graders and then Air Drop the template to their iPads. Students could then edit their own book and resend it back to me as a movie. They have the option of making it an ePub that you can read in the Safari browser, an option that is fantastic for class presentations or sharing with parents, but I noticed that when students sent the link back to me, all of the ePubs had the same short URL. I've reached out to My Story, so hopefully that'll get cleaned up. You can see the student videos below.

So which app is best for each task? Depends on the audience, the day, and the most recent update. The apps will always change, but the purpose of the learning will not.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cow Tipping and Improving the PD Experience

Have you ever been cow tipping? How did it end up? Like TommyYou don’t have to honestly answer that. 
What’s the purpose of cow tipping? Does it make a better steak? No, it doesn’t. But, generally, it wakes the cow up with quite the shock. 
What is your school climate like? How excited is the staff you work with for the next inservice day? Or early out? Are they going through the motions? Are there some cows that need to be tipped? 
This isn’t a post to question the weight of your staff. Nor is it permission to knock any of them over. In fact, I strongly suggest doing NEITHER of those. And I will not be held responsible for any injuries relating to that activity. Or any others. Nor do I condone actually trying to tip a live cow.

This post is, instead, a call for you who provide any sort of professional development for others to start doing things differently. Math, reading, science, whatever. If your staff moseys down the hallway (like a cattle chute) and plods into the training session, give them a little shock by stepping outside of your own box. Make them get up and move around during the session. Utilize videos. Make it interactive by modeling Kahoot or another tool to collect information. Heck - put blank pieces of paper on the wall and let them fill in what they want to learn more about (if you are not sure what that looks like, come see it live at EdCamp Omaha, March 21, 2015. Click here to register!). I'm not claiming to have all the answers - I need to do a better job of this, too! Maybe I should've started this post with "Hey, Josh!"
If you continually provide instruction for students the same way, day after day, regardless of the instructional method, most are going to eventually tune you out. Teachers are not much different than kids. You cannot provide professional development the same way over and over again. They will begin to tune you out. Every now and then, you need to model stepping out of the box and tipping them over. 
For those of you who don’t spend much time around cows, you can learn more about cow tipping here.