Episode 148 – Olympic Fever

This episode Tony and I make some big statements about the Olympics, talk about Gmail extensions, what ed tech really is and a whole lot more. You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app. Check out the talking points below.

  1. Happy Olympics and Valentine’s Day!
  2. Smarthphones – Let’s experiment and see by Patrick

    1. https://itbabble.com/2018/02/02/smartphones-lets-experiment-and-see/
    2. Tony how is your experiment going?
  3. Devices – Students, teachers, schools by Patrick

    1. https://itbabble.com/2018/02/07/devices-students-teachers-schools/
    2. Tony’s thoughts
  4. School Shooting Simulation Software (and the Problem with How People Define ‘Ed Tech’) by Audrey Watters of Hackeducation

    1. http://hackeducation.com/2018/02/08/what-is-ed-tech
    2. Should we consider Ed tech to such a broad degree?
    3. Thoughts
  5. Gmail extensions – do you use any?
    1. https://itbabble.com/2018/02/05/my-three-gmail-extensions/

As always you can download this episode here.

Or listen to it below!

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Student Passwords – Live and learn

If you use G Suite or Office 365 with your school – those students must have a password. If you work with high school students it is easy – they can manage their own password. Heck even middle school students can manage their own passwords (most of the time). What if you want to use these services with elementary students? Now there are some questions. I’ll let you know what we have done and what seems to work for us.

Early childhood – Preschool – Kindergarten

OK – this is pretty easy. Of these two, we only give kindergarten an “account.” What we have done is made a general account (one per class) that the teacher and the teacher’s assistant use. The account has no Gmail and only access to drive for certain projects (mostly slides) that they work on. When they do work on projects the teacher usually logs into the computer or iPad and then lets them work. It takes a little time but it ensures no one has the password and the students aren’t working on it at home.

We haven’t had any issues about accounts or kids doing anything bad since they only use Google Drive while being supervised. If something does happen (a document deleted or a student working on the wrong document) it is usually caught quickly and remedied.

Grades 3 – 4

Now onto grades three and four. This is different. Each student has their own account. Gmail is still turned off but they have access to Google Drive and they have their own password that they know unlike grades K–2.

We used a simple combination of numbers and words and we recorded the passwords down into a chart and we kept a copy and the teachers had a copy. That way teachers could remind students what their password is or we could. Also, if a teacher ever suspected a student was up to some tomfoolery she/he could log into the student’s account and check it out first hand if they need be.

Things worked fine for a while and then the students started talking to one another and started figuring out the password conventions. Can you guess what happened next? I bet you can.

Some brave students then started to log in as other students, create documents and use these Google Docs as a kind of messaging board. It had some mean stuff about others but it wasn’t as awful as you might guess. Due to revision history we could see who wrote what and when. Those particular students were spoken to by administration and their parents were informed. Of course the file was deleted.

The fix

After the administration and the teachers sat the whole class down and talked about treating others with respect and how their Google account is not actually theirs but the schools and that they should expect no real privacy with it.

I then disabled the entire class’s Google access and rolled in and explained that impersonating another person in Google is illegal and tell them about the story of a student from my university who hacked into a girl’s email account, sent her cryptic messages (from her own account) and was investigated and arrested (true story).

Now it was time for them to create their own and unique passwords. We stressed that the only people they should is their parents, their teachers and the IT people. DON’T TELL YOUR FRIEND! Since then we haven’t really had any issues outside of a few students who have forgotten their passwords.

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ClassHook – A review

I saw ClassHook on Free Technology for Teachers and thought to myself Hey! That looks interesting. So, here I am writing a review of the service and trying to determine if it is worth your or my time as educators.

What is it?

In it’s own words: ClassHook is the best place to find educational clips from popular TV shows and movies

That pretty much sums it up. You can search for a particular topic and they have a short clip (usually 1–4 minutes long) that helps explain the concept, gives an example or adds a new type of perspective to the topic. Here is their YouTube video below that explains their service.

Signing up and using

It’s pretty straightforward to sign up. Just click the Sign in button in the top right hand corner and it will give you an option to sign up. You can only sign up with an email account. That’s fine, having the single sign on options with Google is nice but adding some info isn’t terrible.

At the bottom it “asks” if you would like to be a part of the Vetter Program. This is a program that lets you evaluate and say if a clip is suitable for the classroom. They will send you clips to vet about the subject area you included in your profile. The say it is low commitment and you can opt out at anytime. By default this is checked, but it is good to know you can join in or out at any time.

After you sign up you get a link that you can share out to invite more people to ClassHook.

You also get an email with a verification link in order to fully activate your account.

Now you are taken to your dashboard. It’s pretty simple. You have your name, subject you teach, the ages groups you teach in (E = elementary, MS = middle school) these go all the way up to college. You have some badges (badges are fun) you can earn. You have bookmarks, you can create Playlists (handy for organizing clips for classes) and if you submit any clips for approval you get those clips right there (upon approval). That last feature is nice. If you submit a clip, chances are you want to use it. This certainly saves you from having to search or try to find it.

Using it is very straightforward. You type in what you want to find clips for and the service will return the clips.

For this examples I searched for “computer”. I only received 11 hits. Yikes that is not a lot, but at least I can rest assured that others have viewed and vetted them to be OK.

At the top of the search results is a window to refine the search further. You can refine based on grade level, length, series even add a subsearch. One nice feature is the No Profanity box. This will remove clips with profane language.

If your search doesn’t yield what you want you can peruse all the clips. In the top right hand corner and click Browse. Then select All Clips.

This will take you to a list with everything broken up into sub categories. On the right hand side is a menu that will let you jump to a certain category if you like.

So back to our example. I searched for computer and I received 11 hits (again that is a little on the light side). Let’s say I want to use this clip from the movie In Good Company.

When you click the video it gives you a description of the video and while most of the videos are the entire clip this one has even been shortened a little as you can see in the timeline bar from the images.

Also from this page you can grab the embed code (it is a little below what I grabbed for the above picture), add a discussion question, add a standard or a comment.

You can even add it to a playlist. by clicking the Add to button or add it as a Bookmark.

Should you use this?

No, not really. Almost all of the clips are from YouTube or Vimeo. I found one clip from Hulu but I could not get it to load for me. I originally wanted a clip about a hard drive but found 0 results. So I expanded it to computers. If I wanted a clip that explained how a hard drive worked or discussed a hard drive I would just go to Youtube – which is what I did. I searched for hard drive on YouTube and the fifth video was a quick video showing a hard drive move in slow motion. It is 86 seconds long.

If I want a video about how a hard drive works I just need to search for it and there are plenty more to chose from.

The point is, you can find all those clips in YouTube. ClassHook is supposed to save you some time by providing a curated list of clips that have been submitted and approved by the community of educators. It sounds good but the results are just too few to truly be useful.

If you do find some good clips remember this is most likely from the entertainment industry. Some of the clips could be not 100% factual either.

These clips could be good for a discussion starter, but with a little bit of planning and a little digging you can probably find what you’re looking for on YouTube without the need of ClassHook.

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Devices – Students, teachers, schools

I’m a part of a Listserv that works pretty much just in the state I live in. It is often helpful, sometimes funny and in this case a little though provoking. This morning I came across this entry (below) and it got me thinking about devices in the school.

Quickly these questions popped into my head:

  • Should teachers and students have the same device?
  • If teachers have a different device than students, should they also have the device that the students use?
  • Should everyone in the school have the same device?
  • Is it OK to give teachers older devices instead of new ones?

Let’s tackle these questions one by one.

Should teachers and students have the same device?

If your school is using Chrome OS or iPads or Android tablets as the students 1:1 device, then the answer is a hard NO. Simple as that. While Chrome OS is a laptop and a lot can be done on it there are clear limitations and sometimes a teacher needs to be able to install certain programs that are not web based. As for the tablets, typing and productivity is the clear limitation. Sure you can type a highly formatted math test on an iPad by it’ll take forever.

If your students are on MacBooks or full on Windows machines then sure it will be fine. Teachers will have the power they need, the issue is more on the student side. Managing those machines are not as easy as a tablet or Chrome OS.

  • As for the new Windows 10S I am not sure. I’ve not had any experience or know anyone who has had experience with this system yet. It does sound a little limiting that you can only install apps from the Windows App store so I lean towards no, teachers and students should have different devices.

If teachers have a different device than students, should they also have the device that the students use?


The short answer is no, but hear me out. In the Listserv that person clearly feels that teachers should have a second device. The reasoning that person puts forth is pretty sound, but in reality I am not so sure. I think knowing what can and cannot be done on a device is important, but let’s think about it. How often does a teacher really need to test something out? Is it every day, week or month?

I would say that a teacher (or department) could test out an app or website and then put the device aside. I am not sure that the teacher would need the device all the time. They just need access to the device. While this isn’t exactly convenient it will keep a lot of devices being allocated to teachers that won’t use it.

At my school our middle school is 1:1 iPads. Each teacher has their own MacBook Air and their own iPad. The reason behind it was the iPad could help the teachers capture and create better than a laptop. The reality is that most of our teachers do not use these devices in that manner. When I took inventory of them this year there was more than one time that a teacher commented that they rarely use it at school. I also rarely see teachers out an about with them. While the logic behind the decision was sound it must certainly be questioned.

There is a possibility here though and I think it is hinted at in the post. If a school has already gotten the life out of a device. For example if a laptop is supposed to only last 4 years but is still functioning past that date, then it may be OK to give those to teachers as long as the teachers do not expect the school or district to repair or replace them as they fail.

Should everyone in the school have the same device?

Nope! Just too darn expensive. A Chromebook can start around $200 for a decent one. iPads start around $300. At our school our teachers have MacBook Airs which start at $1000. Pretty simple to see that while it would be great to give all of our students MacBook Airs, it just isn’t financially responsible.

Even if you start sizing up Windows laptops. While cheaper, they are still far more expensive than iPads and Chromebooks. Heck even some of the newer Windows 10 S laptops are pretty cheap.

Is it OK to give teachers older devices instead of new ones?


I have seen this. A teacher comes in and is assigned a device that may be 3–4 years old. In fact I see this practice at most schools. It is totally OK as long as the school is willing to support and help maintain the device and that the school has a plan on how to replace these machines with new ones. That last part is the key. A teacher will struggle with a laptop for a year if they know that right around the corner is a shiny new one.

Let me give you an example of the other case. I once worked at a school where I was given a Windows desktop. The problem was that it only had 1GB of RAM and the Windows OS hadn’t been properly updated or really maintained. It turned out the computer was almost 10 years old. Booting up was 3 minute process and trying to print would take just as long with a 50/50 chance of actually printing. The hard drive was nearly full (from past users who had not been deleted) and no one really responded to my IT tickets. The machine became basically unusable for anything but reading email.

I ended up unplugging it and storing it in my classroom closet and just used my personal laptop.

So how would you respond to those questions and what questions did I miss? Be sure to put them in the comments below!

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My Three Gmail Extensions

My Three Gmail Extensions

Gmail is pretty great and when you couple it with Google Chrome you can make it even better. There are a bunch of extensions out there for Gmail. Chances are you can find what you are looking for. I’ll highlight the three that I use. Just a note, I do not believe any of these work with Google Inbox.

#1 The Top Inbox for Gmail

This performs quite a few features for you but the two I use the most is the ability to schedule an email to be sent at a certain time and the ability to see if the email was opened or not (better known as a read receipt). All you have to do is install the extension and then when you open Gmail and create a new email message you will notice a little toolbar at the bottom.

 

#2 Gorgias Templates: Email templates for Gmail 

Ever have to send the same email to different people? This makes that task a little easier. You can create a template – give a shortcut word and then type that word in your email message and hit the tab key. Bam! Your template will populate the message.

#3 Gmail Append HTML 

Gmail offers a bunch of ways to customize your email, but sometimes, just sometimes, you will want to embed something in the email. There is no way for you to currently do this in Gmail so in comes this little guy. It allows you to view your email in HTML and then make changes. Now Gmail does strip out some code regardless of how harmless it is. Yet, I still have found it helpful for embedding instructions or other content into the email.

So there you have it. What are some of your favorites? Please leave them in the comments below.

Posted in Helpful Tips, Patrick Cauley | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Smartphones – Let’s experiment and see

My good friend and fellow IT Babbler Tony wrote a piece called Mobile Phone Shutdown about how his school is banning students from using their smart phones during certain hours of the day. It’s good (please give it a read). In the post he identifies some problems that his school is dealing with and outlines a solution to ban phones for students and the hope of the outcome. It is sound. It is a levelheaded response to a problem and, let’s not forget, this is an experiment. It may yield results that are unexpected maybe even unwanted, but no matter what happens, Tony and the people he works with will observe, analyze and make another rational decision later on if needed. It’s not just a plan, it is a process.

There is a lot of talk out there about how terrible these devices are to children. There is an article in the Wall Street Journal that talks about parents trying to grapple when to buy their child a smartphone. Then there is the article in the New York Times that calls out Apple to make a “Less Addictive iPhone”. There is a lot of emotion and reaction in these articles and these topics. You often hear these words when discussing smartphones and students:
– Addiction
– Distraction
– Diminished social skills
– ADD or ADHD
– Harmful for developing minds
– Disconnected
– Leads to unhappiness and/or anxiety
– Sleep deprivation

Then there are other articles such as this one from Wired that talks about how smartphones are being demonized and may not be that bad. Then there is this article from Doug Johnson’s The Blue Skunk Blog (great blog and well worth your time if you’re an educator). He says that we might as well learn how to leverage and manage smartphones in schools. Both Wired and Doug Johnson’s blog are written by very well respected professionals like the authors of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Here is the bottom line. There is no missing puzzle piece that will solve this issue for all schools. We have to remember that the iPhone is only ten years old and I am not exactly sure when a majority of students started coming to schools with smartphones but I would take a stab and say 5–6 years ago. So the long term report isn’t in about how bad/awful/great/awesome these devices are to students.

I’m not for or against smartphones in schools. I think that should be a decision made based on a school by school basis and not by a single person.

What I am for are experiments. Trying out solutions, analyzing and discussing the results with the community and moving forward and using a process.

I am not for rash and knee jerk decisions. These are often not so thought out and when results come back that are unexpected, then it is too easy to call the fix it a failure and abandon a policy for another one.

What do you think?

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Loom – A review

I really like making tutorial videos. I don’t do it as much now that I’m not teaching but whenever there is an opportunity I like to jump at it. You know what? I’m not bad. I try to make it as professional as possible. I use Screenflow, which allows me to capture and edit my recordings, then I like to add music if necessary and if it requires a voice over I always use an external mic to capture my voice. Check out my channel on YouTube.

OK enough self promotion. We are here to talk about Loom. This is an extension that you can install in the Chrome Browser and it will let you make screencasts of your very own. Let’s find out if it’s worth your time or not.

Installing

First things first, you have to use the Chrome browser for this thing to work. If you use Safari, Edge, Explorer, Opera, Firefox or any other browser it simply will not work. So make sure that Chrome is fired up and ready to go (you can download it for free). Then you can find the Loom extension in two places. You can find it from their website or you can go to the Chrome Webstore.

When you install it you get this pop up.

It then asks how you would like to log in. You can sign in with your Google account, your Microsoft account or you can even chose to sign up with an email but that item is teeny tiny at the bottom, but hey it’s there. My school uses Google Apps for Education so I’m going to sign in with my Google account.

Now it wants to know how I am going to use Loom.

I’ll pick education and then then it asks if I’m a student or teacher. I’ll chose teacher. Then the final box pops up and it wants to know how I will be using Loom. There are a bunch of choices here and may have little to do with education, but whatever – this is free right?

OK – now I get a landing page that will show me how to use Loom and I have a new extension icon showing that it was successfully installed. Awesome! To launch Loom in the future just click that little icon.

What can Loom do?

Most of these web based screen recorders are pretty limited. Usually they can only record what is happening in the browser, may not have audio capturing abilities such as computer sounds or utilizing the laptop mic and more often than not there is a time limit to your recording. Let’s see if Loom can do better.

Once I launch Loom (by clicking the icon in the top right hand corner) it immediately asks for some permissions.

Wow – OK, I gave it permission and then Chrome wanted permission and I OK’ed that and here is what is I have to work with.

It is using the camera on my laptop to capture my face. I can see that I can adjust my audio and I get some choices about what I want to record. Let’s take a closer look at these options.

As you can see I have some choices of what I want to record. I can record:
– My screen and my camera
– The screen only
– The camera only
– Full Desktop
– Current tab

There is also advanced settings. Let’s take a peak.

As you can see you can chose your camera source if you have another plugged in and you can also change your audio source if you have a USB mic plugged in. This is pretty nice.

Obviously if you want to start recording just click the Start Recording button you see from this menu or you can click on the play button from the camera options in the bottom left hand corner.

Me, I don’t like people recording themselves while they explain. It is just weird. They can’t look at the camera as they need to focus on the screen and usually the lighting isn’t good and the laptop is almost always below the person you you are “looking up” at the presenter.

Recording

I’ll record the Full Desktop first. When I click on the Record button I get these options. I have a second display so it wants me to pick which one I want to record. Nice! I pick my main display on my laptop and hit record. There is a count down and you’re off!

All the while I am recording you see this little guy at the bottom of the screen so it is easy to stop it.

After I stop the recording it takes me to this page which we will go through the good and the bad. First let’s talk about the recording. The audio is terrible. This is because I was recording using the mic on my computer not due to Loom. Use a USB mic people.

The video is nice and smooth. There is some clear decrease in frame rate but that is to be expected. Overall the video looks very nice. Much nicer than I was expecting.

On the right hand side you get the URL to the video, easy sharing buttons and a space to write comments.

The comments are interesting but unlike YouTube comments, these comments will add a time stamp to them. So if you make a comment during the video and about a particular part of the video it will place a time stamp. Click the time stamp in the comment and it will take you to that moment. That’s a nice feature. It is an easy way to quickly create chapters for your video (if it is long or multiple steps). I like that.

It will even make a green mark on the timeline while you’re watching the video so you will know where comments have been made. Nice little visual cue.

You have some options with comments too.

You can:

  • Turn them on/off
  • Get email notifications
  • Make your video downloadable.

OK that last option has nothing to do with comments but there it is. I do have the option to delete comments or reply to them (even if they are not my own) which is good. At first this did not seem clear but after a little playing around these options showed up.

Also guests can add a comment they just have to type in any name whatsoever and it will post. So if you want students to use this have them be very careful about their comments as this is an easy way for someone to anonymously bully a student.

One nice feature is that it asks me if I would like add a link to a particular Google Doc that I was working on. This is nice if you want to do detailed video notes which a lot of people do like to do.

When someone else goes to your video here is what it looks like for them which is pretty similar to what you see.

As far as editing the video goes you can trim parts of it. From your screen click on the scissors.

This will launch a new window where you can trim out sections. It is pretty easy to do. On the timeline drag the handles to select a portion of video you want to get rid of and it will get rid of that part. If there is a gap it will bridge then remove the gap and stitch the video together.

If you are recording your face or something else with an external camera this can lead to some jarring effects of very un-smooth transitions.

Once you made the cut you have the option to make another, undo your last one (very nice feature) and then re-publish your video.

A little silly

I decided to put this in its own section. While watching a video on Loom you can add emojis to the timeline while watching a video. Check out the GIF below.

I saw a tutorial video about Loom and the entire video had emojis on the timeline. It was a little ridiculous and silly. I don’t think it is a harmful feature but I think it can be a distracting one. I can see students saying Let’s see if we can fill the whole timeline! It doesn’t give a ton of feedback and if there are too many emojis then it just doesn’t work at all.

To me as an educator, this doesn’t bring anything to the table and I don’t have the ability to turn it off. Even if I turn off comments these emojis on the timeline are still there and I don’t think I can get rid of them either.

It is true that they only show up when you are move your mouse over the video and then the timeline and the emojis fade away. Like the section is titled I thought it is a little silly

Conclusion

I’ll get right to it. Loom is good. If you want to make pretty simple tutorial videos you could do much worse than Loom. I wish the editing options were a little more robust and that it would include some volume control but hey if you have no other option and want to make sure that it is accessible right away – this is an option.

A lot of schools (and school districts) ban student access to YouTube during the day. This is a solution to that problem and a good solution at that. You can always download your videos and then re-upload them to YouTube if you desire.

It is in beta right now and for beta it works very well. They do mention in their Help Center that Loom is free but I get the sense that a paid version is coming. Hey-these people need to eat and making something like this has got to take time, money and dedication. My hats off to them.

I didn’t talk about the organizing features of Loom either but this post is getting long so I’ll quickly sum them up. You can create folders and organize your videos. This might not sound awesome but try searching through almost 200 videos to find a particular tutorial you made 3 years ago and then get back to me. It is nice.

One thing in my review I did not cover is that they have Gmail integration. I may explore that at a later time but for right now – if you need to make a quick tutorial video and get it out to your students quickly – give Loom a try. I don’t think you will regret it.

Loom – https://www.useloom.com/

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Episode 147 – No phones

Welcome back to another awesome episode of the IT Babble podcast. This week Tony and Patrick discuss cell phone bans and some solutions, screen time and much more. Check out the talking points below and as always please subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

  1. Mobile Phone Shutdown by Tony DePrato

    1. https://itbabble.com/2018/01/14/mobile-phone-shutdown/
    2. http://blog.tieonline.com/mobile-phone-shutdown/
    3. A solution for a school in Massachusetts: http://m.wbtv.com/story/37349086/ma-school-locks-students-cell-phones-in-pouches
    4. Jumpcloud – https://jumpcloud.com/
    5. Yondr – https://www.overyondr.com/howitworks/
    6. Laptops and Phones In The Classroom: Yea, Nay or a Third Way? By Anya Kamenetz from NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/01/24/578437957/laptops-and-phones-in-the-classroom-yea-nay-or-a-third-way?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=npred
  2. MySimpleShow.com – A review by Patrick Cauley

    1. https://itbabble.com/2018/01/22/mysimpleshow-com-a-review/
    2. The good, the bad and the boring
    3. Should schools use it?
  3. Tony’s Macbook Pro hell

    1. MacBook Pro’s when update to High Sierra (10.13)
    2. Loses WiFi connectivity
    3. Up to 2 hours per computer to fix
  4. Two different takes on a study from Emotion

    1. The study: http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Femo0000403
    2. Study: Being a Teen Sucks Right Now by Ed Cara of Gizmodo

      1. https://gizmodo.com/study-being-a-teen-sucks-now-1822305426
    3. Screen time: Mental health menace or scapegoat? by Michael Nedelman of CNN

      1. https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/22/health/smartphone-screen-time-happiness-study/index.html
    4. A Day in the Life of an MIT student – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMyKOkyAjUQ
  5. Could a Messy Desk Make You a Better Teacher by Julie Blume Benedict

    1. https://www.weareteachers.com/messy-desk-better-teacher/?utm_source=ActiveCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Could+a+Messy+Desk+Make+You+a+Better+Teacher%3F&utm_campaign=WAT+eNews+1%2F25%2F17
    2. Is Omar right?

You can download this episode here.

Listen to it below!

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Chrome & Autoplay

Autoplay sucks! Let me explain. Autoplay is when you open a site and a video automatically starts playing. Annoying! This just happened to me. I was in a meeting, looking for an article on CNN and I opened a page and all of a sudden a reporter’s voice starts flowing from my laptop speakers. It was embarassing and I silently cursed CNN’s autoplay videos!

Starting today Google has unveiled Chrome 64. This version allows you to mute (not stop) the autoplay. The downside side is you have to do it site by site, it is not a global feature . . . yet.

Here’s what you do. First check that your Chrome has updated to version 64. It does this automatically so don’t worry about having to go anywhere or do anything to achieve this.

To check click on Chrome (at the top) and select About Google Chrome.

It will then tell you what version you are on. If you are not on version 64 it will automatically start updating.

If it updated, quite Chrome and then reopen it. If it is up to date, then go ahead and go to one of those annoying sites that autoplay like CNN or CNET.

Click on the word Secure in the address line.

A dropdown menu will appear and from here you can select Always block on this site.

There is another way that is easier, but it does not seem to remember from one session to the next.

Go to the site and in the tab right click it and this menu will open.

Then select Mute Site and voila!

Death to Autoplay!

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MySimpleShow.com – A Review

 

Howdy IT Babblers – I’m back with another review. This one is of http://www.mysimpleshow.com. It is a website that lets you make a presentation explaining something. Now, please don’t go confusing this with a way to make tutorial videos. This is more for about explaining concepts, ideas and other topics. Not a site to show you how to do something.

Signing up

There is a free version here but it is pretty basic. If you want a more robust version subscriptions start at $5.99 a month. There is an educational option and that’s what I’ll be exploring. To find this option click on Pricing (at the very top).

Then scroll down a little bit until you see the Fun Business and Educational icons. Click on the Educational one.

Then slick on Select Classroom.

You can create a classroom with up to 50 students in it. We will see what this means or looks like. You can sign up with your Google, Facebook account or a personal email if you would like. I hope it is not another Learning Management System (LMS) but we will see. At this point, I am no further along using this site than you are 🙂

When you sign up for the Educational version they want some information and make you agree that you are indeed a part of an educational institution. I can’t fault them for that. They ask for my school website – just an FYI, I did need to include the http:// before the address.

Success – I’m in!

Creating my first video

OK, here is the dashboard. Very simple and clean and I like that. There is no question about where I need to go to start my first project.

When I start a new project it wants to know a few things. What is the name of the project (that’s a good idea), what language will the project be based in (you can chose between English and German) and if I want to “Write your own Script” or upload a PowerPoint file. That’s good to know that teachers who have created a number of PowerPoints have the ability to repurpose these creations. For this review I’m going in fresh. I’m going to to write my own script.

On your first show a little tutorial video will show you how to do the basics. It’s short and helpful and you can say not to show it again. Anyway, when you get past that you are brought to a template page! There are three categories of templates you can chose from:
– Professional (You must upgrade your account to access these)
– 14 Educational templates (plus a blank template)
– 6 Personal templates (again a blank template as well)

OK, I will chose the pro & contra of a thesis template. Here we go. Again, I am welcomed with another short tutorial video. Again, pretty helpful and I have the option to shut it off for the future.

After the video I get to see the drafting section. This is kind of neat. It is all laid out for me. Check out the image below.

There are five sections in this part.
1. Title
2. Introduction
3. Your opponent’s arguments
4. Your arguments
5. Conclusion

OK – it forces your students (or you) to organize your thoughts. I like that this section is called Draft. Which implies that we will be revisiting these ideas to better refine them. Each section has to be succinct. There is a limit for each section so be aware of that. Some students (or yourself) may to be a bit brutal when writing.

Visualize

OK, now that I’ve written those different sections – it is time to work on the visuals. This is kind of neat and a little frustrating. Here we go. MySimpleShow will read what you have written and then try to pick out some images that you may want to use. Check out the image below.

As you can see there are some words that are underlined and in blue. Those words have an image that you can use and it is already on the slide. Underlined words that are in black are words that MySimpleShow has images for but are not on the slide. The image order is based on how it is written. For example if I moved the sentence “Students love their smartphones.” to the very end, then the image for students would show up as the last image. So order matters – keep that in mind.

You can resize, reposition and slightly manipulate (or remove) the images on the right. You can see that the word bedside has an image and it looks like a hospital gurney. I don’t want that so I am going to remove it.

But I want to add a love image. So I go over to my text and click the word love. Then MySimpleShow brings up some images for me to chose from. Careful here there was a cartoon image of people having sex. It’s not graphic at all but it is very clear what is happening in the image.

Now I want to arrange the images. Easy enough – go ahead and and click the slide with all the graphics and you’re in! From here you can easily move, resize, flip and frames, change or rotate. It is all pretty intuitive and not difficult at all to figure out. One thing I stumbled upon was that you can easily group images. Just drag one image on top of another and then click the other image and it’s grouped. Of course something this easy can easily be a hinderance as well. As I then wanted to resize the first image but I had to remember to click away from another image first or I would accidentally group them and then resize or reposition both images. This isn’t horrible by any stretch and I give them props for adding grouping.

Some guidelines may have been nice, so you know if it is centered or not or if other similarly sized images are aligned to one another.

Now that I have my images the way I want, I can go ahead and preview the animation (the GIF below is not the proper speed from the site).

There are some other options. You can add text instead of an image. Just click the image then click the Abc button. Right next to that you should see that you can upload your own photo, and the image next to that shows you all the past images you have used. Pretty handy.

If what you have written is just too long for a single slide you have the option to split it up into two slides. Just click the scissors icon in the bottom corner of the text box and you can drag what you want to make into a new slide.

You also can merge slides together. Just click on the Merge icon near the top of the text box.

You may notice the little blue blocks at the bottom of the text box. That is to let you know how many more images that slide can hold. There is a limit to 7 images per slide. I guess it’s pretty good of helping keep the slides pretty orderly and clean.

All in all this section is not too bad. One thing I think people will not like is when they are arranging and editing the images on the slide. They cannot see their text as a guide so when they are trying to figure out what image will appear when, they need to close out of that editor, take a look at their text and then re-enter the editor. A simple pad of paper will help someone keep track but it is a little annoying.

There was a little confusion with how to change the image as opposed to how to manipulate (resize, reposition, etc.) the image. To change the image you cannot be editing the slide and then click the image. To manipulate the image you need to edit the slide and then manipulate. Again, with practice this is easily overcome but I would like the option to do both in the same working environment.

There is no closing frame (that is a paid upgrade).

So I’m going to go ahead and finish up these visuals before I move onto the final section.

Finalize

Now this is mostly about audio. You can pick a voice, music, record your own voice or upload your own audio file. In this area on the right hand side you will see all your options and on the left hand side you can see all your slides.

As you can see you can there are quite a few options. The Scribble color is what color you want the “images” to be. I changed it from black to a dark green.

Then when you’re ready hit that Finalize video button and it will open up a screen giving you some options. The free version makes every video in standard definition (that is less than 720p and honestly looks fine on most screens) and public. As you can see there are options for HD video and making the video private (or only accessible with the link) but you must upgrade for those features.

So it puts your video in a queue and it will email you when it is done and ready to be viewed! If you have ever rendered a video on your computer than you know that it takes some time and it really pushes your computer as well, so this takes a little time. It took my video about 2–3 minutes to be rendered. One thing that is neat about this page is that it does show you when it was rendered and you get some easy ways to view it and share it.

One noticeable omission here is YouTube. They definitely have left it out on purpose but that makes sense. They want people to view these videos on their website not someplace else. The option to download it is very nice and usually you see this as a paid feature elsewhere.

When you view the page on MySimpleShow.com this is how it looks. It is nice because it is easy to jump from one section to another and the transcript is a really nice touch. Click the image below to go to the page yourself.

https://videos.mysimpleshow.com/qk1jUL5j6m
https://videos.mysimpleshow.com/qk1jUL5j6m

I wish I could get the embed code but I believe that is a paid feature so I’ll just download and upload it to YouTube.

Conclusion

MySimpleShow is fine. If you want to use this in your class go for it, but use it sparingly. I think the novelty of mystery hands moving images on a slide with music playing in the background will wear out quickly with students of all ages. If this is used too much I can hear students groan when a teacher pulls one up.

If you want your students to make their own project on MySimpleShow be prepared to see lots of hands and listening to lots of robotic voices.

I would recommend students and teachers record their own voice but here is the issue with that. One, if you use the mic on your computer it will sound bad. It will. It will work but the sound will not be crisp and unless the person is really close to the mic (I;m talking a few inches here) then the quality will not be great.

You can record and then upload it yourself, but that is another step and takes even more time, but if you’re going for a very polished presentation this is your best bet.

I like the idea behind MySimpleShow but I am not thrilled with the product it produces. I do like the process though though. Especially the writing process. It really forces the user to think out what they want to say and how to say it in a brief fashion.

There are ways to make it different such as uploading all your own images, recording your voice with a proper mic, but if you’re going to go through all that trouble, then why not use Prezi, PowToons or another presentation software?

Should you use it in your classroom? Yes, but use it rarely so your audience (or yourself) doesn’t get bored.

www.mysimpleslideshow.com

Posted in Patrick Cauley, Review | Tagged | 1 Comment