Kaizena – A review

Kaizena is an Add-on for Google Docs. What it does is allow a teacher or another person to give audio feedback for a Google Doc that has been shared to them. The owner of the doc can then listen to that feedback and improve their document further. Sounds pretty sweet right? Well, let’s check it out and see if it is as good as it sounds.

Getting the Add-on

In order to use Kaizena you must be using Google Docs. It will not matter if your school is using G-Suite or not, but you and the other person must be using a Google Doc in order to install and use the Add-on. To actually install it open up the Google Doc you want to use it with and click on Add-ons from the menu at the top of the document.

A drop down menu will appear. Click on Get add-ons. From here a window will pop up that lets you browse or search a large variety of add-ons that you can install to enhance your Google Doc experience.

Since we know what we are looking for I will just search for Kaizena in the search window near the top right hand corner.

You will see your result and all you have to do now is click the Free button to start the installation.


Once it starts Google will ask you which account you would like to use. Pick your account or sign into Google to start this process. It will ask you to Allow certain permissions that Kaizena wants to do. Go ahead and click Allow.

It will go ahead and install it. Something to know is that Kaizena will be available for all of your Google Docs not just this particular document. When it loads you will be taken back to your document and you should see this little notification letting you know that it has been installed.

Using Kaizena

Now that it is installed let’s launch it. Go to Add-ons in the menu bar and then select Kaizena (Voice Comments) and finally select Open Kaizena.

When you open Kaizena a window will slide out of the far right side of the document. Your first time it will want you to Complete your profile which means selecting your name from a school list. If your school isn’t there you will need to add your school. Basically there is no way that I can see getting past this part which stinks a little but you have to keep in mind that this is a free service.

Once you add your school and the subject and grade level that you teach it will bring up a quick tutorial.

As you can see you have four options. You can:
– leave a voice message
– track a skill
– attach a lesson
– text message

Let’s take a look at the most powerful of its features – the Voice Message. When you click the Voice Message option a little box will appear with a Record button. I like that. It gives you a little more notice and time to compose your thoughts.

When you finally hit the Record button you will be prompted to allow Kaizena to use your mic. I don’t seem to find a way to use a USB mic or a headset. The voice message itself sounds OK though and I was surprised and how quickly it actually posted. I could listen to it almost immediately after I recorded it.

Since I have a free account I can only record 30 second messages but I think I can do unlimited voice messages so that is OK.

A really nice feature is the highlighting. At first I was a little unsure how this worked but after playing around with it for a few minutes I now get it. You highlight some text you would like to comment on. Then you chose whether you want to use a voice comment, skill, lesson or text message. Select one of those and then add your comment. It will then leave it highlighted in the document (even if Kaizena is not opened) making it easy to give the comment more context. Very nice.

So let’s take a look at the other options. Text is just what you would expect. This is actually built into Google Docs anyway, so it is a bit redundant but I get it. You want all your comments in one place. The other two are interesting.

The Skill feature lets you rate a particular skill. For example lets you rate a very particular skill. Kaizena has some preloaded basic skills but you can also make your own by heading to app.kaizena.com.

For this example I am going to rate my title. So, I highlight it, select the Skill button and then chose the Title skill. Now Kaizena asks me to rate it out of four. I’ll give it three for whatever reason. You can add more levels and add descriptions about what each level means. It’s nice – it is like a rubric that for you. I can see a number of teachers using and liking this feature. It is pretty simple and very visual. I can see some people wanting to type in a comment along with the rating, but Kaizena does not allow this and I think it is a good thing. You could go and leave a voice message in addition to it, but this feature is just to give the author and the teacher some quick visual feedback.

The Lesson feature is also created at app.kaizena.com. This … needs a little work. A lesson is just that. You can type instructions in or you can embed a YouTube video into the lesson. For example if you want your students to practice using a semicolon. A lesson may help remind them. I see the idea here and written instructions are definitely the way to go. YouTube videos are soooo small and tiny it seems kind of silly if you ask me. I think this is an OK idea but I just don’t love the way it is implemented.

Student view

This is something I really like about Kaizena. The student view is basically the same as the teacher view. Students can view all the comments left by the teacher and reply to each and every one of them if he/she chooses.

I think students could really leverage Kaizena by highlighting passages and start asking questions before the teacher gets their eyeballs on it. This is good.


Should you use Kaizena? Yes – definitely. It is an effective and efficient way to give meaningful feedback to your students. If you’re a teacher then you know how valuable and important feedback is to the learning process period. If your school has G Suite and you use Google Apps in your class you then Kaizena is a great improvement over the standard commenting built into Google Docs.

Kaizena is also free too – definitely check it out.


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Episode 150

Episode 150 is HERE! For the special occasion we have brought back Mr. Omar Ghosn (cofounder of IT Babble) to talk ed tech once again. The episode is a little longer than normal but certainly a great one.

As always you can find our podcast on iTunes (please subscribe) or on your favorite podcasting app.

  1. Welcome to 150! – What’s everyone been up to?
  2. Social media in schools
    1. Should it be used at all?
    2. Instant messaging vs Social media
    3. If yes, how should it be used?
    4. Etiquette vs Ethics?
    5. FOMO vs JOMO?
      1. My 9 year old and her relationship with social media (Seesaw, Whatsapp, Musically)
      2. The Man Who Knew Too Littleby Sam Dolnick of the NY Times – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/10/style/the-man-who-knew-too-little.html
    6. Eduro Learning Discussion about social media – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzCUtMDKhSY
    7. Tony’s post – https://itbabble.com/2018/03/18/its-time-to-regulate-social-media-in-schools/  
    8. https://gizmodo.com/study-being-a-teen-sucks-now-1822305426
  3. 1:1 Programs in schools – Mobile Devices vs Laptop
    1. Is a Chromebook a mobile device or a laptop
    2. Remix OS – http://www.jide.com/remixos-for-mobile
    3. Samsung DEX – http://www.samsung.com/global/galaxy/apps/samsung-dex/
    4. Omar’s prediction – modular design
  4. Eye strain because we are so connected
    1. Kids are being given iPads and numerous tasks on devices (screen time)
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_blue_light_technology
    3. F.Lux – https://justgetflux.com/
    4. Reading mode on mobile device
  5. Handwriting
    1. Should we continue to focus on it?
    2. Studies show a link between writing on paper and stronger “connections”
      1. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/were-only-human/ink-on-paper-some-notes-on-note-taking.html
    3. And if students are to type…how can we “control” their devices in a BYOD setting? Most testing software does not lock you in – MAP testing software does

You can download this episode here!


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It’s Time to Regulate Social Media in Schools

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

It is spring time, and once again I am planning a new network security plan for a school. The same issues as always, and the same questions.

All questions usually have answers with a price tag attached. Value in such planning is very subjective. After all, we spend money every year managing free apps on iPads, how does that make financial sense?

One question cannot be answered. Regardless of my due diligence and the school’s willingness to fund a comprehensive plan, students will still have phones. Those phones will have data plans. Those data plans circumvent all the work we do. Parents do not seem to care, because they are worried about having that device for logistics and emergencies.

These devices are addictive, and the applications are purely for entertainment and dopamine-driven feedback loops.

Yes, the network can manage the problem when students are on Wifi; but not when the students are on their own network.

Jamming signals is not legal in most countries, and localized jamming seems to cover very large spaces. Even if it was legal, it would impact other services.

I believe all problems can be solved, and I believe I have a solution for this one. Generically, I like to call it Social Media for Education.

Social Media for Education Explained

The core concept is simple. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., would offer an educational package. I firmly believe this should be a paid service for schools that can afford it, and free for schools that can demonstrate hardship. If you consider the cost of properly  blocking Apps on Wifi ($10-50 USD per student per year), this service would be viable if priced appropriately.

The social media companies would follow a Google Apps or O365 model for schools to join. They would require any person under the age of 18 to register as a student connected to a school.

For example, schools who sign-up would be given a school code, and could provide a student ID based roster for cross-referencing. Any person under 18 would be required to connect their profile to a school or education program of some sort(some students are home schooled or have other types of educational plans).

Unless they are connected to some type of educational plan, they simply cannot use social media until they are 18 years of age.

Schools who join would receive these benefits:

  1. Social media profiles are deactivated from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm everyday, in the timezone set by the school. This prevents VPN access from spoofing the clock.
  2. Schools could centralized a two steps homework system. Teachers would use Social media to circulate messages related to the school, and unless students confirmed all messages have been received (read), their profiles would not be activated. Although confirming a message has been seen does not equal work completed, it does mean the student acknowledged receiving the message. Blocking all other activities until all messages are cleared would prioritize the school’s notifications.
  3. Since all students can be identified and connected to a school or program, cyber-bullying would be easier to manage. Schools would need to make a request for data, but that data would connect to a student ID (most likely), and a verified location.

I have thought of more options, but, I would consider the above a tier one solution.

It Cannot Work Unless There is Regulation

It is clear from current practices, such as not enforcing the age restrictions for users, that social media companies will not offer services to schools that help disconnect students during their academic day.

In places like France, the government is physically banning phones from campuses. Other schools follow strict device confiscation policies. These measures only create a black market for phones, theft among students, and a burden on families who are victims of theft.

Trying to regulate property, and potentially facing liability issues related to property, is not the path to follow to solve this problem.

Governments need to simply require social media companies, or any company making a communications product, to provide the an identity and connection management system for those under the age of 18.

Those over 18 already have to use multiple methods to verify themselves when making new accounts. However, students seem to be able to join social media using devices and phone numbers that are not even legally in their own name. Think about that? I give my child a phone and number, they use it to join Facebook? How is that legal or even verified?

Not Enrolled in School = No Social Media

Compulsory Education around the world varies. Very few countries report having no compulsory education requirements.

No Requirement Based on Previous Data
Oman 0 2007
Solomon Islands 0 2002
Cambodia 0 2008
Holy See (Vatican City) 0 2007
Tokelau 0 2007
Bhutan 0 2008

The world-wide impact of adopting social media regulation of this caliber would equate to those under 18 not being allowed on social media, if they could not demonstrate they were enrolled in some type of educational program.

Likely, many countries would not participate in such regulation at all. However, it really only has to be country by country. As international as these platforms seem to be, connections students have are usually very local. Most students have their primary social network within the school they attend. That means their social media time is literally just interacting with people they could easily look at and speak with.

If Facebook in India were not participating, that would not impact a school in Korea. If students were to move from country to country (or school to school), they would have to re-register. The meta data from that behavior alone would help confirm drop-out rates, possible issues within school districts, etc. I believe the unknown benefits of the data would be substantial. Observer effect issues and data manipulation by school administration would be reduced.

I have been working with teenagers since 2005. I have worked with students from over 100 countries. I have been a technology disruptor, more times than I have supported the status quo. I believe in BYOD programs, and any students I have worked with will confirm I empower them to lead and make decisions. I know when I see a problem in the plan and the patterns. I know when students are not engaged, and when they are not learning. Mobile devices with addictive applications are a real problem. The design is an addictive design, and the effects are powerful. I hate regulation, but unfortunately, I think we are there.


Posted in cyber awareness, eductainment, entertainment, facebook, Google Apps, iPhone, Opinion, social network, Tony DePrato | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

viewpure – a video tutorial


Earlier this week I wrote about viewpure.com and I am genuinely pretty impressed with what this service does. Above is a quick video showing it in action and how you can customize YouTube videos of your own choice to safely show to your students.


Posted in Helpful Tips, Patrick Cauley, tutorial | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Episode 149 1/2 – Where’s Omar?

Hello IT Babblers! I know that this is supposed to be episode 150 but Omar had another commitment and couldn’t make so rather than record 150 without him we decided to record 149 1/2 and save 150 for later when Omar can join us.

Check out the talking points below and be sure to subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

  1. Where’s Omar?
  2. The real reason we ban cell phones by Scott Mcleod of Dangerously Irrelevant

    1. http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2018/02/the-real-reason-we-ban-cell-phones.html
    2. Check out the comments
  3. New Raspberry Pi B

    1. Dual band WiFi
    2. Faster processor
    3. $35 – https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-pi-3-model-bplus-sale-now-35/
    4. Tony’s issues with Arduino boards and MacBooks

You can download the episode here.

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viewpure and YouTube

Let me lay out a scenario and see if you can relate to it. You have found a great YouTube video (like the one below :)). You want to show it to your class. It has a great explanation, it simplifies it and since it is on YouTube you can reference it over and over again so you can link to it in your LMS of choice or share it out another way.

The big day comes and man you are stoked. You bring up the link and … OMG! There are rude and inappropriate comments in the link below.

Note – these comments are not rude in anyway. I am just making a point.

Your students are snickering. You’re freaking out because you are afraid that these students will go home and tell their parents. Then you’re afraid those parents will tell your principal and before you know it you’ll be unemployed.

Well there is a solution out there friendly visitor. There is viewpure. This very simple website (no sign up needed or even AVAILABLE) will take the YouTube video you want and “Purify” it.

Just copy the URL (or web address) of the YouTube video.

Then paste it into viewpure’s box for the YouTube video like shown below.

Finally click the Purify button and whamo! The video with no salty or inappropriate comments.

Now that the video has been Purified you can actually take that link and share it out and that is the version of the video that students or parents will see.

There’s more!

Now this is pretty useful but there is much more you can do. If you click on the little gear at the bottom of the video you will see a number of other options.

You can give it a custom URL add a password to it and even trim it down. Let’s say you find an interview that is an hour long and you only need 5 minutes. viewpure will can do this as well! Very handy.

There is still one more trick that viewpure has to offer. You can actually search for other videos that have been Purified. Instead of putting in a YouTube URL just type the topic in the box instead and hit the Purify button.

You will get a bunch of results but please watch them before showing them to your class.

That’s viewpure.

viewpure – http://viewpure.com/

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

Edublogs, Blogger, WordPress.com and KidBlog – Which should you use?

As you know I read Free Tech for Teachers and I saw this post that Richard wrote about recommending two blogging platforms for teachers. I got to thinking that there are other options out there and in my opinion better options!

In his post he recommends EduBlogs and Blogger. So let’s get Blogger out of the way. If you use G Suite then yes, Blogger is a good choice. It is easy to use and pretty powerful to boot. I think this is a good choice. If your school uses Office 365 or no services like this then I suggest looking elsewhere. I believe you can get more with the same amount of work.

Another thing to understand is that Google considers Blogging a form of social interactions. If you have students under the age of 13 setting up a blog on Blogger will ask them if they want to create a Google Plus account. If they say yes and they are not of age or if Google Plus has been disabled for their class, Google may suspend their account. Yes – this is true and there isn’t a whole lot your Google admin can do about it either so be careful.

I’ve written about Blogger plenty of times and I’ve used it plenty of times myself. I have used it with students and I have used it with staff. It is fine, but if you’re not Google I encourage you to look elsewhere.

Now onto Edublogs.

Now Edublogs is free … ish. You don’t get everything for free so let’s take a look at when you do get for free.

Now the list continues though these features (most of them) are a little more on the technical side so you may not need them.

I was able to add a YouTube video which is good but if I want to add a Google Slides presentation?

That’s a hard no. How about Soundlcoud? Nope. Just about anything else you want to embed. So you have YouTube and that’s all. Blogger will let you embed whatever you want and WordPress.com let’s you embed many things (though not everything and more on that later). Also, you only get 1GB of storage which is plenty since you can really only upload images. So what’s the appeal? Why would anyone want to hamstring their students?

Here’s its ace in the hole. You can create a class on your blog. That means that you can invite students to your blog, moderate what they write, what they comment and how comments work in general.

You can create each student blog right from your own dashboard which is very, very nice.

With this – the student doesn’t need to sign up. You create their account, password and level of access. This is pretty sweet and for younger students (say elementary) who may not have an email this is a good solution though the Edublogs dashboard (which is the WordPress dashboard because Edublogs is built on WordPress) may not be the easiest interface for younger students to navigate. Clear instructions, a little prep and some patience will remedy this of course.

I still cannot get past the fact that you can embed nearly nothing and that your storage is pretty small. I know to upgrade isn’t too bad only $39.95 per year (as of this post) which is cheaper than Kidblog, but it is just too limiting for the free version.

The idea seems directly targeted to elementary but the actual use seems more akin for middle school students and beyond. Use it if you need a free option and want to easily create blogs for your students.

Next up is kidblog.org.

This is a paid service so check out the cost below.

They do have special pricing for entire schools or districts but they don’t publish that information. So what does it do that it feels it can charge? It basically does the same thing as Edublogs. A teacher creates a class and then adds her/his students to the class. You even have the option of bulk uploading users which is very nice.

You also have an option of creating a Join-Code for the class, so you don’t even have to add them just give them a code and they can add themselves a-la Edmodo, Schoology and a ton of other services.

So what else? Simplicity. It is simple for students to use. Simple to log in, simple to leave comments (if that is available), simple to post and so on.

Very little hand holding here. It is simple for the teacher to manage the blog. Heck you could even add moderators or guests to the blog.

Would I use this with middle or high school students? No.

But if you, your school or district have the money and you want blogging to be done in the elementary then this is the path to go.

Finally to WordPress.com.

This is what I recommend for middle, high school and college students. It’s not all rainbows and cupcakes though. First, you cannot create their accounts. You can invite people to your blog, but it takes a little digging and an invitation does not create an account. They have to do that themselves. This takes time and is a pain! In the past this process took a good 3 days to complete. That was before G Suite or Office 365 so maybe it will go a little quicker now.

Once they are in and added to your blog as authors you can set limitations about moderation before publishing and so on like Edublogs. There are also a wide variety of media you can embed: Vimeo, YouTube, Google Slides/Docs, audio files and more. Now not everything can be embedded in the free account but a lot can.

Oh yeah this is all free too with a healthy 3GB of storage. There are ads on WordPress but only on the articles themselves and only at the bottom of the article making it pretty much unnoticeable. Let us knot forget that Edublogs is also built on WordPress so the experience is quite similar but Edublogs does let a teacher create student access but they withhold almost all embedding features.


Here you go.

If you use G Suite at your school then use Blogger. It’s simple, powerful and easy to add (just be careful of the Google Plus and avoid it).

If you are in elementary use Kidblog if you can afford it. If not, then use Edublogs for free. Kidblog is easier to use and set up the Edublogs and gives a wide variety of embedding options.

If you are in middle/high school use WordPress.com. Its free and powerful. It is a pain to set up with your classes but if you use Office 365 it could make it a little easier.

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Mobile devices for 1:1 programs

Mobile devices for 1:1 programs

I saw this on the Eduro blog. This isn’t an article though, it is a YouTube conversation. I just realized that their YouTube link doesn’t work so here is the correct link. So they discuss whether or not 1:1 programs should be built with mobile (iPads, tablets, Chromebooks) since students use mobile devices much more than laptops or desktops?

Spoiler: Laptops aren’t going anywhere.

The argument made is that laptops can run certain programs and do certain tasks that mobile devices. For example, but not limited to, Photoshop, professional video editing apps, professional website building apps, database creation apps, professional (or robust) publishing software, serious spreadsheet programs and so on.

Does this mean that schools that opt for iPads, Chromebooks or other tablets in schools? No, not at all. These devices have their own merits: cost, durability, integration with your current systems (Google Drive, Office 365). Also, you can have an IT lab or laptop cart that contains those devices with those special programs.

The bottom line is this. When students leave school and start a profession more often than not they will be handed a laptop or have a desktop. It’s pretty simple. I wrote a post about The future of smartphones and teachers where I dream about having my smartphone be my primary and only computing device. The sad truth is we are not there yet. One day.

What do you think?

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Chrome music lab

Yes – this is fun. You may not be aware but Google Chrome has a team that makes something called Chrome Experiments. This thing is just thinking outside the box of what Chrome can do. Most of it is interactive fun artsy stuff which isn’t all that bad.

Their latest experiment is the Chrome Music Lab. Here you can chose between 13 interactive musical experiences. They are pretty awesome and certainly a bit of fun.

The one I like the most is the Song-Maker. Here you can draw out your own song like a MIDI and then play it. You can chose between differnt sounds, different types of beats and it is just a lot of fun.

One tip – if you’re going to use this with some kids – make sure they have headphones.



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A 360 app for your smartphone is handy

This is a quick post and I hope you find a helpful one. Our school, like many I suspect, do deep cleaning in classrooms throughout the year – especially during long breaks such as winter, spring break and of course the summer break.

Whether you have carpet or not in the classroom these deep cleaning sessions usually require all the classroom furniture to be removed and then put back. The carpets or floors would then be cleaned. Then after that is done the furniture needs to be moved back.

You either know the problem or can foresee the problem. When everything is moved back into the classroom you could get the wrong number of desks or desks arranged incorrecrtly. Either way, as a teacher it is always a “thrill” to return after a long break to find that instead of planning for the first hour before students arrive you have to rearrange and go searching for missing desks, chairs, shelves or supplies.

Why not use your smartphone to take a pciture of the classroom many might be saying. True this is a huge help, but sometimes it doesn’t encompass everything needed. Enter a 360 camera app for the smartphone. This app will let a person stand in the middle of the room and capture, in more detail, what and how a room should look.

You can find plenty of these apps on the Google Play and Apple’s app stores. The one I tried out is called Panorma 360 by Occipital. This app is fast and quick and does a fantastic job – period. It does cost money ($1.99). Check out a quick Gif below of one of the classrooms.

You can check out the actual 360 online here (sorry it will not embed).

I think this little app can help make the facilities staff (in fact this idea came from one of our own) get it right (or as close as possible) and to help alleviate fears from the staff that their rooms may look like this after a winter break.

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