mote for Gmail

Not too long ago I wrote a review about mote. To sum it up, it is a Chrome extension that will allow you add voice comments to Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Classroom. I like it, it works well. When giving feedback to students sometimes a voice is better than a short comment. It allows you to really emphasis what you liked or to give criticism. It works well, it’s easy to install and easy to use.

Continue reading “mote for Gmail”

WordPress + Anchor.fm = Podcast?

OK – I am skeptical about this. Apparently you can turn all of your WordPress.com articles into a podcast on Anchor.fm. I like Anchor and I am still worried that Spotify has purchased it and others that could share that same space (looking at you Soundtrap.com).

So I thought I’d give it a try. I mean we have over 700 articles on IT Babble so let’s connect the two and see what happens.

Dear GOD!!!! So I created an Anchor.fm account and there was nothing to connect my blog. I like Anchor because it is so straightforward and simple. So I did some research and found this video. It’s a short video and they give an email link at the 6 second mark. The narrator says a URL. The address she is saying is “anchor.fm/wordpress.com” or so I thought.

Continue reading “WordPress + Anchor.fm = Podcast?”

Whiteboard.fi – A review

I was reading Techcrunch and saw that Kahoot! had purchased a small company called Whiteboard.fi. The fi stands for Finland in case you were wondering. So, I loaded up the website, tried it out and within five minutes knew this was a very good product. Read on below to get the whole skinny.

Pricing

There is a very robust free version (what I’ll be reviewing here) and there are two more tiers that charge $4.99/teacher/month and a full featured $12.99/teacher/month. Schools and districts are invited to contact them for bulk discounts if they want to sign up their school or whole district.

The biggest issues with the free version I can see is:

  • No PDF upload
  • No co-teachers
  • No feedback
  • Not able to join a student session

Despite all that I still believe this has tremendous value. 

Signing up

YOU DON”T! Ha!! 

If you don’t have a paid account, you don’t really sign up or sign in and the same is true for your students. To get started click the +New button near the top right hand side of the screen.

When you click that a new screen will open. Here you need to give your “Class” a name. With the free account and even with the first tier, this changes every time. There is no permanent URL or web address you give your students. It will change every single time. This may seem like a bummer, but when it comes to security it is an elegant solution. The chances that someone will “stumble” upon your class is 

There are two other features. One is for a waiting room lobby. This is just what it sounds like. Students who try to join the class must wait here until the teacher admits them into the class. You should certainly use this – especially if you have some kids who love to give themselves nicknames like. That way you can know who is who. You want this on.

The other option is to enable manual saving. By default this website works like Google Docs. It saves itself automatically from time to time. Of course this uses more Internet resources and if you are working with slower speeds, this can cause problems and big delays with students working. So you could enable this if you have slower Internet to allow students less downtime. A nice touch for schools with slower Internet speeds.

When you click + CREATE NEW CLASS at the bottom a new window appear with the URL to your class whiteboards and you can even pop up a QR code (I imagine for students with tablets/smartphones). In my school’s case, I would copy the URL and paste it into our LMS for students to access.

Using it

To get to Whiteboard click on TOGGLE MY WHITEBOARD button above this. I do wish this looked a little more like a button than it actually did, but I ‘m really nitpicking here. You can always hit this button to get the URL again or show the QR code at anytime you want. This is very nice. I see a lot of online services that show this right away and then bury once you’re in the site.

Since I turned on the waiting room, students are not admitted immediately. They are stuck in the “Lobby” You can find this below your whiteboard. You have the option to Accept or Kick them from the class. Pretty straightforward. 

Once you’ve accepted there are a few more settings you can play with. In the top right hand corner of the screen you will see the gear -click that to see what else you can do.

As you can see you can turn on/off the Lobby (in case you forgot during the creation of the class). You can also lock the room. This will keep unwanted hooligans out of your Lobby or class. 

Now, onto the good stuff – what can it do. At the bottom of your (the teacher) whiteboard. You can add more than one workspace and you can decide which workspace will be visible to your students. You cannot hide all of your workspaces, one has to be visible for students so keep that in mind. To hide/show a workspace, just click on the eye next to students. If it turns green, the students can see it. If it is white with a line through the eye, then it is hidden.

Obviously every student has their own whiteboard that they can work on. You can see what they are working on. This will update every few seconds so it is not a live view of what is happening but it refreshes often enough that you shouldn’t be caught off guard. 

While you can see every student’s whiteboard, they cannot see each others at all. This is a good thing. Every year, I’ve had those super talkative students who are inseparable. These students look for anyway to communicate with one another in a class – so I’m glad there isn’t an option here for that to happen.

But Patrick, what if a student does something incredible and you want to share it with the class?

Why that’s a good point! The good people at Digital Teaching Tools Finland have thought of that. From the teacher side, if you click on a student whiteboard you will see it in detail and if you click the ACTIONS button neat the bottom, you then have a bunch of options. One of those is to Copy to teacher whiteboard. This will copy all the contents of that student’s whiteboard. Once there, if the teacher has that particular whiteboard visible to students, then everyone will see it! Nice. 

Some other great options are that you can save the whiteboard as an image, you can erase a whiteboard or you can push your whiteboard to everyone. Of course you can kick a student out as well. 

Another great feature is the ability for the teacher to push out their whiteboard to all students. This is a great option when doing individual problems or maybe writing prompts, etc. From your whiteboard there is a button called PUSH on the far right hand side just above the whiteboard.

When you click that button you are given three options:

  1. Push all of your pages to all students
  2. Push your current page to all students
  3. Push your current page to all students as a background (they cannot edit this)

Just know that when you push something out (even if you’re pushing a student page to your teacher whiteboard) it will erase everything on that whiteboard.

If you push out a question and everyone answers it, you may want to save everyone’s work as a PDF. To do this go back to the settings area (you remember that gear icon in the top right hand corner) and select Save all whiteboards as PDF. 

It will download it as a PDF, each student is clearly labeled and you can even download your own whiteboard if you’d like. It will only download the currently active whiteboard though. For the teacher, it will only download what is currently visible for your students, so keep that in mind as well. 

Annoyances

I have to dig deep to find these and I can only find three. The first is that if you want to modify text it is a little too difficult to be worth your time. Rather than have those tools available in the toolbar, you have to click on the text, then click on a toolbar button to see the text options. Instead of sizes, you have a slider which can be a bit of a pain to get the size you want. It just seems a little silly to have it this way.

The other thing that is annoying is on the student side. If they are inactive for five minutes they get this Connection Paused screen. I like that it pauses their screen and that it notifies the student, but it just screams at the student. If you’re in the middle of a good discussion and five minutes pass, I guarantee students will look down, click on their device and click to reconnect. It just breaks becomes a distraction. Maybe setting this to ten or fifteen minutes before splashing this on their screen.

The final one, and again, this isn’t a deal breaker, is that all the feedback tools are locked into the paid versions. Again, there are ways around this, but it would be nice to have something available for teachers in the free version.

Again, these are just tiny annoyances and not deal breakers in anyway

In conclusion

Use this tool! It is appropriate for just about any grade level, it has enough features that you could use it with higher education or a third grade class. It is simple and easy to learn, no login hassle and boy does it work well. I even tried it on my Pixel 4a and no problems at all. This is a great tool and I can see why there are a lot of teachers out there using. If you have devices that allow touch input, this would be great. If your device doesn’t have touch input, this is still really good. iPad? No problem. Samsung Tab? No problem, MacBook Pro? No problem. This thing just works.

One thing to be aware of is this is not a collaborative tool like LucidSpark. This is more of an individual tool that should be led by a teacher. 

So if you’re looking for a way for students to work individually and for you to monitor this work then check out whiteboard.fi.

CloudApp – A review

Do you ever have those apps that you like using. That you genuinely enjoy firing up and doing some work in it? Well CloudApp is one of those apps for me. I’ve been using for nearly a decade now and it just gets better and better.

What does it do?

In short, it performs four main functions.

  1. It can host images or media in the cloud
  2. It can take screenshots that you can crop, annotate
  3. It can take a video that you can quickly trim and add annotations to it
  4. You can upload files to quickly share (since I use Google Drive this isn’t such a big deal)

Not only can it do those things it has a nice web interface if you want to log into the website and use it. It has apps for Mac and Windows and even iOS so you can have all your content available on whatever platform you use. Heck they even have a Chrome Extension so it can work with Chromebooks. No Android app yet but I’m hopeful it will come soon.

There is a paid version but I think the free version would be more than enough for most people which is rare. Continue reading “CloudApp – A review”

Mote – Chrome Extension review

OK, it’s a weird name but it has a pretty cool function.

This is an extension you can add to Chrome and use on a variety of Google products to leave audio comments. If you mark up an essay or digital document, all too often students will just take a look at the score at the top of the first page and maybe leaf through the rest of their work and then stuff it in a folder, trashcan, or some other dark region never to give it another thought.

This is obviously a problem as feedback is a pretty crucial part of the teaching-learning process. mote allows you to record audio feedback and add it to Any type of Google document (Docs, Sheets, Slides) and it also allows you to add comments on Google Classroom as well. Continue reading “Mote – Chrome Extension review”

ChronoFlo timeline maker – Review

To check out my sample timeline click this link.

https://www.chronoflotimeline.com/timeline/shared/4076/IT-Babble-Rocks/

I have to admit I am a sucker for a good timeline maker. Way back in 2011 Omar Ghosn (the co-founder) and myself decided to review a bunch of timeline generators to find the best one (at the time). You can find all those articles here.

Sadly many of those are no longer (RIP Dipity and TimeGlider) but now there is a new contender:

ChronoFlo Timeline Maker

This review will take a look at this new site and see if it is worth your time.

Continue reading “ChronoFlo timeline maker – Review”

Mic Tests!

We have some teachers who need to teach from home even though we are teaching in person. So I worked with them and worked out a solution with the devices we currently have on hand. The teachers will want to Zoom in to do their instruction so the students need to see and hear them and the teacher also needs to see and hear the students. Seeing isn’t too difficult with built in webcams but hearing the students is a different problem, so I tested a few mic options. In this test I test the following mics:

You can check out the results in the video below. I read the same description of a book around the room in a normal speaking voice to make sure the test is pretty fair. You can also check out Tony’s post about his Hi-Flex iPad option.

Continue reading “Mic Tests!”

Witeboard.com – A review

Hello readers, today I am reviewing another online whiteboard website. What makes this site different is how basic and minimalist this service is. There aren’t a ton of features and there is a very low learning curve but is it enough to be a good to be considered when there are already strong contenders in this space.

Signing up & the tools

You don’t have to! When you go to https://witeboard.com/ you are immediately dropped into a whiteboard and can start working. No need to sign up, sign in or anything else. If you want to sign up, you can do with either an email or with your Google account – so pretty simple.

 

Continue reading “Witeboard.com – A review”

Lucidspark – A review

There are a bunch of whiteboards out there you can use to collaborate with your colleagues or to use with your students. There is Padlet, Wakelet, Google Docs, OneNote and more. However, when I saw that Lucid had created their own whiteboard collaboration website I was excited.

For those of you who are not familiar with Lucid they make some great web based applications. Lucidchart (for flow charts and the like) Lucidpress (for dynamic web publications that look exceptional).

I really like what they make and I find their products to be simple yet powerful and most of all effective. This is why I was so excited and let me tell you, Lucid did not disappoint.

Continue reading “Lucidspark – A review”

Teacher Made – Review

Teacher Made is a website that will take a PDF, JPG, PNG, GIF or DOCX (Microsoft Word file) and add interactivity to it such as text boxes students can fill in, multiple choice questions and more. It basically allows you to take a worksheet and make it so the child can complete it on a computer or mobile device and then submit that file. Oh and there is Google Classroom integration

Sounds like a good idea and much of it works pretty well, though there are some short comings. Let’s take a look together.

Getting started

You can sign in with your Google account or sign up with your email address. Both are straight forward and easy to use. If you plan on using this with Google Classroom, I encourage you to sign up with your Google account. This will make this process a bit easier.

The Dashboard

This place is sparse. You really have two options at this point. You can go to My Worksheet were you can work with those already created or you can go to Create Worksheet where you can (you guessed it) create a new worksheet.

That’s it and in some ways this is pretty good. I’ve seen systems where there are so many options and so many actions that it can get confusing and a user can even get lost or forget where their content is!

On the other hand, having a little more organization in the My Worksheet section would be great. Allowing teachers to make folders or tags to help keep certain units together would be nice. I can see teachers making over a hundred worksheets with this service and then having to go sort through them.

I also wish there was a preview of the worksheet. Sometimes that visual cue (especially if they are planning on reusing these worksheets the next year or later in the year) will be very helpful in figuring out what worksheet is what.

There is a timestamp when the worksheet was made, but I was there was more. To be fair though, this seems to be a fairly new service and I wouldn’t be surprised if these features roll out in the near future.

Creating a worksheet

I feel this goes without saying, but you need to have access to a PDF or picture of the original worksheet first. Teacher Made is not a scanning service, that is not what they do, so you need to have a way to scan these documents. There are plenty of ways to do this and the easiest would be to use an app on your smartphone.

For this example I have a simple addition worksheet from the Math is Fun website. I printed it out and then scanned it as a PDF and emailed that to myself.

Now I go to the Teacher Made website, sign in and click on the Create Worksheet link at the top of the page.

Again, I am greeted with a very straight forward and sparse page. Here it wants me to name it and give it a description which I did.

When you upload the document Teacher Made gives you a preview of what it will look like. If you have a multi page PDF it will show each page and you can even select to omit pages which is very nice, but you cannot reorder the pages. Not a big deal, but if you want that ability you would need to do it ahead of time in another program.

Once it is uploaded you can go ahead and Edit the Content. This means you can add various elements to your document to make it interactive for your students.

Here is what this editing looks like.

The toolbar at the top is where all the magic happens. You can add the following elements to your document:

  • Short answer
  • Dropdown
  • Open answer
  • Matching
  • True/False
  • Multiple Choice
  • Checkboxes
  • Hot Spot (used for maps or images where you want students to click on certain areas)
  • Math (you can add fractions, numbers, mixed numbers or Algebra expression)

This is a very robust set of options, but here is where the issues start to creep in.

Problems

The box where students can answer. This is a good place to start. Check out the image below.

By default there is no border where students can enter their answers. I have added places for answers for questions 19 and 20 but there is no way for a student to know this.

However, Teacher Made has thought of this. In the Format section there is a way to Set Default Borders and to Update All Borders.

I just wish by default there was a border.

When you add a question type to the worksheet, you also can add the correct answer so Teacher Made will grade it automatically. This is nice, but more on that below.

Some of the choices for questions aren’t the greatest. There are areas where students can type words or numbers and those areas are pretty straight forward. However, when you get to the multiple choices – well, just look at the image below.

Hahahahaha

OK Those 4 circles are the multiple choice questions. It only adds these radial dots that you can select. There is no way to add text to the choices. So you need to use a text box to make the choices or have it built into the worksheet originally. It just seems a little silly not to be able to add text next to the circles. This is the same for the Checkbox option as well.

I will say that it is very easy to orient the circles. If you want them smaller and vertical that is pretty easy and intuitive.

Deleting these elements from the worksheet is kind of a pain. I think this is just something that should work but doesn’t right now. In order to delete one of these boxes (say my 4 choice multiple choice), I would think that I would select it and then hit the Delete button. Unfortunately this does not work. I need to select it, go up to the menu and select Edit and then select Delete from there.

Not difficult but it is something that slows down your workflow.

NOTE: I FIGURED IT OUT. ON A MAC YOU NEED TO SELECT THE ITEM AND THEN HIT FN + DELETE 

Nice features

There are some nice features too. I really like the ability to add your own text box. This is great for adding additional instructions such as show all work. Another nice feature is the Color Block/Eraser. Despite Eraser being in the name it does not do that at all. Instead it will place a white block (with a white border) on the page to cover up unwanted information. For example, if I want to get rid of the Date area of this worksheet I will just place a white block over it.

Let me add the white block

Ah, that’s better.

You can also preview the worksheet and check to see that they auto grading system is working.

I really like this.

That way teachers can quickly experience what their students will

Assigning the worksheet

If you want students to complete the worksheet online you need to go to the My Worksheets section.

From the list each worksheet has an Action button. Click that and you see these options and briefly here is what they do:

  • Edit Content – Allows you to edit the worksheet
  • Edit Properties – Allows you to change the name and the description of the worksheet
  • Make a copy
  • Sharing – Allows you to share the worksheet with another teacher. They can then make a copy for their account
  • Assign
  • Preview
  • Delete

If you assign it to students, they will need Teacher Made accounts. If you are a Google school, they can sign in with Google so that is not hard. If they do not have a Google account there is still a somewhat easy way to do this.

You can add a list of names or ID numbers to the assignment so it will be easy for them to access the assessment. This is pretty simple and clever. A good way to get around a student not needing an account. When it is Assigned it will look like this.

You can see my fake account daisy13579 and on the right hand side you see the link and you also see a way to share it to Google Classroom. The link is really long (which is to be expected). If you are teaching first graders who don’t have Google accounts the link is a problem. Here is what mine looks like:

https://app.teachermade.com/begin/364d3f5f-a09f-4ae0-9ba9-ecff1bd9347d

The best way around this is to use a URL shortener like bit.ly to make it manageable for people to type in.

If you go the Google Classroom route, it is pretty straightforward. You pick which class you want to post it to. If you have multiple classes I imagine you would go through this process each time.

Then you can pick if it is an assignment, a question, a post, etc.

When you click Go it takes you to the new assignment on Google Classroom. Here you can set a due date, how many points it is worth (if any) and add it to a Topic. All the good Google Classroom stuff. You will notice that it is just a link to the Teacher Made worksheet.

Grading

When a students submits their worksheet Teacher Made will grade it automatically (that is if you provided the correct answer for the question). Obviously if it is a short answer or written response, it would be best for you to grade. You can see those submissions in the My Worksheets section. To see a student’s work just click on their score

The green boxes are correct answers and the red boxes are incorrect. When you move your mouse over the box, the correct answers will be displayed next to it.

One thing I do not like is that there is no way to override Teacher Made’s grading. If you wanted to give partial credit, there is no way to do that here as you can in other programs or services.

Also, if you want that score to reflect in Google Classroom you will need to go into the assignment and add it for each student. This is not a limitation of Teacher Made but more of a limitation of Google Classroom.

Another thing to know is that once a student has submitted their worksheet on Teacher Made it will not allow them to go back into the worksheet to make any changes or to submit it again.

Conclusion

Should you use Teacher Made? The short answer is yes! It does solve a problem during this weird time in our lives right now. It allows teachers to transform their physical worksheets into digital versions that students can then complete and submit online.

That being said, there is a lot of work that Teacher Made needs to do. There are some features (mentioned above) that need some tweaking or need to be added altogether to make this a slam dunk.

Just know if you are going to use teacher Made you should know what it can do and can’t do before jumping into it fully.

If you know of a similar service you wold like reviewed then let me know in the comments section below.