We are back! Welcome to the 2019-2020 school year! Today we (Tony and Patrick) talk about a few items, but most noticeably is a kick ass t-shirt printer that is waaay too expensive for either of our schools! Check out the talking points below, subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app or listen below!
It is back to school which means there are a lot of PowerPoints, Keynotes, Google Slide shows that are going to be presented to students, parents and staff. I’ve got some tips for making yours better than the most.
Keep it short
The quote for good old Bill Shakespeare sums it up nicely. Present your points clearly, concisely and move on. Don’t give “humorous” anecdotes or stories that have nothing to do with your presentation. Also, don’t think you need to tell your audience everything that is going on. Find the major talking points and focus on those.
The Rule of Six
This is more of a guideline than a rule. It basically says no more than 6 words per title or bullet point and no more than 6 bullet points per slide. I use this because if I find myself going past the 6 words in a bullet point then this guideline forces me to rethink what I’ve written. If I can’t fit it on the bullet point in less than 6 words then it needs another bullet point. If I can’t explain it in 6 bullet points than I need another slide.
There are exceptions here (quotes, mission statements, etc.), but I avoid sentences on a presentation like a Midwestern Pothole. I want to keep it to a word or just a few words. I almost never hit the 6 word limit. I want to explain the topic to them. If I am saying everything that is on the slide, then why am I up there wasting these people’s time? My audiences are all educated and can read and think for themselves.
Almost no animations/transitions
I used to love these damn things. I found it fun to apply new animations and transitions to slideshows just to see what can be done. The bottom line is that this slows down your presentation and they are usually unnecessary. It may only be a combined time of 5-10 extra seconds, but that might be enough time for audience to slump back in their chairs and start to tune you out.
If you use these animations all the time whatever the animations where there to emphasize is lost because everything has an animation. Avoid them.
Don’t read your slides
Again, maybe you are emphasizing a point like the school’s mission statement or a quote from a person, but typically don’t read your damn slides! The people watching your presentation are educated and can read themselves, they don’t need you to read it to them.
Also, you shouldn’t have that info in a paragraph or collection of sentences in the first place. If you do have a long string of words up, you don’t need to read it. Maybe wait in silence for a few seconds while the audience has a chance to read it and then further expound upon that topic or move on.
Templates and Color
When making a presentation you often have quite a few templates you can chose from and most of them look great on your computer screen. The problem comes when it shines through an aging projector who may not be as bright or the colors may not be as accurate.
I ran into this last week. I had an organizational chart that showed current projects that had not been started, started and completed. The projector did not convey those colors accurately so all the projects looked the same color. It was a bit of a fail.
If you have a really colorful template or specific colors used on text be cautious! I am making more and more of my presentations with a plain white background and black text. Even if the color goes out due to a bad VGA cord, my presentation will still be perfectly viewable.
Chose fonts based on your audience. Kindergartners may like Comic Sans, but presenting to their parents is not really appropriate. It simply doesn’t look professional. Also stick with the same font throughout your presentation.
The last bit of advice I have is to rehearse! Practice it early and often. Even if it is just you in your office, bedroom, car – practice. You may feel silly at first but when you present it your audience will appreciate it. Through rehearsing you gain more and more understanding of what it is you want to say and how you want to say it. You also find that your slideshow does not reflect all the points you want to talk about and you often end up revising it. This will also give you more confidence when presenting because you know the presentation so well.
This practice also makes you extremely adaptable for unforeseen events. Last week, a presenter found herself with less time for one reason or another. She did not have time to go through her entire presentation so she had to figure out, on the fly, what she was going to skip and what she was going to highlight. Rehearsing may have made those choices a little easier for her and made her presentation go a little smoother. Again, not her fault finding herself in that situation but rehearsing could have smoothed out the tough spots.
Folks, this is not new news. In fact it was fist reported back in 2017, but you will start hearing more about soon. Adobe Flash Player is finally dying. All major browsers will be phasing it out and it will most likely stop working all together sometime in 2020.
So what does this mean? Well if you (or another teacher) uses a site that requires Flash player that site will work for a little while. You may have to give it permission to use Flash player over and over again and by the end of 2020 it simply will not work.
There are a lot of BBC educational sites that were built using Flash. Here is a popular one that I have seen in a few schools.
BBC archived all these sites a while ago. This leads me to believe that they are not going to rebuild it for modern day standards meaning it will eventually cease to work 😦
So you have time. Start looking for other resources, reach out to your PLN, search the web, talk to your colleagues and find that replacement piece for your unit.
How many documents do you have open to the public? When was the last time you checked to see what anyone with internet access could download from your school website, your PowerSchool or SIS public folder, or even your various cloud services?
Before you think I am wasting your time, here is a quick glimpse of a simple public search for budgets people have not secured:
If the above animation is not clear, don’t worry. I will show you how to do it.
INURL and FileType
Google has some cool advanced search features. To scan your public files, the two I recommend are “inurl:” and “filetype:” .
For example when copying and pasting the following string into Google, inurl:saschina.org filetype:pdf , the results are all public PDF files that exist with any url that contains saschina.org.
Keeping the url simple often yields more results. For example, using saschina would look at other domains. If you add the .org, then the search will be limited to the .org domain only.
When to Worry about Public Documents
First off, many documents are supposed to be public. Seeing documents in this type of search is normal and excepted. What is not usually expected are documents that contain:
Name associated with contact information
Names of parents, donors, etc.
Special codes use to tell vendors/suppliers who has organizational authority to place orders
Usernames and Passwords
Documents with information similar to the above should be secured, unless required to be public for legal reasons.
I would suggest having document ID numbers in the footer that indicated a document should be public. This simple practice would allow everyone in the organization to report documents that should not be public.
The link below will take you to a page that will help you begin checking your online resources.
Stress at the start of the school year is normal. I firmly believe that a positive start leads to a positive year. Here are some suggestions I like to give to people at the start of the year.
What do you need to start the school year?
Students. Teachers. And a place for them to meet. Many of the things people stress about are not required to actually start the school year. Remember, not everything can be the most important. If everything is critical, and everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.
No, really, what do you need to start the school year?
Here is a core checklist for the school start-up:
A roster of students who should be attending
A roster of students who left, to make certain they do not return without re-enrollment
Schedules (or at least a plan for the first week while scheduling is being sorted)
Lunch planning needs to be sorted and should be running smoothly; food is important; the communal time is important
Two to three weeks of lesson plans that can be executed with the resources from the previous year
Buddies for new staff, with a simple schedule to keep them connected and interacting
Short meetings scheduled to touch base on facilities issues; administrators should take the issues down and get everyone back to work
If the technology is being unreliable, remove layers of complexity, and simply give people access to the internet; new management protocols and summer updates can take weeks to sort out
Keep students connecting socially, and offline; build community first and the curriculum will be easier to deliver
Consider Staying Offline for a Few Days
For students under USA grade level 3, I would keep them offline for 2-3 weeks. Focus on social interactivity, building a relationship with their teachers, and learning how everything works within the learning environment.
For students in who are USA grade levels 3 -5 and middle school grades 6-8, I would keep them offline for at least a week. I would make sure they do a full review of the school’s AUP and Digital Citizenship program.
High school students in USA grade levels 12 and 11 should be the main focus of IT for the first two days of school. Grades 9-10 can wait. Once the upper grade technology is sorted, move down to 9-10. Remember, high school students are flexible, and they can meet IT for support in varying intervals. High school should be all online within the first four days of school.
The Big Bang is Not Good for Stress
The Big Bang Implementation Approach (big bang), is something schools tend to do annually. Basically, they try to do everything for everyone at once. For example, connecting all BYOD devices K-12 in one day. Think about who needs access, and when they need it. Consider the curriculum. What percentage of a grade level’s content is only available with a device in hand? Do the higher percentages first, and the rest later following a steady pace.
Communicate the planning to everyone. Take a breath. And keep the school start steady, positive, and peaceful.
We are back! I know that 166 is not published yet but we are working on some sound issues. In this episode, we tackle scheduling advice, we also talk about the SIM card swap nightmare a journalist had, ambient privacy (neat concept) and finally about the fad of being depressed online. Check out the show notes below and as always subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.
This is a pretty meaty topic so hang on. An interactive whiteboard (IWB), or interactive flat panel, is basically a large TV that ranges 55“ – 88” (139cm – 224cm) that has touch capabilities. They usually come loaded with an Android OS or Windows 10 (some can even swap between the two) and most are priced very similarly to each other. That last fact is what makes it a bit difficult to chose, because there are A LOT of companies who are in this space. I’ve looked at mu fair share of these and I’m not here to talk about specific brands but to examine the characteristics and features that we looked for.
For us we are looking to purchase one interactive whiteboard for our library. Our teachers do not want these to replace their traditional whiteboards and markers (in fact, when we were demoing different units this was a fear from some teachers).
Here we go!
I heard this from more than one vendor. The actual screen and hardware that powers it is nearly the same across all brands. There are only 2–3 companies that make these screens and then they sell them to other companies who put their specific hardware, casing, speakers, cart on it. This is why most of them are priced so closely to one another. So if a vendor says, well our 4K display is much, much better than that 4K display just look past that fact and focus more on how it works and what it can do. However, I will say that all the 4K displays looked stunning – regardless of brand.
Whiteboarding and Annotation
This turned out to be one of the most important features for our teachers. All the interactive whiteboards (IWB) can … well, whiteboard. They all had their own proprietary app that basically brought up a white screen that you could draw or write on with your finger or a pen. They all had fairly accurate and pretty responsive and lines, objects and words all showed up where you expected them to show up as you drew them. This was pretty universal and a good sign that touch has come a long way in the last ten years.
Getting the workspace off the whiteboard and onto a computer or cloud service was a big question. It is great that you can illustrate, model or brainstorm on this beautiful screen but how can you then save that and then share it with your students? One we looked at had us save it to a folder on the device itself, then you would have to open up Google Drive (Edmodo, Google Classroom, Office 365 – whatever service you would like) and then add it and share it from that service. Not bad but not easy.
Another IWB we looked at actually logged you into your cloud service of choice and you could save it to a folder automatically. This was much better and less cumbersome.
Also, teachers wanted to be able to annotate on web pages. All the boards offered this in one way or another. One board let you activate the annotation tools and you could then annotate right on the webpage without leaving the browser. You could then save that annotation or discard it right from a floating toolbar. Once that was done the toolbar disappeared and you could continue browsing.
Another IWB actually took a screenshot, loaded the screenshot into the whiteboarding app and you could annotate from there. Clunky.
All of our options had the ability to also do screen recording but again, some where better than others and sometimes finding that recording was not as intuitive as it should be. All in all, from a teacher perspective the whiteboarding and annotating features turned out to be the most important feature.
Operating System and Apps
I mentioned that the boards we looked at had different operating systems but they all boiled down to Windows 10 and Android. Here is what we found. With Windows 10 – it is a fully functional computer. Whatever you can install on a regular PC you can most likely install on the IWB. This is good and certainly a characteristic that was important to consider even though our teachers use Macbook Airs. Having the ability to launch an app without having to log into a website was very appealing. The Android IWB we looked at had varying amounts of apps that we could install. None of them had the actual Google Play Store meaning we would have to sideload the app and then there was no guarantee that it would work.
A teacher pointed out to me that if they wanted a particular program to be running, they would hook up their computer or connect wirelessly via Apple TV (which our school would provide) so the importance of apps on the whiteboard was not a deal breaker for us and probably shouldn’t be for you either.
Many of the IWBs would allow you to swap out the computer for another. This may be very handy if you have a fleet (one in every classroom). You could have a warm spare ready to deploy incase something happened to a particular board. Once swapped out, the technology team could take the bad one back and try to repair it and get it ready for another swap. Of course, the data on that damaged computer would most likely be lost – so save in the cloud folks!
Connecting other devices
All the IWBs we looked at could connect multiple devices to it. Usually via an HDMI cable. They also contained a USB B port as well that you could connect to your computer. What this would do would show your computer’s screen on the IWB and allow you to interact it with via touching the whiteboard. This worked pretty well for all but one thing to keep in mind is that gestures do NOT work with this interface. I could not use two fingers to scroll a webpage for example or tap two fingers on a file to bring up options. This seemed to be true for all we tried.
We tried an Apple TV and it worked fine. No touch but this was to be expected. We also tried an AirTame and it worked fine as well but again no touch capabilites.
This is more for me than the teacher or others on the tech team. I expect that this device should be able to pump out enough sound that a class of 20–30 students should easily be able to hear. Each IWB had their own built in speakers but some were better than others. One IWB we tried sounded as though the speakers were inside a protective casing. The sound was tinny and a little muffled and definitely not very loud.
All of them did allow for external speakers and all could also the mounting of a soundbar or side speakers, but that is an extra cost and I’ve seen some “mounted” speakers onto IWBs that look like they could fall off with a bump.
Multiple users & Licenses
Some of the IWB were clearly made for a few users. Since this particular board will be living in our library for any teacher to use with her/his class, then we needed to make sure that multiple people could easily switch from one account to another, so this was an important factor for us. If every classroom is getting one, then maybe not so much for you or your school but it is something to keep in mind.
Also, do you need to purchase a license every year to continue to use the board. Some boards have their own proprietary software that requires a yearly license. Be sure to know what those costs are will it still function if you don’t want to use that service anymore. I’ve seen presentations and asked that question and sometimes have gotten conflicting answers from the vendor. Be sure to know.
Try them out and gather data!
I looked at quite a few and if we couldn’t get a demo unit into the school then we did not consider it. It was too important piece of equipment to base it upon a tech spec sheet and tutorial videos. If a vendor can’t provide a demo unit (or if you can’t go to them and try it out) stay away.
Also, when you try them out set up a formal demonstration either through the vendor or doing it yourself. Show off some highlights of each machine and allow teachers to give feedback. I know there will be times I will be use the IWB but teachers and students will be using it more than myself and hearing what they want is critical for getting buy in.
Devices in this area are rapidly changing and developing. Do not worry about buyers remorse. If you find the best fit for your school at that time be comfortable with that decision and don’t kick yourself when the prices drop $500 the next year or when an 8K display becomes available for the same price, etc.
Also, stay away from IWBs that are aimed for corporate environments. I’m looking at your Surface Hub 2. This is a great device and a marvel of engineering but the sheer cost of it ($9000 for the 55″) is not realistic to most K–12 schools regardless of funding.
Finally, make it a team decision. Don’t unilaterally make this decision. Gather a group of educators (teachers are a must) and get feedback. If no one can agree on a path forward then that is not a failure or people being difficult. It is most likely a sign that your school may not be ready for this device yet or more likely, the devices out there cannot meet the needs of your school. I’ve been in a school with “Interactive Whiteboards” and they stunk! Few teachers used them, they weren’t enjoyable to use and basically sat unused.
When it does arrive, be sure to educate your staff and do it often throughout the years to come. Make sure people know how to use the basics and are somewhat comfortable with it.
Tony and Patrick are back with a scintillating show talking about Apple, projectors, Python and more! Check out the talking points below and as always subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app
In February of 2018 I wrote a review for Anchor. Anchor is a website and mobile app that will let you create and publish your very own podcast! I had a lot of very nice things to say about and you can read my review here. I did warn that this free service would not last and it could very easily disappear though I hoped this would not be the case.
My worry is that these companies are going to try to monetize podcasts, find out that people will just not subscribe or pay for many of these podcasts and then the whole thing will start to collapse. Then these companies will do what companies do when they want to cut their loses. They will start closing down development, departments, lay people off or transfer them to another department and then bye-bye Anchor 😦
I don’t think that Anchor being a casualty of the podcast war and going away is too crazy. In fact it seems very likely.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the path that Anchor is heading. If you use Anchor – keep using Anchor. Don’t stop but I would start looking for alternatives. I would also keep an eye on any Anchor news. Subscribe to their blog and read any news concerning this podcast war is also a good idea. I doubt that they will shutter or close anytime soon, but having to find a new service for your educational units is always a pain.
The bottom line is that Anchor is not going away … yet.
Tony and Patrick after a long and much deserved Spring Break. This episode promises to be another classic as Tony and Patrick talk about some upcoming Windows news, some great advice about STEM/STEAM skills and even a bit of comic book movies and Game of Thrones. Check out the talking points below and as always subscribe to us on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.
That's what we are here for. We want to help teachers and educators integrate technology in the classroom in sensible and relevant ways. Just drop us a line by commenting on any of our posts and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
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