Well, it’s been a spell since I’ve posted anything. To be honest – I haven’t really been feeling the blog too much recently. I’ve had some family members pass away and school and family life has been busy and IT Babble has just sorted fallen off my priority list.
I’m not too sure how much longer I’ll be doing this, but I do know there are at least a few more posts left in me. In fact, I’ve got a big update to my Streaming events saga. If you’re looking for the history check out the posts below.
The big news is the addition of a computer running OBS. I am a total OBS newb and while it is fairly easy program to get the basics down, it is an open source project and there are always some surprises squirreled away. At any rate – keep an eye out for that coming up.
Well here we are. The end of Edmodo is upon us and I’m a little sad – not gonna lie. For those of you who don’t know what Edmodo is (or was at this point), it was a Learning Management System started way back in 2008. It showed up at the right time.
School Information Systems had gradebooks for teachers, maybe a webpage, but little else. Teachers were clamoring for a system where they could make classes for their students, assign work to them, allow them to turn in said work and most of all communicate in or outside of class. Edmodo. It was simple, it was straightforward and it worked well.
I’ve written a lot about Edmodo and was a big fan of it. I wrote a guide for teachers and published via Scribd and Edmodo found it and put it on the homepage of their new Support site – pretty cool 🙂
I liked how easy it was to setup. It took the power out of the hands of an administrator and put it in the hands of a teacher, something that was not very common at that time.
It allowed me as a computer teacher to allow students to not only reach out to me during class but also find a way to get assistance after class too. I would set up “virtual office hours” for my students and most of all, other students would be able to help their classmates.
You have to remember the only big social network at the time was Facebook and Twitter was starting to explode and when you’re teaching middle school kids – not everyone had that and even if they did, they may not have had a smartphone to go along with it.
Edmodo became a social network (of sorts) for my classes and it was a little exciting.
Money, well lack thereof. They published a FAQ stating that their monetization efforts did not really work and they could not support the site. Edmodo always promised to be free and they honored that promise to the end.
Maybe their free product was a little too good. They eventually offered a Pro version and had a marketplace where you could get third party services to integrate with Edmodo and I think Edmodo would take a cut.
Well it is a shame they’re gone. Their biggest competitor, Schoology, was gobbled up by PowerSchool and is now exclusively offered through them. Other competitors are paid services and while there is still Moodle that requires time to setup and while it is technically “free” you still need a place to host and someone to manage it.
Google Classroom is free, but you need a Google account. Edmodo and Schoology didn’t really care, in fact Edmodo didn’t need an email which made it so appealing for teachers of younger students.
I have fond memories of Edmodo, but its time has passed.
All good things must come to an end as they say and that seems especially true to free online services that work pretty well.
The Tech Department at my school has been using Slack to communicate internally, but to really keep commonly used files, IP addresses and other important information. We liked it because the search was so fast, it was so good and since it could keep 10,000 messages we really had kind of a working repository of important information that we could access on any device with an Internet connection. Ahhh-the good old days.
Slack has decided to change their free plan from 10,000 messages and 5GB of storage to unlimited messages and storage. What?! Why is that sooo bad? You may ask yourself.
Well the catch here is that it will only keep that data for 90 days and then it is deleted hidden. So our important PDF’s that we want quick access to will be gone (or as good as gone since we cannot search for them anymore) as well as all other notes, files and doohickeys that we deemed important at the moment.
I am not mad at Slack. They are a company and this will undoubtedly drive some users from the free version to the paid version which is really the point here. I knew it couldn’t last and when I saw the news break in mid July I wasn’t angry or disappointed but just a feeling something like this was inevitable.
Since we are a Google school we are switching over to Google Spaces. It seems to provide a similar service but it is not as fast or easy to get to. Everything just seems to take an extra click or two where Slack was much more streamlined.
It’s fine – we need to move our information out of Slack and into Google Spaces. We considered some other options, but this will do. While it may be a bit laborious getting specific files and information out of Slack we should be fine.
Slack was more of a convenience to help streamline our work. It was not an essential part of storing vital information, but a quick way to access it and to help keep us on the same page. Losing it stinks (a little) but we will survive – we’re strong that way.
Ahhh – Google Calendar – I do enjoy using you. I know that are a lot of different online calendars out there to chose from and many are free, but this has been my mainstay for well over a decade. It is simple to use, you can cram a lot of info into an event, but what I like most about it, is how easy it is to navigate and that’s what this post is all about.
Enable shortcut keys
The first thing you need to do is make sure that you can use shortcut keys. To do this head over to your settings by clicking on the gear near the top right hand corner of your screen.
Then you should see Keyboard shortcuts as an option on the left hand side. Click that and then tick the box to enable shortcuts.
Now when you head back to your calendar, if you type the ? you will see a whole list of them. There’s not a ton, which is good, it makes it a lot easier to memorize. Here are all of them.
My personal favorite keys are the navigation keys. You can switch between day, week, month and even year view just by pressing the right key. Check out the video below to see it in action.
Creating a new event
If you’re in Google Calendar go ahead and hit “C” to create a new event. Of course you can just click on the day (and time if you’re on Day view) to create one as well, but what if you’re not in Google Calendar. There is a URL you can type to create an event.
You must be signed into your Google account for this to work and I’ve tested it on Chrome and Firefox and both worked. You just type “cal.new”
That’s it and it will create a a new calendar event for you.
I know it is a short post, but I figured it would be a good one to write since we are getting pretty close to back-to-school time 🙂
Markdown was pretty popular a few years ago. So what is Markdown? It is a lightweight markup language that allows you to add formatting (bold, italics, lists, hyperlinks, images, etc.) to plaintext documents. You can read more about it here.
Basically it lets you to format your text and document without the need of a toolbar or special mouse clicks. This may sound a little confusing and it is at first but it is a good way to write as it removes lots of distractions and lets you focus on your words. I’ve used it a lot in the past, especially with blog posts. I switched away from it when I switched over to Windows – I couldn’t find a text editor I liked that supported it.
At any rate – that may be changing as Google Docs now supports Markdown! You have to enable it but it works! To get started create or open a Google Doc. From the menu select Tools and then select Preferences (I believe this was previously named Tools).
Not all Markdown syntax is supported in Google Docs though. I tried to add an image and it just would delete. I also tried to make lists and to no avail, so I guess it’s not perfect but this is a pretty new feature and hopefully Google will continue to add more and more support to it.
Sometimes I like to write on a blank screen while creating. It’s also nice to try different markup languages too to stretch one’s brain from time to time. Heck even WordPress supports it now!
Google Docs has recently (maybe a month or so ago) released some new features and I think they are genuinely useful. When you open a new Google Doc it prompts you right from the start to type the “@” symbol. Check out the gallery below to see what it looks like, because it is pretty extensive.
That is a lot of different features all from a little @ symbol. I won’t go into all of them as many are self explanatory but I do want to touch on a few of them.
Another cool thing is the ability to work on an email draft. I know you can do this in Gmail itself, but sometimes the email may need a second set of eyes. Here you and a colleague can craft the greatest email ever and when you’re ready to send, you can ship right over to Gmail by hitting the Gmail button you see below.
Project Roadmap is also another nice little addition Google has added. Here it will make a table with some drop down menus to boot.
Now you can create your own customizable drop down menus but from what I can tell is that you need to add them to each cell individually by typing the @ symbol inside it.
That’s pretty much it. I think these additions are more than just window dressing or alternative ways to format your text. This is something that adds some much needed functionality into an already solid word processing program. Well done Google!