10 Tips for Windows 10

10 tips for windows 10

Have you upgraded to Windows 10 yet? Microsoft are offering it as a free upgrade for consumers running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, but is it really worth it? In a recent article for Hubpages I wrote about 10 Top Tips for Teachers Using Windows 10. Together, I believe that these features are a compelling reason to make that upgrade worthy of your priority list.

Being a brand new operating system, there are obviously a number of new additions that have been added to improve on the functionality of Windows 8.1, but there is a lot that is familiar too. To that end, many pundits are calling Windows 10 the best of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. The features that I most appreciate, from an educator’s point of view, include:

  • Web Notes: Annotate the web with the new Microsoft Edge
  • Reading View: A clean, uncluttered view of websites
  • Virtual Desktops: A way to group and access your favorite applications
  • Continuum: Mobile when you want it, desktop when you need it
  • Wireless projection: Freedom to roam the classroom

Web Notes in Microsoft Edge

So, if you are new to Windows 10, or need some tips on how to make the most of it, be sure to check out my 10 Top Tips for Teachers Using Windows 10. You can also check out my companion article, Microsoft Edge: Performance & Style for Students & Educators!

If you’re already using Windows 10, I would love to hear what your favorite features are, and how you are thinking about using it in the classroom. I for one think that it has a lot of potential and believe that it should go a long way to heal some of the wounds that were inflicted by Windows 8.1. What do you think?

Free Mystery Skype Curriculum for Schools

mystery skype curriculum

Do you use Mystery Skype in your classroom? If so, you are probably familiar with how it works, but if you are looking for some extra tips, or want to get some other teachers involved, you should check out the new Mystery Skype Curriculum that Microsoft has put together for teachers who are connecting their classrooms all around the world.

The curriculum is free for anyone who wants to use it, but you do need a Microsoft account in order to sign in and view the latest version. Microsoft accounts are free, and you may already have one if you have a Hotmail or Outlook.com email address. If you are on Office 365 school, there is also a OneNote Class Notebook set up and good to go. You can find that here.

The curriculum is in the form of a OneNote notebook. OneNote, if you don’t already know, is a free, cross-platform, note-taking tool that is part of the Microsoft Office suite. You can download your own copy of OneNote for free on almost any device you can think of by visiting onenote.com. You can also read more about OneNote on this blog.

skype globe

The notebook is divided up into five sections. Each one tells you more about the best ways that teachers can use Mystery Skype in the Classroom.

  1. Welcome: How to play, why you should play, how to get started, etc.
  2. Documenting Your Adventures: A section where you can record your questions, the questions of the other class, and job assignments for students.
  3. Teacher Resources: Assessment rubrics, a time zone converter, tips for a successful call, and more.
  4. Student Resources: Self-reflection rubrics, success criteria and a debrief sample.
  5. More About Skype: Additional resources about Skype.

I would absolutely encourage you to download OneNote and get your own editable version of the Mystery Skype curriculum, but if you want to check it out without logging in or downloading anything, you can access a view-only copy on the web right here.

Overall, the OneNote Mystery Skype Curriculum is a great resource for teachers that will save you time and make your Mystery Skype games more engaging and more authentic for your students. It is a great activity to do in the classroom and the new Skype for Web means you might not even need to download Skype for desktop. It also means you can even use Skype on Chromebooks or any other device you happen to be using that doesn’t have Skype for desktop installed! The web version is still in beta, but you can check it out here.

Nuzzel: The Social News Feed for Connected Educators

Nuzzel for education

I first learned about Nuzzel from Tony Vincent, and today I use it more than ever. What is it? Nuzzel is a way to see the most popular links and stories that are being shared by your PLN. It basically filters out the noise and lets you see what the people you follow are most interested in right now. Nuzzel is updated frequently, and is a very efficient way to aggregate the best of the web so you can stay current with the latest conversations. Nuzzel is available for free on iOS, Android, and the web. Here’s how it works:

1. Connect to the app with your Twitter and/or Facebook accounts. With your permission, Nuzzel will analyze your respective feeds and compile the most shared and talked about stories from the people you follow.

2. Along the top of your screen you see four tabs. The first is the default feed, “News from Your Friends“, which as mentioned above, is a list of stories that your friends on social media are sharing right now. The list is sorted by the number of shares, with the most popular stories at the top of the feed, and newer (or less popular) stories towards the bottom. You can click or tap on any of these stories to read them, and also share them to your favorite social network.

Nuzzel for iOS screenshot

3. Another interesting option is the “News from Friends of Friends” feed. As the title suggests, these are popular stories that are being shared not by people you follow, but by friends of the people you follow. This can give a very different feed, with different stories, but is often still very relevant to the kinds of things you are interested in. It can also be a great way to find new people to follow based on the kinds of stories that they are sharing.

Nuzzel friends of friends

4. The remaining tabs at the top point to News You May Have Missed and your Recently Read Stories. Both are useful features that help you get more out of this useful app, but personally, I don’t use these features nearly as often as I use the first two.

5. The last thing I am going to highlight is the column on the right-hand side of the screen – Your Friend’s Feeds. This lets you view the news feed of your social media friends who are also using Nuzzel. This is akin to browsing through their Twitter or Facebook feed, but it picks up the stories that were curated for them by Nuzzel based on who they follow. I find this a great way to find specific content based on the special interests of some of the people I follow. The screenshot below is a snapshot of Tony Vincent’s news feed!

Tony Vincent's Nuzzel feed

Nuzzel is great for lots of reasons. It helps you stay connected with the best of social media without the need to be “connected” all the time. It also filters out a lot of the noise that some people complain about when they are using social media networks. Lastly, Nuzzel is a great discovery tool that gives you lots of content that you can share with your own followers. So, if you haven’t tried Nuzzel before, I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Cameo by Vimeo: A Free Video Editor for iOS

cameo video editor for ios

When using an iPad, there are not many free video editors that are robust enough, or have enough features, to warrant you spending a lot of time and effort on. Recently, I write about the Clips Video Editor. It is a great free option for schools or anyone else who is looking for a quick easy editor. Today I am writing about a new app that recently got a big overhaul to make it much more useable. It is called Cameo by Vimeo.

Technically, Cameo is an iPhone app. It is optimized for an iPhone 5, 6 and 6 Plus. However, it runs just fine on an iPad if you want it too. It doesn’t have a whole lot of bells and whistles, but it does the basics well and has some nice touches that you may not find in other apps. You can see a sample video below that I very quickly put together with the Cameo app.

Getting started is easy. Simply pick the clips from your camera roll that you want to add. Right now, it is video only, no pictures. Once you have the clips you need, your movie will begin playing but you can jump into the editor screens by tapping one of the three buttons in the bottom right hand-corner of your screen.

The scissors icon is a great place to start. Here you can trim the beginning or end of a clip, rearrange the order of your clips, add a caption or title to one or more clips, and optionally mute the audio of any of your videos. A number of audio tracks are built-in to the app and are available by tapping the music icon. Here you can browse by genre or see the featured artists that Vimeo is highlighting. The last button (the color pallete icon) lets you choose a theme to apply to your video. This is optional, but some nice effects can be achieved by choosing a video filter, and Cameo allows you to vary the strength of any effect you add. Each theme has its own selection of fonts that will be applied if you add any titles.

 

cameo editor screen

Once you are done editing, tap the check mark in the top right-hand corner of the screen. At this point, you can give your video a title, choose a thumbnail, and add a description. You can choose to upload it to Vimeo, or save it to the Camera Roll. Note that finished videos will automatically fade to black at the end, and so will the music. Also, if your video is longer than your chosen music track, the track will automatically loop. At the moment, this is not something that the Clips Video Editor does.

All in all, it is a very polished experience, and a nice video editor that could be ideal to introduce students to the power of video editing. It is missing a few things that you might want like transitions or the ability to set the volume of a music track. It would also be great if you had some ability to create exit titles to cite source materials, but otherwise there is a lot of positives here and I enjoyed using the app. I have no reason to suggest otherwise, but if the app remains free, it is easy to recommend it for the classroom.

I’ve always liked Vimeo. You might not always have the choice or variety you get with sites like YouTube, but there is a lot less noise. There are also some great storytellers on Vimeo, many of which are highlighted in Staff Picks each week. Some of these videos can be great model examples for film, journalism, and language arts students who are looking to tell digital stories of their own.

Another reason I like Vimeo is for the stock footage channels. There are several film makers on Vimeo that freely distribute video clips for you to use and download for your own use. The ones on the video clip above, were sourced from a Vimeo Group called Free HD Stock Footage. I often look here when I am looking for background videos for things like green screen video projects on the iPad.

So, if you are looking to edit video on the iPad, and don’t have the time (or money) to spend on iMovie, Cameo is well worth a look.

Getting Started with Office Sway & Office Mix

Office Mix & Office Sway Logos

This week I am happy to be attending the Technology Integration Conference that Keystone AEA has organized for educators in and around Iowa. I am looking forward to learning from a host of great speakers, but I will also be giving a couple of presentations of my own on two of Microsoft’s newest tools for the classroom: Office Sway, and Office Mix. So, in this blog post, I thought I would share some resources to help get you started with one, or both, of these free tools in order to help you decide if either would be a useful addition in your classroom.

What is Office Sway?

Sway is a free, online, presentation and storytelling app. It is also the newest member of the Microsoft Office suite. It was designed to work on all devices, and is available to anyone with a free Microsoft account or an Office 365 school account. If you haven’t seen it before, you can read my introduction to Sway from an earlier blog post. You can also read the blog post I wrote for Microsoft UK on classroom uses for Sway.

The slides to my upcoming presentation below, as well as some examples of some great Sways that have been created by students and teachers for a whole variety of different educational outcomes.

Educational Examples of Office Sway in the Classroom

What is Office Mix?

Office Mix is a free add-in for PowerPoint 2013 or later. It allows you to add more interactivity to a typical PowerPoint presentation and is a great tool for flipped and blended classrooms. With Office Mix you can create screencasts that include video, simulations, inking and live quiz questions. Once finished, you can publish your Mix online for your students to access, and see the data associated with each student who views your Mix.

Right now Office Mix is only available for Windows devices, but it is a free download and can be used with a free Microsoft account or a school Office 365 account. I first wrote about Office Mix several months ago, but it is evolving all the time and new features are being added regularly. The slides from my presentation are below, along with some great resources to learn more about Office Mix.

Learn More About Office Mix

So, if you are looking for something new for your classroom, Office Sway and Office Mix are well worth a look. Both have a lot of potential, and both are free! :)

YouTube in the Classroom: Practice What You Teach

youtube: practice what you teach

If there’s one question I get asked a lot from educators, it’s how to download YouTube videos. There are lots of reasons why you might want to do this, but truthfully, there aren’t any good reasons why you should. I realize that this may not be a very popular post with some people, but I feel like it should still be written. In essence it comes down to this. Can you download videos from YouTube? Yes. Should you? No.

Why Would You Want to Download Videos from YouTube?

The number one reason why educators want to download videos from YouTube is an unreliable Internet connection. This may be at school, or at a conference where they are giving a presentation. Either way, they don’t want to stand at the front of the room waiting for a video to buffer. It ruins the flow of a presentation and inevitably leads to you losing the attention of your audience.

Other reasons for downloading a YouTube video include the desire to archive your own copy of the video just in case it ever gets removed from YouTube by the person who uploaded it, or by YouTube itself. Some teachers may want an offline version of a video for students who don’t have high-speed Internet at home, while others may just be using software like Apple’s Keynote, which doesn’t let you natively embed YouTube videos in your slides.

What Do the YouTube Terms and Conditions Say?

As a user of the site, you agree and are bound by these terms. In Section 5, Your Use of Content, they say:

Content is provided to you AS IS. You may access Content for your information and personal use solely as intended through the provided functionality of the Service and as permitted under these Terms of Service. You shall not download any Content unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed by YouTube on the Service for that Content. You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content. YouTube and its licensors reserve all rights not expressly granted in and to the Service and the Content.

Here we can clearly see that it would be against YouTube’s terms and conditions to download content from YouTube without a specific button or link on their site that permits you to do so. Why would they have this condition? YouTube is owned by Google, and Google make a lot of their money from advertising. The more you visit YouTube, the higher their site visits are, and the easier it is for them to sell advertising on videos. You might not like to see ads on your videos, (few people do), but YouTube is a free site, and this is how they pay to keep the service alive and available for everyone to use.

So, I Can’t Download Anything From YouTube?

You can download your own content from the Video Manager page. Admittedly, you probably already have an offline version of your video, but if you deleted the original, it is good to know that you can download it again if you need it. Simply go to the Video Manager from your channel page or by navigating to www.youtube.com/my_videos. Click the down arrow next to the video you want to download and look for the Download MP4 option.

Download from the Video Manager

Is it Illegal to Download Videos from YouTube?

I’m not a lawyer so the advice that follows should absolutely be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt. Downloading videos from YouTube may not seem like a crime if you think of it in the context of ignoring (or being unaware) of the YouTube terms and conditions, but you could potentially be in breach of copyright. After all, the original creator of the video retains ownership of the copyright associated with that work if they upload it with the Standard YouTube License.

This gets a little dicier when you consider that some very large corporations put some of their very expensive intellectual property on YouTube. Movie studios upload trailers, record companies upload music videos, and media companies upload original content. We all benefit from these great offerings, but you can be sure that none of these corporations would approve of you downloading their content for your own use, so you are very likely in breach of copyright.

What’s the Harm? Everybody does it, right?

Unfortunately, lots of people do. In fact, some of the biggest offenders are the speakers and headline keynotes that you enjoy listening to at your favorite EdTech conferences. I’m not going to mention any names, but I see it a lot and I’m sure you do too. Do they get permission from the original copyright holder to download and show those videos? Some do, some don’t. So this brings us to an important classroom concept that, as educators, it is our sworn duty to reinforce with all of our students; digital citizenship.

We need to practice what we teach. We are role models for our students, so we need to act in the way that we would want them to act. This, to me, is the biggest reason why we should not download videos from YouTube. It might seem like a small thing, but it sends a message that it’s okay to bend the rules. It can easily lead to other transgressions like not citing image sources or using 13+ products and services that you are not old enough to use without parental permission. (By the way, did you know that YouTube is a 13+ service?)

What Should I Do Instead?

YouTube is an amazing resource, of that there is no doubt, but you needn’t abandon it altogether. If you are using it in a school that does not have the most reliable internet connection, have a plan B. Technology is great when it works, but we all know that it all fails at one time or another, regardless of the device or service that you rely on. Plan B is a great example for students, so embrace it.

If you are giving a presentation at a conference, remember PowerPoint 2013 (and later) lets you embed a YouTube video in your slides. Google Slides let you do the same, and so does Prezi. If it works, great. If not, you too need a plan B. One that includes an ethical use of media. You could leave a link to the video on your slide so the audience can see it later or you could try to contact the original creator of the video to procure and get permission to use an offline version of their work.

Conclusion

I have no doubt that there may be some of you who have read this post and did not know that you were not supposed to download videos from YouTube. That’s okay. How many of us have clicked “Agree” on 47 pages of terms and conditions without ever reading one word? I know I have. I’m not perfect. No one is. I am sure there are posts in this blog that lack a link or a citation to sources that should have been cited, but it wasn’t deliberate, and I genuinely try to be the best digital citizen that I can online, just as I am sure you do too. There are things I forget, or just don’t know, but I’m human, I’m still learning, and I will always take feedback on how I can improve. So the next time you think about downloading a YouTube video, be it for educational purposes or otherwise, think about the example you are setting for other teachers and educators.

Why You Should Use IFTTT to Post from Instagram to Twitter!

Instagram to Twitter

Do you post your Instagram photos to Twitter? If you do, you have probably noticed that the image does not show up. You only get the caption and a link to view the original image on Instagram. Your followers have to tap (or click) the link in order to see what you just posted. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a simple IFTTT recipe, you can have all your Instagram photos appear as a native images that are embedded in your Twitter feed for all to admire. Here’s how.

What is IFTTT?

If This Then That (IFTTT) is a service that lets you connect web-based accounts to automate one or more processes that may otherwise take you much longer to complete. These processes are called recipes. They are a list of instructions that, once activated, will run automatically in the background. There are recipes for all kinds of useful things, but the one we will look at today solves the problem of your Instagram photos not appearing in your Twitter feed. The recipe, and a link to add it to your own IFTTT account, is below.

How Does it Work?

When Instagram posts your latest update to Twitter it adds an instagram.com link to your Twitter feed. This gives a direct link to your image on Instagram, which is great, but no one on Twitter sees your image unless they follow the link. The IFTTT recipe above replaces the instagram.com link with a pic.twitter.com link – Twitter’s native image sharing service. It may sound like a small change, but it allows your Instagram images to appear as native images in your Twitter feed.

Once your IFTTT recipe is set up, ignore the post to Twitter button in the Instagram app. You don’t need it any more. All you need to do is post to Instagram, and let IFTTT do the rest. Check out the before and after shots below to see the difference.

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