Monthly Archives: March 2016

How to Use Skype in the Classroom to Get Connected

Skype in the Classroom

When we think about ways to connect students globally and to think outside of traditional boundaries, I often think about the power of video conferencing. Microsoft has included a lot of opportunities for teachers to do just that with the education programs they have created for Skype in the Classroom.

At its core, the program allows teachers to register on a website that lets them connect with each other and arrange calls between their classes. However, there are often special events like the recent World Read Aloud day where classrooms can invite authors into the classroom via the Skype in the Classroom program. There was also the Just Say Hello program that partnered with O, The Oprah Magazine. Teachers can also take part in the Skype a Guest Speaker program where experts can brought to your classroom as part of a PBL unit or another program of study.

The following video on Skype in the Classroom is typical of the kind of benefits you get from programs like this. At one point the teachers says that for her, school has never been about happens in the four walls of the classroom, it is about how you can knock those walls down and connect outside of them. The reactions of the students that were involved in the call was priceless. There are numerous other examples in this video of the power of using a tool like this to connect students from around the world so take a look below.

An extension of this is the Skype Virtual Field Trip program. Teachers can browse and schedule a virtual field trip for their class in any number of different locations. This is an amazing opportunity for broadening the horizons of your students and can include different habitats, careers and countries so it has a lot of curricular ties. In the video below, students talked to a marine biologist who was in an underwater lab. These are experiences that you just can’t recreate by yourself so the power of doing that with technology is something that all teachers should give their students the opportunity to be a part of.

Of course, Mystery Skype is as popular as ever. It takes the power of a simple video conferencing call and gamifies it. Teachers can connect via the Skype education portal and play their classes against each other in a bid to try and guess the location of the other class. The video below explains what it is in more detail, but I especially like that the education team at Microsoft have even put together a free Mystery Skype curriculum for teachers. It is designed to help maximize the educational benefits and curricular connections of this fun, interactive way to connect classrooms.

Yet another Skype program that is potentially very powerful for schools to take advantage of is Skype Translator. It gives teachers the ability to connect with far more people than just English speaking classrooms, and that can be really valuable for building those cultural connections in the minds of our students.  I have yet to try it, but one of these days I am going to befriend a foreign language teacher to help me test it out and see how well it works. Either that, or I have to brush the dust off my high school French and German textbooks and recruit one of my co-workers, but that won’t be as much fun! 🙂

So, when teachers approach me with ideas about connecting classrooms on a global scale, Skype in the Classroom is inevitably one of the first places I send them. If nothing else, because it has such a low barrier of entry, especially now that you can join a Skype call with just a web browser, no account or additional software is required.

5 Video Tutorials for Green Screen App By Do Ink

Green screen tutorials

I am a big fan of using green screen in the classroom. My favorite app for doing that is the Green Screen app by Do Ink, so you can imagine how happy I was to see these new green screen tutorial videos from Do Ink that show you various ways to use the app. Each video is short and to the point. They are a great way to learn the app, or to share with others that are interested in getting started with green screen on the iPad. Take a look! The videos are embedded below.

How to Combine, Trim and Save Two Videos

Just getting started with green screen? Then this is the video tutorial for you. It shows you the basics of how to combine your green screen video with a background of your choice, as well as how to save and export your finished video. Easy, right?

How To Use All 3 Layers in the Green Screen by Do Ink app

Wondering what you can do with all three media tracks? In this video you can see a quick demonstration of how (and why) you can use all three tracks to make a multimedia video that is layered with different tracks. It sounds hard, but it is easier than you think.

How to Change Position, Size and Orientation of Images

I find that this is something people discover by accident, but it is a very useful skill to know when using the Green Screen by Do Ink app. With a couple of pinch and drags you can easily scale and move your images to position them exactly where you want them on the screen. The same technique works with pre-recorded video.

How to Crop Images, Videos and Live Camera

The crop tool is a powerful way to deal with smaller green screens, or bad framing when capturing the original photo or video. Why? It lets you crop out areas of the image that you don’t want to appear in your final video. Here’s how to do it.

How to Use the Mask Tool to Create a Moving Newspaper

This is my favorite of all the videos. It shows you how to create an animated newspaper that looks like it fell straight off the set of a Harry Potter movie. This could be a great way for students to interact with local or national news and give their opinions on hot topics. It could also be ideal for historical perspective pieces with archive images of newspapers from the past. This green screen video tutorial is quick and easy to follow.

Are you using green screen in your classroom? What tutorials would you like to see next?

How (and Why) to Zoom In On PC, Mac, iPad & Chromebook

zoom screen title

Have you ever wanted to zoom in on your Mac, PC, Chromebook or iPad screen? As an educator, and facilitator of professional development, I do this a lot and people often ask me how I do it. So, here is a quick rundown of how (and why) to use a screen zoom on Macs, PCs, iPads and Chromebooks.

Why I Use Screen Zooming

For the most part, I zoom in on my screen to draw people’s attention to a specific area or feature that I want to highlight. It helps eliminate distracting elements, and is ideal for large rooms of people where the projector screen may not be as large as you might want it to be.

The other reason I show educators screen zooming is in the context of assistive technology. For students with visual impairments, the ability to zoom in on your screen is a very useful accessibility feature. It helps make text more readable and can give those students a much better way to access electronic materials.

How to Zoom In On A PC Screen

If you are using Windows 7 or later, you can take advantage of the screen magnifier tool. This is built-in to the operating system so no additional software is required. So, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Hold down the Windows key and tap the plus sign repeatedly to zoom in.
  2. Use the Windows key and the minus sign to zoom out.
  3. To exit the screen magnifier, hold down the Windows key and press Escape.

When working with the Magnifier tool, there are three viewing modes to choose from – Full Screen, Lens or Docked. Each have their own uses so feel free to experiment to see which one will work best for you. You can also customize the amount that you zoom in when you first activate the tool. For more information on the Windows Magnifier tool, read this support document from Microsoft.

How To Zoom In On A Mac Screen

Mac users have a couple of options for zooming in and out of their screen, depending on whether they want to zoom with keyboard shortcuts, or with the trackpad on your Macbook.

To zoom with the keyboard:

  1. Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom.
  2. Check the box that says Use keyboard shortcuts to zoom
  3. Hold down the Command and Option keys, then tap the plus sign to zoom in
  4. Hold down the Command and Option keys and tap the minus sign to zoom out

To zoom with the trackpad:

  1. Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom.
  2. Check the box that says Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom
  3. Hold down the Control key and scroll with two fingers on your trackpad to zoom in and out.

Both options work well, but the latter is the one that I prefer because it is much smoother. Some versions of Mac OS X will let you choose the zoom style. This is also found in System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom. It lets you choose to zoom in on the whole screen, or just a framed area, (similar to the Lens view on Windows). Learn more about zooming your screen on Mac in this Apple support document.

mac ipad

How To Zoom In On An iPad Screen

Can you zoom your screen on an iPad? Indeed you can. In fact, it is one of the many reasons why special education teachers like the iPad as an accessibility device. However, it is great for demonstrating new apps too. Here’s how it works:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom and flip the Zoom switch on.
  2. Then, double tap on the screen with three fingers to zoom in or out.
  3. When zoomed in, drag three fingers to pan around the screen to pan and move.
  4. You can change the zoom percentage by double tapping with three fingers and dragging up and down on the screen (it takes practice, but it does work!)

On the same settings screen you will find additional options like the maximum zoom level and the ability to do a full screen zoom or a window zoom. There is even a neat on screen controller that you can use to zoom and pan without the three finger taps.

How To Zoom In On A Chromebook Screen

Chromebook users need not feel left out because Google has a built-in screen magnifier for Chrome OS. As you may have guessed by now, the option lies in the accessibility settings. Here’s how to find it.

  1. Go to Settings > Show Advanced Settings > Accessibility
  2. Check the box next to Enable Screen Magnifier
  3. Hold down Ctrl and Alt, then use the brightness up and down keys to zoom in and out.
  4. Alternatively, you can hold down the Ctrl & Alt keys and then scroll with two fingers on your trackpad to zoom in and out.

BONUS: How To Zoom In On A Desktop Browser

This is a well-known trick, but if you only need to zoom in on a web page, you can do so without using any of the options above. This works with all major browsers. Simply use Ctrl and the plus sign (Cmd + on a Mac) to zoom in, and Ctrl and the minus sign (Cmd – on a Mac) to zoom out. To reset your screen to the original size use Ctrl and the zero key (Cmd 0 on a Mac).

Office Lens: Scan, Snap & Share!

Scan Snap Share Office Lens

If you use a mobile device, a scanner app is a very useful app to have at your disposal. There are lots to choose from, but my go to app is Office Lens by Microsoft. It is available for iOS, Android, or Windows Phone, and it could quickly become one of your favorite apps due to its versatility and time-saving features. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Do I Need a Scanner App?

I find all kinds of good uses for scanner apps, and I expect you would too. They are great when you don’t have access to a desktop scanner or don’t want the hassle of using one. I am also notoriously bad at keeping track of paper handouts. I invariably don’t file them and end up losing them, regardless of how useful they might be. So, I scan them and add them to my digital filing system instead. Business cards and posters can be quickly captured with Office Lens and it could be a great way to make some digital copies of student artwork.

What Makes Office Lens So Good?

Office Lens uses an intelligent scanner to automatically recognize and crop any paper document that you place under your mobile device and as you will see in the image below, the before and after results are quite remarkable. Regardless of the angle of your device, the final image is cropped, straightened and enhanced to look just the way you would want it to. Office Lens can even take your scanned image and turn it into an editable Word or PowerPoint file with some clever OCR technology.

Scanning Documents with Office Lens

However, I don’t just use Office Lens for documents. I often use it at conferences and other PD presentations to take pictures of a speaker’s slides. The same perspective cropping applies when taking pictures of a presentation and it works equally well, if not better, on notes you have written on a whiteboard. This could be extremely useful for both staff and students because it is a great way to capture some brainstorming ideas or some notes from class. Take a look at the example below that I captured while attending a Jim Knight instructional coaching workshop at Grant Wood AEA.

before after office lens

Where Can I Share My Scanned Images?

One of the great features of Office Lens is the variety of places that you can share your scanned images. You can export as PDF, send as an email, or save it to your device. You can also share directly to a number of Microsoft’s mobile apps like OneNote, OneDrive, Word, PowerPoint or Outlook. Office Lens works with personal Microsoft accounts as well as your work or school accounts in OneDrive for Business.

Completed scans can also be saved to Dropbox or sent to other apps on your phone as required. You will also have quick access to your favorite social networks so that you can share those awesome presentation slides the right way, as you can see below.

tweet

So, the next time you need a digital copy of a document, business card, whiteboard, presentation slide or any number of other things, reach for your mobile device and fire up Office Lens to help you complete the job.