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.

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.

10 Alternatives to InfuseLearning for Assessments

formative assessment tools for teachers

Yesterday, it was announced that InfuseLearning, the popular, free online formative assessment tool, will be closing its doors for good on April 3, 2015. Those that have used it know that it was a great tool for teachers who were looking to gather data on their students to help inform future instruction. However, of late, it did not work as well as it used to, and ultimately this looks to have led to its eventual demise. So, here is a roundup of some of the best alternatives to InfuseLearning.

1. Socrative – It has been around for a while, but the recent 2.0 update gave it a much needed facelift and some new features to boot. It’s free, multi-platform, and a great way for teachers to get data on how well their students understand the content. They also have a great resource page with training materials to help you introduce this tool to others.

2. Kahoot! – If you’ve been to an edtech conference in the last 12 months, the chances are good that you have already been part of a Kahoot! quiz. Kahoot is a gamified approach to assessment, and it definitely adds a fun factor to a traditional quiz. Like Scorative, it can be used on any modern device. Read more about Kahoot here.

kahoot

3. Google Forms – Google Apps schools have been using Forms to collect assessment data for some time now, and over the years Forms has evolved to become an interesting online quiz tool. There are a variety of useful question types that include the ability to add images and videos. Pair it with Flubaroo, and you have a powerful self-grading assessment tool.

4. Excel Surveys – Not a Google school? Microsoft offer their own version of survey tool called Excel Surveys. It is available to Office 365 schools, or anyone with a free personal Microsoft account via Office Online. It lacks some of the more useful options found in Google Forms, but there is still enough to make it worth a look. Read more about Excel Surveys here.

5. Plickers – If devices are not plentiful in your school, then Plickers is exactly what you need. If you’ve never used it before, you will be amazed at how it works. You print out a collection of four sided QR code-like markers for students. They select the answer they want to give by rotating the card to the letter they want to submit, and the teacher scans the cards with a smartphone or tablet to record student responses. Read about Plickers here.

plickers.com

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Unsplash: Free, High-Resolution, Royalty-Free Images

UNSPLASH royalty free images

There are numerous places on the web where teachers can go to find royalty-free images that they and their students can use in the classroom as part of educational projects. However, I don’t often hear many educators talk about Unsplash.com. So, if you haven’t heard of it before, pay attention, because this is a good one! 🙂

Unsplash has a very unique business model. Every 10 days they upload 10 free photos to their website. All of the images are free, high-resolution photos that have been submitted, free of any usage restrictions, by established and aspiring photographers. All the images are stunning examples of photography, and you can do whatever you want with these photos with a completely clear conscience.

house on a dock

Not convinced? Here’s what the Unsplash license says:

All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

This is what photographers are agreeing to when they submit a photo to Unsplash.com. So, why would they do such a thing? Each image includes the name of the photographer when you hover over it with your mouse, and when you click on it you will often find a link to their website or online portfolio. Seems fair, right? Not all photographers are a fan of this idea, but everyone that submits photos knows what they are giving up, and it is in return for more publicity.

Of course, even though you don’t need to cite an Unsplash image, it doesn’t mean you can’t. Citing your sources is always the best habit to develop with students, and absolutely one that should be taught in school as part of a digital citizenship program. Kathy Schrock wrote about this recently for eSchool News, so take a look at that article if you need a refresher or some tips on how to properly cite images found online.

plane from upsplash

The only real downside to Unsplash for educators is that the images are NOT sorted, categorized or searchable. However, that need not be a deal breaker. The images are handpicked because they are interesting, tell a story, or capture the attention of the viewer with strong visual elements. Photos like these are still very useful for writing prompts, classroom discussions, presentations, blog posts, artistic reinterpretations, app smashing, and more.

On an iPad, you can also save them to the camera roll and bring them into Canva for creative graphic design challenges. Mac, PC or Chromebook users can save them to their hard drive and do the same on Canva.com. What’s more, you can subscribe to the Unsplash website and receive ten new images in your inbox every ten days. See something you like? Save it to a Google Drive folder, an album in your camera roll, or a folder in OneDrive where you can tag it, organize it, and use it over and over again.

bench from unsplash.com

Recently I have been spending some time looking at Morguefile and Pixabay, but Unsplash is definitely one of my new favorite sites for images, despite the lack of search options, simply due to the variety  and quality of images that are on display. Oh, and in case you were wondering, all the images in this post were sourced from unsplash.com! See how many you can spot in future posts. 🙂

BONUS: If you are looking for more sources for free images, check out this post that the Buffer team put together – 53+ Free Image Sources for Your Blog and Social Media Posts.

UPDATE: Ingo Joseph (@IngoJoseph) told me about Pexels.com. It works the same way as UnSplash. Images on Pexels.com include submissions from Unsplash and other sources, and all photos are licensed under the same Creative Commons Zero license.

Tech Literacy and the Modern Classroom

alphabet

Last week, we were very fortunate to have Jeff Utecht at Grant Wood AEA for three days. He spoke to teachers, administrators, and Grant Wood consultants on a variety of different topics relating to the use of technology in schools. He did an amazing job and was well received by all that attended his sessions.

One of the topics Jeff discussed was one that resonated a lot with me, and that was in relation to tech literacy. How much are we really preparing students for a world that is packed full of technology and used on a daily basis? Are we exposing them to the vocabulary they need to navigate such a world and are we adjusting the way we expect them to learn based on what technology can do to make that process easier than ever before? These are challenging questions.

For instance, how important is perfect spelling when Google, Bing and Yahoo! and any other search engine you care to use will compensate for your typos and spelling mistakes with a helpful “Did you mean…” at the top of the page? Well of course I meant that. Thank you for reading my mind!

It’s not just search engines either. Every modern browser or productivity program you can think of has its own built-in spelling and/or grammar checker to help us when we need it most. Words underlined in red, or blue for that matter, is something that students working on digital devices will see often. Do they know what it means and how to fix it quickly and efficiently? Do they know how to deal with false positives?

With voice search, you can take that a step further and have many modern devices perform a search for you without you even having to think about how to spell even one word. In Chrome you can say “OK Google, what is the tallest building in the world?” and see, or hear, the answer you need in a matter of seconds.

Spelling is not irrelevant, far from it, but the digital tools that are there to support it are increasingly powerful and help open doors for students that may not have previously been able to communicate their needs so effectively.

Jeff told us the story of one school he visited that had the alphabet proudly displayed around the walls of the classroom. Sounds normal right? It is, until you hear that each letter had a keyboard shortcut underneath it to show the function each letter performs with the Ctrl key as a modifier. I love that idea. You probably know some of these: Ctrl+C = copy text, Ctrl+V = paste text, Ctrl+Z = Undo, but is there really a complete A-Z for this kind of thing? Turns out there is. I looked it up. Wikipedia has a complete list of Ctrl commands that go from A-Z and beyond.

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