Microsoft’s latest attempt at a return to browser supremacy is finally here. The new Chromium version of Edge, (Microsoft’s default web browser for Windows computers), is now available for Windows and MacOS. Chromium was developed by Google and is used as the foundation for the Chrome web browser. However, because it is an open source project, other developers are free to adopt it for their own uses. Opera, Vivaldi, and Brave are just a few of the third-party browsers that currently use Chromium to power their products, and now Microsoft have joined their ranks. This means you can now install Chrome extensions in Edge. Here’s what you need to know.
Screenshots are important to anyone who is involved in education. They form the backbone of many step-by-step tutorials and are useful for creating better explanations for students. However, they are useful for other scenarios too. They are great for capturing some design inspiration, saving ideas from the web, or recording bugs to send to developers. This Fall, Microsoft introduced a new screenshot tool for Windows 10. It’s called Snip & Sketch. Here’s how it works. Read More »
In a recent post, I looked at some of the best ways to record a podcast on an iPad. This time, I am going to switch platforms and look at the options you have for recording podcasts on a Windows computer. So, whether you have desktops, laptops or Surface tablets, this is the guide for you. It includes free and low cost options for teachers (or anyone else) who wants to record, edit and share podcasts from a Windows device.
Audio Recording Options for PC Users
If you use Windows 7 or Windows 8 you can take advantage of a free, built-in app called Sound Recorder. This comes pre-installed with these versions of Windows and is perfectly capable of recording good, clear audio. Windows 10 users have a very similar app called Voice Recorder that works in much the same way. You can also use free software like Audacity to record your podcasts, but more on that in a minute. The last thing you need to know for recording audio podcasts on a Windows PC is how to make sure external microphones are set as the default device. Why? Plugging in a USB microphone won’t always mean that device is selected when you want to record audio, so use this handy guide to switch input devices in the Control Panel.
Edit Podcast Audio for Free on Windows Computers
Editing is optional, depending on your needs, but sometimes it is nice to be able to add some royalty-free music to the beginning and/or end of your podcast, or to edit out some mistakes. Although you can do some very basic trims on the Sound Recorder or Voice Recorder apps, more serious edits are best left to a dedicated audio editor. Audacity is a free, open source recording and editing program that will do just that. It works on Windows, Mac and Linux computers and can be downloaded here.
If you have never used it before, the interface will take a little getting used to, but it is easy to learn from the myriad of YouTube tutorials that are dedicated to editing audio in Audacity. With Audacity you can trim, split and combine multiple audio tracks, as well as remove background noise, adjust volume levels, and more. It really isn’t as hard to use as it might look and it’s okay if you don’t need or use half of the features it offers.
If your school happens to have access to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, then Adobe Audition would be well worth a look for editing podcasts. It is not free, but if you already have the subscription, it won’t cost you anything to try it out. This is professional level software that is used by audio engineers in radio, film and television broadcasts, but like Audacity, it is easy to learn some basics on YouTube. Middle and High School students could pick this up pretty quickly and Mike Russell has a great playlist to get you started.
Uploading & Sharing Student Podcasts Online
There are a number of online audio hosting sites that you can use to share your student podcasts. However, the free accounts, as you might expect, often come with some restrictions. SoundCloud, for instance, gives you 3 hours of audio uploads for free. AudioBoom will let you upload as many files as you like, as long as none of them exceed 10 minutes in length.
A less conventional option might be to use tunestotube.com. This website lets you upload an MP3 file, attach an image, and then send the whole thing to YouTube as a video. It essentially creates a one picture slideshow with your podcast audio as the music track, but because it is on YouTube it is highly discoverable and easy to share.
Are You Podcasting With Windows Devices?
Do your students record and edit podcasts on Windows computers? If so, what do you use as part of your podcasting workflow? Feel free to leave a note in the comments below. You can also check out, and contribute to, my growing list of podcasts for K-12 students to listen to and learn from by following this link. Also, be sure to listen to the EdTech Take Out podcast that I co-host with Mindy Cairney by subscribing in iTunes or in a podcast player app of your choice.
Mystery Skype is a fun, engaging, and educational activity for students in the classroom, but it used to require both teachers to have a Skype account, and to have the Skype client installed on a Windows, Mac or mobile device. Recently, that changed because you can now join a Skype call with just a link – no account or desktop clients are required. All you need it is a browser. Here’s how it works.
- Open the Skype desktop client on your computer, (the person who is hosting the call needs to have a Skype account and the desktop client for Mac or PC. The guest does not).
- Press Ctrl + N (Windows), or Cmd + N (Mac), to begin a new conversation.
- Copy the link to the conversation and send it to the person you want to connect with. You can send it by email, with Facebook Messenger, via a direct message on Twitter, or with another service that both participants have access to.
When the person you want to connect with receives your link, and clicks on it, they will find that it opens a new tab in their default browser. If they have Skype installed, they will see a prompt to open the conversation in Skype, else the participant will join your call in Skype for Web as a guest user. (Mobile users need the Skype app to join a conversation link that is sent to them).
Once you are both connected, you can chat with the conversation box or conduct a live audio or video call, just like two registered Skype users would normally do. (Note that a browser plug-in needs to be installed for audio or video calls). The Skype for Web user does not get all the features that a free Skype account gets due to the current limitations of the web client, but they do get the facility to make free calls and connect with people anywhere in the world.
This method of connecting over Skype is great for classrooms who play Mystery Skype games because it removes one more technical hurdle and opens it up to many more users. For more information on Mystery Skype, as well as a full user guide with tips for success, please see the Free Mystery Skype Curriculum for Schools post that I wrote earlier this year.
The Windows Snipping Tool is a useful app, but a limited one. There are, after all, many better alternatives like Skitch, Snagit, or even the OneNote Clipper. Today, Microsoft added another to this list. It’s called Snip. Although currently still in beta, Snip allows you to take screenshots, add annotations, record audio, and save your clips with anyone you want. In short, Snip is everything the Windows Snipping tool should be. Here’s how it works.
Once installed, Snip hides discretely on the side of your screen, just like Snagit. When you are ready to capture your screenshot, simply hover over the Snip toolbar to select the type of capture you want to execute. There are three basic tools you can use to capture a screenshot – the crosshair selection tool, the camera, and the whiteboard.
A quick click and drag with the crosshair selection tool is all that is needed to make your first capture. Once you are done, the Snip editor will open giving you options for annotations that you can add to your screenshot. Although you absolutely can add annotations with your mouse, the drawing tools in the editor are largely aimed at those with touchscreen devices. However, there is the option to record audio on top of your screenshot and save it as an MP4 video file. T
This pseudo-screencasting option is an interesting option for educators and certainly opens up a lot of possibilities. In fact, if you look on the Snip home page, you will find several examples by students and educators who used the recording feature to talk about student work, explain a homework assignment, or teach poetry.
The whiteboard is idea for explaining a concept and can be used in conjunction with the recorder to make screencasts that are similar in appearance to something like Educreations on the iPad. There are not as many options while recording, but the end product is somewhat comparable. The whiteboard is particularly useful for Math and Science teachers who may want to record a brief video that includes mathematical equations or cell structures, neither of which is easy to accomplish in a text based program.
Clicking the camera button will let you take a picture with whatever cameras you have on your device. Captured images can be edited with the aforementioned annotation tools. In the classroom students could use this option to talk about some art work they created, to tell digital stories, or describe areas on a map.
Snips can be shared quickly and easily. They can be copied and pasted into another app, shared by email (this didn’t work for me), or saved to your device. Videos have the additional options of being able to be shared via a link, or embedded in a website. All snips, past and present, are stored in your Library, which you can access via the book icon on the toolbar.
Snip is still in beta, so be prepared for the odd glitch here and there. However, in the time that I have had to play with it, Snip has performed very well and Microsoft have informed me that new features are on the way soon. Better still, Snip will update automatically so you will always have the latest version. Check it out for yourself in the video demo below, or head over to https://mix.office.com/Snip to try it out yourself.
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
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?
This week, I had the opportunity to present at the Iowa 1:1 Institute. It is always a great event, and has long been known for having some of Iowa’s brightest and best educators in attendance. I did two presentations – Choose Your Own (Google) Adventure Stories, and the one you can see below.
I believe that every educator should have their own web toolbox of sites that they can turn to when they are looking to engage students in their classrooms. You can’t rely on the same one to do what you need in all scenarios, and your students will probably appreciate some variety from time to time, so I wanted to share some of my favorites and hopefully introduce a few new ones for teachers to take back to their classrooms.
However, it is important to note that these tools won’t change teaching and learning in your classroom. After all, they are just tools. They still need the right context, and without proper implementation within your classroom curriculum, they will do very little to invoke change by themselves.
The slides from the session are below. If you see something you like, feel free to share it with someone else who might benefit from using some of these great web tools in their classroom!