Posted in Cool Tools, how to, Screencastify

Create Your Own GIFs with Screencastify


I use Screencastify almost every day to make short instructional videos. Sometimes these videos are just a quick point and click moment where I am trying to show someone else how to do something, and often, I don’t even use my microphone because what I am teaching is pretty obvious by what is seen on the screen. I decided that instead of sending a short video to people, that I would just use the cool feature on the Screencastify watch page to turn that short video into a GIF and send that instead. That way, the teacher doesn’t have to click play or rewatch the video because it will just keep playing on a permanent loop.

I then got to thinking about all of the things that I could turn into GIFs. Math problems, science demonstrations, funny reactions, quick guides, and so much more. Because I am in charge of edtech PD for my district, I decided that all of my teachers should know how to make awesome GIFs with Screencastify, and so the following how-to guide was created. Enjoy! I hope you make the most awesome GIFs ever!

Posted in Cool Tools, Seesaw

Practicing Fluency with Seesaw

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about how to combine Google Classroom and Screencastify to give students opportunities to practice their oral fluency. We still use Google Classroom for our 3-12 students, but have begun using Seesaw for our PreK-2 students. After working with a kindergarten teacher, I realized that we could also use Seesaw to create activities that would allow for fluency practice. The kinder teacher (Melissa) I was working with wanted her students to practice their letter naming fluency two different times to see if they could get faster and more fluent the second time. She wanted this fluency activity to be on one page with multiple opportunities to record. While this activity was designed for kindergarten students, you could create something similar for older students by adding passages to the canvas in the same way we added the letter charts.

To create this activity, we used a single page activity with directions for students to use the record voice option. We also used the Seesaw Reflect extension to grab content from online. We are very fortunate to live in Ohio where we have access to a statewide resource of teaching and learning materials called INFOhio. My activity is the one on top. I tried to give the students a visual cue on how to access the record voice option by creating the how-to steps with images. Melissa created the one on the bottom and provided a really nice set of directions. Can you tell who the real kindergarten teacher is? If I were to do this with older children, I would take some of the reading passages found in INFOhio and add them to the activity using the Seesaw Reflect tool.

When students add their response to this activity, they open the activity, click on the three dots on the left, click the voice button and record themselves reading. Since Melissa wanted the kids to do a one minute timed trial, they could use the recording counter that begins once you start recording as their timer. When they finish their recording, Seesaw automatically creates a button that says “Listen” and their recording is attached to it. As long as they keep their recordings under five minutes, they can record multiple times. Each time they record another “Listen” button will be created. If they want or if directed by their teacher, they can change the word “Listen” to numbers to show their first, second, and subsequent recordings.

Once challenge I discovered is that the recording feature often covers the content I want the students to read. I have tried to create the activity so the the material is off to the side a little to keep it from getting covered when they are recording. Another option is to teach the students to double click or double tab on white space on the canvas to get the text box option to pop up. Once it does, they can tap the three dots and choose voice from the menu. It is a little more fine motor work, but it will keep the recording button from covering the content you want the students to read.

This activity will give your students a lot of independent opportunities to practice their fluency independently. Because the recordings stay right on the Seesaw canvas, students can listen to themselves and hear their growth over time!

Posted in G-Suite for Education, Google Calendar, Google Classroom, Google Sites

Add Your Google Classroom Calendar to Your Google Site

During this pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that caregivers and students need a one-stop shop where they can get information about the happenings of our classrooms. Knowing that caregivers cannot actually take a look into Google Classroom without signing in as a student, many teachers have turned to Google Sites to create informational classroom websites.

A useful feature that you can add to your website is you Google Classroom Calendar (or any Google Calendar that you create to keep caregivers and students informed.) When you add the Google Classroom calendar, students (and caregivers) can easily see when assignments are due. They can also get assignment details by clicking on the assignment while viewing the calendar. As I have mentioned before, I have a son who needs a ton of parental management. Being able to see what is due and when it is due without having to sign in as my kid makes my life a lot easier. I am sure I can’t be the only parent out there who has to be “in charge” of learning at home!

With the quick insert feature available in Sites, you can add a calendar in just a few clicks. However, before you get started on that, you need to make sure that the calendar is visible to viewers outside of your domain. This requires you to go to your Google Calendar and change a view setting.

To see how to add a Google Calendar and make sure your settings are correct, watch this short video.

Posted in Google Docs, Quick Tech Tips

Chips and Docs

Smart Chips are a newish feature to Google Docs. With smart chips, you can embed Google products like docs, slides, sheets, and drawings right into your doc. I have also had success chipping videos that live in my drive or from the share links on Youtube! In addition to embedding these materials in your docs, you also have the ability to add dates, calendar events or even create a calendar invite right on the fly. 

Let’s say that I am working with other teachers or preparing a group project for students. I can create a document that has all of the content that we need and embed it right into the document. In the past, I could accomplish this with hyperlinks but with smart chips, it gives a nicer visual feel and my collaborators can see the type of content I have linked rather than just clicking on a word I have hyperlinked. When you mouse over the smart chip, it gives a preview of the content you have chipped, let’s you know who owns the content, and reminds you to alter your share settings on the original content if you have not done so already. Take a look at an example of a document I built using smart chips.

When you mouse over the chip, you get a preview of the content it represents.

To add a smart chip to a document, type the @ sign and begin to type the title of the material you want to pull in from your Drive. The content the dialog menu box pulls is slightly limited, so if you know exactly what you want, you can always go to your Drive first and grab the share link from it. Once you hit the @ sign in your doc, you can simply paste the share URL in. Docs will then prompt you to hit tab to turn the URL link into a smart chip.

To learn how to add smart chips to your own documents, watch this short video.

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, Screencastify

Screencastify Zoom Tool of Awesomeness!

Screencastify has become a big part of my life during this year of the pandemic. I don’t know how I could have made it this far without it.

If you have been making videos but have not yet learned about the zoom tool in the editor, here is your chance to learn how to make the most awesome videos ever!

Usually, when you create a screencast, your entire screen is captured and students or other viewers might not be entirely certain where to look or may not be able to clearly see what you are trying to show or model. The zoom tool lets you physically zoom your camera into a specific part of a video you have already recorded and make that part larger and easier for your viewers to see. You can keep this zoomed in section for as long as you need, and then you can zoom out and then zoom into another section of your screen if you so desire. I frequently use the zoom tool in my videos so that my audience can read any text I am sharing or see where they need to click. The editing process to use it is pretty quick and painless. Not sure what I mean by zooming in? Take a look at this example video from Screencastify.

Now that you know what the zoom tool is, watch this short video to learn how to use it!

I hope this tool makes your videos as awesome as mine!

Posted in Cool Tools, Screencastify

Screencastify Magician

I love Screencastify. It is one of my most favorite edtech tools ever. I started using it a few years ago before it had a built in editor and just got accustomed to either living with mistakes or redoing my video a gabillion times until it was perfect. Never did I dream of one day not only being able to make simple edits to my video, but also of being able to combine multiple video clips, zoom in to highlight important concepts or add text. Now that I have access to the awesomeness of the Screencastify editor, my videos have gone from awesome to magical and I truly feel like a Screencastify Magician!

With the Screencastify editor you can:

  • trim a video
  • cut out parts of a video to be deleted or rearranged. 
  • add multiple video clips from any source to your video.
  • add text to video clips
  • crop part of what can be seen on the video screen
  • zoom in to a video clip to highlight specific parts of your screen

In addition to features available in the editor, there are some special features that you have access to from the video page that pops up after you finish recording. On this page you can:

  • create an animated gif
  • download just the audio from your video
  • generate a QR code for your video
  • share your video directly to Google Classroom or upload it to Youtube

Check out this guide I created to see all of the awesomeness Screencastify has brought to your fingertips.

Screencastify Editor
You are going to need to open your video with the editor. There are four ways to access the editor. Click on each option to learn more. 
Visit Screencastify Edit directly
Click “Open in Editor” on a recording’s Video Page
Click “Open with Screencastify Video Editor” from Google Drive
Click “Launch in Editor” from the Screencastify Dashboard 
Undo or Redo an Action
Before we get very far into the editor, probably the most important thing you need to know is how to undo or redo an action. If you accidentally deleted something or moved a clip to the wrong place, you are going to want to know how to fix it! Click here to see how. 
Cut and Rearrange Clips
You can use this editing feature if you need to trim off the beginning of a video, get rid of dead space at the end of the video, or cut out a chunk from the middle of the video. Once the clip has been cut, you can delete it or drag it to a new section in the video timeline. Click here to see how. 
Add/ Remove Video Clips
The Screencastify editor allows you to remove unwanted video clips, but it also allows you to add additional videos from any source, as long as they are in your Google Drive or on your computer. Once the clips are added, you can edit them and then place them anywhere on the timeline that you need. Click here to see how. 
Add Text to a Clip
Sometimes you want to add a title, clarify a point, or give some additional information. Use the text feature to add short sentences or content to your video. A really nice addition to this feature is the ability to elongate the clip where the text is to give your viewers time to read your text content. Click here to see how. 
Crop a Clip
Do you have too much dead space around an important image in your video? Is the background behind you or your topic distracting? You can use the crop feature to get rid of dead space and bring important material into focus for your audience. Click here to see how. 
Zoom Into a Clip
You can add a zoom effect to your video. This zoom effect is great when you are trying to give more detail or really focus in on a part of your screen. You can also use this zoom effect if you are trying to show part of your screen while also protecting sensitive information that is elsewhere on your screen. Click here to see how. 
Save an Edited Video
Once you have opened a video in the editor, you must save a new copy of it. You can either save the edited video directly to your Google Drive or you can download it as an MP4. Click here to see how.  
Export Audio (MP3) Only
If you need an audio clip for a project, as part of an adaptation to an assignment, or to place into a Google Slide, then you will want to use the Export Audio feature in Screencastify. Click here to see how.
Create and Export an Animated GIF
If you ever need to create a short, visual how-to that doesn’t really need to be a video, consider using Screencastify to create an animated GIF. A GIF is a moving image. It can be funny or it can be educational. You can record a short sequence using Screencastify and then download that sequence as a repeating moving image (GIF). Click here to see how. Click here to see suggestions for when you might want to use a GIF. FYI: Unlike the audio file, if you download an animated GIF, it does not automatically upload to your Drive. You will need to manually do this once you have downloaded the GIF.
Create a QR Code For Your Video
If you are creating an activity that will happen outside of a computer but you want to include a video component, consider creating and printing out a QR code for your video. You can then take your QR code and post it somewhere like a poster, a wall, your whiteboard, or on a piece of paper. Parents and students can then use the camera on their phone to scan the QR code to view your video. Click here to see how. Remember, if you are going to do this, make sure the share settings on your video are set to unlisted on the video screen of Screencastify or as “anyone with the link can view” in your Google Drive. 

I think the editor features of Screencastify makes this a useful tool for any teacher or student. If you would like to grab a Google Doc copy of this guide to share with students (or other teachers, click here.