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 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.

Posted in Cool Tools, Feedback

Faster Feedback for Students with These Awesome EdTech Tools!

Every teacher knows that just in time feedback can really help a student master and understand a concept. Giving feedback to students as they are working on an activity, rather than after they have submitted the work for a final grade is a huge benefit to using technology in the classroom. Even if you have to wait until the student has submitted their work, the ability to get fast feedback into the hands of students increases their engagement and the likelihood that they will actually interact with and absorb the feedback you have given them. 

Just as we know that giving feedback is an essential part of teaching and learning, we know that it can take hours and hours to hand write out that feedback. This is where tech can come in and help streamline the feedback process. Check out these different techniques and tools that are designed to help you quickly give meaningful feedback to your students.

Google Classroom App:

The Google Classroom App has some bells and whistles that the regular web version does not have. With the Classroom app, you can directly annotate and mark on student work. Classroom takes that annotated work and turns it into a PDF that is attached to the assignment for the student to review. In addition, you can use the microphone on your tablet or phone to dictate voice comments that will be transcribed into text. To learn more about how to use the Google Classroom App, check out this article.


Google Classroom Comment Bank:

Google Classroom has a built in comment bank that you can access to provide fast feedback to your students on assignments in Google Classroom. This feature is great for when you find yourself giving similar feedback to multiple students or on multiple assignments. To learn how to access the comment bank and ensure that your students are getting your feedback watch this video.


Mote Extension:

Mote is an extension that allows you to create voice comments and feedback on a Google Doc, Slide, Sheet or right within Classroom. Students do not need to have the Mote extension installed (in fact, they do not have access to it at this time) in order to hear your feedback. They can simply click on the link Mote will create after you have created the feedback. The free version of Mote allows you to create voice notes that are 30 seconds in length and creates a link for your students to be able to listen to your feedback. To install the extension, click here. To learn how to use Mote, click here.


Screencastify:

Screencastify is a great tool for making short videos of feedback for your students. Screencastify is a Chrome extension that saves all created videos in your Google Drive. Click here to install the extension. Watch this short video to see how to use Screencastify to give fast feedback.


Seesaw Audio Comments:

Teachers have always been able to leave typed comments on Seesaw posts. A rather recent update is the ability for teachers to now leave an audio comment as feedback. This feature allows you to give you more in depth feedback that students can listen to instead of read. This is especially fabulous for our younger learners that have not yet mastered reading! To see how to leave an audio comment (and quickly approve posts) watch this video.


Seesaw Private Video Messages:

You can record a private message of individualized feedback for students by using this technique. Not only can you build a great connection with a student this way, you can also include the family since they will be able to see the video as well. Watch this video to see how to send a private feedback message to a student. 

Hopefully one of these awesome tools will help save a little time and allow you to give the feedback your students need to grow as learners!

Posted in Chrome Canvas, Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education

Use Chrome Canvas To Create Your Own Images!

I love Google Drawings and frequently share it with teachers and students because it is a great tool for teachers to use to create the assets they need for instruction. Students can create pieces that let them show what they know or create their own images for a project. If you aren’t familiar with Drawings, check out some of the other posts I have written about their awesomeness.

The only drawback that I find when I use Drawings is the ability to freehand draw is very limited. Drawings has some native line tools, but they are clunky to use and the scribble line doesn’t really allow the user to do much more than, er, well, scribble.

That is why I was so excited when I discovered Chrome Canvas! Chrome Canvas (https://canvas.apps.chrome/) is truly a drawing tool, complete with a blank canvas, different pen and pencil types, personalization of color options, and the ability to add layers to any drawing.

white canvas with drawing tools on the side.
Blank canvas just ready for creation!

While I can use shapes and masking in Drawings to create, I have never been able to hand draw any of the elements I want. Canvas allows me to use my mouse or stylus to draw whatever I can dream up. (Caveat, I am not a very talented artist. My artistic career pretty much ended when I gave up safety scissors.)

Chrome Canvas
Change drawing tools, tip size, opacity and color to create the sketch of your dreams.

When using Canvas, you can begin with a blank canvas or you can start with an image that you intend to create on.

image being uploaded to blank canvas from the New from Image button
Use any image as the base to your Canvas drawing

Unlike Drawings, which have ordering (move to the front or move to the back) options, Canvas users will need to use layers to create scenes or images that require more fine tuned artistry, but the layers are easy to use and can be hidden, deleted or made transparent.

showing a design with three different layers on the right side as thumbnails
Each part of this amazing drawing is a different layer. I can change each part as needed without ruining my other work.

Once your Canvas masterpiece is finished, you simply click on the three dots on the bottom right of the thumbnail and save your work as an image.

three dots on the right opens a menu with save as image as the second choice on the dropdown
This is some fine artistry

The image will automatically save to your downloads folder on either your computer, laptop or Chromebook. Once it has downloaded, you can do whatever you like with it; even add it to a Google Drawing (or any other GSuite product).

Canvas lives as an app right in your Chrome browser and is free to use. This free tool opens up more possibilities when students and teachers are looking for ways to create and show their awesomeness!

Posted in Cool Tools, Google Classroom, Teacher Workflow

Originality Reports in Google Classroom

Google Classroom has released a new feature called “Originality Reports.” This feature is designed to help your students avoid ‘accidental plagiarism” from all that copying and pasting from the internet that they do. 

Here is the official description of the feature from Google: Originality reports is a new feature that brings the capabilities of Google search right to your student assignments and grading interface through Google Classroom. The learning tool helps both teachers and students thoroughly review and analyze coursework to make sure it is properly cited and avoid unintentional plagiarism. This feature was designed to help students improve their writing and spot potential issues while saving you time while grading.

You and your students can check work for unoriginal content with Originality reports. This tool uses Google Search to compare a student’s Google Docs against billions of webpages and millions of books. Originality reports then displays links to the detected webpages and flags uncited text. The reports can:

Help students identify unintentional plagiarism and uncited content before submitting assignments.

Help teachers see where students used source material and if they properly documented their sources.

When you turn on Originality reports for an assignment, students can run 3 reports per assignment before submitting their work. You can’t see the reports students run. After students run their last report, they can continue to improve their work before submitting the assignment. 

This feature is actually pretty slick and easy to use. When you create an assignment in Classroom, you have the option of turning on the originality reports by simply clicking the button on the right of the assignment dialog. 

classroom dialog with originality report button showing
Originality reports are still in beta but if you see this button, you are ready to go!

Once you have built your assignment and clicked that button, the students will interact with the assignment the way they usually do. They can create content right in Classroom or they can add an already created document to the assignment. When their content is attached to the assignment, they then have the ability to run an originality report on their work up to 3 times before they turn it in

Originality Report 2

The idea behind this feature is to teach the students how to write and cite and create original content. When the students run the originality report, Classroom basically runs a Google search and brings back any content matches that are found on the web. Students can then address these findings and rewrite for originality or create better citations for the content they have included. 

Here I have a student writing a paper about the industrial revolution. In true lazy student fashion, I simply created a Doc in the assignment, did a quick web search and copies content to my doc. 

internet page showing professional content created by a program
Online content my student copied and pasted.

It was easy to just create a Doc and paste in whatever content I found online!
It was easy to just create a Doc and paste in whatever content I found online!

Once I was done copying and pasting the content, I looked back at the assignment view in Classroom and clicked the “Run” button on the far right of the student assignment view. Originality Report 5Classroom ran the originality report and then provided me with a link I could click on to see what was found. My teacher cannot yet see this report; it is private only to me at this point.

Originality Report 7
Students simply click on the link to view the report.

As you can see by the giant yellow highlight, Google caught that I had copied and pasted the entire text from a web source. Not only did it flag that all of my content was copied and pasted, it also gave me (as a student) the top web match for where I got the content. If I (as a student) can see that match, you better believe that my teacher can as well if I submit this document as is!

Originality Report 8
Guess I am a big, fat cheater!

Because I understand the mind of a teenager better than I would ever want to, I then decided to “edit” this paper a little by taking out some key words, changing a few sentences around while trying to “make it my own.” After I made these changes, I then ran the second of three available originality reports. But, alas, Google once again caught my lazy work habits. But, since I am a teen, I went ahead and submitted this assignment anyway! I am sure my teacher won’t notice. 

Originality Report 11

When I change roles and look at student work, you will see that, as the teacher, I do not have to do anything to run my own originality report. Classroom automatically runs an originality report for each submitted Docs file, visible only to you. If a student unsubmits and resubmits an assignment, Classroom runs another originality report for the instructor. These reports don’t appear on this view. You need to open the student work to be able to view the originality report. 

Originality Report 12

Originality Report 13
When I click on that blue link, I can see the full originality report and identified web sources.

 When I open each individual assignment, I can see that content has been flagged. 

Originality Report 14

I can now have meaningful conversations with this student about their work and this also lets me know that I have more work to do when it comes to teaching proper research techniques. 

Originality reports are viewable for 45 days. After that, you can run another report by opening the student’s submission from within the Classroom grading tool.

When you share this tool with students for the first time, Google suggests that you preview it or share this post in Classroom before you begin.  

This feature is not going to automatically check all student assignments. You simply need to enable it when you need it. Originality reports are still in beta, so check and see if your district administrator has asked to pilot this feature in your district. 

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, G-Suite for Education, Google Slides, how to

Add Audio to Google Slides

The ability to add audio to slides has been on my want list since I started using slides years ago. Those of us who were PowerPoint users fondly remember the day when we could add a lovely melody to play over our entire presentation, but we were sadly shut out of this feature when we made the jump to slides. 

Well, be sad no more for the ability to insert audio to Google Slides is here! (Or will be here for all users by the end of November if the rumor holds true) This feature is not just for playing sappy music over a photo show of your students at the end of the year; this feature is perfect for so many different teaching and learning activities! 

But first, let’s look at how to use the feature. It is relatively simple. 

  1. First, you must have the audio file (it should be an MP3 file) in your Google Drive. You can easily use the New < File Upload feature to upload any audio files you might have on your computer. Need to make your own audio files? Check out my blog post about using Screencastify to create your own MP3.  
  2. Open your Google Slide presentation. (Remember, if you are starting from scratch, you can type slides.new into your URL bar to quickly create a brand new presentation).
  3. Click Insert and select Audio from the dropdown list. Add Audio to Slides
  4. Once you have inserted the audio, you can choose how your audio will play Format Options
  5. You can change the audio icon to an image of your choice if you so choose. Simply click on the audio icon and click “Replace image” from the toolbar. You can either pull an image from your Drive, computer or photos or you can search the web.  (Excuse the yucky food images in my gif. I am in the process of lodging a complaint about my bean burrito with a certain fast food chain. 😉) Replace audio icon

That’s it! That is all you need to do to add audio to Google Slides. Check in for my next blog post about ideas for using this new feature in your classroom. I mean, beyond that end of the year cry fest when your students fly away and leave you with nothing but the memories.

Posted in Cool Tools, digital breakout, how to

Level up by creating your own digital breakout

I am sure you have heard of breakout rooms and Google’s Breakout EDU program. One way that you can build a breakout activity is by using digital tools to create a digital environment for your students to work in. Digital breakouts are a great way to engage students and get them showing what they know, and the best part is that there are no physical locks to be reset or clues to be rehidden. There are many different ways to create your breakouts. And there are a wide variety of online tools that will make your breakout awesome. Sometimes all of these options can feel a little overwhelming. With that in mind, I created a simple guide to help as you build your digital breakout. Feel free to use this, but I would be even happier if you shared it with your students and let them build their own digital breakouts! Get your own copy here.

Posted in Cool Tools, Google Classroom, Screencastify

Screencastify and Reading Fluency

When students are practicing their oral fluency, a key component of that practice is for students to hear themselves reading aloud. Try using Screencastify and Google Classroom to create opportunities for students to record themselves reading, allowing them to hear their own oral fluency.

The idea behind this is that you give students a passage to practice their fluency. The students then use Screencastify to record themselves reading the passage. After finishing the recording, they listen to it and decide if their oral reading was fluid and with expression. If it isn’t, they can practice some more and create another recording. Once they are happy with their recording, they turn it in to the teacher via Google Classroom. Turning in a video created in Screencastify is super easy since the video lives right in the student’s Google Drive. The teacher now has a sample of the student’s reading fluency, and if he or she continues with this assignment over time, they will create a record of student growth and progress.

Creating this activity is relatively easy:

  1. Find or create short reading passages in a digital format. Good places to find already created passages are Newsela, ReadTheoryEpic!, your local library, and if you live in Ohio, Infohio. I really like the idea of creating your own using content you are reading in class or short poems from some of our favorite children’s authors.
  2. Create an assignment in Google Classroom. Remember, you can individually assign to students or assign to small groups of students. There is no reason that all students should be practicing their fluency on the same piece. Differentiation is key! assignment dialog box in Google Classroom with directions to the assignment.
  3. Students then access the fluency assignment in Google Classroom, open the attached piece and practice reading it. When they feel ready, they will open Screencastify from their Chrome browsers and record themselves reading aloud.Screencastify for Fluency
  4. Once students have finished their recording, they can rename the video. They will need to change the privacy settings on the recording so that you can view it once they have turned it in via Google Classroom. Screencastify Screen
  5. To change the privacy settings for the video, all students need to do is click on the share icon, make sure “Google Drive” is selected and click “Get Link.” This will change the video permissions to “anyone with the link can view.” Share Screencastify
  6. The final step is for the student to turn the video in via Google Classroom. To do this, they simply open the assignment, click on the “Add  or Create” button on the top right and use the Drive icon to pull the video directly from their Google Drive. Turn in Screencastify Video
  7. Now that the student has turned their video in to you, you can watch the student videos directly from the assignment view in Classroom. Teacher Screencast FeedbackDon’t forget that these turned in assignments also live in the “Classroom” folder in your Drive. You can access them at any time and use them to share with other teachers, administrators or parents. What an excellent way to progress monitor!
  8. If you do not have content in a digital format, don’t worry! You can still do this activity. Students can read directly from a book at school they will just need to record using the webcam camera from Screencastify instead of the desktop or browser camera.

Screencastify is a wonderful extension for both teachers and students. There are so many awesome things you can use Screencastify for. If you don’t already have it on your Chrome browser, sign up for an account download it today!