Friday, February 20, 2015

Declutter YouTube

One of our colleagues was searching YouTube for resources on puberty recently. While she found excellent resources available, you might already imagine the detritus, advertisements, and related video links surrounding the main video. Some of it unsavory, and all of it blinking, flashing, and screaming for attention. You have probably been there, and might imagine her dismay. Her predicament reminded me of several tools that truly excel at cleaning up YouTube and removing its distractions. My personal favorite is SafeShare.TV. SafeShare.TV is easy to use, and it works well. Simply paste a YouTube video link into its web form, click the green button, and let it generate a safe view link. Clicking the safe view link will play your video, sans YouTube mess. SafeShare.TV has additional options for starting and stopping videos at specific times, too. Also, you can bookmark your safe view links so that you do not have to make a safe link every time you want to watch the video.

One thing that bothers me about SafeShare.TV is the link to download the video as an audo mp3 or as a video mp4. The link takes viewers to a spam laden page which requires Java to work. I am highly suspicious and will avoid it. I recommend you avoid it, too.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Free Google Drive Quota Increase

Google is making free drive storage space available to users who perform a two minute checkup of their account settings. The 2GB bump is permanent, and well worth doing, especially when you consider our expanding use of Google Drive. Note that this offer is only applicable on your consumer or home account, and does not apply to your EWG Google account, since the school account already has unlimited storage. You must take advantage of the offer prior to February 17. Get started at

Image:  CC0 Public Domain 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

No Google Docs App on your iPad?

Recently, a colleague asked how students could edit Google Docs on an iPads that did not have the Google Docs app already installed. The obvious best choice is to install the Google Docs app. But what if the iPad is locked down so that a user cannot install the Google Docs app? Use the built in Safari web browser! It's a bit kludgy, and not as fully featured as the desktop version (or the iPad app), but it works! The video below demonstrates how.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Saving Explain Everything Projects to Google Drive

In a previous post, I wrote about using Google Drive to backup iPad files. During today's snow day, I made a video about using Google Drive specifically to save Explain Everything project files.

Explain everything is an incredible tool that turns your iPad into a multimedia creation powerhouse. I encourage you to use it with your classes as a way to make high impact presentations, videos, and print content. There are many excellent tutorials to help you get started with Explain Everything, but Jen Johnson's video tutorial is a super, concise, eight minute path to quick success. Remember that iPads are generally personal devices, and they are typically used by one person. At EWG, though, iPads are deployed in a multiuser environment in the high school and elementary schools. There are a couple of easy steps to make sure your project files are saved and backed up when you use Explain Everything on a shared, EWG iPad. Ensuring that your Explain Everything projects are backed up to the cloud will assure access to your projects no matter what iPad or device you use.

The process of saving to Google Drive is shown in the video below.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Life long learning

With increasing delight and frequency, I learn more from other people than they learn from me. I had a number of meetings where I left refreshed and looking forward to trying some new tool or practicing a new skill set. Here are the highlights of the last few days.

If you've ever tried to schedule an event between more than two people, you know finding a common time can be a hassle whose email, text, and phone load grows exponentially with the number of participants. End the scheduling mess with Doodle. Establish some dates, invite participants, and let the best available slots rise to the top. Hat tip, Gina K.

Common Sense Media has a free, rich, interactive resource called Digital Passport. The Digital Passport program starts the conversation about appropriate digital citizenship, including explorations of copyright etiquette, bullying, and searching, among others. It's not the be all and end all of digital citizenship, but it looks like a great place to start. We've already uploaded rosters to the Digital Passport portal, and will be piloting it with sixth graders over the coming weeks.
Hat tip: Jeff B.

Bookshare makes eTexts available to students with visual or other impairments. Over 321,000 titles are available. Free! And there are a lot of solid front ends for Bookshare, like read2go ($20 for iPad), and a bunch of free readers like firefly k3000, and others that work on anything with a browser. I'll be working with Metcalf teachers to learn how students choose books (or how teachers assign books - we're not sure how that part works) over the next week. Hat tip: Bette Jean B.

And finally, PBS Learning Media, I discovered, offers a wealth of standards aligned curriculum resources. Wawaloam teachers in particular, are looking for ways to make solid use of their interactive whiteboards. When I got asked to install one particular DVD (with its single user license) containing an interactive game about rhyming words on a bunch of laptops, I immediately looked for alternatives that were free, legal, and absent a requisite software install. I also used the teachable moment to talk about end user license agreements. PBS Learning Media is a searchable treasure trove of resources that elementary teachers are going to appreciate, and kids are likely to enjoy. I'm looking forward to working with teachers to show them how to search for and vet activities. Hat tip:  Me!

Have a restful weekend!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What's up with that old laptop?

Old Dell Laptop
Old Dell laptop running Ubuntu 14.04
Linux, a free, open source operating system, has long fascinated me with its ability to breathe new life into aging, sluggish, glommed up windows computers. Over the last five plus years, I've upgraded close to one hundred windows computers destined for the great digital recycle bin with versions of Linux that allowed the owners to enjoy years of renewed, snappy, secure computing. Recently, I was performing some minor updates to one such laptop and I thought it might be a good time to revisit Linux on old Laptops.

Two or three years ago, several teachers in the senior high approached me about repairing old laptops for use in their classrooms. All of the laptops were pretty beat up. You could tell they had seen hard use; floppy screens, dented keyboards, loose or missing bezels, and other assorted physical ailments were common. Still, most had working hardware. Another common element was that they were all running some version of Windows. Many were running xp, some vista, and even a few newer models ran windows 7. The final common theme is that they were all infested with malware, viruses, and other bloatware that caused the machines to perform poorly, insecurely, or not at all. Removing windows and installing a fresh copy of Linux (which comes with all the software you need to do 99% of everything you would ever want to do with a computer) took, in most cases, about twenty minutes per machine. For the teachers who asked to have their old 'junkers' made usable, and for the teachers who scored some usable relics at the right price through eBay, it was a free or inexpensive jump start to one to one computing.

But wait, we're already one to one, you think, and wonder why you might want to bother with an older laptop in your classroom. There are still some compelling reasons to consider the old laptop. Juniors and seniors were not part of the one to one rollout. A few old laptops can offset the deficit in mixed grade classes. And, kids (and some adults) can, occasionally, forget to charge or simply forget to bring their device. The old laptop makes a nice emergency fill in. Do you want to use the old device as your front line, first choice machine? Probably not, especially after using a MacBook Air. But if you have an old laptop kicking around, and might like the security or convenience of a snappy, spare computing device for your students or yourself, let me know. I'd be happy to get you going.