Monday, October 15, 2018

7 Tips for Successful Screencasting You Can Do

Last week, I wrote about 4 reasons why screencasting has greatly helped me. And from looks of it, I wasn't the only one who was talking about screencasting last week! 

You can read last week's here ↬ Screencasting You Can Do.

Another EdTech guru I follow - Jake Miller - shared "3 Screencastify Features You (Probably) Didn't Know About". He's right! I didn't know about these 3! You definitely should read this.

Today, I want to share some tips if you've not started, or are new to, screencasting. Screencasting is a great tool for teachers for the reasons I shared last week, but it's also a great tool for students to use, too! They will most likely take to it easier than you or I!

Here are a few suggestions & tips:

When setting up your account (or setting up accounts with students), make sure you set it to automatically save to Google Drive. To do this, click on the extension, select  "Options" & on the new browser window, the top option is saving to Drive or on local device. I LOVE the Drive option. It will create a Screencastify folder for easy access with ALL your recordings in one place.

Learn and think through the potential uses for the recording options. You can record the browser tab, the entire desktop, or just the webcam (meaning what your camera sees). Each option has it's pros & cons. If you just choose the browser tab, you have to stay in just the open tab. The desktop will capture everything you can see on your screen. The webcam can capture outward images.

There's a time and place for your just your webcam to record. There's a time and place you don't want the webcam at all. There's also a time and place to have the webcam AND your screen being recorded. 

Be sure to point out specifically to your students the little black circle IS their camera! Some may not make that connection without it and be unsure where exactly to look.

The microphone. One more great tool to think about it. Make sure you notice if the microphone is on or off. I've made the mistake of recording and not checking - only to find out I forgot to turn it on! πŸ˜‚ In a classroom setting, make sure your students understand they can record, but there will be a extra noise. Students can go a long way in being considerate of others by leaning in and talking quietly into their devices. It's all about sharing classroom space - not competing to see who is the loudest.

Rest assured - it might feel weird to record yourself! I know it felt awkward to me! Then to listen to myself ... let's just say I say I deleted quite a few recordings because I didn't like how I sounded! Then I realized ↬ everyone is used to hearing me ... except me!

This is super important ... name the ones you want to keep and don't be afraid to delete! If you mess up - DELETE. If it's a "keeper", NAME the video. Otherwise, your folder will be full of screencasts and you won't know which one is which. Students need constant reminders about this. It is incredibly tough to find the right video when you have a bunch a videos that all look the same.

Last one ... 

Keyboard shortcuts. SUPER helpful. I have them written on a post-it note with my computer. The most basic are the start/stop/pause. At the very least, write these down for handy reference.

to Start or Stop recording

to Pause & resume recording

Here is a LINK to Screencastify's collection of shortcuts. These are good for those who are ready to take screencasting to the next level.

I hope this helps you feel a little more confident in your screencasting adventures! Enjoy!

Please reach out if you have questions. You can comment below, or find me on Twitter @kiefersj -- or Google+ +SarahKiefer .

Monday, October 8, 2018

Screencasting You Can Do

One area of tech I did nothing with when I had my own classroom was screencasting. To be honest, I had a hard time listening to myself! Then, one of the first things I was asked to do when I started as a tech integration person was to screencast how to log into various programs. Gulp! Now, I had to!

I won't lie - it took me FOREVER! I made and deleted and remade and deleted some more. Fast-forward 2 years, and while I still do not really care to hear myself, I find it much easier to do as well as a HIGHLY efficient way to accomplish various tasks. (I'll explain later.)

I truly wish I had gotten on board with screencasting while I was in the classroom because I've found some pretty awesome ways to use it that save time and allow you to build a bank of good resources.

I know there are all kinds of screencasting tools out there - my preferred one is Screencastify. It allows me to log in with my Google account and I choose to have it automatically save my videos to My Drive. SUPER easy! I only use the free version & have yet to hit any need for a paid version. (Sure some of the editing tools would be nice, but I've made do.)

I'll share some tips at the end. Here are some of the ways I've found screencasting is helpful:

"How To" or Demonstrations

I am split between two elementaries and I often am asked "how to" questions or "I need help with" ... but I'm at the other elementary. While I could type out directions, I've found it very helpful to create a quick little video and then share it. I've received very positive feedback from this - it's specific to the person and it provides a visual along with the auditory instructions. 

CHALLENGE: record a "how to" for your students.


A big part of my job is supporting teachers with integrating tech into their classrooms. Last winter, we did a district-wide professional book study on George Couros "The Innovator's Mindset". It was fantastic!!! As part of the wrap up, I devised "The Innovator in YOU" so our teachers could capitalize on these great ideas. One was a 2nd grade teacher who said he'd like to make videos to share with the parents on how to do the math. (Don't laugh ... this is a regular complaint for math at all ages! It's mostly a vocab thing.) I helped him get going on this project. Eventually, the hope is he will teach his students how to create these. But for now, wow! What a great idea! 

You can check him out his YouTube channel is "David Williams". I love this & I've shared it with as many primary teachers I can. Better yet, subscribe and you'll be notified each time he posts a new video.

CHALLENGE: record a video on a specific area your students struggle & share it.

Next best thing to in-person

I love being in the classroom and working with teachers and students. Love it, love it, love it! I have regular appointments with several classes. And try as I might, I have to reschedule or skip it sometimes. Boo! I had to do this last year with two 2nd grade classes. Man, was I bummed! I talked to the classroom teachers and asked if it'd be ok if I made a short video and share it with them in my absence. They agreed! I sat on my front porch two nights prior and recorded what I was going to do with them. Once I was done, I shared it with the 2 teachers. Even though I wasn't there in real time, I was there in video form!

CHALLENGE: record your sub plans! Read below for more ...

Relaying Problems

This is one I just recently realized the power. We recently adopted a new portal in our district. As much as we πŸ’–it, we are finding we have some kinks to work through. One of these was incredibly tough to write out and make sense so the company would truly understand what I was needing help with. Brain spark! I'll make a quick video! So I did ... at the same time I was explaining, I was showing my question. This really helped both sides figure it out! 

Since it worked so well for the portal, about a week later, a teacher had an issue with using one of our programs, I made a quick little video & shared it with the company, and again, SO much better to explain and show at the same time.

CHALLENGE: next time you run into a problem with a program, record it & send it to your tech person. Let them really "see" your question.

Uses in the classroom

Did you notice the challenge I put at the end of each of the 4 areas I've found it helpful to use screencasting? You can do this!

Let me give you the classic example ... you have a professional day out of the classroom (or a planned day for another reason) ... sub plans are a PAIN. (Can anyone other than a teacher really understand what a pain sub plans are???) 

Here's the regular scenario for me I chaperone the 8th grade DC trip each year. That's 3 days out of the classroom. Three. Not a big deal for the 8th graders who don't go, but I still had full classes of 7th graders who were expected to keep have social studies class. I grew tired of leaving plans for the sub that got misinterpreted, or worse, not followed at all. I decided I was going to use this new LMS to my advantage. Schoology. I could schedule things to be available on a certain day and time. Sweet! I wrote my plans TO my students. I gave them step by step instructions. Then I left a note for the sub ... "all my plans are posted in Schoology for the students to read". (I think I might have printed them for the sub, too.) I see now, I could have easily screencasted them rather than typing them & then my students could see AND hear me give them instructions. Beautiful!!!

Once you start, you'll find numerous reasons why screencasting can be a wonderful tool to add to your tool belt. 

And just when you get comfortable, take it to the next level ... teach your STUDENTS how to do it and let their learning shine through!

Next week, I'll share some tips when you start screencasting. Talk with you then!

Please reach out if you have questions. You can comment below, or find me on Twitter @kiefersj -- or Google+ +SarahKiefer .

Sunday, September 30, 2018

2 Google Drive Shortcuts You Will WANT To Do

Back in January, I wrote about two of my favorite topics ↬ Google Drive and organization. You can read that post here: Google Drive Organization You Can Do.  Today, I'm excited to share with you TWO pretty awesome shortcuts you will definitely want to add to your tool belt.

Organization greatly helps your everyday life, and these shortcuts will help you even more. 

Now, you might be thinking ... why would I want to use these? Have you ever wanted a quick peek at a file in your Drive (probably because the title isn't super clear)? Or maybe you are in your Google Classroom folder and you simply want to scan through your student work? What if you are doing a clean up and you want to change names? These 2 shortcuts are invaluable!

Select a file, then click the letter P ↬ a quick preview of the file pops open. From here, you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard (or use your mouse to click on arrows on the screen) to scan through ALL the contents of the particular folder you are in. 

Select a file, then click the letter N ↬ a window will pop open allowing you to rename the file. This makes me super happy, because I don't want double-click to open the file, wait for it to load, and then click in the title box. I know it sounds silly, but every little bit of time-saving is important to me. 

*** BONUS #1 *** ↬ Did you know there are TWO different views in Drive? Yep! To check it out, look for to change your view. It will be in the top right corner, below your profile image.
  • "grid view" arranges your folders & files as small tiles
    • PRO - folders arranged as tiles takes up less vertical space on your screen & provides tiny little previews of files
    • CON - files as tiles take up more space & titles of folders & files are shortened
  • "list view" arranges your folders & files in a vertical list
    • PRO - the full title of the folder & file can be seen, as well as owner & last modified info
    • CON - takes up far more vertical space
Check out the comparison of my My Drive in each view. There is no right or wrong ... it's personal preference ... but check them both out. You might just find you prefer the other view!

*** BONUS #2 *** ↬ I have two other shortcut tips on my companion blog. They might also be helpful to you.

Monday, September 24, 2018

4 Troubleshooting Tips You Can Do

If you use Chromebooks &/or GSuite, you may have noticed a few odd glitches this past week. This has inspired today's post where I want to share a few very easy troubleshooting tips. Teachers CAN do these ... students can do some, too ... and knowing how can empower you to solve a vast majority of your tech glitches. 

In my district, we are 1:1 with Chromebooks in grades 1 -12. I split my time between our two elementaries, grades preK-4. I frequently have students sent to me because something isn't working right on their Chromebook. The most common irritant is that the trackpad isn't working "right". Another common issue is the students' password isn't working. And finally, another common issue is the student can't access the program their teacher is directing them to use.

How do you handle this? What can you do? 
Here are 4 tips that you CAN do ↬

1 ↬ Sign out, then sign back in

This is the very first thing I suggest ... and it will solve about 90% of the troubles. Chrome is a browser that can and will update itself, if you completely close it down and restart it. I know it's far easier to just close your chromebook (or laptop) so you can pick up where you left off, and that's ok for a day or two. 

*** BEST TIP: sign out at the end of the day so that you start fresh tomorrow.

↬ Delete the profile(s) and sign back in

Deleting the student's profile (along with any others on the device) can help solve quite a few problems. Recently, we've had a number of students who are being told their is an issue with their password. There's no rhyme or reason, but we've found deleting their profile and adding it back does the trick! I would try doing this before going through the extra steps of contacting the correct people to do a password reset - that may ultimately need to happen, but if you can troubleshoot and fix it, that is a huge timesaver! Plus, it doesn't hurt anything. All of the student's bookmarks, files, and passwords are in the cloud, so log back in & you are in business.

*** BEST TIP: if you are 1:1, keep to this - assign one device to each student - build ownership. Don't let the students randomly use the devices. It's very difficult to make sense of what is actually going on with a device the more students who use it. If you are NOT 1:1, I still recommend assigning the devices. 

↬ Check your wifi network

Sunday, September 16, 2018

5 Chrome Settings You Can Do

Last week, I covered 5 reasons why you should use Chrome. This week, I want to dive further into the settings you can customize in your Chrome profile. This will further enhance your Chrome experience. 

I hope you'll come to love using Chrome just like I did.

Opening Your Settings

Your settings are the key to all things custom for your Chrome account. It is super easy to find. Check out my 1st #EduGIF ! (Thanks, Jake Miller!)

Your settings will open in a new tab and it provides a search bar at the top. Let's go over some simple ways that will make your Chrome account feel like YOU. It's also a great opportunity to make your school Chrome account different from your personal Chrome account.

Before you do anything ... make sure you are in your account. Once you are on the settings page, you should see your account listed. If not, use the sign in option. 

Another note ↬ if you are in a G Suite account for school, your admin does have the ability to restrict or limit several of these options. If you can't adjust in your school account, pop into your personal account and do it. Have fun!

Chrome "Theme"

The first thing you can do to personalize your Chrome account is to add/adjust your "Theme". This is the very first item under "Appearance".

Mine is currently set to "Beach Board". The little square with the arrow pointing out will allow you to navigate to the Chrome Web Store and change your theme. Look around, check them out ... you can always come back and change it later.

As you scroll through them, look closely. Some will only change the image when you open a new tab. Others will even change the look of your tabs! There's no right or wrong ... only personal preference. Try one and see what you think. You can always change it again!

Chrome "Home Button"

The easiest one-click bookmark you can do is to set your "home button" to the location you visit the most often. This option is located just under the Theme option.

Take a few minutes and really give it some thought. First of all, you do not even have to use it, but I find it to be very beneficial. I jump into my Drive all the time. So I've set my home page to my Drive. It's as simple as copy a URL & paste it in. Done. 

The home button is located just to the left of your URL/omnibox. One click and you are home. 

On Start Up, Open Specific Tabs 

Monday, September 10, 2018

#PodPeeks: Well PlayED podcasts

I've been hooked on the podcast "Well PlayED" by Michael Matera. His focus is gaming in the classroom, but really it's SOOO much more! I see his focus as just good, solid teaching. He and his interviewees spend plenty of time reflecting on their time as a student as well as a teacher. 

I encourage you to not only tune in (I'll highlight some episodes below) but subscribe so you can continue your own journey. Here are highlights from 4 of his episodes. If you have even the slightest interest in gaming in your class, this is a MUST LISTEN!

Episode 3: Diving Deep Into Content

Michael talks with Adam Bold (@MrBold05).

The big takeaway I get from this is how Adam changed his learning targets into "mission targets" for his students. His classroom is designed around the theme of being spies who are trying to recover lost history and work for an agency. They use various sources to do their research.

Michael shares a quote at the end which I love ... 
"Play is the highest form of research." ~ Albert Einstein.

Episode 7: Quests for knowledge

Michael talks with Tisha Richmond (@tishrich) about game mechanics. Their focus is "quests". They talk about them as mini adventures for students to go above and beyond. I love it. We all want our students to do this, but most won't without some kind of incentive, some kind of reason. Here are a few things they shared about quests in their classes:
  • based on content's essential questions
  • don't share the quests all at the same time - spread them out
  • should be optional 
  • do not attach to student grades
  • only allow them for a defined amount of time
  • keep them open-ended, fairly unstructured

Episode 53: Homage to the greatest game ever!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

5 Chrome Tips You Can (& Should) Do

A lot of my time is spent on the computer. Learning, creating, troubleshooting, corresponding, etc. With the rare exception, I use Chrome. I use my Chrome account (aka Google) to allow for max productivity since I work in a GSuite school district and have carried that over into my personal life.

Let's start with answering the question, "What is Chrome?" Chrome is a web browser. Its use will provide many benefits. Today, let's look at 5 of them.

1. Chrome is NOT device specific.

By this I mean it will work on ALL devices! It will work on desktops, tablets, chromebooks, laptops, phones, iPods, etc. Chances are, if you can access the internet, you can download Chrome to your device. This will provide benefits to your sanity that I will explain below.

2. Chrome is NOT platform specific.

This means you can use Chrome whether you are a "Mac person" or a "PC person" or if you are a student who has been given a Chromebook. And with very few exceptions, you'll see it works similarly if you move between these platforms. 

3. Chrome contains ALL of your Google account.

What do you use in Google? Drive? Docs, Sheets, Forms, Drawings, Calendars? Classroom? Google Sites? Blogger? Google Keep? More? All of the above? Great! They are all in Chrome! 

Hands down, this is what turned me into a Chrome & Google user. I learned I can work on documents at school and go home and pick it up right where I left off ... WITHOUT needing to email it or save it to jump drive. Mind-blowing! The cloud was, and still IS a sanity-saver. I no longer worry if I am using the most up-to-date version.

All of this was before I learned about the collaborative and sharing features. When you learn how to share files and folders and work collaboratively with others, you will wonder why you didn't do this before. And in the education world, this becomes an invaluable tool assisting you in creating activities for your students that move them beyond word the basics. 

4. Chrome will sync across your devices.

Log into Chrome on one device, then log in on another. You will see everything syncs! Passwords, bookmarks, history ... this becomes INVALUABLE. This is the second reason Chrome & Google won me over years ago.

I had a desktop at school. I had a desktop at home. All I had to do was log into my Chrome account in both places and I was in business.

I have a smartphone - I logged in on it and BOOM! There it all is!

When our district went 1:1 and I received a teacher Chromebook, I logged in and, to my delight, there was all my "stuff"! Discovering and now trusting that my passwords and bookmarks are synced has become such a relief. I no longer feel tied down. If I changed my password to a program on one device, it syncs across all my other devices.

When I share the benefits of Chrome with others, I explain it like this ... as long as you are logged into your Chrome account, your device can be run over by a semi-truck BUT you won't lose anything. Log in on your new device and it's all there. (I'm not suggesting being careless, but hey, things happen.)

OR ... here is another common problem - your battery dies and you don't have your charger. Someone offers for you to use their device. Not to worry, log in to Chrome and it's all there. (Don't forget to log out and thank them.) This greatly assisted me a couple years back while on our 8th grade Washington, DC trip. I was able to use a computer at our dinner location to send out a very important piece of information.

You will save yourself time, energy, and frustration.

Have I convinced you yet?

5. Chrome allows for separation of accounts.

As I mentioned earlier, I first used Chrome and Google years ago at school. Now I use it at home, too. I try hard to keep these "pieces" of my life separate. I consider these my work and my personal "lives".

I use a laptop day-to-day. On my laptop, Chrome provides the ability to add multiple "people". This makes it SUPER easy to navigate between my "school life" and my "personal life" and my "Google Trainer life". This keeps passwords and bookmarks separate, too.

It also prevents account "contamination". Keeping things separate helps with organization. This pays off over time. You can see the option to add additional people in the image to the left.

Chromebooks provide the same ability, but in a slightly different way. You can only be "in" one profile at a time. 

In order to switch accounts, you would need to log out of your current one, and log back in to a different account. I used a Chromebook for about a year and a half and I found there was very little I couldn't do on it.

***If you are on a school issued device, please also be aware your Google Admin can enable (or disable) certain abilities on your Chromebook.***

Bonus: Saving!

As a teacher, one of the toughest parts about technology in the classroom was saving. How-to, where-to, when-to ... Google has you covered.

Chrome contains your Google Drive. Drive is one-stop place for all your Google files. And Google apps -Docs, Sheets, Forms, Drawings, Slides, and more- save automatically. Such relief! Power goes out? Not to worry ... it's saved. Battery dies? Not to worry ... it's saved. Accidentally close the wrong tab(s) out when browsing on Chrome? Not to worry ... it's in your history - which syncs across devices. 

Oh, and as a teacher, you can see student's browsing history (just like you can see your own) AND the version history of a document. But THAT is a topic for another blog. 

Join me next week when I'll share some tips/tricks to make your Chrome experience even better! 

Do you have additional questions? Please reach out. I'd be happy to help. You can comment below or find me on Twitter @kiefersj or Google+ +SarahKiefer .

Monday, September 3, 2018

Google Classroom You Can Do - Part 3: 5 Ways to Go Beyond the Basics

Welcome to the 3rd, and final, segment in my series about the *new* Google Classroom, with a *bonus* post devoted to how you can learn more about the recent updates.

If you want to start from the beginning, check out my previous posts:

Once you have your Classroom up and running, you might want to start thinking about what's next. It's one thing to have a digital classroom - it's great! But did you know you can do even more? That's right ... some of these are about going beyond IN with your class and some are about going beyond OUTside of your class.

Be brave. Try at least one of the following in the next week or so ... then challenge yourself to try out each of them. They all provide a new tool with added benefits to your class.

Let's jump in.

↬ Share to Classroom extension

This is an EASY one. Extensions provide additional functionality on your Chrome browser and this one is no different. This extension will allow you to literally "push" a website to the students in a Google Classroom you select. Select a class, "push" the site to your students, and within a handful of seconds, the students devices will change.

Imagine the benefits of using this with young students! On days where you don't want to pre-post a link in Google Classroom, or you come across a site on a whim ... this can be extremely helpful. This can be a great time saver, as well. 

You can use this extension to also add the site to an announcement, assignment, or question in a specific Classroom, too. An added bonus is your students can push sites back to you, too, but you choose to accept them or not. I can see doing research with older students, one finding something to share, this tool can help your quickly share out. 

If you only try one of these, please try this one! Teachers I've shown this to swear it's a game-changer ... and it's easy.

To read more, check out Google Classroom's support page.

↬ Using private comments for feedback

I attended a workshop hosted by Alice Keeler, and one of the best tips she shared was how to share private feedback with student by using the private comments. No need to look up contact - no writing emails - easy to track who you've responded to. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Google Classroom You Can Do - Part 2: Up and Running

Last week I focused on how to create your Google Classroom. There is a lot that goes into creating a Google Classroom. If you need to read more, here is a link to last week's post - Google Classroom You Can Do - Part 1: Creating.

Now that you are ready, let's get going on using your Classroom. I can't possibly give you all the ways to use Google Classroom, but I'll share as many as possible. The updates give teachers some pretty awesome new tools and features. The basic layout has changed. 

Let's get moving and check them out.

The Tabs ↬ Stream, Classwork, and People

The stream is still there, but it has had some changes. It now is only for announcements. Personally, I like this. It helps organize information for you and your students. Your announcements - purely the info you want to share, post, tell, has it's own section. 

Suggested uses:
  • morning message ↬ welcome students and give them direction on what to do
  • share important information about upcoming events, such as field trips or class activities
  • share videos or links to class or school related items, but not necessarily content related items
  • a location to post homework information

Definitely the BIGGEST change! The purpose of this tab is just what it's name says - it's where you post your Classwork. This is far more than just a "new spot". Topics can be created, allowing for even more organization!

Suggested uses:
  • If you are self-contained, you could create a topic for each subject. For the littlest learners, this can greatly assist them in finding the work.
  • a topic per chapter or unit
  • a topic for classwork, quizzes, homework, etc
  • in ELA --
    • a topic for reading, writing, grammar, etc
    • possibly a topic for each major theme covered in class

The option to create assignments and questions has moved from the lower right corner to the top, more on the left. You will also find quick access to your Google Classroom Drive folder and your Calendar for this class. 

***Note: if you created your Google Classroom before mid-August, you most likely won't see this tab. Google says it's coming, but no exact date has been given.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Google Classroom You Can Do - Part 1: Creating

Google Classroom has released some changes recently. My job is to support classroom teachers and the students they serve. This time of year, we welcome our new staff. Not all are brand new teachers, but some are brand new to Google &/or Google Classroom.

Today I want provide steps to create a Classroom as well as some things to keep in mind. This isn't only for brand new teachers, either. I've been lucky enough to attend workshops and work with numerous teachers and talk about the reasons why they have their classes set up the way they do. 

To get started, go to . If this is your VERY first time, you'll need to ensure you indicate you are a teacher. Likewise, when you have your students navigate to the same URL, make sure they select they are a student.
Photo from Google Classroom's Help page
Here is where every teacher is going to be different. You may not think too much about this initially, but here are questions you will want to ask yourself when creating classroom(s).
  • What is the age of your students?
  • How much do you plan on using Classroom?
  • How does your brain organize your daily teacher life?
I ask these because it will help you decide if you should have 1 classroom for everything ... 1 classroom for each subject/content you teacher ... 1 classroom per period ... etc. We live in a digital world, whether we like it or not. Our students need to be able to function in a digital classroom.

The younger your students, the fewer classrooms you most likely will have - Classroom probably won't be the main "vehicle" for content delivery. [It's perfectly ok if it is!] The older your students are the more likely you will use Classroom everyday - multiple times a day - to deliver content, assignments, projects, assessments, and more.