Thursday, April 24, 2014

Breaking bad habits... how hard can it be?

Just a quick post today to share two finds from, a new favorite resource.

It takes 21 days to develop a habit. That's a generally accepted... myth? Really, how long does it to make (or break) a habit?

Researchers at University College London have found that 21 days is actually too short a time. Published in the European Journal of Social Psychology in 2009, the study followed 96 people for 84 days as they attempted to make small changes to their lives  On average, participants in their study took 66 days, as explained in a blog post from 2012. Yikes. That's a long time.

My thinking is that breaking a bad habit is actually the process of developing a new, good habit, right? So we need to allow a bit of time to do so. This is something to consider as we wind down this school year and have a chance to maybe "forget" some bad teaching habits over the summer break.

What bad habits do you need to break? 

This list from Te@chThought is a great checklist to use for reflection. Click here to read the full blog post.
I can't decide if the number 4 in the title of this graphic is a legitimate typo or is trying to call our attention to the bad habits by not proofreading on purpose...

Time to form some new habits...

Don't worry. I'm not going to leave you on a negative note. A separate (but related!) Te@chThought post provided this infographic, borrowing a list from AlwaysPrepped. Something to think about. I'll bring it back in August as we head into the new school year...

Which of these do you want to make a habit? And can you master it in 21 days? No pressure :)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Giving Video a Trim

This morning a colleague wanted to insert an online video into her PowerPoint presentation. But not just a video - an excerpt from a video. This led me down a few roads of exploration, just to verify what I thought I knew...

Source of the video - Uh oh...
I love YouTube. I can find a tutorial for just about anything on it. Teachers can find videos on just about anything on there. It's a great resource.  However, waiting for videos from YouTube to buffer in the middle of a lesson can be tedious, I know. And since our teachers switch classrooms all the time, it's tough to have everything set up and buffered ahead of time for each class. So downloading videos from YouTube is tempting. But is it allowed?

No. Not according to YouTube (owned by Google). The terms of service state...

5. Your Use of Content

In addition to the general restrictions above, the following restrictions and conditions apply specifically to your use of Content.
  1. The Content on the Service, and the trademarks, service marks and logos ("Marks") on the Service, are owned by or licensed to YouTube, subject to copyright and other intellectual property rights under the law.
  2. Content is provided to you AS IS. You may access Content for your information and personal use solely as intended through the provided functionality of the Service and as permitted under these Terms of Service. You shall not download any Content unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed by YouTube on the Service for that Content. You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content. YouTube and its licensors reserve all rights not expressly granted in and to the Service and the Content. (highlighting emphasis mine)
My quick research shows that people will debate until they are blue in the face whether or not you will get in trouble for downloading videos from YouTube. Me? I'm just going to leave you with the above policy and move on to explain how to manipulate videos and clip them using videos from Vimeo that are licensed under Creative Commons if I need an example.

Downloading the video...
The internet abounds with free video converters. Some are web-based, others involved downloading software. One that I've had installed on my computer for a while is YTD Video Converter (yes, the YT stems from YouTube). I learned about it from our Computer Applications teachers, then found it to download and a write-up about it from CNET, which I generally trust.
Downloading is quick, installing is easy, and it's simple to use. Copy and paste the URL for your video into the box in the Download tab, make a few selections, click Download, and your video is headed your way.  

One warning: When installing, make sure to click "Custom Install" and remove the check marks next to all the lovely options about a toolbar and resetting your home page, etc. Unless you like those surprises. Then on the next install screen, click "No Thanks" when asked about installing something else that I can't recall. Sneaky. Very sneaky. 

Trimming the video...
We are on PCs here, so Movie Maker is standard issue on our image. I know it can be bulky, that people who work with video editing all the time don't love it, but for this purpose, it works.

When you open Movie Maker, you have a blank slate, ready for you to add video or image files. Easy enough. Click on either of the areas highlighted in the image below and select the file you just downloaded:

After you add your video, Movie Maker takes a few minutes to process the video. Be patient. If it's a long video, take the time to get a cup of coffee, grade a few quizzes, or search Twitter for something fun like #edtech.

For this project, you only need one tool in Movie Maker: the Trim tool. You will find it in the "Edit" ribbon, which only appears as part of "Video Tools" once you insert a video file.

The Trim tool is simple to use. Choose where you want your clip to begin and end, down to one hundredth of a second. Click "Save trim" and you are good.


Saving the trimmed video...

The most important part of saving a Movie Maker project is in HOW you save it. I had a group of students figure this out about five minutes before their final project was due in my Literature in the Cinema class a few years ago. Clicking the "File" menu in Movie Maker presents you with a few options and

  • "Save Project" & "Save Project As" - use these if you are in the process of manipulating your video and need to take a break. It saves your work as a .wlmp file. This will not play in video software (QuickTime, Media Player, etc.). Think of it as a folder containing all of the video clips, images, and sound clips you want in your video, along with instructions for how to play them.
  • "Publish Movie" - want to send your finished product directly to the web? This is a quick way. Chose from Vimeo, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, etc.
  • "Save Movie" - CHOOSE THIS if you want to save a video file to your computer so you can embed it into a presentation, email it, show it from your hard drive, burn to a DVD, etc. 

Embedding the video...
This is the easiest part.  Piece of cake. Open your PowerPoint file and insert a new slide. If you choose the common "title and content" layout, the icon is there waiting for you to insert a video. Just click on the video icon in the middle of the blank space: 

Another way to add a video is to select the "Insert" ribbon, then select "Video" waaaay over to the right side of the ribbon (I almost missed it) and click "Video on my PC" to select your file.

Done. These details/instructions actually make it seem to take longer than it really does. Maybe that's just the process of typing them amidst Monday interruptions. Oh well. Good luck!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tool Review:

This morning I found a video from YouTube that featured Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the man behind the SAMR model, and I really wanted to watch it and take notes. For some reason, 1999 me surfaced and I grabbed a notepad and pen. Within the first 52 seconds of the video, I realized I was being an idiot. I had already paused and gone back twice because I was trying to jot down his exact words for something. And I couldn't write fast enough. But I can type faster!


I had shared this tool in an Ed Tech Newsletter a while back, but never really had a good chance to use it. Today was the day. 

Logging into is easy with a Google account - the two sync together. Once you "connect to Google Drive" on the homepage, a folder shows up in your Google Drive account. Any files are saved there. When you are ready to start taking notes on a video, you can either go to or click the CREATE button in Google Drive and choose VideoNotes:  

Once logged in, this screen appears:

Easy to use.  I copied and pasted the URL of the YouTube video into the box on the left and it loaded the video. I hit the play button and started watching, listening, and typing time-stamped notes in the box on the right.  Any time I moved my cursor up a line, the video went back to the time stamped on the line.  I could easily pause the video by hitting CTRL+Space in the midst of typing to let me catch up when needed. My work automatically saved into the folder in Google Drive.

As I was using it, I loved it. I was very  Then I tried to manipulate my notes because frankly, they aren't easy to read in the interface. They are quite ugly:

A sample of my notes from today.  Pardon any typos, as I planned on editing later.
Here come the cons. 

Though the files are saved in Google Drive, the notes files will only open in the interface, not as a Google Doc. At this time, the only way to get the notes out of the interface that I've shown above is to export them to Everote. I know Evernote is a great tool and app, and I want to explore it more as a cloud-based answer to OneNote, but it perplexes me that the connection to Google is so limited. When I saw on the main page that the tool was connected to Google Drive, I assumed I would be able to view my notes within the Google Docs apps. Not so.

I created an Evernote account, exported the notes to Evernote, then copied and pasted them into a Google Doc from there so I could revisit and manipulate them, but that was a bit tedious. Yes, I could have done pretty much the same manipulations in Evernote, but as a Google Docs user, I wanted my notes saved there. This is a big issue for me. I want to encourage my colleagues to try and encourage their students to use it. Most of them have Google accounts at this point. Few of them will know Evernote and I don't like complicating the process by adding another account that they will possibly only use for this purpose. I really hope and Google figure out something soon.

Once I managed to get my notes into my Google Doc, I was able to edit them, reorganize by adding bullet points and formatting, color-code sections, make key terms bold, etc. The visual learner in me appreciated being able to do that.  And it allowed me a chance to review what I had typed.  Each line of my notes, though, still contained the time stamp in the form of a plus sign hyperlink that would take me to my file and start the video. Awesome.  And as you can see below, much easier on the eye.

A sample of my notes once I copied them into a Google Doc and manipulated them.
Overall, for students to be able to use to take notes on flipped lessons or other important content, they need to be able to manipulate what they type. And I would love for them to be able to do so in Google.  For now, we will survive with Evernote or my work-around.

Another slightly nit-picky critique. Now that I have connected to Google Drive, every time I visit the page/tool (and I've looked at it a lot over the course of the day), it creates a new "untitled note" in my Google Drive folder. I hadn't realized this, nor how I could change the title of the file, and opened my folder to find my notes only to see FIVE "untitled notes" files listed.  Oops.  I'd rather be required to name the file in order for it to be saved, or I will end up with a lot of sample "untitled file"s in my folder as I show people the website.  Maybe I should just stop visiting the site, though....

Webinars Keep Coming...

Nothing makes my Monday morning like opening my email to find a listing for two awesome sounding webinars coming up in the next few weeks.  Had to share them here, both so anyone reading can register (and join live or view in the archive), but also so I remember to go back to them and watch them.  Since both are on Tuesdays at 4pm, chances are I won't be able to join live at home without combating the Frozen soundtrack and my one year old trying to tackle my screen...

Both webinars are presented by, a professional learning community open to anyone.

What is SAMR? Rethink the way you plan with ed tech...
WHEN:  Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM (Eastern Time) 
Presented by Joe Dale, independent languages consultant from the UK

In our community’s first webinar, independent languages consultant Joe Dale will look at the SAMR model developed by Dr. Rubin Puentedura, which provides a useful framework for helping teachers rethink how they design activities that involve the use of technology. Joe will draw on practical examples to explore the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and finally Redefinition stages of the model, suggesting how previously inconceivable tasks can be achieved which transform learning and allow educators to ‘teach above the line.’  Planning lessons which are relevant and challenge 21st century learners as well as engage and stretch them is essential, and the SAMR model is a helpful guide to aid this process. Joe will also touch upon the importance of having a growth mindset when approaching the use of technology in the classroom as well as nurturing a personal learning network to facilitate global collaboration. If you like the idea of turning an original idea on its head and coming up with something which is far more engaging, relevant and important to young people, join Joe on April 15th to learn about creating lessons through the SAMR model.

Sponsored by ClassFlow

Get online and expand your PLC...
WHEN:  Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM (Eastern Time) 
Presented by Tom Whitby, retired secondary teacher and adjunct professor; with Steven Anderson, Content and Relationship Evangelist for Promethean

“I have learned more being on Twitter in six months than in two years of graduate school.”

“The connections I’ve made because I am online are crucial to my success in the classroom.” 

“I don’t know what I did before I was connected!”

These are statements we hear every day. Educators from around the world, marveling at the fact that they are connected and those connections carry a great deal of value to them professionally and personally. 

Historically, collaboration took place when two or more individuals occupied the same space at the same time and exchanged and revised ideas. It has often been said, "In a room full of smart people, the smartest person is the room"! With the technology at hand today, there are no boundaries of time or space with collaboration. The ability we have to connect and work collaboratively, anytime from anywhere, has moved collaboration from a limited mode of learning to a more prominent position. The technology we use for connecting people digitally and virtually through various applications for connections has given collaboration through technology the label of “connected learning”.

Join us for our community’s first webinar, when Tom Whitby and Steven Anderson - two of the most prolific users of social media - will discuss what it means to be a connected educator and how being connected empowers educators to do more and learn more.

Sponsored by ClassFlow

Decide to register for either of these? Comment below to let me know, then revisit this post to comment with your thoughts on the experience!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Google Driving: General Resources for Exploration

A recent faculty meeting really showed me how interested our teachers are in exploring the features of Google Drive and Apps. When given the freedom to choose between one of six ed tech topics to explore for an hour, an overwhelming majority of my colleagues flooded the "Google Drive" area of the library, inundating my few "experts" who were there to help people. A few others jumped in to assist their colleagues and if I understand correctly (I didn't really get to check in; I was leading a small group exploring Twitter for professional development), people really made progress in learning about this Google cloud thing that's all the rage.

However, I know some people will need reminders and tutorials, so I want to share some of my favorites here.  Whether revisiting how to share a Google doc or moving on to creating forms and analyzing the responses from them, we all need step-by-step instructions or visual help sometimes. So here are some favorites to get you started:
  • Google Drive Help Center: That's right - they make the tools, so they better make some good resources to accompany them.  I usually find anything Google to be user-friendly, including these resources.  This link will take you to the main menu, but each topic takes you to a sub-menu, which then takes you to another menu; very specific help here.

Have a Google Drive/Apps tutorial that really helped you? Share it in the comments below!