Adding Teaching Tools to Existing YouTube (and other) Videos

Richard Byrne, who writes the wonderful blog Free Technology For Teachers, shared “7 Great Tools for Creating Flipped Lessons from Existing Videos.”

Free Technology for Teachers Logo

He mentions things featured on this blog in the past, like EdPuzzle, but he also showcases a few things not covered here in depth (at least, not yet).

Featured are:

  • TesTeach
  • EdPuzzle
  • PlayPosit
  • VideoANT
  • Vialogues
  • MoocNote
  • Vizia

These different resources allow you to build questions, comments, annotations and other teaching tools into existing videos of your own creation, or which have been created by others and are publicly available on YouTube.

Check out the article, where Byrne has provided tutorials and links to each tool.

Can We Help Our Students and Ourselves Avoid Distraction?

say no to distractionMany of us as faculty members contend with distraction.

Our own and that of our students.

Some of it occurs in our offices.  Or at home, trying to do homework (whether that is writing a paper or grading one).  During reading.

And, of course, during class.

While not all distraction comes from technological devices (children, cats, dogs, friends, a boiling tea kettle can all provide plenty of distraction!), most of us have experienced our lighted screens and chiming alert signals as distractions.

This excellent article entitled “The Distracted Classroom” by James M. Lang in The Chronicle of Higher Education begins a series in which Lang will distill for his readers information he is gleaning from his reading of the book, The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World (MIT, 2016) by neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley and psychologist Larry D. Rosen.

Lang likes this book so much he writes that “it should be required reading for every teacher today — and probably all humans.”

Of particular interest, I thought, is the focus beyond the well-known point that technological devices can cause devastating distraction to learning.  Instead, Lang draws our attention to the book’s proposal that distraction occurs when  “we are pursuing a goal that really matters and something blocks our efforts to achieve it.”  That something is an obstacle that our ability to control our minds runs right up against.  We want to focus on our goals, but our mind directs its attention to something else and we can’t seem to stop it.

However, as Lang points out, “The more powerful the goals we establish for ourselves, and the more we feel ownership over those goals, the more we are able to pursue them in the face of both internal and external distractions.”

This has significant implications for how we shape what occurs in our classrooms both online and on the ground, and how we shape “homework,” or flipped classroom work, so that students are able to fight distracting influences.

I have always done a lot of meta-teaching in my career.  I spend time in every class, almost every week, teaching students how and why I have designed the class the way I have.  I think this helps them experience the lessons as something designed and purposeful, not just as random busy work.

But could I do more to support their motivation to achieve learning goals? To help them fight distraction?

I’m going to think more about that, especially as I begin writing my syllabi for the Fall semester.

I look forward to the rest of Lang’s series.

Four Tips for Effective Teaching Online or On The Ground

The March 2017 issue of The Teaching Professor contains a wonderful article, “Four Ways to Teach More Effectively.”  And though it doesn’t address online teaching and learning specifically, all four of the methods highlighted here are essential (I believe) to quality online education.

Teaching Professor Logo

First and foremost:  pay close attention to the design of your course and think bigger than “content.”  What do you want students to know and be able to do at the end of the course?  Everything you do in every class should support this.

And of course, design requires an understanding of the delivery medium you will use:  on the ground?  hybrid?  flipped?  online?  Each of these demands different design considerations.

Second: think about the future.  What do you want students to know and be able to do five years after having taken the course?  This is especially effective in General Education courses–the kinds of courses that many students take only because they are requirements.

What’s the “so what?” of your course?

I first encountered this question as a serious guideline for effective education about a year and a half ago, and it has changed–in ways big and subtle–all of my classes and how I teach.

Third: pose problems that cannot be answered.  How can we help students practice handling the sorts of problems that will fill their lives, personal and professional?  The kinds of problems that cannot be solved?

Fourth: expect students to talk and write and collaborate.  Even when students tackle the challenging, seemingly unsolvable problems mentioned above, how can they move forward?   And how can we structure activities to help them develop these skills as they work toward what we want them to know and be able to do at the end of the course, and beyond?

I recommend you check out The Teaching Professor for this and other useful articles.

Moodle Gradebook: How to Change Totals to Percentages

Are you a user of Moodle and Moodle’s gradebook?

Moodle logo

If so, have you ever wondered:  How do I get my course total grades in my grade book to show up as percentages instead of as total numbers?

I wonder this each and every semester, and every semester I have to look up how to do it!  But this semester, I’ve decided to write a tutorial post about it, because I know doing so will help me remember it better.

If you prefer to read a Google Doc which contains screenshots, you can find that here.  Otherwise, read on for the step-by-step instructions.

So, how do we get our course total grades in our grade books to show up as percentages instead of as total numbers?

You have many choices for how your course total grades show up in your gradebook!  You are not stuck with the default “total points earned.”

Here’s how you can change the display to best fit your needs:

  1.  Go to your course’s homepage
  2. When you find the Administration tab, click it.
  3. If it opens to Grader Report, click on the drop-down menu in that  window to get more options.
  4. Then, click the Gradebook setup ( in Moodle 3.0) option.
  5. Once you get to the Gradebook Setup, click Edit, which you’ll find at the far right end of the row near the top which contains the course name in bold. (For me, this was the hardest step the first time.)
  6. Next click Edit Settings.
  7. In the Category Total area, click Show More.
  8. Select Display grade type and click on that drop down menu.  You will see many choices there!  Choose a setting that contains percentage.
  9. Click Save changes.

Return to your grader report view (see steps 1 and 2 above) to view the changes.


Lifewire Writes: The Easiest Way to Make Screencasts with Windows 10

One of the most frequent questions I receive from faculty looking to use technology in on the ground, hybrid, or online classes is this:  how can I, or my students, make screencasts–for free?  And without getting stuck in a quagmire of technology?

Lifewire logo

It’s a lot easier for folks who have Macs, because they can use Quicktime for most basic screencasting purposes.

And while Screencast-o-matic works well for Windows, it won’t record sound unless you get the paid version.

Sure, you can record the screen capture, then put it into a video editor and add recorded narration.  And frankly, that is what I do most of the time.  It allows me to focus on one aspect of the creation at a time!  I don’t know about you, but demoing something on the screen and narrating it at the same time causes my brain to freeze up.  Sort of like talking about one thing while trying to write something else on the board at the same time in class….

Anyhow, I stumbled across this article about an easy and free way to make screencasts in Windows 10, including sound, and I thought I’d share it.  I don’t have a Windows computer, so I’d be most interested in hearing if anyone tries it and what you think.

Or if you have other suggestions for free and easy ways to record screencasts with narration on Windows computers.

This article on Lifewire details the steps for using the “XBox Game DVR app” that comes with Windows 10 to create screencasts of anything, not just games.

Creating a Web Comic to Help Advisees

As you know if you read this blog much, I’m a strong believer in combining both the verbal and the visual to students in their learning.

I think practices like sketchnoting help students synthesis, evaluate, understand and retain material in important ways.   Whether I create visual/verbal learning materials for them, or whether they create them for me as notes or quiz alternatives, or as part of written projects, such works seems to have sparks of liveliness and individuality–as well as the intellectual content–that “same old, same old” projects don’t have.

Anyhow with this in mind, I decided to try something new.  Using a visual/verbal creation to communicate with my advisees.

I don’t know about you all, but my advisees often to do not read (and therefore, do not follow) the instructions I give them to best prepare for our pre-registration advising sessions.  If them arrive unprepared, I can’t help them.  They have to leave, prepare, then find another time to see me, which often is after their assigned registration time.  This causes all sorts of kerfuffle as they run a higher risk of missing out on spots in their preferred classes the later they register.

So this year I took my long and detailed email of instructions and distilled it down to its main points, added a narrative shell, and wrote a comic.

I test drove pencil sketch versions of it on some colleagues and some advisees who helped me through the editing process.

Then I produced it as an 8 page mini-comic, which I produced on paper and mailed to all of my advisees.

Then using Piktochart (my favorite infographic program), I created it as a scrollabe website, which you can find here.

Finally, using Piktochart’s export function, I created it as a .png file, which I have embedded below.  I will be emailing this to my advisees as well.

This .png could also be taken to the college print services office and made into a poster if I wanted (and I might!  I’m curious about it.)

This was a project brought about by a situation where communication failed too often between and my students, frequently to their consternation.  So, I’m trying something different, which I can use to communicate with them on paper and online.

Now that I know how to do all of this (having walked through it in the steps I’ve mentioned above–and all without expensive Adobe products, which I use, but which I also realize not everyone has access to), I’m really interested in playing with more ways the visual and verbal combinations (especially comics) can be used to enhance teaching and learning–particularly online.

I’ll let you know how my advisees respond to this after our next registration period in early April.

In the meantime, I give you:

A comic about what you need to do to prepare to meet your advisor



Thoughts on Online Teaching for the Untenured

Robert Talbert from Grand Valley State University writes an excellent blog called Casting Out Nines, which I recommend for thoughts on teaching, tech, and specifically math education.

casting out Nines Logo

Recently he offered his thoughts on whether or not untenured faculty should experiment with the flipped classroom model. 

I think his ideas–which are focused toward faculty who work at institutions which value quality teaching–apply not only to the flipped model, but to any aspect of pedagogical experimentation, and no matter where you are in your career.

His foremost piece of advice mirrors my own to faculty I work with:  pick a course you are going to teach in a year and begin to work on it now.  One cannot do a good job flipping a classroom (or redesigning a course for the hybrid or online environment) in a rush.  You need time to re-design, review, revise, create and curate materials, possibly even test drive them on  some willing students or colleagues.

He provides other great advice specifically for those in a pre-tenure situation.