Check Out Crash Course on Educational Technology

“We believe in the additive power of educational technology both inside and outside the classroom.”

Check out this fast-paced, information-packed overview of “teaching at a  distance” and educational technology from the makers of the wildly popular Crash Course educational series.


The lesson is aimed at students learning through educational technology and offers tips for effective learning which students can adopt.   It also talks about automated tutoring (and how algorithms can figure out and respond to what a student does or doesn’t know!)

This might be a great video to share with students before beginning an online unit or course.

Finally, it is an interesting example of instructional video!  If you are interested in creating your own instructional videos, watch this and consider what you can learn from it in terms of creating your own videos.  Pace?  Length?  Visual cuts and examples?  Colors?

And what do we need to do to meet the requirements of universal design?

Making A Google Slides Presentation Work More Like a Website

As a follow-up to my last post about creating interactive images using Google Drawings, I thought I’d share this video about doing something similar with Google Slides.

Again, my source is Richard Byrne and his wonderful blog Free Technology for Teachers.

When creating such interactivity with Google Slides, you can design a first slide that has interactive links to the other slides in the presentation!  (I did NOT know this!)  This allows a slide presentation to function more like a website, keeping students interacting in more ways than just clicking to the next slide.

This is an easy example of how we can design digital  learning modules that engage students by allowing them some choice in how they approach the subject matter.  Students can easily repeat slides.  They can choose the order in which they access material.

Have Out-of-Class Groups Report Their Work to You via Video

I have my students work in groups fairly frequently.

Some of the most critical skills in my courses involve seeking and giving feedback on works in progress, and functioning in collaborative community.  Sometimes students work in pairs, sometimes in groups as big as five.  They might trade short portions of work for quick review, or spend hours discussing longer works.

In hybrid and online classes, I want this work to continue, so I need ways to assess it that don’t rely on my circling among working groups in a classroom.  After all, my online students are working in places and times of their own choosing, often long after I (a professor of middle age and a fairly boring life), have gone to bed!

How can I know that the groups met?  How can I find out what they did, what difficulties they encountered with the course concepts, what questions they need answered so that we can go forward?

My initial thoughts involved having students fill out a group report sheet, something that would ask the questions I had about their work and required the signatures of all present at the meeting.

That was okay, but they hated filling out the sheets and frankly, I didn’t much enjoy reading them.  They felt lifeless and led me to think the group work was failing.

But when I talked to them about their group work, they were excited and articulate.

Hmmm.  Maybe the group work isn’t the problem.  Maybe the reporting is the problem.

When I design pedagogical experiences, I consider students my “audience.”  So I asked myself, as I always do with anything I create to be read or experience by others, what does my audience value and how can I use that to achieve my purpose?

Eventually, I landed on the notion that students love selfies and video and to watch their peers’ productions of the same.

So I revised my group report assignment, which took very little effort.

Now, instead of writing group reports, my students film their reports on a phone or laptop webcam, at the end of their group meeting.

They have a specific list of questions from me which each person must answer in the course of the video.  They simply set the camera running, and pass the camera around as they answer them.  A group of four might create a video of six minutes or so (I have a maximum limit of 8).  They simply upload the video to one of their Google Drives and share it with me for viewing.

What a hit!  Students tell me they enjoy making the quick video reports, but as important, I love them–for several reasons.

First, students do a more complete job of articulating answers to my questions than they ever did using written forms–even though the questions are the same!

Second, I get to enjoy their personalities, which really come out when they create a video.

Third, because they are talking into a camera and I can observe non-verbal behaviors, I have found that I get a better sense of what they really do and don’t understand as they articulate their answers to my questions.

Fourth, I learn their names much faster if I do these early in the term.

Finally, reviewing the videos is actually fun for me.  The students are more relaxed and often very funny as they talk to me from a coffee shop or a dorm basement.  It takes me less than a half an hour to review an entire class’s worth of reports and it is a delight.

Next time you need groups of students to turn a report about their activities, consider having them create an informal video report, guided by a set of questions you devise.  See what you think of the results.

Podcast: Five Ways to Flip Your Classroom

 This terrific episode  of the CoolCat Teacher podcast features educator, professor, YouTuber Keith Hughes with tips on flipping your classroom and keeping students engaged and motivated.

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“As the producer of HipHughes History, he was recognized in 2012 by YouTube and Khan Academy with a YouTube Edu Guru Award. Keith has also appeared on the History Channel’s United Stuff of America and AHC’s America’s Most Badass.”

Cool, huh?  Hughes has spent his career and succeeded at engaging learners of all kinds.

Why would we not want to spend a few minutes to find out what he recommends as we think about flipping our classrooms?  I think what he emphasizes may surprise you (it did me!)

The webpage also has a transcript if you prefer to read the interview rather than listen to it.

Check out other wonderful resources on The CoolCat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis. 

Simple Video Responses to Content

When I talk to folks about using video for projects in classes, often people say they’d like to do it, but it just seems like so much work!  Cameras and microphones and editing software and uploading and on and on…

antique movie camera

True.  Sort of.  It depends.

Video projects can be advanced and require all that work.  But using video in a class doesn’t have to require a big production!

Or they can be more simple, a whole lot easier to manage, and still bring a liveliness to the classroom as students explore the difference between how words and images work together and how written words work on a page.

Here’s an example most of us with students of high school age and older can try:  ask students to film a one-take response, under sixty seconds, to something they have learned recently in class.  No polishing or editing.  Just respond to the question or prompt and post the video to share with the teacher or with the entire class.

Most students can do this quickly and easily on their smart phones.  These can be uploaded to Dropbox or YouTube or a variety of other places.  Trust me, they know how to do this.

I prefer having students upload them to their “.edu” Google Drives and then sharing the link with just me or the class, either via email or on our LMS.  This allows for easier privacy and keeps my LMS from becoming bloated with video files.

If you use response papers in your course, why not switch a few of them out with these simple videos?  And then, add a cognitive twist by having students talk about their experiences filming versus writing.  Which do they like better and why?  Talk to them about their performance in each area–which assignment produces stronger content?  Higher student satisfaction?  And why?

Together you can learn a lot that will help you think about teaching in your future and will help them think about effective communication in their futures.

Free and Easy Tool for Short Explainer Videos

Interested in making some short “explainer” videos to introduce concepts to your students?

What about asking your students to make such videos to demonstrate to you what they have learned in a unit?  What a great alternative to a quiz!

Video creation can feel overwhelming, especially if you are first starting out.  You have to write a script, organize ideas, find visualizations for the concepts, write the script again, introduce movement and maybe a soundtrack…

And while all of this can be a ton of creative fun, if you just want to dabble in the idea of explainer videos, perhaps make a few and see how you like it, you can learn a lot by starting out with My Simple Show.

My Simple Show logo

My Simple Show is a free (though there are paid versions with more bells and whistles) online engine for making explainer videos.

Its most unique feature: internal scaffolding!  In other words, you tell it what type of thing you want to explain, and it suggests a structure.

Even better:  you type in a script and it suggests images.  And yes, you can provide your own images, or even a slide set if you wanted to.

At their website you’ll find many examples, as well as a blog with tips and tricks.

It’s a fun and simple tool for quick videos.  Why not answer students’ questions by sending a video to the class?  If your course only meets once a week, why not send mid-week reminders of assignments using this easy tool?

I’m sure there are many other uses!   Give it a try.

How to Embed Videos Stored In Google Drive into Other Places

If you’re like me, you don’t like to store your instructional videos on YouTube for a variety of privacy reasons.

And space runs out on Vimeo pretty fast–suddenly you have to start paying if you make more than a few minutes of video a week.

But if you have an educational Google Drive, you have virtually limitless storage.  And you can control much more carefully who can see your videos through Google’s privacy settings.  So why not store them there?

I never preferred to store videos on Google Drive because I couldn’t figure out how to embed them.  And the instructions I found by, well, Googling the problem, didn’t seem to work.  I did find a lot of complaints about that, starting in late 2016. I don’t mind telling people to simply follow a link, but I’d rather embed the video, so it plays right from a particular site without my user having to click away.

I don’t mind telling people to simply follow a link, but I’d rather embed the video, so it plays right from a particular site without my user having to click away.

So I decided to see if I could figure it out.  And guess what?  You can do it.  Only it’s definitely kind of an odd process.

It may seem like a lot of steps, but it really isn’t.  Just suspend your demand for it to make any sense, and you’ll be fine.

Below you’ll find a video illustrating the steps.  Afer that, you’ll find the steps typed out for you.


  1. First order of business, save your video to your Google Drive.
  2. Use the “get shareable link button” to set permissions as you wish them.
  3. Double click on the video file.  A player will pop up.
  4. Look in the upper right hand corner for three dots stacked vertically.  This is the “more actions” button.  Click it.
  5. Find and click on “open in new window.”
  6. Your video will open in a new window.  Looks basically the same as the last window, right?  Ah, but now, click on the new “more actions” button.
  7. You’ll see a new option:  “embed item.”  Click on that and you’ll receive the HTML code you need to embed the item pretty much wherever you want.
  8. Copy that code.
  9. Click your way back out of all these video windows, then go to your web resources and add the code.

I hope this is helpful to you as you seek the best ways to store and share your instructional (and other!) videos.



Adobe Spark Helps Makers Create Quick and Powerful Videos

I just finished spending several hours converting some old, word-laden slide presentations which I use in my flipped and hybrid classes almost every semester into fun, creative, videos using Adobe Spark’s video creator.

Several hours may sound like a long time, but trust me, it’s not.  I made a total of almost 30 minutes of videos in under five hours.  As someone who has made videos from my own animation, still photography, head shots, drawings and more, this is practically light speed.

Adobe Spark does more than help you make videos:  you can use it to make static graphics and attractive webpages.  I haven’t tried those tools out yet.

Interested in trying Adobe Spark for video?  Go to and sign in with your Google account or Facebook, or with an independent log-in.

For a great overview, check out this MacWorld article on creating powerful videos using Adobe Spark.  Don’t let the MacWorld publication worry you–Adobe Spark is web-based and works across platforms.

There are mobile versions as well.

It’s so easy to use, containing thousands of icons, creative commons photos, loads of music, the ability to record narration, automatic attributions, and the ability to upload your own resources–there’s no reason for professors (like me!) to continue using out-moded, word-heavy slide presentations instead of videos in flipped and online teaching situations.

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.

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.