With YouTube Editor sadly due to sunset, I needed a reliable and efficient replace for my classroom videos. I was struggling to find anything that I could transfer files from Google Photos/Drive to an editor like the former YouTube product. Then I remembered listening to All About Android 292 last November. They highlighted PowerDirector Android App, speaking highly of its ease of use and solid video editing tools. It was time to test it!
I downloaded the app on a Nexus 7 running Marshmallow, that I use in my classroom mostly for photos and videos. For an older, inexpensive device purchase in 2014, it's still extremely reliable. The app loaded as planned and linked to my GAFE school account with ease. I found my Google Photos content in Drive right away and I was ready to make my first video production attempt.
Moving the media files from Drive to my device was very easy, with the preview icons large enough to see, but not overwhelming. The editing choices were simple, yet supplied me with the basic options I was looking for, much like YouTube Editor. From auto transitions to titles and even the basic elevator music, all tools were very intuitive. The only part that took my mind longer to get used to was sliding the video location for modifying instead of moving the cursor.
From start to finish I spent just under 30 minutes to produce and publish my beginning of the year 4 ½ minute video to my channel. I thought that was reasonable for the very first time. I know the next attempt will easily be half of that, getting down to my 10 minute production time. I love how seamless the upload went to YouTube, then to my students and families.
Other than the water mark in the lower right corner, the video turned out very well. Granted, my productions are extremely basic in editing needs. Of course the PowerDirector app is FREE. The full version is only $5.99, which I will probably invest in. Best of all, it’s easier than iMovie, but only available in the Play Store. I love when a tool hits a home-run on the first attempt.
Seems like June 1st, the last day of school, was yesterday. With major remodeling in our building I changed classrooms for the first time since 1999. The move made me more than a bit uncomfortable and anxious. What was isn’t anymore, though the remodel is needed and will be pretty amazing when completed. I left school back in June, not to return for nearly 3 months. This was a also a first for me.
Fast forward to last week’s return. Like any construction project, most went as planned and other things didn’t. I had 2 days to prepare my different classroom, dodging an army of hard hat worker that were attempting to wrap this remodel phase up. By the end of the week my classroom looked ready, but I knew what was missing to my normal beginning of the school year comfort. Student arrived despite my feeling less than completely prepared.
What happen on the 1st day was pure beauty. The student flowed down the hallway and into their advisory classrooms. Their excitement was much the same as past years, not noticing what I didn’t prepare. The focus was on the students, not the construction, empty walls or things not being just right. Huge smiles everywhere.
The internet was down and it was time for “Plan B” as I met my students for the first impressions. Those that know me know I like my technology, as my plan changed. From there the detour was bumpy, but perfect. All of my energy was solely on my classes and meeting each child. I was initially disappointed in myself, as this should always be the teacher’s path. My self disappointment shifted to a huge smile.
There was much change everywhere I looked and moved. I had a classroom of eyes observing how I would maneuver my self imposed troubled waters. I was living the change, with the focus on my class and building our foundation for the school year. The students fed off me staying calm and being genuinely excited for our 9 month journey.
I have said how change is happening and it's mostly good, especially in education. This talk is much easier than the walk. However, this year’s unusual school start up shed light back on what’s really important and our students are watching how the adults in their lives deal with change. So I intend to “Be the Change” and model it everyday, with whatever that change is.
When asked what my best, most reliable classroom tech tool is, the answer with out hesitation is Google Photo. In an earlier blog entry “Google Photos - Powerful Classroom Tool” I wrote about setup and the ease of using it to share the learning. Students love to share and parents get to see what happens in their child’s classroom.
As great as the photo sync and sharing is within Google Photos, video is equally effective. Using my Nexus 7 tablets I take videos of activities often. These videos sync to my Google Photos school account the same way as images. Video uploads take a bit longer than images. From there I have found mutiple ways to produce and share.
Sharing a raw video is the same as an image, just copy the link that Google Photos creates within my chrome browser or the tablet. I’ve had students capture and create science lab tutorial videos on how to replicate their experiment. In addition, they demonstrate their learning by explaining and modeling their lab. Many times a student struggles to write their findings, yet this individual can explain their learning using video.
I launched my classroom YouTube channel this year, Mr. Dean Dahl. Capturing video is easy, then upload for editing in your YouTube channel. The excitement a video often creates and reinforces what I’m trying to teach my classes. Whether photos or videos, I have so much content each week for my channel updates. Its a chance for me to tell my story of learning along with student reflection.
The next move was a student created video newsletter using my channel to share. Students sign-up to create the newsletter in a special 40 minute session. After our first edition we always start by reviewing and critiquing our previous episode. Then students create a list of academic and school events on the white board. They put themselves in groups of 2-3, moving where they need to be for recording their selected subject or event.
All videos are uploaded to my Gphotos account after they finish. When they are done recording we come back to the classroom to review the raw footage, selecting the clip(s) for our newsletter. I create a “Raw Video” shared folder for the group and a second “Final Clips” folder for the videos selected. There are so many fun bloopers to pick from as they try again and again to get it right.
I can now easily upload the videos in the “Final Clips” folder to YouTube. I upload in private mode so the clips don’t go public right away. The process is seamless and ready to make the final product using the YouTube Video Editor. This is the most time consuming part of the process, but worth every minute. It doesn’t take long to find efficient steps making the start to end time manageable.
The final product is a powerful example of student excitement of their video newsletter demonstrating that learning is fun. The group takes great pride in their production and parents love it. I so enjoy watching their interviews and creativity. I share the episode link with families, but many get notified from subscribing to my channel.
These are a few examples of how I use video in my classroom, with the assistance of Google Photos. The learning curve is low and the excitement is always high. I get dozens of parent “Thank You” comments for sharing these videos and letting students create their video newsletter. Again, video makes sharing the learning fun!
Google Photos will be 2 years old next month. I was an early adopter after Google I/O 2015 and have yet to be disappointed with my family photos. I was able to move all of my images from Picasa to Google Photos with ease. A bit later Google Photos came to my school apps account in school.
Lately I have been introducing teachers to Google Photos, sharing their classroom learning experiences with whom they choose. This was a bit of a surprise, as I thought most people knew of this amazing tool. Taking nothing for granted, I decided to devote my new few blog posts to my beloved Google Photos and how I use it almost everyday in my classroom.
Setup is easy and a great place to begin. Google Photos works with PC, Mac, Android and iOS. I did my initial setup from my Chrome browser on my PC at school. I was logged into my GAFE account, clicking the tile menu and then the Google Photos icon. Next Google Photos links and looks for images on your device, asking to upload. I had many backed up on my external hard drive over the years, so it was nice to get all images and videos together.
Taking photos and uploading is so easy. I use a Nexus 7 tablet, but you can use any old unused smartphone in that device draw at home. Simply link to WIFI and add your school GAFE account and download Google Photos from the Play Store. Opening after the install, you will be prompted to personalize your syncing options. I choose to upload immediately after capturing photo or video, it's that easy.
I keep my Nexus 7 handy for photos or videos at various times of the day in my classroom. I take many photos during science lab to support our learning target. After taking photos, I go to my workstation to group photos by class album I created, then share the album with my students. They can drag any of the album photos to a lab report Gdoc, then caption the learning or summarize their process.
Google Photos is free, with unlimited GAFE storage, so why not use it! Students love photos and so do I. I share photos and videos with parent often. At our March Parent/Teacher Conferences, half of my parent attending thanked my for sharing digital media with them. One parent said, “It prompted an entirely different school discussion at the dinner table”.
In education, this is the time of the year when nearly everybody involved is looking to spring break. Many times students and staff find themselves in a situation where they have a little extra screen time. Whether that is at the airport waiting to travel or sitting at home binge-watching their favorite series.
Today in my classroom we had a discussion about passwords. I've always been one to share with students the importance of a good password. In addition, the value of not using exactly the same password for all of their accounts.
Spring Break is the perfect time to review how secure our password system is. Especially after seeing and hearing what has happened with the Yahoo security breach. I'm sure my yahoo account is floating around out there somewhere in the world.
So I started simple with my students having them ask themselves, what are your passwords that you currently have? Many stated that they only have maybe five or six passwords to remember. In part because they use Google Chrome and it remembers it for them, which is secure when you're logged into your Chromebook.
We had a good discussion on how to create a password and what makes it secure. Most students knew that the password had to be at least 8 characters long and it was important to mix uppercase, numbers and special characters in it. As well as the fact that we don't use the same password for all of our accounts. One student shared his system that would take the first name and add the jersey number of his favorite Minnesota Wild hockey player.
My students asked which password management system I used, to which I said Last Pass. It's free and extremely easy to use. I know many other people that use a pay service called 1Password and both get great reviews. Each of these services can save the passwords you create, as well as having the ability to create complete random ones.
So now it was time to for the students to take those password skills into spring break and update their accounts. We all agreed that the next time we are summoned to enter a password, it is time to take extra effort to check the quality of that password. Then set some time to modify other important passwords as needed. Creating a strong password system should be a regular practice for all users.