Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The secret to finding ‘lost’ emails using Gmail search

Have you ever ‘lost’ an email in Gmail? One that you’re certain you received and archived but now just can’t find? If you have, you’re definitely not alone!! Over the years I’ve gotten many calls from educators and administrators wearied from searching for an email they know is in there somewhere, but that keeps eluding them.

The secret to finding these disappearing emails is to use the all-encompassing search operator in:anwyhere.

Performing a Gmail search using this operator makes the search look everywhere. The significance of this is that a standard Gmail search does not look in your trash or spam folders, but an in:anywhere search does. In my experience, the majority of ‘lost’ emails are actually sitting in either spam or trash, having been accidentally marked as spam or accidently or purposely deleted.

Performing an in:anywhere search is simple, just add the operator before your search term.

Now you know the secret, happy email hunting!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Create interactive videos with these two tools

Online videos are often considered an effective way to engage students. However, there is still a likelihood of them only passively viewing the content and not actually reflecting on the information being presented. Adding interactive elements to videos is one way to encourage active consumption and deeper thinking.

Interactive elements include quizzes, questions, thought prompts, tips and voice-overs that appear at pre-specified times during a video. Two great tools for making interactive videos are eduCanon and EDpuzzle. Both of these let you add interactivity to your own and other’s videos. Both tools also let you track student’s progress through videos and the interactive elements.

Let’s take a look at each of them…

Price: Free and paid versions

Email address required for student sign-up?: No

Video sources: YouTube, Vimeo, Google Drive, Khan Academy and more.

Embed videos in website or LMS: Yes

eduCanon lets educators create ‘bulbs’ (interactive video lessons) for their students. Once a bulb is created, it can be assigned to a class and student progress tracked.

Bulbs can include multiple choice questions (with answer feedback), check-all-that-apply questions, reflective pauses, short free-text responses, fill-in-the-blank question and links to other websites. Videos can also be cropped, allowing you to remove any irrelevant content.

Here’s what designing a bulb looks like from the teachers perspective:

Note: At the time of writing, the eduCanon website stated that the short free-text response and fill-in-the-blank questions were available in premium versions only. However, these were actually available in free accounts at the time of testing.

Students join your class on eduCanon using a private student search code that you provide them. Once they’ve joined, you can track their progress through bulbs assigned to that class. This includes viewing their responses to questions and their reaction to the video.

You can learn more about eduCanon here.

Price: Free

Email address required for student sign-up?: No

Video sources: YouTube, Vimeo, Khan Academy, upload your own and more.

Embed videos in website or LMS: Yes

An EDpuzzle video can include multiple choice questions, free response questions, comments and audio notes (for you to provide extra information or context). You can also record an entire new audio track for the video (great if it is in another language). Videos can be cropped to include just the content most valuable for your students.

The image below shows the video creation tool.

Once created, videos can be assigned to classes. Students join your class using a private class code you provide them.  Progress through the assigned videos and answers to questions can be viewed at a class or individual level. Short answer questions can be marked incorrect or correct and the student provided with feedback.

An excellent advantage of EDpuzzle is that it is likely to work in schools where YouTube has been blocked  - even if the lesson is based on a YouTube video. This is because EDpuzzle hosts your lesson independently of YouTube.

One thing to be aware of is that interactive videos created using EDpuzzle become publicly accessible for other educators to use. However, your class details and student progress remain private.

You can learn more about EDpuzzle here.

Tip: eduCanon and EDpuzzle can also be used by students to create their own interactive videos. You can learn more about this feature in the ‘learn more’ links for each tool (see above).

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Keep a post at the top of a Google+ Community

Lots of secondary and tertiary educators I meet love using Google+ Communities as a social learning space for their students. However, one of the most common problems they have is that important posts get ‘lost’ amongst all the other sharing that’s taking place.  The solution to this problem is actually really simple:

The Pin post feature.

Owners and moderators of Google+ Communities can ‘pin’ any post to the top of the community. This ensures the post stays highly visible and does not get lost amongst all the other content. It’s great for posts that include information on assessment, how to use the community, weekly topics and readings, upcoming excursions and events or anything that you want to make sure your students actually see!

Pinning a post is quick and easy:

1. Create and share the post.

2. Once shared, click the small grey arrow in the top right corner of the post.

3. Select Pin post from the menu.

4. The post will now display a pin icon in the top right corner. It will stay at the top of the stream until it is unpinned. 

Tip: To unpin a post, click the small grey arrow in the top right corner of the post and select Unpin post.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

The Clear formatting button: a huge time saver in Google Docs

If you’ve been copying and pasting text from different sources, or playing around with fonts and colours, chances are your document will look pretty inconsistent. If only there was a quick and easy way to make everything return to normal….

There is!

The Clear formatting button.

This clever button can be found in both Google Docs and Google Slides. With just one click, the selected text returns to the default formatting for whichever style has been used. Let’s take a look at how it works in Google Docs...

You can find the Clear formatting button on the formatting toolbar.

How to use it

1. Select (highlight) the text you want to remove the formatting from.
2. Click the Clear formatting button.

That’s it! Here’s some before and after images.

Before (normal text)

After (normal text)

Before (heading text)

After (heading text)

In both cases above, the text was returned to the formatting used in the style applied to the text. In Google Docs, the default style is ‘Normal text’. If you’ve used other styles (such as Headings), then this will be shown in the formatting toolbar.

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