In episode 37 of the EdTech TV Podcast I explore some of the current options in interactive videos between EdPuzzle, EduCanon & Zaption. I also look at creating your own qualitative student surveys.
The stylus is as personal and important to users as the digital devices they connect to. They cross the gamut from cheap and simple to prohibitively expensive. While Pencil by FiftyThree is by no means a new stylus on the market – it’s one of the very few that has kept my attention and called my name since its release.
With the launch of the EdTechTV Podcast, my brain has been pointed directly at podcasts, podcasting, and podcasters over the last few weeks. I’ve been a podcast fan for years, and a couple of years ago I did a post on using Downcast as a podcast player.
At that time, Apple had created a terrible standalone Podcast App, which drove me to finding a different player. Apple has since made changes, and podcasts have made a pretty impressive renaissance since two years ago.
Still, in casual conversations with the typical layteacher or even friends and family, it’s clear that most people still don’t really understand podcasts. Most are unclear on how to subscribe to podcasts even if they are interested in listening.
With this in mind, I’ve decided to put together a few short videos on how to subscribe to podcasts whether you want to do it on your computer, your iPhone or iPad, or your Android device.
Subscribe to podcasts using iTunes on your computer:
Subscribe to podcasts using your iPhone or iPad:
Subscribe to podcasts using your Android device:
What’s your preferred player?
I’m always on the lookout for quality podcast players, so if you use something different, let me know below. I’d love to try it out!
Remember to leave me a rating and review, they help potential listeners find the show!
Back when I was managing a school we would have kids running in and out of the computer lab, tugging at headsets, bending the earpieces, and constantly searching for driver problems with connecting the headset to the computer. If only I had these ThinkWrite headsets back then.
We often get so caught up with finding the next cool piece of software that we forget how important a solid piece of hardware can be. Our schools don’t put much thought into them and simply continue to order crappy replacement units for crappy original headsets, computers, etc.
That’s why it was so refreshing to find a small education hardware company that seems to be making solid products that work. The fine folks at ThinkWrite sent me a review unit of their headsets, and I have to say I’m impressed.
When I took the unit out of the box I found the headset to be comfortable and seemingly sturdy. The ear cups were a little small for my massive head – but the sound came through clear and even after wearing them for a while, my ears didn’t get sore.
For an inexpensive set of headphones, these things deliver surprisingly well on sound. They pick up the high notes well and put out a pretty hefty bass. You probably won’t use them to produce Dr. Dre’s next album, but when I went through a random Spotify playlist I was impressed at the intricate layers of music it was picking up.
There’s also a volume control on the cord that packs a punch – having it on full blast was too much for my ears, so make sure your devices aren’t turned all the way up when students put them on.
Microphones tend to be one of the biggest tricks in school headsets. Do you build a wire that reaches right out in front of the face? Put a mic into the cord? ThinkWrite found a good solution in making a solid fold-down mic that sits out of the way, but picks up spoken audio well.
I would be lying if I said it was the best quality mic out there – it tends to be a little bit tinny and focuses more on the highs. But this is designed to be used for simple school projects – it doesn’t have to be good enough to record Dennis Haysbert.
Recording audio for an Adobe Voice project? This will do the job well. Want to make a quick voiceover for an iMovie? No problem.
Let’s take a look at how it holds up:
Tough as Nails
It would be unfair to review this unit without mentioning how strong they are. Twist them, turn them, tweak them or drop them: they’re built to last. ThinkWrite was smart to make these things so sturdy. Beyond anything else in the range, durability is a major issue for headset microphones. At the end of the video above you can see me giving them a good wring and nothing seems to hurt them.
3.5 Stereo Minijack
One of the best things about this headset is that it has a simple minijack that will plug into any phone or portable device. It’s designed specifically for working with tablets or chromebooks, so you just plug and go. No more sorting with USBs, drivers, etc.
I’m a big fan of these headphones – yes, there are professional grade units that probably sound a little better, but I know of very few schools that have that kind of money to throw around for a marginal difference. At just $20, they’re reasonable enough to suggest even to students to pick up, and if you’re on an IT team you can contact ThinkWrite for bulk discount pricing for your school or district.
If you’ve used these headphones in your classroom or school, let me know what you think of them below – I’d love to hear your thoughts!
For those who haven’t used the original version, Reflector 2 allows you to mirror whatever is on your phone or tablet directly to your computer screen. Additionally, multiple devices can be displayed at the same time.
Depending on your needs, you can then project from your computer onto the wall, record a device, or use it as one of those fancy computer lab monitors that controls all the screens in the room, only for mobile devices (and at a fraction of the price).
Today I’m happy to say that the fine folks at AirSquirrels have made some outstanding upgrades to the original Reflector app, not the least of which includes the ability to screencast directly from your iOS or Android device.
I can’t overemphasize how important this is. In many ways, this single app can help level the playing field, especially in BYOD schools.
Reflector 2 is available for both Mac & PCs and has a lot of great new features:
Reflector 2 gives great new control over the devices being used.
As you can see below, you can control the connected devices from the Menu Bar.
Taking a close look at the menu, we have a number of choices in controlling the devices:
The blue eye indicates whether you want a devise to be visible or hidden. Click on the eye to toggle the matching device on or off:
The green icon that looks like two phones layered on top of each other indicates which device you want to highlight. This will make the chosen device full-screen and other devices will be shown as much smaller.
The device with the drop-down arrow will let you choose the “skin” – you can decide if you want the device to show up as a black or white iPhone, etc. (Note that my Android is a Nexus 7 tablet, not one of the current choices, so I used a Galaxy tablet skin instead).
Finally, the eject button lets you kick people off of the screen. Vital for some of your pranksters.
This one is big – I once did a session teaching how to use the original Reflector and all the teachers in the room jumped on, stealing my screen, playing around with it. If you can’t control teachers, imagine what would happen if you let a bunch of kids jump on your network. I’m sure some of you have already experienced this, and you have my sympathy.
When you open up the preferences panel under “connection” you will see some very useful options:
You can choose to have no security, a password, or an onscreen code.
- No security: Anybody can connect
- Password: People using Reflector 2 have to be given a password
- Onscreen Code: When trying to connect, a code will come up onscreen for users to enter
This functionality allows you to choose what happens when people try to connect their devices.
- Connect and Show Device: Brings the device up on your screen immediately
- Connect and Hide Device: Allows connection, but doesn’t show it until you choose
- Prompt to Approve: Requires you to allow the device to connect.
With all the buzz around flipped classrooms, everybody’s looking for ways to record their devices. While there are a lot of individual whiteboard type apps that let you do this on your device, Reflector 2 lets you record ANYTHING from your device, including the need to jump between different apps, etc. Of course you can record audio as well.
For years people have been looking for ways to record from their Androids. While there have been some clunky workarounds in the past, Reflector 2 makes it easy for the average user to implement. Now you have the choice to make a quick screencast from your Android, iPhone or iPad and quickly upload it to YouTube or the video service site of your choice.
Reflector Director allows you to control devices much in the way listed above, but from an iPad or iPhone.
This would be useful for teachers who want to float around the classroom and use Reflector without carrying around the laptop or running back to the desktop every time you want to make a change to what’s being displayed.
The Great Leveler
It’s cool and progressive for teachers to say “it’s not about the device, it’s about what the students make.”
While I agree with the sentiment, I’ve always felt that that the reality is that it IS about the device. Specifically, the Apple device.
Like it or not, Apple has had a strong foothold in education, and all things are NOT created equal in the world of BYOD. The ability to be collaborative pretty much meant you had to be on an Apple device, or for the creative teachers, to spend a lot of time figuring out workarounds for students with Android devices.
With Reflector 2, AirSquirrels have leveled the playing field. Teachers can jump back and forth between different students with different kinds of devices, displaying and sharing with ease.
I’m glad there’s finally a good solution to a problem which – if we’re being honest – shouldn’t have existed for this long. I hope you play around with Reflector 2 and see how you can both empower your students and how you can use it for to screencast from your own device.
Twitter has become my default resource for professional development. I’m about ready to make the claim that I’ve learned more about teaching and education through twitter than I did through my painfully expensive Master’s Degree. If you’re not using it, get on Twitter.
If you’re on Twitter, and still don’t know where to get started, there is no shortage of #edchats to get involved with.
Seriously, if you skipped that link, here it is again. Geez!
You’re all but guaranteed to be able to join an #edchat right now. Teachers are nuts about this stuff!
And with good reason. With #edchats you’re walking into a professional development community of teachers who care about their job, their students, and themselves enough to work on improving every day. Nobody’s paid to be in an #edchat, they just want to be there, and they want you to be there.
The Gap in Twitter’s Floorboard
While #edchats are great, there’s something I’ve noticed missing on more than one occasion.
There are a lot of teachers that ask questions on Twitter just to have it disappear into the ether. There are arguments that a tweet’s lifespan is about 18 minutes. I think that’s being generous. Depending on the time of day and how many people we follow, a tweet can disappear much more quickly. If you’re involved in a popular chat like #caedchat – forget about it. Blink and a tweet can disappear.
Here’s the unfair rub: Teachers who are “popular” on twitter – meaning those who have a lot of followers – are likely to get their questions answered. Teachers who only have a few followers but whose questions are JUST as valid will likely be ignored – not because people don’t want to answer, but because they don’t have the reach.
I’m seeing this first hand – I recently passed 1000 followers, and while it’s not a lot, it is a threshold. When I had a couple hundred followers, my questions just floated away. Now I’m more likely to get a response or two. Those with 5 or 10 thousand followers are likely to get a great variety of responses.
Again, nobody is being nefarious (despite the Animal Farm reference above), it’s just a product of the system.
Why Are Teachers Using Twitter?
I’d argue that there are two reasons teachers are on twitter, and usually it’s for both reasons rather than one or the other:
That’s it. We’re a simple bunch.
There are a lot of teachers out there – including me – that have questions about some things, and answers for others. We’d love to share our thoughts, but guided chats might not always be the best place.
Teachers are teachers because they get a little buzz helping people out. Sometimes I’ll scan twitter looking for a question that I can answer. More often than not, it turns out that I find a question that I want the answer to, too.
So how do we solve the dilemma of missing questions that fall through the cracks?
I have a proposal:
It struck me that there ought to be an easy way for people to post and find questions in the world of EdTech. With such a thriving twitter community, shouldn’t we have a hashtag that teachers can access to ask and answer questions any time without having to be (as John Samuelson laments) “#edufamous”?
If teachers tag their questions with #EdTechQ perhaps we could all make a collective effort to help each other out.
Those of us who have questions can ask with more hope that our questions will be answered.
Those of us who have answers can help, sharing our expertise.
How Can I Use #EdTechQ?
This idea isn’t mine – it’s ours. That means there shouldn’t be rules, either. I would love a resource on twitter that would let us help each other out even more than we already do.
Here are some types of questions you could ask, but I’d bet you have a lot better questions than what I can make up:
- Does anybody have a resource on becoming a Google Certified Teacher? #EdTechQ
- How can I share my Kahoot with just one teacher? #EdTechQ
- What’s a good app for _______? #EdTechQ
- There was a post last month circulating about how to use Socrative in a special ed class – anybody remember where that was? #EdTechQ
- I have a $500 budget, should I buy a PC to match my school’s computers, or an iPad? #EdTechQ
I’m more and more amazed at the generosity of teachers on Twitter every day. I’d love to see a pooled resource where you don’t have to have a long reach to get your questions answered by them. If social media is truly the great equalizer, then perhaps a hashtag like #EdTechQ could help us keep the balance for everyone.
I’ll be checking it to see if I can ask and answer questions – I hope you will too.