Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip #8 - Screenshots

Last week I wrote a post about screencasts, great tools for sharing information through video. What if you just need a picture and not a full video? In that case screenshots are the solution. Screenshots are simply photographs of either a portion or all of your computer screen. Once snapped they can be easily shared via email, inserted in presentations, or posted on website. Depending on your computer platform or tool you have a few different ways to take a screenshot

Apple OSX
The ability to take a screenshot it built right into the Apple operating system. You have three choices for creating your image - snap an image of the entire screen, just one window, or a customized area.

  • Entire Screen - Simply hold press Command+Shift+3 (all three buttons at the same time) and an image of your screen will be deposited on your desktop. If you have your speakers turned on you will even hear a camera-shutter sound.
  • Just One Window - Press Command+Shift+4, move your mouse over the window you would like to capture, press the Spacebar, and click the mouse. On your desktop you will now have an image of that window. If your speakers are turned on you will hear the same camera shutter sound.
  • Custom Section of the Screen - Press Command+Shift+4. Move your mouse to the upper left section you would like to capture, hold down the mouse, and drag to the lower right section would like to capture. When you let go of the mouse your screenshot will be deposited on the desktop.
For more detailed instructions check out this Apple Support webpage.

Windows 7
Devices running Windows 7 also have the ability to snap screenshots. This is done using the Print Screen button (PrtScn). Simply press PrtScn, launch Paint and paste the image into the program. Once pasted you can save the file and a picture to be used in another program. If you would like to only capture one program window click the window you would like to capture and press Alt+PrtScn and follow the same steps using Paint. More detailed directions can be found in this Windows tutorial.

Using Snagit for Chrome
If you're using a Chromebook OR you want the ability to easily annotate at screenshot of a website with text, arrows, or shapes then check out Snagit for Chrome. This free Chrome extension and app will allow you to quickly capture online resources, annotate key details, and share images via weblinks. The tool is free to download and will work with any NCS Google account. This video demonstrates how to install and use Snagit for Chrome.
The Snagit Extension activated in Chrome
Adding annotations in Snagit

iOS - iPad/iPod/iPhone
Last, but certainly not least is an iPad/iPhone. You can snap a screenshot by holding down the power and home button together for a brief moment. The screen will flash and an image will automatically be added to the Camera Roll. If you would like to annotate the photo from that point, check out Skitch for iPad/iPhone.

Screenshots are quick and easy ways to share information whether the content is a teaching tool or a student sharing their project. If you have any questions please let me know.


Photo: Kodak Brownie Starlet by Silvio Tanaka on Flickr

Monday, August 25, 2014

Telling Your Story with Tour Builder

Perhaps you have tried writing stories in Google Earth and found the program to be a bit too complicated between coding in HTML and trying to figure out how to save the folder of placemarks? Or maybe you have tried using Google Maps as your authoring tool, but it just didn't quite do enough for you? Google Tour Builder is the perfect happy medium between Maps and Earth and it can be used to share a variety of stories. Here are some examples from the public Gallery.
Tour Builder is a web-based program using the Google Earth plugin (free) that allows users to easily combine text, images, and video with a simple, intuitive interface. Since it is web-based students can start a project in one location and finish it in a different place. The one downside is that it is not Chromebook or tablet (iPad/Android) friendly, so if you would like to use it at school you will need to check out the Media Center or one of the computer labs.

Today I spent a few periods working in Jennifer Music's Leading Edge classroom. Her 7th grade students are in the midst of creating biographies for people who have been influential in their lives. As a class, we each created a biography for Rosa Parks as an example and found that Tour Builder was the ideal tool for bringing her story to life. I am excited to see what the students develop for their own tours later this week.

If you are interested in getting started with Google Tour Builder check out this short tutorial or the Tour Builder Outreach site. We'll also have a workshop on the tool tomorrow afternoon (8/26) at 3:15pm and 4:15pm in room J3 on the Main Campus. Jump in and give the tool a try. I think you will find it very intuitive and a great digital storytelling tool to add to your collection.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip #7 - Troubleshooting Your Technology

When I return to school each summer I often find that I suffer from "summer amnesia." Where did I put my keys? What was my login password? How did I schedule workshops last year? I always have to chuckle to myself because it is amazing how quickly I forget the simplest of things..so quickly!

Technology seems to be no different. Each year when we return to school our devices seem to suffer summer amnesia as well. After sitting idle for a few months, collecting dust, and possibly missing an update or two they might need a little assistance getting back to normal.

Below are six troubleshooting tips you should try out.

1. Clear Your Browser History

Is a webpage taking forever to load? Are you getting odd messages, such as "Sharing Unavailable at this Time?" Try clearing Chrome's browser history. This can be done by going to Chrome's History menu (History -> Show Full History) and clicking the Clear Browsing Data button. And if you're using Internet Explorer please switch to Chrome. That will probably solve the problem all by itself.

2. Restart the Program or App

If clearing Chrome's history did not work or you are using another application simply try restarting the program. That might solve the problem all by itself. Please remember that on a Mac you will need to click on the name of the application and select Quit. Closing the window does not quit the program.

3. Force Quit

Will the program not quit? Remind it who is really boss with a Force Quit. This can be done a few different ways depending on your device.

  • Apple OSX - Click on the Desktop, followed by the small black apple icon in the left corner of the screen. From the menu choose Force Quit and menu of all applications currently running will appear. Select the one you would like to quit.
  • Windows Operating System - Hold down Ctrl+Alt+Delete and choose the program you would like to stop running from the Task Manager that appears.
  • iOS - iPad/iPhone - Double-click on the Home button and swipe up on the application you would like to quit.

4. Check for Updates

Did you try clearing your browser history or restarting the program and things are still being odd? Try checking to see if your computer or program is up to date. Depending on the application you can find updates in a few different places.

  • Chrome - Navigate to the Chrome Help page (Chrome -> Preferences -> Help) and check to see if your browser is up to date. This can also be done on a Chromebook and will update the Chromebook as well.
  • Apple OSX - If you are using a Mac click on the black apple icon in the left corner and look for Software Update. This will also update other Apple programs including iMovie, Garageband, etc.
  • Windows Operating System - Navigate to the Control Panel and look for the Windows Update icon.
  • Microsoft Office Applications - In any Office program you can check for updates by clicking on Help, followed by Check for Updates. This process will check for updates across all Office applications at the same time.

5. Restart the Device

Did the first four steps not help? Try restarting the device. That is the official magical IT solution to everything and often it works!

  • Chromebook - You can restart just by holding down the power button.
  • iOS - iPad/iPhone - Restart the device by holding down the power and the home button until the silver apple logo appears.
  • Windows - Click on the Start menu and look for Shut Down or Restart.
  • Apple OSX - Click on the black apple icon and look for Shut Down or Restart.

6. Unplug & Power Down

When all else fails simply unplug the device or remove its battery (if accessible). For items like LCD projectors this may be your only option and unplugging the device will keep it from overheating and creating a fire hazard. Once safely powered down, try plugging the device back in or resetting its battery and clicking on the power button.

If these don't work for you please submit a ticket to the NCS Help Desk and we will work on getting you back up and running as soon as possible.


Photo: Wrenching by Jeremy Brooks on Flickr

Monday, August 18, 2014

Clone Yourself Through Screencasts!

Have you ever had a situation where you wanted more than one of you? Perhaps you're in a classroom and while all the students need assistance, they are all in a different place. Or you're getting ready to send home procedures for using an online tool and you know that a few parents or students might get lost along the way.

Screencasting is simply the process of creating a digital recording of something that is occurring on the computer screen and they often contain audio narrations.  As we weave increasing amounts of technology into all of the roles we play as classroom teachers, screencasts can quickly become handy tools.  In my own classroom I used screencasts to show parents how to log into our classroom blog and post comments and to remind students how to accomplish various tasks using Google Docs, Sliderocket, or Schoology.  There are three reasons why I love screencasts:
  • Just in Time Teaching - It's 3:30pm and you get an email from a student - "How do I embed my presentation on the class Google Site?  I can't remember."  You certainly could respond by typing out all of the steps and hope that the student doesn't miss one...OR...you could create a short video modeling it for them all over again.  Recognizing that if one student asked the question chances are a few others are confused as well, you could then send out the video to the entire class via email and even post it on your webpage.  
  • Repetition without Repeating - One of the handy things about screencasts is that the videos can be watched over and over again.  Learners can review your instructions until they have mastered the concept and you only had to teach the lesson once!  When I taught technology elective screencasts honestly kept me sane.  During class I would model for the students how to use a particular application, but the night before I also created a few short screencasts of the key steps and posted them on my website.  When the students transitioned to independent practice they would use these videos if they had a question and I could move around the room assisting students with deeper concepts.
  • Show What You Know - Screencasting isn't just for teachers, kids can use it too. Some projects aren't easily turned in. For example, a California Mission created in Minecraft can't exactly be emailed or uploaded to Google Drive. However, a video tour of the mission with commentary on why the student chose specific materials or designs could easily be shared with a teacher and frankly a much better demonstration of the student's understanding than the project alone. Snagit now makes a Chrome app that works with Google Drive which is perfect for doing this! Check out the tutorial.
You're probably thinking, "these sound great, but I certainly don't have time to make them."  You do.  I promise.  It is easier than typing out the directions and can be done in three quick steps.  Here's a screencast showing you how.
  • Record - On your Mac use QuickTime player to create your videos (Windows or Chromebook users - check out Snagit for Chrome).
  • Upload - Once the video is done look for Share and upload it to YouTube. 
  • Post - While the video is uploading create your email or weblink where you plan on posting your video.  Once the uploading process is done just copy and paste the link to your video.  Hit send or save and resume your life.
Having created screencasts for the past few years I have three main points of advice for making your own.
  • Keep it Short! - No one watches a video longer than 5 minutes.  Shoot for 1-5 minutes and if you find yourself running long consider chunking the video into two sections.
  • Make it Interactive - If you need to go longer than 5 minutes and can't chunk the video then build in pause points where you encourage the viewer to stop the video and complete the steps you just mentioned. 
  • Mistakes are Awesome! - Your video does not need to be perfect.  You are human and when you teach in real life chances are you make mistakes.  The same thing happens with video.  Simply correct yourself and move on.  It shows your human side and makes the video more interesting.  
If you have any questions about screencasting feel free to let me know. I would love to help you and your students create a few of your own.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip #6 - Backing Up with Google

With the start of a new school year now is a perfect time to setup new workflows to make sure you are regularly backing up and saving your bookmarks. All hard drives fail, eventually. Unfortunately, sometimes they fail when you least expected it, your data isn't backed up, and you find yourself recreating files or hoping you have a paper version some place you can scan.

Here are some tips for making sure this does not happen to you.

Teachers & Macbook Users

Google Drive Sync Folder

Google provides every single one of our users 30GB of storage (it was only 5GB last year!) and anything you make in the web-based version of Google Drive (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, etc.) does not count towards that quota. Believe it or not, this is actually more storage than we were able to provide users on our own server for many years. The best part is that if you install and run the Google Drive application on your computer saving to Google Drive is as simple as saving to the Google Drive folder on your computer. The application automatically syncs anything you store there to the Google servers. Should your computer suddenly die all you will need to do is run the Google Drive program on your new computer and within a few minutes all of your files will be restored. If you are a desktop user the Google Drive folder will also allow you to easily access your files from home through the Google Drive website (drive.google.com) or by installing the application on your home computer. This video from last school year will show you how to use the Google Drive folder on your computer.

Photos, Videos, Music - External Hard Drive

But what about my iTunes and iPhoto libraries? Many of us sync our phones with our computers or download content from iTunes to use in class. More than likely these file are way too large to save to Google Drive. If you have a ton of photos, videos, or music then you really need to periodically back these up to an external hard drive. This video will show you how. It is really easy to do.


Make sure you are using Chrome and your are signed in using your Natomas Charter account. Whenever you save bookmarks to Chrome they are also saved online. This means that you will never have to worry about losing your bookmarks and when you bookmark one computer (or Chromebook) it will automatically be reflected on any other Chrome device.

Business Office, Front Office, and Clerical Staff

Network Storage

If you are part of our Business Office, Front Office, or Clerical Staff teams then more than likely you are working with data which would not be appropriate for saving to individual Google Drive folders. Please make sure that you are always saving to the correct folder in the NCS server. This data is regularly backed up and should a computer or hard drive failure occur the IT Team can easily recover your files for later use.


Just like our teachers and students please make sure you are using Chrome. All of your bookmarks will be saved and available from any computer using Chrome.

If you have any questions or concerns about backing up your data or just need a helping hand please let the IT Department know.


Photo: Hard Drive by Walknboston on Flickr