Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jing vs Screencast-o-Matic

I love screencasting.  For me, it has many benefits in my classroom.  First of all, as a senior high math teacher, especially in the Pure Math stream, it is very difficult to find a sub who can help my students.  When I finally do find a good sub, they're usually snapped up by a school very quickly.  This can be quite frustrating.  However, I have found the solution to my problem...screencasting!  I can record myself teaching a topic to students.  All the sub has to do is double click on my video and voila!  It's like I'm right there.  The problem with screencasting?  It doesn't exactly fit with the whole concept of exploratory learning.  It's a sit and git lesson.  Once I start teaching the new curriculum, this will change the way I prep for subs but for now, when I'm missing, this is the best way to guarantee my grade 12's are getting the information they need.  The other great thing is that I actually recorded all of my class examples and posted them on my moodle site.  We use the Absolute Value workbook so I contacted the company to make sure this was ok.  They told me that as long as it was 1) located on a secure server so that only the students in my class could access it, 2) every student must have purchased the workbook, 3) I must be teaching my students face to face (not an online setting) in a traditional classroom setting.  I was also given permission to share my videos with other teachers as long as they met the above requirements when they share those videos.

This isn't the only reason I use screencasting software.  Last year, in my Pure Math 10 class, I had students create a math problem for a topic we were reviewing.  They then used screencasting software to record themselves working through the problem.  After that, we posted the recording on our moodle site.  This way, any of them could access the recordings if they were having trouble.

Up until recently, I have been using Jing.  I really liked this program but found it had a few issues that caused me so much grief that I finally decided to explore other options.

  • Extremely slow start up time.  I would have to open it up, walk away for a few minutes, and then return to use the program.  Now, this is partly because my school laptop is having issues but I noticed a slow start up (but not as bad) on my personal laptop as well.
  • Must be downloaded.  This is fine for me but when I'm trying to run this with my students, it's a pain to have them temporarily install it.  Our tech department doesn't like to install programs onto our image unless it's been tested thoroughly first so I wanted to use it quite a few times with my students before making this request.
  • A user account must be created.  I created a school based one for my students to log in, though.  All of my students were able to log in at once so this was great.
  • 5 minute time limit.  Have you seen some of the Pure Math 30 examples?  I would have to split my explanations in half in order to record them.
  • Freezing.  This was the final straw.  I'm starting to see a lot of program crashes when I hit "stop recording".  I thought maybe my file was corrupted so I uninstalled it, downloaded a fresh copy and reinstalled.  It kept freezing.
  • I upgraded the Jing Pro version for $14.95 for a year.  This allowed me to record in other formats but I found my students preferred the original format as their computers would automatically open it.  They would have to make changes to the opening settings in order to watch the other videos.
So, recently I have been exploring Screencast-o-Matic.  I haven't had a lot of time to play with it but here are some of the things I have noticed.
  • No account needed but you do need an email address.
  • When you are finished the video, you can export it to a variety of sources
  • The free version gives you 15 minutes to record.
  • Must have internet access to record the video as it is online.
  • The free version prints a small watermark at the bottom of the video but it doesn't detract from your video.
Based on what I've listed as my pros and cons, it's pretty obvious which program I'll be using now but that does not end my quest for the perfect free screencasting software.  The software must meet the following requirements:
  • Preferably online but not absolutely required
  • Free
  • Allows at least a 10 minute video
  • Easy to use
  • Stable
  • Easy to download the videos
  • Downloaded quality is reasonable

What screencasting software are you using?  What are it's pros and cons?

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Why aren't Women More Involved in promoting EdTech?

    Yesterday, I was thrilled to participate in the Kickoff for the Alberta/Saskatchewan PLP group.  Like my vice-principal stated, it was great to be in a room full of people who didn't snicker "geek" or "nerd" whenever you got excited about technology.  I have another blog post in the works to discuss everything that happened yesterday during the official session.  However, after the session, several of us went out to dinner with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, the creator of the PLP, and had the opportunity to discuss the day and talk about a variety of other issues.  It was a hoot!  We spent more time laughing than anything else. 

    Sheryl posed the following question:  "Why aren't women more involved in promoting EdTech?".  It made me, and everyone else at the table, pause to ponder this question.    Why am I not taking a more active role?  This is an easy answer for me, personally, but I can not speak for other women out there.

    Don't make me get up there:
    I am terrified, absolutely terrified about speaking in public.   Yes, I know.  It's not exactly the greatest to trait to have as a teacher.  In fact, I still get nervous the first day of every class, even when I've taught those students before.  When I'm presenting, I'm fine until I start to set up.  Then my stomach begins to roll.  My face turns green.  I seriously start to look for the nearest bathroom in case I throw up.  I begin to pace.  Why, oh why, did I sign myself up for this?  Once the actually session begins, I calm down and am "good to go" as my mother would say.

    What you talkin' about, Willis?
    I'm terrified that when I'm up there, people will look at me and think, "Who does she think she is trying to teach us about this topic?  She's no expert.  Get her off the stage!  booooo....hissss...."  Or, maybe instead, they'll simply walk out because they think I'm an idiot with nothing valuable to share. 

    Tech?  Again?
    There are so many PD sessions out there that I have to question, is there really something new out there that I can share?  Why would they want to take something from me when they could take it elsewhere?

    What it comes down to:
    I know that for me, it has a lot to do with self-confidence it what I know and have to share with others and a little bit to do with stage fright.  Now that I've started this blog, maybe it will be easier to share what I know and am learning,

    Something else I have noticed:
    I attend a lot of PD, especially with a new math curriculum.  However, I used to attend of lot of PD with a tech focus.  I just realized that women make up most of participants at sessions like this.  So does this mean that they feel that they are still learning and do not know enough to share?  This is probably a major issue for most.  Why aren't men attending these sessions?  Is it because they feel they know it well already or because they don't care?  I'm sure there's a mixture of both out there but it certainly is an interesting question.

    Thoughts from other women:
    Tonight, I visited with my stamping group, another passion of mine, and asked them this question.  They were trying hard not to stereotype women so they focused on their own concerns.  Most of them have young children and are actively involved in their lives.  Where would they find the time?  In their households, they, more than the fathers, were the ones making sure that everything that needed to be done was getting done. Maybe in a few years, when their children were older, they would find the time to learn more about technology and then if there was still time left over, maybe they'd share with others.  So, where do I fit in?  No children. Just two pooches and a hubby.  I'm not spending the time running to basketball games, dance recitals or swimming lessons.  That adds hours to my day that others just do not have.

    So, where do I go from here?
    I realized that as a woman, I need to take more of an active role in promoting ed tech.  Currently, I am planning a session at our Divisional PD day (really have to get working on that as it is on November 1st, eeek!) as well as a supper series to focus on Math. 

    Does this help?  A little bit, I'm sure.  I know that I want to be a positive role model for other women out there.  I just need to turn my itsy bitsy teeny weeny baby steps into bigger steps and then into strides.

    Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach asked me to participate in a panel to discuss this issue.  Hmmm...trip to the US...sounds like fun...speaking in public...oh no....  I'm thinking about it but I would want to do some research so that I felt like I had something intelligent to share.  At this point, I'm still waffling.  We'll see.

    Question to you:
    Why do you think women aren't more involved in promoting Ed Tech?

    Saturday, October 2, 2010


    If you're not on Delcious yet, shame on you!  Are you still using the Favorites/Bookmarks on your computer?  You are missing out!  Three years ago, I was like you.  Limited...tied down to one computer...missing out on a great opportunity.  I had a great, disorganized list of websites on my home computer and on my work computer.  Sites were duplicated on both.  Sites were sometimes located only on my home computer or just on my work one.  If I was at home, the site I needed was invariably sitting on my work computer.  If I was at a conference, someone would ask me about a site, but of course, it was on my home computer so I would have to look it up on the internet.  So much time wasted!

    And then...one miraculous day...I was introduced...to...Delicious!  How my world changed!

    Now, ALL my websites are bookmarked in one place...on the web.  I can go to any computer and access them.  I have them somewhat organized (yes, I know. I need to take an hour and reorganize them all) by tags.  So no more will you see me scrambling to find a website I want.  It's all there.  I can tag from any computer (even if the buttons aren't installed).  I don't have to be on my own computer.  I can be on anybody's.

    But that is NOT the coolest thing.  I can create a network of friends.  Through Delicious, I can send them websites I think they'll want to look at.  If they like it, they can click once and add it to their delicious account. 

    But that is NOT the coolest thing, either!  When I tag a website, it shows me how many other people have tagged that website.  Pretty cool!  If lots of people have tagged it, then it's probably pretty good.

    But that is NOT the coolest thing, either!  I can click on the link that tells me how many people have tagged it and see WHO has tagged it.  By doing that, I can see THEIR links as well (unless they made a link private, then nobody can see it but them.  Good to know) 

    Why is that good?  Let's say, I'm researching some Pure Math 30 websites.  I tag one and discover that someone else has tagged the same website.  Well, there's a pretty good chance that if they tagged this website, they'll probably tag other Pure Math 30 related websites.  I can go explore what they think are decent sites.  They've done research that now benefits me!  Woohoo!  As well, they might be following someone who has focused on Pure Math 30 sites as well.  And so on and so on.  It's one big group!

    I absolutely LOVE delicious and it's the first tool that I recommend anyone and everyone signs up for.

    How have I used it?  Well, obviously, I have my own account.  I use this one account for my educational sites I use as well as my personal stamping sites.  Secondly, I like to create accounts for each of my classes so my students can access those links easily.  When I find a site for Pure Math 30, I'll send it through Delicious from my account to the Pure Math 30 account so my students see it as well.  Why don't I just give them my username?  They'd have to go through the tags to find what applies to them.  This way, it's one stop shopping.

    My delcious account name is wdotcom.  Feel free to access it and peek around.
    Promise to Myself:  Continue to spread the world about this amazing tool!

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    RSS Feeds

    RSS Feeds...What are they?  Check out the video below that explains RSS Feeds in plain english. 

    Other techno addicts at my school use RSS Feeds all the time and I've known for a long time that I really should do it.  Normally, I just subscribe to receive updates in my inbox.  However, if you've ever done this, you'll notice how quickly your inbox fills up.  I end up looking at it quickly, telling myself I'll come back to it later and then eventually just deleting it out of my email because I haven't got the time to spend to review again.  Today, I decided to go sign myself up for Google Reader.  Lo and behold, apparently I already did!  Now, I really have to take the time to get myself organized and actually use it.

    The most important step (after registering of course) I started with was to create folders.  I really am trying to organize myself.  Right off the bat, I created a Web 2.0 educational folder, a family folder (for my family's blogs), and a Stamping folder (for my rubber stamping addiction). 

    Second step?  Add a Google Reader tab to my home page.  I think I might even make it the first one that opens up instead of my email.  We'll see.  I have to prioritize now.  Which is more important...email...reader...email....reader...Well, at least I know they'll both open up, regardless of which tab is listed first.

    Third step?  Transfer all my email subscriptions to RSS feeds.  This will take a bit as I have to go to each email so I can get to the website.  Then subscribe to the RSS feed.  Then I have to go back to my email and unsubscribe from all the email subscriptions.  Oi vey!  (sp?)

    And finally, the all important step?  Check my reader!  Daily!

    I know that bringing all the blog updates to my reader will save me a lot of time.  I really am looking forward to being organized.  Really, I don't understand why I haven't embraced this tool before. 

    So, who did I add to my Web 2.0 Educational folder?  Right now, I only added two blogs.  I only had the opportunity to glance through them today but I really wanted to get my feed wet.  We'll see if they stay on the list or get tossed...
    • Kathy Schrock's Kaffeeklatsch:  She appears to focus on sharing various technology and apps that she has found.
    • Free For Teachers:    The post that caught my attention discussed how to obtain free supplies for your classroom.  Although this, of course, focuses on American resources, I thought the blog would probably end up being pretty useful.

    Today's promise to myself:  Spend 5 minutes each day, looking at my reader and selecting one post to read.