Wednesday, April 19, 2017

ScreenCasting 2.0

ScreenCasting 2.0 
Recently, there was a discussion on how best to make ScreenCasts for our students on the AP Calculus forum. I'm no expert, but I've been playing with tech in the classroom forever, so here's my 2 cents anyway:

I've been ScreenCasting and "SmartBoarding" for my students for 10 years now, way before Kahn Academy was a household name and long before we had actual SmartBoards at my school! So, I guess I'll say I'm self taught and have learned a thing or two from my mistakes along the way. 

I've used several different solutions, aka hardware and software combinations, over the years and everyone has their own style and preference. So, please feel free to take from this blogpost what you think you can use and leave behind rest. It's your call!

BTW, above you will see one of my first CompSci ScreenCasts ever from 2009! Also, for comparison's sake, here's a blogpost from 2011 entitled ScreenCasting 101. Here's another related blogpost also from 2011 about SmartBoards and Linux!

Please note: I have used Linux, not Windows or Mac, since it came out in 1995. However, I'll try to describe OS neutral solutions. 

I started with a BlueTooth tablet and a PC projector both attached to my desktop PC. If I recall correctly, the tablet was a Wacom Graphire 6x8 (10" diagonal) which was nice since it connected easily over BlueTooth using a BlueTooth dongle in a USB port. 

Actually, we got this tablet from a SmartTech rep rebranded as the Smart Airliner Slate. That's how I got a copy of SmartNotebook before anyone else at school! This tablet also had a capacitive surface and the stylus had a magnetic tip which made it easy to hover over the tablet as a pointer without writing. 

The problem with this tablet was that you had to crane your neck to see what was displayed on the PC Projection Screen. Unlike a modern Android Tablet or iPad, you could not see anything on the tablet itself! I also had a cheap lapel Mic (FM 75MHz) from Radio Shack! In addition, I had a nice PC Projector from Donorschoose

Finally, I made my recordings "Live" during class so they were about 40 minutes each at my High School and 1 or 2 hours each at my Community College Summer Session. See above my first AP Calculus BC ScreenCast ever at the High School from 2009!

Now I'm trying to make what I call "Shorts" whereby I record only 10-20 minutes after the lesson in question has been taught in class summarizing just the most important points (see preCalculus sample above from 2017). As far as my hardware and software solutions go, I have primarily settled on 2 different styles, one for Math and another for CompSci.

When I'm recording a Math lesson I like the freedom I have to draw all over the SmartBoard (see sample preCalculus Midterm Review above from 2017). So I attached a nice USB Mic by Blue Yeti right next to the SmartBoard up in the front of my class. 

Everything I write and say is recorded from the SmartBoard. I know some people use SmartNotebook Recorder but that program makes really huge video files. So, I use SimpleScreenRecorder for Linux. A similar program you can use in Windows, running right off your Chrome browser, is ScreenCast-o-matic (I was a beta tester when they had Linux support) which I use whenever I'm on the road (conferences, summer school, etc). I then upload an MP4 file directly to my YouTube channel and link the video to Edmodo or Blogspot for sharing with my students. 

When I record for Computer Science class, I am not usually at the SmartBoard writing equations and drawing diagrams all over the place like a mad scientist (my kids think I'm like Sheldon, as in the mad scientist in TBBT: The Big Bang Theory sitcom on CBS). More often than not, I'm typing code and explaining what I'm doing as I'm typing away (see sample CompSci lesson above from 2014). To accomplish this I add a keyboard and mouse to my SmartBoard, on the PC in the back of the room, and record as above. My room is setup (see masthead) with the Teacher PC that's connected to the SmartBoard in the rear of the room so that I can see everyone is on task as I'm teaching CompSci since all the Student PC monitors face the rear.

However, lately I've ditched the SmartBoard, PC, Projector, Keyboard and Mouse entirely. Please see the Math (2016 post AP Exam review) and CompSci (recent 2017 classwork) samples above.

BTW, I don't like SmartNotebook much either. Any Pen App that saves your work to pdf to share with students will do. I like to use Xournal, for example. I don't need all the bells and whistles in SmartNotebook. I've said this many times before, but here we go again: Don't drink the Kool Aid!

Anyway, lately I've found that working with a more modern tablet (ie: not the Wacom) to be a much better solution. A modern tabIet, weather it be Andriod or iOS based, has a lot more horsepower under the hood and a high resolution, high contrast color display showing everything you write as you write it. Imagine the luxury! 

I would strongly recommend a high-end tablet if you go this route. I hear a 3-in-1 (with tablet, laptop and tepee modes) like the Lenovo Yoga is very nice. However, the Yoga is a Windows based device. Sorry, I'm not a fan. I like to use FOSS: Free Open Source Software. Technically, I prefer to use FLOSS everyday (Free Linux Open Source Software). BTW, I won't touch iOS either (too proprietary). 

I'm using the Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2" Android Tablet (Android is based on Linux). What's nice about this solution is that the S-Pen is very easy to use if you want to do Math Lessons and everything you need to ScreenCast is built into this one device. You don't even need a SmartBoard, projector or mic! The tablet stands in for all those devices in one! However, if you want to type, as in a coding class, you may want to add a BlueTooth Keyboard and a BlueTooth Mouse (the virtual keyboard is hard to use and covers half the screen when in use). 

A high quality mic is built in and there's tons of free apps in the Google PlayStore you can use for writing or typing and saving your notes or code as well as ScreenCasting apps. Right now, for example, I'm using the Autodesk Sketcher app for writing notes that I save to my Dropbox app and link to my Edmodo app. 

Lately, I've been using in the Chrome app to type code. I've found the AZ Screen Recorder app very easy to use and I post my ScreenCasts directly to my YouTube channel via the Youtube app. 

I also have emulator apps for the TI-84C (Wabbitemu) as well as the TI-89 (Andie's Graph), TI-92 and even the TI-59 (for us old timers)! If I want the TI-nSpire, I have to use my SmartBoard as I have an emulator that is a Windows program called KARMTI running under WINE on my Ubuntu Linux 64bit Desktop.

Sometimes I find myself in a situation where I don't have access to a SmartBoard. So, I use my tablet as a "Portable SmartBoard!" With a mirroring app such as TeamViewer or SplashTop (free to use only if all devices are on the same WiFi router) you can mirror your desktop to your tablet while your desktop is displayed on a PC Projector. Then you can control the whole shebang from your tablet using the S-Pen or BlueTooth Keyboard and Mouse!

Some classrooms at my school were recently "upgraded" to Epson BrightLink Interactive WhiteBoards which are larger and brighter than our SmartBoards (even bigger and brighter than my extra wide 78" SmartBoard with 885xi projector). 

The Epson whiteboards compete with SmartTech by addressing SmartBoard's shortcomings. For example, you can write on the board and share your notes without even connecting a PC. You don't need any software but there is a software package with extra features that's free! Everything you need is built right into the projector's hardware! Also, the projector can cast an image on any surface, even a table top for group work, so you don't need any special hardware in the board itself, any marker board will do. 

I think I'm going to have to stop referring to all this as ScreenCasting or SmartBoarding, how about Interactive WhiteBoarding?

IDK if I want this "upgrade." I do like the bigger and brighter image. Unfortunately, there's two problems with this hardware solution:

1) Epson's hardware and software are not compatible with SmartNotebook. So, if you drank the SmartTech rep's Kool Aid and wrote tons of notes over the years with SmartNotebook using all it's proprietary bells and whistles.... I'm afraid that you're up a creek without a paddle all on your own, sorry!

2) Also, one writes with an ink layer over a ppt or pdf or just a blank screen and nothing you write on the board shows up on the PC even if it is installed! So, how do you ScreenCast anything? 

Stay tuned for ScreenCasting 3.0 next year, I'll figure it out!

Generally Speaking,

Thursday, April 13, 2017

PAEMST 2017: 3rd Time's the Charm?

PAEMST 2017: 3rd Time's the Charm?
Once more onto the breach, my friends? Well, I hope that the 3rd time is the charm! I think this will be my last attempt at this application process! Hoping for NYS Finalist this time, at least.

I was nominated to compete for the PAEMST award for the first time around 11/1/2012. I went through the whole application process, all 10 grueling steps of it and uploaded my entry by 5/1/2013. But I was not chosen. 

I was nominated again around 11/1/2014 and finished a whole new application by 5/1/2015. But I was not chosen, not even for NYS Finalist? 

I was nominated again around 11/1/2016. This time I was told I could simply resubmit my 2015 application. So, silly me, I waited until now to resubmit, only to find out that I had to reedit everything! I was able to cut and past my essay and resubmit my video (see above). However, I need new recommendations by 5/1/2017! 

If you are not familiar with PAEMST, please see this blogpost from 8/18/2012. Here's my blogpost about my 2013 application. Here's my blogpost about my 2015 application. BTW, my 2013 video is at the bottom of this post.

As you can see above, I'm resubmitting my 2015 class video. I won't bore you here with all 10 steps in the application. The boring parts involve verification of eligibility, proof of employment, school demographics, demographics for the class that was recorded, parental video consent forms, just to name a few requirements. 

The most important parts, after the video, are copied below for your viewing pleasure:
Essay aka Narrative summarizing the video, 
Supplemantary Documents for the Essay, 
Teacher Resume and 3 Recommendations. 

Everything has been updated except for the recommendations. So, I include here the 2015 recommendations.

Generally Speaking,