30 August 2020

Bitmoji Buttons for your Canvas Homepage or Class Website


Why have "normal" buttons and links on your Canvas homepage or class website when you can bitmoji them instead?! Here's how I did it using Canva.com (or the Canva app). If you want a copy of my Canva file to use as a template, shoot me a message on Twitter (@chuckcbaker) or Instagram (@mrcbaker4math)

UPDATE: 8:04pm

I found later on IG (via TikTok) that for any even easier approach (with less customization), you can just type "CIRCLE" in the search on Bitmoji and you get several options with a similar effect. 


25 August 2020

Google Voice for Your (Virtual) Classroom

Google Voice is a FANTASTIC tool to use for contacting parents (or anyone, really) while shielding your personal phone number from the public (or just your syllabus. LOL)

Besides simply having a separate number to give out to students and parents on my syllabus, I also enjoy using Google Voice for:

  • Texting with families instead of calling
    • Whether your parents don't pick up the phone or you yourself would prefer texting, its fantastic as another channel of communication that doesn't require parents to signup for something else (like Remind or Classtag)
  • The freedom to communicate from my laptop OR my cellphone (or you could also use a tablet)
    • You can place a call right from your school laptop using on the Google Voice app (or use your smartphone, the old-fashioned way)
  • Voicemails (and a transcription of the recording) that come straight to my email
    • If the transcription is good enough, (which it usually is), you can get the gist of what the parent needs without having to listen to the voicemail at all!
  • Screening calls
    • This setting prompts callers to say their name before it connects to you, so you can answer the call with confidence that if there's a conversation you need more time to prepare for, you can still send that caller to voicemail.

09 August 2020

PBL in a Pandemic? YES!

Since March 2020, educators everywhere have been brainstorming, collaborating, and synergizing, (is that enough buzzwords?) attempting to innovate and refine teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Districts have purchased new learning management systems and video-conferencing licenses for virtual and hybrid teaching, and educator support groups on Facebook have ballooned as we've all been preparing for our "new normal."

The fear, polarization, isolation, and altogether different-ness of 2020 has given us an opportunity to step back and consider what is most important in the education of our children (and therefore, what we should and should not bring with us into hybrid and virtual teaching environment.) 

I propose that even as facilitating PBL and deeper learning becomes more difficult in a virtual environment, the intangibles and 21st-century skills kids use in PBL units are now more important than ever!


07 August 2020

This Is Why Kids Need Music Education...

 ...so they can grow up to be adults that know how to read and/or play music!

This is just a little story of how being able to read music notes and pulling up an online keyboard on my iPad helped my daughter get through her guitar frustration today!


04 August 2020

Class Podcasting with Anchor.fm

Four years ago, I had the privilege of teaching British Literature in summer school. If you're new here, you need to know that all of my experience is as a math teacher, so this was a dramatic departure from my usual teaching and planning flow. 

However, the year before, I'd had the privilege of teaching Government (this all because my degree and 1st Missouri certification was actually in secondary social studies, but that's a whole other blog post #checkyourprivilege). The year before in Government, I had recorded and published our class discussions on a podcast, and I was quite pleased with how it had gone, so I was excited at this opportunity for more discussion in a literature class. 

I had really high hopes for these Brit Lit recordings, so I got it all set up here, published my intentions, and added a new side panel on this blog linking to it. 

And I never published them. 

Through the beauty of Google Classroom archives and Google Drive, I actually still have all of those recordings, so I'm going to take the opportunity of a question this week from a colleague about podcasting to correct a wrong from 4 years ago and publish these "Brit Lit Perspectives" using the Anchor app.

Here was my colleague's email:
I'm developing a performance assessment for a grad class, as well as an actual end of unit assessment for my students. I found the site "Anchor" which I am really excited about and seems very easy to use. 
However, I have some questions about how students post:
Are there sites that allow me to control content or do all students need to have their own individual podcasts?
This particular site seems like everyone would need to have their own account, using their school gmail, but then I would have no control over posting. Or, all students would have to use my account to post through, and that also doesn't seem productive.  
The way I understood it, she wanted an easy way to gather students' audio files and get them published while still being able to control and censor content as necessary. 

I've been a guest on an Anchor hosted podcast with Connected Learning, so I know it was simple, and a quick Google search verified that you could upload/import audio files to your Anchor account on the web or the app, so this was the suggestion I replied to my friend, the future podcaster: 

1.Have students record their clip with their smartphone or use the site https://online-voice-recorder.com/
2. Students turn in their file to you on Canvas. 
3. You preview as necessary
4. You upload to the anchor app or website the audio files from your account.

I would do it this way because (1) I think you're more likely to get a file turned in to Canvas than waiting on kids to upload to Anchor (and kids don't have another thing to login to), (2) it allows you to preview content for quality and appropriateness, (3) keeps kids from having to "use your account" (I could see one student's files accidentally getting deleted by another) and (4) gives you one place to show off your students' work when you share to a public audience.
Here's how that actually went for me...

1. Sign up for Anchor.fm
 Easy enough...they have the option to make an account or use Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Apple. I used Google, just in case you care. LOL

2. Getting started

What a friendly start page! I can do this! Also, I find myself oddly attracted to the "money" button. LOL. Looks like I need to click the purple button. 

3. Building your podcast

This is the stage where my process (and probably my friend's process, also) are going to be slightly different than "typical" because I will be pulling my old files from Google Drive (and her probably from Canvas, our new LMS because...COVID). For now, though, I am going to record a little preview/trailer blurb. (I'm loving the UI on this page, by the way.)

4. Recording your audio

As I remember, most of the student files you will hear once I publish on Anchor will be from the mic on the iPads I was using, so there will be a ton of ambient noise and the volume levels will vary. This was in part a matter of logistics and design - I wanted them to partner up, so even if they had earbuds with an inline mic, they couldn't use it. I would suggest NOW that you and your students use earbuds with a built in mic, or (if you're really serious about audio) a plug in USB mic. 

This page says they can hear me...I don't know how, so I tested it anyway. (It was correct. My audio was fine.)

My clip was recorded. AND I CAN ADD BACKGROUND MUSIC RIGHT NOW? That's a bonus feature I did not expect that renders useless my somewhat less than amateur skill at mixing audio tracks. Oh well. :)

5. Time to publish your episode!

After saving my episode by clicking on the purple button at the top, I came here to title and give a synopsis. If you a podcast fan, your favorite podcast might also give "show notes." I suspect this is also where I would post those. 

6. Finalizing your podcast details

I'd already named the podcast (although now "Brit Lit Perspectives" feels super lame), but choosing a category proved harder than I suspected. Good news is, it probably doesn't really matter. LOL

7. Cover Art
It's like judging a book by its cover...it's not "good" to do, but everyone does it anyway. 

Choose a photo, or upload your own. If you're feeling cute, you'll make something in Canva real quick. At first I picked the "Choose one for me" option, which seemed good enough, but Canva is just so easy, it's a crime to NOT use.

For real..I was able to make this in 5 minutes.

Too late for me now, but I could have done most of what I just made in Canva on this screen. Moving on!

8. Distribution

When I did this year's ago with Government Class and He REALLY Said That, getting your podcast on iTunes and other devices was a thing you had to Google and hope you did correctly. Now, you click a button. Beautiful.

9. You Have a Podcast Now

I clicked on the dashboard button and that's it! I'm a podcaster again! I appreciate the feedback this "Welcome to Anchor!" checklist gave me.

10. Adding your students' audio
This is what you really want to do!
  1. Start a NEW episode and record an intro, setting up your listeners for that pure, silky student-created content.
  2. Go to Google Drive, Classroom, Canvas, or whatever LMS or saving situation you are using for students' assignments and use the uploader to add the files as clips to your episode.
  3. For an added touch of quality, use the transitions tab to drag over clips that smooth the transition from one students submission to the next.

11. Final Touches

I clicked save with my episode of students audio and got back to the episode details. Hey! This is where I get to specify the season and episode number! Another Anchor win. So easy.

12. Sharing is caring!

Okay, so obviously I want to share this now. Looks like I can share using these buttons as one option. 

Using "public site" seems good for posting back to your class website or LMS, (Canvas, Google Classroom, etc) and for spamming all of your friends and family via DM and email.

13. The final product
Look how good that public page above looks! I can't believe how easy this was...all of this work was about 2 and a half hours, and that includes the screenshots and commentary for this blog!