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04.08.17

Switching from Kahoot to (mostly) Quizizz with Google Classroom

I have been an avid user of Kahoot in the classroom basically ever since this innovative tool has started. However, Kahoot does have its limitations. I have always considered it a tool for motivation rather than learning and despite its innovative character it hasn’t really evolved much ever since.

So, what does Quizizz offer that Kahoot doesn’t? First of all it is very similar to Kahoot with the difference that Quizizz is played individually rather than together and each student works at his or her own pace as both the questions and options are displayed on the students’ devices. You can still play in teams, of course. Students only need to share a device to do so.


Apart from individually paces quizzes Quizizz offers a variety of other useful features. To begin with Quizizz has a new feature that allows you to import questions via a csv template. I simply create the quizzes in a Google Spreadsheet, which I then download and import as a csv file. This allows me to create quizzes very fast and moreover to import questions from various sources, such as documents and Quizlet. I don’t like online quiz editing much and over the years I have used Kahoot I have really only created a handful of quizzes myself.




The killer feature for using Quizizz rather than Kahoot, however, is the way it integrates with Google Classroom. You do get
  • Sharing via Classroom (no code required for joining the quiz)
  • Homework integration (homework is automatically marked as done when the quiz is completed)
  • Google Calendar integration (showing homework deadline)
  • Students’ scores and learning analytics


Of course there are obvious limitations to a multiple choice tool, but with these features Quizizz has such a high level of Classroom integration, you can’t even get with Google Forms quizzes. I personally hope that Google will do something similar with Google Forms in the future.


That said, I envision two scenarios where I will probably still prefer Kahoot over Quizizz:
  1. When it’s only about the fun factor
  2. When trying to actually teaching something new rather than revising


In most other cases the ease of creating a quiz via import and seeing my students’ progress will most likely draw me towards Quizizz and I hope to see many more online tools integrated into Google Classroom in this way in the near future.


Sharing a quiz on Google Classroom


Students taking the quiz

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Assignments and scores in Google Classroom

25.07.17

Transitioning from tablets to Android apps enabled Chromebooks

Until a year ago or so I used two devices in the classroom: a classroom PC (connected to a projector) and a tablet (connected to the projector via a Chromecast dongle). I used the PC for mostly for writing (substituting the chalkboard), visuals, videos, etc. and the tablet mostly for casting Google Slide presentations, showing photos and demoing the use of educational apps like Quizlet.

During the past school year I have made a transition to using my Chromebooks (Asus Flip and Asus C302) only even where I used to use a tablet. The switch took some time and trials as initially Chromebooks be had some drawbacks over tablets. You had to install a special plug-in to be able to chromecast and even then it often didn’t work well. Another drawback was that initially Android apps didn’t feel very native to chromebooks, often crashed or some didn’t work at all.

All of these flaws disappeared over the course of the last year and even though chromebooks are of course a bit clunkier than tablets, they have all but substituted my tablet and classroom PC (where I have access to a Chromecast). It does take a little bit of getting used to the weight of holding a small laptop instead of of a tablet, but the advantages easily make up for that minor inconvenience:
  • One device for all needs
  • Web apps and Android apps
  • No compromise on the keyboard
  • No switching between the projector sources
  • Portability and mobility

Both Chromebooks I use have their advantages and disadvantages: the Chromebook Flip (C100PA) is smaller (even though not lighter) and feels at 10 inches very much like a tablet and is cheaper (under $250), but also considerably slower. The Chromebook C302 costs twice as much, is 12.5 inches and feels high end (great backlit keyboard, good speakers, great build quality) and is very fast. The Asus C302 is currently considered the best chromebook of 2017 by many tech blogs, e.g. techradar.

The best thing however is, that there are lots of similar devices coming out which are especially geared towards education (low price, rugged build). It might be a bit late for the coming school year, but for the next school year Chromebooks might the best choice for those schools that use tablets.


Anatomy app Anatronica on a Chromebook Asus C302 works flawlessly.

The  Asus C302 in laptop mode

The Asus C302 in tablet mode


26.06.16

The 2-in-1 PCs are coming (slowly) - Chromebooks and Android Apps

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A long time ago, at the dawn of the mobile revolution I believed that (laptop-tablet) hybrids were the future of education. After having worked with one of the first available devices, the Asus Transformer Prime, I was convinced that it would take many years before that future would arrive.  Not that the Prime was a bad device, on the contrary it was a very advanced one at that time - but it was a tablet and only useful as a substitute for a laptop in a very limited way.

Ever since then I have gone with two devices: a Chromebook and a Nexus tablet, both combined being more affordable than most of the hybrid solutions that are out there. Even so, I have tried a number of devices that didn’t cut it for me in the end:  

  • iPad plus BT keyboard: no way this could ever work as a laptop for me
  • Microsoft Surface RT: that one was a complete failure to begin with (Microsoft gave them away to teachers for a very low price because they could sell it, doing probably more harm than good for its reputation by doing so).
  • Microsoft Surface 3: even though very versatile, I use it neither as a tablet nor as a laptop  as it provides inferior user experience for both uses.

On paper the newer Surface models look very good. In practice I would say they can’t beat the experience (speed, battery life, ease of use) of much cheaper Chromebooks.
My initial expectations were therefore not too high when Google announced Android apps on Chromebooks. And even though the first reviews were quite ravishing, I’m still a bit underwhelmed after receiving the Playstore on my Asus Chromebook Flip.

The bad
  • For the time being you can only use Android apps in the dev channels (which still has lots of bugs itself) on a limited number of devices,
  • A lot of Android apps don’t work or crash frequently (among them my favourite anatomy app Anatronica)
  • A lot of apps have no responsive design and look plainly awful and are awkward to use on the Chromebook
  • Trackpad - touchscreen confusion: the trackpad usually works quite well, whereas touch doesn’t always. With a drawing app I have installed drawing with the trackpad works fine, but drawing with your fingers isn’t possible
  • With many tablet apps (e.g. ebooks) the experience is much worse on the Chromebook than on a tablet (resolution, clunkier device and touch issues).

The good
  • It’s now possible to do a lot more with a chromebook, including audio recording, drawing and playing virtual instruments.
  • Tons of educational apps are available and you don’t have to pay for them again if you have already purchased them for your smartphone or tablet.
  • Also a lot more content is available that is not available on the web (e.g. magazines, Google Newsstand, epub books, etc.)
  • Google seems to be really working hard on making the experience a good one. In the past week I have not only got the Playstore on my chromebook but also two more updates that have brought  some improvements, such as clearly marking which apps are Chrome or web apps and which apps are Android apps.


Screenshot 2016-06-26 at 16.31.51.png

Takeway: even though I’m happy about the addition of Android apps to Chromebook, I don’t think I will be using a lot of them in the near future, as the experience is often much better on a tablet or smartphone. Having said that I am excited about the additional potential of Chromebooks for classroom use. Personally I prefer a Chromebook Flip over a Microsoft Surface in the classroom. The chromebook costs less than half the price of a Surface and feels way more productive to me.  

I have never felt the need to install many applications on my chromebook in the first place as I work primarily in my browser and there is definitely no need to install apps like YouTube or Quizlet. However the addition of Android apps on Chromebooks should make the choice for schools easier: chromebooks, tablet or more expensive Windows hybrids. I suppose with literally thousands of educationals apps (way more than there are available for Windows) the choice shouldn’t be too hard. And even though the number of apps really need might turn out to be very low effectively, their availability will hopefully remove the  psychological barrier that keep many schools from choosing chromebooks in the first place.

As Microsoft has also been putting a lot of effort into its hybrid models it will be interesting to see what the future brings. Microsoft has had a good head start and has made real progress compared to the first Surface model. However, the arrival of Android apps on the desktop, via Chrome OS and Android desktops (e.g. remix OS, possibly also raspberry pi in the near future) might pose a serious threat to Microsoft’s ecosystem which would become obsolete for many non-business users.

05.02.16

Google Cardboard - discovering a city by numbers

I’m preparing a lesson about a virtual trip to London as a part of an end of term project. The idea is that students use Google Cardboard to discover London (or any other place). Just looking through Google cardboard does create a “wow-effect”, but it doesn’t make the students learn anything new. In order to focus the students’ attention on specific points it only takes a few additional steps. The ideas is that students find out about some specific numbered points themselves using Google Search, Google Image Search and Google Maps to learn about these sites.  Here is how to do it:



  1. Make a photosphere using Google Camera (install from Playstore; some smartphone are not compatible though). Alternatively download a photosphere from the web using Google Search or Google+ (there are tons of photospheres on Google+, just ask the owner's permission if you can use one of them in class)
  2. Upload the photosphere to Google Drive and edit with photo editing software like Pixlr. Alternatively copy to desktop and edit with Photoshop or Gimp. Number the sights you want your students to find out.
  3. Download to phone again and use the Cardboard Demo app (available from Playstore) to display you numbered photosphere.
  4. Have the students do research on the web, using Google Maps (to find the place), Google Image Search (to confirm their hunches) and Google Search (to find out more the sights).
  5. Get everyone together again and talk about the solutions and the additional information the students have found.  Screenshot_2016-02-04-18-44-44_com.google.samples.apps.cardboarddemo.png


Alternatively you can also share out a hardcopy of a Google Map for each group and the students have to mark the sights on the map.

You can download the London Eye example here.

18.08.15

Creating quick tests with Google Form grid questions

One of the most popular methods for creating online quizzes and tests for teacher is using Google Forms with the Flubaroo add-on. I use the same combination for tests which I already have in paper or pdf form. As typing out all questions would be a bit cumbersome and redundant, I actually just use paper/pdf with a Google Forms “answer sheet”, which then will look something like this:


Screenshot 2015-08-18 at 16.21.04.png

This works particularly well with standardized tests (like the Cambridge English certificates) which use mostly multiple choice, true/false questions. This is a huge time saver, as you don’t have to type the questions themselves and you can quickly create a lot of questions instantly. I do that by copying the number of questions and possible answers from a Google sheet. Say you need 12 questions with four options all you need to do is copy and paste them from the Google sheet.

Screenshot 2015-08-18 at 16.21.54.png

The students then are sent two links: one to the pdf file containing the test (which can also be printed out) and one to the Google Form to enter their answers. As this kind test is mobile friendly, the students could also use their smartphones to to that.

Using the Flubaroo add-on (there are plenty of tutorial for that) the answers are automatically graded based on a model answer by the teacher. The score and the correct answers can also be sent back to the students. This way an existing test can be quickly turned into an both student and teachers can get immediate feedback.

Screenshot 2015-08-18 at 16.49.09.png

21.06.15

Google Slides mobile with Chromecast support

Google Slides has been my favourite presentation software in the classroom for years now, the main reasons being its ease of use, speed and Google Drive integration (e.g. inserting images, linking to other files). One thing I have missed though was the integration with Google’s own Chromecast, which now has finally arrived (together with AirPlay support) in its mobile apps.



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So far you could do Slides presentations on Chromecast only via mirroring, which has a number of drawbacks:
  • only Android 4.4 and higher devices support mirroring
  • battery drain due to constant connection and screen on
  • no speaker notes as those would be seen on the big screen


All these drawbacks disappear in the Chromecast integrated version of Slides: you can view your speaker notes and even turn off your device’s screen during presentations. And even iOS devices are supported.
As you can expect with Google first versions Chromecast support is not perfect, but it is actually pretty good for a start. Here are the pros and cons:


Pros:
You can remote control your presentation with the following features:
  • shows previous and next slides
  • shows speaker notes
  • shows presentation timer
  • allows video playback and pause


Here is what I still miss
  • slides slider for skipping several slides at a time
  • a video slider for fine grained video control and full screen mode
  • a blackout button to temporarily turn off presentation
  • a pointer


Some of these are only minor inconveniences, however, as there are easy workarounds for them. Skipping several slide: go back to main presentation screen and choose the slide you want to continue with (you also have to reconnect the Chromecast). Video: for full screen viewing all you need to do is enlarge the video to full slide size in design mode. If you need to work a lot inside a video (frequent replay, skipping, etc.), it would be best to Chromcast from the YouTube app and if you absolutely need a pointer you can use Chromecast mirroring.

All in all, the first version of Slides with Chromecast support is highly usable and I’m looking forward to seeing more useful features in future.

28.04.15

Using Google Cast for Audio in the classroom

Google Cast for Audio has just launched and being a foreign language teacher, I’m very excited about its potential in the classroom. So I ordered the first set of affordable speakers (LG Music Flow H3 for €127) which I consider more than suitable for a classroom.

In brief, Google Cast Audio is the audio version of Chromecast and is supported by all apps and devices that support Chromecast (LG Flow Player, Google Play Music, Pocketcast, etc.). Of course you can play any local mp3 file wirelessly over wifi, but it get’s really interesting when you play from the Cloud.  

Screenshot_2015-04-28-12-47-05.png

The advantage of Google Cast Audio over other wireless ways of delivering audio (e.g. Bluetooth) are:
  • faster and easier to connect
  • very reliable due to more bandwidth
  • better quality audio
  • doesn’t require any resources on your mobile device as the audio is not streamed from the device but from the network

As you can upload all your music and audio files to Google Play Music, you don’t need much more than that for your needs (music, podcasts, foreign language files, etc.). If you don’t want to use Google Play Music, there is a variety of other services available to choose from (Deezer, etc.) When it comes to using podcasts you might want to use an app like Pocketcasts for streaming a podcast rather than downloading it.  

I also use Google Drive to store sound files. Of course you can also play audio files from Google Drive, but you have to download them first (best done before your class) and keep them on your device.

Chromebooks currently don’t seem to support Cast Audio (the chromecast extension couldn’t find the audio device). However, it is still possible to connect the H3 speaker via Bluetooth.

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