Wednesday, October 15, 2014

HDMI to VGA adaptor for a Chromebook

I have raved about the educational attributes of the Chromebook many times before on this blog. It has very few shortcomings when it comes to classroom use.   One such shortcoming is the lack of a VGA port.  This might seem like an illogical addition to a hardware engineer when designing a device for production in 2014, but those of us in the education field know that technology sticks around for a while.  I have to assume that the lack of a VGA port was a cost saving feature.

Not all projectors have an HDMI in and there is no Mini Display/Thunderbolt port on Chromebook like there is on a Mac.    Enter the Startech Display Adaptor.  It is specifically designed to work with a Chromebook to convert the HDMI connection to VGA.  I have no idea how this Digital to Analog conversion is done in such a small package, but I assume magic is involved in some sort or fashion.

Below is a video of me testing out this nifty piece of tech.   I have no affiliation with Startech or Tiger Direct, I am just providing a public service announcement.

Listen Current - Public Radio in the Classroom

My own children HATE riding in the car with me.  It's not that I am a bad driver, it's because I listen to NPR (National Public Radio).   I am a Geek, I freely admit it, but I feel so much more informed when I am 'Tunned In."  Politics aside, public radio produces stories on a myriad of topics that are perfect for the classroom.

Enter the Edtech start up Listen Current.

Listen Current harnesses the educational power of Public Radio by organizing story topics by subject and grade level.  Each story contains the full audio segment and a list of comprehension and discussion questions. The comprehension questions are even available for quick add to Socrative via a service called Mastery Connect.  All of these features are free.  

Listen Current has a host of Premium features that include the ability to assign stories directly to students.

Why is this awesome?

1. The stories are Current and Relevant adding validity in the students' eyes.
2. They are typically short (5-10 minutes in length), perfect for short attention spans.
3. Audio triggers a typically under utilized learning modality.  Students are required to use their imagination to "picture" what is happing in the story.  This in my opinion, forms a more robust memory.

Happy listening...

photo credit: Joe Haupt via photopin cc

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Getting Started with WeVideo

This post will serve as a quick getting started tool for teachers.  It will also be infused with a few tips and tricks that I have picked up from using this tool in the classroom with students during the past year.   For in depth tutorials, please reference the official Support Center or the WeVideo YouTube Academy.

1. It is recommended that you visit WeVideo directly at instead of using the Google Drive app.  The app experience is streamlined and therefore missing a few essential shortcut menus.

2. Click the Sign In button (no need to sign up if using a Google Account).
*Note the Support link in the image below.  That is where you can access the Support Center.

3. Click the Sign in with Google button.

4. Accept the Google authentication.

5. Click the Create New Video button.

6. The view can be changed in the upper left corner.  The default view is Timeline and that is where you want to keep it.  Students have a tendency to switch to the simplified Storyboard view.  This is not something you want to do with this particular tool.  Content can be lost in translation.  It is however, fine to switch between the two Timeline views.  

7. Click the Upload Media button to upload images, videos, or sound files.
or it does not matter.

8. Click the green Browse button under the upload from your computer option (Do this even when using a Chromebook to upload files from your Google Drive). It is HIGHLY recommended that you stay away from the import from the web option. It uses a service that hangs up more often than it works.  

9. Create your video using a combination of your uploaded media and the various editing tools in the menu (see the Support Center for details on these tools)

10. The video project will automatically save as you work on it.  When it is time to finalize the video, click the Publish button.

11. By default, all of the “free” finalization options will be selected.  To upload directly to Youtube, Vimeo, or BOX, it will require a premium subscription.  You can however select the Google Drive option (for free because you signed into WeVideo with it) and your video will automatically be saved to your Drive account (as well as published to the WeVideo servers with a link and embed code to share).  Click the Publish button.

*Each account can publish 15 minutes of video per month for free.  If your students forget to click the Google Drive option before publishing and desire a hard copy of their work, they will need to make a small modification their video before they are permitted to publish the video again (WeVideo will not permit you to publish the same video twice).  By making that small edit, WeVideo will then see it as a new video and allow for an additional publish).  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

3 Tools for Broadcasting Presentations in a 1:1

I'm not a fan of the way PowerPoint is used in many classrooms and meetings.   The linear structure of the presentation can put an audience out cold.  Audience... That is interesting.  I know many teachers that think of their students as an audience.  We want them to soak in every word we say and then spit it back out on a test.   David Warlick has a great graphic that shows this in an interesting way.

So, can PowerPoint or slide based, linear presentations be used for good?  I think so.  They can be a very good training tool for public speaking.  See my article on Ignite Presentations for more on that.  Today we are going to look at a little known function of PowerPoint and a couple of cool online tools that take the concept one step further. 

Why would I want to broadcast my presentation to the individual screen of a student in my class or to the screen of a staff member that is attending a meeting that I am hosting?
  1. Because I can.  Technology is fun and just because I can do something new or cool with it can be reason enough.  
  2. Because using an LCD projector can wash out your image.  Factors like projector age and the use of analog cables (VGA) can affect image clarity. This can be of particular concern when working with small numbers or when quality counts, like in an art history class.  
  3. Because turning off the lights so my students can see the projected image, also puts them in sleepy-time mode.  
  4. I can control what they see on their screens.  How many meetings have you been in where you are trying to follow along with the speaker, but have no idea what slide he is on? 
  5. Because students and staff do not always wear their glasses.  I wore glasses in high school, but never put them on my face because I thought they made me look like a tool.  I obviously had a difficult time seeing the board. 
I could go on, but let's get to it.  How do I broadcast my presentations?


PowerPoint 2010 and up have the ability to broadcast a presentation in real time.  See the official details at the following links: 2010, 2013 and 2011 (Mac).  Some things you need to be aware of while broadcasting live PowerPoints:

  • An active internet connection is required on both the broadcasting and receiving devices (this applies to all three of the tools discussed here).  
  • The presenter needs to have a Windows Live ID.  If you do not have one, you will be prompted to create one.  
  • Fade is the only transition that is supported.    
  • Viewers can use any platform.  I tested it on iOS and Chrome OS and it worked perfectly.
  • Videos and sound effects are not broadcast.  I would recommend removing them from any presentation you plan to broadcast. 
  • The link you share with the viewers is VERY long.  You will need to use a link shortener (like or email the link to your viewers.
While this a functional add-on to a solid tool, I like it the least of the three.   If you already have a Live ID and typically present in PowerPoint, then this may be a viable option for you.

Presentation. io is an amazingly straightforward web application for broadcasting PowerPoint or .pdf files.  The files are uploaded directly to's servers where it converts it to an online format (minus all transitions, audio, and videos).'s end user agreement is very witty and clearly states that you retain all rights to your presentations and that they do not want them.    Some things you need to be aware of while broadcasting presentations with

  • You will need to signup for a account.  This is simple and only requires an email address and choice of password.  This is typical for web applications, but it is still another username and password to remember.
  • Transitions, audio, and videos do not transfer to viewers, so you might as well remove them from the presentation before uploading. 
  • The link your viewers need to join the presentation is very short and could easily be entered manually by your viewers. 
  • Notes in the form of a pin and stickynote can be added on the fly.  This is a great feature for directing attention to an area of interest. 
  • Presentations disappear after 4 hours in the free version.  This is not a big deal in my opinion.  I would just suggest uploading your presentation before sharing each time.  This process takes mere seconds.
  • All controls are streamlined and easy to understand.  I do recommend that you look at the "settings" options before sharing your first presentation.  You can remove discussion, which may be a good idea with some students as they are accessing the presentation anonymously. 
I like this tool very much and find it to be a true hidden gem.  Of the three, this is the easiest to get started with.


Of the three, this is the only dedicated education solution (though they have recently launched a business version).  Also, of the three, I have the most time with this tool.  I have been using it on and off for about two years.  It has come a LONG way in that time and I feel that in its current form it should be a staple in any 1:1 class.   Some  things you need to be aware of while broadcasting presentations with Nearpod:

  • The core functionality of the tool is available for free to teachers, but more features can be added with a pro subscription.  At $10 a month, the pro version might be more money than the average teacher is willing to spend on such a tool.  
  • All presentations need to uploaded to Nearpod's servers and with the free version you are limited to 50MB.  This is doable in my opinion.  I uploaded a fairly large PowerPoint during testing and once converted, it only took up 5MB of that.  You can delete old presentations to recoup space. 
  • The best part about this tool is the ability to ask questions periodically throughout your presentation.  Multiple choice, open ended, and DRAWING questions are among the question options available. 
  • Viewers must enter a name to view the presentation.  This allows you to see who is viewing the presentation and the answers they give to questions and polls.  Anonymous viewing/answering is not permitted as far as I can tell. 
  • While presentations can be viewed on any internet enable device. To answer questions on an iOS device, users must have the free Nearpod app installed.  

These three tools are not the only broadcasting tools on the market, just some of the best in my opinion.  SlideShark and Idea Flight are interesting iOS solutions, but require in-app purchases and lack an option for the education market.

I would also like to officially lay down the gauntlet for Apple and challenge them to add this functionality to Keynote for iOS.  Now that Keynote is a standard application on all new iOS devices, this functionality would be a logical and amazing function to add to the app.  

If you have questions or would like to offer up one that I missed, please feel free to add a comment.  


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