Trying Out Swivl’s Recap

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I’m a Swivl Pioneer and so was alerted to the launch of Recap, a website that allows students to interact via video with questions the teacher poses. (I’ve heard this is similar to VoiceThread, which I know of but with which I am not directly familiar.)

In my Medieval Lit class, we’re focusing on manuscripts for the next few weeks, and so I thought I’d turn my class loose with Recap and some introductory videos on MSS to see how Recap works.

Once you’re logged in to Recap, you make classes:

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 9.00.49 AM

There’s my Medieval class.

At the upper right of that screen is the ‘Add Recap’ button, which allows you to write questions for your students to answer and you can set the length of max response (2 mins max).

When I first started writing the questions, I was sticking to largely objective questions (because they were the ones that came to mind) but I realized that it seemed somewhat wasteful for students to record answers to objective questions (though I was happier with the video responses to those questions than I expected; more on that below). As I went on, however, I made more open-ended questions, including questions that required physical props; this, it would seem, is the real advantage to Recap, is the ability to hold before the camera in a dynamic way objects to enhance a response.

Once the students answer and submit, the teacher has a summary screen:

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 9.25.00 AM

(At the risk of sounding defensive, the students were working in groups, which is why the percentage is so low.)

You can see too that students are able to rate their understanding with a simple visual key and student videos are available for watching at the bottom.

Here’s a screen-scroll of all of the responses / summary screens:

ScreenFlow from Ed DeHoratius on Vimeo.

Recap also produces (and I mean that to some extent in the technical sense as well) a ‘Daily Review Reel’ (at upper right) that puts together the videos with some music, borders, and the question at the beginning. (I’m not quite sure why all of the videos didn’t make the review reel but I did find that you could add or subtract videos from the reel; perhaps they try to keep the review reel on the shorter side?)

Here’s a link to the video (Recap provides this; no embed code as far as I could find). And here’s the screen-grabbed video:

ScreenFlow from Ed DeHoratius on Vimeo.

In the end, I’m always trying to assess whether a new tool like this has staying power. Is it an effective tool for me and my students to make more efficient and more successful my teaching and their learning? The easy answer is I don’t know. They were initially skeptical (at best) of videoing their answers but, once they got used to the idea, they produced good responses in a more natural and comfortable way. I enjoyed listening to the answers because their personalities came through. And even for the objective questions, which, as I said above, I felt like was a bit of a waste for this kind of format, it seemed like they had a better handle on that objective information than they would have if they were writing it down, filling in a blank, etc. I will try to do circle back to this information later to test that sense, but that was an initial impression.

So a good first foray. I think finding the right kind of assignments for this is important, but I’ll continue to experiment with it.


The Swivl Expand Lens

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As a Swivl Pioneer, I received a set of Swivl Expand lenses for use in classroom and group-work observations. I’ve not had a chance to pilot them yet in full flower, so to speak, but did a get-to-know-you session with one of the lenses yesterday in class. Pretty cool, I must say. I’ve pasted below some screenshots from the Swivl Expand website that illustrates and explains what they are and what they’re for, and below that I’ve embedded a quick video from my class that shows it with and without the lens. Full disclosure, I’m using the lens without the Swivl case, which includes a stabilizer for the lens, which explains some of the choppiness, but I’m excited to use them and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 7.25.03 AMScreen Shot 2017-04-26 at 7.25.25 AM

ScreenFlow from Ed DeHoratius on Vimeo.

Expanding My Use of Skitch

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I’ve had Skitch for a few years now and have used it sparingly. When I think about it and/or when I need its prominent and easy-to-draw arrows, it’s been great; it does exactly what I want. But generally it wasn’t in my go to rotation of apps.

I presented today to a group of faculty on Mac Tips and Tricks (under the Mac Training tab above, if you’re desperate to see), so lots of screen shots and lots of annotations. Skitch was perfect. Easy to use; clear; (mostly) editable (more on that below).

A few other factors contributed to my adoption of Skitch:

  1. Microsoft Office’s shapes. At some point, Office took a very functional aspect and made it annoyingly complicated (I might argue that they’ve done this with their entire suite, but that’s another post). I could once easily draw in PowerPoint simple shapes that were easily editable. No longer. The default rectangle is not only this weird gradient light blue, but, when I resize it, the weight of the line resizes accordingly. Because who wouldn’t want a rectangle with a 1/2 inch border that can’t be easily made smaller? I’d been struggling with this for a while, but didn’t have a viable alternative / didn’t realize the extent of Skitch’s usefulness and ease.
  2. Stumbling upon command-shift-control-5. I imagine most of you know the screen shot key combinations (if not, see the Mac Tips and Tricks above). When using them, I mistakenly hit 5 instead of 4. I got the crosshair, but the rest of the screen was greyed out; whatever I highlighted cleared up. I didn’t know what was going on but tried it and it took the screen shot and pasted it directly into Skitch.

Skitch allows easy and editable annotations with…

  • arrows
  • shapes
  • stamps
  • text
  • free annotations / drawing
  • pixelation (i.e. blurring something out)
  • cropping

I’ve included some screen shots below of these different features.

Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 9.50.55 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-15 at 9.51.15 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-15 at 9.52.31 PM

And once I edit or annotate in Skitch, I use the Mac screen shot function (command-control-shift-4) to copy to the clipboard and paste directly into PowerPoint. Skitch of course saves, but all of these are pretty much one-offs, so no need to preserve them anywhere but the PowerPoint, and the screenshot lets me accomplish in two steps what would be a lot more steps to save and place.

So give Skitch a try. For any heavy screenshot work or annotation work, it’s hard to beat.

My First Use of Swivl

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I first saw Swivl at a conference (I think iNACOL) a few years ago and, while it seemed like an interesting idea, I wasn’t doing enough flipping or taping to warrant it. But I was giving a PD today and thought it might be a good reason to revisit Swivl, and I’m glad I did.

Let me say first and foremost that you’ll notice in the video that it actually doesn’t follow me. That is not Swivl’s fault; it is entirely mine. I was hooked in and ready to go, and realized that I forgot my presentation clicker. When I retrieved the clicker, I went out of range for the Swivl, which de-paired the receiver. I didn’t want to take the time to figure out the re-pairing on the fly since I needed to start the presentation. (It’s only fitting that the way I’m facing and the lighting makes the red light that signals that I’m not paired flare conspicuously throughout the video.)

In any case, the video below is as bad as the Swivl gets, i.e. because it’s stationary rather than following me, and it’s still pretty great.

Beyond the defining technical aspects of the Swivl (i.e. that it follows you), here are some other benefits to the Swivl:

  • auto-upload: the Swivl automatically uploads any videos to your account on their server
  • auto-delete: the Swivl doesn’t store videos locally, so your device stays unencumbered by all the video it’s taking
  • auto-awake: the Swivl keeps the device awake during the upload so, as long as you don’t interrupt the upload, it continues until it’s done (this can of course be a power drain, but I’d rather have to turn it off to save power than to turn it back on every few minutes after it puts itself to sleep)
  • (all of these are in contrast to Dropbox; I have the Dropbox camera uploads active and it is slower, needs to be turned back on constantly (especially for video) and requires me to manage the storage on my device)

So here’s the video. Again, it could be a lot better. But it’s still pretty great. Thanks, Swivl.

[Wordpress is being a bit finicky with the embed code, i.e. I can see the embedded video below in this edit page and the code worked in an online compiler, but when I view the post itself the video doesn’t show up. In case that happens, here’s a link for the video.]


Focused Video Questions Using GoogleForms

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Was emailed this article about using embedded videos in GoogleForms to ask directed questions with efficient access to the videos (for rewind / review). Seems like a good approach, one I might have to try.

Socrative Redux (Redux)

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So I’m back to Socrative. Again. (Hence the (Redux).) Not full time / as my primary online assessment tool, but it has a fantastically useful feature: spontaneous quizzing, i.e. a quiz / online assessment that can be used without any set-up ahead of time.

The National Latin Exam is tomorrow and review can be, well, fairly deadly. It generally consists of a day or two of going over old exams to reinforce format and content. Not a ton of fun. So, going over my options before class, I remembered this feature of Socrative, and realized that it could at least accomplish two things: provide immediate interaction (rather than answering all questions and then going over them), immediate feedback / data, and required only that which I already had: the old National Latin Exam.

Here’s how it works. You login to Socrative (you do need an account) and you are presented with this screen:

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 9.19.36 PM.png

The Quick Question option is what you want. You then choose the type of question you want (I tend to choose Multiple Choice):


Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 9.33.09 PM

And then you are presented with your answer graph (below; only one student has answered). You simply ask the question however you want: out loud, on paper, toggled on another screen on the computer; whatever works. Once the students answer, you get the graph below (with more answers). The one potential difficulty is that students can answer more than once (I only have 20 students in that class; you can see that Socrative thinks that there are 26), but that is a relatively minor difficulty for an otherwise very useful feature.


Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 9.15.58 PM

Welcome, iPad Pro

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I got the iPad Pro from school today and this is my first crack at it (typing this on it). Here are some first impressions:

  • It’s big. Real big. And I’m trying to figure out whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s basically the dimensions of my MacBook Air but the Pro is thicker, especially with the keyboard and when compared to the skinny end of the Air. This affinity really begs the question of functionality / purpose. Is the size indeed to market it to artists / creative types, giving them the biggest e-canvas that is feasible? Or does the size (and the ubiquitous, almost inevitable, nature of the keyboard) suggest that it can and should replace my laptop? (And, of course, I realize, that plenty of laptop substitution experiments have been done with previous, smaller, iPads.) My goal will be to ascertain its functionality as a laptop-substitute / potential 1:1 device.
  • The keyboard. The Pro I have has the Logitech keyboard (as opposed to the Apple keyboard).  Can tell you already that I am not impressed with the keyboard. ‘S ally in terms of biting up my ting and has done something phantom overs (repeated spacing or design). [From ‘Can tell’ to ‘design’ was typed straight through with no correcting on my part. The mistakes are a combination of the laggy keyboard (compounded by fast typing?) and a capricious yet automatic auto-correct. What it’s supposed to say: I can tell you already that I am not impressed with the keyboard. It’s laggy in terms of keeping up with my typing and has done some phantom moves (repeated spacing or deleting).] If I can’t type quickly and reliably (which, at least as of now, I can’t), there’s no point in even trying to assess it as a laptop substitute.
  • The case / enclosure (and a footnote to the keyboard: it auto-corrects slashes to apostrophes (for some unknown reason)). An advantage the Logitech keyboard has over the Apple keyboard is that it provides a full enclosure, including the back, while the Apple keyboard provides coverage only on the front (similar to a very elaborate Smart Cover). My only potential criticism here is that the case is almost too seamless, i.e. I have trouble figuring out which side opens and which half is the iPad and which is the keyboard. (Minor, I realize, one to which I likely will become accustomed or is idiosyncratic to me.)

Beyond those, I’ve not used the iPad itself much. I’ll keep you updated as I use it more.

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