Creating your own classroom Khan Academy

How to set up and use a USB camera for collaborative student work.

I have been been referring parents and students to sites like Khan Academy and resource sites for years to assist them in reviewing or learning content associated with their classroom lessons.  I have now been encouraging teachers to create their own content and version of Khan Academy and store it in the cloud for parents and students to access.  I have found that if students create and view videos of students they know or of videos they are in, they are far more likely to watch it multiple times and share it with family as an enjoyable experience along with supporting learning at home.

Having students create videos of their work in class station rotations that demonstrates their understanding and then shares it with their peers is a great way to access higher orders of thinking. In this model students would create videos using simple Chrome OS tools and then can collectively comment and amend understandings while providing feedback to students. To do this you will need any USB web camera or a Chromebook with a camera. Have the students access the Chrome Application/Extension Screencastify to save the video to their Google Cloud Drive. The teacher would then make the video available to students to comment on using VideoNotes. Creating videos is also a great way to memorialize a student’s thinking process for complex equations to be able to easily identify any misconceptions and also provides for creating student created video libraries if well done for all students to access. Use Videostream and Chromecast to easily project your student videos onto your classroom Digital Whiteboard.

Linked are two of the cameras that I use to capture student and teacher interactions as an administrator.  The LifeCam seems to produce a higher definition image/sound and can be mounded on a standard camera mount where the HUE offers greater versatility in the classroom inclusive of being used as an inexpensive document camera on a self supporting stand and is Mac friendly.  Both are great cameras.

Google now owns Word Lens – Visual Translator

When I came across Word Lens at the beginning of the school year, I was immediately impressed.  It was incredible how the software on my i-Phone worked and even with printed handwriting.  Once, while trying to communicate with a Spanish speaking parent, I couldn’t get the message through.  Using the Word Lens app and Post-It Note, communication was accomplished!  I have really thought about this tool since that day and wondered how English Language Learners (ELL) could benefit from this technology.  Predicting that this acquisition was a key move on Google’s part to incorporate it fully into the Glass platform, it will be some time before Glass devices are affordable to schools.  Hoping that  Google’s  “Do no harm” mantra will continue, this app may find its way into the Google Apps for Education within Chrome and could be a staple on the millions of Chromebooks in schools for the 14-15 school year.


In order for students to use the translator, there needs to be a solution around the usefulness of the camera.  In its current state, students would have to hold up the text or book and read over it while viewing the computer screen.


A work around would be to utilize a light, portable, durable USB document camera that would sit to the side of the Chromebook and translate text in real time making books, directions, vocabulary accessible to the emerging language learner.

The best part?  If you have an Android or iOS device, the App is currently free as are all the language packs which are usually priced at $3 each.  I guess it’s time to put those aging i-Phones to good use.

Word Lens

Google Oppia LMS a Repackaged Forms?

Google Oppia offers a “create your own path” assessment LMS that may be easier to use than Google Forms but does not offer that much more architecturally at this stage.  I do however applaud G-Dom for continuing to make strides to address educational needs.

Student Academic Awareness (SAA): How will you see your students in a few years?

Google Glass Student TrackingI have been watching the deployment of Google Glass with much trepidation and wonder how society will receive the ultimate Big Brother on my face.  Will people not speak with me until I remove the Heads-Up Display that I wear like a fighter pilot careening around the corners of my school halls once the novelty wears off?  I don’t think the real value of what they have to offer will be fully realized by showing student perspectives on classes or making first person experiments come to life because, really, we already had this ability. Rather, it will be the infinite data that will present to a teacher as they differentiate, adjust instruction in real time and work with students using data that simply  loads by looking at a student’s scan sheet and providing instantaneous feedback.  Realizing that hurdles will have to be overcome with the current (as of my last understandings) limitations of facial recognition software being released, the possibilities for Student Academic Awareness (SAA) are limitless.  As an administrator, the benefit of interacting with students and being able to coach them using relevant, in the present, data would be invaluable.  Even more so, the software suite that measures the statistical probability of being told the truth when trying to find out who wrote all those nice things about me in the bathroom.

Using Google Forms to Track and Change Student Behavior

GF Data Digital Point Sheet I have long lived in the paper world using point sheets that migrate from class to class gathering student feedback on behavior, attitude, work completion and their ability to carry a piece of paper around with them all day.  The end result is usually something that you might find at the bottom of a student’s locker at the end of the year with remnants of lunch, attempts to adjust scores-trying to find the correct pen to turn the 1 into a 4 and the soiled corners of a loved book. All this effort to then digitize the document to send to the parent for ongoing conversation for improvement at home.

I have toyed with the idea of whether it would be beneficial to manage much of this data online and had looked at several solutions such as creating a PDF document that the teacher would fill out each day on their computers and email the results. Recently, I have created the same format but with the ease of using Google Forms.  In doing this, the teachers keep the link on their desktops and opens it daily to complete the form for the day.  Unlike other methods, the teachers receive immediate feedback as to how the student is progressing as the form launches the graphic representation of the historical data to date.  This is invaluable not only to the teachers to continue to motivate them to support the behavioral efforts but also to the parent who can access the data in real time. It will allow parents and students to see their progress thus increasing the likelihood of changing behavior which is really the point of all this, right?