Giving Up On Prezi Next

I had a really old Prezi account. I mean REALLY old account. I left my old school and Prezi would not allow me to switch my e-mail address. Even after I had a new educational account, the old address is stuck. For many reasons, none the least of which is the fact that I have no access to my old e-mail account, I really don’t want to use the account attached to my old e-mail. So I created a new account. Unfortunately, even though I was able to copy some old presentations over, they are stuck in Classic mode without the ability to edit them. I can still view them and embed them. My new license only allows for creation of presentations in Next mode. Next is really sleek looking, but a ridiculous amount of features are just gone or hidden. Much of what is readily available seems to be the automatic views that I always had to change in Classic. It took me over an hour just to layer some map images that I wanted to be able to zoom into. I originally tried to set up an image of a map as a background. When I added a picture to it, it seemed to be floating on top and zooming in distorted my view immensely. I finally added the main map as an image and layered the other maps on top of it. I called it a night after that. Then, when I worked on the project again, I came to discover that I can’t simply add a view to my presenting path like I could in Classic. It appears that all this is now handled with the animation tools, but it’s incredibly cumbersome when all I had to do previously was to zoom in and click “add current view to path.” ┬áThe zoom feature is tightly controlled, which means it no longer allows you to zoom in further into a picture. You can only zoom to the picture itself in the size you’ve set it up as. If I add a new topic, I completely lose the images that I’ve meticulously added for clarity. While I can still add images into a topic, I’ve always used the background of Prezi as a palette and scattered my information around in a way that allowed the viewer to meander along a path. The way the topics are now set up, the images below completely disappear and I have to add them back in. I also can’t put in a voiceover which was a welcome addition when it was added to Prezi a few years back. All in all, it was jarring to pick up an old tool and find that it could not do what I needed it to do or at least that the functionality was so different that I could not handle it smoothly. This is really difficult when time is such a precious commodity.

For this project, I am giving up on Prezi Next. I am uncertain of the reasons for such changes. Time restrictions require me to use a tool that I can depend on, not one I need to figure out, get halfway through on, only to discover some limitation that I now need to work around. While I was looking forward to the self-directed nature of Prezi and allowing students to be able to zoom in on a map and get the information they need, it does not appear that Prezi Next can do that without a lot of extra work.

This was a good overview of what to expect if you’re switching from Classic to Next. I may give Next a shot in the future, but right now, I’m simply wasting too much time trying to figure out how to something that I used to be able to do quite easily.

There are tools out there to get you up to speed, but honestly, I’m not going to spend $40 on a course for a free tool.

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Reboot

So it has been five years since I’ve updated this blog. Which is just an indication of how busy life can get. Since then, I spent three years working as a director of instructional technology and I built and ran two online classes. This summer, I quit my day job to redirect my career. However, I offered the opportunity to pick up a new-to-me online class. I had previously taught Latin I and AP Latin online. This year, I’ll be teaching Latin II. Hopefully, working from home will allow me to reflect more and blog more.

Right now, I’m working on finding the time to work consistently, which I knew would be a challenge. Though I’m working from home, I’m not working alone. My four-year is here with me. My goals this week are to finish up the documents for the first week of classes (syllabus, test schedule, etc.) and the first two weeks of content. Thankfully, a lot of the content is done already. I just want to provide a couple more paths for students to learn and use a few different sites. The sites I’ll be exploring this year are:

I have some experience with most of these, but I haven’t really been able to take the time to evaluate them. As I work with each, I’ll post some reviews.

 

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In The Cloud: Google Docs and Haiku LMS

We’re two full weeks into the school year here in the South. Its been time enough to start springing new procedures onto the kids. This year, we’ve integrated Google Apps with our LMS (Haiku). This week I went paperless with my declension charts. I turned a chart into a Google Doc and then shared it with my students as view only. I then showed them how to make a copy of the document so that they can edit it. Haiku provides an online dropbox for assignments and has integrated with Google docs. The students, after declining, submitted their documents. Haiku copied them as pdfs. The students still have access to a blank chart whenever they need it and have the option to print if they’d prefer, but now they have the option to type their answers as well. There’s the added bonus that if their computer is out for repair, they not only have access to the blank charts, but any that they’ve completed and kept. While some students want to write out the declensions, most were pretty happy with the new workflow.

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Embedding Multiple Google Calendars Into A Google Site

Wow, just wow.

I have spent the better part of today working on embedding multiple google calendars into one public, display calendar. Actually, getting the calendars together wasn’t the problem. I got some great advice from tjhouston.com. He has clear explanations and pictures with arrows (always a plus when learning how to do something). The issue was embedding the calendar into a google site AND GETTING IT TO DISPLAY CORRECTLY.

First Attempt:

  • Follow directions to get code for multiple calendars.
  • Open Google site.
  • Click on Edit, then Html.
  • Paste Code

This fails. All of the calendars display, but none of the navigation I selected does. The html refuses to update. So I mess with the widget itself.

Second Attempt:

  • Go back into Edit mode.
  • Click on the calendar.
  • Click on the gear to pull up the widget settings.
  • Add in the options I want from the checklist.

This works for everything but showing the list of calendars. Multiple Google searches later still reveal no help for this. So I decide to try and simply insert the calendar directly from the Insert menu.

Third Attempt:

  • Go into Edit mode.
  • Click on Insert and choose Calendar

This allows you to add one calendar, not multiple ones. In other words, this is a bust. Then I start looking through the different Google Gadgets, since from my extensive Google research on this topic, I ran across something about using the gadgets.

Fourth Attempt:

  • Go into Edit mode.
  • Click on Insert and choose More Gadgets.

Then I noticed that the code I had inserted changed from <iframe src…> to <img src…>. So I decided to look through the other gadgets to see if any of them would help. I tried using the iframe tool (since the html code is iframe). This doesn’t work, in fact nothing shows up from it. I tried the calendar gadget, but this results in embedding all of my personal calendars. Finally, I found the Embed gadget (below the Google Wave gadget, which tells you how often these are updated). This works beautifully. Here’s the workflow:

Final Attempt:

  • Go to Edit mode
  • Choose Insert > More Gadgets
  • Scroll down to the Embed Gadget
  • Paste the code received from Google Calendar
  • Save
  • SUCCESS!

I’m not certain why it isn’t easier for these parts of the the Google empire to talk with each other and really it shouldn’t take half a day to figure this out. I do hope this helps other people out there.

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Roman Marketing

So its the end of the school year. It has been quite a whirlwind. The end of the year for me brings a major Latin project that uses a hefty dose of technology. At the end of Level I every year, we hold a Roman Market. This is a huge, multi-faceted project. The students research products that would be available during the 2nd Century CE. Then they create a commercial in Latin selling their product. The students use Keynote or iMovie for their commercials.

I try to build in a lot of scaffolding for this project. Before the students are allowed to begin filming, they must turn in a script and a storyboard. This leads to a lesson on storyboarding. Pages has a pretty good storyboard template and I think Word does as well. A storyboard is important, especially for middle school students, to organize ideas and help them to gain a clear vision of their commercial.

After the script and storyboard, students get an iMovie tutorial. They get a basic overview of the program’s layout and the main tools they’ll need to use (titles, transitions, photos, music). The students are required to speak in Latin, but use English subtitles.

The final part of the project is to actually run a stall and “sell” their product. The commercials run on a loop during market day and we invite the entire school to come by. I supply “coins” (laminated sestertii) so that the students can shop. Products range from food (authentic recipes) to weapons.

Over the years, the Roman Market has grown wildly successful. The main complaint from the students is that they don’t make any real money.

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Best Intentions

So that weekly update thing turned out really well…

School started this week and with it my year of experimentation. I’m going to try and flip my classroom. When I said this to the kids, I got the usual looks of confusion, which I had to cut off by saying, “No, I’m not super-gluing your desks to the ceiling.” Here’s what I want to do: I want to give students the information piece of class as homework and move the application piece into the classroom.

So that last part was written a week and a half ago. The whirlwind that is the beginning of the school year is truly in full swing. I’m back to 9 and half/10 hour days. So far though, the reverse instruction is going well, when I can do it.

Last week was review week, so this week we’re actually beginning instructions. Reverse instruction for review allowed all the kids to work at their own pace and also let me see how they worked and where they needed more support. It was good, but I don’t want class to turn into worksheet time so I’m working to build in more meaningful activities when I have them. We’ll still have worksheets, but maybe not so many.

This week, I find myself treading water in getting everything posted on time. Generally speaking, I have a video to go along with a concept reading, so even if I post a video late, the student still have a way to get the concept before class the next day. Currently, I’m looking forward to the long weekend to, what else, catch up on work.

This week also ends my online course on blended learning. Its been a busy couple of weeks.

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Its Backwards Design, Charlie Brown!

This must be the year for looking backwards. In preplanning next week, we’ll be having some RBT┬átraining, again (to be fair, the last time was about 5 years ago). The OSG class I’m about to start on blended learning has a strong backwards design component. Did I mention classes start in a week and a half? Just throwing that out there as well.

A few definitions may be in order. Backwards design is simply designing a course with a goal in mind and working backwards. From a theoretical standpoint, it makes perfect sense. Choose your destination, map out how you want to get there. When you’re in the thick of things with multiple preps and grades due, its easily the furthest thing from your mind. Possibly because you’ve had to take detours from your roadmap. We all do it. We plan out our courses for the quarter, semester, or even year. We figure out what content we want to cover, what we want to kids to leave knowing and plot out activities and assessments. But reality is messy, REALLY messy.

Backwards design provides a framework for creating units and meaningful content, but it often frustrates me. I’ve worked with backwards design templates off and on for a few years, the main point of them is to achieve a BIG GOAL. Your takeaway can’t be: Students will understand the Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, and Ablative cases. It needs to be grander, more like: Students will understand the internal logic of language and how it reflects its culture (feel free to use that if it helps any). Often it feels like you put more energy into fitting into this mold than you do actually planning for class, because it forces you to change your perception from “What do I need to get through this year?” to “What do I want my students to remember at the end of this year?” At the same time, you still need to cover the material you need to cover. In backwards design, learning and applying skills facilitate the answering of the big question and so they must be taught as well. In the above example, I still need to teach kids cases in Latin but not teach them simply for the sake of being taught.

I suppose part of the idea is that you do a lot of preparatory work and avoid the “what am I doing in class today?” panic attack. But in the past I’ve found the initial process so cumbersome and frustrating, that I can rarely get to that promised nirvana. Maybe this time will be different.

So I’m a little hesitant as I embark on my backwards journey. I am looking to the ever-nearing future with trepidation and wonder, “When am I going to have time to plan all 6 of my classes AND work on these units AND incorporate the new material I’m learning?” The school year already seems overwhelming, and it hasn’t even begun.

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