Thursday, March 31, 2016

Symbaloo Lesson Plans? Yes, Please!

I have been a SymbalooEDU user for several years now.  My default home page is a personal Symbaloo webmix that contains 140 of my favorite web links.  I became a user about the time that Google phased out the iGoogle tool and I needed something to speed up the process of getting to my commonly used sites.  Wait, I should make sure that I am not getting ahead of myself.  You are familiar with Symbaloo, right?

Symbaloo is an amazing bookmarking tool that allows you to create personalized tabs called webmixes on a custom page that is exclusively yours.  These webmixes can be populated with bookmarks to you favorite sites.  However, these book marks are added in the form of tiles that you can add from the vast Symbaloo library or create your own.

Check out this webmix that I created of various Educational Technology related sites-

As you can see, the webmix is packed with great resources, but even when embedded like this, users can still scroll around the webmix and it is fully functional.

This makes Symbaloo a perfect tool for teachers.  You can collect the resources that you want students to access and share the webmix by embedding it on your blog or class website.  Point the kids to that page and off they go. . . with guidance from you!

But Symbaloo wasn't happy with just that.  During their weekly #symchat on Twitter, I learned about a new feature they are rolling out. (Side note- if you haven't tried the Participate Chat tool from Participate Learning, you need to give it a try.  It makes following Twitter chats so much more rewarding!)

The new feature is a Lesson Planner builder around Symbaloo!  It is amazing.  You can create a lesson that can then be shared with students.  Students start at the beginning and work their way through the lesson that you built.  Want them to watch a video?  Add it to a tile.  Need them to visit a particular document on the National Archives site?  Add it to a tile.  As the students open a tile, the resource is presented to them.  Videos will play. Web articles will display.  You can even add formative assessment questions that students must answer.  A "Continue" button takes students to the next tile, which will launch automatically.  Because you design the path that students will follow, it is much less likely for students to get off track.

Tiles can lead to text that you input, a website, an online video, an online article or another Symbaloo webmix.  You can even add math problems with the built in formula builder or embed content from any other web-based tool that provides the appropriate HTML coding!  This makes the possibilities almost endless! Each of these tile options allows for assessment questions to be added and several question types are available.

Right now, the Lesson Planner is in beta and there are a few things I hope the Symbaloo team can add before the product is officially released.  For instance, it is a planning tool so I might not completely have all of my ducks, err, tiles, in a row when I begin.  I would love to be able to drag and drop completed tiles to reorder them or make room for a step I forgot.  Also, how about branching based on the answer to a question?  Can you say "choose your own adventure" lesson?

There is a nice little calendar icon on the lesson plan builder page.  Clicking on it brings up a message informing me that there are no assignments yet.  What the what?  Assignments?  How do I create them?  Are you teasing a new feature, Symbaloo?  Come on, let us at it!

I am working on putting my first lesson into the planner and so far, I really like how it works.  It does take a little re-thinking because you need to realize that whatever you include is something the kids will definitely see.  There are no hidden tiles (wait, feature request!).

As I continue to perfect my first Symbaloo Lesson Plan, check out this great example from Symbaloo PD Pro Sylvia Buller.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Explain Everything

Explain Everything has long been an incredible app for screen casting websites on iOS.  If you wanted to create a video of how to do something using an iPad, EE was the way to go.  You have been able to insert pictures or websites and the app would record the screen and your voice while you annotated on top of the content.  Recent updates added the same annotation capabilities on top of video.  Now you can further explain what is happening in that YouTube video by drawing directly on the video.

This is of course in addition to the wonderful whiteboard features of Explain Everything. This app has always allowed you to start with a blank canvas and draw on the whiteboard while simultaneously recording your audio. This made it for a great tool to quickly and easily create how to videos so that you could, well, explain everything.

Explain everything is particularly useful in creating demonstration videos. You can use the built-in video recorder to record an experiment, for instance, and then annotate on top of the video you just created. Of course this also plies to still pictures that can be taken with the camera as well.

Beginning late last year, the Explain Everything team took the app to the next level. As it had previously existed Explain Everything became Explain Everything Interactive and a new app was launched that is known as Explain Everything Collaborative. And it should be no surprise that this version adds real time collaboration.  It even works across platforms. The app is available for iOS as well as Android and Chrome book. There is even a version for Windows!  Along with this update to the app comes a new web based Explain Everything Discover portal that allows you to upload your creations to either public or private folders as well as download content created by other users.

All of these changes bring about a new pricing model for the app. Explain Everything now works on a subscription model. There is a free version however it only allows you to view collaborative sessions. In the Premium version, the collaboration features are available and you revive 2 GB of content storage.  The Premium account is a $4.99 per month subscription.  However, Explain Everything offers a EDU group account that provides all of the Premium features for up to 30 users and 5GB of content storage.  Additionally, the licenses for these users can be centrally controlled including revoking and reassigning the licenses.  All of this for just $7.99 a month.  Both of the premium options allow for annual billing with the equivalent of two free months.

You can start with the free version which includes the premium features for 30 days to let you decide, but since the EDU Group account could be used for an entire school or even just a group of teacher friends, I suspect that this will be the way most of you will go.  Think about it, you and two friends could split the annual $80 subscription at roughly $27 each.  You would each get an account for yourself and nine accounts for classroom iPads!

By the way, if you are happy with the features of Explain Everything Interactive (without the collaboration features) grab it now because they will be raising the price beginning April 15th.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

March Apple Event Preview

Tomorrow, Apple will host a media event that is expected to focus on the release of an updated, yet smaller iPhone line, rumored to be called the iPhone SE, and a smaller version of the recently released iPad Pro.  While both of these releases are certain to cause a buzz in the mainstream tech media, they would have little impact on the education market.  iPhones traditionally are not part of the classroom purchases made be schools and the iPad Pro, especially in its very large 13" form factor, has had little adoption in education.  While a smaller iPad Pro might bring the price point down to affordability for some schools, the iPad Pro line is still that, primarily a pro device.  The benefits of the Apple Pencil for drawing would be of particular use only in a few education niches and likely will have only a small impact.

However, there is an outside change that the Apple software team will spend a little time during the announcement to cover in a bit more detail some of the interesting education features of the previously announced iOS 9.3.  Released as a beta several weeks ago, 9.3 includes some much needed features exclusive to education and hopefully these will be more fully addressed tomorrow.

Two features really stand out.  First, Apple is releasing a new Classroom app that will allow teachers to see what each student is doing by viewing their screen.  Additionally, teachers will be able to launch apps and lock the devices into that app remotely.  Could this rival Nearpod and other similar apps?  We will have to wait and see, but it is always interesting to see how Apple incorporates new features directly into the software.

The second highly anticipated features relate more to device management.  Apple has long provided a device management system known as Apple Configurator but its limits quickly became obvious and third party Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions quickly overtook it, but they are limited by what Apple allows.  Now Apple is introducing Apple School Manager, a one-stop device and course deployment system.. ASM allows admins to management Apple logins, deploy iPads, install apps and even build courses all from one system.  This app alone to end the hassle of iPad deployments for technology administrators and could further spread iPads into schools.

I'll be watching the Live Feed and will post a complete wrap up of all of the education related news tomorrow!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The podcast show title will be. . .

Just over a week ago I announced plans to launch a podcast this summer that would focus on helping Instructional Technology Coaches and the teachers they serve to stay abreast of the latest happening in educational technology.  The goal is to provide useful information related to technology news, the latest apps and software updates and tips for integrating technology effectively in the classroom.

I have been working on the format, the show features, and, of course, the show title.  So, here it is- the podcast will be titled "Today's Tech Coach." Take a look at the cover art below!

As I discussed in the original post, the show will begin as an audio only podcast with an occasional video post to my YouTube channel.  You may have also noticed the "& friends" listed along with The Big Tech Coach.  I have already begun contacting EdTech leaders that I have met and worked with in the past and hope to have them join me from time to time.

I am still looking toward a June launch, possibly to coincide with the Alabama Educational Technology Conference, and have even started the process of sketching out some plans for various features that I hope to include.  The show will include instructional coaching strategies in the Coaches' Corner, app reviews and updates in Appoholics Anonymous and EdTech news in the News and Notes feature. If you have suggestions for additional features, I'd love to hear them. Just add a comment below, shoot an email to or call the Today's Tech Coach voice line at 334-595-9092.

Monday, March 7, 2016

EdCamp Florence, Alabama

This past Saturday I attended EdCampFlorence, which makes the fifth EdCamp I have been too.  It was a great event, especially since it was the first one for Florence.  I was especially fortunate since my fiancee was able to attend as well.  Since she is an instructional technology coach, the conversations about what we saw and how it might be useful in the classroom are always beneficial.  This is particularly important since she specializes in elementary, which is a great contrast to my secondary mindset.

The event had over 180 educators in attendance and took place in an incredible facility.  I thought it might be a good day when right off the bat I snagged a door prize which was a collection of three educational books.  One, Stephen Covey's The Leader in Me, was already in my personal library so I'll pay it forward and give that away at EdCampMontgomery next month.

I stepped up to facilitate sessions on Participate Learning's (www.participate.comParticipate Chats feature as well as an intro to Symbaloo ( Additionally, I highlighted Symbaloo's new Lesson Plan feature in the App Smackdown.

I sat in on a great presentation on Google Chrome Extensions and a MakerSpace session that was quite informative. (Note, I still need a lot of practice flying the Parrot Mini Drone.  I didn't exactly crash it but it didn't really land under my control either.)

As the day continued, I ran in to many friends and colleagues including two of my graduate students from Auburn University Montgomery.  Since all of my adjunct work for AUM has been online, this was our first real meeting.

As with most EdCamps, the day concludes with several door prize giveaways.  As readers will remember, I have been busy securing door prize donations for EdCampMontgomery.  The great folks at Ipevo had provided several items, including a Ziggi HD Plus document camera that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago.  Ever since that review, I have been trying to come up with a real reason why I needed to buy one for myself.  So, when I saw that EdCampFlorence had also been provided with some Ipevo gear I put most of my chances into that bucket.  But for good measure, I threw some at a chance for a Swivl robotic camera stand and a package from Marzano Research.

Of those items, the Marzano Package came up first.  Well, what do you know, my ticket came up!  A T-shirt and collection of two books.  The Art and Science of Teaching had already been in my wish list, but Managing the Inner World of Teaching has only been out about six months.

Next up were the Ipevo items.  I knew that Ipevo had sent four of their Wireless Interactive White Boards as well as a couple of the Ziggi document camera models.  I had put quite a few chances in but fully expected not to win, or to win one of the white boards which would be of little use for me.  How thrilled I was when my name was pulled first!  They had grabbed a Ziggi VZ-1 HD, a great USB and VGA model document camera to hand me but, I'll be honest, I gently asked for the Ziggi HD Plus that was still sitting on the table.

I was checking out the Ziggi and flipping through the Marzano books when I heard my name again! "What? I won a Swivl too!"  Well, okay, I'll certainly put that to use!  In fact, I have already recorded the unboxing and I'll have a video review of it here on the blog by weeks end.

While there certainly is some luck involved, I do want to share with all EdCampers and few secrets about door prizes.  EdCamps are about getting involved.  Everyone gets a few tickets; the EdCamp staff is normally encouraged to be generous, but that also means that extra tickets are given out to presenters and facilitators, as well as participants that ask questions or add to the conversation in a session.  So, don't be shy, speak up.  Lead a session.  Ask a question.  Share some knowledge.  Maybe, just maybe, you'll walk away from an EdCamp with some new toys!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The BigTechCoach Podcast is coming Summer, 2016!

Hello everyone!
I hope that you have been enjoying the BigTechCoach Blog over at  I know I have and I love that it is starting to get a regular number of views with each post.  I just wanted you to know that I plan to add audio and video in the form of a bi-weekly podcast starting in time for Summer, 2016.
The podcast will feature educational Technology news items, tips and tricks, app and product reviews, special guests, and, of course, commentary.  My current plan features a show twice a month with special edition events when necessary.  With a nod to"Buzz Out Loud" the BigTechCoach podcast will be a "podcast of indeterminate length."
I plan to keep you in the loop on the show's development and I would love to hear you thoughts and ideas.  The show will begin as primarily an audio podcast but I plan to add video at some point.  Do you have a preference?  Would you prefer audio, video, or both?  Are there any particular features you would like to see?  Let me know by leaving a comment! 

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Patrick Breitenbach