Google Voice. If you've noticed that people don't typically answer blocked calls (what caller ID says when you use *67), and you'd like to have a unique phone number for calling or texting parents, then using Google Voice from a personal devise may be the perfect solution. It's free, and it's easy to use. Click here for a 12 minute video created by Tech4Teachers that walks you through creating a Google Voice account. Links to install Google Voice are here for Android and for iPhone.
*Tech Tip from Amy McCorkle: If you copy and paste into 20+ text messages in a relatively short period of time, the Google Voice algorithm may flag you as potential spam; if this happens, you can message them and a real human will review the issue. Don't worry, you're not spam, but it may take up to 24 hours to resolve the issue.
ScreenCastify. (Thanks to FWCS and Rick Herber for extending access through May 31!)
ScreenCastify is an extension for Chrome that lets you record lessons, comment on student work, and even receive verbal student feedback. Contact your school's tech coordinator or call the FWCS Help Desk (467-HELP) to get the coupon code necessary for continued free access. To find out more about ScreenCastify click here.
Tips for Safe Zooming. Zoom can be a great way to connect with your students, but, unfortunately, there are "Zoom bombers" out there (pranksters and worse) who make it necessary to take some basic precautions when using Zoom to hold virtual classes--especially since it isn't always easy to recognize student screen names when they are logging in from various personal devices.
1) Be careful where you post meeting information, and consider using a unique ID and password for each meeting instead of the PMI (Personal Meeting ID) that stays the same for you over a series of meetings. When you schedule a meeting, you have the option of using your PMI ("Generate Automatically") or a unique code ("Personal Meeting ID"). You also have the ability to set your own password which adds another layer of security.
2) Make sure screen sharing is only available to you, the host. You can enable this in your Zoom settings prior to the meeting, or you can use the Security button to change this setting during a meeting (you can also check the up-facing carrot next to "Share Screen" and go to "Advanced Sharing Options" to select host-only sharing).
3) Disable the annotation feature that allows participants to make comments when you've shared your screen or an image. While that certainly puts a crimp in potential collaboration, it also prevents rude comments or drawings from interrupting your session. You can disable the annotation feature in the "Meeting (Basics)" section of your account.
4) Lock a meeting once it has started. That will prevent late students from joining the meeting, but it also prevents anyone else from getting in after you take attendance or otherwise establish that you don't have any unwanted guests. At the bottom of the screen, click "Participants" and then choose "More," and "Lock Meeting."
If a Zoom crasher does manage to interrupt your meeting, immediately let your principal know, and make sure that district security and the technology department are also informed about the incident.