We spend way too much time trying to be normal.

David Salyers, VP at Chic Fil A says,

“Normal can never be amazing.”

The truth is that normal is average. Normal is every day. It is truly not normal to be amazing.

So, from now on I want there to be nothing normal about my life or my classroom or my family or my friendships.

How about you? Who's in for awesome?

Let's stop being normal.

Hat tip to my former student, Carlton Brooks, for this jewel. 

I have been looking at testing the transcription of a podcast. There are services out there that will do it, but I have concerns about accuracy. So, I'm doing it manually this first time to see if people like it (or not).

After some research, I found a service called oTranscribe that is pretty nifty. So, I made a quick tutorial.

What I love about this service is both the time stamps and how it links to the audio file. I can even have my daughter help me on it and share the file with her. When I'm done, I can export it to Google Docs! Awesome!

Teacher Andrew Ward (link to Facebook) always enters class with a hearty “Buenos Dias.” Well, not always but many times. His students secretly filmed him and shared the video with him on the last day.

How do you enter class? Is it exciting? Do the kids know you're glad to be there. Love it!

In this 7 minute video, you'll learn some tips and tricks for organizing files and finding them on a PC. While I'm using Windows 8.1, the system I teach for organizing files is adapted from one Gina Trapani shared in her Lifehacker guide and can be used on any device.

How to Organize Files and Find Them on a PC: Essential Questions

  • How does the computer letter the drives?
  • What does a network drive look like?
  • How can students organize files on a computer so they can find them?
  • How do you copy and move files from one place to another?

I teach this very early in Computer Fundamentals. Many educators and students do not know how to copy, move, organize, and don't have a system for keeping their files organized!

This is from my basics series over on my YouTube channel. Contact me if you have special requests for tutorials. 

Every student should know how to take a screenshot. A screenshot is simply a picture of the screen.

Why do you need to know how to take a screenshot?

  • To get technical support
  • To create new things! (with permission, of course)
  • To share!
  • To document things that happen online for safety reasons  (see below)

Four Ways to Take a Screenshot in Windows

In this tutorial, I cover 4 ways to take a screenshot.

  1. The hotkeys built in with Windows (both the whole screen and just the active window)
  2. Using the Windows Snipping tool
  3. The Screenshot tools built into Microsoft Office
  4. Adding the Snagit Plug in to Chrome

I want my students to understand all four of them. The audio isn't so perfect on this one, but I hope it helps you see what I teach my students.

At the end, I mention the 5 Steps to Online safety that from my book Reinventing Writing. You can download a free poster with these five steps on them to share with your students. 


Tutorial: How to Create Custom Thumbnails for YouTube Videos

We've already learned how to create a custom header for our YouTube channel, now let's learn how to create custom thumbnails.

Why is this important? If you share on YouTube, the thumbnail is important. If someone is looking at your channel on their mobile, all they may see is the thumbnail. You can customize these in Canva.

Below I share some sample thumbnails and 10 tips to make great thumbnails.

This video is the most popular I've ever created amassing tens of thousands of views this year! I reworked the thumbnail. Let's see what happens.

Technology Fear Factor in education is the most popular video I've ever created amassing tens of thousands of views this year! In this thumbnail, I used a custom image to invoke fear. (Click the picture above if you want to watch it.)

10 Top Tips for a Great YouTube Thumbnail

  1. Pick high contrast colors. It should be easy to read even if it is very small. Bright backgrounds stand out.
  2. Use text but not too much. If it is a nonfiction or how-to post, you may want to create a large text title for your post. (On a mobile phone, this may be all the person sees.)
  3. Size it correctly. I use 1280 x 720 but you can also use 1920 x 1080. These are standard sizes for thumbnails. On Canva, just click custom dimensions as I share in the video.

    Thumbnail for exporting

    I use a template but change the color based upon the software.

  4. Add a border. I'm playing with this one, but some experts think that adding a border makes the thumbnail jump out.
  5. Accurate. Your thumbnail must accurately share what is in the content of the video. Be honest if you want to be trusted. Be trusted or be busted. Period.
  6. Use close ups of faces. If you have faces in your video, use a close up. Some experts say the faces should be making eye contact with the viewer. Strong emotions on those faces will also intrigue possible viewers.
  7. Use branding. I'm working on this for my channel next. The little “bug” usually shows in the bottom right corner of your channel and on the thumbnail. You'll see, however that many don't use the bottom right hand on YouTube because sometimes YouTube covers that up with a “watch later” or the time of the video. For now, I've opted just to use my Twitter handle but this will likely change in the future.

    The must use extension for Google Chrome.

    This is the template I used for 2 minute tip videos. I just tweak the settings each time I have a new 2 minute tip video.

  8. Create templates. I use templates for different types of videos. You can see the template for my 2 minute tips and my how-to videos. I use the same fonts on all of them. You'll want to work to get your templates established so you can just tweak the words or graphics. A consistent look is important as it is part of your brand.
  9. Emulate the best. As you're starting, find a couple of YouTube channel experts who you like. Note the things about their thumbnails that you like. Tweak your template until you find something you like and can repeat.
  10. Fix the older videos. I'm working through the videos on my channel to create a consistent look. With 100 videos, it will take some time, but if I want to level up it has to happen.
How to Join a Twitter chat thumbnail

This thumbnail is the cover for a tutorial about how to join a Twitter chat. Many educators have used this to teach how to join and participate without being overwhelmed.

Disclosure: I have written lesson plans for Canva's design school website, however they have not sponsored this post.

Tutorial: How to Add Channel Art on YouTube

YouTube has 1 billion viewers a month who view more than 6 billion hours of video a month. With YouTube available on more devices and televisions than ever, subscriptions are growing three times faster than ever. Schools, businesses and individuals are creating their own channels.

In today's episode, I teach you how to customize your own YouTube channel art using Canva. If you want information on how to use Canva, I suggest viewing their tutorials to learn how. (Canva has a new design school that rocks.)

Disclosure: I have written lesson plans for Canva's design school website, however they have not sponsored this post.

Take several notes and make a table of contents note that links to them all. This is a fast way to organize notebooks, projects, and topics.

For example, when you scan your student rubrics or work samples into Evernote, it is best save them as individual notes. This way you can share the note with an individual student or parent if they have questions. I've found that you can access it faster as well. But what if you want a quick index of all of the rubrics from one assignment?

In today's 2 minute tip, you'll learn to make a table of contents notecard with a click.

Other Uses of a Table of Contents Notecard

  • Create an index of notes on a common topic (used with a tag) – this could be a person, a topic, or a course.
  • Create an index of your journal entries for a particular year so you can quickly go back to a certain date
  • Create an index of your blog posts or other things you've sent to Evernote via ifttt.com

Evernote is a versatile notebook service and one of three I highlight in Reinventing Writing. Of the nine ways writing has been reinvented, the electronic notebook is one of the most important for students and teachers.

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about digital notetaking, you might also want to see: Notetaking Skills for 21st Century Students,  PREPS: 5 Steps for Notetaking Success or buy my book Reinventing Writing

Speak Out: What is your favorite Evernote tip? What would you like to learn in the next 2 minute tip? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

YouScience is an online research-based program to help an individual understand their personal aptitudes and where they overlap with interests.  The College Success Profile generated by the YouScience program works to tackle these common problems:

  • Why should students go to college knowing so little about their talents? Why do we spend so much money to go into one major without doing any real research on a student's likes, dislikes, and talents first?
  • Why do we wait until we're older to find out what we really love?
  • If someone wants to change careers, how can they save time and make sure they will do something they enjoy and can be good at doing?

Do Aptitudes Change Over Time?

According to  co-founder Betsy Wills and the experts at YouScience, at around age 16, our aptitudes are somewhat set (particularly over the next 10 years – they recommend retesting at that time).  What will change, of course, is our interests. They have taken current research and condensed it down into a series of tests to determine your aptitude. Additionally, they survey your interests and help you find their overlap. What I also love is that you're also tested on how you interact with others (think something similar to Myers-Briggs). The result of the YouScience testing (which takes a little over 2 hours) is a 50 page profile about you.

YouScience aptitude test and website

YouScience is a program to help you learn more about yourself. Our seniors here at Westwood are participating in the program this week. We're so excited!

While our students are taking the test, I'm also taking it and my college aged children will be taking it as well. Betsy says that many adults looking to change careers also use their comprehensive system.

I'll be sharing more about my own results and that of my students in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, I thought you might want to tune in as I spent 20 minutes interviewing Betsy. I did this on YouTube so we can see Betsy's screen for ourselves. You'll see some testing information and some results.

Why We're Using YouScience at Westwood: To Help Students Study Themselves

I'm excited, most of all, to help my students (and children) make educated choices about their future. We spend so much time studying subjects, but sometimes the most important subject students should study is themselves!

My school is part of a market research pilot program with YouScience. I am also covering this program on my blog and Twitter as part of our participation agreement.

This Ted-ED video uses Van Gogh's painting “Starry Night” to explain turbulence. Remember that there are lesson plans around these and you can customize lessons for your students if you are using the flipped classroom or in-flipped methods of teaching.

Level up a little bit every day. I challenge you to head over to Ted-Ed and find at least one video you can use with your students. You might be surprised! There are some new anatomy lessons on the liver and lungs and so many other concepts.

If you don't know where to start, visit the Frequently Asked Questions about Creating a Lesson on TED-ED.