Dear Google Photos,
I love you very much. You backup my photos and share them with my teammates, and even make me collages and videos. You are pretty great.
Amy Baker

Why do I love Google Photos? Let me count the ways! There are four specific things I love about Google Photos. And a few things I dislike/tolerate. But that's love, AMIRIGHT?

Love #1: Searching

Playing around with search is very fun on Google Photos. You can search by date, location, face/person, and even pretty generic subjects.

Search for people by name, super accurate after you "name" your faces. Even works on Billie with his constantly changing facial hair.

Search based on a general term, here I searched for "Training".... none of these photos were tagged or described by the way. This is just Google's search engine thinking it knows what training looks like:

One of the searches I use most is the search by date range:

Love #2: Sharing

Google apps are pretty good at sharing and Google Photos is no exception. You can share photos, albums, and even your entire library (with one person anyway). 
Our team has a shared album for team-y photos (mostly of IT GOLDY!!). We all share it and it works the best of any shared photo thing we've tried.
My family uses this functionality too for photos we want to share.

Love #3: Creates Photo Stuff

This part is very fun. Google Photos can create videos, collages, and animated gifs with your photos. It either does this automatically through the Google Photos "Assistant" tab, where it apparently guesses what you might want (!!), and then you can save it permanently or ignore it.

You can also manually put together videos and animations. Here's one that I made in just a few seconds from two photos!

I have noticed that the Google Assistant is much more active on my personal Gmail account, where I have like a bizillion photos. At work, it doesn't do much, I think because I only have a few hundred photos.

Love #4: Automatic Backup

You can set up Google Photos to automatically grab photos from your computer and/or your phone. Then your cloud backup of photos (cloud backup is definitely a must-have!) is all taken care of automatically.
You can even set it to delete the photos off your phone's storage once they are in the Google Photos cloud, as an optional extra step during backup. This is handy if you don't have much space on your phone and is one of Google Photo's main marketing points. I personally don't use this delete function, because I'm super fussy about photo backup and want my photos in 3 places before I delete them. See--super fussy, what did I tell you.
If using your account, you get unlimited photo storage as part of our unlimited storage agreement with Google apps for Education.

Here's a screenshot of how to have it set to backup (Photos calls it "Backup and sync") over wifi only:

Pro tip: I primarily backup to my personal account, since the majority of my photos are not for work. Then I select the work ones and share them with my work account. You set this up however works for you.

Dislike #1: Downloading

You can copy/paste images pretty easily out of Google Photos, but if you need to do anything fancy (like print them, which I still do a lot of) you will need to download them.
Also, to get photos from Google Drive into Google Photos--you're not even going to believe me--you need to download and re-upload. Ugh. seriously.

Dislike #2: Leaving the U

If you leave the U and lose your account, eventually your photos will go poof and you will not be able to access them anymore. The best way around this is, in my limited experience, is to share with whomever needs the photos after you leave (maybe yourself on a different gmail account, maybe your supervisor, etc.), then that person clicks the "add photos to library" button, to make the photos theirs and not 'shared.'
"Add to Library" button:

Another option is to use the Google Takeout tool to download all of your photos, but I have heard that doesn't always work well with thousands of photos and all their meta data. But I haven't tried it myself.


I think Extension could love Google Photos as much as I do. You can share photos with your team and easily search and find them. Have you used it? What questions or experiences have you had?

Quick Bytes Live! Podcast

#25:  Flipgrid and That's All

(recorded January 16, 2018)
Karen, Amy, and Alison talk about Flipgrid and how much we love it and that's all. 
 Links from this episode:

Subscribe via iTunes
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Whether you want to record a PowerPoint presentation or record a simple screen demonstration, we have several tools to choose from. Screen recording allows you to record a video of your entire computer screen, a single desktop window or even a selected part of your screen. Any actions you make (scrolling, clicking, etc) on the screen or within the selected area are recorded. You can also include webcam video as part of your recording. Some tools are better than others, but all will do the job. In this article I will share some of the tools we recommend. If you have others, please share them in the comments below!


I think Screencast-O-Matic is the best tool we have available for screen recording. I wrote a blog post about it but that was before Extension technology purchased a shared “pro” account that allows 10 computers to use it per month. The University of Minnesota is currently piloting Screencast-O-Matic to determine whether it should be added to their portfolio of supported tools. If you want to use the UMN account and provide feedback, you may help influence the decision to make it available University-wide. Otherwise just contact us and we'll share our account information with you.

Features of Screencast-O-Matic: nothing to install; record audio or video or both; scripted recordings; video editor; zoom and draw; capture still images; create captions; import or use stock music; create animated GIF images; save as MP4 video


First of all, I need to share the bad news that Microsoft stopped support for Office Mix which was a really nice add-in for recording presentations in PowerPoint. They are building some of the Office Mix features into the Office 365 version of PowerPoint. Note: Extension does not use Office 365 but it is available to UMN employees for personal use.


Using our shared WeVideo “pro” account, you can create a screen recording in any project. Just select the (red) Record button in your media gallery. You can record from your Webcam or Record your screen (full screen or a window) - you can’t record both but you can use WeVideo to add in video from your camera. When you are done recording, you have access to the wonderful WeVideo editing tools.


Loom is a free Chrome browser extension. The “One-Click Install” button on the Loom Homepage and it will install in your Chrome browser. After it installs, it adds a button on your Chrome toolbar so you can access it at any time, in any window. Loom will record your screen or camera or both as well as audio. Note: If you want to record a PowerPoint presentation with Loom, you can capture your voice and screen but not your camera. The editor is limited to trimming/cutting but most of the time that's all you need to do with your recording. Share the link to your recording or download the video to your computer.

It’s great we have options for creating screen recordings! My favorites are Screencast-O-Matic for recording and WeVideo for editing. What tools are you using for screen capture?
The University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships (RSDP) came to us with a request for support streamlining their work. They wanted to make changes that would support their sustainability mission while responding to the budget decreases currently being felt University-wide. RSDP had identified three needs in particular:
  1. Better on-board work group and board members
  2. More clearly communicate the scope and impact of RSDP’s work
  3. Cut down on the expenses and environmental impact of in-person board meetings without sacrificing the relationship-building that is integral to the work of the boards
To meet these needs, we worked collaboratively to develop a suite of three innovations to support and streamline RSDP board and work group operations with an online orientation, a project storymap, and support for virtual meetings.

Online orientation

RSDP is a complex organization with a breadth and depth of work that is difficult to wrap one's arms around. Additionally, the board members are volunteers with limited time to engage with any online training. Therefore, we decided "byte-sized" information delivered straight to their email would be a great way to gradually on-board new board and work group members. With the email series, members did not need a new platform, there was no log-in required, and the information could be easily saved in their email accounts for future reference. A pilot test was well-received last fall, and after a few revisions has been launched with great support!

One of my favorite parts of this series is the video we created with the Executive Directors to define the responsibilities and value of board and work group members. As one myself, it helped clarify the role and ground me in the work.

Of course, we're also thrilled to include the project storymap in the orientation email series as well!

Project storymap

 RSDP StoryMap screenshot; link to interactive map
Historically, RSDP has created a PDF listing of their projects for the year, with brief descriptions and icons indicating focus areas. This document can be upwards of 20 pages. Anyone who wanted to get a sense of the variety of projects happening across the state would have needed to download and look through this large document.

The new interactive online storymap makes it much easier to communicate the breadth of RSDP’s impact at a glance. It is also more visually appealing, fun to share online, and easier to find projects related to topics and locations of interest making it more likely viewers will come away with a deeper understanding of the Partnerships.

Virtual meetings 

While face-to-face board interactions are critical to the organization, and some business can only be conducted that way, RSDP reached out to us to help each region replace one of their in-person board meetings with a virtual meeting as a cost measure. This is a challenging undertaking for RSDP, with significant diversity in board members' technology access and comfort across the state. To support this move, Karen Matthes created an incredibly helpful "Good Practices" document to for virtual meetings and trained Executive Directors and their support staff on how to use WebEx as a tool for virtual meetings.

I am a member of the Central RSDP board, and we held our first virtual meeting in early January. The best thing we did to prepare was to have a time for the board to connect the week prior via WebEx to make sure we could all get on the platform with working audio, and video whenever possible. It was also an opportunity for us to begin establishing a group comfort with talking together on the platform, as some members have not used this type of technology recently, or at all. Our first meeting went very well; all members came to it with a willingness to learn together, and accept that it may be imperfect at first. Given our January 2017 meeting coincided with a significant snow storm, members were happy to know that for the 2018 winter meeting, they'd be safely off the road and in their warm offices or homes. Additionally, our board has a "snow bird" who was able to join us this winter, on equal footing with everyone else. As we planned our project outreach and prioritization for the coming year, his active participation was exceptionally valuable.

This project was a great collaboration with a variety of colleagues from RSDP (primarily Caryn Mohr and Diane Seefeldt) and Extension Technology (including Karen Matthes and Terri Ebert) pitching in! We're excited to hear how these innovations go as they're implemented and utilized further.

This project was selected through the Extension e-Learning Proposal Process. We work with Extension Educators, Program Staff, and Faculty who offer training or education, like the Turf and Ground Field Day, Equine Demonstrations, the Local Foods College, the Serve it Up Safely Course, and the AIS Detector Core Course. They are ready to expand their reach, make education more accessible, and/or collaborate with colleagues and community members at a distance. If this is you and you’re ready for help, contact us for a consultation or propose a project!

(without launching a new course)

It’s the start of a new year and new plans of work are in the making. How are your e-learning goals shaping up in 2018?

If you could use a boost, you’ve come to the right place. I’m here to tell you, you don’t need to work as hard as you might think to refresh your programs with some e-learning strategies. Your curriculum, websites, YouTube channels, newsletters, and blogs are FULL of brilliance. Now’s the time to get that brilliance noticed by more of your potential audience. Before you start anything from scratch, consider these five ways to work smarter, not harder, in e-learning.

1. Illustrate your old handouts with web-friendly (and shareable) GIFs, infographics, and videos

When is the last time you used a text document to learn a new exercise? Forget the PDF and the printer. GIFs, infographics, and videos, in many cases, are much easier to learn from than text on a page. And you’d be surprised how easily they can be created.


2. Incentivize newsletter sign-ups with an e-book of your top blog posts

In Extension Technology, two of our most popular posts are about WebEx. So perhaps if we want more people to sign up to get the blog straight to their inbox, we could offer a PDF “e-book” re-purposing our WebEx tips and tricks to anyone who subscribes via email. 

3. Make it easier to connect

Repackage your online articles and checklists (like those on coping with stress) into a series of text messages or emails that community members can be encouraged to opt into (when seeking help after a flood at a resource center, for example). You can have ready-to-customize and send press release templates to make the outreach even more timely in times of need.

4. Bring in contributors and guest experts

Did you know you’re not expected to be an expert in everything? Well, it’s true! Breathe a sigh of relief, dig out that stack of business cards, and connect with colleagues in other centers and other organizations. Bringing in contributors and guest posters doesn’t just share valuable expertise with your audience, it also provides an opportunity to connect the guest expert’s audience with the rest of your content and programs. If a colleague writes an article or joins you on your podcast, that person is likely to share the link out to their own online network.

Step a bit further out of the box and consider collaborating with a participant on a post. As in surveys and focus groups, hearing directly from those impacted by issues and programs can make an incredible impact. A 4-H youth, Community Leadership alum, or Regional Sustainable Development Partnership project partner can offer a fresh lens through which you and your audience learn something new.

5. Make your work easy to find and share

Authentically use the keywords your audience will be searching for. Put your target keyword at the beginning of your title, toward the beginning of your first sentence, and in image alt text. And don’t forget to add tags to your posts. Admit it; we all turn to Google. If you want your Cottage Food Producer training to show up on the first page of results when someone asks Google “how to sell jelly at a farmers’ market,” be sure you have your content search-engine ready!

Here's a short check-list to give your findability a boost:
  • Have a good Page title - both in metadata (55 characters) and on the page; note: they don’t have to be exactly the same.
    • The meta title is what shows up as the link in the search engine
  • Include a concise (~150 characters) meta description that uses key terms that a user might search 
  • General page writing for the web
    • Use plain English 
      • Don’t get caught-up in Extension-only language like program names
      • Think about how your neighbor might Google your content and if you don’t know, ASK THEM!
    • Re-Use words from the meta title and description in the content; this boosts your page in search engines.

Did this post spark any ideas for you?

Let us know how you plan to update your program’s e-learning by posting a comment below.
Extension Hardware: consults, loaners and laptops!
This week our Extension Technology 30-min lunchtime webinar was all about hardware! You probably know that Extension Technology has several service offerings around consulting and collaboration on video and course creation, we do training and even help with event planning and scheduling. But did you know we also offer consultations on hardware? 

Hardware Consultations

Some of the more recent consultations have been on items like the Logi (Logitech) Spotlight.  This is not just your ordinary laser pointer! If you do a lot of presentations, it’s definitely worth checking it out. There are three different ways to focus your audience’s attention!
  1. Highlight: darken the screen except for a circle around the mouse pointer
  2. Magnify: magnify the area of the screen around the pointer  
  3. Circle: draw a white circle around the pointer. These features are really helpful in drawing the eye to what you want people to look at. 
Additional details:
  • Cost $99 - $130 - Best Buy has them at a pretty cheap price right now!
  • It’s the size of a reading glasses case and fits well in your hand
  • Fast 1-2 min charge for 3 hrs use - no more batteries
  • Works as a mouse to open windows or play videos
  • Has a built in feature timer with end of time warning 
We added a Logi Spotlight to our loaner pool as a “try and buy” since it requires downloading the software to use all the features. For those of you who doing presentations on large screens or in bright rooms this is a perfect addition to your toolkit. Send an email to to give it a try!


Meeting Room Cameras: Depending on the need we have outfitted our meeting room with either an above the monitor Logitech C920 Webcam or a Logitech BCC920 Conference camera. Both of these models are HD, have great optics and range from $50-$225.

Desktops/Personal PC’s: We recommend the Logitech C270. This model replaces the older models that you might have purchased 7 or more years ago. This camera is not HD quality but some people like that for the close proximity of this camera sitting on your monitor and they have been @ $25. If people are having audio or image issues with the new Google Meet, this camera should take care of it!

Meeting Owl

Recently we tested out a Meeting Owl from OwlLabs. We had one during Program Conference and were able to show it off at our Quick Bytes session. We held several online meetings in various rooms to test it’s range and viability. In the end we decided to purchase one for $800 and add it to the Coffey Hall 401 conference room.
Meeting Owl Camera
This camera is an all-in-one unit that utilizes a HD 360 degree camera, 8 microphones with a 12 radius range and a 360 degree speaker.

It captures a panoramic view of the room and puts it into a ribbon at the top of your screen while still focusing on up to 3 people in the room (at a time). It will automatically shift its focus to the active talkers.

Due to room layout and typical use, this wasn’t a good fit for most of our conference rooms but in the in Coffey Hall’s 401 conference room it made sense.


Although we haven’t invested in event size speakers or a PA system for the loaner pool we have worked with many individuals to find the right product for their needs. Everything from the bluetooth speakers like the UE-Boom2 at $135-$200 to the Jabra 410 USB speaker starting at $70. Although we might offer event speakers in the future right now we have not invested in them.
Jabra 410 USB

Loaner Equipment

We have a wide variety of equipment available for loan to both campus-based and outstate Extension staff. We manage these requests through an email request to and we will let you know what is available. Our current list of loaner equipment and calendar can be found on the Extension Intranet under Technology.

Our most requested item used to be projectors, but 2 years ago we started offering an iPad video kit that includes everything you need to capture interviews and close up action videos, and these kits have now dethroned projectors to become our most popular item. Our current kits include the new Gen 4 iPad mini, a tripod and mounts, wired and wireless microphones and a handy backpack carrying case. Currently we only have 2 of the new iPad kits and 1 half kit that does not have an iPad in it, although we have had to add the older Gen 2 iPad mini to keep up with demand!

We also offer a wide variety of other small and larger items that you might find interesting! Do you need a green screen or lighting kit? Do you need a printer for an event? We also have a small number of iPads that can be used with Qualtrics offline to collect survey information!

New Hardware (Latitude 7480) Laptops

New Docking Station/Peripheral Hub
The last thing I wanted to cover is the new laptop configurations and adapters. In June of 2017 Dell stopped offering the Latitude E series laptops. We had this series of laptop for almost 10 years and it allowed us to reuse the docking stations and adapters. When the new 7480 model came out it didn’t have a docking solution but went for more of a peripheral hub. These new hubs did all the function of the docking station but were smaller and more flexible for tight working areas. Instead of docking your laptop, you’ll plug in one USB-C cable when returning to your desk. With any new configuration or device comes some sort of problems. In this case, it was the bitlocker encryption key. From what we have heard from our zone support this problem is now taken care of but until recently it was the major frustration with the new laptops. If you are still encountering this issue be sure to send an email to and they will work with you directly.

Dell Laptop
The new laptops have better processors and more memory than any model before. That paired with a Solid State hard Drive we are hoping to get more life out of them, even after they come off warranty. With this new model of laptop we also left behind the Windows 7 operating system. Windows 7 is almost at the end of its life, and the new processor will not run the old Windows 7 architecture. In an effort to reduce weight, Dell is removing ports and drives; this new model doesn’t have a DVD drive or VGA port. We offer the optional USB DVD Drive and HDMI to VGA adapter you can request when you are up for refresh. The computer refresh list can be found on the Extension Intranet under Technology.

HDMI to VGA Cable
A tip to having a good experience with your new laptop is to test your presentations and connections before you need it! We found out that the new HDMI adapters by default take over the sound output and don’t actually put out any sound! This happens in Google Meet, WebEx and when trying to play videos or YouTube. We have heard of this happening while docked or when using the adapter to project. To fix this you can click on your speaker icon in your notification area and choose a sound output options other than HDMI, these settings are also available in the settings of most applications.

Care in cold weather:

Since it is that time of the year and we just went through the 2nd coldest holiday week on record, it only makes sense that I repeat my cold weather warning! If you leave water in your car and it forms ice then it’s too cold for your laptop to remain outside. The long term damage that could be caused by the freezing weather is usually not covered under warranty and might be charged to your program. If you do leave your laptop out in the cold the best suggestion we have is to let it “warm up” or acclimate to the room temperature for 30 min or so outside the carrying case before plugging it in or turning it on. This should reduce the condensation on the system and allow the LCD time to thaw before electricity is pumped through it!

Please let us know if you have any suggestions for consulting, recommendations for our loaner pool or problems with your new hardware. We want to make sure you have the right tools for your needs and feel confident using them!

This article was written by Billie Wilson,
Last week I showed Flipgrid during our Extension Technology 30-min lunchtime webinar. It was one of the topics at program conference in our Quick Bytes roundtable session. Flipgrid is a a great tool for capturing participant thinking and learning through video. It allows you to post a topic and have participants respond with video that is instantly uploaded to one location. If you have never used or seen a flipgrid, check out the Humans of Extension as an example of how it can be used for engagement.

One Extension group is using Flipgrid and a Google Site instead of Moodle for their participants. Course information is hosted on their Google Site and they use Flipgrid for interaction. Each month they pose a new question in Flipgrid and the participants engage with each other using the video tool.

Flipgrid features

Flipgrid is available at no charge to U of MN faculty and staff. Free UMN account signup. Participants do not need an account and can be external to the U of MN. It's been around since 2012 and they keep improving the interface and adding new features such as closed captioning and embedding YouTube or Vimeo videos. You can also add images and documents to make topics more engaging. Instructors have a dashboard with a summary of all your grids and a graph showing engagement activity. Participants can view their script/sticky notes and pause the video while recording their response. They can also flip the camera to show props, attach a document and respond and react to other participant videos.

Create a grid

A grid is like your classroom where you will add one or more topics/discussions.

Grid Details include the grid name and purpose. Create a custom code (URL) or one is created for you.

screenshot of creating a grid

Security and Privacy includes the option to add a password and manage participant email notifications, sharing and downloads.

Features allow you to manage instructor notifications, activate/inactivate your grid and enable closed captions. NOTE: closed captions by default are not enabled

Customize your grid header with your own image or use one of theirs.

Add topics

Topics are the questions your participants will respond to. You can include one or more topics in your grid. You could create several topics and enable them as you wish.

Topic Details include the title (or question or prompt) and description. Select your preferred video response time and enable response moderation.

Topic Status allows you to make your topic active/inactive or frozen (view only).

Topic Resources is where you can record or upload a video, add a video from YouTube or Vimeo, upload an image, add a Giphy or Emoji.

Topic Attachment allows you to include a link to a document

Select Response Features such as selfie stickers and drawings, emoji/likes responses, links and allow participants replies to a response.

Choose basic or custom feedback options

Share a topic or grid

You can share individual topics or an entire grid with your participants. If you share an entire grid, only the active topics will display to participants

Share a grid or topic with URL or QR Code or embed your grid or topic on a website.

Participant view of a grid with several topics:

We’d love to hear how you have used or could use Flipgrid in your Extension work. Please share in the comments below.