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Thursday, August 25, 2016

5 Tools to Help Keep Your Students and Yourself Active & Healthy

The new school year always feels like a new calendar year to me as many students and teachers have "resolutions" for the new school year. If one of your resolutions for the new school year is to keep yourself or your students active and healthy, the following free resources are for you.

GoNoodle is a free service that is designed to promote physical fitness in a fun environment. GoNoodle features tons of free videos that lead students in short, 2-5 minutes, exercises. These are fun exercises like dancing that can be done in your classroom or at home with parents. GoNoodle provides an online environment in which students track the minutes that they spend exercising. Students choose avatars to represent themselves in the GoNoodle environment. New avatars are available once a student completes enough activity time to reach a new level.

Sworkit Kids is a similar app (Android versioniOS version) that will also help you get your students moving for short exercise breaks. Sworkit Kids doesn't have animated videos like GoNoodle does. Sworkit Kids simply features short video demonstrations of a movement like diagonal hopping accompanied by a countdown timer.

One of the simple improvements that I made to my diet a couple of years ago was cutting out sugar from my morning coffee (I never used cream). The CDC's Rethink Your Drink helped me understand how many extra calories I was taking in through sugar. Rethink Your Drink provides a chart of sugar content and calories found in popular beverages. The PDF also contains a chart of suggested alternatives to drinking sugary beverages. In addition to the charts Rethink Your Drink provides suggestions on ways to cut sugar calories safely while not sacrificing nutrients.

Space Chef is a free iPad app from the Lawrence Hall of Science. The purpose of the app is to introduce students to healthy foods and recipes that they may not have ever tried or even heard about. Space Chef features a fast-paced game in which students have to quickly grab the ingredients for a recipe. The ingredients scroll past them in three streams or flight paths. Students are shown a recipe at the top of the screen and they must grab the appropriate ingredients as they stream across the screen.

Arthur Family Health is a free resource from PBS Kids. Arthur Family Health is designed to help parents, teachers, and students learn about common health challenges children face. Through videos, games (online and offline), and data sheets visitors to Arthur Family Health can learn about asthma, allergies, nutrition, fitness, and resilience (dealing with tragedies).

Wonderville - Science and Technology Games for Kids

Wonderville is a great website for kids on which students can find games, videos, comics, and hands-on activities for learning about science and technology. The gallery of activities, games, videos, and comics is divided into three categories; fun science, awesome tech, and cool jobs.

A couple of the Wonderville games that I like are Reaction Action and Medieval Levers. In Medieval Levers students watch a short animated video about the physics of levers before trying to build their own catapults to use to attack the castle. In Reaction Action students learn about combustible gasses. The object of the game is to collect combustible gasses that can be used to create energy.

Applications for Education
Wonderville's games, comics, and videos can be used by elementary and middle school students on their own. The hands-on activities could be used by teachers as the basis for an elementary school science lesson plan. The hands-on activities include experiments in which students need to record observations.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Cautionary Note About Using Public Cloud Printers

A couple of weeks ago I went to a national office supply store to print sixty documents in color in high resolution. I only need to do this about once a year so it's cheaper to pay the office supply store to do it than it is to own and maintain a color printer. In years past I've brought in a USB drive and printed directly from it. This time I decided that I'd just use my Google Drive credentials to print from the store's networked printer.

I logged into the store's network printer using my Google Drive credentials and attempted to open the file that I needed to print. I wasn't logged in for more than ten seconds before I got kicked out and had to sign-in again. That should have been my first clue that something was wrong. I logged-in again and this time I didn't get kicked off, but I couldn't preview my file. At this point I was frustrated and logged-out of my Google Drive completely and left the store to go home and get a USB drive. Not more than five minutes after I left the store my phone blew-up with alerts from Google asking me to confirm or deny log-in activities. It appears that my Google Account was compromised by using that store's networked printer as there were multiple log-in attempts on my account from multiple locations around the globe. Fortunately, I caught it and responded to it quickly enough that nothing seems to have been compromised in my account other than my passwords which I reset.

The morale of the story is if you use a public networked printer and something doesn't seem right, it probably isn't. And always pay attention to alerts from Google about suspicious log-in activity.

A Simple Way to Make Your Own Google Maps Street View Game

Earlier this week I stumbled upon a local radio station's blog in which they had posted a little game called How Well Do You Know Maine Roads? That game was nothing more than ten Google Maps Street View images that you had to try to identify. The answers to the game prompts were posted at the bottom of the blog post.

As I looked at the game I thought that it was an instructive model for creating games to use with students. You could embed a series of Street View images into a post on your classroom blog and then have students submit their answers into a Google Form that provides them with instant feedback. Your Street View images could be of local places to test your students' knowledge of local geography. Alternatively, you could test your students' knowledge of world geography by embedding Street View imagery of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to embed Street View imagery into your blog posts.


If you want to use Google Forms to collect responses from students and give them instant feedback, watch the following video to learn how to do that.


11 Google Apps Updates You Might Have Missed This Summer - PDF

Over the summer Google released a bunch of updates to teachers' and students' favorite Google Apps. If you took a little break from your school Google Account over the summer and have just started to look at it again, you might notice that there are some new features available to you. I put together a summary of those new features, including some tutorial videos, in document that is embedded below. If you're the person who will be leading Google Apps PD at your school this fall, feel free to print this document and circulate amongst your staff. A Google Docs copy is also available to view here.