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Monday, May 21, 2018

Three Ways to Develop Programming Skills This Summer

Summer is almost here and it's a great time to learn a new skill that you can bring into your classroom next fall. One of the skills that seems to be mentioned in almost every education periodical these days is programming or coding. Learning to program isn't as difficult as you might think that is. Each of the following services make it relatively easy to learn to program your own apps. As you learn to program your own app, you'll start to see how your students can do the same and use those skills in your classroom next fall.

MIT App Inventor
Want to create a fully functional Android app? If so, the MIT App Inventor is the place to start. The MIT App Inventor works in your web browser (Chrome is recommended). The only download that is required for App Inventor 2 is the optional emulator. The emulator allows people who don't have Android devices to text their apps on their desktops. If you have an Android device then the emulator is not required and you don't need to worry about installing it. MIT provides excellent support documentation and curriculum for classroom use for new users of App Inventor. Tutorials are available as videos and as written PDFs. A couple of the videos are embedded below.




Metaverse - DIY Augmented Reality Apps
Metaverse launched last summer and became an almost hit with teachers. Through the Metaverse Studio anyone can program an augmented reality app without having any prior coding or programming knowledge. You construct your app in the Metaverse Studio by dragging and dropping media and logic blocks into a sequence. Metaverse Studio has been used by teachers to create digital Breakout games, to create language arts games, and to create local history tours.



Scratch
I couldn't write a blog post about learning to program without mentioning Scratch and ScratchJr. Scratch is a free program designed to introduce users to programming concepts. Through Scratch you can create animations, games, and videos. Students program in Scratch through a process of dragging and dropping blocks into sequences. Each block represents a command. Users test their programs right in their web browsers and instantly know if the program works or doesn't work.

There are many places to find Scratch tutorials, but the best place to start is on the Scratch for Educators site. There you will find many tutorials, activity guides, and a curriculum guide. The ScratchEd community is the place to go for inspiration from other teachers who are using Scratch in their classrooms. For example, in ScratchEd you might find something like this Google Doc filled with ideas for using Scratch in elementary school mathematics lessons.

A Quick Google Docs Formatting Tip

Google Docs has lots of handy features that are "hidden" in plain sight. Many of those features address common formatting needs. For example, in the far right edge of the editor menu there is a function to clear all formatting. This is a handy function to use after copying and pasting from a Word document or even from a shared Google Document whose formatting doesn't fit with what you want. Watch my short video embedded below to how you can quickly clear the formatting of a Google Document.


And if you have ever wanted to change the default font in your Google Docs, watch this tutorial that I published a few months ago.



Please note that changes to default fonts may not take place immediately. Some readers have reported having to log-out, clear cache, and try again in order to make the font changes stick.

Learn more about all things G Suite in my online course, G Suite for Teachers.

Three Ways to Keep Track of Students' Blog Entries

One of the questions that I often field during my workshop on blogging is, "how do you keep track of what students are writing?" The answer to that depends on a few things including how frequently your students are publishing and the platform through which your students are blogging.

Option 1:
If you are using Edublogs, there is a section in your dashboard called My Class. Within the My Class section you can see a list of your students' individual blogs. There is also a section in your dashboard called Users. Within the Users section you can see each students' account and how many posts they've made. Also in the Users section you will find the option to run reports to find out which users have recently published on your classroom blog.

Option 2:
The strategy that I used for years was to have students enter their names and links to their most recent posts into a Google Form. All of their submissions will appear in a tidy spreadsheet. In that spreadsheet I can see a timestamp, name, and the link to go directly to a student's most recent post. I can also add a column in the spreadsheet for noting whether or not I have given them feedback.

Option 3:
I use Feedly to subscribe to my favorite blogs. If your students are maintaining individual blogs, you could create a free Feedly account and then subscribe to your students' blogs. You'll then be able to see all of their blogs from one convenient dashboard. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Feedly.

11,000 People Get Their Ed Tech Tips Here

A few times a week I create new how-to videos on a wide range of tools and topics related to educational technology. Some recent topics include making animated videos, making virtual reality tours, and time-saving tips for Google Forms users. All of my videos are published to my YouTube channel which now has more than 11,000 subscribers. My videos appear on YouTube before they appear on this blog. Subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified as soon as I publish a new video.

A few of the most watched videos on my YouTube channel are embedded below.

How to Add Your Voice to Google Slides

How to Use Flipgrid

How to Use Adobe Spark

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Nine Fun and Challenging Geography Games

Yesterday, I shared the City-Guesser geography game. That game was just the latest in a long list of online geography games that I have tried over the years. Many have come and gone over the years but the following are still going strong.

GameOn World is a multiplayer geography game developed by a high school teacher and his student in Portland, Maine. The game is similar in structure to that of Kahoot. In GameOn World the teacher selects a game category (cities, places, and timeline are three of the nine categories) and starts the game. The students join the game by going to GameOn.World and entering a game pin. In the location and timeline games, students answer the questions by moving a placemark on a map or selecting a date on a timeline. In some of the other games students answer by choosing a number on a sliding scale.



WikiWhere is a neat map-based trivia game. The goal of the game is to identify cities based on their descriptions. The descriptions come from Wikipedia entries. You can get up to three clues before you have to answer by clicking on the map to identify the city that you think is described by the excerpts. When you click on the map you'll be shown the correct answer and how far away you were from the correct answer.

Outline Maps offers a free set of geography games. The site contains games about Africa, South America, Europe, the United States, and the world. There are two basic types of games on the site. The first type, "find by name," displays a state, country, or city name and you have to click the map to identify that place. The second type of game, "find by feature," highlights a location and you have to type the name of the highlighted location.

GeoGuessr shows you a Google Street View image and a clue to try to guess where in the world the imagery was captured. Playing GeoGuessr is a fun way to get students to look at all of the visual and text clues they have in order to form a good guess as to where in the world they think the imagery came from.

Quizzity is an online geography game that uses a familiar concept. Quizzity presents you with the name of a city and you have to click on the map where you think that city is in the world. Quizzity quizzes you on cities all over the world. To increase the accuracy of your guesses you should zoom-in on a region before clicking the map. Each round of Quizzity presents you with six city names. Points are awarded for accuracy and speed.

Spacehopper is a game based on Google Maps Street View imagery. Spacehopper shows you a Street View image and you have to guess where in the world the image was captured. You can click the clue button to have the country identified before making a guess. After three incorrect guesses the correct answer will be revealed to you. You can play Spacehopper on a global level or you can specify that you only want to see images from a particular continent.

Smarty Pins is a Google Maps game develop by Google. Smarty Pins presents players with a trivia question that they have to answer by placing a pin on a map. Players earn "miles" for correctly placing a pin on the map. Players can lose miles for answering incorrectly and or taking too long to answer. Games are available in five categories; arts & culture, science & geography, sports & games, entertainment, and history & current events.

Capital Toss is a free geography game from ABCya. The game has a state capitals mode and a country capitals mode. In both modes of the game works the same way. The name of a state or country appears at the bottom of the screen and three rows of capital names scroll across the top. When the correct capital name appears players virtually toss a ball at it. After ten correct answers players can choose a new ball. Three consecutive incorrect answers ends the game.

City-Guesser is a challenging map-based game. The game shows you a section of a map centered over a city. The labels are removed from the map so you have to guess the city's name based on other clues like bodies of water and orientation. City-Guesser gives you four answer choices to choose from. If you choose correctly, you move to the next level. If you choose incorrectly, the game is over and you have to start again from the beginning.