Google
 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Three Ways to Make Your Blog Posts More Helpful

One of the central purposes of this blog and thousands of others on the web is to help others. Blogs that help people solve problems get a lot of return visitors. Apply that concept to your classroom, library, or school blog the next time you craft a blog post for it. If your post helps a student, a parent, or a colleague solve a problem, he or she is more likely to return to the blog in the future. Here are three things that you can do to make your blog more helpful to others.

1. Include a video. 
This could be a screencast video that you create or it could be an informative video that you found on the web. Screencast videos are particularly helpful when you're trying to show someone the steps to solving a problem.

2. Include hand-outs.
If you find that your blog post is going much past 600 words, consider making it available as a PDF that folks can download to read as a printed copy. Similarly, if you're including slides in your blog post, consider letting people download them to print and write notes on.

3. Include a chart.
This could be a pro-con chart, a flow chart, or a chart comparing similar iPad apps. Over the years I've found that people love having charts, especially ones they can download, to help them make decisions.

More ideas about improving your blog will be shared in my upcoming webinar, Winning Blog Strategies. I hope that you'll join me for it next Wednesday. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Do You Have an Online Hub?

Social media and text messaging is great for sending quick updates about things happening in your classroom and in your school. But when you need to write a longer explanation of your announcement or reminder, a blog is your best friend. Use social media and text messaging services to direct parents and students to your blog posts. In that way your blog serves as an online hub for your announcements.

When you start a new online activity with your students do you give them a different link for each activity or do you direct them to the same place over and over again? If you have a blog you can just tell students to go to your classroom blog to see the link(s) they need for the activity that you're doing that day. In this case, your blog is serving as your online hub for activities.

How many times do you answer the same questions? How many times do you give out multiple copies of the same handout for students or parents? If you have a blog, you can post your handouts there and ask students and parents to print the copies when they need them. Likewise, put an FAQ section on your blog for those questions that you feel like you're always answering. Again, your blog becomes your online hub.

If you have started a blog before and it didn't work out the way that you wanted it to, join me next Wednesday for my Practical Ed Tech webinar, Winning Blog Strategies

An Interactive Map of Pearl Harbor Survivor Stories

Tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Earlier this week I shared some resources for teaching and learning about Pearl Harbor. This afternoon through the Maps Mania blog I learned about another resource to add to that list.

The 1941 Project is an interactive map of Pearl Harbor. The map features the stories of survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Click on a person on the map to read his or her story and see accompanying photographs. You can customize the map to display the positions of ships on December 7, 1941. There is also an option to see the map as the Japanese had drawn it prior to the attack.

The 1941 Project map does take a long time to load all of features. Remind your students to be patient while the map loads all available features.

Three Alternatives to Wiki Summarizer

This afternoon I received an email from a reader who wondered what happened to Wiki Summarize. I don't know other than it is no longer online. It was a nice tool that helped students see long Wikipedia entries in chunks. It also included a web of related terms to help students see how topics were connected. While I haven't found anything that is exactly like Wiki Summarizer, I do have a few alternatives to suggest trying.

SummarizeThis is a free tool that summarizes the main point(s) of long articles that you find on the web. To use SummarizeThis you just copy and paste text into the summary box and click "summarize." A summary of the text then appears above the original text that you copied.

instaGrok can be used by students to read summaries of topics that they are researching.  You can use instaGrok to search a topic and quickly get lists of facts on that topic, links to information on that topic, videos, images, and quizzes on the topic. If you want to refine or alter your search, just click on another term in the web of search terms. instaGrok offers some bookmarking tools and tools for creating journals of notes.

Wolfram Alpha offers a free Google Docs Add-on that students can use to conduct research without leaving the documents they're viewing. Wolfram Alpha can help students quickly locate information about famous people in history, locate socioeconomic data, find science data, and even help students find information about music theory. Unlike on Google or Bing, when students search on Wolfram Alpha they won't be shown a list of links. When students search Wolfram Alpha they will be shown organized collections of information. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to install and use the Wolfram Alpha Google Docs Add-on.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Pop Penguin and the Place Value Race

Pop Penguin and the Place Value Race is a new game on Math Playground. The free game is played in a classic board game style in which students advance along the board by completing math challenges of varying degrees of difficulty. As you can see in my demonstration video below, students can pick the difficulty of the challenges that they want to attempt.


I was drawn to this game because I often receive emails from people who think that I wrote Penguins Can't Fly. That was a different Richard Byrne. So I'm happy to be able to share something else that is penguin-related. If your students read Penguins Can't Fly, they might be interested in playing Pop Penguin as a fun mathematics review game.

Math Playground is the kind of site that is good to keep bookmarked on classroom computers for those times when you need some quick activities that your students can do independently. It's also a great site to share with parents when they ask for recommendations for educational websites they can use at home with their children.

Disclosure: Math Playground is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com