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Friday, November 29, 2013

A Simple Trick to Save You and Your Students Lots of Classroom Time

I've shared this advice in the past, but I recently shared it again during a workshop where it was a big hit. That experience reminded me that some advice is worth re-posting from time to time. 

The one thing that every teacher wishes he or she had more of is time. While we can't create more time, we can use our classroom time more efficiently. One simple thing that you can do whenever you're starting a web-based activity with your students is to shorten long URLs into manageable, easy-to-type URLs. By shortening long and complex URLs into short and simple ones you'll reduce the amount of time it takes to get all of your students onto the same page before you can start your lesson.

URL shortening services make it very easy to create URLs that your students can quickly and accurately type into their browsers. My favorite URL shortening tools are Bitly.com and Goo.gl. Both tools allow you track how many times a link has been clicked which is useful for making sure every kid in the room has opened the link.

Bitly.com allows you to create customized shortened URL whereas Goo.gl does not give you the option to choose your shortened URL.

iChrome - An iGoogle-like Option for Chrome Users

Many iGoogle alternatives have popped-up on the web over the last eighteen months or so. I was never a big iGoogle user so I didn't miss it when it went away. That said, iChrome is an iGoogle alternative that I can see myself using on a daily basis. iChrome uses and iGoogle-like interface to display your calendar, notes, apps, favorite sites, and more whenever you open a new tab in Chrome. I'm constantly opening new tabs so iChrome is going to put things in front of me all day long.

H/T to Lifehacker

Two Survey / Polling Tools That Don't Require Registration

This evening I received an email from a teacher that was looking for a survey / poll creation tool that her students can use without having to create an account. Here are two options that fit that bill.

Yarp allows you to create a simple one question survey or a simple event invitation. To create a Yarp survey select "survey" on the homepage, type a question, then select your answer format. All answer formats present only two options along the lines of "true or false" or "yes or no." Each Yarp survey is assigned its own unique URL for you to distribute to the people that you want to complete your survey. Yarp invitations use the same format styles as Yarp surveys.

Flisti is a free and easy-to-use polling tool. Registration is not required in order to create a poll with Flisti. In fact, registering doesn't seem to be an option at all. To create a poll using Flisti just enter your question, specify some answer choices, then click "create new poll." Your poll(s) can be embedded into your blog, website, or wiki.

Applications for Education
Both of these tools could be good for students to use to quickly collect data about their classmates' opinions on any number of topics from politics to pop-culture to taste in food. An economics lesson from the Buck Institute for Education that I used for a few years required students to develop cafeteria menus and order supplies for the cafeteria based on the ordering patterns of their classmates. In that situation a simple survey tool like Yarp or Flisti could help students develop and recognize ordering patterns.

eduCanon - Create, Assign, and Track Flipped Lesson Progress

eduCanon is a free service for creating, assigning, and tracking your students' progress on flipped lessons. eduCanon allows teachers to build flipped lessons using YouTube and Vimeo videos, create questions about the videos, then assign lessons to their students. Teachers can track the progress of their students within eduCanon.

To create lessons start by identifying a topic and objective then searching YouTube and Vimeo from within the eduCanon site. Once you've found a suitable video you can build multiple choice questions throughout the timeline of your chosen video. You can create as many lessons as you like and assign them to your students at any time.

The video below provides a short overview of eduCanon.


Applications for Education
Using eduCanon, like other services similar to it, could be a good way to build introductory and review lessons for students. The option to track your students' progress is nice for anticipating the questions your students might bring to class and for seeing what you might need to review in-person with your students.

Energy Defined, the Making of Clouds, and More from NOVA Labs

The science course that enjoyed the most as an undergraduate was Meteorology so this evening when I discovered the NOVA Labs YouTube channel I found myself sucked into the videos. NOVA Labs is a playlist within NOVA's YouTube channel. In the NOVA Labs playlist you will find two dozen videos about weather, climate, and energy. Each video is roughly three minutes in length making them suitable as supplementary material for middle school and high school lessons. A sample of the playlist is embedded below.




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