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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

SoundCloud Is Making It Easier for Anyone to Publish a Podcast

SoundCloud is one of the audio recording tools that I have been recommending for years. I've always liked the ease with which you can record, save, and share audio through the service. The option to insert text comments into SoundCloud tracks has been an appeal of the service too. Today, SoundCloud added a new feature that will appeal to anyone that has wanted to try his or her hand at podcasting.

SoundCloud for Podcasting creates an RSS feed for the recordings that you make or upload to your SoundCloud account. This doesn't seem like a big deal until you realize that by having that RSS feed created for you, you can then easily publish your podcast across multiple podcasting services including iTunes. Compare Apple's directions for publishing to iTunes to SoundCloud's directions for the same and you'll see why SoundCloud makes it easier to distribute podcasts.

Applications for Education
SoundCloud for Podcasting could be a great service to try if you have wanted to try podcasting with your students, but have been overwhelmed or frustrated by the process of distributing the recordings your students have made. The free SoundCloud for Podcasting plan provides hosting for up to three hours of recordings.

H/T to TechCrunch

New Animation Options Added to Google Slides

When I started using it with students Google Slides was a very basic slideshow creation tool. Over the years it has evolved and new features have been added. In fact, at one point there wasn't an option for building-in transitions or animations. When those were added they were still rather basic.

The latest update to Google Slides introduces more animation options. Now you can have objects simply appear or disappear in your slides on your click. Previously objects had to fade or fly in or out. Speaking of the fly in option, you can now set the direction from which objects fly onto your slides.

Pros and Cons of Using Social Media for School Announcements

When used correctly social media can be a fantastic aid in spreading the good word about your school. As I wrote in my post about socializing school events with social media, social media can be very helpful in building a positive feeling of community around your school too. On the other hand, social media isn't always the best way to share news about your school. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of using social media for school announcements.

The social media networks you might use:
In an effort to be concise this post will deal only with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram. Unless otherwise specified the pros and cons here will deal with all four networks as category rather than breaking out the pros and cons of each network individually.

Pros of using social media for school announcements:
  1. The likelihood of students checking their favorite social networks frequently is much higher than that of them checking email frequently. 
  2. You can quickly post concise messages with visuals that grab the attention of students and their parents. (I've been testing using large images into my Tweets lately. Each time I do I get more favorites and reTweets than I do with the same message that lacks a visual). 
  3. It is easy for students and or parents to share the announcement through a reTweet, tag or share on Facebook, tag/mention on Instagram, or a tag/mention or re-post on Google+. 
  4. It is easy for students and parents to reply to announcements. 
  5. A small archive of recent announcements is automatically created for you. 
Cons of using social media for school announcements:
  1. You must convince students and parents to follow or like your school's social media account. 
  2. Students and parents who follow a lot of social media accounts can easily overlook yours. This is especially true on Facebook because Facebook tends to hide posts from people/pages that haven't been interacted with on a frequent basis. (In other words, if you click on a lot of "cuddly kitten/ puppy" stories on Facebook you're more likely to see more of those than you are stories from sources that you don't click frequently). 
  3. You, your school administrator, or some committee within the school needs to decide who will be the "official" social media voice of the school. In other words, decide who gets to post on the school account. 
  4. Someone has to monitor and moderate conversations that arise from announcements posted on social media. On a Facebook page, Google+ page, or Instagram account you can delete inappropriate comments. On Twitter your only option is to block, mute, or report the offender. 
  5. Sharing lengthy announcements that require a lot of explanation can be done on Facebook or Google+, but that style of post tends to get ignored on social media or at the very least is not frequently shared from user to user.  
Tomorrow, I'll have a post about the pros and cons of using text message services to share school announcements

13 Online Exhibits About Air and Space Travel

Air travel fascinates me which is why The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is one of my favorite museums. One of my good friends recently took his kids there during spring vacation and judging by the Instagram pictures his kids liked it. I wish that every kid could have a similar experience. If a field trip to the museum isn't a possibility for your students, The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum does offer thirteen good online exhibits. I won't summarize all of them here, but I would like to point out the ones that I like the most.

America by Air online exhibit. American by Air is a series of thirteen online activities that take students through the history of commercial aviation in the United States.

How Things Fly features an interactive module in which students design their own airplanes. The activity starts with a simple and slow airplane that students have to modify until it reaches a target speed and altitude. As students modify the wings, fuselage, and engines of their airplanes they are given instant feedback on the effects of those modifications. In some cases the feedback includes the airplane crashing and the students having to start over again.

At first glance The Wright Brothers - The Invention of the Aerial Age looks like it's just a timeline of developments made by the Wright Brothers. Dig into the Interactive Experiments section of the exhibition and you'll find Engineering the Wright Way. Engineering the Wright Way offers interactive simulations in which students learn about wing design by joining the Wright Brothers for test flights in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Two more simulations about thrust and plane control will be released later this year.

Apollo to the Moon lacks the interactive simulations of the three exhibits featured above. That deficiency is made up for by the depth of the content in the exhibit. Apollo to the Moon contains seven chapters chronicling NASA's effort to put a man on the moon. The exhibit begins with a history of the Space Race and Kennedy's proclamation that the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960's. From there the exhibit moves into the design of rockets and other equipment to put a man on the moon. It concludes with a gallery of artifacts related to the Apollo 11 mission.