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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mystery Science - Great Science Lessons for Elementary School Students

Mystery Science is a relatively new service that is offering nice science lessons for elementary school students. The lessons on Mystery Science feature a series of videos and images arranged around a science subject. After each video there are questions that students can answer on their own or work through with your guidance. The lessons don't stop there. After the initial videos and questions you can extend the lessons by leading students in hands-on activities that reinforce the concepts shown in the videos. Mystery Science provides materials lists and detailed directions for each hands-on activity.

Applications for Education
Mystery Science lessons are arranged in thematic sets. For example, there is a set of lessons titled Plant Adventures. In Plant Adventures you will find eight lessons tackling questions like do plants eat dirt? You can use the lessons in the sequence in which they're presented or simply pick the ones that best fit your needs. 

Insert Images Into Google Slides and Docs on Your iPad or Android Tablet

Today, the iPad and Android apps for Google Slides and Google Documents received an update that you're sure to like. The iOS and Android apps for Docs and Slides now let you insert images directly from your device's camera roll. You can insert images even when your device is not online. You can crop images in your documents and slides too. To crop an image simply double-tap on it to crop it and or apply a mask to it. See the animated GIF below for a demonstration.
Image courtesy of Google Docs product management team.

This update brings the capabilities of Google Slides on iPads and Android tablets closer to those of Google Slides in your web browser. If your school is using Google Apps for Education and is 1:1 with tablets, this update to the Slides mobile app should make it easier for students to design and edit presentations.

Create Rubrics and Email Grades from a Google Spreadsheet

Online Rubric is a Google Spreadsheets Add-on that enables to you create rubrics, enter scores, and email scores to students all from one place. Online Rubric provides very clear instructions for each step of the processes of creating a roster sheet, creating a rubric, and emailing grades to students.

To start using the Online Rubric Add-on open the Add-ons menu in a blank Google Spreadsheet. Select "get Add-ons" and search for Online Rubric.

Once you've given Online Rubric permission to run on your Spreadsheet there are three basic steps you need to complete. The first step is to create a roster. Rosters are made by entering student's names and email addresses (optional). The second step is to actually create your rubric. Unlike some online rubric services, with the Online Rubric Add-on you can build as many rubric cells as you like. You can assign any point values that you want to use for each rubric cell. When you're ready to enter grades you will use your roster sheet to enter point values for each rubric cell. To email grades simply select "email grades" from the Online Rubric Add-on.

Applications for Education
As you can collaborate on Google Spreadsheets, Online Rubric could provide teaching teams with a way to collaborate on the development of rubrics. It also provides an opportunity to share in the responsibility of scoring assignments.

I have never been a big fan of using canned rubrics for grading as I find many of them to be too prescriptive for my liking. That said, I realize that many people like them and use them frequently. For people who like to use rubrics or have to use them (as I did for a while about five years ago) the Online Rubric Add-on does provide a good way to build rubrics, score assignments, and send grades.

30 Tutorials on Visual Design - And Infographic Lesson Plans

A couple of months ago Canva launched an education page full of lesson plans built around the idea of getting students to think and express themselves creatively through visual design. Since the launch Canva has added more lesson plans and more design tutorials to their education page. In all there are now thirty design tutorials that students can work through on their own or with guidance from you. I've been slowly working through the tutorials myself. Some of what I've learned has been put to use in the blog post images that have appeared in posts like this one about the pros and cons of using social media for school announcements.

Some of the new lesson plans on Canva's education page include comic book creation, a lesson on sugar in our diets, and a lesson on illustrating ideas with infographics. That last lesson plan takes advantage of Canva's new infographic design templates. To use the infographic templates or any of the other design templates in Canva simply log-in and open the design menu. Each template can be customized with your own images, fonts, and colors. You can also customize the dimensions of each template.


Applications for Education
Terri Eichholz's lesson plan, To Make a Long Story Short is one of my favorite lesson plans on the Canva education page. The point of the lesson is to have students identify the themes of story and design a graphic to concisely represent those themes.

Kids Bowl Free - For Those Rainy Summer Days

I'm as big an advocate for kids playing outside as you will find. That said, there are time when playing outside just isn't an option. Whether it's too wet outside or too darn hot outside, there will be times this summer when we'll be looking for indoor activities for kids. In those cases take a look at your local bowling alley.

For the seventh or eighth year in a row Kids Bowl Free is offering two free games per day to students in the United States and Canada. Kids Bowl Free is a program funded by bowling alleys to provide students with a safe and fun activity during the summer.

To receive coupons for up to two free games of bowling per day, parents need to register on Kids Bowl Free. Each bowling center sets its own start and end date for the program so check the listings for a bowling center in your area.