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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Formula for Creating Useful Workshop Materials

I lead a lot of virtual and in-person workshops throughout the course of the year. For each of those workshops I create webpages that contain an outline, handouts in the form of PDFs, and video tutorials. I do this because I've learned over the years that even when people are 100% engaged in the workshop, there are still things that they might miss and or want to have reiterated after the workshop is over. Some people prefer tutorials that are text and image based while others prefer a video in which they can see and hear each step in action.  I make all of the tutorial materials for a workshop available on a webpage that I create for the topic.

My tools for creating and sharing workshop materials:
  1. WordPress: I now use WordPress for all of my online work except this blog and a classroom blog that runs on Blogger. I self-host WordPress through Media Temple. Doing that gives me the ultimate in design flexibility (not that I'm a designer by any means) and control including hiding and password-protecting pages. In the past I've used Google Sites and Wikispaces for workshop webpages. Those are both good choices too.

  2. Skitch: I use Skitch to create screenshots. With Skitch I can draw and type on screenshots. I've also used Jing for the same purpose in the past. 

  3. Screencast-o-matic.com: This is my preferred tool for creating screencast videos. I use the pro version which costs $15. The pro version runs on my desktop instead of in my web browser. The free version is also good and is more than adequate for most situations. When making screencasts about iPad apps I use AirServer (not free, but cheap) to record. On a Chromebook, Screencastify is good option for making screencast videos. 

  4. PDFs: To make my PDF handouts I just create a document in Google Documents then hit "download as PDF." My PDFs will contain a mix of text and screenshots.

  5. Hosting PDFs: I use Box.com to host my PDFs that I embed into webpages. You could accomplish the same thing with Google Drive. I use Box because it provides me with information about how many views and downloads each PDF has had. Box also allows me to password protect a file. 

FAQs About Classroom Blog Jumpstart

Since I announced it last Friday, I've received a bunch of questions from people who are interested in participating in next week's Classroom Blog Jumpstart course. These are the most frequently asked questions and my answers to them.

1. Will it be recorded? I want to participate, but I can't make it to every webinar.
Yes, all three live webinars will be recorded. Links to download the recordings will be emailed to you within 12 hours of the end of each webinar.

2. Is there graduate credit for this course?
No, this course doesn't carry a graduate credit option. Later this fall I will be offering a version of the course that does carry a graduate credit option.

3. Can I receive a certificate of hours to use in my re-certification plan?
Yes, I will send a certificate of completion for the hours you spend in the course. Some schools and states accept these for re-certification. Check with your school or state office for clarification.

4. I've never blogged before, is this course for me? 
Yes. No previous experience with blogging is required. I'll walk you through everything you need to know to get started. You'll also receive PDF handouts that contain directions along with each webinar recording.

5. Is there Q&A?
Of course, ask any questions you like during the webinars.

6. Why do you charge for the course? 
Three primary reasons: 1. I have to pay for licensing of GoToTraining and hosting of recordings. 2. I want to work with people who are committed to the course. I've found that when I offer free webinars many people sign up, but few show up.  3. This is part of how I make my living, but believe me I'm not getting rich from this.

7. I wanted to register in time for the early registration discount, but I missed the deadline. Can I still get the discounted price of $65?
Sure, I'm easy (and a terrible businessman). The discount code "backtoschool" still works.

Classroom Blog Jumpstart starts on August 17th at 7pm EDT. 
Click here to register. 

Five Good Non-Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers

Last night I shared five good Google tools for social studies teachers along with videos on how to use each of them. While at times it might seem that the Internet revolves around Google, there are many good non-Google tools that I also recommend for use in social studies classrooms. Here are five of my go-to non-Google resources for social studies teachers.

HSTRY Timeline Creator.
HSTRY is a multimedia timeline creation tool that will work on your laptop, Chromebook, iPad, or tablet. With a HSTRY account you can build timelines in a vertical scroll format similar to that of a Facebook feed. To start the process pick a topic and upload a cover photo. To add events to the timeline just click the "+" symbol and select the type of media that you want to add to your timeline. You can add videos, images, audio, and text to the events on your timeline.

There are two features of HSTRY that make it stand-out from the crowd. First, as a teacher you can create an online classroom in which you can view all of your students' timelines. Second, as a teacher you can build questions into timelines that you share with your students. You can even build-in explanations of the answers to your questions.

For other timeline creation tools, check out this chart.

Outline concepts with Text 2 Mind Map.
Text 2 Mind Map offers a great way to turn your typed outlines into mind maps. To create a mind map on Text 2 Mind Map type out an outline in the text box. After typing your outline click "draw mind map" to have your mind map created for you. If after creating your mind map you need to add more elements to just add them into your outline and click "draw mind map" again. Your mind map can be downloaded as a PDF or PNG file. The mind maps that you create on Text 2 Mind Map can also be shared via email, Facebook, or Twitter.

Click here for more mind mapping tools.

Map data with MapStory.
MapStory is a free tool for creating mapped displays of data sets. Data sets that are time based, the travels of Genghis Khan for example, can be set to play out in a timeline style on your map. Creating a MapStory might look complicated at first glance, but it's actually quite easy to create a map. To get started select a data set or sets that you want to display on your map. You can choose data sets from the MapStory gallery or upload your own. After choosing your data set(s) select a base map. After that you can customize the look of the data points on your map and or manually add more data points to your map. The notes option in MapStory lets you create individual events to add to your map and timeline. Lines and polygons can also be added to your projects through the notes feature in MapStory.

Click here for other mapping tools to try.

The Commons on Flickr.
Flickr's The Commons hosts millions of pictures that are in the public domain. I've used images from The Commons in my history classes as prompts for discussion and my students have used them in short documentary videos they've made.

Classtools Fake SMS Generator
The Classtools Fake SMS Generator is a fun tool for creating fictitious text message exchange between historical characters. It is free to use and does not require students to register to use it. In the video below I demonstrate how to use it. As I mention in the video, the Fake SMS Generator could also be used to create visuals for lessons on cyber-safety and etiquette.


Some of my other favorite Classtools tools are featured here.

Two Lessons on Blood Pressure & Blood Types

Six months ago I published a selection of TED-Ed lessons about how the human body works. The latest additions to that playlist are a TED-Ed lesson about blood pressure and a lesson about blood types.

The lesson on blood pressure explains how blood pressure is measured and what the measurements mean. That same lesson explains hypertension and its associated consequences.


The TED-Ed lesson on blood types explains how blood type is determined and why some blood types don't mix.