Monday, September 28, 2015

Google Expeditions is Possibly Coming to a School Near You

Earlier this year Google unveiled a new virtual reality program for schools. The program is called Expeditions. Expeditions uses an app on the teacher's tablet in conjunction with the Cardboard viewer to guide students on virtual reality field trips. Today, Google announced that they are bringing Expedition demonstrations and the required kits to schools all over North America, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

During the 2015/2016 school year the Expeditions Pioneer Program will be visiting schools to set them up with the materials needed for taking students on more than 100 virtual field trips. Visit the Expeditions Pioneer Program website to find out if the program will be near you and to register your school for a visit.

Applications for Education
Even the best virtual field trips can't replace the experience of going on a real field trip. That said, virtual field trips can let students experience see places in new ways and virtually experience some places that they might never see in person.

5 Research Tools Students Often Overlook

When they're given a research assignment most students immediately turn to Google to start their research. Unfortunately, many students don't recognize that they are limiting their research efforts by not going beyond to search. Here are five research tools that I introduce to students to get them to go beyond using

1. School librarian and library resources. 
Every school librarian that I know is happy to help students learn to become better researchers. Introduce your students to your school's librarian. Set up time with him or her to show your students some of the many resources available through your school's library. Some of those resources will include access to databases that students cannot access without log-in credentials provided through the library. The Maine State Library's MARVEL database is an example of a database that students wouldn't know about or use without the guidance of school librarian.

2. Wolfram Alpha.
Wolfram Alpha is known for its mathematics functions, but it also has a ton of information to offer on all kinds of topics from socioeconomic data to history to food to chemistry. Students can use Wolfram Alpha to find concise summaries of topics or use it to dive into in-depth databases. The short video embedded below (admittedly, a bit dated now) provides students with a short explanation of what makes Wolfram Alpha search different from Google search.

3. Google Books.
Google Books can be a good research tool for students if they are aware of it and know how to use it. In the video below I provide a short overview of how to use Google Books for research. You can also find screenshots of the process here.

4. Google Scholar:
Google Scholar, like Google Books, is one of the research tools that students often overlook when searching on the web. Google Scholar can be an excellent place for high school and college students to find peer-reviewed academic papers, journals, theses, books, and court opinions. In the video below I demonstrate how to create a library of resources in Google Scholar as well as how to create Google Scholar Alerts that will notify you when new content related to your research appears in Google Scholar.

5. Duck Duck Go.
Duck Duck Go is a search engine that doesn't track your search history or the webpages that you visit. This can make a difference in what students see when they search on Duck Duck Go compared to when they do the same searches on Google, Yahoo, or Bing which may be influenced by their search histories.

How to Use Google Drawings to Create Mind Maps

Collaboratively creating mind maps is one of the many good ways that students can use Google Drawings. To create a mind map in Google Drawings students should open their Google Drive accounts then select Google Drawings from the New menu. Students can invite classmates to work on their mind maps by using the same sharing options that they use for Google Documents. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how students can use the tools in Google Drawings to create mind maps.

What I left out of the video above is that I will ask students to share their mind maps with me. I will then use the commenting tool to give them feedback on their mind maps.

This video was included in my Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week newsletter. The newsletter is published once per week on Sunday evening. It includes one of my favorite tips along with a summary of the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers. Click here to join more than 7,500 other people who subscribe to the Practical Ed Tech newsletter. 

Bias Detection Explained by Common Craft

Common Craft recently produced a new video on that topic. Through Bias Detection Explained by Common Craft students can learn about common signs of bias in media, problems that occur when bias is ignored, and why bias is common in communication. GIFs from the video can be seen here. The video itself is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Detecting bias in writing and broadcasting is one of the first topics that I teach in current events courses. This video is one that I will be adding to my collection of resources for helping students understand what bias is and how to spot it. I like that it starts with an example that many students can relate to, but probably never give much thought to.

Common Craft videos can be reviewed online for evaluation purposes. To use embed them into a blog as I've done requires a membership (which are very reasonably priced).

Disclosure: I have an in-kind relationship with Common Craft.

Create Interactive Timelines with Tiki-Toki

This is a guest post from Jennifer Carey (@TeacherJenCarey) of EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

Timelines are an excellent way for students to organize information for their own understanding or to demonstrate their learning. Tiki-Toki allows students to create free, interactive timelines on a topic of their choosing. In addition to free accounts, educational accounts are available at a heavily discounted price that allow for more advanced features. Timelines can be kept private, shared with a link, published publicly, or even embedded into websites or blogs. Students can also collaborate on a single timeline together with a classroom model.

You can easily add content such as text, dates, images, and video.  Each event on a timeline can include multiple media files. It’s easy to tweak the visual appearance of the timeline so that students can be as informative as possible!

By using Tiki-Toki to create timelines, students can engage with content using a variety of media platforms and collaboratively reconstruct history. It’s a great tool for English and Social Studies classes to put information in context. As an example,  check out the Tiki-Toki timeline that I created on Ancient Rome .

For more timeline ideas, EdTechTeacher has a great list of resources. You can also learn more from their instructors at their November 16-18 EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston.