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Friday, February 26, 2016

How to Create Interactive Writing Assignments to Share Through Google Classroom

Wizer is a neat tool for creating a variety of interactive assignments including writing assignments, multiple choice quizzes, and labeling assignments. You can distribute your Wizer activities to your students through Google Classroom or through the use of a link and pin system.

In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to create an assignment in Wizer, how to distribute it, and how to view your students' responses to an assignment.

Open eBooks - Thousands of Free eBooks for Students and Teachers

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo this morning learned about a new program that will provide Title I schools with access to thousands of free ebooks. Open eBooks is a program organized by the White House's ConnectED initiative. Through the program Title 1 schools as well as libraries, preschools, and community programs serving populations that have 70% or more students in need can access thousands of free ebooks on iOS or Android devices.

The ebooks in the Open eBooks collection come from the following publishing partners Bloomsbury, Candlewick, Cricket Media, Hachette, HarperCollins, Lee & Low, Macmillan, National Geographic Kids, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster. Through the Open eBooks app students can access up to ten books at a time.

To register for the Open eBooks program, click here. You can find all of the qualifications for the Open eBooks program here.


Improved Voice Commands and More New Google Apps Features Released This Week

A few months ago Google adding voice typing as a native feature in Google Docs. This week they improved the voice typing feature by adding a slew of new commands. You can now use voice commands to do things like add and edit tables, select and highlight text, and format text. A complete list of voice commands can be found here.


The Google Sheets Android app received an update this week. The next time you update the app you will be able to view images that are included in your spreadsheets.

The Google Slides Android app was updated this week. The latest version of the app allows you to choose and change the themes of your presentations.

Applications for Education
Of these three updates, the improved voice typing is the most significant one for students and teachers. Voice typing and voice commands in Google Docs should prove to be a benefit to students who need more accessibility options in Google Documents. For more about Google Docs accessibility see the Google Apps user guide to accessibility.

Padlet Adds Helpful New Attachment Previews

Padlet is a fantastic tool that I have used and recommended countless times over the years. My tutorial video about it is the most viewed video in my YouTube channel. This week Padlet introduced some improvements that might not jump out at you right away, but will be helpful to you in the long run.

You have always been able to add attachments to your sticky notes on Padlet. Now those attachments will be color coded to give you a better preview of the file. Attachments will be color coded as follows:
Audio = purple, Video = yellow, Image = pink, Document (including slideshows and spreadsheets) = green, Link = blue, Everything else (zip file, e.g.) = grey. Image preview sizes have been shrunk to allow for better and more consistent viewing on mobile devices.

Applications for Education
Here are five ways that I frequently use Padlet:

Padlet as a simple blogging platform:
Padlet walls can be arranged in free-form, grid, or stream layouts. Creating a Padlet page in the stream format could be a good way to create a simple, collaborative blog for students. You could create the page, select "stream" format, and make the page accessible for students to write short posts on. Their posts could include images and videos. If you want to, you can password protect your Padlet pages and moderate messages before they appear on your Padlet page.

Padlet Mini as a bookmarking tool:
Padlet Mini is a Chrome extension that you can use to bookmark websites. When you click the Padlet Mini extension in your browser you will be presented with the option to save to one of your existing walls or create a new Padlet wall. Click here for a video on using Padlet Mini.

Padlet as a KWL chart:
Padlet can be used to create a KWL chart that students can contribute to anonymously (or not anonymously if you want them to sign-in). Create a wall, make it public, and ask students to share what they know and what they want to know about a topic. If you allow anonymous posting you might get contributions from shy students who might not otherwise speak-up in class. Of course, if you allow anonymous commenting you should have a conversation with your students about what an appropriate comment looks like. (You could also turn on moderation and approve all notes before they appear). Padlet works well when projected on an interactive whiteboard.

Padlet for group research and discussion:
A few years ago I showed my special education students a short (18 minutes) video about cultural changes that took place in the US during the 1920's. After the video we discussed what they saw. Then I had students search online for other examples of cultural change in the 1920's. When they found examples they put them onto a Wallwisher (Padlet's previous name) wall that I projected onto a wall in my classroom. The wall started with just text being added to the wall and quickly progressed to YouTube videos being added to the wall. Once every student had added a video to the wall we stopped, watched the videos, and discussed them.

Padlet as a showcase of your students’ work:
If your students are creating digital portfolios, creating slideshows, or producing videos you could use Padlet to display all of your students’ best work on one page. Create the wall, call it something like “my best work this year,” and have your students post links to their works.

How to Blur Faces & Objects in YouTube Videos

Sharing video highlights of school events can be a great way to build community interest in the good things that are happening in your school. The challenge that many teachers and administrators run into is making sure that the privacy requests of parents are honored.

In the past YouTube offered an automatic face blurring tool, but it was a bit crude as it blurred all faces including those that you might want to show like your own. This week YouTube introduced a better object and face blurring tool. In the YouTube video editor you can now select which faces and objects you want to blur in your videos.

In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to blur faces and objects in your YouTube videos.