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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

10 Apps, Sites, and Lessons for Promoting Health and Fitness

In all of my Best of the Web presentations I try to present resources for a wide variety of classroom settings and subject areas. Health and physical education resources are always included because of my personal interest in the field as well as its importance in giving students lifelong skills. Here are ten of my favorite resources for teaching and promoting health and fitness in schools.

One of the simple improvements that I made to my diet last year was cutting out sugar from my morning coffee (I never used cream). The CDC's Rethink Your Drink helped me understand how many extra calories I was taking in through sugar. Rethink Your Drink provides a chart of sugar content and calories found in popular beverages. The PDF also contains a chart of suggested alternatives to drinking sugary beverages. In addition to the charts Rethink Your Drink provides suggestions on ways to cut sugar calories safely while not sacrificing nutrients.

How Sugar Affects the Brain is a TED-Ed lesson through which students learn why sugary foods and beverages can become addictive and how the human body processes sugar. The video is embedded below.


Untamed Science offers a similar video lesson in which we learn why so many of us crave sugar and sweet things. The video is embedded below.



Sugar Stacks is a good website for understanding how much sugar is in the food and beverages that we consume. Sugar Stacks lists popular food and beverage items in ten categories. Every item is pictured with a stack of sugar cubes. Each sugar cube represents four grams of sugar. This is a great way to see just how much sugar you really consume in your favorite snack or beverage.

Chew or Die is a free iPad, iPhone, and Android app that encourages people to try new healthy foods. The free app contains a series of healthy food challenges. The challenges include things like removing bread and potato-based starches with rice, trying a new vegetable, removing meat from your diet for a week, and sneaking more fiber into your diet. When you try a challenge take a picture of the food that you try and upload it to Chew or Die to challenge your friends to match your healthy choice. Click here for the iOS version. Click here for the Android version.

Sworkit Kids a free iOS and Android app designed to get kids moving with short, fun exercises. The app features workouts of five to thirty minutes in length (you pick the length). Each workout has a mix of fun exercises like diagonal hopping, crab walking, and hopping on one foot. You can choose exercises or let the app create a sequence of exercises for you.

Space Chef is a free iPad app from the Lawrence Hall of Science. The purpose of the app is to introduce students to healthy foods and recipes that they may not have ever tried or even heard about. Space Chef features a fast-paced game in which students have to quickly grab the ingredients for a recipe. The ingredients scroll past them in three streams or flight paths. Students are shown a recipe at the top of the screen and they must grab the appropriate ingredients as they stream across the screen.

Monster Heart Medic is another free iOS and Android app from the Lawrence Hall of Science. The app is designed to help students in elementary and middle school understand how the cardiovascular system is affected by diet and exercise. The app features a character named Ragnar that students must diagnose then help develop a plan to live a healthier life. Sabba Quidwai wrote an extensive review of the app here.  

Arthur Family Health is a free resource from PBS Kids. Arthur Family Health is designed to help parents, teachers, and students learn about common health challenges children face. Through videos, games (online and offline), and data sheets visitors to Arthur Family Health can learn about asthma, allergies, nutrition, fitness, and resilience (dealing with tragedies).

Walking, running, and biking are three simple ways to get regular exercise. I live in a rural area that doesn't have many sidewalks or even wide shoulders on the road so it can be hard to find safe places for those activities. If you live in a similar area, you might also hear the same complaint from students and parents. To help them find safe routes you could create walking, running, and biking routes in Google Maps. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to do that.

Five Tools for Sharing Portions of Videos

Online videos can be quite useful for reiterating a lesson to your students, for inspiring thought and conversation, and for introducing a new concept to your students. The struggle we have sometimes is finding a video that gets to the point quickly. And sometimes we don't need students to watch all of a TED Talk or other lecture in order to get them thinking about a concept. That's where tools for sharing portions of videos are useful.

In YouTube there is an option to start a video at a specific point. Under the sharing options on a YouTube video there is an option to select a start time for the video. Unfortunately, there is not an option to select an end time. See the image below for a look at the time-stamped sharing option in YouTube. 

Vibby is a service for breaking YouTube videos into segments and inserting comments into those segments. To segment a YouTube video on Vibby simply grab the URL for the video and paste into the Vibby editor. Once inserted into Vibby you can highlight a segment on the video timeline. Vibby then play only the sections you've highlighted. Click on a highlighted section to add a comment to it. Videos edited through Vibby can be shared via email, social media, or embedded into a blog or website. Click here for a Vibby tutorial.

TubeChop gives you the ability to clip a section from any YouTube video and share it with others via a link or via an embed code added to your own blog or website. TubeChop lets you select a start time and an end time for an video that you share.

EDPuzzle is a neat tool that allows you to add your voice and text questions to educational videos. On EDpuzzle you can search for educational videos and or upload your own videos to use as the basis of your lesson. EDpuzzle has an online classroom component that you can use to assign videos to students and track their progress through your video lessons. Within EDPuzzle's editor you can select portions of videos for students to watch. EDPuzzle offers the option to share your videos to Google Classroom. In the videos embedded below I demonstrate how to use the main features of EDPuzzle.



Vialogues is a free service that allows you to build online discussions around videos hosted online and videos that you have saved on your computer. You can choose to use all of a video or portions of a video. Registered users can upload videos to Vialogues or use YouTube videos as the centerpieces of their conversations. After you have selected a video from YouTube or uploaded a video of your own, you can post poll questions and add comments that are tied to points in the video. Your Vialogue can be made public or private. Public Vialogue's can be embedded into your blog or website.

Three Mobile Apps That Can Help Students Search

Students might forget their lunches, their gym shoes, and their homework assignments when they leave their houses in the morning, but they never forget their mobile phones. We can help students put those mobile devices to good use through the use of mobile search apps.

Google Goggles is a free Android app that lets students take a picture of an object and then search for similar objects. In the search for similar objects Google will include links to the pages that host the pictures returned in the search. Google Goggles also works when students take pictures of passages of text. The image below outlines the type of searches that Google Goggles is best at conducting.

If you are an iPhone or iPad user the Google search app has a search-by-image option. Samantha Morra outline how to use it in this 2014 guest post.

As I featured last week, CamFind is a free Android and iPhone app that works in a manner similar to that of Google Goggles. CamFind is a free iOS and Android app that enables you to take a picture of any object and then instantly conduct a web search about it. For example, when I take a picture of my computer bag CamFind instantly starts to search for objects like it as well as web pages about computer bags. I've also used CamFind to take pictures of blocks of text and let CamFind then search for web articles related to the text in my picture.

Blippar is an augmented reality app available for iOS, Android, and Windows phones. Like the other apps in this list Blippar uses the image captured by your camera to search for related pictures and articles on the web. I have used this app the least of the three on this list, but I included it because Blippar does work on Windows devices and is developing an education-specific product.

QuizSlides is Closing Accounts - Use It or Lose It

QuizSlides is a service whose purpose is to help you build quizzes based upon your slides. I've been using the service off and on since 2012. This week the QuizSlides developers sent out an email in which they explained that they can no longer support "a high volume of concurrent users" outside of their university. To that end QuizSlides will cease support for concurrent use on August 1st. But if you haven't logged into your account at all by March 31st your account will be closed.

If you have been using QuizSlides and still want to use it for training purposes in a setting in which you will not have a high volume of concurrent quiz takers, QuizSlides will still offer QuizSlides Training. Again, log into your account keep this option active.

About QuizSlides:
QuizSlides allows you to upload PPT or PPTX files containing questions then add answer choices to create an instant-feedback quiz. The quiz can be set to allow students to try answers until they get the correct answer or the quiz can be set to allow only one try per question.