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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ten Things You Can Learn at the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp

Chromebooks are quickly becoming the preferred choice of computer for 1:1 programs in schools. Chromebooks are reliable, inexpensive, and versatile tools. That said, teaching with Chromebooks may require you to learn some new tricks to make the experience great for you and your students. At the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp on July 18th and 19th we will take an in-depth look at how to effectively integrate Chromebooks into your practice.

Ten things you can learn at the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp:
1. How to use Chromebooks effectively even when the wi-fi fails.
2. Efficient workflow processes on Chromebooks.
3. Everything you could ever want to know about Google Apps for Education.
4. Fun and clever ways to teach search skills.
5. Create and manage digital portfolios.
6. Develop engaging video and audio creation projects.
7. Get parents involved with your students' projects in a meaningful way.
8. Digital storytelling with Google Maps.
9. Fun ways to conduct assessment exercises.
10. Anything you've ever wondered about blogging with students.

Register for the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp by April 30th and you can save $50 off standard registration. Subscribers to the PracticalEdTech.com newsletter can save an additional $25 by entering the code "subscriber" at checkout.

Have a colleague or two who wants to join you? Special rates are available for two or more people registering from the same school district. Email me richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com for details.

A Mapped & Searchable Archive of American Newspapers

The U.S. News Map is a great resource produced by Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. The U.S. New Map is an archive of American newspapers printed between 1836 and 1925. You can search the archive by entering a keyword or phrase. The results of your search will be displayed on an interactive map. Click on any of the markers on the map and you'll be shown a list of newspaper articles related to your search term. Click on a listed article to read it on the Library of Congress' Chronicling America website.

Applications for Education
The U.S. News Map has a neat playback feature that you can use to see the frequency with which a term or topic appeared in newspapers between 1836 and 1925. That playback feature could be a nice way to show students developments in technology. For example, search the term "telephone" and you'll see peaks and valleys in the frequency with which articles were written about telephones.

H/T to Google Maps Mania and Larry Ferlazzo

Three Ways to Generate Topics for Your School's Blog

Posting new content on a regular basis is one of the best ways to get parents to frequently check your school, library, or classroom blog. Coming up with blog post topics is the struggle that many people have in attempting to regularly update their blogs. At times, I have that problem too. I have three things that I do when I'm struggling to come up with a topic for a blog post.

Three things you can do to generate blog post topics:
1. Look at your email. Scroll through your email to take a look back at some of the questions that you're asking on a regular basis. Write a post or two or three that answer those questions.

2. Look at Google Analytics. If you have Google Analytics installed in your blog or website you can glean a lot of useful information from what is reported about visitors to your blog or website. One of the sections of Google Analytics that is particularly helpful is the section that shows you the keywords people use in searches before landing on your blog or website. Write a post or two related to those keywords.

3. Update old posts. Everything changes in time. What you wrote twelve months ago or even six months ago might need an update. Take a look at some of your old posts and see if any of them need updating.

Bonus tip:
When you find yourself writing a particularly long post, consider breaking into a series of posts. Your one 1000 word post could probably become a two or three part series. Like an 80's sitcom, "a to be continued" can keep people coming back.

Topics like this one and many others will be covered in depth during my spring and summer offerings of Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders

Try the New Padlet Android App

Just a little more than twelve hours ago I received an exciting email from Padlet in which they announced the launch of their new Android app. Padlet has long worked well in the web browser  on Android phones and tablets, but this is the first time that there has been a dedicated Padlet Android app.

The new Padlet Android app does everything that makes me love Padlet. From the app I can create new Padlet walls, share walls with my students, customize the background, change the layout, and even moderate notes appearing on my Padlet wall. I can use the Padlet Android app to post notes containing pictures and videos that are saved on my phone and tablet. The sharing features of Padlet are extended on the Android platform as you can quickly share your walls through a variety of social apps including Twitter, WhatsApp, and Google+. Students can use the app's QR code option to scan QR codes for my Padlet wall and instantly join my wall in the Padlet Android app.

My favorite ways to use Padlet with students:

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.