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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer Stories - Back-to-School Activities

The new school year is here for many and will be here soon for the rest of us. The first days of school are always exciting as we meet new students, they meet their new classmates, and we all start to get to know each other. As we all know, some students will start chatting with us and each other as soon as the classroom door opens while others may take a while to warm up.

One way that you can get almost any student to share a story about his or her summer break is to ask them to share some of their favorite pictures of the summer. I don't have hard numbers on this, but it sure feels like middle school and high school students take ten pictures for every one that an adult takes. The point being, is students scroll through their phones they will find plenty of story prompts. You could leave it right there and ask students to just tell stories about favorite pictures on their phones. That might be enough to get students talking to you and each other on the first day of school. Or you might take it a step further by having students create short image-based stories that they can share.

A couple of my favorite tools for creating image-based stories are Adobe Spark Page (formerly called Adobe Slate) and Pic Collage for Kids. Adobe Spark Page is available to use in your web browser and is also available as an iPad app. Pic Collage for Kids is available on as an iPad app, but there is a Pic Collage app for Android that doesn't have the "kids" label.

Adobe Spark Page lets students create simple webpages to showcase pictures accompanied by text captions. Students can import pictures of their own and or search for Creative Commons-licensed pictures within the app. Completed pages can be published publicly or shared privately. Learn more about how to use Adobe Spark Page by watching the video in this post.

Pic Collage is a simpler app than Adobe Spark Page. All images that students import appear on one page. Students can add text and emoticon stickers to the images on their collages. Students can also edit their collages' backgrounds. A video demonstration of Pic Collage is included in this post.

Looking for Errors - A Lesson in Website Accuracy

In Saturday's week-in-review I mentioned that NBC's webpage about Olympic archery contains quite a few errors. I've been thinking about that a lot as I've watched the Olympic archery matches this week. Last night, it occurred to me that NBC probably has other niche sports pages containing errors. My guess is that we all have students who are into one or more of those niche sports. Likewise, we all have students who may have hobbies they're passionate about, but we don't know much about ourselves. For example, six years ago I had a student who was quite passionate about making raising bees, I couldn't have told you the first thing about raising bees.

Thinking about niche sports and hobbies prompted me to think about how I might leverage students' interests into a lesson about web research. One way to do this is to ask students to find a webpage, perhaps on Wikipedia or elsewhere, about their favorite niche hobbies or sports. Once they've found a page or two ask them to try to develop a list of errors they find on the page. Then ask them to try to locate three references that confirm the errors they found on the original page.


Two Ways to Use Data Validation in Google Forms

If you've ever seen the data validation option in Google Forms and wondered what it does, you're not alone. I get asked about it every time I lead a workshop on Google Apps for Education. In a nutshell, data validation allows you to specify a number, range of numbers, text, or series of characters that must appear in a response to a question that you ask in Google Forms. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of two ways that you might use data validation in a classroom setting.