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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Create Mind Maps in Google Drawings

In a webinar that I hosted last week I was discussing using mind maps to generate ideas for blog posts. Someone in the webinar asked for a demonstration so I opened Google Drawings and quickly put together a mind map of blog post ideas. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use the tools in Google Drawings to create mind maps.

Crello - A Good Option for Creating Graphics

Crello is a free platform that bears a striking resemblance to Canva. Like Canva, Crello offers a variety of free design templates that you can customize with stock imagery and clip art or with images of your own that you upload to your Crello account. All of your designs can be downloaded as PDF, JPG, or PNG files to re-use as you see fit.

Applications for Education
Crello is a tool that you could have students use to create posters, infographics, and collages about the subjects that they research in your class. You might also use Crello to create graphics to share on social media to promote a school event. I published an extensive post about using graphics to promote school events.

Formative 2.0 is Coming Soon - Save Your Data Soon

Formative is one of my favorite free tools for conducting interactive formative assessments. I've used it to create image-based quizzes and diagram-based quizzes. You can also use it to create interactive assessments based on documents that you upload to the site.

Last week Formative announced via email that Formative 2.0 is coming soon. The new version will offer some outstanding new features. Before the new version is rolled-out on June 24th you should download any student responses that you think you'll want to be able to access in the new version. You can download all existing student responses in a CSV file. To do so, just go to the results page of any assessment and select "export." Selecting the export option will generate a CSV file that you can download and later import into the next version of Formative.


12 Sites and Apps for Learning to Code

Last week on Twitter I mentioned that Logo was my introduction to computers and programming. Today we have many more ways to introduce students to programming and coding. Here are some good resources that you can use to introduce students to programming and coding.

When the conversation amongst educators turns to programming, Scratch is often the first resource that is mentioned. Scratch allows students to program animations, games, and videos through a visual interface. Students create their programs by dragging together blocks that represent movements and functions on their screens. The blocks snap together to help students see how the "if, then" logic of programming works. If you haven't seen Scratch before, watch the short overview in the video below.


Scratch Overview from ScratchEd on Vimeo.

Scratch Jr. is based on the aforementioned online Scratch program. Scratch Jr for iPad and for Android uses the same drag and drop programming principles used in Scratch. On Scratch Jr students can program multimedia stories and games. To program a story or game on Scratch Jr. students select background settings for each frame of the story. Then in each frame students select the actions that they want their characters to take. Students snap programming pieces together to make characters move and talk in their stories and games.

Snap! is a drag-and-drop programming interface designed to help students learn to program. Snap! uses a visual interface that works in your browser on your laptop as well as on your iPad. To design a program in Snap! drag commands into a sequence in the scripts panel. The commands are represented by labeled jigsaw puzzle pieces that snap together to create a program. You can try to run your program at any time to see how it will be executed. After previewing your program you can go back and add or delete pieces as you see fit. Snap! may remind some people of Scratch. That is because the Snap! developers call their program "an extended re-implementation of Scratch." The potential benefit of Snap! over Scratch is that teachers who have a mix of iPads, Android tablets, and laptops in their classrooms can have all of their students use the same programming interface.

The MIT App Inventor allows students to create and publish their own Android applications. The MIT App Inventor works in your web browser (Chrome is recommended). The only download that is required for App Inventor 2 is the optional emulator. The emulator allows people who don't have Android devices to text their apps on their desktops. If you have an Android device then the emulator is not required and you don't need to worry about installing it. MIT provides excellent support documentation and curriculum for classroom use for new users of App Inventor. Click here to read about a great app developed by students using the MIT App Inventor.

Google Blockly's interface will remind you of the MIT App Inventor and Scratch. Google Blockly, like Scratch and the MIT App Inventor, uses jigsaw pieces containing commands that you can snap together to create an application. The blocks can be dragged, dropped, and rearranged as many times as you like. Google has five working demonstrations of Blockly that you can try right now. Google Blockly could be a good tool for students to use to play with logic commands in a relatively easy to understand environment. Blockly doesn't require any typing, just clicking, dragging, and dropping with a mouse or on a touch screen.

Crunchzilla is a service that students can use to learn to write Javascript programs. There are two versions of Crunchzilla; Code Maven and Code Monster. Code Monster is designed for students of middle school age. Code Monster contains 58 short lessons that take students from the very basics of things like resizing and repositioning objects to complex creation of animations. Students can work through the lessons in sequence or jump directly to any of the lessons. Students receive instant feedback on each lesson because the code that they write and the results of the code are displayed side by side.

Code Maven offers 59 lessons for students to work through at their own pace to learn programming fundamentals. After completing the Code Maven tutorials students are ready to move on to Game Maven where they can work through 37 lessons in which they will create three simple online games.

TouchDevelop is a great platform through which students can learn to program simple animations and games. On TouchDevelop students program a series of actions by entering sequences of commands such as "move forward" and "turn right" that are carried out on the screen by a chosen figure such as a turtle. In addition to the direction commands students program the distances covered on screen, the colors, the animations, and the images to appear on screen. All commands have to be entered into correct sequences of "if, then" logic in order for everything to display as intended. TouchDevelop works on most modern web browsers including Chrome for iPad. Students completed programs can be saved online and or exported for use as Windows apps or HTML5 applications.



CodeMonkey is a fun game through which students learn some basic programming skills. In the game students have to help a monkey get his bananas. The game presents students with a series of thirty progressively more difficult challenges in which they have to help a monkey reach his bananas. Students help the monkey get his bananas by correctly programming the movements of the monkey. CodeMonkey provides little tutorials for to help students through the challenges.

Thunkable is a free platform for designing, testing, and publishing your own Android apps (support for iOS apps is coming soon). Through Thunkable you can create your apps even if you don't know how to write code. That is possible because Thunkable uses a drag-and-drop design framework. That framework, based on the MIT App Inventor, shows you jigsaw-like pieces that have commands labeled on them. Your job is to put the pieces together to make your apps work. Thunkable offers detailed written tutorials and video tutorials.


Daisy the Dinosaur is a free iPad app designed to introduce young students to  some programming basics. The app asks students to create commands for Daisy the Dinosaur to carry out. There is a free play mode in which students can make Daisy do whatever they want. But to get started you might want to have students work through the beginner challenges mode. Daisy the Dinosaur asks students to enter commands in the correct sequence in order to make Daisy complete tasks correctly. Daisy the Dinosaur could be used with students as young as Kindergarten age.

Hopscotch is a free iOS app that introduces students to programming logic. The app originally launched as an iPad-only app. Last week the developers released an iPhone-friendly version of the free app. In Hopscotch students put command boxes into order to make cartoon avatars move and draw lines. Students can program one or all of the cartoon avatars to move and follow commands based on touch or on the movement of their iPads.