Thursday, February 22, 2018

Anchor 3.0 Provides an Easy Way to Create Podcasts

Anchor is a free service for creating podcasts on your phone or on your laptop. When the service started it was just a simple app that let you record short (two minutes or less) episodes to publish on the Anchor network. Over the last couple of years the service has steadily added more features leading up to Anchor 3.0 that launched today.

The latest version of Anchor is packed with features that make it easy to record, edit, and publish podcasts. Perhaps the best feature of Anchor is the ease with which you can publish to all major podcast networks including iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and Pocket Casts. To publish to those platforms all you have to do is select them when you tap or click publish on your Anchor podcast.

Anchor previously only let you record through your phone. The new version of Anchor includes a browser-based recording. The browser-based recording tool also includes free transition music that you can use within your recording. For those who prefer to record with another tool, can still use Anchor to publish their podcasts. The browser-based version of Anchor has an option to upload audio files for publication.

Applications for Education
If you have ever wanted to start a podcast with your students, but got deterred by the complexity of publishing, Anchor could be the solution that you need.

How to Schedule Blog Posts

Posting on a consistent schedule is one of the keys to maintaining interest in any blog. One of the best ways to maintain a consistent schedule is to use the scheduling tools that are built into most blogging services. By using the scheduling tools you can write a bunch of posts at once and have them appear at a later time. In the following video I demonstrate how to schedule blog posts on Edublogs, on Blogger, and on WordPress.

How to Use Google Sheets to Create a Bingo Board With Pictures

A couple of weeks ago I shared the news that Flippity's Bingo board template now lets you include pictures in your boards. I've had a few people ask for clarification on how to include image links in the template that generates the game board. In the following video I demonstrate how to create a Bingo board through Google Sheets.

The Built-in Google Docs Features Starter Pack

I test and write about a lot of Google Docs Add-ons and built-in features. But you certainly don't need to use all of them. In fact, I'm often asked for a list of the "must-know" features instead of all of the "could use" features. Here are ten features that new users can benefit from learning early on.

1. Font options
Besides the default options in the font drop-down menu there are hundreds of other options available when you choose "more fonts" at the top of that menu. And while we're on the topic of fonts, it is possible to change the default font.

2. Page formatting
In the "File" drop-down menu you'll find a "page setup" option that allows you to change page orientation, set margins, and even change the page background color.

3. Find and Replace (Ctrl + H)
The next time you find yourself sitting down to start writing summative reports before parent-teacher conferences, create a template that you can quickly modify for each student. Then you can use the find and replace function to quickly change names, adjectives, and even entire sentences without having to create each report from scratch.

4. Personal dictionary 
In the "tools" menu select "personal dictionary" to teach the spell check to ignore the spelling of names or other words that are often marked incorrect by spell check despite being spelled correctly. For example, the last name of a friend of mine is Wankowicz, that name is never recognized by spell check unless the spell check is customized through the "personal dictionary" function.

5. Custom spacing
The default line spacing in Google Docs is 1.15. You can change that to anything you like, if you know where the line spacing settings are found. You can find the settings in the "format" menu. You can also find it in the toolbar. See the screenshot below for direction on finding the line spacing settings in the toolbar.
Click image to enlarge.

6. Version history
This feature was formerly called "revision history." Select "version history" to find the various iterations of your document. You can set different names for each version. This is a great feature for seeing the evolution of a student's document.

7. Adding collaborators
Click the "share" button in the upper, right corner of your document to invite people to become collaborators on your document. You can give people full access to edit your document or you can restrict them to only being able to make suggestions and comments on your document.

8. Lock shared documents
Google Docs includes the option to make your document available for anyone to view even if they don't have Google accounts. But just because people can view your document it doesn't mean that they have to be able to make copies of or print your document. Use the "advanced" option on the sharing menu to disable the option to print or copy your public documents.
Click image to enlarge.

9. Insert drawings
Need to insert a signature? Want to quickly add a flow chart to a document? Use Google Drawings within your document. You'll find that option in the "insert" drop-down menu.

10. Export your document.
Prefer to print a PDF? Have someone who insists that you send him or her a Word file attached to an email instead of using Google Docs? You can do both of those things by selecting "download as" in the File menu.

Are you new to use Google Docs or G Suite for Education? Take my G Suite for Teachers course to learn everything you need to know to feel comfortable using it in your classroom. 

How Birds Learn to Sing

Spring isn't too far away and soon we'll start to see and hear the songs of more birds around my home here in Maine. If you also live in a cold, northern climate the sounds of the birds is a welcome sign of spring. Why do birds sing? And how do they learn the songs that they sing? The answers to those questions and more are revealed in a new TED-Ed Lesson titled How Do Birds Learn to Sing?

After learning how birds learn to sing, have your students explore The Wall of Birds interactive mural produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The mural features a variety of birds that when clicked on reveal information about that bird, audio of that bird's call, and a map of that bird's natural range.