Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Scan Documents and QR Codes With Your Chromebook

Chromebook users will be happy to learn that Google has released an update that provides more utility for the camera that is built into Chromebooks. The update gives Chromebook webcams the ability to scan documents and QR codes. 

 To scan a document with your Chromebook you now need to just open the camera app on your Chromebook and then hold a document in front of the camera. The edges of the document should be automatically detected, but if they're not you can still crop the scan as needed. The scanned document can then be saved as a PDF or as a JPEG file. 

Your Chromebook can now also scan QR codes just like an Android phone can scan a QR code. Simply position the QR code in front of the camera and then it will read the QR code and let you open any information included within that code (typically links or contact information). 

Applications for Education
I can see the scanning feature becoming popular amongst math teachers whose students use Chromebooks. Students can solve math problems on paper then simply scan those papers and send them to their teachers as PDFs in Google Classroom or via Gmail (I'd choose via Google Classroom to make it easier to organize submitted assignments).

As with all updates to Chrome OS and Google Workspaces, you might not see this feature immediately on your Chromebook. Make sure your Chromebook is updated (simply restart it to update) and be patient. 

Two Easy Ways to Make Your Own Mobile App

On Monday morning I answered a question from a reader of my newsletter who wanted to know if there was a way for someone who wasn't "techy" to create her own iPhone app. My immediate response was to say yes and suggest giving Glide Apps a try. I've been using Glide Apps for almost three years now and it just keeps getting better and easier to use to create mobile apps. 

Glide Apps enables anyone who can make a spreadsheet in Google Sheets to create his or her own mobile app. If that sounds simple, that's because it is just that simple. The headers that you put into your spreadsheet and the data that you enter into your spreadsheet is used by Glide to generate a mobile app for you that will work on Android and iOS devices.

In this new video I demonstrate two ways to use Glide Apps to create your own mobile app. The first method is to pick one of the Glide Apps templates and then modify the information within the template. The second method is to start from scratch with a blank Google Sheet. In my demonstration of the second method I explain and show how you can include maps and other multimedia elements.



Applications for Education
In the past I've written about a handful of ideas for using Glide Apps in school. Those ideas are listed below.

1. Create a mobile study guide: This was the first thing that I thought of when I discovered Glide. You or your students could create an app that lists each section or unit of your curriculum. In each section you can provide videos, podcasts, or simply link to additional documents for review.

2. Create a mobile version of school handbooks: When parents have a question about your school, their first instinct is probably to pick up their phones to search your school's website or to call the office. A mobile version of your school's handbook could make it easy for parents to quickly find the answers to frequently asked questions.

3. Create a guide to your community: Are you looking for a community service project for your middle school or high school students? If so, consider having them develop a guide to the highlights your community.

4. Develop a mobile reporting system: Do you have students or parents using Google Forms for logging information about multiple goals like independent reading, outdoor play, or behavior goals? If so, consider placing links to all of those forms in one convenient app. You'd do this by placing the links to your Forms in the columns in your spreadsheet before publishing it through Glide.

5. Room Use Schedule: For many years I worked in a school that had more teachers than classrooms so it was always kind of a guessing game as to who was using which room when. Having an app that made it easy to find out who was using which rooms at which times would have been amazing! With Glide you could create that kind of app.

A Fun and Educational Use of Chrome's Inspect Tool

In this week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I shared some of my favorite "techy" tricks to impress your students and colleagues. One of those tricks is to use the inspect tool in Chrome to view the code behind any webpage and then modify it to change what appears on the page on your computer. 

The inspect tool in Chrome lets you see the code behind any web page and change that code to display anything that you want in place of the original text and images. Watch this short video to see how it works.



Applications for Education
Chrome's inspect tool provides a good way for students to see how the code of a webpage works. I often had my ninth grade coding students do that last year.

You can also use the inspect tool to alter an article on the web to make it a satire story. Then print the page and give it to your students to try to identify the satire elements of the story.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Geography, Docs, and PowerPoint - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on the month of November, 2021. It was a busy, but good month for me. I hope that it was a good one for you as well. 

As I do every month, I've compiled a list of the most popular posts of the last thirty days. Take a look and see if there's something new or interesting that you missed in November. This month's list includes some cool PowerPoint tricks, some handy Google Docs updates, and a bunch of resources for teaching geography lessons. 

These were November's most popular posts:
1. My Big List of Activities and Resources for Geography Awareness Week
2. Three Updated Google Docs Features
3. Five Helpful PowerPoint Features You Might Be Overlooking
4. ClassPoint - Turn PowerPoint Into an Interactive Teaching Tool
5. Take a Look at Your Google Docs Activity Dashboard
6. How to Create a Random Name and Group Picker
7. It's That Time Again...
8. Display a Timer With a Google Document
9. My Top Three Tools for Creating Audio Slideshow Videos
10. TinyTap - Create Your Own Educational Games in Your Browser

Thank you for your support!
Your registrations in Practical Ed Tech courses (listed below) help me keep Free Technology for Teachers going.

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This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

All About Tract - PBL, Peer-to-Peer Learning, and More!

Disclosure: Tract is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Tract is a service that launched a few months ago and is quickly becoming a hit in schools because of its format and its flexibility. The format is a relatively simple one of students teaching students. The flexibility is that it can be used across grade levels from elementary school through high school and for a wide variety of topics and projects. 

This afternoon I had the opportunity to chat with the CEO and co-founder of Tract, Ari Memar. We talked about where the inspiration for Tract came from, Esther Wojcicki's role in Tract's development, student privacy, and how teachers are using Tract in their classrooms. The recording of our conversation is available in this video and as embedded below. 



A few highlights of my conversation with Ari Memar, CEO of Tract. 
  • The motivation for creating Tract was to provide a fun and safe platform for kids to create content that other students can benefit from in an environment that is fun like TikTok or YouTube, but is safe for students. 
  • Privacy concerns are at the forefront of Tract's development process. To that end all teacher accounts are verified. All submitted content automatically reviewed for language and imagery, but is also manually reviewed for privacy and accuracy. Teachers can choose to limit sharing of students' content to just the classroom or allow for wider distribution throughout Tract. Read Tract's privacy policy here
  • Tract can be used for PBL, for Genius Hour activities, for enrichment activities, and for after-school clubs. Here are five Tract Genius House activities to try. Learn how to use Tract for PBL here. Ideas on using Tract for GATE enrichment are highlighted here
  • Tract is attractive to teachers because it allows them to create projects for students that align with students' interests in creating video content. 
  • One of my personal favorite Tract learning paths is this one about digital photography.
Watch this video for a demonstration of how Tract works from a teacher's perspective and a student's perspective. 



As I teased at the end of the video with Ari, Tract will be rolling-out some great updates in the next week or so. In the meantime, you can head to Teach.Tract.app and use the code BYRNE to get free access to Tract for you and your students.

Tract Rockstar Award Contest!
Right now and through the end of the year Tract is running a content creation contest for students. Right now and through the end of the year Tract is hosting a Rock Star Award Contest that you and your students can participate in while engaged in project-based learning. The Rock Star Award Contest recognizes students and classes for uploading their best work to Tract. Every Friday stars are awarded and a leaderboard is updated. At the end of the year the class that has the most stars awarded will win a classroom creator kit that includes a green screen, lighting kit, microphones, and a subscription to WeVideo.

Tract Basics
If you're not sure what Tract is, here's my brief description of what it is and how it works. 
  • On Tract you will find lessons about photography, gaming, cooking, music, sports, and much more. Students can earn digital and physical prizes for completing the lessons and their corresponding activities. Tract is designed so that students (age 8+ is recommended) can complete the lessons and corresponding activities, called missions, on their own. Of course, there might be some activities that some students need a little assistance to complete. Fortunately, as a teacher you can create your own Tract account and watch your students’ progress to know when they might need a little help from you.
  • Students earn digital coins for completing each path. Paths that have more missions earn more coins than those that have fewer missions. Students can redeem their coins for digital and physical prizes. With the exception of Tract swag (tee shirts and hats) all of the prizes are digital prizes that benefit others. For example, students can redeem 250 coins to make a donation of one meal via Second Harvest of Silicon Valley toward the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger.
Sign up and use Tract for free by registering at Teach.Tract.app and use the code BYRNE.