Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Google Maps Engine Lite Renamed "My Maps"

Google Maps Engine Lite, a great tool for creating custom online maps, has been renamed to simply My Maps (not to be confused with "My Maps" that used to be in the old version of Google Maps). My Maps includes all of the features of Google Maps Engine Lite. My favorite of those features is the option to create multiple layers of placemarks in each of your custom maps.

Ideas for using My Maps in your classroom:
As I have written in the past, there are quite a few good uses of creating maps with multiple layers.
  • Multiple layers can be used for showing data differences on a year over year or month over month basis. 
  • You can display the same data with different base layers for comparison. 
  • Students working collaboratively on a map can be responsible for editing their own layers on the same map. 
  • If you’re using Google Maps Engine Lite My Maps to have students create literature trips (look here for inspiration), they can create a different layer for each chapter of a book. 
  • Students mapping the history of an event like the U.S. Civil War can create a different layer for each year of the war.
I will create an updated tutorial on My Maps soon, but in the meantime the following tutorial on Google Maps Engine Lite offers nearly everything you need to know to use the new My Maps. 

Wikispaces Changes Pricing for Non-Academic Wikis

Wikispaces has made a change to their pricing plans for non-academic blogs. Most K-12 teachers who are using Wikispaces won't notice a thing because of this change. However, if you are using Wikispaces with personal email address (Gmail, Hotmail, etc) instead of your school email address, you may have to confirm or re-confirm that you are using your wikis for school purposes. You can read the full announcement from Wikispaces here on their blog. To be clear, Wikispaces is still giving completely free access to K-12 teachers and students.

A Handful of Help Resources for Constitution Day

Tomorrow is Constitution Day here in the United States. If you're in need of some last minute resources or you just want to add to your list of resources for teaching about the U.S. Constitution, take a look at the items in the list below.

Keith Hughes of Hip Hughes History fame has a long playlist of videos about the U.S. Constitution. His playlist includes an overview of the Constitutional Convention, videos about each section of the Constitution, and videos about most of the amendments to the Constitution. I've embedded the playlist below.

The Constitution Center's website features the U.S. Constitution divided into easily searchable sections. From the main page you can select and jump to a specific article or amendment. What I really like about the site is that you can choose an issue like privacy, civil rights, or health care and see how those issues are connected to the Constitution. The Constitution Center offers an extensive list of lesson plans for each of the Constitution's articles and amendments. Select an article or amendment then scroll to the bottom of the page to find the lesson plans. Alternatively, you can find all of the lesson plans listed here.

iCivics is an excellent source of educational games that offer lessons in civics. Since its launch a few years ago, iCivics has steadily grown to the point that it now contains nineteen educational games for students. All of the games require students to take on a decision making role. To succeed in the games students have to apply their understanding of the rules and functions local, state, or Federal government. Some games require an understanding of the U.S. court system and or the Constitution.

Google and the Comparative Constitution Project offer a neat site called Constitute. The site hosts the constitutions of 160 countries. You can search the site according to country and or constitutional theme. Searching by constitutional theme is the best aspect of the site. More than 300 themes are outlined on the site. Select a theme then a country and the element of that country's constitute addressing your chosen theme will be highlighted. You can pin parts of the constitutions to compare them to each other.

Larry Ferlazzo has an extensive list of Constitution Day resources that you should also check out. 

Screencast-O-Matic - A Great Tool for Creating Screencast Videos

Over the last few weeks I have published a bunch of how-to videos like this one about creating stop motion movies. I've had at least a handful of people ask me in emails or Tweets about the tool that I use to create those videos. I use Screencast-O-Matic to create my screencast videos.

Screencast-O-Matic is available in a free version and a pro version. The free version allows you to record for up to fifteen minutes at a time (that is plenty of time for most screencasts), publish to YouTube in HD, and save videos to your computer as MP4, AVI, and FLV files. The pro version ($15/year) includes video editing tools, unlimited recording lengths, a script tool, and removal of the Screencast-O-Matic watermark. Both versions of Screencast-O-Matic include a highlighted circle around your cursor so that viewers can easily follow your movements on the screen. A webcam recording option is included in the free and pro versions of Screencast-O-Matic.

Applications for Education
Screencast-O-Matic can be used for creating how-to videos or simple flipped lesson videos in which you record yourself talking over a set of slides.

Screencast-O-Matic does require Java which means that it won't work on Chromebooks. Snagit for Chrome is a good option for recording screencast videos on Chromebooks.

Some Resources for Teaching About Scotland and the U.K.

On Thursday voters in Scotland will decide whether or not to leave the United Kingdom. If you teach current world events, you may find the following resources to be helpful.

CGP Grey's video The Difference Between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained provides a five minute overview of the differences between terms that some people incorrectly use interchangeably.

NBC News offers this breakdown of ten things to know about Scotland's independence referendum. The list includes some explanations of why Americans might be interested in the outcome of the vote.

The BBC (yes, they probably have a bit of bias on the topic) offers this overview of key issues at a glance.

The Edinburgh News (again, they probably have a bit of bias on the topic) offers this list of ten reasons for and ten reasons against independence.

Jeffery Hill has created a small quiz about Scotland's history and culture. You can find the quiz as a set of slides or as a PDF on his blog.

The #Onescreen Chrome Screen

This is a guest post from Tanya Avrith of EdTechTeacher.org, an advertiser on this blog.

The web is a powerful place filled with incredible free tools that allow us to consume, create, curate and connect. As Justin Reich (@bjfr) offers in this EduSlam, when introducing your Chromebook, Google Chrome apps, or any other device to your students, all you need to focus on is #onescreen of apps and a few essential extensions.

Digging deeper into a few apps with your students is often the most effective way to focus their learning as it allows them to complete deep and concentrated work rather than skimming through an untold number of apps.  My #onescreen takes thoughtful interaction into account while focusing on the 4 C’s - Consumption, Creation, Curation and Connection.

1. Consumption Apps

When choosing “consumption” apps, focus on how the app will better your students consumption of educational content. For instance, the chrome extension Clearly removes all of the advertisements surrounding an educational article on the web, enabling students to better concentrate on educational content and allow them to critically read, watch, and listen to content. Google Cultural Institute provides interactive virtual tours of some of the world’s most historic monuments, art and architecture where students can zoom in on the media and view historical art from multiple perspectives. Effective consumption tools enable students to focus deeply on educational content and examine in new and engaging ways.

2. Creation Apps

Creation apps allow students to demonstrate their learning in creative ways using different types of media. When students are the ones creating, they have a deeper engagement and the learning lasts longer as it requires them to really think through the material to come up with ideas to express their understanding. One of my favourite creation tools is a Chrome extension called Screencastify. It allows you to record anything on the screen and save the videos to Google Drive or YouTube. Explaining what you are doing through a video is a great way to get your students to be reflective on any work they are creating. A great strategy is to use Screencastify to get students to reflect on the process of their creation with “revision history.” Using revision history (located under File), students can click on the different versions and edited work in Google Slides, Drawings and Docs and explain their changes.

3. Curation Apps

To be digitally literate, students must be able to organize and reflect on the content that they produce. Google Drive and Evernote are two apps that can help students to complete this process. Whether students organize their work into Drive folders or Evernote notebooks, they can now reflect back on their creations. By using these tools as well repositories for their work, students can easily access and  reflect on their note taking and other processes of their learning.

4. Connection Apps

Once we teach our students how to be better consumers of information, to demonstrate organize and access their learning via creative educational activity, we should get them to connect and share outside the four walls of their classroom. Connecting students to the outside world  can be done by publishing their work to to the web, providing them with an authentic audience from whom they can receive effective and meaningful feedback. Not only is blogging a great medium for communication, it is a powerful way for students to learn how to engage with the world at large. By teaching students how to respond to blogs, write thoughtful comments, and give creative criticism you are not only enhancing their writing and communication skills, but building digital citizenship skills. I recommend choosing a platform where students can move forward with their work and own their content.  Try to consider blogging platforms where the student is able retain ownership once they graduate. Blogger is a fantastic outlet to publish student creations and reflections because it takes these aspects into consideration by allowing students to own their own blog and transfer ownership from the school domain to their own GMail or personal domain. The ThingLink below shows my One Screen of Chrome Apps. Please share yours in the comments on this post or by tagging with #onescreen.
To learn more about using Google Apps from Tanya, come join her for two FREE live webinars in the coming weeks. EdTechTeacher will also be offering a Google Apps & iPads workshop as part of their November 12-14 iPad Summit in Boston.