Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The 2015 Google Science Fair Is Open

The 2015 Google Science Fair is now open. This annual event asks thirteen to eighteen year old students to carry out a test or experiment on a subject they’re passionate about, and submit their projects online. This year submissions will be accepted in fourteen languages from students all over the world.

To help students develop project ideas the Google Science Fair website offers an idea springboard. The idea springboard asks students to complete the phrases "I love," "I'm good at," and "I want to explore." From the students' responses to these questions the idea springboard generates a collection of videos and websites that could spark project ideas in their minds.

Applications for Education
The Google Science Fair website includes a section for teachers in which you will find lesson plans addressing the topics of how science changes the world and what good science looks like. These lesson plans are designed to guide students in the processes of inquiry and experiment design.

Click here to find complete details about entering the Google Science Fair.

How to Create & Distribute Flipped Lessons Through EDPuzzle

EDpuzzle is a neat tool that allows you to add your voice and text questions to educational videos. On EDpuzzle you can search for educational videos and or upload your own videos to use as the basis of your lesson. EDpuzzle has an online classroom component that you can use to assign videos to students and track their progress through your video lessons. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use the main features of EDPuzzle.

This is the 68th video that I have created and added to my playlist of Practical Ed Tech Tips.

More Fun With Math in Pictures

I love Instagram because it prompts me to take and share pictures of things that I might otherwise glance at then forget about. Before cell phones entered my life I rarely took pictures. Last week I took the picture that you see below. Almost as soon as it appeared in my Facebook feed via Instagram, my friend Kelly commented with, "shouldn't they be more concerned about weight than the number of people?" Kelly is a middle school math teacher so this picture was right in her wheelhouse of math prompts. (If you want to use the picture as a math prompt, you are welcome to download it).

Kelly's comment reminded me of the Bad Maths Flickr group which contains lots of examples of bad math spotted in stores and other public places. Some of the bad math is obvious as in this picture taken in a Walmart store. Other examples are not as obvious.

Along the same lines of taking math pictures, last year Andy McKiel shared a neat mathematics and photography project started by a grade 3 class in Thompson, Manitoba. The project asked students to take photographs of things representing various topics and concepts in elementary school level mathematics. There was a different concept for each day of the month of May. You can certainly modify the project to suit another month of the year.

New Features for Teachers Added to Teach Your Monster to Read

Teach Your Monster to Read is a fun game designed to help students improve the speed and accuracy with which they recognize letters and sounds. Students play the game as a friendly monster avatar. The game series of levels (or islands as they're called in the game) each containing activities for students to play to help their monster avatars learn to recognize letters and words. On each island students can earn prizes for their monsters and customize the look of their monsters.

The latest update to Teach Your Monster to Read offers new features to teachers. Teachers can now turn off the password requirement for students in their classes. This could be helpful if you just want to get students into the activities as quickly as possible. If you are using passwords you can now print passwords in capital or lowercase letters on password cards or in letters to parents. A new "letter to parents" template is available for teachers to download in their accounts. The letter can include log-in information for parents.

Applications for Education
Creating Teach Your Monster to Read accounts for all of your students is a simple process. Just register yourself as a teacher then enter your students' names (first names only) or upload a CSV file of your students' names. Teach Your Monster to Read will automatically generate a password for each student. As the teacher you can log-in anytime to see your students' progress.

A Short Guide to Taking Screenshots on Your Laptop and Tablet

Visual aids can be very helpful when you're introducing a new website, app, or software to students or colleagues. Being able to take and send a screenshot is also helpful when you're trying to explain a problem to your tech support person. Here's a short guide to taking screenshots on your iPad, Android tablet, Windows computer, Mac, or Chromebook.

A quick search in the Chrome store will return a bunch of options for taking screenshots on a Chromebook. Of those results there are two options that I have used and recommend. Diigo's Awesome Screenshot tool and TechSmith's Snagit. Awesome Screenshot will only capture things that are displayed in your web browser. Snagit will capture everything on your screen. Snagit requires that you download the Snagit Chrome app and the Snagit browser extension. Awesome Screenshot is a simple one step installation. Both tools allow you to draw and type on top of your screenshot images.

Macbook and Windows laptops:
On a Mac you can use the keyboard combination of "Command+shift+4" to take a screenshot of a portion of your screen. "Command+shift+3" will capture everything on your screen. The shortcoming of these methods is that you cannot draw or write on your screenshot images unless you use import those images into another tool.

On a Windows computer you can use the Snipping tool to capture all or part of your screen. From there you can use the built-in tools for drawing on your screenshot.

For years I have used Jing to take screenshots on my Mac and on my Windows laptop. Jing allows me to select a portion of my screen, highlight image elements, draw arrows on my screenshots, and type on my screenshots.

Skitch is another screenshot tool that I have used over the years. It does all of things that Jing does plus it has a tool for blurring sensitive information that might appear in a screenshot. If you have an Evernote account, you can save Skitch images in your Evernote account.

iPad and iPhone:
Taking a screenshot on an iPad or iPhone is a simple matter of holding down your "home" button (the big round one) and power button at the same time. The image will save directly to your device's camera roll. When I need to draw, highlight, or type on an image in my camera roll I turn to Skitch again.

Android phones and tablets:
As long as your device is operating on Android 4.0 or later you can take a screenshot by holding down your home button and power/sleep button at the same time. The screenshot should save to your camera roll unless you've designated another place for it to save. Once on your camera roll you can use the image in other apps for drawing, cropping, annotating, and sharing. Some Android devices, depending on manufacturer, include a built-in screenshot image editor. I have two Android apps that I regularly use for annotating my screenshots, Pixlr and Skitch. Skitch on Android offers all of the same features that are outlined above. Pixlr is a more robust tool that allows you to apply image filters in addition to drawing and typing on your images.

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