Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mailbag - Answers to Questions from Readers

Every week in my email and Facebook inbox I receive quite a few questions from readers. I try to answer as many of them as I can (I get to the email quicker than I do the Facebook messages). Often the questions and my answers could be beneficial to a lot of readers so I'm going to try to share more of them here on

Q1. Do you know of a way to do something like magnetic poetry, i.e., have words on "movable tiles" that students can arrange in sentences?

A1. ReadWriteThink's Word Mover tool does exactly that. Word Mover is available to use in your web browser. It is also available as a free iPad app and as a free Android app.

Q2. I would like to scan the books in my class library. Have the students check in and out books. This way I could keep track of my books. What would be a good app that I could use?

A2. Who Has What? 2 is an iPad app that will allow you to scan barcodes and or manually enter titles to keep track of what has been borrowed from you and who borrowed it. You can even use the app to send reminders when borrowed items are overdue. The app is currently priced at $0.99 but it has been free at times.

Q3. I'm looking for a way to record comments/feedback and send to my students when reading their essays. Is there something you can think of I could utilize? The only thing that I can think of is voice memo recording and emailing.

A3. If you use Google Drive, you can provide voice comments to your students through Kaizena. Kaizena will work with Google Documents and Slides. To use Kaizena to leave voice comments for your students your student should share their Documents or Presentations with you. Once they have shared their Documents or Presentations with you, open the shared file through Kaizena. With the shared file open you can highlight a portion of a document or slide then click the microphone icon to record your voice comment. Your students will see the comments after you have saved them. An outline of the process can be seen here.

Discover Art Whenever You Open a New Chrome Tab

Over the last few years Google has put thousands of fantastic works of art online for everyone to explore in the Google Cultural Institute. The Google Art Project Chrome extension features a different piece of art each time you open a new tab in Chrome. Should you see a work of art that intrigues you, you can click through it to learn more about in the Google Cultural Institute.

Applications for Education
The Google Art Project Chrome extension isn't going to change the way you teach, but it might expose some students to artworks that they would not have otherwise seen. That exposure might inspire them to learn a bit more about art.

Resources for Learning About the Iditarod

Max gets distracted by sticks. He will
not be running in any races. 
Earlier this morning Dallas Seavey won the Iditarod dog sled race. As I followed this news on Twitter I saw a couple of teachers Tweet pictures and comments about their students' reactions to the end of the race. That reminded me that I have previously shared some resources for teaching and learning about the Iditarod and dogs in general. A few of those resources are highlighted below.

For students who are interested in learning about the dogs used to pull the sleds over the 1100 mile Iditarod course, the American Kennel Club is a good place to find information about Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies. I should note that most of the dogs that run in the race aren't pure-bred dogs. I've met many mushers and one of my former colleagues is a musher (not in the Iditarod) whose teams aren't what you might expect to see when you think of sled dogs. To learn about genetics and breeding of dogs I recommend National Geographic's article How to Build a Dog.

On the Iditarod Education Portal you will many lesson plans about the race. The Iditarod Education Portal includes lessons for math, science, social studies, and language arts. Take a look at this lesson (link opens a PDF) about friction to get a sense of the kind of lesson plans that you will find through the Iditarod Education Portal.

The Scholastic Iditarod resources include some pieces on the history of the race and history of Alaska in general.

How to Create an Audio Slideshow With Annotations in YouTube

Within YouTube there is a free tool for creating audio slideshows. You supply the images and YouTube supplies the audio track. You can pick from thousands of audio tracks to match to your slides. After adding your slides and selecting an audio track you can add speech bubbles to your slides. I demonstrate all of these steps in the video embedded below.

Applications for Education
Creating an audio slideshow with annotations in YouTube is a good way for students to share the highlights of some basic research that they have conducted. Before YouTube offered this tool I had students use Animoto to create audio slideshow videos as biographies about U.S. presidents.

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