Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Our Favorite Animals - A Google Slides Introduction

I've had the opportunity to introduce Google Slides to students as young as first grade. Our Favorite Animals is the title of one of my go-to activities for teaching Google Slides to young students. Here's how the activity works.

1. I create a set of slides that are blank except for the first one on which I include a picture of an animal and one thing that I like about the animal. I also put each student's name on a slide so that they know whose slide is whose.

2. Depending upon the age and reading skills of the students I will either show them the "research" function under the "tools" drop-down menu or send them to to find pictures of their favorite animals. If they use to find and save pictures we'll then drag them on slides. If they use the research function to find images they will drag and drop from the search results to their slides. (Bear in mind, the drag and drop option only works on a laptop or Chromebook).

3. After inserting their images student will write one thing that they like about their favorite animal.

4. I'll take some time to allow students who want to speak, speak about their slides.

Bear in mind, I have never taught primary/ elementary school as a full-time job (high school is my forte). This is an activity that I've used when I've been a guest in elementary school classrooms with a teacher who wants to learn about Google Slides. You may need to modify this activity for your elementary/ primary students. I've shared it only because it has been successful for me.

Connecting Kids With Projects That Matter to Them - Slides

This morning I had the privilege to speak at the first day of school for teachers in Tamworth, New Hampsire. The title of my opening keynote was Connecting Kids With Projects That Matter to Them. The slides don't mean a whole lot without hearing me speak, but I promised to put them online for the folks who wanted to refer to them later. The slides are embedded below.

Five Popular Ed Tech Tools That Work on Nearly All Devices

Cross-posted from one of my other blogs,

There are certainly many more solid apps available for Android tablets than there were a few years, yet there are still many times when someone will ask me if one of my recommended tools is available for Android. In no particular order, here are five of my most frequently recommended tools that will work on Android tablets as well as on Chromebooks, iPads, and in your laptop's web browser.

Padlet is probably my favorite tool for quickly creating an online space in which students can post short notes, respond to questions, and share links to things they've made and or discovered. Padlet now offers an iPad app, but they don't offer an Android app. However, Padlet does work quite well if you just open it in the web browser on your Android tablet.

Storyboard That is an excellent tool for creating short stories in a comic strip style. By offering more than 40,000 pieces of artwork for students to use in their storyboards, Storyboard That makes sure that students never run out of possibilities. Learn more about Storyboard That in this webinar recording. Like Padlet, Storyboard That does not offer an Android tablet, but it works very well in the web browser on my Nexus tablet.

Animoto has long been a staple of my ed tech toolbox as it provides a good way to quickly introduce people to making simple videos. I find that making a video in Animoto is a confidence builder for people who have never tried to make a video. Once that confidence is built then we'll move on to trying more robust video creation tools. Animoto has offered an Android app for a couple of years now, yet it many people are still surprised when I mention it.

ThingLink is another staple of my ed tech toolbox. ThingLink is a free tool for creating interactive images. The ThingLink Android app has been offered for quite a while, but people still seem surprised when I mention it. If you don't want to install the app, the browser-based version of ThingLink will work on your Android tablet too. I like to use the ThingLink app in conjunction with the PicCollage app to have students summarize the highlights of a field trip. Click here for an example of that.

When searching for data or other computational information, Wolfram Alpha stands superior to other search engines. I recommend Wolfram Alpha not only for searches involving mathematics but for many searches that are in seek of static information like the lifespan of a president, height of a mountain, or the lyrics to Smells Like Teen Spirit. If you open Wolfram Alpha in the browser on your Android tablet you will be prompted to buy the app ($2.99) but you can bypass that by scrolling to the bottom of the page and tapping the link to "continue to Wolfram Alpha."

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on

Challenge Your Students With Verizon's Innovative App Challenge

Verizon's Innovative App Challenge is a contest that asks students in grades six through twelve to design an app. The contest does not require students to code the app. The contest is focused on the concept of an app and its presentation. Students can work in teams to to design an app that solves a real problem. Take a look at the Chow Checker app for an example of an app designed by students to solve a problem.

Verizon's Innovative App Challenge is accepting submissions until November 24th. Students must make a video to explain the concept of their apps and write a short essay about their apps. Complete entry rules are available here.

If your students do want to build an app either for this contest or for their own enjoyment, the MIT App Inventor offers a great way to do that. Students can build working apps in their web browsers before using them on their Android devices. Click here to read more about the MIT App Inventor.