Wednesday, December 16, 2015

AnswerGarden - Quickly Create Open-ended Online Polls

In yesterday's post about 15 good tools for quickly gathering feedback from students I included a neat tool called AnswerGarden. AnswerGarden is a neat service that allows you to quickly create and distribute open-ended poll questions. It's a great tool for brainstorming. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create a poll and gather feedback through AnswerGarden.

Create a Simple Holiday Greeting Card On Storyboard That

In the past I've shared directions for creating Halloween cards through Storyboard That. The same tool can be used for creating other holiday greeting cards. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Storyboard That to create holiday greeting cards.

Applications for Education
If you find yourself looking for a quick writing activity to do before the holiday break, consider having your students use Storyboard That to create custom greeting cards in which they write short notes to friends and family members.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on

Templates Now Available in Mobile Versions of Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets

The Google Slides, Docs, and Sheets templates available in the web version of those tools is now available to you in the Android and iOS versions of Slides, Docs, and Sheets. Tap the red "+" button to create a new Slideshow, Document, or Sheet and you'll be presented with the option to create from a template or create from scratch.

As someone who gets frustrated by manipulating spreadsheets, I find the Sheets templates to be particularly useful. The Docs and Slides templates are also helpful when I need inspiration for layouts and color schemes. One of the Slides templates that I frequently use is the student certificate template.

Getting Going With GAFE - An Online Course - Earn Three Graduate Credits

During the past year more than 100 teachers earned graduate credits and professional development hours by participating in my online course Getting Going With GAFE (Google Apps for Education). By popular demand the fine folks at Midwest Teachers Institute and  I have scheduled a new 2016 section of Getting Going With GAFE. The new course will start on January 5th.

Getting Going With GAFE is a Practical Ed Tech five week webinar series designed for teachers and administrators who are new to using Google Apps for Education. In Getting Going With  GAFE you will learn everything you need to know to integrate Google Drive, Google Classroom, Google Calendar, and Google Sites into your practice.

Getting Going With GAFE costs $147. Three graduate credits are available for the course through my partnership Midwest Teachers Institute and Calumet College of St. Joseph. Graduate credits require an additional fee and completion of weekly assignments.

Course dates:
January 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th, and February 2 at 7pm Eastern Time. All classes are recorded.

Course highlights:

  • Get to know Google Drive.
  • What makes Google Docs better than your old word processor.
  • Tips & tricks for getting the most out of Google Docs
  • The ins and outs of Google Slides.
  • Using Google Drive to store and share all of your digital creations (even those old files you made years ago in Word). 
  • Take control of your schedule with Google Calendar.
  • Using calendars to keep your students, their parents, and your colleagues informed about happenings in your classroom.
  • Using Google Calendar as a reservation system for parent-teacher conferences.
  • Google Sites As Your Online Hub
  • Create a website that students and their parents will want to visit.
  • Using Google Sites as a blog.
  • Designing and developing digital portfolios in Google Sites.
  • Using Google Sites for wiki projects.
  • Google Classroom to streamline your workflow. Organizing assignments for distribution.
  • Managing multiple classrooms from one place.
  • Giving feedback through Google Classroom.

What’s included? What does it cost?
Registration is $147 (subscribers to the Practical Ed Tech newsletter receive a discount code). Click here to register for the webinar series today.

The graduate credit option costs an additional $450. Click here to register for graduate credit.

Note: students pursuing the graduate credit option must register for the webinar series first, then complete the MTI graduate credit registration form.

Registration is not confirmed until payment has been received. Cancellations received less than 7 days prior to the start of the course will not be refunded. All live sessions are recorded.

The recordings are made available to all participants to stream and or download. Participants will receive digital handouts with directions for everything demonstrated in the webinars. Participants have access to a dedicated discussion forum to use throughout the course.

This sounds great! How do I register? What will I need to participate? 
The easiest and cheapest way to register is by completing the registration online with a credit card or PayPal.  To register for graduate credit, first complete the webinar series registration then complete the MTI form here. Purchase Orders and school checks will only be accepted if four or more people from the same district register together. The courses will be hosted through GoToTraining. To participate in the course you will need a laptop or desktop computer with an updated browser (Chrome or FireFox is ideal).

About the costs and my decision to advertise these opportunities on my blog:
Sometimes when I advertise one of these webinars I get messages from people who are upset that I am advertising it here and or that I am charging for it. I understand why some people feel that way. I thought long and hard about how to offer these opportunities. In fact, I thought about it and talked about it with trusted advisers for a year before offering the first webinar series last year. The purpose of this blog and my goal for years has always been to help people use free technology in their classrooms. The tools and strategies featured in my webinars and at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp are free to use. However, my time for teaching isn't free. Further, I pay licensing fees to GoToTraining and to Wistia for hosting all of the media content of the courses.

Chronas - Interactive Historical Map and Data Sets

Chronas is a relatively new interactive resource for history students and teachers. Larry Ferlazzo wrote a short review of it here. Larry's post focused on the interactive map, which is great, but there are some other interesting interactive elements in Chronas that should be noted.

On the Chronas homepage there are eleven images that are representative of the world at different times. For example, there is an image of a painting of Genghis Khan and the title is 1248: Mongols Invade East-Europe. Click on the image and you can read a short article about Genghis Khan and his empire. Click the map to the right of the article and you'll be taken to an interactive map of the world as borders appeared in 1248.

Once you are on the interactive Chronas map you can adjust the time slider at the bottom of the page to see national boundaries change through the course of history. Stop the time slider at any point and click on the map to reveal a Wikipedia entry about that nation. One of the neat aspects of the map is that as you get into the history of the United States, the Chronas map continues to show the sovereignty of Native American tribes. A lot of other interactive maps of national boundaries don't do that.

Somewhat hidden in the Chronas map is an option to explore various sets of data. This option is found in the upper, left corner of the map. In the data sets you can find things like "sunburst" visualizations of population demographics according to year. The sunburst allows you to start with a a broad data selection and refine it as you drag your cursor to the edges of visualization. For example, I chose the year 1959 then selected Hindu then dragged my cursor to see the geographical distribution of people of the Hindu faith. You'll also find aggregations of data that show you population distribution by ruler/ empire.

The final piece of Chronas to note is the option to turn on additional markers for cities, battles, artifacts, and famous people. Activate the additional markers and they'll appear on map in the proper geographic context for the time you have selected on the map's time slider. Each marker is interactive. Click the marker to be taken to a Wikipedia entry related to the item represented by the map marker.

A Great List of Web Tools That Don't Require Registration

One of the challenges of using web tools with students is getting through the registration and sign-in process. Fortunately, if you look around long enough you will find some good tools that don't require registration. So that you don't have to spend hours searching for registration-free web tools, Nathan Hall has put together a great list that you can consult. Nathan's list is divided into eighteen categories. Some of the categories of most interest to teachers are online whiteboards, survey/ poll tools, chart/ graph tools, annotation tools, document creation tools, and photo & drawing tools. Within each category Nathan includes short descriptions of the tools along with a star rating for each tool.

Applications for Education
Using web tools that don't require registration to use can save you and your students time as you can jump right into an activity without having to struggle with usernames and passwords. The downside to using registration-free web tools is that often you don't have an option for saving your work other than downloading it directly to your computer or sharing it to another service like Evernote or Google Drive which do require registration.

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