Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How to Use WriteReader to Collaboratively Create Multimedia Books

One of last month's most popular posts was about WriteReader. WriteReader is a free service designed to help elementary school students create multimedia books with the help of their teachers. Teachers can create online classrooms in WriteReader in which they can view and edit their students' work. This afternoon I created a tutorial to show you how WriteReader works from a student's perspective and from a teacher's perspective.

Disclosure: WriteReader is currently an advertiser on

5 Handy Chrome Extensions for Teachers

After seeing my browser in one of my tutorial videos or one of my presentations, people often ask me about the extensions that I have installed. Here are five Chrome extensions that teachers should try.

1. Nimbus screenshot - Rather than answering the same question dozens of times, create a screencast video to explain how to use a website. Or use the extension to make a flipped classroom video.

2. Bitly - Create a free Bitly account and you can create custom, shortened URLs for any webpage. Rather than relying on a randomly generated shortened URL, which is often hard for students to copy correctly, choose the characters that you want to appear in your shortened URL. This is a great way to direct students to specific webpages.

3. Hootsuite - Use Hootsuite to schedule updates to appear on your school or classroom Twitter and Facebook pages. Schedule your Tweets and Facebook posts to appear even when you're not online. Don't forget to repeat your Tweets because not everyone that follows you will see your Tweets the first time around.

4. Google Keep - This has been my preferred bookmarking and note-taking tool since Evernote essentially eliminated their free plan.

5. Share to Classroom - If your school uses G Suite for Education, then you need to try the Share to Classroom extension. With the Share to Classroom extension installed you will be able to push webpages to your students' devices by simply opening the extension and specifying which of your Google Classroom classes you want to receive the page. Students do not need to do anything because the page will automatically load in their web browsers. You can also have students push pages to you through Share to Classroom.

Three Ways That Students Can Create Talking Pictures

A couple of days ago on Twitter someone asked me for suggestions for tools that work like Blabberize to let  people create talking pictures. Blabberize is a site on which you can upload a picture and record audio to turn it into a talking picture. To do this on Blabberize you first upload a picture then draw or select a mouth on the people or animals in it. Then you record yourself talking. The mouth moves while you talk. It's a fun way to add some life to a still image.

On an iPad students can use ChatterPix Kids to create talking pictures. ChatterPix Kids is a free iPad app. To create a talking picture just snap a picture with your iPad or import a picture from your iPad’s camera roll. After taking the picture just draw in a face and tap the record button to make your picture talk. Your recording can be up to thirty seconds in length. Before publishing your talking picture you can add fun stickers, text, and frames to your picture. Finished Chatter Pix projects are saved to your camera roll and from there you can export it to a number of services including YouTube. ChatterPix Kids doesn’t require students to create an account in order to use the service. Using the app can be a great way to get students to bring simple stories to life. Check out the video below that was made, in part, by using ChatterPix.

On the Android platform Face Changer Video lets you create talking pictures in the same manner as Blabberize and ChatterPix Kids.

Applications for Education
In addition to the example above, another way that you might use this style of talking picture is to have students record short audio biographies of famous people. For example, students could create talking versions of pictures of George Washington in which they share short bits of information about Washington in the first-person.

The Origins of Thanksgiving Foods

On Tuesday I shared ten resources for Thanksgiving-themed lesson plans. This afternoon I discovered another good resource for a Thanksgiving lesson.

The Surprising Origins of Thanksgiving Foods is a new video from It's Okay to be Smart (a PBS production). Through the video students can learn how the most common, traditional Thanksgiving foods originated and evolved to what they are today. This lesson includes an explanation of how archaeologists and scientists determined that turkeys were one of the first animals to be domesticated in North America. We also learn why the turkeys we find in the grocery store today are so much bigger than those of just a few generations ago.

Try using Vizia to turn this video into an interactive assignment. Vizia is a free tool that lets you build interactive questions into any public YouTube video. Your students responses to your questions appear in a Google Sheet where you can quickly grade answers with the help of Flubaroo. Learn more in my video below.

How to Use Wolfram Alpha Inside Google Docs

Wolfram Alpha is a search engine that is probably best known for helping students solve mathematics problems. But there is more to Wolfram Alpha than just computational data. Wolfram Alpha can help students quickly locate information about famous people in history, locate socioeconomic data, find science data, and even help students find information about music theory. Unlike on Google or Bing, when students search on Wolfram Alpha they won't be shown a list of links. When students search Wolfram Alpha they will be shown organized collections of information. That is why Wolfram Alpha and Google searches can complement each other.

Wolfram Alpha offers a free Google Docs Add-on that students can use to conduct research without leaving the documents they're viewing. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to install and use the Wolfram Alpha Google Docs Add-on.

The following video offers a brief overview of what makes Wolfram Alpha different from other search engines.

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