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Monday, May 21, 2018

Three Ways to Develop Programming Skills This Summer

Summer is almost here and it's a great time to learn a new skill that you can bring into your classroom next fall. One of the skills that seems to be mentioned in almost every education periodical these days is programming or coding. Learning to program isn't as difficult as you might think that is. Each of the following services make it relatively easy to learn to program your own apps. As you learn to program your own app, you'll start to see how your students can do the same and use those skills in your classroom next fall.

MIT App Inventor
Want to create a fully functional Android app? If so, the MIT App Inventor is the place to start. The MIT App Inventor works in your web browser (Chrome is recommended). The only download that is required for App Inventor 2 is the optional emulator. The emulator allows people who don't have Android devices to text their apps on their desktops. If you have an Android device then the emulator is not required and you don't need to worry about installing it. MIT provides excellent support documentation and curriculum for classroom use for new users of App Inventor. Tutorials are available as videos and as written PDFs. A couple of the videos are embedded below.




Metaverse - DIY Augmented Reality Apps
Metaverse launched last summer and became an almost hit with teachers. Through the Metaverse Studio anyone can program an augmented reality app without having any prior coding or programming knowledge. You construct your app in the Metaverse Studio by dragging and dropping media and logic blocks into a sequence. Metaverse Studio has been used by teachers to create digital Breakout games, to create language arts games, and to create local history tours.



Scratch
I couldn't write a blog post about learning to program without mentioning Scratch and ScratchJr. Scratch is a free program designed to introduce users to programming concepts. Through Scratch you can create animations, games, and videos. Students program in Scratch through a process of dragging and dropping blocks into sequences. Each block represents a command. Users test their programs right in their web browsers and instantly know if the program works or doesn't work.

There are many places to find Scratch tutorials, but the best place to start is on the Scratch for Educators site. There you will find many tutorials, activity guides, and a curriculum guide. The ScratchEd community is the place to go for inspiration from other teachers who are using Scratch in their classrooms. For example, in ScratchEd you might find something like this Google Doc filled with ideas for using Scratch in elementary school mathematics lessons.

A Quick Google Docs Formatting Tip

Google Docs has lots of handy features that are "hidden" in plain sight. Many of those features address common formatting needs. For example, in the far right edge of the editor menu there is a function to clear all formatting. This is a handy function to use after copying and pasting from a Word document or even from a shared Google Document whose formatting doesn't fit with what you want. Watch my short video embedded below to how you can quickly clear the formatting of a Google Document.


And if you have ever wanted to change the default font in your Google Docs, watch this tutorial that I published a few months ago.



Please note that changes to default fonts may not take place immediately. Some readers have reported having to log-out, clear cache, and try again in order to make the font changes stick.

Learn more about all things G Suite in my online course, G Suite for Teachers.

Three Ways to Keep Track of Students' Blog Entries

One of the questions that I often field during my workshop on blogging is, "how do you keep track of what students are writing?" The answer to that depends on a few things including how frequently your students are publishing and the platform through which your students are blogging.

Option 1:
If you are using Edublogs, there is a section in your dashboard called My Class. Within the My Class section you can see a list of your students' individual blogs. There is also a section in your dashboard called Users. Within the Users section you can see each students' account and how many posts they've made. Also in the Users section you will find the option to run reports to find out which users have recently published on your classroom blog.

Option 2:
The strategy that I used for years was to have students enter their names and links to their most recent posts into a Google Form. All of their submissions will appear in a tidy spreadsheet. In that spreadsheet I can see a timestamp, name, and the link to go directly to a student's most recent post. I can also add a column in the spreadsheet for noting whether or not I have given them feedback.

Option 3:
I use Feedly to subscribe to my favorite blogs. If your students are maintaining individual blogs, you could create a free Feedly account and then subscribe to your students' blogs. You'll then be able to see all of their blogs from one convenient dashboard. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Feedly.

11,000 People Get Their Ed Tech Tips Here

A few times a week I create new how-to videos on a wide range of tools and topics related to educational technology. Some recent topics include making animated videos, making virtual reality tours, and time-saving tips for Google Forms users. All of my videos are published to my YouTube channel which now has more than 11,000 subscribers. My videos appear on YouTube before they appear on this blog. Subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified as soon as I publish a new video.

A few of the most watched videos on my YouTube channel are embedded below.

How to Add Your Voice to Google Slides

How to Use Flipgrid

How to Use Adobe Spark