Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Most Popular Posts in October

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on the month of  October. Some of the colorful leaves of autumn are still clinging to the trees, but more are on the ground than in the trees now. Hopefully, I'll get them cleaned up before the snow flies (that could be any day now). But I do have some other projects and fun things planned for the last two months of the year. I hope that you do as well. 

As I do at the end of every month, I've compiled a list of the most popular posts of the month. Take a look and see if there's something interesting that you missed earlier in the month. 

These were the most popular posts in October: 

Thank you for your support!
Your registrations in Practical Ed Tech courses (listed below) help me keep Free Technology for Teachers going.

A big thank you also goes to the companies whose advertising in October helped keep the lights on.
On-demand Professional Development
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 38,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

It's That Time Again...

Daylight Saving Time ends today for many of my friends in Europe and it ends next Sunday for those of us in North American states and provinces that observe Daylight Saving Time. As someone who gets up early and lives in a northern state, I welcome the change as I'll see the sun an hour earlier. And hopefully, my kids will take advantage of the "extra" hour of time for sleeping next Saturday night.  

Like I do almost every time Daylight Saving Time begins or ends, I have gathered together a handful of short video explanations about why we have Daylight Saving Time. Take a look and see if there is one that can help you explain Daylight Saving Time to your students. 

National Geographic has two videos titled Daylight Saving Time 101. The first one, published in 2015, is a bit more upbeat than the second one that was published in 2019. Both versions are embedded below. 





The Telegraph has a 90 second explanation of Daylight Saving Time. The video doesn't have any narration so it can be watched without sound.



CGP Grey's video explanation of Daylight Saving Time is still a good one even if it isn't as succinct as the videos above.



TED-Ed has two lessons that aren't specifically about Daylight Saving Time but are related to the topic. First, The History of Keeping Time explains sundials, hourglasses, and the development of timezones. Second, How Did Trains Standardize Time in the United States? explains the role of railroads in the development of the timezones used in the United States (and most of Canada) today.



Saturday, October 30, 2021

A Cute Series of Videos About Engineeering

SciShow Kids recently published series of three videos about engineering. You wouldn't normally associate engineering with cute, but in this case it's an appropriate match. Like all SciShow Kids videos these are designed for elementary school students. The presentation of the lesson is made by a person and some puppets with a few still photographs added for illustrative purposes. 

Think Like an Engineer is the first video in the series. It explains what an engineer is and what they do. The video provides a few examples of different types of engineers. 



The Great Button Solution is the second video in the series. In this video students see Webb (a puppet) and his friends try to design a solution to reach a button (switch) that is high off the ground. The video explains to students why it's okay and important to try many solutions to a problem and gives the example of the Wright Brothers multiple attempts to create a working airplane.



The third video in the series is titled The Amazing Flag Raiser. In this episode, clearly sponsored by LEGO, students see the construction of a small LEGO device that raises a flag and makes a sound when Squeeks (the puppet) wants to play.

Widgets, Videos, and Maps - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where my kids are eagerly anticipating Halloween! They had a little celebration at their preschool on Friday and now they can't wait to put on their costumes tomorrow. It's kind of a bleak and rainy day here so we just might let them wear their costumes for fun today as well. I hope that you have something you're looking forward to this weekend as much as my kids are looking forward to Halloween. 

This week I started a new Instagram account. My new account, Practical Ed Tech, features short videos of tips on using educational technology tools. Take a look

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. BookWidgets - Create Unique Online Activities for Your Students
2. A Video Project for the Week - Halloween Safety
3. Accessible Online Physics Simulations
4. How to Share Specific Google Earth Views and Turn Them Into Assignments
5. An Interactive Land Use Map
6. Samsung Solve for Tomorrow - A Great STEM Contest for Students!
7. Tips on Word Art, Fonts, and Special Characters in Google Docs and Slides

Thank you for your support!
Your registrations in Practical Ed Tech courses (listed below) help me keep Free Technology for Teachers going.

On-demand Professional Development
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 38,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Friday, October 29, 2021

How to Use Canva's Image Background Remover

It's not a secret that I really like the many ways that Canva can be used to create graphics, videos, presentations, and simple websites. Within any Canva template there are lots of neat editing tools including an image background remover. It's available to anyone who has a free Canva for Education account

Canva's image background remover is easy to use and works with almost any picture that you upload to your Canva account. To use it simply drag a picture from the uploads folder in your Canva account onto any template. Then click on the image to bring up the image editing tools and select "background remover." Canva will then automatically remove the background from your picture. Watch this short video to see how it works. 



Applications for Education
As I demonstrated in the video above, after removing the background from an image of yourself, you can then put a new background in its place. I put an image of Mount Everest in the background of my picture. One way to use this with students is to have them place themselves in front of landmarks of the world then write about their virtual visit to those landmarks.

A Short Lesson on the Long History of Electric Cars

The Surprisingly Long History of Electric Cars is a new TED-Ed lesson that should be of interest to anyone who is curious about electric vehicles. The video begins with an explanation of the first electric cars and why they were overtaken by gasoline-powered internal combustion engines. The second half of the video explains the technological, economic, and political factors that have contributed to the increase in electric vehicle manufacturing in the last decade. Finally, the video concludes with a prediction about the future of electric vehicles. 



Applications for Education
TED-Ed has a good list of suggested questions to ask your students after they watch the video. I'd also add some questions to prompt student to think about the challenges and brainstorm solutions to the challenges facing electric vehicle sales in rural areas that don't have the charging infrastructure of suburban and urban areas. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

A Good Source of Last-minute Halloween Games

I mentioned this in the list of Halloween-themed resources that I shared a few weeks ago, but I thought it would be worth reminding you that Kahoot has a huge gallery of Halloween-themed games. You can find those games by clicking the "Discover" tab in your Kahoot dashboard and then entering the search term "Halloween" or "Halloween Trivia." You can then preview the games before you play them with your students. The games can also be duplicated and edited in your Kahoot account. I'll often find a game in Kahoot and then remove a few questions and add my own. 

On my Practical Ed Tech Instagram account I shared this short video demonstration of how to find Halloween games in Kahoot. 

The Living Atlas of the World

The ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World is a collection of thousands of online, interactive maps representing all kinds of data. The contents of the collection range from relatively simple displays of historical map imagery to complex, displays of data updated nearly live. For example, this map displays active hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons. Another good example is this map that displays current air quality conditions around the world

All of the maps in the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World include links to the sources of the data displayed, a description of the data, and an update date. Additionally, some maps include a glossary of terms and links to lessons for learning about mapping data with ArcGIS. For example, the air quality map mentioned above includes a link to this lesson plan about mapping data in realtime

You can browse and search the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World according to content type, creation and update date, and regions of the world. Additionally, there is an option to limit research results to only content produced by ESRI (the makers of ArcGIS) and content that is labeled as "authoritative only."


Applications for Education
The ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World can be a great place to find examples of mapped data sets to use in your lessons. The real-time nature of many of the maps can be used to have students analyze and form predictions. Of course, it's always helpful to have a resource that shows students where in the world the events and patterns they're reading about are happening.

Here's my video overview of The Living Atlas of the World. 

An Easy Way to Remove Things from Pictures

CleanUp.Pictures is a new online tool for quickly editing your pictures. With CleanUp.Pictures you can selectively remove objects and imperfections from your pictures. You can also use it to blur faces in your pictures. To use CleanUp.Pictures all that you need to do is go to the site, upload the picture you want to edit, then use the marker tool to select the objects and imperfections that you want to remove. Watch the short demo below to see how it works. 



Applications for Education
CleanUp.Pictures could prove to be a handy tool for teachers or administrators who want to share pictures of school events, but want to make sure that faces of people who don't want to be in public pictures are blurred. It's also handy for removing other identifying information that might have been accidentally captured in a picture.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

How to Share Specific Google Earth Views and Turn Them Into Assignments

Google Earth has a lot of great little features that sometimes get overlooked. One of those features is the ability to share a specific location and view of that location. In fact, you can share a specific location and view directly into your Google Classroom. When you share it you can share it as an announcement or as an assignment.

In this short video I demonstrate how to share a specific Google Earth location and view in Google Classroom. The second half of the video demonstrates how to create an assignment based on the view that you're sharing. 




My self-paced course, A Crash Course in Google Earth & Maps for Social Studies covers many more great ways to use Google Earth in your classroom.

Unfolding History - A New Library of Congress Blog

 

The Library of Congress has started a new blog called Unfolding History. The blog is written by the staff of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. The purpose is to highlight interesting manuscripts and their backstories or greater historical context.

The first Unfolding History blog post features a couple of 1972 documents from Nixon's CREEP (Committee to Re-elect the President). In the blog post you can read the orginal documents (you can also download them for free) and learn a bit of the context of them. In this case we learn how the CREEP responded to Vice-Presidential candidate Sargent Shriver's comments unfavorably likening President Nixon and his allies to a football team.  


Applications for Education

Reading the first entry in Unfolding History sent me down a rabbit hole of reading about some of the people mentioned in the manuscripts. It also got me thinking about how I might incorporate the manuscripts into a classroom discussion. In this case, there were two things that I'd focus on with my students. First, I'd ask them if the stereotype of the "big, dumb" football player would be employed in political campaigns today. Second, I'd have them look at the security notes on the second document and have them discuss how similar information is protected today (readers who are my age or older may notice the note about "no carbons" and have memories of using carbon paper they'll have to explain to students).

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Accessible Online Physics Simulations

PhET is a service that provides free interactive math and science simulations covering topics in physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, and mathematics. It has been popular with science and math teachers for many years. Recently, I learned that PhET has been developing some simulations that offer online accessibility features including alternative inputs for navigation and interactive descriptions. 

There are only nineteen accessibility enabled PhET simulations available at the moment and they are all still prototypes. You can try them here

PhET's full library has nearly one hundred simulations. Those simulations can be included in PowerPoint presentations and embedded into Google Sites

Practical Ed Tech Tips on Instagram

If you're an Instagram user who likes to find new ideas for using technology in your classroom, I have a new Instagram account for you to follow. It's mine! I created a new account that is simply titled Practical Ed Tech. This will be where I share some short video tips like this one containing five exit ticket questions and this one about using the I'm Feeling Lucky feature in Google Earth

Why?
There are a few reasons for this change. 
  • I've wanted to do something like this for quite a while but it was always a hassle to edit the video on my desktop then upload it via the Instagram mobile app. Now that Instagram allows you to post from a computer it's a lot easier to edit and post as part of my normal workflow.

  • I've always had a personal Instagram account, but I like to keep business and pleasure separate as much as I can. Creating the new Practical Ed Tech Instagram account accomplishes that. 

  • I went with Practical Ed Tech rather than Free Technology for Teachers because it's slightly shorter and because it better aligns with my feelings about where the educational technology market is headed over the next decade. 

Free Webinar on Thursday - Two EdTech Guys Take Questions

This Thursday at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I are hosting the second episode of the second season of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff! We'd love to have you join us! You can register for the session right here

In every episode we answer questions from readers and viewers like you. We also share some cool and interesting things that we've found around the Web. Rushton tends to share cool videos and pictures while I tend to share cool tech tools. And we both try our best to give helpful answers to your questions about all things educational technology. 

Please join us! And feel free to email me in advance with your questions or send them in live during the webinar. 

Recordings and resources from our previous episodes are available on this Next Vista for Learning page.  

Monday, October 25, 2021

BookWidgets - Create Unique Online Activities for Your Students

BookWidgets is a service for creating interactive online activities. It has been on my radar for a while and last week I finally gave it a try. I wish I had tried it sooner.

BookWidgets lets you create online interactive activities for your students to complete on any device. One of the best things about it is that it offers more than thirty question types that you can choose to insert into your activities. In other words, you can build in enough question variety and activity variety that students won’t get bored by just answering the same types of questions over and over.

Unique Online Activities
One of the first things I noticed when I started to create a BookWidgets activity is that there are some activity templates that I haven’t found in any similar platforms. A few that stand out include split whiteboards, split worksheets, and active plotting.

The split whiteboards template lets you create an activity in which students read text on one side of the screen and use freehand drawing and writing on the other side of the screen to answer questions. I can envision a lot of mathematics teachers using that option. The active plotting template is another that math teachers will like. It lets you create a graphing activity that your students complete online. The neat thing about it is that you can watch their work in real time. The split worksheets template, like the split whiteboard template, shows students text on one side of the screen and questions on the other side.

There are many other interesting templates and widgets that you can use in the creation of online activities for your students to complete via BookWidgets. There are templates for before and after comparisons, templates for adding interactive markers to images, and templates for showing a sequence of animation and video frames.

My screenshot below shows you some of the many types of templates that you can use to create online activities in BookWidgets.



View Progress in Realtime!
The little camera icon next to a BookWidgets template title indicates that you can view your students’ progress in realtime. The little checkbox icon identifies templates that can be used to create activities that can be automatically scored for you.

Getting Started
Like any good educational technology service, BookWidgets provides a comprehensive set of tutorials for first-time users. But as I do whenever I try a new service, I skipped the tutorials and dove right into making an activity. I recommend doing the same as I think it’s the best way to discover how a tool will really work for you.

When you first sign into your BookWidgets account you’ll be taken to your teacher dashboard. There you’ll see a home button on the left-hand side of the screen. That’s where you’ll also find a “My Widgets” box where you can then click to create your first widget (I’d call widgets “activities” if I was in charge of naming things). When you click “create a widget” you’ll then see a menu of more than thirty widget types including the aforementioned split whiteboard widget and split worksheet widget.



Once you’ve selected a widget type you’re ready to start customizing it for your needs. The process of customizing a widget starts the same way regardless of which one you pick. You’ll give your widget a title, choose a background image (optional), and then select your sharing settings. From there your next steps are to add content to your widget. If you’re using one of the quiz or other assessment widgets you’ll write your questions and create an answer key (if you want it automatically scored). If you’re using the split whiteboard widget, you’ll enter text to prompt your students. Take a look at my screenshot below to see the split whiteboard widget in action.



As you can see in my screenshot above, the split whiteboard widget includes the option to use video as part of the prompt that students respond to on the whiteboard.

Assigning Activities and Viewing Progress
There are a few ways that you can distribute your BookWidget to students. The simplest way is to simply grab the unique link assigned to your widget and share it with your students wherever you normally share links. Another option is to import your Google Classroom roster and share your widgets as assignments in Google Classroom. It’s also possible to connect to Microsoft Teams, Moodle, Schoology, and Canvas. And if your students use tablets or phones in your classroom, you might want to use the QR code option to share activities with them.


Students can complete BookWidget activities in the web browser on any device. When they’ve completed the activity they’ll simply tap or click the envelope icon in the upper-right corner of the screen to submit the assignment. Students don’t need to have email addresses in order to complete BookWidget activities. Once they’ve submitted a completed activity, you can view your students’ responses by simply clicking the “Grades & Reporting” option in your teacher dashboard then clicking “student work” where you can then view individual work and score it. You can also view a summary of submissions in the “Grades & Reporting” field.

As I mentioned above, it is possible to see your students’ work in progress before they have submitted it for your review. To do that just connect your Google Classroom account and click on “Live” in your teacher dashboard to see which of your students are working on an activity and how much they’ve done.

Options for Every Teacher
I could probably write one thousand words just about the customization options available to teachers creating BookWidgets activities. Suffice it to say, there is something for everyone. You can format your text for left-to-right or right-to-left. You can choose from sixteen language options or add your own custom translation. Pages can be formatted in landscape or portrait mode.

More than thirty question types and response types are available to add to BookWidgets activities. In this blog post I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s available. Some of the other notable features include the ability to record audio responses to questions, annotate images and drawings as responses, take and or upload image responses, and a slew of matching and ordering question formats. Math and science teachers will be pleased to learn that BookWidgets even has tools for authoring questions with equations and for creating responses with equations.

Watch my short video below to learn how to create your first BookWidgets activity and see how your students will use it.

And for even more examples of using split worksheets and split whiteboards take a look at this example called Kung Fu Grasshoppers and this one of an online maze.



Disclosure: BookWidgets is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

How to Enter Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow Contest

Disclosure: Samsung is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

As I shared last week, Samsung's 12th annual Solve for Tomorrow contest is now open for submissions. The deadline to enter is November 8th. The process to register and enter takes less than ten minutes. In this short video I demonstrate how to fill out the initial application and how to access the scoring rubric so that you know what to include in your entry.



The overall winners of Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow contest will receive a prize package that includes $100,000 in classroom technology and materials for their school. National finalists will receive $50,000 in classroom technology prizes. And state finalists receive $6,500 in prizes for their schools. State finalists are selected from the initial entries like the one that I demonstrated creating in the video above. State finalists will be announced in early December. Enter here!

Accessibility in Google Docs and Slides

On Saturday morning I published a video about word art, fonts, and special characters in Google Docs and Slides. Later in the day someone Tweeted at me to "make sure the fonts are accessible." I replied with a section of my free Practical Ed Tech Handbook that is dedicated to accessibility. An excerpt of that section is included below. 

Google Documents
Google Documents has some built-in accessibility options that you should know how to enable. There are also some third-party Google Docs add-ons that can help you improve the accessibility of your documents.

In Google Documents there is a built-in voice typing capability. To find the voice typing tool simply open the “Tools” drop-down menu then select “Voice typing.” A microphone icon will appear in the left margin of your document. Click it to activate your microphone then start speaking and your words will appear on the page. You will have to speak directions like “question mark” to add punctuation and “new line” to start writing on a new line.

In the same “Tools” drop-down menu that contains the voice typing tool you will find the general accessibility settings menu. It is there that you can enable support for screen readers and screen magnifiers.

On the topic of screen readers, when you insert an image into a Google Document you can right-click on it to bring up the option to add alt text. Alt text is text that you add to an image to describe what is in the image. Screen readers will read the alt text.

Grackle is a Google Docs and Slides add-on that will check your documents and slides for accessibility compliance. When you run Grackle's accessibility checker it will identify places where your slide doesn't meet accessibility standards. It makes suggestions for improvement on the areas in which your document, slide, or sheet doesn't meet accessibility standards. Some of the suggestions can be implemented with just a click from the Grackle Add-on menu while others are changes that you will have to make yourself.

You can watch a demonstration of all of the Google Docs accessibility options mentioned above right here.



Google Slides
In Google Slides subtitles appear at the bottom of your screen when you are in full-screen presentation mode. You can enable subtitles by entering presentation mode then hovering your cursor over the lower-left corner of your slides to make the subtitles option appear. This short video provides a demonstration of how to enable subtitles in Google Slides.



Alt text, short for alternative text, is text that you can add to images and videos to describe what they are and or what they contain. Adding alt text can make your slideshows accessible to people who use screen readers. The alt text describes what is in a picture, chart, or video that is included in a slide. PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Slides all provide options for adding alt text to your presentations.

To add alt text to images or videos in Google Slides simply right-click on the image or slide to which you need to add alt text. The menu that appears when you right-click on the image or video will include an alt text option where you can then write a title and description for the image or video. This video provides a demonstration of how to add alt text to Google Slides.



This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

A Video Project for the Week - Halloween Safety

Halloween is just seven days away. Ten days ago I shared my updated list of Halloween-themed activities and resources. In that list I included playing a Halloween safety review game from Kahoot. Keeping with the idea of Halloween safety, consider having students create a short video about trick o' treat safety. 

There are a lot of tools and ways that student could create a short video about trick o' treating safety. They could make a quick one-take video in Flipgrid in which they share a Halloween safety tip. Another option is to use Adobe Spark to make a little audio slideshow about Halloween safety. And my favorite option would be to use Canva's video editor to make a little animated video about Halloween safety. 

A quick search for "Halloween" in Canva will provide you with templates for making Halloween-themed videos and lots of Halloween-themed animated GIFs and drawings. Here's a demonstration of how to create an animated video by using Canva's video editor. 


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Forms, Earth, and STEM - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it is still dark as I draft this blog post. In fact, it will be dark for at least another hour. The late sunrise is the only thing that I dislike about this time of year in Maine. Except for the big oak tree in my front yard, all of the leaves on the trees have changed color, the temperatures are a pleasant range of 50-60F, and there's lots of fun to be had outside. We'll be playing in the big leaf piles in our yard today. I hope that you do something fun today too. 

As I do every week, I've assembled a list of the most popular posts of the week. Take a look and see if there's something interesting that you missed earlier in the week. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. An Overview of Google Forms Quiz Settings
2. Samsung Solve for Tomorrow - A Great STEM Contest for Students!
3. Life on Minimum Wage - A Personal Economics Simulation Game
4. Ten Skills Students Can Learn from Google's Applied Digital Skills Lessons
5. The United Nations Explained for Kids
6. Gary Paulsen Talks About Reading and Writing
7. I'm Feeling Lucky - A Google Earth Lesson

Thank you for your support!
Your registrations in Practical Ed Tech courses (listed below) help me keep Free Technology for Teachers going.

On-demand Professional Development
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 38,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Tips on Word Art, Fonts, and Special Characters in Google Docs and Slides

Earlier this week I received an email from a reader who wanted some advice to pass along to colleagues about using custom fonts in Google Docs. I made this short video to lend some assistance. Before you watch the video there are a few things to note about fonts in Google Docs and Slides. 

Unfortunately, without using a third-party add-on there isn't a way to upload fonts into Google Docs and Slides from outside of the Google Workspace ecosystem. That said, there are more than 400 fonts available in the fonts drop-down menu in Google Docs and Slides. 

Word Art in Google Slides lets you create text that automatically resizes when you click and drag on the corners around it. Word Art can also be customized with border and fill colors as well as border dashes and dots. 

Special characters in Google Docs and Slides are found in the "insert" drop-down menu. This is where you can find things like emoticons, musical symbols, accent marks, and lots of little icons. 

Watch this video to learn more about using Word Art, fonts, and special characters in Google Docs and Slides. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Create a Portfolio With Carrd.co

I often get asked for recommendations for simple website builders that teachers and students can use to create small websites. Google Sites is fine, but the aesthetics still have a long way to go. Services like WordPress and Weebly are great, but have way more menus and options than what's needed for a quick and simple site. Carrd.co is a new service that just might fill the need for an easy-to-use tool to quickly create good-looking, simple websites. 

I gave Carrd.co a try this afternoon. In ten minutes I created a little photography portfolio site that looks way better than anything I could have created with Google Sites or WordPress. Watch this short demo video to see how you can create a portfolio site with Carrd.co.



Applications for Education
Carrd.co could be a good little tool for high school or college students to use to create simple websites to share information about themselves and their work. They can create sites that are useful to have and share when applying for an internship, a scholarship, or a job.

A Helpful New Feature for Formatting Google Docs

Google Docs users who regularly create multiple page documents will be happy to learn that Google is adding a new page break feature to Google Docs. The new page break option will let you insert a page break before any new paragraph. This means that you'll no longer have to manually insert spaces to create a page break. Likewise, your formatting of the page break will be preserved if you have to later add more text or images to a page within your document. 

Applications for Education
This new page break will be welcomed by anyone who uses Google Docs to create long documents like worksheets that incorporate a lot of images, charts, or special text formatting. The new page break option should make it easier to preserve the formatting of pages without having to manually insert or delete spaces.

Google Adds More Audio and Video Controls to Google Meet

This week Google announced a new feature that will be welcomed by any teacher who regularly uses Google Meet to host online classes. That feature is the ability to selectively mute participant audio and video. For quite a while you've been able to mute all participants and turn off their webcams. The new feature prevents participants from unmuting themselves after you've muted them.

Those who have access to breakout rooms in Google Meet will find that the participant audio and video settings will also apply to breakout rooms. 

It should be noted that if your students are joining from an Android device or iOS device, they will need to be updated to the latest version of the Google Meet apps. If they don't use the updated apps, they won't be able to join your meeting if you have the audio and video locks enabled in your call. 

Applications for Education
I can think of at least a few times in the last 18 months that this new feature would have been helpful to me. I've muted students who wanted to interupt and had them unmute themselves. It then became kind of an annoying game of "mute, unmute" that distracted the class.

Like almost all Google Workspace updates, this one will take a couple of weeks to appear in all users' accounts. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

An Interactive Land Use Map

WorldCover Viewer is a new interactive land use map produced by the European Space Agency. The map lets visitors see how land is used worldwide and in specific places. Visitors can pan and zoom to see land use for an area or use the statistics explorer tools built into the map to see land use statistics for a country, state, or province. Views of the map and associated data can be downloaded from the WorldCover Viewer. 

The map represents ten categories of land use. Those categories are:

  • Tree Cover
  • Shrubland
  • Grassland
  • Cropland
  • Built-up
  • Bare/ Sparse Vegetation
  • Snow and Ice
  • Permanent Water Bodies
  • Herbaceous wetland
  • Mangroves
  • Moss and Lichen
As you'll see in my video overview of WorldCover Viewer, it include a tool for measuring areas of land use. In my video overview I also demonstrate how to enable different layers on the map. 



Applications for Education
WorldCover Viewer could be a great resource for students to use to learn about how land is used in the area around them and globally. Students might be surprised to learn how much land is or isn't built-up in their home state or province. I can see using WorldCover Viewer as the starting place for student research into environmental challenges and concerns about land use.

H/T to Maps Mania for sharing WorldCover Viewer. 

Reminder - Old Google Sites are Going Away!

After five years of warnings, Google is finally ending support for the old version of Google Sites on December 1st. If you've been clinging to the hope that Google wouldn't force you to transition to the current version of Google Sites, it's time to give up that hope and convert your old site to the current version of Google Sites. Otherwise, on December 1st you'll no longer be able to edit your site or do anything else with it. 

In the following video I demonstrate how to convert your old Google Sites websites to the current version. Fortunately, the process is very simple and quick. Just head to sites.google.com then click on "classic sites manager" in the left margin of the page. Then on the next screen you can select the site(s) that you want to convert. Once you've clicked "convert" Google will handle the rest. If you're not sure which version of Google Sites you are using, watch my video to learn how you can quickly tell which version you're using. 

On a related note, I have a complete playlist of Google Sites tutorials right here. The best video to get started is this one that walks you through everything you need to know to create your first website with Google Sites.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The United Nations Explained for Kids

A couple of weeks ago I discovered CBC Kids News and I shared a great video that explains what the word indigenous means when referring to people. This afternoon I browsed through CBC Kids News again and found a nice animated video that explains the United Nations to kids

United Nations Explained is a short video designed to help elementary school students understand the basics of what the United Nations is, it's purpose, how it functions, and what it says about kids. Watch the video right here or as embedded below. 



Applications for Education
The video is good on its own as an explanation and introduction to the United Nations. You could have students answer some basic questions about the U.N. after watching the video. But I'd prefer to have students write down lists of questions that the video raised in their minds while they were watching. Questions like, "what if the countries don't get along?" and "what happens if they break the rules?" could lead to some great classroom conversations and lessons.

Samsung Solve for Tomorrow - Timeline Extended

On Tuesday I published a blog post about Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow contest that is now open for entries. This afternoon it was brought to my attention that Samsung has extended the judging period for initial entries. Initial entries are still due by November 8th (it only takes a few minutes to enter) but the state winners will now be selected in early December instead of on November 18th as I wrote yesterday. 

I should point out that everything else that I wrote about Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow contest is still correct. State winners will receive one Samsung Video Kit (approximate retail value $2,600) and a $6,500 prize package to be redeemed through DonorsChoose. National finalists win $50,000 in classroom technology prizes and the overall winner receives $100,000 in classroom technology prizes.

The contest is open to sixth through twelfth grade public school students and teachers in the United States. You can learn more and enter here.

Disclosure: Samsung Solve for Tomorrow is an advertiser on my blog.

I'm Feeling Lucky - A Google Earth Lesson

From voyages to games to simple measuring tools, the web version of Google Earth has a lot of neat features that can help students learn about the world. One of those neat features is the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button that is found on the left hand toolbar in Google Earth. Clicking that button will take students to a randomly-selected place in the world. 

On its own the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button provides a good way for students to discover new places. That said, students learn more through the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button  if you give them a little more direction than just "click the button and look around." That's why I created a little question sheet to prompt students to do a little research about the places they discover in Google Earth via "I'm Feeling Lucky." My question sheet can be found here as a Google Doc. 

This short video demonstrates how students can explore Google Earth in more detail after clicking "I'm Feeling Lucky."



To learn more about using Google Earth in your classroom, take a look at my Crash Course in Google Earth & Maps for Social Studies.

Five Ways to Use Wakelet in Your Classroom

Yesterday's blog post about using Wakelet to create instructional videos got me thinking about other ways that Wakelet can be used in classrooms. Here's an overview of five ways to think about using Wakelet in your classroom. 

Create an Instructional Video



Prompt of the Day.
If you're not using a learning management system that contains an easy way to post daily prompts for your students to reply to, consider using Wakelet. You can post a prompt in the form of text, picture, or video and then have your students reply by writing a reply, recording a video, or by uploading an image. Just make sure you've enabled collaboration on your Wakelet collections.

Video collections.
Want to do more than just make a playlist in YouTube? Consider making a collection of videos in Wakelet. You can include videos from many sources besides YouTube and organize collections by theme or topic.



Organize Research
With Wakelet's browser extension it's easy to save links and files to then organize into collections for a research project. Here's a video on how to use Wakelet's browser extensions.



Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Samsung Solve for Tomorrow - A Great STEM Contest for Students!

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post about a topic I've covered in the past. 

The 12th annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest is now open for submissions until November 8th. This year the contest asks students to consider how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can be used to create change in their communities. The overall contest winners will receive a prize package that includes $100,000 in classroom technology and materials for their school. National finalists will receive $50,000 in classroom technology prizes. And state finalists receive $6,500 in prizes for their schools.

This year’s Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest requires students and teachers to think about how STEM can be used to create change in their communities. Samsung provides an example of STEM impacting a community in the article Starving Out Hunger: Students Use STEM to Fight Food Insecurity. As you’ll see in that example as well as others, for the purpose of this contest community can refer to the area immediately around your school or it can refer to the global community. Furthermore, when you register for the contest you’ll see that it is seeking submissions that can align with U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Benefits of Contest Entry
There are other benefits to entering the contest besides the chance to win $100,000 in classroom technology. One of those is that it can help your students identify and propose solutions to problems that affect their local communities. But, as you can see from past contest finalists, the problems and solutions that students identify often have global applications. Furthermore, creating Solve for Tomorrow projects can help your students see the importance of integrating skills from science, technology, engineering, arts, and math into meaningful solutions to real world problems.

Another benefit of participating in Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest is that it can be used to help students learn how to propose solutions, plan a project, and measure the impact of the project. You’ll see that after filling out the initial application information, the second page includes the following question, “What assessments will you put in place to measure the impact of your solution (pre, during and post project) that can be presented by Spring 2022?”

Take a look at some videos of previous winners to get ideas and inspiration for this year’s Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest.

Contest Timeline
As in previous years, Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest has an initial entry deadline. This year that deadline is November 8th! State winners are chosen just ten days later!

After the initial entry deadline submissions will be judged and state winners will be announced in early December. State winners will receive one (1) Samsung Video Kit (approximate retail value $2,600) and a $6,500 prize package to be redeemed through DonorsChoose.

The state winners will then create three minute videos to demonstrate how STEM can be applied to help improve their community. The videos should show the application of a specific STEM activity/topic used to address the issue submitted in their initial entry into the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. Ten national finalists will be selected from submissions of the state winners. Judging of national finalists’ submissions will begin in February and run through April of 2022.

Initial entries are due by November 8th. It only takes a few minutes to enter today!

How to Enter!
Entry into the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest must be made by a teacher on behalf of their students. Samsung provides a comprehensive set of resources and an FAQ page for teachers to consult as they prepare to enter the contest with their students. Those resources include a sample entry form and a sheet of tips for bringing PBL (project based learning) into virtual classrooms as well as in-person classrooms.

To enter Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest you do need to register for a free account on the contest homepage. When you register you’ll answer a few short questions about your school and the project that your students envision. Once you’ve done that you’ll unlock the full project plan sheet and the scoring rubric for the contest.

Register here to enter Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest, it only takes a few minutes to complete the initial entry.