Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Geography, Docs, and PowerPoint - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on the month of November, 2021. It was a busy, but good month for me. I hope that it was a good one for you as well. 

As I do every month, I've compiled a list of the most popular posts of the last thirty days. Take a look and see if there's something new or interesting that you missed in November. This month's list includes some cool PowerPoint tricks, some handy Google Docs updates, and a bunch of resources for teaching geography lessons. 

These were November's most popular posts:
1. My Big List of Activities and Resources for Geography Awareness Week
2. Three Updated Google Docs Features
3. Five Helpful PowerPoint Features You Might Be Overlooking
4. ClassPoint - Turn PowerPoint Into an Interactive Teaching Tool
5. Take a Look at Your Google Docs Activity Dashboard
6. How to Create a Random Name and Group Picker
7. It's That Time Again...
8. Display a Timer With a Google Document
9. My Top Three Tools for Creating Audio Slideshow Videos
10. TinyTap - Create Your Own Educational Games in Your Browser

Thank you for your support!
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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.

All About Tract - PBL, Peer-to-Peer Learning, and More!

Disclosure: Tract is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Tract is a service that launched a few months ago and is quickly becoming a hit in schools because of its format and its flexibility. The format is a relatively simple one of students teaching students. The flexibility is that it can be used across grade levels from elementary school through high school and for a wide variety of topics and projects. 

This afternoon I had the opportunity to chat with the CEO and co-founder of Tract, Ari Memar. We talked about where the inspiration for Tract came from, Esther Wojcicki's role in Tract's development, student privacy, and how teachers are using Tract in their classrooms. The recording of our conversation is available in this video and as embedded below. 



A few highlights of my conversation with Ari Memar, CEO of Tract. 
  • The motivation for creating Tract was to provide a fun and safe platform for kids to create content that other students can benefit from in an environment that is fun like TikTok or YouTube, but is safe for students. 
  • Privacy concerns are at the forefront of Tract's development process. To that end all teacher accounts are verified. All submitted content automatically reviewed for language and imagery, but is also manually reviewed for privacy and accuracy. Teachers can choose to limit sharing of students' content to just the classroom or allow for wider distribution throughout Tract. Read Tract's privacy policy here
  • Tract can be used for PBL, for Genius Hour activities, for enrichment activities, and for after-school clubs. Here are five Tract Genius House activities to try. Learn how to use Tract for PBL here. Ideas on using Tract for GATE enrichment are highlighted here
  • Tract is attractive to teachers because it allows them to create projects for students that align with students' interests in creating video content. 
  • One of my personal favorite Tract learning paths is this one about digital photography.
Watch this video for a demonstration of how Tract works from a teacher's perspective and a student's perspective. 



As I teased at the end of the video with Ari, Tract will be rolling-out some great updates in the next week or so. In the meantime, you can head to Teach.Tract.app and use the code BYRNE to get free access to Tract for you and your students.

Tract Rockstar Award Contest!
Right now and through the end of the year Tract is running a content creation contest for students. Right now and through the end of the year Tract is hosting a Rock Star Award Contest that you and your students can participate in while engaged in project-based learning. The Rock Star Award Contest recognizes students and classes for uploading their best work to Tract. Every Friday stars are awarded and a leaderboard is updated. At the end of the year the class that has the most stars awarded will win a classroom creator kit that includes a green screen, lighting kit, microphones, and a subscription to WeVideo.

Tract Basics
If you're not sure what Tract is, here's my brief description of what it is and how it works. 
  • On Tract you will find lessons about photography, gaming, cooking, music, sports, and much more. Students can earn digital and physical prizes for completing the lessons and their corresponding activities. Tract is designed so that students (age 8+ is recommended) can complete the lessons and corresponding activities, called missions, on their own. Of course, there might be some activities that some students need a little assistance to complete. Fortunately, as a teacher you can create your own Tract account and watch your students’ progress to know when they might need a little help from you.
  • Students earn digital coins for completing each path. Paths that have more missions earn more coins than those that have fewer missions. Students can redeem their coins for digital and physical prizes. With the exception of Tract swag (tee shirts and hats) all of the prizes are digital prizes that benefit others. For example, students can redeem 250 coins to make a donation of one meal via Second Harvest of Silicon Valley toward the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger.
Sign up and use Tract for free by registering at Teach.Tract.app and use the code BYRNE. 

Create and Publish a Multimedia Timeline With Canva

Last week a reader emailed me looking for a suggestion for making multimedia timelines with her middle school students. My usual suggestion of Timeline JS was ruled out because her school use Office 365 and the kids can't access Google Sheets with school accounts. My other suggestion was to try using Canva to create multimedia timelines. 

Canva offers dozens of templates for creating timelines. Within the templates students can embed videos, maps, pictures, animations, and even add background audio. They can do those things with any of the timeline templates. In this short video I demonstrate how to create a multimedia timeline in Canva. 


Applications for Education
The nice thing about having students use Canva to create multimedia timelines is that they can all use different layouts and themes which breaks up some the "cookie cutter" nature of timeline assignments. The other thing that's nice about using Canva to create multimedia timelines is that students can collaborate online to develop timelines together.