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Monday, January 31, 2022

The Month in Review Featuring the Revival of Some Classics

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on the month of January. I hope that the first month of the year was a good one for you and that all of your New Year's resolutions are still on track. 

The first month of the year saw the return or revival of some "classic" tools and topics in the world of educational technology. Wordle, something many of us remember as a Web 2.0 tool of the late 2000's, is now a game. ReadWriteThink brought back many of their popular student interactives this month. And QR codes are popular again. Take a look at the list of my most popular posts of the month to learn more about all of those things. 

Thank you to the advertisers that helped keep the lights on this month. If you haven't tried Volley, Lumio, or TinyTap, give them a look and tell them I sent you. 

These were the most popular posts of the month:
1. Read Aloud in Edge and Other Immersive Reader Uses 
10. ReadWriteThink Interactives Now Work Without Flash!

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

On-demand Professional DevelopmentOther 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 39,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fifteen 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.

Build Talk or Type Educational Games on TinyTap

Disclosure: TinyTap is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Throughout January I wrote about creating your own educational games with TinyTap’s web-based game creation tool. I’ve covered creating a basic identification game, making your games look good, and making puzzle games. To end the month, I’m going to dive into making a game that doesn’t rely on students tapping objects or dragging objects.

Talk or Type is a TinyTap game format that you can use to create educational games in which students provide input by typing or speaking in response to game prompts. This can be a great way to develop a game that involves cloze activities (AKA fill-in-the-blank), spelling games, and identification games. In fact, I’ll do all three of those things in the game that I’m creating today.

Creating a Talk or Type Game
The first thing that you need to know about creating a Talk or Type game is that in the web-based version of TinyTap’s game creator you can only use the Type mode. The Talk mode is supported on the iPad version. With that caveat out of the way, let’s start creating a game with TinyTap’s web-based game creator.

Like any other TinyTap game, the first step is to choose a topic for the game then build a title slide (watch this video or read this post for an overview of those steps). My game is going to be about woodland animals of North America. In the game I’ll have students spell some words, complete some sentences, and identify some animals.

For the first activity in my game about woodland animals of North America I’m going to have students write a response to the prompt, “what is the plural form of moose?” To create this activity I built a slide that has a picture of a moose on it (that’s easy to do thanks to the built-in image search in TinyTap). After adding the moose picture to the slide I then clicked on “Set Activity” and chose “Talk or Type.” Once I chose the activity type I was able to use the tracing tool to draw a text box next to the moose. It’s in that box that students will type their responses to my prompt.
After drawing the text box I then used the edit button (pencil icon on the tracing tool) to record an audio hint and enter the correct response. Finally, I recorded an audio prompt with my question, “what is the plural form of moose?” It is critically important to add an audio prompt because without it students won’t know what you want them to type. The audio recording tool is found when you click on the options (gear icon) on the Talk or Type editor. That’s where I recorded myself saying, “what is the plural form of moose?” See my screenshot below for clarification on where to find the audio recording tools for hints and prompts.
At this point it is a good idea to preview the game as students would see it. In the preview mode we’ll hear the recorded prompt and see the text box appear. We’ll also be able to enter an answer in the text box. Simply click the play icon to preview any game that you’re editing.
The first activity in my game asked students to simply type a response to my question. In the next activity I’m going to have students fill in the blank in a sentence that I’ve written on a slide. To do that I’ll use the same process as before but instead of drawing a text box next to the moose, I’ll draw a text box in the gap in a sentence that I type. Once the text box was drawn I simply repeated the steps I used in making the previous slide. I found that it was important to choose a font size and spacing that allows you to draw a text box without covering other parts of the sentence. Using the game preview is helpful in making sure the text box doesn’t cover any other parts of the sentence.
For the third activity in my game about woodland creatures of North America I’m going to ask students which of the animals pictured on a slide hibernate in the winter. The identification will be done by typing their answers into a text box at the top of the slide. To make this slide I’ll simply use the same style as my previous slides and utilize the integrated image search to find an image of a bear to go along with the image of the moose. Then I’ll select Talk or Type as my activity and draw a text box. Finally, I’ll record myself asking the question, “which of these animals hibernates in the winter?” Because students might type “bear” or “the bear” I’ll include both of those options in my answer key. That is done by putting a comma between the acceptable correct answers. In this case my answer key is written as bear, the bear. See my screenshot below for clarification.
More Ways to Use Talk or Type Games
In the game that I made today students entered one or two word answers, but you could create a game in which they have to write longer responses. For example, you could create a Jeopardy-style game in which they have to phrase their responses in the form of a question.

You can use TinyTap to create a game in which students simply listen to you say a word and they have to then spell it correctly. That’s easy to do because by default spelling counts in TinyTap Talk or Type games.

Even though I focused on games in which students write words, that doesn’t mean you can’t use TinyTap Talk or Type to create math games. Just take a look at this Christmas math game or this Count and Type game to see how the Talk or Type format can be used to develop fun math games for kids.

Try making a Talk or Type game on TinyTap today. It’s free to get started. And speaking of getting started, I created this new tutorial video to demonstrate everything that’s in this blog post.

Three Ways to Use Lumio for Collaborative Learning Right Now

Disclosure: Lumio is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Now more than ever many students are suffering from “device-o-lation.” “What is that?” you ask. It’s what happens when students are given an activity to do on a computer, phone, or tablet and while they may be physically in a room with other people, they’re actually isolated because they’re not interacting with others. This becomes even more prevalent when students are in remote learning or hybrid learning environments. One way to combat the problem of device-o-lation is to create collaborative online learning activities for your students. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can do this in 2022.

Lumio Learning Activities
Lumio was one of my favorite new edtech tools in 2021. I published a detailed overview of it back in November. You can read that overview here or watch one here.

One of my favorite features of Lumio is that you can turn any of your pages into collaborative learning activities for your students to complete together. You might be asking, “what kind of collaborative activities can I create in Lumio?” Here’s a few of the many collaborative activities you can create from scratch or find premade in Lumio.
  • Interactive activities like sorting and classifying.
  • Group brainstorming.
  • Game shows and Monster/Team Quizzes
Lumio offers twenty-one templates for creating graphic organizer activities and fifteen templates for creating activities with virtual manipulatives - with more being added all the time. You can use the graphic organizer templates to create activities in which students work together to do things like classify animals based on their characteristics, map a story (here’s a template for mapping The Giver), or develop Venn diagrams. Here’s a short video I made to demonstrate how you can use the graphic organizer templates in Lumio. 



I’ve always enjoyed hosting brainstorming sessions in my classroom because it’s a great way to get students thinking about a topic and interacting with their classmates’ ideas about a topic. And as a teacher it’s also a lot of fun to see and hear how my students think about a topic. Lumio has an activity template called Shout It Out that is perfect for hosting online brainstorming sessions with your students.

Lumio offers a dozen templates for teacher-led and student-paced games. One of those templates is for a fun game called Monster Quiz. In Monster Quiz students compete in teams to “hatch” monsters by answering questions correctly. It might sound like an elementary school activity, but if I’ve learned anything from teaching high school students it’s that sometimes they really enjoy academic games that remind them of their elementary school days. (And in case your students don’t care for the monsters, Team Quiz has the exact same mechanics but with different graphics).

Breakout Rooms + Lumio Learning Activities
Last year breakout rooms became a go-to tool for me whenever I felt like my online classes were becoming a bit too teacher-centric. I’d put my students into breakout rooms and give them a prompt to discuss or an activity to complete with a couple of classmates. After a bit of time in the breakout rooms I’d bring the class back together for sharing of what went on in the breakout rooms.

One of my favorite activities to give to students in breakout rooms was something called a Three Color Quiz. A full explanation of the concepts behind a Three Color Quiz can be found here. The short version is that students have time to respond to prompts alone, in consultation with classmates, and in consultation with classmates and external resources (notes, books, the Internet). The three column notes and tables templates in Lumio are perfect for hosting a Three Color Quiz. The same template I used in this Branches of Government activity could also be used for a Three Color Quiz.

Collaborative Game Design With Slides + Lumio
A great feature of Lumio is the ability to import Google Slides and PowerPoint files to turn them into online, interactive activities. And while students can’t directly create activities in Lumio, they can create activities in Google Slides and PowerPoint and then share those files with you to make into interactive activities in Lumio. Through that process you could have students collaborate on a set of slides that they design as a page their classmates can interact and respond to. When they’re done designing their pages you can convert them to a handout or workspace that everyone can participate in. Here’s a little video demonstration of how to import Google Slides and PowerPoint slides into your Lumio account.
 


Get Started!
It’s quick, easy and free to start using Lumio. Your students don’t even need to create accounts to complete activities that you share with them.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Groundhog Day Explained

On Friday my youngest daughter came home from preschool and informed me that Wednesday is Groundhog Day and tell me all about it. It's the day, according to legend, that a groundhog will predict how much longer winter will last in the northern hemisphere. Your students might be wondering where this tradition originated. The following videos provide brief explanations of Groundhog Day's origins.

Homeschool Pop offers a good explanation of Groundhog Day for kids. The video explains the origins of the tradition, where it's celebrated, and a couple of fun facts about groundhogs.



Turn to SciShow Kids for more fun facts about groundhogs. The video teaches where groundhogs live, what they eat, and how they adapt to get through cold winters.



This video from Storm Shield explains a bit of meteorology that goes into whether or not the groundhog will see his or her shadow.


This video from CGP Grey deals mostly with the origin of the tradition. Like most CGP Grey videos there is a fair amount of snark included in the video so review it carefully before deciding if it's appropriate for your students.



Last Call! - 50 Tech Tuesday Tips and a Webinar

Tomorrow (January 31st) at 4pm ET I'm going to host a webinar just for those who have purchased a copy of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips. If you've already purchased a copy, thank you! You'll be getting an email with webinar information soon if you haven't already gotten it. If you haven't yet purchased a copy, get one by midnight tonight (January 30th) and you'll be able to join us. 

In the webinar, A Framework for Technology Integration, I'll share my framework for helping teachers use technology in meaningful ways in their classrooms. I'll also provide some examples of how I've done it in the past and how you can replicate them in your school. 

About the eBook:

50 Tech Tuesday Tips was curated from more than 400 editions of The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter 50 Tech Tuesday Tips provides you with ideas for lots of helpful things that you can teach to your colleagues and to students. Throughout the eBook you'll find tutorials and handouts that you can pass along in your school. 

Some of the many things you'll find in 50 Tech Tuesday Tips include:

  • What to do when a web app isn't working as you expect.
  • Building your own search engine.
  • How to create green screen videos.
  • Improving instructional videos. 
  • Streamlining email management.
  • Creating educational games. 
  • DIY app creation.
  • Podcasting tips for teachers and students. 


Get your copy of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips right here!

No, this ebook isn't free but the tools that feature within it is free to use. Creating something like this takes many, many hours but reading it can save you many, many hours. Purchases of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips make it possible for me to create other free resources like The Practical Ed Tech Handbook that I update and give away to thousands of teachers every year.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Wordle, Puzzles, and Snow - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we're looking forward to a big snowstorm today. Depending on which forecast you believe we're going to get anywhere from ten inches to ten feet of snow today! I'll be happy either amount as will my daughters who want to make snowmen, sled, and ski this weekend. So that's what I'm doing this weekend. I hope that you're also doing something fun this weekend.  


These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Five Tools for Making Wordle Word Clouds
2. Ten Cool Things You (And Your Students) Can Do With Lumio
3. Create a Teacher Report Card With Google Forms
4. Roles in Group Video Projects
5. Create an Educational Puzzle Game With TinyTap
6. 50 Tech Tech Tuesday Tips and a Webinar
7. Good Resources for Remote Math & Science Lessons

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

On-demand Professional DevelopmentOther 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 39,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fifteen 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.

How to Create QR Codes for Audio Files in Google Drive

Earlier this week a reader reached out to me for advice about creating QR codes for audio recordings made by her students. Her students had made recordings using Vocaroo and then used Vocaroo's built-in QR code generator to share the recordings. The problem they ran into is that Vocaroo deletes the recordings after a few weeks thereby rendering the QR codes useless. They needed a solution that would allow the recordings and QR codes to be useful for much longer periods of time. 

My suggestion to the problem was to still use Vocaroo to record but then download the recordings as MP3 files instead of relying on Vocaroo for hosting. Then after downloading the MP3 upload it to Google Drive and set the permissions to "anyone with the link can view." Then use that link to create a QR code in a QR code generator like QRCode Monkey. The whole process is demonstrated this short video


I shared a bunch of other ideas for using QR codes in classrooms in this post on Practical Ed Tech

Friday, January 28, 2022

The USGS Multimedia Gallery Offers Excellent Public Domain Images and Videos

The USGS Multimedia Gallery contains large collections of educational videos, animations, audio recordings, pictures, and slideshows. As you might expect, you'll also find lots of maps in the USGS multimedia gallery. You can browse and search the gallery according to media type, year of publication, and keyword.  In addition to the videos in the USGS Multimedia Gallery you can find many videos on the official USGS YouTube channel.

Here's a short video from the USGS YouTube channel about what a volcanologist does. 



Applications for Education
If you need images or videos to help you deliver a lesson to your Earth Science students, the USGS Multimedia Gallery should be one of the first places you visit. Likewise students developing multimedia presentations for their Earth Science classes would be well-served to visit the USGS Multimedia Gallery.

How to Copy Images from Google Docs to Slides and Back

When you upload an image and insert it into a Google Document, it should then also be available through Google Drive to insert into future documents and into Google Slides. However, in practice it's rarely that quick and simple. There is an easier option if you want to copy an image from a Google Document to another one or into Google Slides. That option is to simply right-click on the image, select copy, and then go to the slide that you want to use the image in and paste it in. The process also works in reverse to copy an image from Google Slides to Google Documents. 

Watch this short video to see how to copy images from Google Docs to Google Slides and back



Applications for Education
Copying images from Google Docs to Google Slides or the reverse of that process can be helpful to students who are creating presentations about reports that they have compiled. For example, this could be helpful to a student whose report includes a graph or diagram that he or she plans to also talk about during a slideshow presentation.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Try Screencastify & Google Keep for Adding Comments to Google Docs

On Sunday evening I got an email from someone who had seen my videos about Mote and wondered if there was something similar for adding video comments to Google Docs. One of my suggestions was to try the e-Comments Chrome extension which I reviewed last spring. Another option is to use a combination of Screencastify and Google Keep to build a bank of video comments that you can insert into the comments of Google Documents or Google Slides. 

The process of using Screencastify and Google Keep to create a video comment bank for Google Docs is fairly straight-forward. First, record your short video comments or short lesson with Screencastify. Second, get the "share" link from Screencastify. Third, create a note in Google Keep that contains the link to the video (I recommend giving the notes easy-to-remember names and labels). Finally, whenever you need the video link just open Google Keep in the sidebar of the Google Doc you're viewing and copy the video link from the Google Keep into your comment. 

In this video I demonstrate how to use Screencastify and Google Keep to create a bank of video comments that you can insert into the comments of your students' Google Docs and Slides. 

ICYMI - Webinar Recording - Two EdTech Guys Take Questions

Last week Rushton Hurley and I resumed our Two EdTech Guys Take Questions webinar series. If you missed it, you can watch the recording right here or as embedded below. Rushton does a great job of sharing links to all of the resources that we mention in the webinar. That list of resources can along with the slides from the webinar can found right here on the Next Vista website


The next live edition of Two EdTech Guys Take Questions will be on February 10th at 4pm ET. Register here to join us for the fun.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Denali Distance Learning Opportunities

Although I've been to Alaska twice, I've yet to visit Denali National Park. I hope that some day soon I can visit it with my daughters. In the meantime there are some cool resources for learning about Denali on the National Parks Service's website. One of those resources is a free distance learning program offered to schools in the United States. 

The National Parks Service offers the Denali Distance Learning Program from November 1st through March 31st. Through this program you can request a live, virtual presentation by Denali staff for your students. There are six programs/ presentations available for elementary school classrooms and one available for high school classrooms. 

The elementary school programs are:

  • At Home in Denali's Biome
  • Denali's Dinosaurs
  • What Would You Do: Winter Wildlife
  • Lessons from the Land
  • The Science of Sled Dogs
  • Ask an Alaskan - Living and Working in Denali
The program for high school classrooms is called Why Wilderness?

You can learn more about all of Denali's Distance Learning programs right here and request a presentation on that same page. 

According to this recent Instagram post on the Denali National Park account, there is still some availability for presentations this year, but space is filling up fast. 

Wiki History Game - A Fun Timeline Game

Wiki History Game is a free timeline game based on Wikipedia entries. I discovered it on Product Hunt last week and immediately lost about 30 minutes of my day playing the game. The game is a simple one, but an addictive one for history buffs. The premise of the game is to sort events into order on a timeline. 

To play Wiki History Game just go to the site and click start. You'll then see two events on the screen. Drag them into the correct order. As soon as you do that another event will appear and you have to drag that into the correct order with the two previous events. There aren't any points awarded or any levels. The object is just to consecutively, correctly sort as many events as possible. 

Here's a little video demo of the game.

Applications for Education
If you're a middle school or high school social studies teacher who is looking for a fun activity for your students to do when they have a little free time, this game could be worth linking to on your classroom website or in your Google Classroom materials section.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Create a Teacher Report Card With Google Forms

Last week a teacher emailed me looking for suggestions on how to create a teacher report card that her students can complete anonymously. One of the things that I suggested was to create a Google Form that doesn't require students to sign into their Google accounts. Google Forms includes a course evaluation template. I would simply use that template and change a few items within it to meet my needs. Then before sending the Form to my students I'd disable all of the options for collecting email addresses and any other identifying information. In this video I demonstrate the process of using Google Forms to create a teacher report card



Take a look at this collection of videos on my YouTube channel to learn more about helpful ways to use Google Forms in your classroom.

50 Tech Tech Tuesday Tips and a Webinar

As I announced last week, on January 31st at 4pm ET I'm going to host a webinar just for those who have purchased a copy of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips. If you've already purchased a copy, thank you! You'll be getting an email with webinar information soon if you haven't already gotten it. If you haven't yet purchased a copy, get one by January 30th and you'll be able to join us. 

In the webinar, A Framework for Technology Integration, I'll share my framework for helping teachers use technology in meaningful ways in their classrooms. I'll also provide some examples of how I've done it in the past and how you can replicate them in your school. 

About the eBook:

50 Tech Tuesday Tips was curated from more than 400 editions of The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter 50 Tech Tuesday Tips provides you with ideas for lots of helpful things that you can teach to your colleagues and to students. Throughout the eBook you'll find tutorials and handouts that you can pass along in your school. 

Some of the many things you'll find in 50 Tech Tuesday Tips include:

  • What to do when a web app isn't working as you expect.
  • Building your own search engine.
  • How to create green screen videos.
  • Improving instructional videos. 
  • Streamlining email management.
  • Creating educational games. 
  • DIY app creation.
  • Podcasting tips for teachers and students. 


Get your copy of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips right here!

No, this ebook isn't free but the tools that feature within it is free to use. Creating something like this takes many, many hours but reading it can save you many, many hours. Purchases of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips make it possible for me to create other free resources like The Practical Ed Tech Handbook that I update and give away to thousands of teachers every year.

Two Free and Cool Summer Learning Opportunities for Teachers

Summer feels like it's a long way off right now which is why I like to start thinking about it now and putting some fun things on summer calendar. If you like to do the same, here's a couple of cool summer learning opportunities that you might want to investigate and apply for. 

C-SPAN Fellowship and Conference
Every year C-SPAN hosts an educators' conference and hosts a summer fellowship program. A friend of mine participated in the conference a couple of years ago and he said it was an amazing experience! This summer the program is going to be virtual. C-SPAN's Summer Fellowship program is now open for applications. Those who are accepted into the program will spend a few weeks working remotely with C-SPAN's education team. Participants receive a $1,000 stipend for their participation in the program. More details about the summer fellowship program are available here. Applications are due by May 6, 2022.

Smithsonian Teacher Innovator Institute
This is a program for middle school STEAM teachers. This is a two week program hosted at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Lodging, food, and travel is paid for by the museum. If you're not sure if that's you, there is a little eligibility check tool that you can use on the Smithsonian Teacher Innovator Institute website. Applications are due by February 15th. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Ten Cool Things You (And Your Students) Can Do With Lumio

Disclosure: Lumio is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com. Advertisers help keep the lights on here.

Lumio was one of my favorite new tools in 2021. I wrote about it back in November, but I don’t think I fully captured everything that makes Lumio great. And since Google Analytics tells me that people prefer articles that have lists, here are ten cool things that you and your students can do with Lumio. Take a look and then give Lumio a try for yourself.

1. Physics and Math Simulations
Lumio can be used in all subject areas in elementary school, middle school, and high school. The latest update to Lumio lets you incorporate PhET simulations into the online lessons and activities that you create in Lumio. PhET, produced by the University of Colorado Boulder, offers nearly 100 simulations designed to help students understand concepts in physics, chemistry, earth science, biology, and mathematics.

Speaking of mathematics, you can also use the Desmos graphing calculator directly inside of your Lumio account to create mathematics lessons and practice problems for your students.

Here’s a video on how to use PhET simulations in Lumio activities.



2. Make Your Favorite Images and Slides Interactive Perhaps my favorite aspect of Lumio is that you don’t need to create all new material in order to use it. In fact, you can simply import your existing slides (Google Slides and PowerPoint), PDFs, and images into Lumio and turn them into interactive, online activities for your students.

Take a look at this video to see how easy it is to import your Google Slides into Lumio.



3. Make Any Activity Collaborative or Individual!
In Lumio you can make any page in any lesson a collaborative activity or an individual activity. To do that simply click on the magic wand icon while editing your activity then choose collaborative or individual. The collaborative option provides the whole class with access to one shared copy of the activity. The individual option provides each student with his or her own copy of the activity to complete.
4. Create Fun Formative Assessments
I tend to think of formative assessment in broader terms than many other teachers. For example, I think that any activity that gives me in-progress feedback about how my students understand a concept or topic is a form of formative assessment. To that end, I love Lumio’s “Shout it Out” activity template. This is an activity in which all students quickly respond to one prompt that you give them. Responses are shown on your screen and you can display them in a couple of ways including as a randomized display of digital sticky notes. You can also choose to display or not display students’ names alongside their responses.

Now if your definition of formative assessment is a bit more structured than mine, Lumio has formative assessment templates for you. In my first blog post about Lumio I went into detail about creating formative assessments because I think that creating a formative assessment provides the best way to learn how Lumio works from a teacher’s perspective. Here’s the video overview from that blog post.

5. Share Successful Lessons With Your Colleagues
Have you ever had a lesson that went absolutely perfectly from start to finish? You know, one where you felt like the kids “got it” and had fun “getting it.” I've had a few of those in my career and I shared them widely with my colleagues. If you have one of those lessons and you’ve done it through Lumio, you can quickly share it with your colleagues. To do that, just hit the “share” button on your lesson and send the link to your colleagues. Don’t forget to tell them why you’re sharing it and how much your kids liked it. Check out this Lumio Tweet to see a video demo of how to share a lesson with your colleagues.

6. Play YouTube Videos Without Distractions
I love a good YouTube video to help me help my students understand a concept. For example, I used some of these PowerCert videos in my networking course last year. What I don’t love is dealing with the advertisements and “related” videos that come with using YouTube in my classes. Lumio offers a solution to that problem. When you use YouTube videos in Lumio, you don’t see the advertisements and related video suggestions typically found when visiting YouTube.

7. View Activities the Same Way Your Students See Them
Lumio does something that I wish every educational technology tool would do. That is to show teachers exactly what their students will see when using the tool. From interactive previews to seeing student work live in delivery, teachers get a full picture of the lesson their students will be engaged in.

8. Add Audio Support to Your Activities
Whether it is to add clarification, to give helpful hints, or to simply read directions aloud, Lumio has you covered. On any and all of your activities/pages you can record audio support for your students to play aloud. To do that simply click on the audio icon while editing an activity.

9. Keep Students Signed-in When Switching Activities
Nothing kills momentum quite like having to wait while all of your students enter a code to join an online activity. Fortunately, that’s not an issue when using Lumio. Your students use one code to join your class and as long as they keep using the same computer, tablet, or phone they stay signed in even when you switch activities. In other words you could do a Lumio activity in the morning then do another in the afternoon and your students wouldn’t have to re-enter the classroom code.

On a related note, you would think that by 2022 every educational technology tool would work on all mobile devices and all computers, but that’s not always the case. Lumio works on every device commonly used by students. Students can complete Lumio lessons on iPads, Android tablets, iOS and Android phones, and in the web browser on their favorite laptop computer (including Chromebooks).

10. Get Inspired!
If you’ve ever been “stuck” and need some inspiration for creating a new lesson, Lumio has you covered with a huge selection of lesson activity templates and resources covering everything from elementary school math to high school language arts. When you find a template that you like you can copy it into your Lumio library where you can then use it as written or modify it to better suit your needs. Here’s a little demonstration of how that’s done.


Create an Educational Puzzle Game With TinyTap

Disclosure: TinyTap is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

Over the last two weeks I covered the basics of creating an educational game with TinyTap and how to make it look good. This week I’m going to start diving into some of the more interesting game types and formats available in TinyTap. The first of those is the puzzle game format.

Ideas and Examples for Puzzle Games
When you read “puzzle game” you might automatically think about jigsaw puzzles, I know that I do. You can certainly make a jigsaw puzzle game with TinyTap, but there are a lot of other ways to use the puzzle game creation tools in TinyTap.

With the TinyTap puzzle game creation tools you can create games in which students drag and drop game pieces together. By doing this you can create games in which students match letters to pictures as is done in this game or games in which students place animals onto the countries, states, or provinces that they represent as will be done in the game that I create.

Another way to think about using the TinyTap puzzle game creator is to have students complete a counting activity. In this style of game students will drag a sequence of objects into position in order to count them. Give it a try in this counting trains game.

There is probably an infinite number of identification games that you could create with TinyTap’s puzzle game tools. A few that I can think of are games to identify birds and other wildlife, games to practice identifying parts of speech, and games to practice identifying parts of a computer system. And for some reason that I can’t identify when I thought of making a puzzle game for practicing identifying things, I thought of how helpful it would have been to have an identification game when I was taking an anatomy and physiology course twenty something years ago.

And because each game is created on a slide-by-slide basis, it is possible to combine elements of counting, sorting, matching, and object alignment into one comprehensive game. Take a look at this game about fruits and vegetables as an example of using all of the puzzle tools in one game.

How to Make a Puzzle Game in TinyTap
For this example, I’m going to create a game in which I have students drag and drop flags onto the New England states that they represent. To begin, just like creating any other game in TinyTap I’ll start by adding a title slide for my game. As a reminder, you can use any of the styles, layouts, and creation packs to design the slides in game. This video that I published last week shows you how to use those design tools.

The next step of the puzzle game design process is probably the most important one to get right at the start. Put all of the pieces together in the places where they should be when the puzzle is solved. In other words, think of it like making a jigsaw puzzle by cutting up a picture. Another way to think about it is creating the answer key before writing the quiz. In this case I’ll be putting a map of New England on my slide and then placing the corresponding state animals on that map. See my screenshot below for more details.
After arranging the elements of the game slide into the places where they represent the correct answers it’s time to choose an activity type. The activity type that I’m using for this game is “shape puzzle.” After selecting the shape puzzle option it is time to cut out the pieces that will be dragged into position when students play the game. Pieces are cut by using the tracing tools in TinyTap. As each piece is traced and cut it should be dragged over to the side or bottom of the slide to create a bank of pieces. It’s from that bank that students will select pieces to move during the game. It’s also important to note that you can record audio to accompany each puzzle piece that you create. In my game I simply read aloud the names of the animals in my puzzle pieces. Take a look at my screenshots below for more detail.
After cutting out the game pieces and putting them into a bank, you could simply click “Done” and the game would be ready to play. However, there is more that you can do to enhance the gameplay experience for your students. Those things are found by opening the “options” menu when viewing the shape puzzle editor. In that menu you’ll find options for recording audio. I highly recommend using that option to provide your students with some instructions or clues for playing the game. You can also enable the following gameplay features:
  • Bounce Back - this option bounces the pieces back to the bank if they’re not placed in the proper place.
  • Easy Mode - this option enables the students to see the puzzle completed at the start and then scatters the pieces to start the game. (only available on iPad)
  • Disable Hints - this is a pretty self explanatory option. (only available on iPad)
  • Hints - when the guided play mode is on, this will give students three tries before the piece is automatically placed in the correct spot. (only available on iPad)
  • 3D - this option displays the pieces in 3D or makes them appear to pop out from the screen.
At this point it’s a good idea to preview the game before going any further. To preview the game all you have to do is click on the play icon just to the left of the slide. As soon as you click that the game will load and it can be played just like a student would see it.

It is also possible to create a puzzle game that doesn’t use a bank of answer choices. TinyTap calls this alternative puzzle type a “mixed puzzle.” Mixed puzzles are great for creating games in which students match two or more pieces together to create a complete image. For example, in my game I created a mixed puzzle in which students have to reassemble the map of New England states. To that I duplicated the slide from earlier and then removed my cut out pieces. Then I used the tracing tool to trace each state and made them their own pieces of the puzzle.

When you create a mixed puzzle game, as I did with the map of New England, it could be very helpful to your students to have “easy mode” enabled so that they can see the full picture before having to try to piece it together. That’s a lot when you put together a physical jigsaw puzzle and look at the picture on the box to help get yourself started.
More Puzzle Games Inspiration and a Tutorial
The folks at TinyTap were kind enough to put together a collection of puzzle games that anyone can try right now. So if you’re looking for ideas for making educational games for your students, take a look at following examples:
Finally, you can see the whole process that I outlined above demonstrated in this tutorial video.

Making Snowflakes and Sundials

Last week I shared a couple of good places to find ideas and plans for at-home, hands-on science lessons. Here's a couple more ideas to try courtesy of SciShow Kids. 

In this SciShow Kids video students learn how a sundial works and how they can make their own sundials. The video could be the basis for a fun, hands-on lesson about learning to tell time.



For those in cold, northern climates creating and taking sundials outside might not be practical right now. SciShow Kids has a video that is a little more appropriate for winter. That video is How to Make a Paper Snowflake. The video gives directions at a nice pace that students can follow. The video also introduces some science vocabulary that might be new to elementary school students.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Five Tools for Making Wordle Word Clouds

Do you remember when Wordle was a word cloud generator that was taking the Web 2.0/ edtech world by storm? I do and lately I can't help but think of it whenever I see people post their Wordle scores on social media. For those who don't remember those days, Wordle was originally a word cloud generator that teachers were using to create visual summaries of large blocks of text. I found it to be useful in providing students with a nice way to visualize the most frequently used words in a passage of text. 

The original Wordle word cloud tool no longer exists, but there are others that still do and are still helpful. Here's a handful of them to try. 

Paste your text into Analyze My Writing and it will generate a ton of information about your writing. Analyze My Writing will give you a break-down of the readability of your writing on five indices. The analysis will include listings of the most common words and most common word pairs in your writing. A listing of how frequently you use punctuation and punctuation types is included in the analysis provided by Analyze My Writing. Finally, a word cloud is included at the end of the analysis of your writing. The word cloud and the graphs can be saved as images.

Word It Out creates word clouds out of any text that you paste into the word cloud generator. Once the word cloud is created you can customize the size and color scheme of the cloud. You can also customize the font used in your word cloud. The feature of Word It Out that I like the best is that you can choose to have Word It Out ignore any word or words you choose. Ignoring words keeps them out of the word cloud.

Tagxedo makes it very easy to customize the design of your word clouds. You can select from a variety of shapes in which to display words or you can design your shape for your word cloud. You can enter text into the word cloud generator manually or simply enter a URL from which Tagxedo will generate a word cloud. As with other word cloud generators you also have options for excluding words from your word clouds.

WordWanderer attempts to be different from other word cloud creation tools by letting you drag and drop words to rearrange the look of your word clouds. Additionally, WordWanderer includes a search tool that you can use to find a word. The context of your chosen word is shown below the word cloud itself.

On WordClouds.com you can create word clouds in a variety of shapes and sizes with a wide array of color schemes. I've even used it to make a word cloud about cats in the shape of a cat. In my video embedded below I demonstrate the features of WordClouds.com.