Friday, May 27, 2022

Five Virtual Tour Creation Projects for Students

Google’s old VR Tour Creator offered a great way to create virtual tours that can be viewed in your web browser and or in the Google Expeditions app. Unfortunately, Google shuttered both the those programs last year. Fortunately, there is an alternative available in the form of Expeditions Pro which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago

360 imagery is the backbone of creating tours in Expeditions Pro. To start creating a tour you will need to capture your own 360 imagery or find some online that is Creative Commons-licensed or in the public domain. 

Expeditions Pro lets you add 360 imagery and audio to each scene and point of interest in your tour. The audio has to be recorded outside of the Expeditions Pro and then uploaded to the scenes or points of interest. Any MP3 file will work in your tour. and are a couple of simple tools for creating an audio recording.

Completed tours can be shared publicly or privately. Your tours can be viewed in your web browser and in the Expeditions Pro app. The benefit of using it in the Expeditions Pro app is that you can guide your class or you can let students guide the class through the tour.  

5 VR Creation Projects for Students
  • Virtual reality tours based upon students’ favorite books. (On a similar note, VR to illustrate stories that students have written.)
  • VR tours about places students study in geography / history lessons.
  • VR tours to illustrate examples of math and science used in the design and construction of landmarks. 
  • VR tours to illustrate examples of types of landforms, rocks, waterways, and bodies of water.
  • VR tours to illustrate examples of an animal’s natural habitat and range.
Expeditions Pro Tutorial

Ten Topics in Teaching History With Technology

My popular Teaching History With Technology course begins next week. There is still time to register right here

There are ten big topics that will be covered in the course. All of the lessons in the course can be applied to elementary, middle, and high school settings.

These are the ten big topics in the course:

  • Search Strategies & Research Organization
  • Video Projects & Video Lessons
  • Developing Primary Source Activities
  • Google Earth & Maps
  • Multimedia Timelines
  • Digital Portfolios
  • AR & VR in History Lessons
  • Making Virtual Tours
  • Making History Apps
  • Creating Cartoons in History Classrooms

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Big Mistakes in Cartography

When I taught geography one of the first topics that I covered was map projections and how some of them can distort how we view the world. Of course, a good bit of attention was paid to the Mercator projection. Mercator's world map is one of a handful featured in a new TED-Ed lesson titled The Biggest Mistakes in Mapmaking History

The Biggest Mistakes in Mapmaking History provides students with a good, basic explanation of how cartography evolved. Most importantly the video explains why early maps of the world had so many inaccuracies including labeling some maps with things like "here be dragons." Watch the lesson and read the accompanying questions here

If you're interested in learning how to incorporate tools like Google Maps and Google Earth into your history lessons, join me in June for Teaching History With Technology.

How to Create a Custom Theme for Your Google Site

Do you use Google Sites for your classroom website? Do you have students use it for classroom projects like making digital portfolios? Are you tired of using the same stock themes that Google provides? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need to watch my new video about creating custom themes for Google Sites

By watching How to Create a Custom Theme for Google Sites you will learn how you can apply develop custom color palettes for your site, select different fonts for different elements of your site, and how to add custom logos and images to your site's theme. 

Applications for Education
Creating a custom theme for Google Sites could be a good way for students to express themselves a bit as they develop digital portfolios for your class. It could also be a good way to make your classroom website stand-out a bit from all of the other sites that use stock Google Sites designs.

Learn more about Google Sites in the following videos:

Three Observations About Quality School District Websites

This morning I spent a couple of hours looking at the websites of relatively large school districts. These are my thoughts and observations after viewing them from the perspective of a parent.

Make It Obvious!
The good sites make it obvious for parents to find recent and relevant information.

Don't make parents dig through a variety of vaguely named menus to find the information they need about your school. I looked at one district's website this morning to try to find the school calendar for next fall. There was not a single tab or menu anywhere on the homepage labeled "calendar" or "schedule." The school calendar was only found if you clicked on a tab labeled "menu" then scrolled down to the fourth sub-menu that was labeled "calendars." Information about the school board members, human resources information for staff, and an outdated 2015-2020 strategic plan were all listed higher than the school year calendar. 

What does it say about your district when parents have to dig through vaguely named menus to find out basic information about their child's school day?

Social Media Isn’t a Replacement for a Good Website
Posting on social media is not a replacement for having a well-designed and frequently updated school/ school district website.

Some of the better sites I looked at included embedded streams of district/ school social media postings. They do that because they recognize that not every parent or student uses social media. Additionally, when you rely on social media you're hoping that parents and students will follow your accounts. And even if they do follow your accounts you then have to hope that your postings will stand-out from all of the other updates that parents and students see from the other accounts they follow.

Who is running the website?
The better websites that I looked at this morning were from school districts that have someone on staff whose job title included communications director or public relations. The bad ones seemed to be run as almost an afterthought or lower priority task of the IT department.