Showing posts with label Best of 2022. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Best of 2022. Show all posts

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Best of 2022 - Thank Your School Librarian

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

While looking at the Kikori SEL calendar I noticed that today is National School Librarian Day! Many of you who read this blog are school librarians, thank you! Thank you for the work that you do in schools to help students (and staff) become better researchers, discover new and exciting books, and generally just being awesome! 

Ask Your School Librarian!

"Ask your school librarian" is one of the things that I say at the start of any presentation that I give or course that I teach about search strategies. Why? Because your school librarian is an expert on search methods. Additionally, your school librarian can give you and your students access to many subscription-based databases that your students would otherwise not know about and or would avoid because they didn't know how to access those databases. 

Go to a Library Conference

For those of you who are not librarians, here's something you should know. I've had the pleasure to speak at many library conferences over the last decade. Without exception they are always fantastic and fun learning experiences. If you get a chance to go to library conference, take it. You will learn something that can apply to any classroom. Personally, I was excited to learn that the CASL-CECA conference is returning this fall (thanks to Emil for that news). 

Best of 2022 - Screencasting on Chromebooks

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

Back in June Google introduced a new screencasting tool for Chromebooks. Back then I wrote a comparison of the Chrome OS screencast tool and some others that are available to use on Chromebooks. Since then Screencastify has changed their free plan and Flipgrid has been renamed as Microsoft Flip. So I think it's time that I publish an updated overview of the screencasting tools available for use on Chromebooks. 

Chrome OS Built-in Recorder
The obvious benefit of using the built-in recorder is that you don't have install any third-party extensions. Additionally, your recordings automatically save to your Google Drive. And because the video is saved in your Google account, it is incredibly easy to share your videos with your students. The best aspect of the built-in Chrome OS screencasting tool is that your video is automatically transcribed for you and your students can have that transcript translated into the language of their choice. 

The shortcomings of the Chrome OS screencast recorder are the limited drawing tools and limited editing tools. It will probably get better in time, but right now it doesn't have nearly as many drawing and editing options as other screencasting tools like Screencastify and Loom. 


Screencastify
Screencastify was one of the first screencasting tools developed specifically for Chromebooks (it should be noted that it can work on any computer running the Chrome web browser). Over the years it has improved in leaps and bounds. Today, Screencastify offers more than just a tool for recording a video of your screen. It offers a complete video editing platform. 

With Screencastify you can record your screen, use a wide variety of drawing and zoom tools, and edit your recordings in your web browser. Recordings can be automatically saved to your Google Drive account, downloaded as MP4 files, and shared to other services including Google Classroom, YouTube, and EDpuzzle. 

The editing tools in Screencastify include cropping, splitting, and merging clips. It also provides tools for blurring faces and objects in your videos. Finally, you can use Screencastify to build must-answer questions into your videos before you share them with your students. 

It should be noted that on October 3, 2022 Screencastify introduced some severe limitations to the features mentioned above for those who are using Screencastify's free plan. Those limitations include a limit of having only ten videos in your account, a limit of only 30 minutes of export time (the total amount of video that you download from your account), and videos can't be exported as MP4 files. Those limitations make Screencastify's free plan not nearly as a good an option as the Chrome OS screen recorder or Loom's free plan for educators. 

Loom
Loom is a popular screencasting tool partly because they offer a generous list of free features for teachers and because those features work really well. Perhaps my favorite of those features is the ability to record a screencast directly from your Gmail inbox or from anywhere else in your Chrome browser. Loom also offers automatic transcript generation, viewing insights (get notifications when people watch your videos), and a tool for suppressing background noise in your recordings

Loom lets you download your recordings and MP4 files and share your videos directly to variety of places including YouTube. 

Here's a demo of how I used Loom and Google Jamboard to make whiteboard videos. 

Microsoft Flip
Although it's known for it, Microsoft Flip does offer a convenient screencast recording tool. It doesn't include a capability to draw on the screen while recording, but it is easy to use and easy to share your recordings with your students. You can also combine a screencast with a simple webcam video or whiteboard video that you make in Flip. Here's a demonstration of how to make a whiteboard video in Microsoft Flip. If you want to know more about Flip's other uses, take a look at this playlist of videos

Best of 2022 - DIY Online Board Games

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while probably know that Flippity is one of my go-to recommendations for anyone looking to make games, flashcards, and timelines with Google Sheets. Recently, Flippity introduced a new template for making your own online board game through Google Sheets.

With Flippity's new board game template you can create a game that includes up to eight players, has up to three dice to roll, and interactive game squares. You game can also include videos, pictures, Google Drawings, and graphs. And your students can play your game without an email address or having to create any kind of online account. Take a look at my short video below to see how you can create and play your own online board game.


Key points from the video:

  • You can customize the player markers and use pictures instead of the default markers. 
  • You can include pictures in each game square. 
  • You can use up to three dice in your game. 
  • You can have each square on the board give a different direction or prompt. 
  • Your deck of cards can include videos, pictures, links, and graphs. 
Applications for Education
Flippity's new board game template could be great for developing a fun review activity for your students to play in your online or in-person classroom. If you were to have students use it remotely, I might have one student screenshare it via Google Meet or Zoom and then move the pieces for each player. Since you can link to just about anything in the game cards, I'd put links to digital flashcards where students have to answer a question correctly in order to advance on the game board. 

Friday, December 30, 2022

Best of 2022 - Using Focusable as a Progress Journal

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

About a month ago I started using Focusable to help me focus on my work even when I really didn’t want to. That includes working on a particularly frustrating project that I have to get done. The project is rebuilding my Practical Ed Tech website from the ground up. That includes rebuilding and or editing some databases and doing a lot of quality assurance checks. The work is rather tedious, frustrating, and something I’d just pay someone else to do if I could.

I started using Focusable to help me focus on the work of rebuilding my Practical Ed Tech website. It has helped a lot! I’ve gotten more done in the last few weeks than I did all summer. Last week while recording my reflection in between time blocks in Focusable I realized that I was journaling my progress. In each reflection I was stating what I had just tried and what I was going to try next.

When I start to work on my project again today after a weekend away from it, I’ll watch my last Focusable reflection video to remind myself of where I was when I stopped and where I need to start the next step of the project.

Applications for Education
Focusable was built for the purpose of helping students learn how to focus on their work while ignoring distractions. An ancillary benefit of using Focusable is creating a little journal to document progress on a project. If you give students a little direction like “state what worked and what didn’t,” they can use Focusable to develop the skill of focusing while also documenting their progress on a project. You can then use your Focusable teacher account to view your students’ progress.

See A Great Tool to Help Students Learn to Focus for a complete overview of how Focusable works.

Best of 2022 - Periodic Table of Videos

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

For years I have referred readers to the University of Nottingham's Periodic Table of Videos. That table provides a video about every element that is in the Periodic Table. A few years ago the producers of the Periodic Table of Videos partnered with TED-Ed to create lessons about every element in the Periodic Table.

TED-Ed's Periodic Videos page features an interactive Periodic Table of Elements. Click on any of the elements to launch a video. Below the video you will find a link to the related TED-Ed lesson. (Note, I had to reduce my browser size to see the links). Each of the TED-Ed lessons follows the typical format of providing a handful of multiple choice and short answer questions. The lessons also include some links to additional references.

Here's the lesson about Technetium.



If the questions that the TED-Ed lessons ask are too simple for your students, you can customize the lesson after registering on TED-Ed. You can also create similar lessons by using EDpuzzle. Here's how to use Edpuzzle to create a lesson.

Best of 2022 - ViewPure Alternatives

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

Earlier this week a reader reached out to me with a concern about ViewPure. For many years ViewPure has been a popular tool for teachers to use to hide distracting sidebar and "related" content when playing YouTube videos in their classrooms. There are other tools like it. If you find yourself looking for alternatives to ViewPure, here are some things to try. 

Watchkin is a service that provides a few ways to watch YouTube videos without seeing the related video suggestions and comments. You can enter the direct URL of a video into Watchkin to have the sidebar content removed. You can search for videos through Watchkin and have family-friendly results displayed (if a video appears that is not family-friendly Watchkin has a mechanism for flagging it as inappropriate). Watchkin also offers a browser bookmarklet tool that you can click while on YouTube.com to have the related content disappear from the page. Watch this video to learn more about Watchkin. 



Quietube is a convenient tool that you can add to your browser's bookmarks bar. With Quietube installed you can simply click it whenever you're viewing a video on YouTube and all of the related clutter will be hidden from view. Installing Quietube requires nothing more than dragging the Quietube button to your toolbar.

SafeShare.tv makes it possible to view YouTube videos without displaying the related videos and associated comments. To use SafeShare.tv simply copy the URL of a YouTube video and paste it into SafeShare.tv. SafeShare also offers browser a bookmarklet tool that will eliminate the need to copy and paste links from YouTube into SafeShare.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Best of 2022 - Exposing DMCA Email Scams

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

About a month ago I published a video and blog post in which I explained the process that I used to unravel an email scam in which someone claimed to be an intellectual property attorney pursuing a case against me. That blog post turned out to be one the most popular things that I've published this year so I thought that I would provide an update on what has happened since then. 

I replied to the email with an explanation of why the claim was bogus and that they could get lost. I never heard back after that. But since the website was still saved my Chrome profile and predicted whenever I entered URLs beginning with the letter A, I kept an eye on the site. Yesterday morning the site went dead. 

Other People Who Exposed the Scam

After seeing that the site had gone offline my curiosity got the best of me and I went down a rabbit hole of looking to see if there are other people like me who got the same scam email and decided to eviscerate the scammers. I did a search on Twitter and quickly found a few others who came to the same conclusion that I did. 

Shawna Newman was the recipient of the same scam email back in February. Apparently, when she called them out on it they changed the address on their website from New York to Boston. Here's her Tweet about it

Ray Alexander got the same scam email and took the approach that I did. He wrote a lengthy blog post detailing how he unraveled the scam. Here's his Tweet and here's his blog post

Ben Dickson also received the email and decided to publish an unraveling of the scam. Here's his Twitter thread on the topic

Lessons for Everyone

1. Don't be a lame SEO backlink scammer.
 
2. If you do get an email from someone claiming to be an attorney (or similarly tries to appear authoritative) and it doesn't seem right, look at all of the context clues. In this case there were a lot of context clues that made it fairly obvious that there was a scam at play. The first of those clues being that the email was addressed to "owner of website" and not to any particular person.
 
3. Don't click on links in emails that you weren't expecting.

Best of 2022 - A Fun Map Puzzle

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year. 

MapPuzzle is a simple online geography game that I recently learned about through the Maps Mania blog. The game is based on the premise of political boundaries being the lines in a jigsaw puzzle. You have to drag the countries, states, or provinces into their proper places on the map. 

MapPuzzle offers a dozen puzzles to complete. You can complete a puzzle of the whole world, puzzles of regions of the world, and puzzles based on the U.S. states and Canadian provinces. 

Watch this short video to see how MapPuzzle works



Applications for Education
MapPuzzle doesn't require registration in order to play. In fact, there isn't even an option to register on the site. You can play it over and over by just clicking the reset button. For these reasons it could be a good game to list as a practice resource on your classroom website or in the "materials" section in Google Classroom.

Best of 2022 - Readlee

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

Every once in a while a new edtech service comes along that as soon as I try it I know that it’s going to be a hit. That’s exactly how I felt when I tried Readlee for the first time last month.

Readlee is a new service that lets you create online reading assignments for your students to complete in your classroom or at home. That’s not what makes it great. What makes it great is found in how your students complete assignments and how you can view their assignment completion.

The Readlee Concept
The basic concept of Readlee is that you give students a reading assignment and they complete it by reading it aloud to their computers. Readlee then uses AI to analyze how well your students read the assignment. That analysis is provided for you in a short report displayed next to all of your students’ submitted assignments.

The student reading analysis that Readlee provides to you includes time spent reading, total words read, unique words read, reading speed, and how much of the assignment was read. Additionally, Readlee provides a written transcript of the words students spoke compared to the words written in the assignment. Last, but not least, you can hear a recording of your students reading aloud. The analysis, transcript, and recording is available for all assignments regardless of length, reading complexity, or content.

Watch this thirty second video to see a little bit of Readlee in action. My longer video overview is included at the end of this post.

How to Start Using Readlee
Getting started with Readlee takes just a few minutes. The first thing you need to do is sign-up for a free account. You can do that with your Google account, with your Clever account, or with an email address. After registering you’ll create a classroom within Readlee. It’s in your classroom that you’ll create assignments for your students (if you need multiple classrooms, you can create more than one).

To get your students into your Readlee classroom you have two options. The easiest option is to sync a Google Classroom or Clever roster to your Readlee account. The other option is to give your students a class invitation link that Readlee generates for you. They’ll then enter the class code to join your class. Either way that you create your Readlee classroom, students can use Readlee with or without an email address.

Once your Readlee classroom is created it’s time to create your first assignment. There are a handful of ways to create an assignment for your class. You can import a PDF, you can copy and paste a passage of text, you can import an article from the web, or you can use one of the articles, poems, or books available in Readlee’s library. There’s also an option to create an independent reading assignment in which your students can read aloud anything of their choice.

Readlee’s library of books, poems, and short stories offers a convenient way to create a reading assignment without having to source the material elsewhere. Simply select an item from the library and then choose which page(s) you want to include in your assignment.

After selecting or importing the item that you want your students to read aloud, you can then add some written instructions for your students. For example, when I created an independent reading assignment I added an instructional note that read “please read two pages from your March independent reading book.” The last step is to then give the reading assignment to the whole class or to individual students within the class.

The Student Side of Readlee
Students access their assigned reading by signing into Readlee and then selecting the assignment they would like to complete. As soon as they do that a new screen will appear with the text they need to read. Students then just click on the microphone icon at the bottom of the screen and start reading aloud. When they’re done they stop the recording and click “turn in assignment.” I should note that students can pause the recording in progress if needed and resume it to complete the assignment. In fact, I did that while testing out the student perspective because I had a little tickle in my throat and took a sip of black cherry seltzer to clear it out.

In addition to the assignment list, in their Readlee classrooms students will find a running tally of the number of words they’ve read aloud, their time spent reading, their average reading speed, and the total unique words they’ve read.

Readlee Benefits for Teachers, Students, and Parents
If you’ve made it this far in the post without clicking away to create your Readlee account, here are a few benefits of using Readlee worth noting.
  • Readlee gives you an easy way to consistently measure your students’ reading fluency and progress.
  • Readlee is a time-saver compared to manually checking reading journals or logs.
  • Readlee shows students their progress in a way that is easy for them and their parents to understand.
Try Readlee Today!
In this post I focused on the features of Readlee that are free and open to all teachers to use for as long as they like. There are additional premium features that can be purchased. I’d start out by trying the free version. Watch my tutorial video embedded below to see everything you and your students need to know to get started using Readlee today.



Disclosure: Readlee is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Best of 2022 - Can I Use That Picture?

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

A couple of weeks ago in my Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week newsletter I included a PDF guide to use in determining whether or not you can use a picture you've found on the Internet. To accompany that guide and provide some clarifications I then recorded a short video presentation in Canva. 

In this short video I provide a high-level overview of determining whether or not you can re-use a particular picture that you've found on the Internet. For a list of good, classroom-friendly places to find pictures for your projects, take a look at my guide to finding media for classroom projects

Video - Can I Use That Picture? A Short Presentation About Copyright

Best of 2022 - Overlooked Google Docs Features

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

As Google Docs has improved and added more features over the years some of those features get forgotten or just plain overlooked. Just because those features don't jump out, doesn't mean they're not helpful to students and teachers. In this new video I highlight ten of my favorite "overlooked" Google Docs features for students and teachers. 

Tables.
  • These are great for organizing group notes.
Special Characters.
  • These provide an easy way to add accent marks, math symbols, arrows, and emojis to documents.
Checklists.
Task lists.
  • These are different from checklists and are accessible regardless of which Google Doc you're currently viewing in your account.
Changing Default Text.
  • Tired of the standard 11 point Arial font? Change the default font to anything you like.
Table of Contents.
  • This is a great way to link and jump to sections of long documents. The table of contents works even if you export the document to PDF.
Substitutions.
  • Change the default substitution settings so your name is never misspelled again. Or change the settings to disable some of the automatic features in Google Docs.
Dictionary
  • Teach kids where this is so they can find definitions and synonyms without leaving Google Docs.
Camera
  • Students can use the built-in camera option to add pictures of handwritten work to their Google Docs.
Watermarks
  • Mark a document as confidential or draft.

Are you a tech coach or media specialist looking for some new ideas to share with your colleagues? If so, 50 Tech Tuesday Tips is an eBook you need. You can get it right here.

Best of 2022 - Five Good Resources for Learning About Airplanes and Airlines

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

We're planning a little trip this fall to visit some family that we haven't seen since before the start of the pandemic. When we told our daughters that we're going to fly they got very excited about it. We've now been answering questions about flying seemingly nonstop for a few days. Those conversations prompted me to compile this list of resources for teaching and learning about the science of flight. 

Turbulence: One of the Great Unsolved Mysteries of Physics is a TED-Ed lesson that explains what turbulence is and the forces that create it. The lesson explains that even though we typically associate turbulence with flying in airplanes, turbulence exists in many other places including oceans.


The Wright Brothers - The Invention of the Aerial Age offers timelines for teaching about the developments made by the Wright Brothers. Dig into the Interactive Experiments section of the timeline and you'll find Engineering the Wright WayEngineering the Wright Way offers interactive simulations in which students learn about wing design by joining the Wright Brothers for test flights in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

How Things Fly hosted by the Smithsonian features an interactive module in which students design their own airplanes. The activity starts with a simple and slow airplane that students have to modify until it reaches a target speed and altitude. As students modify the wings, fuselage, and engines of their airplanes they are given instant feedback on the effects of those modifications. In some cases the feedback includes the airplane crashing and the students having to start over again.

TED-Ed offers a lesson about breaking the sound barrier. The lesson is called The Sonic Boom Problem and it explains how a sonic boom is created and how math is used to predict the path of a sonic boom in the atmosphere. 



Here's some archival footage of Yeager's flight in the Bell X-1.

If you have ever wondered why airlines sell more tickets than they have seats on an airplane, the TED-Ed lesson Why Do Airlines Sell Too Many Tickets? is for you. In Why Do Airlines Sell Too Many Tickets? you can learn about the mathematics that airlines use to maximize the revenue that they can generate from each flight. That math includes calculating the probability that everyone who holds a ticket for a flight will actually show up for the flight. The way that probability is calculated is explained in the video. Finally, the lesson asks students to consider the ethics of overbooking flights. Watch the video below or go here to see the entire lesson.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Best of 2022 - Free and Customizable Clip Art

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

CoCoMaterial is an online library of almost 2,500 drawings that you can download and re-use for free. I've been using it for about a month and I really like the style of the artwork found on CoCoMaterial. It has been a hit with the folks participating in my Animated Explanations course this month. This week one of those people, Sarah G, pointed out that the drawings in CoCoMaterial can be customized before you download them. I'm not sure if this is a new development or just something that I've been overlooking. Either way, it's awesome!

In this brief video I demonstrate how you can use CoCoMaterial to find, customize, and download free clip art to use in your multimedia projects. 



Applications for Education
The drawings that are available on CocoMaterial are clean, simple, and easy to see. They could be great for use in classroom projects like simple web design, infographic design, or to just brighten-up the newsletters that you send home to parents.

Best of 2022 - The Science of Winter Olympic Sports

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to start in a little less than one month from now. I'm looking forward to sitting on my couch and drinking some hot chocolate while watching the world's best in alpine and Nordic skiing. I also enjoy watching curling even though I don't always understand all of the rules of that game. There's a whole lot of science behind all of the Winter Olympics events that we see on our screens. If you have students who are interested in the events, capitalize on that interest and share these Olympics-based science lessons with them. 

The National Science Foundation offers a YouTube playlist of sixteen videos on the science of Winter Olympics events. These short videos teach lessons on the physics and engineering behind the events we see on television. The videos are a decade old, but the science concepts covered are just as relevant to these Olympic games as they were to previous Winter Olympics.
 

It's hard to host skiing and snowboarding events without a lot of snow. That's why a lot of the snow we'll see on television during the Winter Olympics is human-made snow. How to Make Snow (If You're Not Elsa) is a short video produced by SciShow that explains how snow is made at ski resorts by using cooled water and compressed air.


 
In the United States NBC owns the rights to nearly all Olympics-related footage and logos which is why it's a little disappointing that they don't offer more student-focused resources than this PDF guide to the Winter Olympics and some YouTube videos that aren't well organized beyond this playlist. I went through the NBC News Learn channel and highlighted a few favorites and included them below.  

Science of the Winter Olympics: Building Faster & Safer Bobsleds



Science of the Winter Olympics: Banking On Bobsled Speed



Sliding Down At 90 MPH: The Science Behind The Fastest Sport On Ice



Science of the Winter Olympics: The Science Friction of Curling



Science of the Winter Olympics: Figuring Out Figure Skating



Science of the Winter Olympics: The Science of Snowboarding

Monday, December 26, 2022

Best of 2022 - A Big List of Geography Resources

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

This week is Geography Awareness Week. It's one of my favorite weeks of the year! Every year at this time I publish an updated list of some of my favorite games, activities, tools, and lessons to promote geography awareness. Here's my updated list for 2021. 

The first place to start a search for geography awareness week resources has to be National Geographic. On their Geography Awareness Week page you'll find lots of ideas including this one for hosting a geography quiz night (link opens a PDF).

WorldCover Viewer
WorldCover Viewer is an 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. 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. 



I'm Feeling Lucky!
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."



City Guesser 3.0
City Guesser 3.0 offers twenty-one games based on countries. There are also more than two dozen games based on major cities around the world. And there is a game based on monuments of the world. In addition to the new games, City Guesser 3.0 has two new game play modes. There is a "streaks" mode in which you try to make as many consecutive accurate guesses as possible. There are also two new "challenge" modes. There is a challenge mode in which you cannot move the imagery and have to guess from just one view. The other challenge mode is a timed mode in which you have to guess before time runs out. Watch this video for an overview of City Guesser 3.0.

MapBox Studio
With a free Mapbox Studio account you can create a custom outline map of any city, town, or neighborhood of your choosing. You can choose how much or how little detail you want to include in the map. Once you've made your selections you can save your map as a PNG or JPG file to print and distribute to your students.In this short video I demonstrate how to use Mapbox Studio to create your own custom coloring maps.



Mult Dev
Mult Dev is a free tool that lets you quickly create animated maps. In the time since I wrote about Mult Dev a couple of updates were made to it. The most notable of those being that you now need to sign into the service with a Google account or a GitHub account. In this short video I demonstrate how to create an animated map with Mult Dev.

Roadside America
The Library of Congress houses the John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive. That archive contains nearly 12,000 photographs of interesting roadside attractions all over the United States and eastern Canada. The collection includes pictures of things like gas stations shaped like a dinosaur, windmills that serve as ice cream stands, funky miniature golf courses, and lots of neon signs for motels and restaurants. 

The Library of Congress published an ESRI Story Map of photographs in the John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive. The map is titled Roadside America. You can view the images on an interactive map or simply scroll through some curated collections of images from the collection. I found it fun to click on the markers on the map to discover some roadside attractions in my home state as well as others around the country. But before you head out on the road to look for them I should point out that many of the photographs are of things that are no longer out on the roadside.

Roadside America provides a nice way for students to discover some pieces of Americana past and present. I'd use the map as a way to spark students' curiosity to conduct a little research about some of these interesting roadside attractions. I might also use the map as a model for having students create their own roadside attractions maps of places in their home states that they may have seen and or taken pictures of.

Drawing on Digital Maps
Creating layers and tours in Google Earth and Google My Maps can be a great way for students to assemble collections of geolocated information to summarize research, create a book tour, or even develop safe walking and biking routes. But sometimes you just need to quickly draw or pin things to a digital map. In those cases, launching Google Earth or My Maps is a bit more than you need. That's when Scribble Maps, Google Drawings, or Google Jamboard are handy. 

Scribble Maps is a digital mapping tool that lets anyone make free-hand drawings on top of a variety of base maps. To use it simply head to ScribbleMaps.com/create/ and select one of the drawing tools. Registration is not required in order to use it although there are some pop-ups that will try to sell you on upgrades from the free version. Here's a short overview of Scribble Maps. 



Google Drawings and Google Jamboard both let you import images that you can then draw on top of. To do that just open a new Google Drawing or new Google Jamboard then use the integrated image search to find a map. Once you've selected a map you can use the drawing tools to mark on it. Here's a demonstration of how that process can work in Google Drawings.



The process that I described above for using Google Drawings and Google Jamboard can also be done with the online version of PowerPoint. To do that, create a new slide then use the integrated Bing Images search to find a map. One of the nice things about the Bing Images integration in PowerPoint is that it will automatically search for Creative Commons licensed works and automatically insert an attribution link. Once the image has been added to the slide you can use the built-in drawing tools to mark on the map.

Strange Borders
Earlier this year I read an interesting article titled Belgian Farmer Accidentally Moves French Border. The whole story is almost exactly what the title says. A farmer moved a stone that was in his way when plowing a field. It just happened that the stone he moved is a marker for the border between two small towns in Belgium and France. The border itself is not in dispute and the border is a relatively normal one between two friendly neighbors. Still, reading the story reminded me of a couple of videos that I've bookmarked about irregular country borders. 

Countries Inside Countries (Bizarre Borders, Part 1) was produced by CGP Grey seven years ago to illustrate where some of the landlocked countries of the world are and how they became landlocked. The video also highlights countries that have only one neighbor. 

Canada & The United States (Bizarre Borders, Part 2) explains why border between the United States and Canada might look like a long straight line in many places, but is not a straight line. The video also delves into some border quirks and disputes. The Google Earth file used in video is available to download here on CGP Grey's website.



Tom Scott has also produced a couple of interesting videos about interesting borders between countries. In The Most Complex Borders in Europe: Why Do We Have Nations? he explains the complicated border between Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands and Baarle-Hertog in Belgium. 

In The US-Canada Border Splits This Road Down the Middle he visits the border between Stanstead, Quebec, Canada and Derby Line, Vermont, United States where the border really does split a road or, depending upon who you ask, the road splits the border. In the video he explains what you can and can't do on the road as well as how border enforcement has increased in the last couple of decades. (Speaking as someone who has lived relatively close to the US-Canada border for all of my adult life and has crossed the border countless times, border crossings today are much more regulated today than they were the first time I crossed in the late 90's).





GeoQuiz
GeoQuiz is an online geography game that just asks you to try to name as many countries as you can in fifteen minutes. As soon as you enter a country's name the globe on the screen spins to center on that country. If you misspell a country the globe doesn't spin and your entry doesn't count. You can play GeoQuiz on your own or you can compete against other players in online rooms. Either way, you don't need to register or enter any personal information in order to play GeoQuiz. To play against others you can join an existing room or create your own and invite people to join it. To have others join your room all you have to do is pick a name for your room and tell people to join it in the "online mode" on the GeoQuiz homepage.

The Mind Blowing Map Quiz
The Mind-Blowing Map Quiz is designed to help students understand how Mercator projection maps distort our view of the world. It does this by asking relational questions like "how much bigger is Australia than Alaska?" and "how close are Russia and the United States?" A few fun facts are thrown into the explanations of each answer. Can You Make an Accurate Map? is a good video to show after students have played The Mind-Blowing Map Quiz. The video provides a concise explanation of why Mercator projection maps don't accurately represent the size of things near the poles but are none-the-less used in many applications.



What is a Map?

By watching What is a Map? students can learn how maps evolved over time, the political implications of maps, and how maps are used to represent data as well as locations.

City Walks
City Walks is a neat website that you can use to go for a virtual walk in more than a dozen cities around the world. You can experience the cities with or without sound. You can go for virtual walks in the daytime or at night. At the start of each walk you'll see some quick facts about the city that might help you understand a little more about what you're seeing during the walk.City Walks is essentially a really nice display of street-level YouTube videos with some additional menu options overlaid on them. That's not meant as a knock on the site as it is a nice site. That does mean that there isn't any interactivity built into virtual walks like you might experience in a virtual reality experience. The video sources for City Walks are clearly labeled in the lower-right corner of each screen.

Quizzity!
Quizzity is an online geography game that uses a concept found in lots of map-based games. That concept is to show you the name of a place and then have you guess its location by clicking on a map. Quizzity quizzes you on cities all over the world. To increase the accuracy of your guesses you should zoom-in on a region before clicking the map. Each round of Quizzity presents you with six city names. Points are awarded for accuracy and speed.

Seterra
Seterra offers hundreds of geography games in 39 languages. You can play the games online in your web browser or download the apps to play on a phone or tablet. In the following video I demonstrate four ways that you can play the online version of Seterra's geography games.


Go Geocaching!
Geocaching is a great activity to get kids outside for hands-on learning experiences. Last summer I outlined a handful of ideas for using geocaching to teach lessons on geospatial awareness, Earth science, and digital citizenship. Read more about those ideas here. If you can get parents to install the Geocaching app on their phones, geocaching could make for a great "at-home" geography lesson for parents to do with their kids.

Find the Towns of the Same Name
This is a modification of an activity that I did as a sixth-grader in Mrs. Carlson's class in Manchester, Connecticut. She had us use atlases to see how many other Manchesters there are in the world and where they are. Then we had to write a short blurb about each Manchester. The modern version of this activity is to have students choose a common town name like Manchester and use Google Maps to find out how many towns in the world have that name. Then on their Google Maps or Scribble Maps students can add placemarks in which they write about interesting things about those towns. Students can add videos and images to their placemarks too.

Make a Group Map of Stories
This is an idea that I got many years ago from my friend Jim Wells. Jim had his students write short stories of happy memories and then place those stories on a printed map. Today, you can have students do this on Google Maps or Scribble Maps. This activity can help students see the significance of place in the formation of memories. You can even have your whole class contribute to one map by having them enter their stories in a Google Form then using the corresponding spreadsheet to create a Google Maps of stories. My video on how to do that is embedded below. 

Find Out What Geographers Do
There's a lot more than just "make maps" to say in response to the question, "what are you going to do with a degree in geography?" The American Association of Geographers has a nice list of career paths in geography. Here's a "day in the life of a geographer" video from that same page. 



Make Your Own Compass
Make Your Own Compass explains to kids what a compass is, how it works, and how they can make their own with common household products. 



Mathigon Maps Lessons
In Surface Area of a Sphere Mathigon includes an interactive diagram that illustrates the problem that cartographers have when trying to create maps of the world. The interactive diagram shows four map projections and the areas of the map that are distorted by each projection. Students can click on each of the map projections to see a comparison of an area on the 2D map to the same area on a globe. Overall, it's a good way for students to see how two dimensional world maps can distort the size and scale of an area. 

Mathigon's Map Coloring Challenge asks students to use as few colors as possible to color in all 50 U.S. states without having the same color touching two states at the same time. For example, if I color New Hampshire purple, I can't use purple on Vermont, Maine, New York, or Massachusetts but I could use purple on Pennsylvania.

On a related note the USGS offers a free map projections poster (link opens a PDF). You may also want to take a look at Projection Wizard as another tool for showing students how various projections distort the regions of the world. 

Timelapse Imagery in Google Earth
In this short video I demonstrate how to view timelapse imagery in the web version and in the desktop version of Google Earth.


In the video above I showed some of the timelapse imagery of urban sprawl around some cities in the United States. That imagery could be used as the prompt for a research assignment for students to investigate the causes of the growth of those cities.

Best of 2022 - How to Stop Procrastinating

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year.

I meant to write about this a few days ago. TED-Ed recently published a new lesson that tackles an issue that most of us have dealt with at one time or another. That issue is procrastination. 

Why You Procrastinate Even When It Feels Bad is a TED-Ed lesson that explains why people procrastinate. It does a great job of explaining the biggest psychological cause of procrastination. That cause being the fight-or-flight response in our brains to tasks that we perceive as difficult or otherwise stress-inducing. The lesson explains why we procrastinate when faced with a task that actually isn't that difficult once we get started. 

The end of Why You Procrastinate Even When It Feels Bad includes a couple of tips for breaking procrastination habits. Those tips include breaking tasks into smaller pieces and journaling about the feelings associated with a task that are causing you to avoid it. That's essentially what Focusable helps you do. I've been using Focusable since September and it has helped me avoid procrastinating on some difficult tasks. Read this blog post to learn more about how Focusable can help you avoid procrastination. 



Applications for Education
Helping students identify what it is about an assignment that's causing them to avoid it could go a long way toward helping the get started on the process of completing it. This TED-Ed lesson can help them understand why they're avoiding academic assignments. A tool like Focusable can help students get started on those assignments they perceive as difficult and help them journal their thoughts about it.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Best of 2022 - Game Templates in Canva

As I do at this time every year, I'm taking the week off to ski and play with my kids, shovel snow, and generally not think about work. I have some of the most popular posts of the year scheduled to republish this week. New posts will resume in the new year. 

Last week I was recording a demo of how to use existing slides to make video lessons when I came across a neat slide template in Canva. That template was for a game called This or That. The game is a simple icebreaker type of game that gets people talking to each other. The reason I mention it is that there's a whole category of similar game templates available in Canva. Watch my short video below for a little demo of the This or That game template. 

Applications for Education
If you're looking to make some simple trivia games or icebreaker games to play in your classroom or at your next staff meeting, take a look through the game presentation templates in Canva for a little inspiration.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Best of 2022 So Far - Brush Ninja Updates

I'm taking the weekend off. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 

Brush Ninja is a tool that I've been using and recommending for a few years now. Brush Ninja makes it incredibly easy to draw a series of images and quickly turn them into animated GIFs. In the fall of 2018 I used Brush Ninja with some middle school students to create animations to illustrate their understanding of forms of energy. You can read more about that activity right here

Brush Ninja is still a great tool for making animated GIFs. In fact, it has gotten better since I first started using it. You can now use custom backgrounds including background pictures that you take with your webcam. The animated GIF creator also now lets you change the size of the canvas you're drawing on. And there are now twice as many stickers available in the GIF creator than when I started using it. 

In addition to making animated GIFs, Brush Ninja now has three other tools. Those are an emoji art creator, a collage maker, and a comic book creator. The emoji art creator lets you click on a canvas to place any of hundreds of emojis into a pattern to create digital artwork. The collage maker is exactly what it sounds like, a tool for making photo collages. The comic book creator simply lets you upload a series of images to a comic book template that you can print and fold. 

An overview of all of the Brush Ninja tools is provided in this new video that I recorded on Wednesday. 


Applications for Education
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I've had students use Brush Ninja to make animations to illustrate their understanding of forms of energy. I longer explanation of that instance can be read here. An explanation of my initial introduction to the concepts behind sketching in the classroom is available here

One of the reasons that Brush Ninja continues to by one of my go-to tools is that it doesn't require students to register or sign-up for anything in order to use all of the available features. 

Friday, July 8, 2022

Best of 2022 So Far - Improve Your Typing While Reading Classic Literature

I'm taking the rest of the week off. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 

There is not a shortage of typing games available on the web (find 700 of them right here). Most of those games are based on rote practice and patterns. That's why I was intrigued when the Support Real Teachers Twitter account tagged me in a post about a new typing practice site that wasn't just a big collection of animated games. That site is called TypeLit.io

On TypeLit.io you can develop your typing skills while reading classic literature. The way it works is that you pick a classic work in TypeLit's library and then start typing the text that you see on the screen. TypeLit provides you with feedback about the accuracy and speed of your typing. 

As you can see in my demo video, TypeLit will let you pick a chapter of a book to type or you can type through the whole thing. You can use TypeLit without an account. But if you do create an account you can save and resume your progress. 



Applications for Education
TypeLit.io isn't going to replace "traditional" typing instruction. That said, it could be a place for middle school and high school students to practice their typing skills while reading some classic literature.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Best of 2022 So Far - Image Background Removers

With the exception of the webinar I'm hosting later this morning, I'm taking the rest of the week off. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 

Removing the background from an image is a good way to protect your privacy and that of people who might unintentionally be in the background of your pictures. Remove image backgrounds is also a good way to get a stand-alone image of yourself to then place in front of a different background. For example, I could take a picture of myself at my local ski mountain then replace the background so that I look like I'm climbing Mount Everest. 

In the following video I provide demonstrations of four quick and easy ways to remove the background from your images. 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.


In the video above I demonstrated how to remove image backgrounds with the following free tools:
  • PowerPoint
  • Remove.bg
  • Adobe Creative Cloud Express
  • Canva