Showing posts with label how to. Show all posts
Showing posts with label how to. Show all posts

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Big and Small Contest

As I've shared in the past, Instructables is one of my favorite places to find inspiration for fun, hands-on STEM projects. On Instructables you'll find directions for all kinds of neat projects including things like automatic plant watering systems, automated LED lighting systems and alarms, and more Arduino and Micro:bit projects than you can shake a stick at.

This spring Instructables is running four contests that you and your students can enter. One of those contests is called the Big and Small Contest. The contest asks participants to design something big or small, put it together, and share the directions for making it. You can take something that is normally small and make it big or take something that is normally big and make it small. The entry deadline is May 8th. The top prize is a $500 Amazon gift card.

Whether you enter the contest or not, the concept of the Big and Small Contest is a fun one that you can use in your makerspace or similar setting.

Magic Eraser - Quickly Clean Images in Canva

One of the many new features that Canva has released in the last week or so is a new image editing tool called Magic Eraser. This little tool makes it quick and easy to remove imperfections and other unwanted things from your photographs. For example, in my demonstration video that is embedded below I removed the logo that is embroidered on my jacket. 

Video - How to Use Magic Eraser in Canva

Applications for Education
The obvious use of Magic Eraser to remove imperfections and to remove private information from images used in your presentations and teaching materials. Another possible use is to create before and after pictures for comparison purposes like little visual riddles. 

Friday, March 31, 2023

New! Freehand Drawings in Canva

Last week Canva hosted a big event to announce a bunch of new features. One of those features is something that I've thought they should have added years ago, a freehand drawing tool. 

Canva's freehand drawing tool lets you choose a drawing tool (pencil, pen, highlighter) and customize it to make the lines it creates just about any color and thickness that you like. And as you'll see in my new demo video embedded below, you can mix and match all of the drawing features on one canvas. 

Applications for Education
The new drawing tool in Canva could be great for quickly adding sketches to your slideshows. Sometimes it's faster and easier to just make a sketch than it is to try to combine a bunch of pre-made shapes to create the demonstration image that you need. You can also combine your sketches with some of the animation tools in Canva to create a little video.

Check out this playlist for more than 60 oher Canva tutorials.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Pacing Group Activities With Focusable

A few weeks ago I ran a workshop in which I changed up the way that I paced the session. What I've almost always done is give a little instruction then time to try and complete a little practice activity. Then I'll hold a little debrief before moving onto the next activity. It's a pretty common format that I'm sure you also learned in one of the methods courses that you took at some point. 

What I did differently in my workshop a few weeks ago was to use Focusable to pace the workshop. Specifically, I used Focusable to keep track of the blocks of work time. When the time was up I then had everyone follow along with the breathing exercise that Focusable suggested before we did the debrief. I then summarized the debrief in a video in Focusable before moving onto the next workshop activity. 

I found that having everyone participate in the Focusable breathing and recharge activities was a better way of getting everyone's attention than using the old method of saying something like, "okay, let's talk about this." Perhaps it was just the novelty of following along with the breathing exercise, but it worked well for refocusing the group for a short discussion. It's definitely something that I'll do again in future workshops. 

Speaking of workshops, I'd love to run a workshop at your school this summer. To learn more about that, please visit this page or send me an email at richard (at)

Video - How to Use Focusable

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

An Interactive Simulation of Greenhouse Effect

PhET was one of the resource that I featured in this week's Practical Ed Tech newsletter. Shortly after hitting send on that newsletter I learned about a new simulation that PhET now offers. 

The latest PhET simulation is about the greenhouse effect. The simulation can be used to help students understand the effect of greenhouse gases and clouds on sunlight, infrared radiation, and surface temperature. And students can use the simulation to compare and contrast the behavior of sunlight and infrared radiation. 

Like most PhET simulations, the Greenhouse Effect simulation can run on nearly all platforms including iPads and Chromebooks. There are also options to use it offline and to include in your own web pages as I've done below. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

How to Use Microsoft Designer

Microsoft Designer is a new AI-powered tool that enables users to quickly generate many variations of a graphic design with just a few clicks. The purpose of Microsoft Designer is to give you a gallery of designs based on your input. You can then choose the design that you like best to download and use in your projects. In short, it's kind of like having a graphic designer present you with a bunch of options to pick from.

To use Microsoft Designer you simply log-in then choose the type of project you're designing (social media post, slides, or other). Then you state the goal of your project. Finally, upload a picture to use in your design and Microsoft Designer will generate a bunch of graphic designs for you. Watch my short vide that is embedded below to see how Microsoft Designer works. 

Video - How to Use Microsoft Designer

Applications for Education
Microsoft Designer could be a good tool for improving your own graphics to use in your classroom handouts. It could also be a great way for students to improve their own graphics much like the PowerPoint design suggestions do.

How to Add Audio to Google Slides

Last week I was looking through my YouTube Studio analytics when I noticed that one of the most-searched phrases was "add audio to Google Slides." I took that as a sign that it was time to create a new video about how to add audio to Google Slides. So that's exactly what I did. 

In my new video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to add audio to Google Slides. The demonstration includes the reminder that you have to add the audio to your Google Drive account before you can add it into your slides. In the video I also feature Pixabay's music collection as a good place to find free music to use in your presentations. 

Video - How to Add Audio to Google Slides

On a related note, watch this video to make sure that you avoid three mistakes that are frequently made when using audio in Google Slides.

Video - Three Google Slides Audio Mistakes to Avoid

Check out my guide to finding media for classroom projects for even more places to find free audio for your Google Slides presentations. 

Monday, March 27, 2023

Seven Tips for Good Infographic Design

Last week Canva made waves on social media with all of their announcements about their new AI-powered design tools. While those tools look great and I plan to use them, I think it's still important for students to learn some basic design principles instead of just relying on whatever an algorithm spits out. To that end, here's an excerpt from a review that I wrote of Randy Krum's book, Cool Infographics published back in 2013.   

In his book Randy Krum goes into much more detail on each of these key elements of good infographic design. These are the elements of good design that he outlines in his chapter about designing infographics. You can get a sample chapter of the book here.

1. Be accurate. It seems obvious, but you will find infographics are not accurate. For example, make sure your pie charts add up to 100%.

2. Tell one story really well. An infographic that tries to do too much ends up not telling a story at all.

3. The 5 second rule. Krum shares that most of the page view duration times are 5-10 seconds for infographics featured on his blog. Create infographics that tell a story quickly.

4. Big fonts are not data visualizations. Krum states, "displaying the number in a large font doesn't make it any easier for the audience to understand."

5. Minimize text. Along the lines of #4 above. This is another tip that seems obvious, yet we see text-heavy infographics all over the web.

6. Eliminate chart legends. If the viewer needs a legend, your infographic's story might not be as clear as it should be.

7. Pick a good topic. Some topics are not as suitable for infographic display as others.

Disclosure: I received a free press copy of the Cool Infographics book. 

Friday, March 24, 2023

How to Use the Latest Version of Focusable

Focusable was one of my favorite new tools in 2022. In 2023 it has continued to evolve to help teachers and students learn how to ignore distractions and focus on important tasks.

Focusable was recently updated with a new user interface designed to help you get focus and get into a flow a little more quickly than before. The new way of using Focusable begins with a short, guided "recharge" activity followed by a five or ten minute block of work time. This is slightly different than the previous version of Focusable in which "recharge" activities were separate from the "focus" workflow. 

Watch my new video that is embedded below to see an overview of how to use the latest version of Focusable

Learn more about Focusable in the following blog posts:

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Projection Wizard - See How Maps Distort the World

Projection Wizard is an interesting tool developed by Bojan Šavrič at Oregon State University. The purpose of Projection Wizard is to help cartographers select the best map projections for their projects.

To use the Projection Wizard select a distortion property from a menu appearing to the left of the map. Then use the highlighting tool to select the portion of the map that your project focuses on. After you make your map and menu choices you'll be shown a list of the projections that are appropriate for your project.

Applications for Education
Projection Wizard is a more advanced tool than most high school geography courses would need. That said, I would use the Projection Wizard to have students discuss the flaws of  various map projections. We'd also talk about why a particular type of projection is better than another for different types of projects.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Signs of Spring Bingo

My daughters are obsessed with Humphrey the Hamster books written by Betty Birney. We're currently reading Spring According to Humphrey. In the book the class is tasked with looking for signs of spring. 

Reading Spring According to Humphrey has prompted my daughters to look for signs of spring around our neighborhood. One of those signs is the melting snow. Another sign is a crocus poking up near the flag pole in our front yard.

Looking for signs of spring with my daughters reminded me of the outdoor bingo boards that I made last year. You can do the same by following the directions in the video that I have embedded below. 

In this short video I demonstrate how I used Flippity's bingo board template to create a set of bingo boards in which students have to find things like acorns, pinecones, and flower petals. 

Applications for Education
As the weather begins to warm (in northern climates) spring is in the air and students will want to go outside. Create a set of outdoor bingo boards to connect some outside time to a lesson about seasons of the year. For example, if students have a hard time finding brown leaves or acorns in the spring, it could be a good opportunity to explain why those things are easier to find in the fall.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Four Methods for Distraction-free YouTube Viewing

This morning I answered an email from a reader who was looking for some suggestions on how to display YouTube videos in her classroom without showing all of the related sidebar content that appears on YouTube. If you find yourself in a similar position, here are some things to try.

Put the videos into slides
If you embed a YouTube video into your Google Slides, PowerPoint slides, or Canva slides then none of YouTube's related sidebar content appears next to the video.

Create a playlist in Padlet
Another way to display videos without the sidebar distractions is to play them through Padlet. In Padlet you can use the "playlist" template to make a list of videos and then display each of them without the sidebar content that appears on YouTube or Vimeo. You can make the playlist yourself or you can invite others to collaborate with you just like you would with any other Padlet wall. Watch my video that is embedded below to learn how to make a distraction-free video playlist on a Padlet wall.

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 to have the related content disappear from the page. Watch this video to learn more about Watchkin. 

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

Teacher and Student Views of Reading Progress and Reading Coach in Microsoft Teams

Last year Microsoft added actionable insights to Reading Progress in Microsoft Teams. This year there is even more information and there are more actions that you can take when using Reading Progress and Reading Coach in Microsoft Teams. 

In a new video that he released yesterday, Mike Tholfsen provides a complete overview of how to use Reading Progress and Reading Coach in Microsoft Teams. The video provides demonstration and direction for teachers. In the video he also provides a detailed overview of how students access and use Reading Coach in Microsoft Teams. 

Watch How to Use Reading Progress and Reading Coach in Microsoft Teams on Mike Tholfsen's YouTube channel or as embedded below. 

Those of you who don't have access to Microsoft Teams, may find that Readlee has some similar functionality available for you to use. You can learn more about Readlee in this blog post

Sunday, March 19, 2023

How to Add Q&A to Your Google Slides Presentations

There are plenty of ways to gather questions and feedback from students in a digital format. But one of the ways that is often overlooked is to just add a Q&A component to a slide presentation. That can be done quite easily in Google Slides right from the presentation menu. Watch my video embedded below to learn how to add Q&A to your Google Slides presentations.

Applications for Education
The option for students to vote a question up or down is useful in determining which questions seem the most important to your students.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

An Overview of Using and Detecting Artificial Intelligence

This week's news that Google Workspace will have new artificial intelligence tools added to it throughout the year was not unexpected. It was another sign that if you haven't being paying attention to the development of AI tools this year, you should start paying attention to them. Even if your school tries to ban or block AI tools, students will figure out a way to use them outside of school if not in your school. With that out of the way, here's a round-up of some the AI tools that I've written and or made videos about in recent months. 

A Short Overview of ChatGPT

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence tool that will create documents for you based on some minimal input from you. For example, I simply typed into ChatGPT "Ten Canva Features for Students" and got this article. ChatGPT can also be used to create poems like this one about the sunglasses worn by Geraint Thomas

With a little tweaking of what you put into ChatGPT you can create longer articles than the one that I mentioned above. A simple, "tell me more" or "what about X" can generate more material from ChatGPT. 

Video - A Short Overview of ChatGPT

Magic Write

Magic Write is the artificial intelligence tool built into Canva Docs. Magic Write works in a manner that is quite similar to ChatGPT. To use Magic Write you simply select it from the insert menu in Canva Docs. Once Magic Write is opened you then enter a short prompt like "green screen video tips" and Magic Write generates a short list or paragraph for you (formatting depends on the prompt). You can then insert that writing into your document as it was written or you can edit it before including it in your document. Watch this short video to see how Magic Write in Canva works. 

Video - How to Use Artificial Intelligence in Canva Documents

Turn Writing Into Videos

ChatGPT might be the first thing you think of when you read AI today, but there have been plenty of other AI tools before it. One such tool is Lumen5. Lumen5 is a tool that will produce a video for you based upon your written work.

To create a video with Lumen5 you can enter the URL of your published work or submit the text of an article you've written. Lumen5 will then select highlights from your writing to feature in a video. The video will always begin with the title of your article. From there it will use any subheadings or section headings that you have in your article to create sections of your video. If you don't have subheadings or section headings in your article, Lumen5 will attempt to pull the keywords or phrases from each paragraph. Watch my demo below to see how easy it is to use Lumen5. 

Video - How to Quickly Turn Written Articles Into Videos

Concept Maps Created by AI

Whimsical is a mind mapping and concept mapping tool that I first tried a couple of years ago. In addition to mind mapping and concept mapping it can also be used for creating Venn diagrams and other common charts in a collaborative environment. Now Whimsical has an artificial intelligence component. Whimsical's AI tool generates concept maps based on any keyword or phrase that you center on the screen. To use Whimsical's AI concept mapping tool you simply have to start a new concept map, enter a keyword or phrase, and then click the AI icon. The tool will then generate a simple concept map of linked terms and phrases. 

Detecting Writing Created by AI

Almost as quickly as new AI writing tools emerge, new tools to detect writing created by AI are emerging. I've tried three of them so far. All three are demonstrated in this short video. Watch the video as embedded below or skip down to read about the tools featured in the video. 

Video - Three Tools for Detecting Articles Written by AI

GPTZero is a free tool that analyzes text to determine whether or not it was written by an artificial intelligence program. There are some features of GPTZero that make it a bit different from some of the other AI detection tools that I've tried. First, in addition to accepting text that you copy and paste into it, GPTZero lets you upload PDFs, Word docs, and TXT files to analyze them. Second, GPTZero will highlight for you the parts of an article that it determines to have a high likelihood of being written by an AI tool. Third, GPTZero provides a perplexity score and a burstiness score to illustrate how it was determined that a document was or was not written by an AI tool. 

AI Text Classifier is a free tool from Open AI, the makers of ChatGPT, that will detect whether or not a passage of text has been written with ChatGPT and similar AI writing tools. To use AI Text Classifier you do need to have registered for a free account on Open AI. Once you have an account you can use AI Text Classifier. To use AI Text Classifier you simply have to paste a block of writing (at least 1,000 characters, roughly 175 words) into the text field and click the submit button. AI Text Classifier will then rank the writing as very unlikely, unlikely, unclear if it is, possibly, or likely written by AI. For the record, AI Text Classifier classified my article about detecting writing created by AI as very unlikely to have been written by AI. 

AI Writing Check is a free tool created by the collaborative efforts of the non-profits and CommonLit. AI Writing Check is a tool that was created to help teachers try to recognize writing created through the use of artificial intelligence. To use AI Writing Check you simply have to copy a passage of text of 100 or more words and paste it into AI Writing Check. The tool will then tell you the likelihood that the writing has or has not been created by artificial intelligence. That's all there is to it. AI Writing Check isn't foolproof and as is pointed out on the site, students can still develop ways to get around tools designed to detect AI-generated writing. It's also worth noting that it can't handle more than 400 words at a time. 

Crossplag AI Content Detector is a free tool that you can use to try to determine whether or not an AI tool was used to generate a passage of text. Like other AI detection tools, Crossplag AI Content Detector is easy to use. To use it you simply paste a block of text into the content detector and it will give a rating of likelihood that AI was used to create that text. Watch my short video below to see how it works. 

Video - Another Tool for Detecting Writing Created by AI

The Microphone I Recommend for Video and Audio Recordings

The podcasting platform that I recommend the most recently changed names. The screencasting tool that I use the most also recently changed names. One thing that hasn't changed is the microphone that I use with those tools. 

For years I have used and continue to recommend the Snowball iCE microphone.

The Snowball iCE microphone is the microphone that I have used for years to record on my Mac, Windows, and Chromebook computers. It's very easy to use the Snowball iCE just plug it in and it works. I have two of them, one of which I bring to workshops just to let people see how easy it is to plug in and use. The Snowball iCE has an MSRP of $49.99 and is currently on sale on Amazon for $39! 

Disclosure: the product links in this blog post are affiliate links which mean that I'll make a small commission if you purchase either product. Using the links doesn't affect the price you pay. And I only link to products that I have actually purchased myself. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Annotate Videos With Text and Pictures

Timelinely is a neat tool for annotating videos that you find on YouTube to share with your students.

To get started simply paste a YouTube URL into the Timelinely homepage to get started. Once you have entered the URL for a video, a new screen appears that allows you to add tags or annotations to the timeline of the video. You can do this while the video plays or you can simply jump to a place on the video to add annotations. Your annotations can include text or images. As you can see in the screenshot below, I included an image of my friend Tom Richey in the annotation that I made on one of his YouTube videos.

Before you get too involved with Timelinely it's important to note that you'll have to create an account in order to save and share your work. You can create an account by using your Google account, by using your Facebook account, or by signing up with any email address. You can share your annotated version of a video via email and social media. 

Applications for Education
One of things that I like about Timelinely is the option to include pictures in your annotations. I can see that feature being used to include an alternate example for students to view when watching a math lesson.

I'm not sure that Timelinely is any better than a handful of similar services, but it is nice to have options

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

How to Record a Google Earth Tour

The Amazing Race is the only reality game show that I've watched with interest for as long as it has been on television. Years ago I created a classroom game based on the same premise of the show. Last spring I updated that game with some new graphics and new challenges and then published it as a PDF on

Recording a Google Earth tour is the capstone activity in Around the World With Google Earth. There are a couple of ways that students can do that. Students who are using the desktop version of Google Earth can use the built-in recorder. Students who are using the web version of Google Earth can use a screencasting tool like Screencastify to record a tour

In this short video I demonstrate how to record a Google Earth tour in your web browser by using Screencastify. 

Whimsical - An AI Concept Map Generator

For the last handful of months whenever I scroll through Product Hunt and just about every other new product is an AI-powered product. Or at least they claim to be using AI. One that recently jump out to me is Whimsical

Whimsical is a mind mapping and concept mapping tool that I first tried a couple of years ago. In addition to mind mapping and concept mapping it can also be used for creating Venn diagrams and other common charts in a collaborative environment. Now Whimsical has an artificial intelligence component. 

Whimsical's AI tool generates concept maps based on any keyword or phrase that you center on the screen. To use Whimsical's AI concept mapping tool you simply have to start a new concept map, enter a keyword or phrase, and then click the AI icon. The tool will then generate a simple concept map of linked terms and phrases. 

Applications for Education
Whimsical calls their AI tool an "AI mind mapping" tool. However, it's actually a concept mapping tool because the AI is doing the work for you that your mind would have otherwise done. That doesn't make it a bad tool, it just means that it shouldn't be viewed as a mind mapping tool. As a concept mapping tool it could prove to be quite handy for generating a diagram of connected terms and phrases. Showing those connections could be helpful to some students who are in need of assistance in seeing how concepts are connected.

For more AI resources, take a look at the links below:

Monday, March 13, 2023

15 Microsoft Forms Tutorials for Teachers

Despite the fact that I've been using Google Forms for as long as it has existed and that it is my default tool for creating online forms and quizzes, there are some things about Microsoft Forms that I prefer over Google Forms. One of those things is the ability to convert a Word document into a Microsoft Form. Another is the ability to create a timed quiz without having to use any external, third-party tools. Those are two of the fifteen things that are featured in my new playlist of Microsoft Forms tutorials for teachers. The aforementioned features and three more are featured in the videos from the playlist embedded below.