Monday, April 30, 2012

Mathematica for Teaching and Student Use

Over the weekend I received an email from Wolfram informing me of a new free training they're offering for learning how to publish using CDF (Computational Document Format). While I'm not sure if there are many readers who are using Wolfram CDF, I do know that there are quite a few who are using Wolfram Mathematica and or are interested in learning more about Mathematica. If you're interested in learning more about Wolfram Mathematica and how you might use it in your mathematics lessons, Wolfram has a free on-demand, online course for beginners.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

About Google Teacher Academy

This evening I had the third person in a week ask me about how to become a Google Certified Teacher. Therefore, I thought I would revive a couple of things that I've shared in the past about how to become a Google Certified Teacher. You can read Google's official materials about GCT status here.

The first thing that you should know about becoming a Google Certified Teacher is that you have to attend a Google Teacher Academy. Google Teacher Academies or GTAs are events that are not held on a regular, published schedule. GTAs are part of some Google Employees' 20% time (time given to employees for projects of special interest to them that might not be a part of their regular job responsibilities). Follow this page to find out when the next GTA will be held.

Participation in a GTA is by application only. Typically there are hundreds of applicants (more than 400 applied for the one I went to) and only 50 are accepted. To apply you have to create an original one minute video on a topic specified on the application for that GTA. Each GTA is looking for something a little different in the videos, so read the application materials carefully. If you're nervous about making a video, please read on...

Republished from January 2010:

Prior to submitting my own application for the GTA in Washington, DC I had my own apprehension about creating and submitting a video. I don't consider myself to be a terribly creative person when it comes to multimedia presentations. I have the technical know-how to create multimedia presentations, but I don't think have the creativity for making dynamic videos such as those created by multimedia geniuses like Marco Torres. Yes, I've posted videos of myself on this blog before, but I tend to think that I'm too stiff on camera. None-the-less, on the last day that applications were accepted for GTA in DC, I plunged ahead and made a short video that included me talking on camera. I knew that I couldn't compete in a video making competition, but I was confident that my written content and overall body of work would offset a lack-luster video. It turns out that I was right.

Reflecting on the GTA application process, here is my advice for those who would like to apply but are apprehensive about application process.
1. The video is just one part of the application. The GTA application process is not a film production competition. If you're not great at video production, just remember that it's the message of the video that is more important than fancy animations and transitions. Make sure your video accurately portrays your thoughts. Watch my video and you'll see that I lacked fancy transitions, but I made sure the audience got my message.
2. The application is designed to get a sense of your overall body of work in the educational technology community. Focus on your strengths in the application. If you have a large following on your blog, on Twitter, or you work with 3,000 teachers a year, make sure that is clear.
3. Look at other application videos for ideas. You can see mine herethis is Kevin Jarrett's, and this one is Tara Seale's. You'll see three different approaches in these videos, but all three of us were accepted to GTA.

Try Crocodoc for Collaboratively Annotating PDFs

Yesterday, I received an email from a reader who was looking for a free tool that she and her students could use to collaboratively annotate PDFs. While you can comment on PDFs in Google Drive, you can't yet anchor those comments to a specific part of a PDF (at least I haven't figured out how to do that yet). The tool that I recommended instead is Crocodoc.

Crocodoc is a simple service that allows users to quickly share and edit PDFs, Word documents, and PowerPoint files.To use Crocodoc just upload your file, select your marking tool, and get to work. Crocodoc provides a unique url for every file you upload. Share that url with the people you want to have comment on your PDF, Word file, or PowerPoint slides. You can also embed your file into a blog post or webpage and allow people to comment on it there.

Applications for Education
Crocodoc could be very useful for online peer editing of documents. You could also embed a document into your class blog and ask students to comment on what they're reading. You might also use an embedded document with annotations to model proper peer editing practices.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Make Your Own Squishy Circuits

Last night on Facebook Kevin Jarrett posted a link to Sylvia's Super Awesome Maker Show. For those not familiar with the show, it features a young girl named Sylvia making things like paper rockets, crazy putty, and squishy circuits. The squishy circuits episode caught my attention because I had written about squishy circuits last fall. In the squishy circuits episode Sylvia shows viewers how they can make their own squishy circuits to safely experiment with electric circuits. Watch the episode below then head over to Make where you can find the full directions and materials lists.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a good, safe hands-on electricity lesson for your students, making squishy circuits could be just the thing for you. Click here to watch a TED Talk about squishy circuits.

Week in Review - The Snow is Back

Good morning from Maine where I'm home with my loyal four legged friend and it's snowing. I had a busy week this week that included a day in Omaha, Nebraska for NETA 2012 followed by a lot of seat time at in planes. As much I love having the opportunity to speak at so many conferences and work with many schools, I have to admit that I am looking forward to spending the next week at home before heading off to New Brunswick for a couple of days. Thank you all for choosing to read my blog. This week we we're joined by the 46,000th subscriber. Amazing!

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Three Questions to Consider Before We All Flip
2. Blogger Buster is Back!
3. Week in Review - It Feels Like Spring!
4. File Sharing Just Got Easier Through Dropbox
5. Google Drive - Store Files, Share Files, and Talk About Them
6. 7 Resources for Teaching and Learning About Mount Everest
7. Don't Tell the Band... History References in Songs

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