Tuesday, January 28, 2014

TouchDevelop Helps Students Understand Programming

TouchDevelop is a great platform through which students can learn to program simple animations and games. Miles Berry gave an entertaining presentation about it at TeachMeet BETT. As I watched his presentation I was struck by how much TouchDevelop reminded me of Logo Writer that I used as a student in 1990. If you used Logo Writer you'll probably notice the similarities too.

On TouchDevelop students program a series of actions by entering sequences of commands such as "move forward" and "turn right" that are carried out on the screen by a chosen figure such as a turtle. In addition to the direction commands students program the distances covered on screen, the colors, the animations, and the images to appear on screen. All commands have to be entered into correct sequences of "if, then" logic in order for everything to display as intended.


TouchDevelop works on most modern web browsers including Chrome for iPad. Students completed programs can be saved online and or exported for use as Windows apps or HTML5 applications.

Applications for Education
TouchDevelop provides a great way for students to begin to understand some essential logic behind programming applications. The visual aspect of TouchDevelop provides a fantastic format that gives students immediate feedback on their projects. Click here for a series of six tutorials that students can use to get started right away without much if any instruction required from you.

Remind 101 Adds Support for Sending Text Messages to Subgroups

Remind 101 has been busy to start 2014. Earlier this month they introduced the option to download your message history as a PDF. This week they introduced the option to send text messages to subgroups of students and parents. Previously you could only send messages to your entire class list. Now you can send text messages to a group as small as three students and parents. When you use this new feature that Remind 101 calls "send a few" you still have all of the protections of Remind 101's system that hides your real phone number from students and hides your students' phone numbers from you.

Learn more about Remind 101's "send a few" feature in the video below.


Applications for Education
Remind 101's "send a few" option could be great for sending out messages to the students who were absent from your classroom on a given day, sending reminders to parents who haven't sent in permission slips, or for sending messages to students who have forgotten to bring in the permission their parents signed. Remind 101's "send a few" does require that messages be sent to at least three people so it would not be a way to send updates to parents about their individual child's behavior or grades.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Great Message from a Student About Autism Awareness

My friend Rushton Hurley recently sent me a video that a student had posted on Next Vista for Learning. The video, embedded below, features a student named Michael and story of living with autism. I encourage you to read the story about the video after watching it.


Click here if you're viewing this in email or RSS and cannot see the video.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Nature Sound Map - Listen to the Sounds of Nature All Over the World

Nature Sound Map provides a wonderful way to explore the soundscape of the natural world. On the Nature Sound Map you will find placemarks containing recordings of nature. The recordings have been added to the project by professional sound recordists. Some of the recordings you will find feature the sounds of just one animal, the sounds of a jungle, sounds of a marsh, sounds of a storm, or sounds of oceans and rivers.

Applications for Education
In science courses the sound map offers a nice way for students to hear the sounds of animals that they're learning about in different regions of the world. In some cases the sound recordings combined with Street View imagery could give students a more complete picture of what it is like to be at ground level in a place.

H/T to Google Maps Mania

In Praise of Instagram

One of the benefits of Instagram that I think gets overlooked by students and teachers is that by Instagramming you're building a library of pictures that you own and can re-use whenever and wherever you want. I find that since I installed Instagram on my phone in 2012 I've taken pictures far more often than I ever did before installing it. These pictures often end up in blog posts and presentations.

Applications for Education
Instagram supports hashtags just like Twitter does. If you want to build a library of pictures with your students ask them to use a hashtag that you all agree to use to share pictures that can be re-used during the course of the semester or year. By doing this you and your students will build a gallery of b-roll pictures and videos. And if Instagram doesn't appeal to you, consider creating some of the other methods I've shared for creating a shared media gallery.