Wednesday, February 12, 2014

ScreenCastify - A Screencasting Option That Works on Chromebooks

ScreenCastify was the star of my Google+ feed yesterday. It seemed like everyone was talking about this new Chrome tool that allows you to create screencast videos in your browser even on a Chromebook. With ScreenCastify installed in Chrome you can record everything happening in a tab in your browser. Voiceovers are supported and a pointer is included by default. Completed recordings can be saved to your computer or uploaded directly to YouTube.

There are a few things to note about ScreenCastify before you get too excited about it. First, your Chromebook and or Chrome browser must be up to date (that shouldn't be a problem in most cases) as Chrome version 32 or higher is required. Second, while recording the desktop is an option it is an experimental option and may not work as you hope it will. Third, your microphone is turned off by default so you will have grant ScreenCastify access to your computer in order to record a voiceover.

Applications for Education
ScreenCastify could be the screencasting tool that users of Chromebooks have been waiting for for a long time. As a teacher you can use ScreenCastify to create short video lessons. You can have students use ScreenCastify to create tech help videos for classmates, parents, and teachers. Having students do that is a good way for them to practice giving clear directions.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lots of Great WWI Lesson Materials from the BBC

BBC Schools offers an excellent collection of resources for helping students learn about World War I. The materials are sorted into a section for primary school students and a section for secondary school students. While both sections are packed with materials, I was more impressed by the primary school materials.

The primary school section includes a series titled 100 Years Ago... in which students learn about what life was like at home, school, and around town during WWI. This is from a British perspective, but there is a carry over for other students particularly in the 100 Years Ago "country" section in which students learn about the causes and effects of WWI.

Applications for Education
One of the activities that I thought of while looking through the 100 Year Ago materials was to have students do some research into life in the United States during WWI to then create comparisons between life in the two countries during the war.

The BBC Schools materials on WWI are designed to support the BBC's iWonder series on WWI. In the iWonder series students can watch and interactive with videos and slideshows on topics like medicine and trench warfare during WWI.

A Recipe for Great Teaching from @HipHughes

Keith Hughes is best known for his great series of flipped history lesson videos on YouTube. I've often said that I would like to be a student in his classroom. In a recent video he deviated from his usual schedule of posting history lessons and posted advice for student-teachers, new teachers, and anyone else who is wondering what makes a good teacher. Check out his recipe in the video below. My favorite parts of his recipe are "loving your content" and "be yourself."

Applications for Education
I think it would be interesting to see how high school students respond to Keith's recipe. Show them the video and ask them what they think makes a good teacher. Of course, this video is also a great conversation starter for a teacher-education course.

The One Activity I Recommend for Every Teacher

The only technology-related activity that I recommend to every teacher is blogging. A blog can be used for a lot of things in your classroom and outside of your classroom. I have three general categories for blogging activities; distribution of information, discussion of information, or demonstration of knowledge.

Distribution: this is the most basic use of a blog. As the teacher you can use your blog to post assignments, reminders, and general information about what is happening in your classroom and school. Think of this as a digital replacement for a classroom newsletter. If you don't think that you can post updates daily, start out with a schedule of posting updates on Monday morning and Friday afternoon. That schedule will allow you to start the week with a look-ahead and end the week with a review.

Discussion: this is when you post information that you want your students to respond to. You could post a "question of the week" or post an interesting article you've recently read. My favorite discussion activity asks students to write their own posts to reflect on what they've learned and ask questions that they have about the recent lessons.

Demonstration: this is when you have students create their own blogs to use as digital portfolios to showcase what they've learned and what've created.

To help teachers get started on the road to blogging I created a free 90 page guide to using Blogger in school. The guide is embedded below. You can also find it here (clicking the link with initiate a PDF download).

Lesson Resources for Presidents' Day

This coming Monday is Presidents' Day in the United States. Here are some Presidents' Day related resources for students in elementary school, middle school, and high school students. has created a collection of eighteen articles and primary source documents about Presidents' Day. The collection is organized according to grade level (K-8) and lexile level. Each article is accompanied by a set of comprehension questions and discussion questions.

The Google Earth Showcase offers a kmz file containing images and links to information about each former President of the United States. You can download the file and launch it in Google Earth or view it here using the Google Earth browser plug-in. The file shows where each president was from, offers an image of each president, provides a link to more information about each president, and shows how many states were in the Union when each president was elected. Google offers the following suggestions for using this file as a part of your Presidents' Day lesson plans.
  • Explore the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and other historical monuments in 3D and have students explain how architecture is used to honor people, concepts and establishments.
  • View a 3D model of Valley Forge National Park in Google Earth.
  • View a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln and map the areas where slavery ended, as well as the areas that were not initially covered by this executive order.
  • Discuss the famous painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by German American artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze and use the ruler tool in Google Earth to measure the width of the Delaware River.

And here's a fun overview of the US Presidents courtesy of the Animaniacs. The video ends with Bill Clinton so have your students try to make up a rhyming addition to the song to include George W. Bush and Barack Obama.