Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tools for Working With ePub Files In Your Browser

From time to time when you're conducting research online you may find yourself coming across an ePub file. While you may have a tablet that can read open ePub files, it may be more convenient to simply open the file in your browser. For example, when you just need to search a document rather than read the whole thing opening the ePub in your browser could save you some time. Here are a couple of tools for accessing ePub files in your web browser.

EPUBReader is a Firefox add-on that will allow you to read ePub documents within your browser. EPUBReader downloads ePub files and displays them directly in your browser. The video below offers a short demonstration.

Magic Scroll is a Chrome web app that you can use to read ePub files on your desktop or laptop even if you do not have an internet connection.

Zip Lookup - Demographics by Zip Code

Zip Lookup is a nice use of the Esri mapping platform. The map allows you to enter any US zip code to discover demographic data about that area. Whenever I see something like this I am skeptical of how well it will work for very small towns like the one that I live in (Woodstock, Maine). I was pleasantly surprised to find that Zip Lookup was quite accurate. In fact, it even included a blurb about the most popular satellite television stations in my zip code (my zip code is actually shared with a town, a village, and an unorganized township).

Applications for Education
Zip Lookup could be a neat tool for students to use to discover how people in other parts of their counties, states, or country live. A short research activity based on Zip Lookup would be to investigate what draws people of a particular demographic to an area.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

5 Ways to Collect Digital Exit Tickets

One of the strategies that I use when creating lesson plans is to reflect on the previous lesson. Part of that reflection includes feedback from students. This can be done by simply asking students to raise their hands in response to a "did you get it?" type of question, but I like to have better record of responses than just a hand count. Here are some tools that can be used for collecting exit information from students.

Google Forms
Almost as soon as my school went 1:1 with netbooks six years ago, I started using Google Forms to collect responses from students. The Form that I created and frequently re-used simply asked students to respond to "what did you learn today?" and "what questions do you have for next class?"

I started using Padlet back when it was called WallWisher. Padlet enables me to have students not only share exit responses as text, but to also share exit responses as hyperlinks. For example, if my students have been working on research projects I will ask them to share a link to something they found that day along with an explanation of how it is relevant to their research.

I started to use Socrative after using the Google Forms and Padlet methods. Socrative actually has an exit ticket activity pre-made for teachers to distribute to students. The exit ticket in Socrative provides two questions; "how well did you understand today's material?" and "what did you learn in today's class?" As the teacher you can add a third question.

Socrative allows you to collect responses from students with or without seeing their names. Students can respond to prompts through any device that has a web-browser.

Poll Everywhere
Poll Everywhere has been around for a long time and it is still a tool that many teachers love. Poll Everywhere is a service that allows you to collect responses from an audience via text messaging or through the web. The free plan for K-12 educators provides a selection of features and quantity of responses that is adequate for almost any classroom. One of the neat ways to display feedback gathered through Poll Everywhere is in word clouds. The word cloud feature integrates with Wordle, Tagxedo, and Tagul.

Plickers - For the classroom that isn't 1:1
If not every student in your classroom has a laptop or tablet to use, then you need to check out Plickers as a student response system. Plickers uses a teacher's iPad or Android tablet in conjunction with a series of QR codes to create a student response system. Students are given a set of QR codes on large index cards. The codes are assigned to students. Each code card can be turned in four orientations. Each orientation provides a different answer. When the teacher is ready to collect data, he or she uses the Plickers mobile app to scan the cards to see a bar graph of responses. In your teacher account on Plickers you can view and save all of the data that you collected from scanning your students' Plickers cards.

I will be sharing more ideas for using Google Forms in my Practical Ed Tech course Getting Ready for GAFE. That course starts on November 24th. 

See a New View of Earth Every Time You Open a New Chrome Tab

The Chrome Webstore is full of fun little applications that you can add to your browser. Earth View from Google Maps is a neat Chrome extension that I recently learned about on the Google Earth Blog. Earth View from Google Maps displays a new satellite image of the Earth every time you open a new tab in Chrome.

Applications for Education
Installing Earth View from Google Maps on the computers your students use could be a neat way to introduce them to different parts of the world. In a geography lesson the interesting satellite images that pop-up could be the prompts that you have students use to start a small investigation into a new-to-them place in the world.

Virtual Tour of a Sailing Canoe and Lessons on Navigation

Exploratorium is one of my favorite places to find short educational activities that can be conducted online and offline. Over the weekend I browsed Exploratorium's list of activities and found a neat virtual tour of a Polynesian canoe. The virtual tour is more than just a look at a canoe.

In addition to touring the canoe, students will find information about its history and construction. Students viewing the tour will also find information about navigation at sea. In the section on navigation students can learn about wayfinding methods.

Applications for Education
While the virtual tour of a Polynesian canoe is interesting, my favorite aspect of the tour is the section on navigation. The navigation section will help students understand how people navigated at sea before GPS and cell phones were available.