Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Quick Tip on Publishing Twitter Replies

One of the most frequently asked questions in my course on Blogs & Social Media for Teachers is along the lines of, "how do I get more people involved in a conversation?" A simple way to get more people to see your "@" replies in a conversation is to put a period in front of the "@." In the video embedded below I explain and demonstrate how this works.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Try Vialogues to Build Discussions Around Videos

I've featured VideoNotes a few times over the last year because it is a good tool for building discussions around YouTube videos. It's a great tool, but it doesn't work with videos that aren't already hosted online. Vialogues is a free service that allows you to build online discussions around videos hosted online and videos that you have saved on your computer.

Registered users can upload videos to Vialogues or use YouTube videos as the centerpieces of their conversations. After you have selected a video from YouTube or uploaded a video of your own, you can post poll questions and add comments that are tied to points in the video. Your Vialogue can be made public or private. Public Vialogue's can be embedded into your blog or website. Embedded below you will see a Vialogue that I started around John Green's video about the Vikings.

Applications for Education
Vialogues could be a great tool to use to publish questions for your students to answer while they are watching a video that you have created or found online. You could also use the comments in Vialogues to simply call attention to a specific point made in a video. I'm thinking that I would write comments like, "make sure you know this when you write your essay."

How to Add a Creative Commons Image Search Tool to Your Blog

Disclosure: Photos for Class is owned by Storyboard That. Storyboard That advertises on this blog.

Photos for Class is an image search engine that only locates images that are labeled with a Creative Commons license. When students download images from Photos for Class the images include the attribution that they need to include when they re-use the image. This week Photos for Class published a couple of widgets that you can embed into your blog. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to add the Photos for Class image search widget to your blog.

The video above is the 66th that I've created and added to my Practical Ed Tech Tips playlist.

Google Search Tip - Use the Dialect of the Community

In a few weeks I will be flying to Australia to speak at the Future Schools Expo in Sydney. This will be the first time I have flown to Australia. Since Sydney is just about as far away from Portland, Maine as I could go and stay in the planet, I did a bit of research to find the most comfortable (by relative airline standards) plane and seat to choose to fly to Australia. (Yes, I realize that is the definition of first world problem).

To do my research I turned to the message board community on FlyerTalk.com (it's kind of like Consumer Reports meets Trip Advisor for airlines). Once it was determined that I would be flying Qantas (I didn't have much choice on that matter) from Dallas to Sydney I set out to see what people were saying about seats on the A380 that flies on that route. I started out using the name Dallas in my search, but I didn't see nearly as many posts on the topic as I had hoped. Further, the posts that I did find were written by people who had made relatively few contributions to the community. After reading some not-so-helpful post I realized that most frequent contributors to the community don't actually spell out full city names. Instead, they use airport abbreviation codes like DFW when writing about Dallas. As soon as I switched out Dallas and for DFW in my search I found a lot more posts from frequent contributors to the FlyerTalk community.

How this applies to students:
A few years ago I heard my friend Tom Daccord at EdTechTeacher.org (an advertiser on this blog) give an example of social studies students researching films of the early 20th Century. In his example Tom mentioned that the students who insisted on using the term "movies" in their searches didn't get nearly as far as those who used terms like "talkies," "moving pictures," and "cinema." This was due to the fact that "movies" wasn't a part of the common dialect of film critics in the early 20th Century.

For students to understand the dialect of the topics that they are researching, they will have to do some prior reading and learning on the topic. One thing that I've asked students to do when reading primary sources that I've distributed to them is to highlight or write down the terms and phrases that are new to them. Often those highlighted terms and phrases often end up being a huge asset to them when they are trying to choose the best terms to use in Google searches.

By the way, if you copy and paste a primary document into Google Docs then share it with students, it is very easy for them to highlight new-to-them phrases and for you to see what they've highlighted. That is one of the activities that I model in my online course Getting Going With GAFE.

The Real Benefit of Using Google Sheets Add-ons Like Flubaroo and Goobric

On Friday evening I posted a list of my ten favorite Google Sheets, Docs, and Forms Add-ons. A point that I should have made at the start of that post is that the biggest benefit of many Add-ons is that they save teachers time.

For the most part Add-ons won't change the way you teach, but they can streamline some processes for you. Take that time savings and use it on the things that make teaching fun like having more conversations with students. Or take that time savings to reduce your personal stress level and go fishing, play with your kids, let your mind wander, or do whatever it is you like to do when you relax.

We often talk about the need for balance between professional and personal lives. Saving time on routine tasks by using Google Apps Add-ons is one way to help you achieve that balance. From personal experience, when I've had a good balance between my professional and personal lives both have improved.

Here's an example of this from my life. When I discovered the process for giving and grading quizzes through Google Forms and Spreadsheets it almost immediately cleared an hour or more from the time it took me to grade my weekly quizzes. I was doing that before Flubaroo was available, when Flubaroo came out the set-up process for automatic grading became much shorter.

Another example of an Add-on that can save teachers a ton of time is found in Doctopus and Goobric. Setting up the process of using these Add-ons can take a bit of time at first, but once the set-up is done using those Add-ons can streamline your grading process for assignments that don't have clear-cut right and wrong answers.

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