Wednesday, February 18, 2015

More Fun With Math in Pictures

I love Instagram because it prompts me to take and share pictures of things that I might otherwise glance at then forget about. Before cell phones entered my life I rarely took pictures. Last week I took the picture that you see below. Almost as soon as it appeared in my Facebook feed via Instagram, my friend Kelly commented with, "shouldn't they be more concerned about weight than the number of people?" Kelly is a middle school math teacher so this picture was right in her wheelhouse of math prompts. (If you want to use the picture as a math prompt, you are welcome to download it).

Kelly's comment reminded me of the Bad Maths Flickr group which contains lots of examples of bad math spotted in stores and other public places. Some of the bad math is obvious as in this picture taken in a Walmart store. Other examples are not as obvious.

Along the same lines of taking math pictures, last year Andy McKiel shared a neat mathematics and photography project started by a grade 3 class in Thompson, Manitoba. The project asked students to take photographs of things representing various topics and concepts in elementary school level mathematics. There was a different concept for each day of the month of May. You can certainly modify the project to suit another month of the year.

New Features for Teachers Added to Teach Your Monster to Read

Teach Your Monster to Read is a fun game designed to help students improve the speed and accuracy with which they recognize letters and sounds. Students play the game as a friendly monster avatar. The game series of levels (or islands as they're called in the game) each containing activities for students to play to help their monster avatars learn to recognize letters and words. On each island students can earn prizes for their monsters and customize the look of their monsters.

The latest update to Teach Your Monster to Read offers new features to teachers. Teachers can now turn off the password requirement for students in their classes. This could be helpful if you just want to get students into the activities as quickly as possible. If you are using passwords you can now print passwords in capital or lowercase letters on password cards or in letters to parents. A new "letter to parents" template is available for teachers to download in their accounts. The letter can include log-in information for parents.

Applications for Education
Creating Teach Your Monster to Read accounts for all of your students is a simple process. Just register yourself as a teacher then enter your students' names (first names only) or upload a CSV file of your students' names. Teach Your Monster to Read will automatically generate a password for each student. As the teacher you can log-in anytime to see your students' progress.

A Short Guide to Taking Screenshots on Your Laptop and Tablet

Visual aids can be very helpful when you're introducing a new website, app, or software to students or colleagues. Being able to take and send a screenshot is also helpful when you're trying to explain a problem to your tech support person. Here's a short guide to taking screenshots on your iPad, Android tablet, Windows computer, Mac, or Chromebook.

Chromebook:
A quick search in the Chrome store will return a bunch of options for taking screenshots on a Chromebook. Of those results there are two options that I have used and recommend. Diigo's Awesome Screenshot tool and TechSmith's Snagit. Awesome Screenshot will only capture things that are displayed in your web browser. Snagit will capture everything on your screen. Snagit requires that you download the Snagit Chrome app and the Snagit browser extension. Awesome Screenshot is a simple one step installation. Both tools allow you to draw and type on top of your screenshot images.

Macbook and Windows laptops:
On a Mac you can use the keyboard combination of "Command+shift+4" to take a screenshot of a portion of your screen. "Command+shift+3" will capture everything on your screen. The shortcoming of these methods is that you cannot draw or write on your screenshot images unless you use import those images into another tool.

On a Windows computer you can use the Snipping tool to capture all or part of your screen. From there you can use the built-in tools for drawing on your screenshot.

For years I have used Jing to take screenshots on my Mac and on my Windows laptop. Jing allows me to select a portion of my screen, highlight image elements, draw arrows on my screenshots, and type on my screenshots.

Skitch is another screenshot tool that I have used over the years. It does all of things that Jing does plus it has a tool for blurring sensitive information that might appear in a screenshot. If you have an Evernote account, you can save Skitch images in your Evernote account.

iPad and iPhone:
Taking a screenshot on an iPad or iPhone is a simple matter of holding down your "home" button (the big round one) and power button at the same time. The image will save directly to your device's camera roll. When I need to draw, highlight, or type on an image in my camera roll I turn to Skitch again.

Android phones and tablets:
As long as your device is operating on Android 4.0 or later you can take a screenshot by holding down your home button and power/sleep button at the same time. The screenshot should save to your camera roll unless you've designated another place for it to save. Once on your camera roll you can use the image in other apps for drawing, cropping, annotating, and sharing. Some Android devices, depending on manufacturer, include a built-in screenshot image editor. I have two Android apps that I regularly use for annotating my screenshots, Pixlr and Skitch. Skitch on Android offers all of the same features that are outlined above. Pixlr is a more robust tool that allows you to apply image filters in addition to drawing and typing on your images.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Free Webinar - Storyboards in the Classroom - Stories, Graphic Organizers, and More

Next Wednesday at 7pm EST Storyboard That is sponsoring a free webinar all about using storyboards in the classroom. I will be hosting the webinar with Storyboard That's founder Aaron Sherman. Aaron and I will share ideas and examples for using storyboards in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. Some of the topics that we will cover include, using storyboards for storytelling, using storyboards for illustrating concepts, and using storyboards as flowcharts. We will also share lesson plans incorporating storyboards into language arts, social studies, and digital citizenship.

Registration is limited to the first 200 people. Click here to register.

Yes, the webinar will be recorded
The recording will be posted on FreeTech4Teachers.com the day after the webinar. It is not necessary to send an email to get the recording.

Reminder - Apps Don't Have To Be Isolated

About a third of the way through my latest Best of the Web presentation I stopped to make the point that many apps and sites can work together even if they were not originally designed to do so. For example, I frequently share examples of using PicCollage and ThingLink together to create interactive multimedia collages. Greg Kulowiec calls this app smashing. You will find lots of examples of app smashing on Greg's blog.

Getting to the point that you can app smash requires becoming comfortable with a variety of apps and or sites. That doesn't happen overnight, it takes time. Set a goal of learning to use one new app or site per month in your classroom and before the end of the year you'll be ready to app smash. You can also enlist the help of your students to develop app smashes. Your students probably have favorite picture or video apps on their phones, ask them what they're using and then brainstorm possible uses of those apps for the next project in your classroom.