Monday, March 23, 2015

In Pieces - An Interactive Site About Endangered Animals

In Pieces is a neat site that features the stories of 30 endangered animals around the world. Visit the site and you will be greeted by a little animation that comes together to form the shape of a whale. After the animation plays click through to see the stories of the 30 animals featured in the site. Each animal's story is told with text, images, and video. You'll learn about the threats to each animal, its native habit, and efforts to save each animal.

Applications for Education
In Pieces reminded me a bit of the WWF Together app. Both In Pieces and WWF Together provide visually appealing ways for students to learn about the threats to animal populations around the world.

After learning about the animals in the site and app I might have students conduct their own research about endangered animals then put together visual reports about those animals. I would consider having students use Pic-Collage and Thinglink to make their own interactive displays about endangered animals. Tutorials for that process can be found here.

H/T to The Next Web for In Pieces. 

Now Google Docs Add-ons Can Be Distributed by Domain Admins

Add-ons is one of the best features that Google has added to Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms in the last year. Until now Add-ons installation was controlled by individual users within a domain. Domain administrators could turn off the option, but couldn't push Add-ons to their users' accounts. As of late last week Google Apps administrators can now push Add-ons to their users' accounts.

Currently, not every Add-on can be distributed by administrators. Add-on developers have to enable domain-wide distribution of their Add-ons. Add-ons that are enabled for domain-wide distribution will appear in the Google Apps Marketplace.

Applications for Education
Being able to distribute Google Docs Add-ons across a domain should make it a little easier for administrators to get all of their faculty members using tools that can help them streamline workflow and take advantage of features that might otherwise go overlooked by teachers.

Click here for a list of my ten favorite Google Docs Add-ons.

PlayMessenger: Supervising Children on the Digital Playground

This is a guest post from Sabba Quidwai (@AskMsQ) of EdTechTeacher - an advertiser on this site.

  Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 10.44.17 PM
How many of the above tools did you recognize?  Do you know which ones are safe and which ones are harmful? Do your students or children know the difference between them?  How many of the above tools frighten you as a parent or a teacher?  As the world becomes smaller, and children are surrounded by a variety of different communication tools, it’s time for us as adults to reevaluate what we mean when we teach children the classic lesson, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

The term “talk” used to be limited to face to face interaction, but with the rise of social media, the term “talk” can mean so many different things. This lesson used to also only apply to the dangers associated with talking to those who you do not know.  Countless stories, however, will tell us otherwise - not only about the impact of what we share with those whom we know but also with those whom we do not know in the real world.

As adults, we can try to shelter students from these growing forms of communication or we can give them the digital citizenship skills they need to successfully navigate their digital world.  The benefits and power that come with being a connected individual can far outweigh the negatives if students are taught from an early age what being a connected individual means in today’s world.

To assist parents and adults in this process, welcome to the Digital Playground, where your children can learn how to use social media tools to communicate and collaborate in a safe environment with the supervision they need to guide their experience with a new app called PLAYMessenger.  This is an app designed specifically for kids but with adults in mind. Kids are given a sense of independence and are able to send text, pictures and voice messages to their friends and family, all while adults have peace of mind knowing that their children are safe and secure. Parents and teachers can use PlayMessenger working together to model the many ways students can be safe and responsible connected learners.

PlayMessenger has many great features, however what really drew my attention to the app was the language filter.  Language filters monitor all text messages sent to kids and adults. Parents are alerted when their child has attempted to send another user an inappropriate message, and kids are warned when they have attempted to send an inappropriate message. This presents a great opportunity for adults to have conversations with children about how they are communicating and what the potential consequences can be for this type of behavior.

  play messenger

With PLAYMessenger, kids can send text, photo and voice messages to people approved by adults on their contact list.  All child accounts are linked to an adult account, and the adults can manage the settings, monitor activity, view the chat history, and determine which users the child’s account is connected to.

  Play messenger privacy

Adults have access to “Trust Mode” where they can choose the level of oversight they want and personalize it for each child. When Trust mode is OFF, all messages and requests require parental approval before they are sent to a child, and when Trust Mode is ON messages and requests are sent directly to the child without parental approval.  Again, this presents another great opportunity for adults to allow children to be responsible users.

To ensure that children are interacting with people who are who they say they are, all adult users are verified during the registration process through Privo to ensure they are who they say they are. Let’s educate our children and guide their learning in the Digital Playground so they become responsible digital citizens who use the power of being connected for positive, safe and healthy interactions. PlayMessenger is available on iOS and Android platforms. To learn more visit the PlayMessenger web site.

You can learn more from Sabba this summer! She will be leading hands-on workshops for EdTechTeacher in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Short Math and Science Lessons in Rap Form

Rhyme 'n Learn is a series of math and science lessons presented in short rap music form. About half of the raps are provided in video format with visuals to support the lesson. The other half of the lessons are audio only, but do have transcripts available to help your students or you follow along. A couple of the video raps are embedded below.


What Determines Hair Color? - And Other Lessons on Genetics

Brain Science is one of my favorite YouTube channels because they consistently produce concise, interesting, and informative videos. One of the latest videos is all about hair color. The video goes beyond the factors of genetics to explain how hair gets its color and why our hair (or at least my hair) turns gray with age.


To extend this video lesson about hair color take a look at the following TED-Ed lesson How Mendel's Pea Plants Helped Us Understand Genetics, students receive a crash course in heredity, genotypes, and punnett squares through the story of Mendel and his study of peas. The video is embedded below. The full lesson with questions is available here.


Thingdom is a fun and challenging game through which students can learn about genetics. The game, produced by the London Science Museum, asks players to select a "thing" then try to find a make for that "thing" based on various traits. Players move through a progression of challenges in which they try to create "thing" offspring that have certain traits.