Thursday, April 23, 2015

Have Students Schedule Blog Posts for Their Future Selves

On Sunday evening I published a post about a service called Future Me. Future Me lets you draft a letter to yourself to be sent at future time of your choosing. I think that using Future Me could be a good way to have students write a letter at the beginning of the school year about where they would like to be at the end of the school year. Then at the end of the school year they can receive the letter and reflect.

The problem with Future Me, as pointed out to me by Ms. Drasby, is that it has a public gallery of letters which you might not want elementary or middle school students to read. An alternative to using Future Me is to have students write blog posts then simply schedule them to appear at months later. Blogger, Kidblog, Edublogs, and every other popular blogging tool offers the option for scheduling blog posts.

If you don't want to or can't add your students to a classroom blog then simply have them write the letters to their future selves in Google Docs or Word. Collect the letters and then you can transfer the text into blog posts that you schedule to appear in the future. (If you want to move text from Word into a blog post make sure you copy the text into the HTML editor of blog platform rather than using the "compose" mode, click here for more information on that topic.).

Another Good Source of AP U.S. and AP Euro Review Videos

Over the last couple of years I've shared a bunch of history lesson videos produced by Keith Hughes. Keith's videos are great! But it's always good to have another source of review videos. Enter, Tom Richey. Tom's videos on topics in U.S. and European history are designed for students preparing for the advanced placement tests on those subjects. Tom's videos have a slightly different, yet equally good presentation for students. I've embedded a couple of his videos below. You can find all of Tom Richey's A.P. U.S. History and A.P. European history videos here.

Three Frequently Overlooked Google Slides Features

For most classroom settings Google Slides is a great tool for students to use to create presentations. It works in any updated web browser (although it works best in Chrome) and it has enough features for most students without having so many that students waste time on frivolous tasks instead of focusing on story development. All that said, there are some handy features of Google Slides that new users overlook and that some veteran Google Slides users forget about from time to time.

In the video below I demonstrate how to use three features that I think are often overlooked in Google Slides. Those features are custom fonts, language settings, and image layering.

Tips and Tutorials for Quickly Grading Assignments With Flubaroo

Flubaroo is one of my all-time favorite Google Sheets Add-ons (formerly scripts) because it enables me to save time on routine tasks like grading quizzes and move on to fun things like actually working with my students.

Flubaroo has a bunch of features that you can take advantage of once you know how they all work. Some of these features include grading ranges of numerical responses, creating case-sensitive answer keys, accepting multiple correct responses to questions, and automatically sending grades to students. The Flubaroo help center explains how to do all of those things and more.

Before your students take another quiz through Google Forms, take a few minutes to explore the uses of Flubaroo. You just might find yourself spending less time grading and more time doing the things that make teaching fun.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Few Resources for Learning About Birds

About a week ago while walking my dogs I started to notice the sounds of birds returning my neighborhood. This morning a little fluffy bird landed outside my window stayed long enough for me to take a grainy picture of it. If you live in a northern climate like me, you and your students are probably starting to see the birds return too. Here are some resources for teaching and learning about birds.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers more than 7,500 hours of recordings of nearly 9,000 bird callss. The recordings are published on the Macaulay Library site. You can browse for recordings recommended by Macaulay Library or you can search for a bird by name. When you find a recording you can also see a Google Map of where the recording was made. While the recordings cannot be downloaded for free they can be heard for free. Click here for an example.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a YouTube channel that offers some nice mini documentaries about birds. I've embedded a video about Snowy Owls below.

Untamed Science offers a nice video about bird migrations. Physics of Bird Migration provides some short explanations of why birds fly in V formations, how they navigate thousands of miles and return to the same places every year, and how they prepare for a long migration. The short video is embedded below.

The Canadian Museum of Nature hosts a good collection of online games and animations about mammals, birds, and dinosaurs. A few of the games and animations are Canada-specific, but those and all of the others have a broad appeal. The three games that I tried were focused on the adaptations of animals to their environments. In the mammals section I played a game about the adaptations of polar bears and grizzly bears to their environments. In the birds section I played a matching game in which I had to pair the beak of a bird to the adaptation it represented. And in the fossils section I viewed an animation through which I learned how horned dinosaurs eat their food.