Thursday, August 13, 2015

BBC iWonder - Multimedia Answers to Interesting Questions

The BBC's iWonder website is a neat resource that provides answers to interesting questions. The answers are arranged as multimedia collections of information. For example, one of iWonder collections answers "what were the 20 key events of WW2?" That collection is arranged as a timeline that you can scroll through. Each event in the timeline is accompanied by text, image, and video (some videos might not play in all regions of the world).

In addition to academic questions iWonder tackles some lighter questions like "why can't I resist food cravings?" and "how can I cure hiccups?" Scroll to the bottom of the iWonder homepage and select one of seven categories of questions. The categories are arts, food, science, consumer, earth, history, and religion & ethics.

Applications for Education
The content on iWonder provides good, general overviews of a large assortment of topics. As such, it's not the kind of site that I'll send students to for research so much as for an introduction to a topic. iWonder is also the kind of site that I like to use when I want to find "bonus material" or "general interest" reading to give to students.

How to Create a Progress Chart in Google Sheets

Flippity provides a handful of great Google Sheets templates. I've featured their Random Name Picker, Flashcard, and Jeopardy templates in the past. The latest Flippity template that I've tried is their Progress Indicator template. With that template you can create a progress chart that will update whenever you update the data in the chart. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of how to use Flippity's Progress Indicator template.

How Would You Like Your Updates?

The question that I am asked more than any other after a workshop or keynote is, "how can I keep up with everything?" Along the same lines, I'm also asked about how I keep with new ed tech information.

To answer those questions I have a few suggestions.
1. If you prefer to receive periodic updates, you might like my weekly PracticalEdTech.com newsletter email in which I share one tip and a list of the most popular FreeTech4Teachers.com posts of the week.

2. If you're the type of person who prefers to go to the information rather than have it come to you, I recommend subscribing to a few blogs through Feedly. You can find a short video tutorial on Feedly here.

3. If you like a more social flavor to discovering new ed tech information, jump on Twitter. I offer this list of people to follow on Twitter.

4. For the person who prefers Facebook or Pinterest, I share most of my posts there too. My Facebook page is Facebook.com/FreeTech4Teachers and my primary Pinterest board can be found here.

Finally, if you're just generally curious about the rest of my life, I am on Instagram and Strava but unless you like dogs, bikes, fishing, or slow runners you'll get bored following me on those services.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Formula for Creating Useful Workshop Materials

I lead a lot of virtual and in-person workshops throughout the course of the year. For each of those workshops I create webpages that contain an outline, handouts in the form of PDFs, and video tutorials. I do this because I've learned over the years that even when people are 100% engaged in the workshop, there are still things that they might miss and or want to have reiterated after the workshop is over. Some people prefer tutorials that are text and image based while others prefer a video in which they can see and hear each step in action.  I make all of the tutorial materials for a workshop available on a webpage that I create for the topic.

My tools for creating and sharing workshop materials:
  1. WordPress: I now use WordPress for all of my online work except this blog and a classroom blog that runs on Blogger. I self-host WordPress through Media Temple. Doing that gives me the ultimate in design flexibility (not that I'm a designer by any means) and control including hiding and password-protecting pages. In the past I've used Google Sites and Wikispaces for workshop webpages. Those are both good choices too.

  2. Skitch: I use Skitch to create screenshots. With Skitch I can draw and type on screenshots. I've also used Jing for the same purpose in the past. 

  3. Screencast-o-matic.com: This is my preferred tool for creating screencast videos. I use the pro version which costs $15. The pro version runs on my desktop instead of in my web browser. The free version is also good and is more than adequate for most situations. When making screencasts about iPad apps I use AirServer (not free, but cheap) to record. On a Chromebook, Screencastify is good option for making screencast videos. 

  4. PDFs: To make my PDF handouts I just create a document in Google Documents then hit "download as PDF." My PDFs will contain a mix of text and screenshots.

  5. Hosting PDFs: I use Box.com to host my PDFs that I embed into webpages. You could accomplish the same thing with Google Drive. I use Box because it provides me with information about how many views and downloads each PDF has had. Box also allows me to password protect a file. 

FAQs About Classroom Blog Jumpstart

Since I announced it last Friday, I've received a bunch of questions from people who are interested in participating in next week's Classroom Blog Jumpstart course. These are the most frequently asked questions and my answers to them.

1. Will it be recorded? I want to participate, but I can't make it to every webinar.
Yes, all three live webinars will be recorded. Links to download the recordings will be emailed to you within 12 hours of the end of each webinar.

2. Is there graduate credit for this course?
No, this course doesn't carry a graduate credit option. Later this fall I will be offering a version of the course that does carry a graduate credit option.

3. Can I receive a certificate of hours to use in my re-certification plan?
Yes, I will send a certificate of completion for the hours you spend in the course. Some schools and states accept these for re-certification. Check with your school or state office for clarification.

4. I've never blogged before, is this course for me? 
Yes. No previous experience with blogging is required. I'll walk you through everything you need to know to get started. You'll also receive PDF handouts that contain directions along with each webinar recording.

5. Is there Q&A?
Of course, ask any questions you like during the webinars.

6. Why do you charge for the course? 
Three primary reasons: 1. I have to pay for licensing of GoToTraining and hosting of recordings. 2. I want to work with people who are committed to the course. I've found that when I offer free webinars many people sign up, but few show up.  3. This is part of how I make my living, but believe me I'm not getting rich from this.

7. I wanted to register in time for the early registration discount, but I missed the deadline. Can I still get the discounted price of $65?
Sure, I'm easy (and a terrible businessman). The discount code "backtoschool" still works.

Classroom Blog Jumpstart starts on August 17th at 7pm EDT. 
Click here to register.