Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Week in Review - 3300 Downloads

Good morning from Woodstock, Maine where it shaping up to be a perfect late summer day. It's not too hot, it's not too cold, and the sun is shining. In other words, it's a great morning for sitting on my deck and drinking coffee while I write. I hope that wherever you are this weekend, you have an equally relaxing weekend.

Nine days ago I released the Practical Ed Tech Handbook. Since I hit publish on that post, more than 3300 people have downloaded it. I've heard from a handful of people who have printed it give to their colleagues. That is what I hoped would happen. Helping teachers learn about the resources available to them is why I started this blog many years ago. Thank you all for helping me share.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Google Classroom Adds Calendar Integration and Other Frequently Requested Functions
2. This Wage Calculator Shows Students Salaries In Terms They Can Understand
3. Eight Alternatives to Google Image Search
4. 50+ Google Tools Tutorial Videos
5. Good Online Bookmarking Tools for Students
6. The Practical Ed Tech Handbook - Download It Today
7. Updated Page of Video Creation Tools and Tutorials

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference?
Click here to learn about my professional development services. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
HelloTalk is a mobile community for learning a new language.
MasteryConnect offers a series of apps for identifying standards. 
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
SeeSaw is a great iPad app for creating digital portfolios.

Friday, August 28, 2015

5 Things I Learned While Re-reading Invent to Learn

While book publishers send me many books to read throughout the year, very few ever get mentioned on this blog because I am not in the business of writing book reviews. That said, when I do find a book that I think many of you will enjoy, I'll share it.

When Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager published Invent to Learn a couple of years I quickly read it on my Android tablet through the Kindle app. Then in March of this year I had a chance to talk with Gary for a while at a conference that we were both invited to in Sydney. While there I bought a paperback copy of Invent to Learn. I have now read it two more times and filled it with notes in the margins of the pages (scribbling notes is the best part about having a physical copy of a book). In no particular order, here are five highlights from the notes I've taken while reading Invent to Learn.

1. Avoid the "keychain syndrome" when developing projects.
Martinez and Stager cite Paulo Blikstein for developing this term to describe what happens when students learn to use fabrication tools like 3D printers. The point of the project shouldn't be to learn how to use the equipment (though that is needed) but to use the equipment to create things of meaning to them.

2. Skip the preload.
Stager and Martinez remind us to avoid the temptation to take "just a minute" to explain how a program or tool works. That "just a minute" can quickly turn into 25 minutes of "how to" instruction that students don't need because they are more than willing to push buttons, flip switches, click menus, and generally explore without a fear of not knowing what will happen. I've been guilty of this in my practice and I'm trying to cut down my preload time as much as possible.

3. Collaboration comes in different forms. 
Collaboration doesn't have to mean two or more students working together for the duration of a project. It could be as simple as observing and asking questions of a peer or group of peers.

4. Good project prompts are short and sweet. 
Skip the long-winded "by the end of this project you will have done..." and give students prompts that are clear and concise. The prompt should also give students the flexibility to satisfy the prompt in the way that they see best. I've employed this strategy for years. My experience has been that students who are used to being told, "here's the rubric, here's what you need to get a good grade" will freak out and flounder for a while until they realize that they have the power to respond to the prompt in a manner of their own choosing.

5. Instruction is useful, not everything has to be "discovered" by students.
There is a temptation to make every learning experience about students "discovering" information. Sometimes direct instruction is needed and is just as useful as students discovering on their own. Stager and Martinez give this example,
There is no reason to discover the date of Thanksgiving when you can ask someone. Instruction is useful for learning things that would take an instant or when little benefit would be gained by investigating it yourself
Beyond the philosophical items that I've featured above, Invent to Learn is full of fantastic resources for anyone interested in using the concepts of the Maker Movement, 3D printing, and programming in their classrooms.

Six Tools for Creating Online Timelines - A Comparison Chart

Last winter I published a comparison of five tools for creating timelines. This week I updated that chart to include a timeline creation tool that I've come to love over the last seven months, HSTRY. You can read more about HSTRY and learn how to use it by clicking here. My updated chart is embedded below as a PDF. You can also view it here in Google Docs format.

Take a Virtual Tour of Mount Vernon

Around this time last year I shared an interactive map of George Washington's life. That map was produced by From the same organization comes a virtual tour of Mount Vernon.

The virtual tour of Mount Vernon features 54 parts of George Washington's estate. Each stop in the tour is an interactive image on which you will see pinpoints that you can click to read or watch a video to learn more about what you're seeing the picture. You can rotate each image 360 degrees. To navigate the tour you can either click the directional arrows in the images or select an feature of the estate from the drop-down menu at the top the virtual tour website.

Applications for Education
The virtual tour of Mount Vernon could be a good supplementary resource for elementary or middle school lessons about George Washington. The virtual tour also provides some glimpses into the living conditions of both wealthy 18th century citizens along with those of poor and or enslaved people living in Virginia in the 18th century.

Formative - Quickly Gather Responses Sketched by Students

A few weeks ago I published a review of a new assessment tool called Formative. One of the best features of Formative is the option to have students sketch responses to questions. They can sketch on their tablets, Chromebooks, or laptops and submit those sketches to you in realtime. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how the draw responses function works in Formative.