Tuesday, September 29, 2015

5 Great Ways You Can Use Google Sites With Students

On Thursday afternoon I am conducting four free webinars sponsored by SimpleK12. The first of the four is about using Google Sites with students. This post is a preview of what will be covered in the webinar 5 Great Ways You Can Use Google Sites With Students.

1. As a wiki: Google Sites can be used as a wiki if you share your site with others and invite them to be editors. As a teacher you could start a site then add your students as owners or editors on the site. If you add them as owners they will be able to start new pages. If you add them as editors they will only be allowed to edit existing pages. You can also use the page-level permissions option to allow students to only edit the pages that you grant them access to.

2. As a digital portfolio: Google Sites can be used by students to create digital portfolios featuring their best works and accomplishments. I would encourage high school students to develop a digital portfolio that they can share with university admissions officers. Teachers should also consider developing a digital portfolio of their best lesson plans, credentials, and references to include when they apply for teaching positions.

3. As a digital file cabinet: If you have PDFs, Word files, or other documents that you want your students to be able to easily download, consider using the File Cabinet option in Google Sites. By creating a File Cabinet page you provide a place for those files to be easily accessed. You might also consider putting up a File Cabinet page for forms like permission slips that parents need to access.

4. As a blog: Use the Announcements template to create a blog page within your Google Sites. You can update the blog or make the blog page collaborative and let your students contribute to a class blog.

5. As a website: I left the most obvious option for last. If you need to create a place where parents and students can come to find important information about your course(s) or your school, Google Sites provides all of the tools for that. Incorporate a blog element (see #4 above) for posting updates and use the rest of the pages to house information that doesn't change that often. You can also incorporate a file cabinet (see #3 above) to post forms for parents to download. And if you're using Google Calendar, you can easily add a calendar of events to any page in your Google Site.

How to Quickly Create an MP3 Recording

On Saturday I wrote about using SpeakPipe's Voice Recorder to create short MP3 files. If you haven't tried it yet, take a look at the video embedded below to see just how easy it is to create an MP3 recording through SpeakPipe's Voice Recorder.

Applications for Education
SpeakPipe's Voice Recorder does not require you to register in order to create and download your audio recordings. The lack of a registration requirement makes it a good choice for students who don't have email addresses or for anyone else who simply doesn't want to have to keep track of yet another username and password.

Students could use SpeakPipe's Voice Recorder to record short audio interviews or to record short audio blog entries. Teachers could use SpeakPipe's Voice Recorder to record instructions for students to listen to in lieu of having a substitute teacher read instructions to their students.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Google Expeditions is Possibly Coming to a School Near You

Earlier this year Google unveiled a new virtual reality program for schools. The program is called Expeditions. Expeditions uses an app on the teacher's tablet in conjunction with the Cardboard viewer to guide students on virtual reality field trips. Today, Google announced that they are bringing Expedition demonstrations and the required kits to schools all over North America, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

During the 2015/2016 school year the Expeditions Pioneer Program will be visiting schools to set them up with the materials needed for taking students on more than 100 virtual field trips. Visit the Expeditions Pioneer Program website to find out if the program will be near you and to register your school for a visit.

Applications for Education
Even the best virtual field trips can't replace the experience of going on a real field trip. That said, virtual field trips can let students experience see places in new ways and virtually experience some places that they might never see in person.

5 Research Tools Students Often Overlook

When they're given a research assignment most students immediately turn to Google to start their research. Unfortunately, many students don't recognize that they are limiting their research efforts by not going beyond Google.com to search. Here are five research tools that I introduce to students to get them to go beyond using Google.com.

1. School librarian and library resources. 
Every school librarian that I know is happy to help students learn to become better researchers. Introduce your students to your school's librarian. Set up time with him or her to show your students some of the many resources available through your school's library. Some of those resources will include access to databases that students cannot access without log-in credentials provided through the library. The Maine State Library's MARVEL database is an example of a database that students wouldn't know about or use without the guidance of school librarian.

2. Wolfram Alpha.
Wolfram Alpha is known for its mathematics functions, but it also has a ton of information to offer on all kinds of topics from socioeconomic data to history to food to chemistry. Students can use Wolfram Alpha to find concise summaries of topics or use it to dive into in-depth databases. The short video embedded below (admittedly, a bit dated now) provides students with a short explanation of what makes Wolfram Alpha search different from Google search.

3. Google Books.
Google Books can be a good research tool for students if they are aware of it and know how to use it. In the video below I provide a short overview of how to use Google Books for research. You can also find screenshots of the process here.

4. Google Scholar:
Google Scholar, like Google Books, is one of the research tools that students often overlook when searching on the web. Google Scholar can be an excellent place for high school and college students to find peer-reviewed academic papers, journals, theses, books, and court opinions. In the video below I demonstrate how to create a library of resources in Google Scholar as well as how to create Google Scholar Alerts that will notify you when new content related to your research appears in Google Scholar.

5. Duck Duck Go.
Duck Duck Go is a search engine that doesn't track your search history or the webpages that you visit. This can make a difference in what students see when they search on Duck Duck Go compared to when they do the same searches on Google, Yahoo, or Bing which may be influenced by their search histories.

How to Use Google Drawings to Create Mind Maps

Collaboratively creating mind maps is one of the many good ways that students can use Google Drawings. To create a mind map in Google Drawings students should open their Google Drive accounts then select Google Drawings from the New menu. Students can invite classmates to work on their mind maps by using the same sharing options that they use for Google Documents. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how students can use the tools in Google Drawings to create mind maps.

What I left out of the video above is that I will ask students to share their mind maps with me. I will then use the commenting tool to give them feedback on their mind maps.

This video was included in my Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week newsletter. The newsletter is published once per week on Sunday evening. It includes one of my favorite tips along with a summary of the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers. Click here to join more than 7,500 other people who subscribe to the Practical Ed Tech newsletter.