Thursday, March 10, 2016

3 Google Docs Options First Time Users Often Ask About

Earlier this week I led a short workshop for first-time Google Docs users in a school district near my home. I have facilitated these kinds of workshops on a regular basis for the last seven years. Over those years I've compiled a list of the questions most frequently asked by new users. Here are three of those questions and their answers.

1. Can I use landscape formatting in Google Docs?
Yes, if you open the "file" menu then choose "page setup" you will have the option to switch from portrait to landscape orientation. In that same setup screen you will have the option to change margin sizes and change the page's background color.

2. Can I use/ edit documents that I have saved on my computer?
Yes, you can import Word documents into your Google Drive account. To import a document select "file upload" from the "new" menu in the upper-left corner of your Google Drive dashboard. To edit the document you will need select "convert uploaded files to Google Docs format" within the settings menu in your Google Drive dashboard. The settings menu is found by clicking the gear icon in the upper-right corner of your Google Drive dashboard.

3. What if I accidentally delete a document?
When you delete a Google Document it goes into your trash bin in Google Drive. Unless you empty your trash bin, your accidentally deleted Google Document can be recovered from your trash bin. To recover a Google Document open the trash bin in your Google Drive dashboard, right-click on your document's name, then select "restore."

Topics like this one and many more will be covered during this summer's Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp. Chromebook Camp is designed for people who are new to using Google Apps and Chromebooks in school. The camp will also be valuable for technology coaches and administrators who are looking for tips on training teachers in their schools. 

Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality Explained by Common Craft

Bit by bit artificial intelligence (AI) is working its way into our lives. If you have seen IBM's Watson in action, you've seen AI at work. Some of the seating chart programs available online today include a small bit of artificial intelligence. See ClassCharts.com for an example of that. But what is AI? And where is it going in the future? Those questions and more are tackled in the latest video from Common Craft.


Applications for Education
After watching the video ask your students to think of aspects of their lives that could be affected by artificial intelligence. Ask them to brainstorm some problems that AI might help people solve in the future.

I occasionally hear people confuse artificial intelligence with augmented reality. That's an understandable mistake as they do sound kind of similar. Augmented Reality (AR) is explained in the following Common Craft video.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Lessons on Colds & Flu

I jinxed myself last week by saying aloud, "this is the first winter in a few years that I haven't gotten sick." Less than a week after saying that I caught an annoying cold. What is a cold? What is the flu? And what are the differences between the two? Those questions and more are answered in the videos embedded below.




How is a cold or flu passed from person to person and what exactly is it doing to your body? NPR answers those questions in the following animated video.




What is ‘flu? - Explania
If you want to use any of these videos in flipped lessons, take a look at the tools featured in my playlist of tutorials on creating flipped lessons.

What's Due Adds What's Seen to Help You Help Students Complete Assignments

WhatsDue is a free service (available for Android and iOS) that enables teachers to create and send due date reminders to their students. Students receive the reminders as push notifications on their iOS and or Android devices. When I've demonstrated WhatsDue over the last year I've noticed that teachers appreciate that WhatsDue is a simple platform that does its job well. The one feature that people have requested more than any other is an option to see if and when your students have looked at their assignments. That feature is now available.

The stats section of the WhatsDue app is where you will find the option to see if your students have looked at their assignments. Open the stats and select a student from your roster. Next to the student's name there is now a box that says "seen."

Applications for Education
If you have been leery of using other reminder systems because of privacy concerns with phone numbers or two-way communication, WhatsDue might be for you. It doesn't require phone numbers and it doesn't have two-way communication. It also allows students to be reminded of assignments on a schedule that works for them. For example, they can set the app to remind them of assignments a day before or a couple of hours before an assignment is due.

Three Tools Students Can Use to Add Annotations to Videos

When we talk about flipped lessons it often involves a lot of heavy lifting on a teacher's part. From finding a video to adding questions to the video, it is a time-consuming process and in the end we're still not always sure if the students actually watched the video or they just guessed at the answers to the questions. One way to flip the standard flipped classroom model is to have students find and annotate videos that then submit to you. The following three tools can be used by students for that purpose.

Using VideoANT anyone can add annotations to any publicly accessible YouTube video. To do this copy the URL of a video and paste it into the VideoANT annotation tool. Then as the video plays click the "add annotation" button when you want to add an annotation. To have others annotate the video with you, send them the VideoANT link. You are the only person that has to have a VideoANT account. Your collaborators do not need to have a VideoANT account to participate in the annotation process with you. Nathan Hall wrote a complete run-down of all of the features of VideoANT. He also posted a how-to video. I recommend reading his post and watching his video here.

Vialogues is a free service that allows you to build online discussions around videos hosted online and videos that you have saved on your computer. Registered users can upload videos to Vialogues or use YouTube videos as the centerpieces of their conversations. In the video embedded below I provide a short overview of how Vialogues works.



MoocNote is a free tool for adding timestamped comments, questions, and links to videos. To do this on MoocNote you simply paste a link to a YouTube video into the MoocNote editor. Once the video is imported you can start to add your comments, questions, and links. The link features is particularly useful for providing students with additional resources for learning about the topics covered in your shared videos. MoocNote allows you to organize playlists (MoocNote calls them courses) of videos according to topics that you identify. MoocNote could be a good tool for high school teachers who want to organize playlists of videos for their students and add some clarifying information to those videos. You could also have students use MoocNote to annotate videos to demonstrate an understanding of the topic at hand.