Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Wall of Birds - Hear the Calls of Birds and See Their Ranges

Wall of Birds is a new site published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Wall of Birds features a mural of 243 hand-painted birds. The mural's backdrop is a map of the world. You can zoom and pan across the mural to see all of the birds. Clicking on a bird will open a side pane that contains information about that bird's habitat and habits. The side pane also contains an audio recording of the bird's call.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a YouTube channel that is full of short videos about birds in their natural habitats. The videos provide students with another way to see and hear a variety of birds.

Applications for Education
As the weather warms in the Northern Hemisphere a fun outdoor learning activity is to take students on nature walks during which they try to identify as many different birds as possible. They could do this by sight and sound with the help of some of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's resources.

Merlin Bird ID is another tool that could help students identify birds. It is a free iPhone and Android app that helps you identify birds that you see in North America. To help you identify a bird you've see Merlin Bird ID asks you a few questions about the color of the bird, its size, where you saw it, and when you saw it. Merlin Bird ID will suggest which bird you saw based on your answers to the identification questions.The suggestion will come with pictures of the bird and some information about it. In some cases you will be able to listen to a recording of the bird's call.

H/T to Google Maps Mania for the Wall of Birds. 

Best Job Ever - Short Stories About Outdoor Jobs #bestjobever

National Geographic's YouTube channel has a relatively new playlist called #bestjobever.  The playlist features short stories about people who have interesting jobs that are primarily in the outdoors. These are primarily jobs incorporating some kind of conservation and or awareness missions. The playlist is embedded below. The first video in the series is about photographing beluga whales.

Applications for Education
One of the responsibilities that I feel I have as an educator is to expose students to job and career opportunities that don't fall into the traditional tracks. Videos like these can help students see that if they have a passion for something they could potentially turn that passion into a profession that they'll love.

3 Tips for Using YouTube Videos In Your Classroom

In my workshop YouTube, It's Not Just Cats & Khan Academy I share a lot of tips and tricks for safely using YouTube in your classroom. One of the topics that I always talk about is how to share and display videos. Here are three of the more popular tips from that workshop.

1. Remove distractions by using ViewPure. 
ViewPure is a service that allows you to watch and project YouTube videos without seeing the related sidebar content typically seen on YouTube.com. ViewPure offers a free browser bookmarklet that you can use to clear the sidebar content while viewing a video on YouTube.

You can search for YouTube videos through the ViewPure website. When searching for videos through ViewPure you don't see sidebar content, you only see videos. You can choose to use strict filtering while searching through ViewPure.

To be clear, ViewPure is not a filter work-around if your school blocks YouTube and it is not a tool for downloading YouTube videos. (Downloading YouTube videos is a violation of the YouTube terms of service).

2. Show just a portion of a video by using TubeChop.
TubeChop gives you the ability to clip a section from any YouTube video and share it with others via a link or via an embed code added to your own blog or website. TubeChop lets you select a start time and an end time for an video that you share.

3. Create a playlist of videos. 
Save yourself some classroom downtime by having a playlist of videos ready to go when you need them. You can create playlists directly in your YouTube account. A video on how to do that is embedded below.

Another way to create a playlist is to use Diigo. You can share videos within Diigo groups. Your students can watch the videos directly inside the Diigo group and don't have to go to YouTube.com to see the videos. 

This topic and others like it will be covered in much more depth during both Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps in July. Discounted early registration for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps is available now. Register by the end of the month and save up to $75!

Pindex - Another "Pinterest for Education" Site

Pindex is a new site that like many before it is attempting to position itself as "Pinterest for education." On Pindex (still in private beta) users will be able to pin and share educational videos and infographics. Where Pindex seems to be attempting to separate itself from similar platforms is in offering digital badges for watching videos and completing short quizzes on a particular board.

Pindex is currently available only through an invitation. You can request an invitation on the site. I received an invitation a few hours after making my request.

The press release that I received about Pindex emphasized that Stephen Fry is part of the team developing the site. I'm not sure if that makes much of an impact other than having a good narrator's voice in the introductory videos.

Applications for Education
Pindex could become a good platform for creating and sharing playlists of interesting and educational videos. The option to create list of requirements for earning a digital badge could be useful in tracking what your students watch.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Three Google Slides Features New Users Often Ask About

Last week I published a post answering three questions that new Google Docs users frequently ask. That post turned out to be quite popular so I'm following up this week with the answers to three questions that new Google Slides users frequently ask. Here are three questions that I frequently hear from new Google Slides users.

1. What if I want a copy of the slides in case the internet connection in my classroom isn't working?
There are two solutions to this problem. First, you can download your slides as a PowerPoint file. To do that simply select "download as" then select "Microsoft PowerPoint" from the "File" drop-down menu while viewing your Google Slides. 

The other option for accessing your slides without an internet connection is to enable offline access for your Google Drive account on your computer. To enable offline access, open the gear icon in the upper-right corner of your Google Drive dashboard. Then select "settings" and check the "Offline" option. (Please note that it enabling offline access is not recommended on a shared computer). 

2. Can I insert videos that are not on YouTube?
Unfortunately, Google Slides only supports the use of YouTube videos at this time. That said, you can use unlisted YouTube videos in your slides. What that means is that if you have a video of your own that you want to use in your slides you can upload it to YouTube, mark it as unlisted, then insert the link to your video into your Google Slides. Update: As of February 2017 you can insert videos from Google Drive into your videos. Learn how here 

3. How do I add transitions/ animations to my slides?
This is the question about Google Slides that I am asked more than any question. There are two ways to add transitions between slides. First you can simply right-click on a slide in the the slide navigator on the left side of your screen. When you right-click on a slide you will see a menu appear. In that menu there is an option to "change transition." Selecting "change transition" will open a new menu to the right of your slides. That menu will let you choose a transition to apply to your slides. The other way to open the transitions menu is to select "transition" from the menu of options appearing across the top of  your slide editor. 

The animation options appear in the same menu as transitions. Open the transitions menu the click on an object in your slides to animate it. Once you have selected an object on a slide you will see a menu of animation options appear on the right side of your slide. 

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.