Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Gauging Your Distraction - A Game to Show Students the Dangers of Texting While Driving

Update November 2020: This game was Flash-based. Flash is a standard that will be deprecated in December 2020. The game is no longer available.

The New York Times has a nice interactive game that every teen driver or aspiring driver should play at least once. Gauging Your Distraction requires players to try to read and reply to three text messages while negotiating lanes of traffic. At the start of the game players simply have to navigate a car through lanes of the highway. Once that is mastered a text message will appear on the screen that players have to reply to while navigating traffic. The game ends when three text messages have been sent.

Applications for Education
Gauging Your Distraction is an excellent activity to incorporate into a driver training program. The beginning of the game is easy which builds a player's confidence. The game gets tricky when a player's confidence is high. Much like in real life students might think, "I've got this" when they really don't have the control they think they do. 

Six Tools for Creating Videos on Chromebooks

As I've written many times over the years, creating videos is one of my favorite classroom projects. Recently, I shared some of my tips for planning classroom video projects. Shortly after publishing those tips I was asked for a recommendation for creating videos on Chromebooks. Here are some of my go-to video creation tools to use on Chromebooks.

WeVideo offers the most features of any of the tools in this list. It is an online video creation tool that I have written about many times over the last few years. WeVideo offers templates that new users can follow to create their first videos. Advanced WeVideo users can skip the templates, use the full editor, and apply themes to their videos by choosing them from the themes menu in the editor. In the video editor you can upload your own media clips or use stock media clips to produce your video. WeVideo's Google Drive app allows you to save all of your video projects in your Google Drive account. WeVideo also offers an Android app and an iPhone app that students can use to capture images and video footage to add to their projects.

Wideo is a neat video creation service that allows anyone to create animated videos and Common Craft-style videos online through a simple drag-and-drop process. A couple of months ago Wideo started offering templates to help users start their video projects. Wideo templates provide a basic framework for a video's theme. A couple of the templates that might be of interest to teachers are the slideshow template and the curriculum template.

PowToon is similar to Wideo and is also a great tool for creating animated videos online. PowToon provides a drag-and-drop editor for creating animated videos. The videos that you create feature digital paper cut-outs on a colorful background. Think of PowToon as an online tool for creating videos in the style made popular by Common Craft. PowToon provides drawings of people and objects that you can arrange on blank canvas. After adding your narration to the arrangement you can publish your video.

Within YouTube there is a free tool for creating audio slideshows. You supply the images and YouTube supplies the audio track. You can pick from thousands of audio tracks to match to your slides. After adding your slides and selecting an audio track you can add speech bubbles to your slides. I demonstrate all of these steps in the video embedded below.



Last year at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp a number of us used Stupeflix to create videos. Stupeflix doesn't require users to register in order to produce a video. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Stupeflix to create a video without registering on the site.



For creating a screencast video on a Chromebook TechSmith offers Snagit for Chrome which supports creating screencasts that you can save into your Google Drive account. To use the screencasting option in Snagit for Chrome you will have enable the both the Snagit for Chrome extension and the corresponding Snagit Chrome app.  The Snagit Chrome extension is what allows you to capture your screen. The Snagit Chrome app allows you to save your screen captures in your Google Drive account. You do have to install both the extension and the app for Snagit to work correctly.

Topics like this one and many others will be covered in depth during the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp on July 18th and 19th. Discounted early registration is now available. Group discounts are available. Email me richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com or click here to learn more.

How to Use Canva to Promote School Events

One of the things that I always talk about in my workshop on Blog & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is using regular Facebook page updates to keep parents informed about school and classroom events. One of the things that you can do to help your Facebook posts reach more people is to include high resolution graphics in your posts. Canva is a great tool for creating high resolution graphics to include in your Facebook posts. Canva provides a huge catalog of free templates for creating graphics to use in your social media posts. In the video below I provide a demonstration of how to use Canva.


When you're creating graphics to use in your Facebook posts try to limit the text to only the most important information. In the post itself you can link to more information for parents and or students to read. You should also try to use some type of call to action to increase parents' interaction with your posts. See my sample image below.

These images can also be used in Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and regular blog posts. The reason that I stress using them in Facebook pages is that Facebook posts that contain high resolution images get liked and shared much more often than posts that do not contain images.

To be clear, I'm talking about using Facebook pages for a school or classroom. I am not talking about using a personal Facebook account to interact with students and their parents.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Nice Set of Animated Science Lessons for Children

The Children's University of Manchester has great collections of animated lessons covering seven science subjects for students of early elementary/ primary school age. The lessons cover The Body and Medicine, Energy and Environment, Earth and Beyond, Teeth and Eating, Micro-organisms, The Brain, and Exercise.

For each science subject covered by The Children's University of Manchester there is an introduction followed by seven to ten interactive animations. For example, in The Earth and Beyond students can see how the position of the sun affects the length of shadows. Students can advance the sun through the sky. As they advance the sun they can use a ruler to measure the lengths of the shadows that they create.

Applications for Education
The Children's University of Manchester science lessons could be good place to find supplementary interactive materials for your elementary school science lessons. You could extend The Earth and Beyond shadows activity by having your students measure shadows in your school yard throughout the day at different times of the year.

5 Great Writing Activities from Read Write Think

Over the years Read Write Think has published dozens of excellent templates and tools for elementary school language arts lessons. Five of my favorite Read Write Think activities are featured below.

Read Write Think offers a good interactive guide that can help students craft a good persuasive essay. The Persuasion Map asks students to start with a thesis statement before walking them through developing support for that thesis. Students can print their persuasion maps or email them to you. RWT offers a number of lesson plans that incorporate the Persuasion Map. You can find those lessons here.

Essay Map provides students with step by step guidance in the construction of an informational essay. Some of my students seem to struggle most with constructing an introduction and conclusion to their essays. Essay Map is particularly good for helping students visualize the steps needed to construct good introductory and conclusion paragraphs. After students complete all of the steps in their Essay Map they can print their essay outlines.

Alphabet Organizer is a great little tool from Read Write Think that students can use to create alphabet charts and books. The idea behind Alphabet Organizer is to help students make visual connections between letters of the alphabet and the first letter of common words. In the video below I demonstrate how to use this tool.



RWT Timeline is available as a web app (Flash required), as an Android app, and as an iPad app. All three versions make it easy for students to create a timeline for a series of events. In the video below I demonstrate how to use the web version of the RWT Timeline creation tool.



RWT's Animal Inquiry guide is a good fit for elementary school science lessons. Animal Inquiry provides students with four templates; animal facts, animal babies, animal interactions, and animal habitats. Each template is an interactive template in which students respond to three prompts to help them create short reports about animals they are studying. Read Write Think suggests using the questions in the Animal Inquiry template as prompts for research. The questions in the templates could also be good for helping students brainstorm additional questions to research.