Monday, April 11, 2016

Three Good Places to Learn HTML & CSS Skills

Visual editors in blog and website platforms like Blogger, WordPress, and Weebly make it easy for anyone to create a webpage in relatively little time. The appeal of those tools is that you don't have to learn code in order to make a blog or website. The downside to relying on visual editing tools is that if you don't understand the code it can be hard to make corrections when something does go wrong. Not knowing HTML and CSS also limits you in terms of design formatting.

Over the years I've taught myself the basics of HTML and CSS through online tutorials. A quick Google search will lead you to plenty of online tutorials that you can use to teach yourself or your students some useful HTML and CSS skills. The following are the resources that I frequently recommend.

A Beginner's Guide to HTML & CSS is a nice resource developed by Shay Howe whose resume reveals that he works on the user interface for Groupon among other projects. Shay currently offers twelve text-based lessons for beginners. Once you've mastered the beginner lessons you can try your hand at the ten advanced lessons offered on the site. 

Thimble is a free Mozilla product designed to help users learn how to write HTML and CSS. Thimble features a split screen on which you can write code and see how it works at the same time. On the left side of the screen you write your code and on the right side of the screen you instantly see what that code renders. If you write the code correctly, you will know right away. Likewise, if you don't write the code correctly, you will know right away. Some of the sample projects you can work with include webpages, games, and avatars.

w3Schools has long been my go-to place for quick directions when working in HTML. If I get stuck while working on a project, a quick visit to w3Schools usually reveals the help I need to get past a stumbling block. If you're completely new to writing HTML start with the introductory sections of w3Schools to learn the basics.

Bonus tip: 
Once you've become familiar with the basics of HTML and CSS you may find yourself venturing into things not covered by the tutorials featured above. At that point you may want to consider joining the community at Stack Overflow to ask questions and or answer questions from other community members.

Collaborating with RealtimeBoard

EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site, has launched a new FREE video series called #ETTchat. Each week, one of their instructors posts a new video with ideas using technology in the service of learning. 

Collaborating and Creating with RealtimeBoard

RealtimeBoard allows students and teachers to create a never-ending virtual space on which they can create, collaborate, and even chat. Educators and students can sign up for a FREE premium account at In this video, Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec) walks through the potential of using this tool in the classroom to support collaborative projects and activities. 

Learn more about collaborative tools and ePub creation on the EdTechTeacher web site.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

An Interactive Build a Body Lesson

A few years ago Sponge Lab Biology won a National Science Foundation award for its interactive Build a Body activity. Spend a few minutes using Build a Body and it is easy to understand why it was recognized by the NSF.

In Sponge Lab Biology's Build a Body students construct a human body system-by-system. To build a body students drag and drop into place the organs and bones of a human body. Each organ and bone is accompanied by a description of the purpose of that bone or organ. The systems that students can build in the Build a Body activity are the skeletal, digestive, respiratory, nervous, excretory, and circulatory systems.

Build a Body has a case study menu in which students can read about diseases, disorders, and and other concerns that affect the human body. In each case study students are given a short description of the concern followed by a question that they should be able to answer after completing the Build a Body activity.

Applications for Education
Build a Body was designed with high school students in mind. Build a Body could be an excellent resource to pair with Biodigital Human or Healthline's Body Maps. Have students use the Body Maps and Biodigital Human to study the construction of the human body then use Build a Body to test their knowledge.

30 Days of Shakespeare Presented by the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death by publishing 30 recordings of NYPL staff members reading their favorite Shakespeare speeches, monologues, or sonnets. One recording per day will be published throughout the month of April.

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S. These recordings could provide a nice model for your own "poem a day" classroom project. You could have students each take a turn reading their favorite poems this month. SoundCloud makes it easy to record and assemble a playlist of spoken recordings. Take a look at the video below to learn how to record on SoundCloud.

H/T to Open Culture for the NYPL recordings.

Three Google Apps Updates You Might Have Missed Last Week

Last week Google added a convenient polling option to Google Classroom. That update proved to be a huge hit as comments that I saw about it on Facebook and Twitter included, "finally," "sweet," and "woo hoo!"

The update to Google Classroom wasn't the only update to Google Apps that should be of interest to teachers. Last week a new task reminders function was added to the browser-based version of Google Calendar. The new reminders option in Google Calendar will let you create task reminders within the browser-based version of Google Calendar. Reminder tasks that you don't complete on a given day will automatically forward to the next day until you complete the task.

Microsoft Outlook users will be happy to learn that the Google Drive plug-in for Microsoft Office now supports Outlook. Screenshots of the new features can be seen on the Google Apps Update Blog.

Learn more about Google Classroom and Google Apps for Education at the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp this summer in Portland, Maine.

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