Tuesday, June 21, 2016

5 Reasons to Have a Classroom Blog

Earlier today someone wrote the following in response to my post featuring a good example of a teacher and student blog,
"Franklly (sic) I don't want to blog with my students. I want to talk with them face to face in class."

While I appreciate that the person who wrote that comment on Facebook wants to emphasize the relationship she's trying to develop with her students, she's also overlooking the benefits of having a classroom blog. In short, it's not an "either or" proposition. You can have a classroom blog and develop face-to-face conversations with your students.

1. Being authors on a blog gives students the opportunity to share their thoughts with you, their classmates, and their parents on a longer timeline than is typically feasible during a school day. Not every student is going to be able to quickly articulate his or her thoughts during a face-to-face conversation with his or her teacher. Having a place to write down his or her expanded thoughts after a conversation is one of the best benefits of inviting students to be authors on a blog.

2. Parents are privy to the comments and question that their children raise in regards to school. Parents often complain that their kids come home from school and say,"nothing" in response to the question, "what did you do in school today?"

3. Authoring a classroom blog can be a great way to create a record of what you and your students do in your classroom. By the end of the school year it can be hard to recall what you did in which week earlier in the school year. The blog's archive makes it easy to look back at the year.

4. Authoring a classroom blog provides students with a real-world audience for their work. Connect with another classroom or two to become blogging buddies. Students in each class then have an audience for their work that extends beyond the typical confines of a paper-based writing assignment or face-to-face classroom conversation.

5. A classroom blog can provide parents and students with a calendar or upcoming events and assignments.

This summer I am teaching an online course about blogs and social media for teachers. The course begins in July. Learn more about it on this page

5 Ways to Quickly Get Your Students On the Same Webpage

Getting all of your students on the same webpage at once is one of the small and annoying challenges of using websites and web tools in your classroom. Fortunately, there are some simple solutions to this challenge. The solution that you pick will be partially based upon the type of devices that your students use in your classroom. Here are five ways that you can quickly get all of your students on the same webpage.

1. QR Codes: This is a good solution in a classroom in which all students have an iPad, an Android tablet, or are allowed to use their mobile phones. You can create QR codes for any webpage by using QR Droid's QR Code Generator. While the name implies that you need an Android device, QR Droid's QR Code Generator works in your web browser. Once your QR code is created you can project it for students to scan and or print it and post it in your classroom for students to scan. Learn how to use QR Droid's QR Code Generator by watching the video in this post.

2. Shortened & Customized URLs: For years creating shortened and customized URLs has been my go-to method for directly people to webpages in my workshops. I use Bitly.com to create customized shortened URLs. Rather than relying on the default shortened URL provided by Bitly, I customize it to something that is easy to spell and is in all lowercase letters.

3. Share to Classroom: Share to Classroom is a Google Chrome extension designed to make easy for teachers to direct students to specific webpages. With the Share to Classroom extension installed you will be able to push webpages to your students' devices by simply opening the extension and specifying which of your Google Classroom classes you want to receive the page. Students do not need to do anything because the page will automatically load in their web browsers. You can also have students push pages to you.

GAFE domain administrators can install the Share to Classroom extension for all users in their domains by following the directions outlined here.

4. Post on Classroom Blog, Website, or Google Classroom: Rather than feeding your students a different link everyday, just get them in the habit of visiting your classroom blog, website, or Google Classroom in order to find the links for each webpage or web tool that you want them to use. Once they're in that habit you can simply post links there for them to click and use.

5. Text / Push Notification: Use a tool like Remind or Cel.ly to send links directly to your students' mobile devices.

Monday, June 20, 2016

How to Create a Book Trailer Video

Creating a book trailer video can be a great alternative to writing a book report. To create a good book trailer video students will have to make a list of highlights of a book and arrange them into proper sequence. Students should also include commentary on why they liked a book and why someone else should read it. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create a book trailer video using a small collection of free web tools. Those tools are Stupeflix, Photos for Class, Bitly, and Vocaroo.



Saturday, June 18, 2016

Connected Mind - A Mind Mapping App in Chrome

Connected Mind is a free mind mapping tool that you can find in the Google Chrome Web Store. Using Connected Mind you can create free-form mind maps or use a template. A lot of mind mapping tools lock you into using straight lines between elements, but Connected Mind is not one of them. Connected Minds allows you to create mind maps in any configuration that you like. As it is a Chrome Web Store app, Connected Mind allows you to save your work online using your Google Account credentials. The video below offers a demonstration of Connected Minds (there is not any sound in the video).



Applications for Education
Connected Mind could be a good app for students to use to develop mind maps from scratch or from an existing image or file they upload. In general, I find mind mapping to be a great exercise for students to do while planning a video project. I also use mind mapping when planning a lesson unit for my courses.

Three Geography Games Based on Google Maps and Google Earth

One of the things that I emphasize to students before they embark on any kind of research or problem-solving task is to take a good long look at the information that they already have before them. To that end, I'll often request that they construct a list of what they know about a topic or problem before they begin to search. Playing one of the following three Google Maps-based games is a fun way to reinforce the concept of using prior knowledge and observations.

GeoGuessr is an addictive geography game that is based on the Google Maps Street View imagery. When you visit GeoGuessr you can choose to play as a single player or you can register to challenge another player. The game is played the same way whether you choose single player or challenge mode. To play you simply use the clues in a Street View image to formulate a guess on where in the world the imagery was captured. After making a guess GeoGuessr shows you the correct location and how far away from the correct location your guess was.

Place Spotting is a website of geographic riddles. Place Spotting is based on the Google Earth platform. Place Spotting users can create their own geographic riddles or try to solve riddles created by others. The search feature on Place Spotting lets users search for riddles based on level of difficulty, language, region, or creation date.

Where in the World? is a new-to-me game that I learned about from Maps Mania. On Where in the World? you can choose up to five categories of interest to you. Those categories are history, travel, royal attractions, nature & parks, and entertainment. Where in the World? will show you a Street View image and you have to choose the correct location from a list of three options. You have twelve seconds to make a selection. If you look at the picture and the answer choices carefully, you can quickly eliminate at least one of the answer choices.