Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lessons on Critical Thinking & Logical Fallacies

Many of the students in my social studies classes over the years have enjoyed a good classroom debate. I am sure that as the 2016 campaign for President of the United States heats up in the fall many classrooms will be having their own little debates. Many social studies classes will also watch portions of the debates between the candidates. Some lessons on critical thinking and logical fallacies can help students make solid arguments and also help them identify weaknesses in the arguments made by others. The following video resources can help you help your students develop those skills.

5 Tips to Improve Your Critical Thinking is a TED-Ed lesson. The introduction to the lesson is a bit long for my liking but once you get past that the tips are solid. The lesson presents critical thinking as a process of five steps. The last step is the one that students will probably struggle to implement, "explore other points of view."




Wireless Philosophy offers a playlist of twelve videos on logical fallacies. The playlist is embedded below.



The fallacies covered in the PBS videos are Strawman, Ad Hominem, Black and White, Authority, and No True Scotsman. I have embedded the playlist below.

Zaption is Closing - Try These Alternatives

At the end of June Zaption announced that they had been acquired by another company and would be shutting down at the end of September. That announcement prompted many people to start looking for alternatives to Zaption. These are the tools that I am recommending at this time.

EDPuzzle is a neat tool that allows you to add your voice and text questions to educational videos. On EDpuzzle you can search for educational videos and or upload your own videos to use as the basis of your lesson. EDpuzzle has an online classroom component that you can use to assign videos to students and track their progress through your video lessons. Within EDPuzzle's editor you can select portions of videos for students to watch. EDPuzzle offers the option to share your videos to Google Classroom. In the videos embedded below I demonstrate how to use the main features of EDPuzzle.




Blendspace makes it easy for teachers to organize and share educational materials in a visually pleasing format. On Blendspace you arrange videos, links, images, and files around any topic of your choosing. Blendspace has built-in search tools so that you do not have to leave your Blendspace account in order to locate resources. When you share a set of Blendspace materials with your students they can give you feedback to show that they understand the materials or they can ask questions about the materials. You can also see if your students actually looked at all of the materials that you have shared with them. Using Blendspace can be a good way to create and deliver flipped lessons.



Teachem is a service that uses the TED Ed model of creating lessons based on video. On Teachem teachers can build courses that are composed of a series of videos hosted on YouTube. Teachers can write questions and comments in "flashcards" that are tied to specific parts of each video and display next to each video. Students can take notes while watching the videos using the Teachem SmartNote system. Creating a Teachem course a straight-forward process of choosing a video URL then writing corresponding questions. When you create a Teachem course you can make it public or private. Public courses can be accessed by anyone that has address for your course. Teachem contains an option to collaborate with colleagues on the creation of courses.

VideoNotes is a neat tool for taking notes while watching videos. VideoNotes allows you to load any YouTube video on the left side of your screen and on the right side of the screen VideoNotes gives you a notepad to type on. VideoNotes integrates with your Google Drive account. By integrating with Google Drive VideoNotes allows you to share your notes and collaborate on your notes just as you can do with a Google Document. You can use VideoNotes to have students submit questions to you and each other while watching videos. Of course, you can insert questions into the conversation for your students to answer too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Alphabetimals - A Dictionary of Animal Sounds

Alphabetimals is a nice website on which you will find some nice resources for helping young children learn the alphabet. The primary feature of Alphabetimals is a dictionary of animals and the sounds that they make. On the Alphabetimals dictionary page kids can find a handful of animals listed for each letter of the alphabet. When students click on a letter they hear the sounds made by the animal in the picture. Clicking on the letter a second time will give students the audio pronunciation of the animal pictured.

Another neat feature of Alphabetimals is the name typer. In the name typer kids can use the Alphabetimals characters to spell out any word that they like. Just type in the word and it will be displayed with the Alphabetimals characters. You can then print out the Alphabetimaltized (yes, I just made up that term) version of the word. Alphabetimals also offers free printable flashcards, an alphabet poster, and alphabet coloring pages.

Alphabetimals is funded by sales of Alphabetimals products like posters and tee shirts. For every product purchased they donate a book to Books for Africa.

Applications for Education
Alphabetimals offers some nice little resources to help you help children learn the alphabet. For folks like me who are not artistically inclined, the option to type a word and print it in an alphabetimalized version could be a nice way to print and display vocabulary words in your elementary school classroom.

Sugar Scanner Shows You How Much Sugar You're Consuming

Over the years I've shared a bunch of resources addressing the topic of sugar consumption. Some of those resources include a video about why we crave sugar, how sugar affects the human body, and how much sugar is present in commonly consumed beverages. Last night the developer of another resource on the topic of sugar consumption sent me an email about his site called Sugar Scanner.

Sugar Scanner provides visitors with an index of popular foods and beverages. Visitors can select junk food, fruits, vegetables, beverages from the index. Once a selection is made visitors see an image of the food or beverage next to a stack of sugar cubes.

Applications for Education
Sugar Scanner could be a good resource for health and physical education teachers who are trying to encourage students to make better snack food choices. The visuals on Sugar Scanner make it easy for students to understand how much sugar they're consuming.

Sugar Scanner also has a small collection of videos about sugar consumption.

Adobe Spark Guide for Educators

In late May I published a video about how to use Adobe Spark. Since then I've showcased it in a couple of my workshops. In response to my video and in my workshops I've received a lot of questions about using Adobe Spark in classrooms. Many of the most common questions about Adobe Spark are answered in the free Adobe Spark Edu Guide (link opens a PDF). In the guide you will find answers to questions about data privacy, using Adobe Spark with kids under age 13, and what each part of Adobe Spark does.

Watch my video embedded below to learn how to get started with Adobe Spark.