Monday, July 25, 2016

A Glossary of Blogging Terminology

The start of the new school year isn't far for many teachers now. It is at this time of year that I find myself helping teachers get classroom blogs started. Once you've chosen the best blogging tool for you and your students, sometimes the next challenge of running a blog is just knowing the terminology that is used when we talk about blogging. That's why I put together the following list of common blogging terms and their definitions. 

Post: “Post” can refer to an entry on your blog as in “a blog post.” “Post” can also be used as a verb as in “I am going to post a new entry on my blog.”

Page: A page on a blog is different than a post because a page is designed for static content. Pages are good for posting information that you want visitors to your blog to be able to quickly access. For example, my classroom blog had pages for curriculum outlines and review guides.

Theme: WordPress (Wordpress is open-source software that powers many blogging tools) and many other blogging platforms use “themes” to describe the look of a blog. The theme can include the color scheme and the placement of elements like calendars and margins on a blog. Changing the theme does not change the content of your blog posts.

Template: Blogger and some other blogging platforms use the term “template” to describe the look of a blog. The template can include the color scheme and the layout of elements on the blog. Changing your template does not change the content of your blog posts.

Tag: Tags are applied to WordPress (Kidblog, Edublogs) blog posts to identify the key ideas or purpose of a post. Tags make it easier for people to search and find older posts on your blog. For example, if you write a post about your Revolutionary War lesson, tag it with “revolution” or “revolutionary war” so that at the end of the school year when you have 150 posts on your blog your students can quickly click on the “revolution” tag and jump to the post that have that label. It’s a lot easier to locate older posts by tag than it is to click through archives by date.

Label: Labels are applied to Blogger blog posts to identify the key ideas or purpose of a post. For example, if you write a blog post about your Revolutionary War lesson plan, label it with “revolution” or “revolutionary war” so that at the end of the school year when you have 150 posts on your blog your students can quickly click on the “revolution” label and jump to the posts that have that label. It’s a lot easier to locate older posts by label than it is to click through archives by date.

Tag Cloud and Label Cloud: Tag and Label clouds can be added to your blog’s homepage to make it easy for visitors to see the tags or labels that you use, click on one of them, and jump to a list of all of the posts that have that particular label.

Categories: In WordPress-powered blogs you can use categories for broad descriptions of posts in addition to using tags. For example, on iPadApps4School.com I use the categories “pre-K,” “elementary school,” “middle school,” and “high school.” I assign each post to a category and use tags for describing the academic topic of the post. This way if someone visits my blog looking for math apps appropriate for elementary school he or she can click on the “math” tag then click on the “elementary school” category to find all of my posts meeting that search criteria.

Embed: To display a video, slideshow, audio recording, Google Calendar, Google Map, game, and many other multimedia elements in a blog post you will use an embed code provided by service hosting that media. Embedding media into a blog post does not make you the owner of it and as long as you follow the guidelines set forth by the hosting service you are not violating copyright by embedding something you didn’t create. For example, when you find a video on YouTube that you want your students to watch you can embed it into a blog post and ask students to comment on the blog post. If the owner of that video decides to take it offline the video will no longer play through your blog post.

Embed Codes: An embed code is a piece of code, often HTML, that media hosting services like YouTube provide so that you can easily display the media that they host in your own blog posts. On some services like SlideShare.net an embed code will be clearly labeled as such next to the media you’re viewing. On other services the embed code will be one of the options that appears when you click on the “share” option. YouTube, for example, currently requires you to open the “share” menu before you see the embed code option.

Widget: A widget is a small application that you can include in the posts and or pages of your blog. A widget could be a game, a display of Tweets, a display of RSS feeds, a tag cloud, a calendar, or any other application that offers an embed code.

Gadget: Gadget is the term that Blogger uses for a widget. A gadget and a widget do the same things. 

Plug-in: A plug-in (sometimes plugin) is a small application that you can add to the software that powers your blog. Unlike widgets and gadgets plug-ins operate in the background and visitors to your blog will not see them working. A plug-in can add functions to your blog such as suggesting related posts to your visitors or detecting the type of device a visitor is using to view your blog then automatically displaying the mobile or desktop version of your blog’s layout.

Permalink: Each blog post is assigned its own separate URL this is known as a permalink (permanent link). This URL is the one that you would share if you wanted someone to directly access a post rather than going to your blog’s homepage then searching for the post.

For a comparison of blogging tools, take a look at this chart

A Crowd-sourced List of Google Cardboard Apps & Videos

During the ISTE conference this year I met Jack Bosley who is an educational technology teacher in Kentucky. He introduced himself after the panel discussion, hosted by Samsung, about virtual reality in education. Jack shared with me a Google Form that he created to crowd-source a list of apps and videos to use in Google Cardboard viewers in classrooms. So far the form has gathered thirty entries. And you can contribute to the list here. If you make a submission through the form, you will have access to the list.

Jack has also put together a great introductory presentation about Google Cardboard. That presentation can be seen here.

People looking to learn more about virtual reality in education may be interested in the studies that I highlighted in this post that I published at the end of June.

ScratchMath - Great Ideas for Using Scratch in Elementary Math

Last month I received an email from Jeffery Gordon in which he shared with me an online binary calculator that he created for his students. When I asked him for more information about the calculator and what he was teaching in general, he shared another cool resource with me. That resource is ScratchMath.

ScratchMath, written by Jeffery Gordon, is a free ebook filled with examples of using Scratch in elementary school math classes. The examples are Scratch models through which students can learn concepts dealing with place values, multiplication, and division. Each example includes the steps that need to be completed in Scratch to create models like a multiplication array, a divisibility checker, and factoring game.

For folks who are not familiar with Scratch, it is a free programming tool designed for students between the ages of eight and sixteen although it has been successfully used by younger and older students. Scratch uses a visual interface that helps students see how the parts of a program fit together to create a final product. Students create programs by dragging and dropping commands into a sequence. Programs that students create can vary from simple animations to complex multiplayer games. Visit the Scratch Educators page to learn more about how to use it in your classroom.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Running Android Apps on Your Chromebook

Chromebooks and the Chrome OS are constantly improving and offering more features to more students and teachers. An example of this is found when you consider that earlier this summer Google started supporting the use of some Android apps on some Chromebooks. Initially, the list of supported Chromebooks was small. That list has steadily grown over the last few weeks. You can see the list on the Chromium Projects website. Likewise, the list of Android apps that can be used on a Chromebook as steadily expanded. That list can be seen on this Chrome Web Store page (note, the page only displays the apps if you are viewing it on a Chromebook).

Jim Mendenhall has created a great webpage for comparing the features of various Chromebooks to help you find the best one for you and your students. Jim also recently published a video about how to use Android apps on Chromebooks. That video is embedded below.

Google Apps Terminology - A Short Explanation of Common Terms

Earlier this week I received an email from someone who was looking for clarification on the differences between Google Apps for Education, Google Drive, and Google Docs. That request for clarification isn't uncommon. Here's how I typically try to explain the differences between Google Apps for Education, Google Drive,  and Google Docs.

Google Apps for Education:
Google Apps for Education (commonly referred to as GAFE) is a free service that Google provides to schools. Within Google Apps for Education students, teachers, administrators, and support staff can use Google Classroom, Google Drive, Google Sites, Google Calendar, Gmail, and many other Google products. Google Classroom is only available to GAFE users. It provides a mechanism for teachers to distribute to and collect assignments from students. GAFE operates through a school/ school district's registered domain which means that user account names are typically structured as "username@yourawesomeschool.org" instead of "username@gmail.com." A domain administrator can set permissions on each account within a GAFE domain.

Google Drive:
Google Drive is a cloud storage solution offered by Google. It is available to anyone who has a Google Account of any type. Within Google Drive you can store any kind of file. Through Google Drive you have access to Google Documents, Google Slides, Google Sheets, Google Drawings, and Google Forms. Think of Google Drive as a garage in which you can store things and in that garage you also have tools (Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, Drawings) for creating new things.

Google Documents:
Google Documents is a free tool for creating and editing documents. It is designed to be an alternative to Word and other word processing programs. Google Docs can be used online or offline (provided that you use the Chrome web browser). You can share and collaborate on the creation and editing of documents with other Google Documents users.

Check out my playlist of tutorials on Google Apps, Google Drive, Google Documents, and other Google services.