Monday, September 19, 2016

How to Create, Share, and Print Thematic Maps

Google's My Maps and Google Earth tools can provide a great way to create thematic maps. Unfortunately, those tools are quite limited if your students don't have Google Accounts to use at school. National Geographic's Mapmaker Interactive is a free map creation tool that doesn't require students to have any kind of registered account in order to make great thematic maps.

Some of the excellent tools offered in Mapmaker Interactive include measuring distances, adding placemarks, layering information, and switching between base map layers. All maps created in Mapmaker Interactive can be printed. They can also be shared online. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of the features in National Geographic's Mapmaker Interactive.



Five Good Digital Exit Ticket Tools

One of the strategies that I use when creating lesson plans is to reflect on the previous lesson. Part of that reflection includes feedback from students. This can be done by simply asking students to raise their hands in response to a "did you get it?" type of question, but I like to have better record of responses than just a hand count. Here are some tools that can be used for collecting exit information from students.

Google Forms
Almost as soon as my school went 1:1 with netbooks, I started using Google Forms to collect responses from students. The Form that I created and frequently re-used simply asked students to respond to "what did you learn today?" and "what questions do you have for next class?"

Padlet
I started using Padlet back when it was called WallWisher. Padlet enables me to have students not only share exit responses as text, but to also share exit responses as hyperlinks. For example, if my students have been working on research projects I will ask them to share a link to something they found that day along with an explanation of how it is relevant to their research.

Plickers - For the classroom that isn't 1:1
If not every student in your classroom has a laptop or tablet to use, then you need to check out Plickers as a student response system. Plickers uses a teacher's iPad or Android tablet in conjunction with a series of QR codes to create a student response system. Students are given a set of QR codes on large index cards. The codes are assigned to students. Each code card can be turned in four orientations. Each orientation provides a different answer. When the teacher is ready to collect data, he or she uses the Plickers mobile app to scan the cards to see a bar graph of responses. In your teacher account on Plickers you can view and save all of the data that you collected from scanning your students' Plickers cards.

PingPong
PingPong provides you with a free and easy way to collect feedback from students in the forms of multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions. PingPong also lets you collect sketches from students which is a great way to have students illustrate solutions to mathematics problems or to submit diagrams to answer a question. A video demonstration of PingPong is included in this post.

Formative
Formative provides you with a place to create online classrooms. Your students join your classroom by entering the assigned class code after registering on the Formative website. Once your classroom is established you can begin distributing assignments to students. Assignments can be as simple as one question exit tickets like "what did you learn today?" to complex quizzes that use a combination of multiple choice, short answer, and true/false questions. You can assign point values to questions or leave them as ungraded questions. The best feature of Formative is the option to create "show your work" questions. "Show your work" questions enables students to draw responses and or upload pictures as responses to your questions. When you use this question type students will see a blank canvas directly below the question. On that canvas they can draw and or type responses.

I will be sharing more ideas for using Google Forms in my Practical Ed Tech course Getting Ready for GAFE. That course starts in October. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Wild Weather Kitchen Experiments

Wild Weather Kitchen Experiments is a short series of instructional videos produced by The Open University. Each of the four videos in the series features a short lesson followed by directions for an experiment that you can carry out to see the lesson's concepts in action. The four lessons are on avalanches, tornadoes, floods, and dust storms.

Applications for Education
The videos in the Wild Weather Kitchen Experiments series probably aren't terribly engaging. That said, Wild Weather Kitchen Experiments could be a good place to find ideas and directions for activities that your students can do in your classroom. Depending upon the age of your students, you may have to modify some of the experiments.

Fun and Short Smithsonian Videos

Ask Smithsonian is a fun video series featured on the Smithsonian Magazine website. All of the videos in the series are less than two minutes long. Each video tackles a fun topic in science. Some of the videos address questions that are less serious topics than others. For example, on the first page of Ask Smithsonian there is currently a video about why humans kiss alongside a video about how anesthesia works.


Applications for Education
The videos in Ask Smithsonian could be useful as fun lesson starters. I would also consider adding these videos to my classroom website to display as "bonus" materials for students to watch and respond to for extra credit points.

5 Common Classroom Blog Mistakes

A classroom blog can be a powerful tool for improving communication with parents, for building a sense of community amongst your students, and for creating a record of what you and your students have learned throughout a school year. But you can only reap these benefits of classroom blogs if you maintain the blog and avoid some of the most common mistakes made in classroom blogging.

1. Making it optional:
If you make it optional for students and parents to visit the classroom blog, they'll generally opt not to view it.

2. Inconsistency:
It is better to post once a week on the same day than it is to post three posts in one week and two the next and four the following week.

3. Lack of purpose:
I often hear people say, "I don't know what we should blog about." Without a defined purpose for a blog it is hard to come with ideas for individual blog posts. If you identify a purpose, "weekly reflections on learning" is a good purpose, you will find it easier to come up with topics for individual blog posts.

4. Not publicizing your blog:
You might be thinking, "but my blog is public, isn't that enough?" In the old days of blogging, it probably was enough to just make your blog public. People weren't distracted by social media networks on their phones and in their web browsers. Today, you need to remind people that your blog exists. Schedule your blog posts to be automatically Tweeted, shared on Facebook, and sent in email.

5. Leaving out the visuals:
Apply the old adage of, "a picture tells a thousand words" to your blog posts. Putting an image or two into every blog post helps to draw readers into your posts. If you don't have a picture that exactly matches your blog post's topic, create one in service like Canva.

I'll be covering these topics and many more in my upcoming webinar series Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders.