Monday, October 10, 2016

Planning on Paper - The Material, Not the App

One of the things that I mention in my keynote Leading Students In a Hyper-connected World is the need for teaching students to have some time disconnected from the Internet and mobile networks. A couple of years ago I heard Chris Brogan sum this up nicely by saying "paper doesn't have a new browser window." In other words, doing something on paper creates a good obstacle to distracting yourself with Facebook, email, or some other non-essential task.

Chris made his comment in the context of planning and task management. I apply that comment to the process of brainstorming and or reflecting. Taking the time to read a book, to write some ideas on paper, or to simply go for a walk give out brains time to wonder and develop new-to-us ideas without the distraction of digital input.

Don't get me wrong, I love some of the digital brainstorming and project management tools that we have available to us. There is a time for using those (iBrainstorm is one of my favorite brainstorming apps), but there is also a time for not using digital tools too. As our students grow up in a hyper-connected world, it is will be increasingly important to take the time to teach them when being connected might not be the best choice.

Three Lessons About the Sound of the Human Voice

"I hate the way my voice sounds," is often said by students and teachers the first time they hear their own voices on a podcast or video. This is because most people aren't accustomed to hearing their own voices the way that others hear it. Why does your voice sound different to you when you hear it on a recording? BrainStuff has the answer to that question in the following video.

Exploratorium offers a related lesson that explains why you think your voice sounds great when you're singing in your shower.

BrainStuff has another related video lesson titled Why Do Men Have Deeper Voices? Through this video students can learn how vocal cords change during puberty and how the length and thickness of vocal cords changes the sound of your voice.

Try a service like Vizia or EDpuzzle to create interactive quizzes based on these video lessons. You can learn more about both of those tools on page 20 of the free Practical Ed Tech Handbook.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

16 Things You Can Do To Add More Functions to Your Classroom Blog

After you have identified some goals for your blog and created its basic framework, you'll might find yourself asking, "what else can I do with my blog?" There are lots of third-party functions that you can add to most blogs. I like to add the Remind widget to classroom blogs. Similarly, most blogging platforms have handy, hidden features that you can activate. For example, most blogging platforms let you feature a specific post above all others. In my playlist of blogging tips you can learn how to add 16 additional functions to your classroom blog.

Most of these tips are based on the Blogger platform, but most will work on other platforms too.

Harvest of History - The History of Farming in North America

Harvest of History is a website produced by the Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, New York (also the site of the Baseball Hall of Fame). Harvest of History is designed to help students and teachers explore the origins and development of modern farming practices. The basis for Harvest of History is to explore the question, "where did your last meal come from?"

Applications for Education
Harvest of History is designed with elementary school students in mind. The teachers' page provides 16 lesson plans for use with students of fourth grade age. The question, "where did you last meal come from?" and some of the content of Harvest of History could also be used with older students to spark discussion about the development of modern agriculture.

Electoral Decoder Shows Students the Math of Presidential Elections

Throughout 2016 PBS has been steadily adding more features to their Election Central website for students. Electoral Decoder is one of the recent additions to the site that I discovered through an ad on Facebook.

Electoral Decoder uses cartograms to show students the math of the Electoral College. In other words, it shows them that geographically large states like Wyoming have fewer Electoral votes than geographically smaller states with large populations. The Electoral Decoder also illustrates how a candidate can be the victor in the majority of states while losing the overall election. Finally, students can use the Electoral Decoder to identify voting patterns along geographic lines. For example, in 1860 Lincoln won the general election without being the victor in any of the southern states.

Students can use the timeline slider on the Electoral Decoder to view the outcome of any and all Presidential Elections in the history of the United States. Below the cartogram and timeline for each election, students will find resources like videos to learn more about each election.

Applications for Education
One of the neat things that students can do with the Electoral Decoder is look at how many possible ways a candidate could win an election. Challenge your students to figure out how many combinations of states would work for a candidate to win this year's election.

Videos explaining the Electoral College:
This TED-Ed lesson offers a short explanation of the Electoral College by answering the question, "does your vote count?" The video for the lesson is embedded below.

Common Craft offers The Electoral College in Plain English.