Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How to Use Wolfram Alpha Inside Google Docs

Wolfram Alpha is a search engine that is probably best known for helping students solve mathematics problems. But there is more to Wolfram Alpha than just computational data. Wolfram Alpha can help students quickly locate information about famous people in history, locate socioeconomic data, find science data, and even help students find information about music theory. Unlike on Google or Bing, when students search on Wolfram Alpha they won't be shown a list of links. When students search Wolfram Alpha they will be shown organized collections of information. That is why Wolfram Alpha and Google searches can complement each other.

Wolfram Alpha offers a free Google Docs Add-on that students can use to conduct research without leaving the documents they're viewing. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to install and use the Wolfram Alpha Google Docs Add-on.



The following video offers a brief overview of what makes Wolfram Alpha different from other search engines.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

10 Thanksgiving Lesson Resources and Ideas

American Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. Should you find yourself in need of some Thanksgiving-themed lesson ideas, take a look at the following resources.

Favorite Thanksgiving dishes, like all favorite foods, vary from region to region. The New York Times has a neat site about the favorite Thanksgiving dishes served in each state (and D.C. and Puerto Rico). The United States of Thanksgiving lists the signature Thanksgiving dish of each state. Select a state and find a dish. The recipe for each dish is included on each page.

The United States of Thanksgiving could be a good resource to use in conjunction with History of Harvest and Map Your Recipe. By using all three resources your students can identify a favorite Thanksgiving dish then learn about where the ingredients come from and how they get to the dining room table.

Voyage on the Mayflower is a nice resource produced by Scholastic. Voyage on the Mayflower has two parts for students to explore. The first part is an interactive map of the journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Students can click on placemarks on the map to read and hear about the journey. The second part of the Voyage on the Mayflower takes students "inside" the Mayflower to see and hear about the parts of the ship.

The First Thanksgiving: Daily Life is another online activity produced by Scholastic. Daily Life is comparison of the lifestyles of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. Students can click through each aspect of daily life to see a comparison of housing, clothing, food, chores, school, and games.

The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings tells the story of Thanksgiving 1939. In 1939 Thanksgiving was going to fall on the last day of November which caused merchants to be worried about a shortened shopping season. In response to this concern President Roosevelt proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be moved up one week. Some states chose to ignore this proclamation and celebrate Thanksgiving on the last day of the month anyway. The conflict was finally resolved in 1941 when Congress passed a law stating that Thanksgiving would always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month. The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings is supported by ten primary source documents. Included in those documents are letters from merchants appealing to FDR to change the day of Thanksgiving and letters opposing the change.

ReadWorks is a non-profit service that offers hundreds of lesson plans and more than two thousand reading non-fiction and fiction passages aligned to Common Core standards. For the (American) Thanksgiving season ReadWorks is offering a set of non-fiction articles about Thanksgiving. The set includes articles appropriate for all K-12 students. Each article is accompanied by ten reading comprehension questions. Those questions are a mix of multiple choice and open-ended questions.

When Is Thanksgiving? Colonizing America is an episode in John Green's Crash Course on US History. The video starts with the history of Jamestown before moving onto Plymouth. Green does a good job of illustrating the differences between why and how each colony was established. This is video is suitable for high school students, but Green's use of sarcasm (which I actually like) and the details would probably be lost on middle school students.



The History Channel's History of Thanksgiving provides a short overview of the history of American Thanksgiving. This video is suitable for middle school students.




Last year my nieces, with the help of their mother, created "thankful posters." When I saw this I thought that it was a perfect fit for a ThingLink project.

ThingLink makes it easy to create interactive, multimedia images. Upload a picture of a turkey and you or your students can add interactive pins to it. Those pins can include text, images, audio, or video. You can go back and edit your image at any time. So in that way you could have students add one new item to their images every day or two. Images can be emailed and or embedded into blog posts so that your students' parents can see them.

The videos embedded below demonstrate how to use ThingLink.



ThingLink Edu provides teachers with tools to manage students' accounts. Students don't need email addresses in order to use ThingLink.

The Great Thanksgiving Listen is a StoryCorps project intended to facilitate conversations between students and adult family members over Thankgiving weekend. StoryCorps has released a toolkit for teachers to use to guide students in the process of recording interviews with family members. In the toolkit you will find an interview planning sheet and two pages of interview question suggestions. The toolkit recommends using the StoryCorps mobile apps to capture the conversations. The StoryCorps mobile apps includes question prompts and a suggested script for conducting interviews.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Four Tools for Making Audio Recordings on Chromebooks

A couple of weeks ago I was mentioned in a Tweet from someone who was looking for suggestions for tools that his students could use to create audio recordings on their Chromebooks. The following are my suggestions based on my preferences.

1. Vocaroo - this is the simplest of all of the recording tools. To record you simply go to Vocaroo.com, hit the recording button, and start talking. When you're done speaking you can download the recording as an MP3 or share it online by distributing the link assigned to your recording or by embedding it into a blog or website. With the simplicity of Vocaroo comes some limitations including the lack of an option to edit your recording. Learn more about Vocaroo in my video tutorial on it.

2. Twisted Wave - Through TwistedWave you can create and edit spoken audio recordings from scratch. Your completed tracks can be exported to Google Drive and SoundCloud. If you have existing audio tracks in your SoundCloud or Google Drive account you can also import it into TwistedWave to edit those audio tracks. TwistedWave's audio editing tools include options for fade-in, fade-out, looping, sound normalization, and pitch adjustments. The editor also includes the typical track clipping tools that you would expect to see in an audio editing tool. Learn how to use Twisted Wave by watching the tutorial on my YouTube channel.

3. SoundCloud - SoundCloud's online platform lets students record and publish from their free accounts. Recordings can be made private or public. Students can add cover images to their recordings which is nice way to provide a visual representation of what their podcasts are about. SoundCloud offers an option to insert comments into the track of a recording. That feature offers a nice way for teachers to provide their students with time-stamped feedback. Learn more about recording on SoundCloud by watching this tutorial.

4. Mic Note is a free Chrome app that allows you to create voice recordings, text notes, and image-based notes on one concise notebook page. The notes that you record with your voice can be time-stamped by clicking on your Mic Note note page while you're recording. You can also take notes without recording any audio. All notes support inclusion of images and links. The best part of Mic Note is that you can sync all of your notes to your Google Drive or Dropbox account. Mic Note is featured in this video on my YouTube channel.

A 5 Week Jump-start on G Suite for Education

Next Monday night I will be starting a new section of my popular online course Getting Going With G Suite for Education. This course is designed for folks who are new to using G Suite for Education (formerly called Google Apps for Education) in their classrooms. People often ask me for an outline of what is covered in the course. The general outline of the course is as follows.

Week 1: Google Docs & Slides.
We cover how these tools work, but more importantly we cover strategies to take advantage of the collaborative aspects of these tools.

Week 2: Google Forms & Sheets
How to create quizzes, surveys, and other data collection forms. We'll look at how to create self-grading, multimedia assessments. We'll also dive into using Google Forms and Sheets to streamline your workflow.

Week 3: Google Calendar & Mail
In this week we tackle creating and sharing calendars to keep your students and their parents informed of important dates. We'll also examine how you can use Google Calendar to let students and parents book appointments with you. Finally, we jump into Google Mail and the overlooked features that can make your email life a little easier.

Week : Google Sites
In this week we'll learn how to use Google Sites to create a classroom website and blog. We'll also learn how to use it as a classroom wiki and as a digital portfolio.

Week 5: Google Classroom
Google Classroom is covered in the last session as it ties together everything that was created in weeks 1-4.

This PracticalEdTech course starts next Monday at 7pm EST. The course costs $147. There is a discount available to subscribers to the PracticalEdTech.com newsletter.

Whenever I offer these courses some people ask why the courses aren't free. There are quite a few reasons, but two primary reasons. The fees to license GoToTraining and to host the recordings are not cheap. The other reason is that free webinars have a very low turn-out rate. I want to help you as best as I can and I can't do that if you don't attend the webinar. When you pay to register you're making a commitment to attend and pay attention on a higher level than just filling out a form and saying, "yes, I'll attend." I've experienced this first-hand as I frequently pay to attend professional development webinars myself. When I pay, I show up and I pay attention much more than if I didn't have to pay anything for the webinar.

PrepFactory Helps Students Develop SAT & ACT Strategies

PrepFactory is a popular site for SAT and ACT practice activities. This fall PrepFactory added practice activities for middle school language arts and math topics. While the practice activities on their own are useful, they're more useful if students first complete the strategies lessons in PrepFactory.

In each section of PrepFactory students have the option to complete a strategy review before attempting a series of review activities. Alternatively, students can just go to the strategy section of PrepFactory's ACT & SAT sections. In the strategy section students can work through eight modules. The strategy module begins with an overview of the ACT and SAT in general. That section includes knowledge of the purpose of the test and general strategies that can be applied to almost any other test-taking situation. After completing the general strategies section students move on and work through seven specific methods for handling the sections of the ACT and SAT exams.
To keep the strategy lessons engaging, PrepFactory uses a variety of question formats throughout each unit. Students won't be slogging through the same style of multiple choice for hours on end to complete a strategy review. Instead, each section is kept short and sweet with a mix of multiple choice, sorting, and fill-in-the-blank activities.

As your students start to think about the next ACT or SAT offering, have them try the strategy reviews in PrepFactory to prepare to do their best.

Disclosure: PrepFactory is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com