Friday, January 13, 2017

18 Cartoon Videos About Cyber Safety for Students

Planet Nutshell produces short animated videos to explain products, services, and concepts. One of their series of videos is all about Internet safety for K-12 students. The series is called NetSafe and it has eighteen episodes covering topics like protecting personal information, responsible posting of pictures, and mobile location privacy. The videos are labeled with grade levels so that students in high school don't watch videos designed for K-3 students. A video for K-3 students and a video for high school students are embedded below.


First Steps With Shared Chromebooks

Earlier this week I received an email from a reader who had just received Chromebooks to use in his classroom, but not enough Chromebooks that every student has his or her own. He had some questions about how to get started using the Chromebooks in his classroom. Those questions and my answers appear below.

What are the initial things/steps I should do first?
Since your students will be sharing Chromebooks you will need to decide if you are going to have students use the Chromebooks as guests or if you are going to let them create profiles on the Chromebooks that they use.

Using a Chromebook as a guest means that nothing will be saved on the Chromebook with regards to downloads and personal settings such as background images or specific app log-ins. It's important to note that students can still log into their personal Google Drive or Chrome accounts while in guest mode. It just won't let them save log-in information or downloads. Directions for using guest mode can be found here.

Using a Chromebook while logged into an account will let students save preferences and downloads. You can have multiple students use the same Chromebook and each will have his or her own log-on information. It's important to remind students to log-out when they are done using the Chromebook. If a student doesn't log-out, the next student to use that Chromebook will have access to the previous user's information. Learn more about adding multiple accounts to a Chromebook on this help page.

For the first steps in using any Chromebook whether shared or not, consult this help page.

What are the necessary things I should be doing with these?
That is kind of a broad question, but I'll take it to mean "necessary things beyond initial set-up." In that case I'll offer that you should be planning to do activities that go beyond the basics of web browsing, word processing, and simple game play. You might start planning a summative video project in which students show what they know. I have list of Chromebook-friendly video tools. I also have an on-demand webinar about planning video projects.

To get the most out of Chromebooks, like any other computing device that you introduce into your classroom, you need to take some time to list the ways that you would like to see them used then look for the apps that can help your students do that.

Any must have apps?
Aside from the standard G Suite for Education tools, the apps that I most often recommend are Google Keep, Nimbus Screenshot,  Videonot.es, Twisted Wave, and Task Timer.

Google Keep is great for making to-do lists, setting reminders, and bookmarking websites.

Nimbus Screenshot is a fantastic tool for taking screenshots and or making screencast videos on a Chromebook. I've found the quality of Nimbus Screenshot videos to be better than those of the more well-known Screencastify.

VideoNot.es is a good tool for students to use to take notes while watching YouTube videos.

Twisted Wave is a free tool for creating audio recordings that can be saved directly to a student's Google Drive account.

Task Timer is just a simple timer tool that students can use to track the time they spend on a task or to set a time limit for an activity.


Any recommendations on how I should use these in my every day math and science classroom?
If you have touchscreen Chromebooks like the Acer R11 or Acer R14, you might start using Google Drawings or Google Forms with the g(math) Add-on so that your students can complete math and science problems while showing you their work and submitting it through Google Classroom. You might also use the Chromebooks as data collection and analysis tools. Google Forms and Spreadsheets can help students see data in a variety of visualizations.

Take a look at using Scratch to teach your students some programming skills. More importantly, they'll learn a bit about logic and sequencing through the process of using Scratch. MIT's App Inventor will let your students develop and test Android apps on their Chromebooks.


You can learn lots of ways to use Chromebooks in your classroom during the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp this July. 


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tips for Setting Up AP History DBQ Essays

Tom Richey has a great YouTube channel for history students and teachers. In addition to lessons on a wide variety of topics in U.S. and World History, he also offers videos on strategies for studying and writing. One of his recent strategy videos is Setting Up Your AP History DBQ.

Setting Up Your AP History DBQ walks students through what they need to know in order to craft a good essay that meets the benchmarks for the seven tasks of the redesigned AP US, Euro, and World History DBQs. The video is embedded below.

Check out Tom Richey's YouTube channel for more great videos for high school history students.

How Igloos Can Keep You Warm - And Winter Phys Ed Activities

How an Igloo Keeps You Warm is a new video from It's Okay To Be Smart. The video does a great job of explaining how an igloo provides insulation and stays relatively warm when people are inside it. The video also explains the engineering concepts used in the creation of a strong and warm igloo.


Winter is a tough time to get outside and exercise. But if you have some fun activities planned, it is a little bit easier to go outside. Here are some fun and somewhat educational activities to do in the snow.

NOVA, as part of their program on Denali, has directions for building a snow cave and directions for building an Igloo. (If you do either of these activities, make sure that you closely supervise students. A collapsed snow cave or igloo can be very dangerous).

Boys' Life offers a list of outdoor winter games as well as directions for building igloos and snow shelters.

Making your own snowshoes is an activity that can be done indoors with the final product enjoyed outdoors. Mother Earth News offers directions for making your own snowshoes. How Cast has video directions for making an emergency pair of snowshoes.


When I was about seven or eight I was given a copy of The American Boy's Handy Book. That book is filled with fun hands-on indoor and outdoor activities including an entire section devoted to snow forts and other snow-related activities.

10 Free Ways to Create Videos on Chromebooks

Last week I published an updated list of tools for creating videos on Chromebooks. It's time to update it again as I forgot to include Pixiclip which I featured in a post earlier this week.

Pixiclip is a free tool for creating simple instructional videos. Pixiclip provides you with a blank whiteboard on which you can draw, type, or insert images. You can record your voice as you draw or type on the screen. A variety of drawing tools is provided in Pixiclip. You can use Pixiclip without creating an account on the service. If you do create an account you can keep your videos private. Learn more about Pixiclip in my video embedded below.



My Simpleshow is a free tool for creating Common Craft style explanatory videos. The best aspect of My Simpleshow is the emphasis that the developers have placed on storyline planing and development. As is demonstrated in my tutorial below, students have to write a script on My Simpleshow before they can begin to use the video editing tools. (Disclosure: My Simpleshow is an advertiser on this blog).



Adobe Spark is a suite of free tools for creating images, videos, and simple web pages. Key features of Adobe Spark's web app include an integrated Creative Commons image search tool, the option to download images as JPEGs, and the option to download your videos as MP4 files. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create images, web pages, and videos with Adobe Spark in your web browser.


Sharalike is a good option to consider when you want to create an audio slideshow. To create an audio slideshow on Sharalike simply import some images from your computer, your Android device or from your iPad, drag them into the sequence in which you want them to appear, and then add some music. Sharalike offers a small collection of stock music that you can use or you can upload your own music.



PowToon is a popular tool for creating animated videos online. PowToon provides a drag-and-drop editor for creating animated videos. The videos that you create feature digital paper cut-outs on a colorful background. Think of PowToon as an online tool for creating videos in the style made popular by Common Craft. PowToon provides drawings of people and objects that you can arrange on blank canvas. After adding your narration to the arrangement you can publish your video.

Magisto is a video creation tool that allows you to quickly drag videos and images from your desktop and or Google Drive account to your Magisto account. After you've uploaded the media that you want mixed, select a theme and music for your video.From the video clips and images that you upload, Magisto will select the best portions to remix and blend together. Magisto creates your video after you've completed the steps of uploading media, selecting a theme, and choosing music. The final video is emailed to you. In addition to the web-based service Magisto offers a Chrome app, an Android app, and an iPad app.


WeVideo offers the most features of any of the tools in this list. It is an online video creation tool that I have written about many times over the last few years. WeVideo offers templates that new users can follow to create their first videos. Advanced WeVideo users can skip the templates, use the full editor, and apply themes to their videos by choosing them from the themes menu in the editor. In the video editor you can upload your own media clips or use stock media clips to produce your video. WeVideo's Google Drive app allows you to save all of your video projects in your Google Drive account. WeVideo also offers an Android app and an iPhone app that students can use to capture images and video footage to add to their projects.

Nimbus Screenshot is my favorite tool for creating screencast videos on Chromebooks. It is easy to install, includes customizable countdown timer, and offers multiple ways to save and share your videos. Screencasts recorded with Nimbus Screenshot can be saved to your local drive or to an online Nimbus account. I chose to save to my local drive then upload to my YouTube channel. You could also save to your local drive then share to Google Drive or another online storage service.

Recording a video with the webcam on your Chromebook can be accomplished through the use of a free Chrome app called CaptureCast. CaptureCast, produced by Cattura Video, allows you to record the screen on your Chromebook as well as input from your webcam. To record a video with the webcam on your Chromebook open CaptureCast in your browser then allow it to access your webcam and microphone. You can specify how high of a resolution you would like to use to capture your video. You can also choose your audio quality. If you have an external microphone connected to your Chromebook, make sure that you have it enabled before you start recording. When you have finished recording in CaptureCast you can save your video on your Chromebook or upload it to YouTube, to Vimeo, or to Google Drive.

Finally, YouTube offers some good video creation and editing tools that most people overlook. One of those tools allows you to combine video clips to make one longer video. You can combine your own videos and or use video clips from YouTube's gallery of Creative Commons licensed videos. So while your students aren't limited to just their videos, they also just can't grab any old video from YouTube, like this chart-topper, to include in their projects.

You can learn more about how to use YouTube's overlooked features in YouTube, It's Not Just Cats & Khan Academy