Monday, January 16, 2017

A Note About Toontastic 3D on Chromebooks

A couple of hours ago I received an email from a reader who seemed slightly annoyed with me because she couldn't find Toontastic 3D for Chrome. It is available to use on Chromebooks, the video that I shared here was made on an Acer R11 Chromebook, but you need to be viewing the Google Play store on a Chromebook that supports Toontastic 3D and other Android apps.

If you're using a school-issued Chromebook, you may need to check with your network/ domain administrator to make sure that he/she hasn't placed any restrictions on your Chromebook that would prevent you from installing Toontastic 3D.

A Map of Languages

Locallingual is an interactive map of languages and dialects around the world. You can click on the map to read the language(s) spoken within a country, province, state, or city. You can then click on the listed language(s) to hear words and phrases spoken by people who live in that area. It's a neat way to discover the differences in how a language is spoken from one region to the next.

Applications for Education
Locallingual is a crowd-sourced project which means there are audio contributions from all kinds of people. Rather than directing your students to explore the site on their own, I would select some specific examples and play them for my students. In other words, you'll want to moderate what is played in your classroom. I listened to about a dozen recordings today and heard one recording that I definitely would not play in my classroom.

H/T to Maps Mania for the Locallingual link. 

MoocNote Offers a Chrome Extension for Taking Notes on Videos

MoocNote is a good tool for adding time-stamped notes to the videos that you watch. You can also use it to create time-stamped questions for others to answer while watching a shared video. MoocNote works with videos from YouTube as well as videos that you import from Google Drive or Dropbox.

The latest update to MoocNote introduced a Chrome extension for taking notes and answering questions while watching a video on YouTube. With the extension installed you don't need to open the MoocNote site in a separate tab or window.

Applications for Education
MoocNote includes an option for creating groups or classes. You can create public or private groups with which you share your video lessons. You can arrange all of your videos into courses then share those courses with the group. If your course is a work in progress, you can add to it as needed and everyone in your group will see the additional content as you add it.

Next Vista's Video Contests Show Great Examples of Student Productions

This is a guest post from Ruston Hurley, the founder of Next Vista for Learning.

Imagine that your students are thinking of ways to explain challenging concepts to their peers or younger students. Can they put "Think of it this way…" into short videos that would help others for years to come?

Getting an idea for making such pieces is a lot easier if your students have watched a variety of videos made with exactly that aim in mind. But where do you find such videos?

Next Vista for Learning's 90-second video contests are designed to highlight clear and creative approaches to learning something one might encounter in school. Here are three finalists from recent contests:

Symbolism in Shakespeare: Ophelia's Flowers

Pi Day


Once students understand that a video could be built many ways - stop motion, narrated art, footage from phones, etc. - they can become more creative about what they put together for your class.

Next Vista's fall contest finished in December, and if you would like to help choose the winners (and see a nice variety of short videos, too), send an email to (with "contest judging" in the subject line), and they'll get info to you on how to take part.

Share the videos with your students, and they can get a sense of what others do to explain challenging concepts in a concise video.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Tips for Accessing Sites Blocked by Your School

I originally published this a few years ago. I'm bringing it back up because I was recently asked about this issue again.

For those hoping that this post might teach you how to bypass filters, I'm sorry there is nothing in this post about bypassing filters. That's not a strategy that I endorse. 

I can't tell you how many times I've presented a website or tool at a workshop and a teacher has said, "that's great, but my school blocks everything." Having useful sites blocked is frustrating for everyone. I've been there. In the fall of 2009 I returned to school after the summer break to find that all of the sites (VoiceThread, Wikispaces, Blogger, Animoto, and others) that I had planned to use were blocked by the new filter that had been in place. Fortunately, my principal was willing to listen to me and some of my colleagues and he overruled the network administrator. If you find yourself in a similar situation, try these things before throwing up your hands in frustration.

Tactics for getting access to the websites that you want to use.
1. Attitude: don't sit back and complain quietly, don't sit back and complain loudly. Rather you should go to the top with research and a plan. Straight Talk from the DOE is a good place to start that research.

2. Relationships: if I didn't have a good working relationship with my principal I wouldn't be able to walk into his and have him seriously consider what I ask for.

3. Persistence: changing a school's or a district's policy isn't going to happen overnight.

4. Recruit supporters: if it's just you leading the fight you might be looked at as "that crazy teacher," if there is two of you you might be looked at as "those crazy teachers," but if you can get a third supporter then you've started a grassroots movement. This is an idea that I borrowed from this Ted Talk by Derek Sivers and from Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant.

Update: Shortly after this post went live Doug Johnson emailed me with a link to something he wrote on the same topic a couple of years ago. Doug outlines ten steps in his post. But what I like best about his post is the chart that he uses to show the correlation between "knowledge of educational uses" and "permissiveness of internet use." Take a look at Doug's chart here.