Thursday, February 2, 2017

Know Recorder - Create Whiteboard Videos on iPads and Android Tablets

Know Recorder is a free iPad app and free Android app for creating whiteboard-style instructional videos. With Know Recorder installed on your iPad or Android device you can draw and talk while the app records everything that you do and say. Your video can have multiple pages which is a nice feature when you want to give a multiple step demonstration without having to erase anything. Know Recorder will let you import PDFs and pictures to display and annotate on screen in your instructional video. Completed videos can be saved to your device's camera roll, exported to YouTube, or shared to Know Lounge. Know Lounge is the community site for sharing lessons created with Know Recorder.

Applications for Education
Of the all of the free apps that offer this service, Know Recorder is probably the best overall for teachers. With this app you can create all kinds of instructional videos. You could use it to create a math lesson, use it to create a science lesson in which you're explaining parts of a diagram or illustration, you could also use to show students how to analyze text.

Edublogs Now Offers Pro Features for Free!

Edublogs is a blogging service designed for classrooms. For the last four or five years many of the services that they offered were only available to people who subscribed to the "Pro" version of Edublogs at a cost of $39.95/year. Most of those "Pro" features will be available for free beginning today.

The Edublogs Pro features that are available for free now include the ability for all teachers to manage their students' accounts. That feature lets teachers moderate students' blogs, monitor students' posting and commenting activities, and manage invitations to blog authors.

One of my biggest complaints about the previous version of Edublogs was that you had to pay to be able to include videos in your blog posts. That restriction has been removed. Ronnie Burt, the General Manager of Edublogs, confirmed to me this morning that all users will now be able to include videos in their blog posts. To include a video you will just have to insert a link to the video in order to have the video displayed for viewing.

From a security standpoint, all Edublogs users will now be able to make blog posts private and or password protected. Users will also be able to make entire blogs private.

In the design realm, all Edublogs users now have access to all of the design themes and templates in the Edublogs gallery. All users can now have access to dozens of plug-ins to enhance their blogs with additional functions not found in standard blog templates.

Applications for Education
The new enhancements to Edublogs' free plan make it a better option for teachers who are looking for a classroom-friendly blogging tool. Being able to monitor and moderate students' activities on individual or group blogs provides the peace of mind that many teachers and parents need in order to let students blog.

Identity Theft and How to Prevent It - A New Common Craft Video

Not every attempt at identity theft is as obvious as the Nigerian Prince scam. Attempts at identity theft come in the forms of emails that look like they might be from your bank and phone calls from people asking you to give away "confirm" your account information. I once had someone attempt to get me to divulge my health insurance account number in a phone call placed at 8:30pm on a Friday. Being aware of the signs of an identity theft scam is the best way to avoid falling for them. In a new video, Common Craft explains what identity theft is, the signs of it, and how to avoid it.

Applications for Education
How to identify online scams should be a part of any lessons about responsible Internet use. This video would also be useful in consumer education courses.

Disclosure: I have an in-kind business relationship with Common Craft. 

Articles and Lessons About Weather - From ReadWorks

ReadWorks is a great service that provides lesson plans designed around nonfiction and fiction articles. All of the articles provided by ReadWorks are labeled with a suggested grade level and a Lexile score. The ReadWorks Digital classroom service provides teachers with a free way to distribute assignments and monitor students' progress. Learn more about ReadWorks Digital in this video.

Recently, ReadWorks published a collection of articles and lesson plans organized around the topic of weather. Through these articles and lesson plans students can learn about what causes rain, wind, and changes in temperature. The collection offers something for every K-12 classroom.

Applications for Education
In December I published a collection of resources for teaching about winter weather. The collection that ReadWorks offers is great for teaching about weather during other seasons of the year. One of the nice things about ReadWorks articles is that all of them are accompanied by vocabulary lists and guided reading questions.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Change the Dialect to Change Your Search Results

One of the points that I always make in my Search Strategies webinar is the importance of thinking about how other people describe the topic you're researching. Here are two examples of how that has had an effect on my travel planning.

Going to Australia
A couple of years ago I gave the opening keynote for a conference in Australia. Since the trip to Australia from Portland, Maine is about the longest one I could make without leaving Earth's atmosphere, I spent some time researching the best flights and seats within those flights.

To do my research I turned to the message board community on (it's kind of like Consumer Reports meets Trip Advisor for airlines). Once it was determined that I would be flying Qantas (I didn't have much choice on that matter) from Dallas to Sydney I set out to see what people were saying about seats on the A380 that flies on that route. I started out using the name Dallas in my search, but I didn't see nearly as many posts on the topic as I had hoped. Further, the posts that I did find were written by people who had made relatively few contributions to the community. After reading some not-so-helpful post I realized that most frequent contributors to the community don't actually spell out full city names. Instead, they use airport abbreviation codes like DFW when writing about Dallas. As soon as I switched out Dallas and for DFW in my search I found a lot more posts from frequent contributors to the FlyerTalk community.

Storing luggage in London
The first time that I went to London for the BETT Show I needed to store some of my luggage at the conference center during the day. It isn't uncommon for large conference centers to offer a luggage hold service for a nominal fee. I wanted to confirm my hunch in advance so I spent some time searching on the BETT and conference center websites for “coat check,” “bag check,” “coat room,” and “bag storage” in the hopes of confirming my assumption. My searches were fruitless.

Eventually I confirmed my assumption about a baggage check when I stumbled upon a map of the conference center. In browsing around the map I discovered a “cloakroom.” When I hear “cloak” I instantly think of the Count Chocula character from the cereal boxes of the 1980’s (my mother never let us eat that kind of cereal despite our pleas). I never thought to use the word “cloak” in any of my searches for information about storing my jacket and small bag for the afternoon. Cloak is just not a regular part of my American vernacular.

How this applies to students:
Five or six years ago I heard my friend Tom Daccord at (an advertiser on this blog) give an example of social studies students researching films of the early 20th Century. In his example Tom mentioned that the students who insisted on using the term "movies" in their searches didn't get nearly as far as those who used terms like "talkies," "moving pictures," and "cinema." This was due to the fact that "movies" wasn't a part of the common dialect of film critics in the early 20th Century.

For students to understand the dialect of the topics that they are researching, they will have to do some prior reading and learning on the topic. One thing that I've asked students to do when reading primary sources that I've distributed to them is to highlight or write down the terms and phrases that are new to them. Often those highlighted terms and phrases often end up being a huge asset to them when they are trying to choose the best terms to use in Google searches.

By the way, if you copy and paste a primary document into Google Docs then share it with students, it is very easy for them to highlight new-to-them phrases and for you to see what they've highlighted.