Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Workbench Offers Good Hands-on STEM Activities

Workbench is a service that offers a huge catalog of hands-on learning activities for students. Last month at the ISTE conference I got to see one of the activities in action. That was a project in which students create and program their own controllers for a Sphero ball. You can see the results of the project in this short Instagram video.

The project that is shown in my video is just one of dozens of hands-on STEM projects for students. Some require electronics and others can be completed with nothing more than soda bottles, paper, or Legos. For example, one of the currently featured projects is this composting activity.

All Workbench projects include a list of required materials and the sequence of steps to guide your students through to completion of the project. Of course, you could also let students figure out the steps they need to take and let them learn a bit more by trial and error.

Try YouTube Live To Reach More Students

Back in May I shared how Tom Richey was using YouTube Live to host AP World History review sessions for students. That's one way to use YouTube Live to help your students. Another way to use YouTube Live is to broadcast and record lessons from your classroom.

As I explained and demonstrated yesterday at the Upstate Technology Conference in South Carolina, you can rather easily broadcast yourself teaching a lesson. Get a cheap tripod for your phone and point it in the direction of where you're standing to give a short lesson. Turn on the YouTube Live broadcast from the YouTube app for iPhone or Android and it starts broadcasting and recording. The recording can then be embedded into your blog or shared in your Google Classroom.

Applications for Education
Broadcasting your lesson can help you reach students who are absent from your class. They can either watch live and ask questions via the Q&A feature of YouTube Live or they can watch the recording later.

Monday, July 10, 2017

5 New Google Forms Features

Earlier today Google announced the release of five new features for Google Forms users. Four of the five new features are significant for most users. 

The first update to Google Forms to note is a new response format option. A new "checkbox grid" response format lets you create questions that require multiple responses. For example, you can ask people to pick a day from a list of choices then choose a time from a list of choices. 

The second update that stood out to me is an improved file upload option. Google Forms can now accept file uploads as responses from respondents outside of your domain. For a while now you have been able to create questions to which respondents upload a file as a response. That option was previously limited to only accepting files from people who had a G Suite account in the same domain as you. (The caveat to this being that your domain and the respondent's domain both allow cross-domain sharing). 

The third update of note is a new option to choose your own default settings for new Forms that you create. This means that you could set default point values for quiz questions on every Form that you create. 

A new response validation option is the fourth update that some teachers will appreciate. Google is calling this feature "intelligent response validation." This means that if you ask a question like "what is your email address?" and the response isn't a properly formatted email address, the Form will prompt respondents to correct the submission. 

Finally, there is a new option to move entire sections of a Form through a simple drag-and-drop. This works the same way as reordering individual questions. 

It's important to note that it could take a few weeks for all of these new features to appear in your G Suite for Education domain. 

TagCrowd Offers Three Ways to Create Word Clouds

TagCrowd offers three ways to create word clouds. You can create a word cloud by copying and pasting text into TagCrowd, you can upload a plain text file, or you can copy and paste a web address into TagCrowd. After using one of those three methods you can specify how many words you want to display, you can select to show the word count in your word cloud, and you specify words to exclude (common words like "the" are automatically ignored). TagCrowd supports fifteen languages.

Applications for Education
TagCrowd, like other word cloud generators, can be useful in helping students identify the words that are emphasized in a written article or a speech. After creating their word clouds ask your students to think about why the author or speaker used some words so frequently.

Word clouds can also be used to help students see which words that they have frequently used in their own works. Have your students create word clouds of their work during the revision process of writing a story or essay. The word cloud will quickly show students which words they have used a lot. Then ask them to think about synonyms for the words that they have used most often in their writings. 

Join Me Tomorrow Night for a Practical Ed Tech Jumpstart

The landscape of educational technology is constantly changing and it's easy to feel like you don't know where to start. That's why I created the Practical Ed Tech Jumpstart for you. This three week online course will walk you through a simple yet powerful framework for using technology in your classroom. You'll come away from this course with a playbook of activities that you can adapt to use in almost any classroom setting from elementary school through high school.

In the first week we'll take a look at a handful of tools and strategies for helping students conduct better online research. Then we'll look at methods and tools for improving communication between you, your students, and your students' parents.

The second week of the course has us looking at methods for conducting fun and powerful formative assessments through the use of laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, and mobile phones. We'll then dive into ways that students can help each other learn through the use of technology. The second week wraps up with a look at some simple podcasting activities that you can do with your students.

Finally, in week three we'll help students show what they know through videos that they create. Those videos will ultimately become a part of the digital portfolios that we will learn how to create before the course ends.

July 11, 18, and 25 at 7pm EDT - Register Here

All live webinars are recorded so that you can go back and watch them at your leisure if you have to miss a meeting.