Thursday, December 21, 2017

Three Good Sources of Fun and Interesting Math Challenges

"When are we ever going to use this?" Raise your hand if you have ever heard that question from a student in the middle of a math lesson or any other lesson. Giving students some clever math problems that tie-in a "real world" situation can go a long way toward helping them see how math skills are skills they'll use for a lifetime. The following three websites all provide good math challenges to use with your students. 

Would You Rather? is a website maintained by John Stevens for the purpose of sharing quick and fun math challenges for students.  Would You Rather? presents a picture with a mathematics problem that asks "would you rather?" Most of the questions have a financial aspect to them. One of my favorite examples is this challenge that asks "would you rather go on a 5 minute shopping spree in the store of your choice or get a $2,000 gift card to the store of your choice?" Would You Rather? offers a simple worksheet that your students can use to analyze the choices presented to them in the challenges.

Math Pickle is a free site that offers dozens of fun and challenging math puzzles for students of all ages. The puzzles are designed to foster collaborative problem solving over the course of 45 to 60 minutes. Almost all of the puzzles are presented as a series of small, connected problems that students need to solve to complete the puzzle presented to them. The puzzles can be viewed as slides and or downloaded as PDFs.

Expii Solve is a series of more than fifty sets of mathematics word problems. Within each set there are five problems aligned to a theme. For example, there was recently a set of Thanksgiving themed problems. The problems within each set on Expii Solve vary in difficulty so that you can pick the one(s) that best suit your students. Or you can let your students register on the site and self-select the problems that they want to tackle. In fact, that is how the site is intended to be used. Students can get instant feedback on their answers to the problems that they try to solve. Students who need a bit of help solving a problem can avail themselves of tutorials linked at the bottom of each problem page.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

5 Things You Need to Know About the Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group

Earlier today I went live on YouTube to answer a couple of recent questions regarding the 2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group. If you missed that broadcast, you can see it here. Here are some other questions that are frequently asked about joining the Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group.

1. How many hours does it require?
That’s up to you. I guarantee at least three hours of direct instruction through bi-weekly webinars and a monthly members-only Google Hangout. You can also join into a Slack group for on-going Q&A and discussion throughout the year. If you miss a webinar or Hangout, you can watch the recording the next day.

2. I don’t have a lot of tech skills, but I want to get better. Will I get left behind?
No, you will not. This group was designed to be as inclusive as possible. If you can open your web browser, you can participate and learn in this group. Will it be easy? No, but nothing worth learning is easy to learn.

3. I teach special ed/ ESL/ science/ something else, will I get anything out of this?
Yes. The content of the webinars is designed to so that it can be adapted to a wide variety of settings. Additionally, the intent of the monthly Hangouts and the Slack group is to provide you with opportunities to use me as a sounding board for ideas about implementation.

4. What is the schedule for the first webinars?
All webinars are broadcast live at 4pm Eastern Time. If you miss one, you can always watch the recording the next day.

Building Digital Portfolios – January 9th
AR & VR in the Classroom – January 23rd
Social Media for Teachers & Principals – February 6th
Video Creation as Assessment – February 20th
Copyright for Teachers – March 6th
Programming Simple Apps – March 20th

5. How do I register with a purchase order?
To register with a purchase order just send me an email at richard (at) and I’ll get the process started with you. Of course, you can also register online right here and save your school $50.

Four Things Students Need to Create Book Trailer Videos

This is an update of a blog post that I published about 16 months ago. The concepts are the same, but some of the resources have been updated. 

Creating book trailer videos is a great alternative to a traditional written book report assignment. In a book trailer video students highlight their favorite elements of a story and try to entice viewers to read the book themselves. Much like a movie trailer that tries to get viewers to watch the full movie, a book trailer should give viewers just enough to be interested in the full story without giving away the conclusion to the story. If you have heard of book trailers and wanted to try having your create book trailers, here are the four things they'll need to get started after reading a book.

A script/ outline:
Before I let students start to assemble a video, I make them write a script or outline for the video. Writing a script or outline forces students to think about the points that they want to emphasize in their videos without thinking about the technical aspects of the video creation process. By having students submit a script or outline to me before they start creating a video I can review it for accuracy.

Your students will want to use pictures in their videos to represent key elements and characters in the books they have read. You could have students draw pictures to use in their videos. They might also take pictures of their own to use in their videos. Both of those methods avoid any danger of copyright infringement.

It is not always possible for students to use images they own. In those cases you'll want them to use images that are either in the public domain or images that are labeled with a Creative Commons license. Some video creation tools like Adobe Spark include a Creative Commons image search tool. Otherwise your students will need to conduct an online search for images. One place that I frequently use to find Creative Commons licensed images is Unsplash and Pixabay are two places I often visit for public domain images.

Audio recordings:
At a minimum your students will need to have a music track in their book trailer videos. Many video editing tools include a library of free music that students can use. The odds are good that your students will also want to include some voice-over elements in their videos. The video editing tools Adobe SparkWeVideo, and iMovie all have built-in voice-over recording tools.

Many of the aforementioned video editing tools offer sound effects too. Your students may want to look for sounds beyond what's included in their video editor of choice. The following two resources offer nice collections of free music and sound for student projects.

The Free Music Archive provides free, high-quality, music in a wide range of genres. The content on Free Music Archive is used under various creative commons licenses. The New York State Music Fund provided initial funding for FMA. FMA seeks to maintain a high-quality resource through the use of selected curators who approve or deny all submissions to the collection. Anyone can download music from FMA for use in podcasts, videos, and other digital presentation formats. The music collections can be searched by genre or by curator.

Sound Bible is a resource for finding and downloading free sound clips, sound effects, and sound bites. All of the sounds on Sound Bible are either public domain or labeled with a Creative Commons license. You can find sounds for use in podcasts, videos, slideshows, or other multimedia creations.

Video editor:
Currently, Adobe Spark is my favorite tool for creating simple book trailer videos. In the video embedded below I provide a tutorial on how to use Adobe Spark video. Adobe Spark does require users to register. For questions about using Adobe Spark with students under age 13, consult Adobe's guide for educators which you can find here.

ADA Project - An Open Multimedia Mathematics Textbook

Update: May 20, 2022 - This resource is now longer available. 

ADA Project is a great resource being developed by a mathematics teacher named Sam Powell. The ADA Project is an open multimedia mathematics textbook that covers everything from basic arithmetic through calculus.

When you visit the ADA Project's homescreen you can choose a category then choose a topic. Within each topic you will find a set of sample problems. Each sample problem is accompanied by a link to reveal the answer, the solution, a video about the solution, and a link to a discussion forum. Take a look at this set of long division problems to get a sense of how the ADA Project works.

Teachers are invited to contribute to the ADA Project's development by submitting problems, solutions, videos, and discussions. You can submit one or all four of those pieces for inclusion in the ADA Project. The submission form is found here.

Applications for Education
Although it is off to a great start, the ADA Project is still a work in progress. At this point it will make a good supplement to the textbook and other reference materials that you use in your mathematics lessons.

The ADA Project will get better through the contributions of other mathematics teachers who make submissions to it. Contact Sam and make a submission to help the project along.

Seven Ways to Create Screencasts on Chromebooks

With the addition of Screencast-O-Matic there are now seven tools that teachers and students can use to create screencast videos on their Chromebooks.

If you missed yesterday's news, Screencast-O-Matic is currently offering a public beta of their Chrome app. To use Screencast-O-Matic on your Chromebook you will need to go to this page while on your Chromebook, click launch recorder, install the Chrome app when prompted, and then start recording your screen. Screencast-O-Matic on a Chromebook will let you record for up to fifteen minutes per video. You can include your own narration as well as sounds from your Chromebook in your screencasts. Completed videos can be saved to Chromebook or saved directly to Google Drive. When Screencast-O-Matic for Chrome leaves beta, it will probably be my go-to recommendation.

Loom is a free screencasting tool that works on Chromebooks, Macs, and Windows computers. Loom is a Chrome extension. With Loom installed you can record your desktop, an individual tab, and or your webcam. That means that you could use Loom to just record a webcam video on a Chromebook. Of course, this also means that you can use Loom to record your webcam while also recording your desktop. Loom recordings can be up to ten minutes long. A completed recording can be shared via social media and email. You can also download your recordings as MP4 files to upload to YouTube or any other video hosting service.

Soapbox is a free tool from Wistia that makes it easy to create great screencast videos on a Chromebook or any computer that is using the Chrome web browser. With Soapbox installed in the Chrome web browser you can quickly record your screen and your webcam at the same time. The most distinguishing feature of Soapbox is that you can have your video transition from your screen to your webcam to a combination of the two. Soapbox includes some simple editing tools for zooming in on an area of your screen and calling attention to specific parts of your screen.

Vidyard GoVideo is a free Chrome extension that makes it quick and easy to create and share screencast videos. With the extension installed you can record your entire screen or just one window tab. Vidyard GoVideo will let you record yourself with your webcam too. The best part of Vidyard GoVideo is that you can track who watches your video. To record on Vidyard GoVideo you simply have to click the extension icon then choose what you want to record. When you're done recording your video is automatically stored on Vidyard GoVideo. From Vidyard GoVideo you can share your video via email and social media. If you choose to share via email, you will be able to track who watched your video.

Nimbus Screenshot is my favorite tool on this list because of its ease of installation and it is the only tool on this list that provided a customizable countdown timer. I like the countdown timer because it gives me a few seconds to prepare to start talking over my screencast. The other tools just started recording the second that I hit the record button. Nimbus Screenshot was also the easiest to install and configure on my Chromebook. Screencasts recorded with Nimbus Screenshot can be saved to your local drive or to an online Nimbus account. I usually choose to save to my local drive then upload to my YouTube channel. You can also save to your local drive then send it to Google Drive or another online storage service.

CaptureCast lets you record your webcam while recording your screen which you cannot do with the Nimbus tool. You can choose to record your screen, your screen and your webcam, or just your screen or just your webcam. CaptureCast gives you three options for recording definition. So if you're on a slower network you can choose a lower resolution recording to save processing time. CaptureCast lets you save a recording locally or send it to YouTube or to Vimeo.

Screencastify might have the most name recognition in this list, but I don't like it as much as some other tech bloggers like it. The set-up process asks a lot questions that could confuse new users. The free version limits recordings to ten minutes and puts a watermark on the recording. On the upside, there is an option to upload directly to YouTube and to share directly to Google Classroom. The sharing to Google Classroom feature is the one that most fans of Screencastify are quick to point out to me.

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