Monday, January 8, 2018

Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence - A Detailed Lesson in Forensic Science

Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence is a detailed, interactive lesson in the forensics of fire investigations. The free module is part of Xplorlabs produced by UL (Underwriters Laboratories), the global safety science company responsible for the "UL listed" labels on things like extension cords, microwaves, and just about every other appliance in your house.

The Xplorlabs Fire Forensics module is an in-depth investigation into how fire investigators determine the cause of a fire in a home. Students begin the Fire Lab investigation by first learning about the elements necessary to create and sustain a fire. From there students will see videos and animations that illustrate how fires spread in a section called "live burns." In that section you will find a detailed lesson plan that includes data on temperature, pressure, and oxygen levels that students need to apply to their forensic investigations.

After learning about how fires start and spread in the Xplorlabs Fire Lab, students then move on to a guided investigation with expert investigators. When the guided investigation is complete students are ready to conduct independent virtual investigations. In the independent virtual investigation section, students will be presented with 360 degree images of post-fire scenes. From those images and a few other clues, students will create a hypothesis and submit a claim as to the cause of the fire.

Applications for Education
Xplorlabs' Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence is not an activity that students will or should complete in one sitting. It is designed to be completed over the course of a few days in a middle school setting.

While it is an obvious fit for middle school science classrooms, the Fire Forensics module could also be used in other classrooms to help students develop their skills in making observations and developing hypotheses based upon the information available to them combined with their prior knowledge. Check out the Teacher Guide for a road map to implement the module in your classroom and supporting content for the lesson.

One quick reminder before you begin using Xplorlabs Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence with your students: please review all animations and videos before having students use the site. While there is nothing offensive, some scenes of home fires are detailed and could be frightening to younger students. In other words, if you have a student who was upset by a scene during fire prevention week at school, he or she might be upset by some of the scenes in the Fire Forensics module.

Disclosure: UL Xplorlabs is an advertiser on 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Three Classic Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2018

Over the last decade I've reviewed thousands of free educational technology tools. Some have been a hit, some haven't, and some have stood the test of time to become "classics" in the world of educational technology. Here are three classics with which every educational technology specialist should be familiar. 

Scratch is a is a free program designed to introduce students to programming concepts. Through Scratch students can create animations, games, and videos. Students program in Scratch through a process of dragging and dropping blocks into sequences. Each block represents a command. Student assemble sequences and in turn programs by arranging command blocks. 

When I first used Scratch more than ten years ago when it was only available as a desktop application. Today, you can still do that or you can use Scratch's online version. ScratchJr, a program based on Scratch, is designed for students under the age of eight to learn programming basics on an iPad, an Android tablet, or on a Chromebook. 

Plenty of tutorials abound for getting started using Scratch. The best place for teachers to start is on the Scratch for Educators site.

GeoGebra is a free program that math teachers and students can use to build interactive models of problems and concepts.

I am not a math teacher and I have never taught math beyond basic addition and subtraction of fractions therefore I am not an expert on GeoGebra's capabilities. That said, over the years I have had friends and colleagues who do teach mathematics rave about the capabilities of GeoGebra for modeling functions and graphing equations.

GeoGebra has a huge community of users who share ideas and tutorials for using GeoGebra in a wide variety of settings. You can join that community here. The GeoGebra YouTube channel is probably the best place to find tutorials to help you get started using GeoGebra on your laptop, tablet, or Chromebook.

EduBlogs or Blogger
Edublogs and Blogger have been available for free for as long as I have been blogging. Over the last decade I have used both platforms with students and helped countless teachers get started using both platforms. Edublogs has lasted because it offers fantastic support for teachers. That support comes in the forms of staff members active on Twitter, super responsive email support, and on-going blog posts designed to help teachers engage their students through blogging activities. Blogger's longevity is due in large part to being owned by Google. Blogger is also very easy to start using. In a manner of minutes you can get your blog up and running.

Even as social media exploded in the forms of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and services that came and went quickly (remember Plurk, FriendFeed, and Pownce?) Edublogs and Blogger endured. In all of my workshops and webinars about blogging I say that a blog is your online hub for activity. A blog gives your students a place to fully express their thoughts through words, images, and videos in a manner that can't be done through social media. A blog also provides you with an easy-to-search archive of the work that you and your students publish. Have you ever tried to find a three month old Tweet or Facebook post? It's not easy to do. But it is easy to do that on a blog.

g(Math) Has Been Deleted - Try These Three Alternatives

For years g(Math) was one of my most frequently recommended Add-ons for Google Forms, Docs, and Sheets. Last week it was shut down by its own, TextHelp. As a replacement for g(Math) TextHelp recommends their newer product called EquatIO. Unfortunately, while all of EquatIO's features are free for teachers, students need to have a subscription in order to access all of the features within EquatIO. Here are a couple of other Add-ons that you might consider using for inserting graphs and equations into your Google Documents and Google Forms.

Yob Graph Editor allows you to plot data and insert graphs into a Google Doc. It provides plotting and regression functionality inside of your documents. A convenient feature for teachers is that Yob Graph will store your work in Google Drive and let you insert the same graph into multiple documents without having to manually recreate it for each document. This could be helpful when you are trying to make multiple variations of an assignment for students.

Wizkids CAS is another Google Docs Add-on that offers a graphing calculator feature. Wizkids CAS offers tools for solve=ing equations and plotting graphs, finding numerical and exact solutions, and simplifying and factoring expressions with variables. The video embedded below provides an overview of the features in Wizkids CAS.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Free Music to Use In Google Slides Presentations

Earlier this week I published directions for how to add music to your Google Slides presentations. In those directions I mentioned that in order to add music to your presentation you first need to store it in your Google Drive account. If you find yourself or your students in need of some free music to add to Google Drive, take a look at these three sites that offer thousands of free and legal music downloads.

Musopen's collection of free recordings contains performances of the works of hundreds of composers. The collection can be searched by composer, by performer, by instrument, or by form. You can stream the music from Musopen for free. You can also download five recordings per day for free from Musopen.

The Internet Archive hosts an extensive collection of music and other audio recordings that you can download for free. You should point out to students that they need to look at the usage rights closely when they find things on the Internet Archive. Not everything that is available to download for free is eligible to be reused for free.

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.

Certificates, Rocks, and Wicked Cold - The Week in Review

Good morning from Paris Hill, Maine where wind chill is currently -27F and it's only going to get colder as the sun comes up and the wind picks up. Usually, I like to go outside and do something fun with my dogs and kids on a snowy day. But today is going to have to be an indoor play day. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you are warm and that you have time to play too.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Automatically Issue Certificates When Students Pass a Quiz in Google Forms
2. Ten Things You Can Do With Google Forms - Best of 2017
3. 12 Free Lessons About Rocks, Minerals, and Landforms
4. Google Calendar is Changing Whether You Like It or Not
5. 5 Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2018
6. Free Timer Templates for PowerPoint Presentations
7. Immersive Reader - A Fantastic Addition to OneNote

Online Professional Development
The 2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group will have its first webinar on Tuesday afternoon. There is still time to join us by registering online. And you can start Teaching History With Technology or G Suite for Teachers at any time.

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Click here to book me today.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
MySimpleShow offers a great way to create animated videos for free.
Metaverse enables anyone to create amazing things.
Kids Discover provides fantastic tools for helping kids discover new information. 
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

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