Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Taking Notes on a Touchscreen - Three Options Compared

iPads, Android tablets, and touchscreen laptops that fold flat make it easy for those who prefer to handwrite their notes to preserve those notes in a digital format. I've used Google Keep for this purpose for a number of years, but as a part of my on-going effort to feature more non-Google tools I spent last week trying out some other options. Here's what I determined about OneNote, Zoho Notebook, and Google Keep. (Evernote fans, I left it out because the free version limits how many devices you can use it on).

OneNote is the obvious choice for anyone who is using a Microsoft Surface or other Windows-based tablet. It is also available to use on iPads and on Android tablets. The option to have handwriting converted to text is an outstanding feature. Note that those of us with exceptionally sloppy handwriting don't always get accurate conversions from handwriting to text. Like all other notes in OneNote, your handwritten notes can be added into any of your notebooks.

Google Keep
If you're a G Suite for Education user, Google Keep is probably already on your radar. It has a handwriting input option that often is overlooked by new users. Just tap the pen icon to launch a handwriting screen. This option is now available in all versions of Google Keep. It doesn't have the handwriting-to-text function that OneNote offers. Keep is a solid choice for G Suite for Education users even without the handwriting-to-text function and fewer notebook organization options. If you're not married to G Suite for Education, OneNote has more options for you.

Zoho Notebook
Zoho Notebook doesn't have the name recognition of OneNote or Keep, but it is backed by a solid company with a reputation for developing excellent and reliable products. Of the three options featured here, Zoho Notebook has the most intuitive design or organization options of the three digital notebooks featured here. The downside to Zoho Notebook is that the handwriting option only appears on the Android and iOS platforms. If the handwriting option worked in the Chrome or Edge web browsers, I'd probably put it at the top of this list.

Applications for Education
When it comes to jotting down notes or sketching out my ideas, I prefer to do it by hand. I'm sure that you have students that feel the same way. For me it's partly because I started taking notes long before I could even dream about using a laptop, let alone a phone, to write notes. The other reason I like to use handwriting for notes and idea sketches is that many of the mind mapping programs I've tried are fine for displaying flowcharts, but they feel a little restrictive when I'm in the early phases of sketching out my ideas.

Of course, the obvious downside to taking notes on paper is that you then have to keep track of the physical notes and notebooks. That's not much of a problem for adults, but it is certainly a challenge for many students (have you looked inside a middle school student's backpack?). That is why the rise of touchscreen tablets and laptops is a boon to so many.

10 Free Apps for Elementary School Math Lessons

Math Learning Center offers ten free apps that are designed for teaching elementary school mathematics lessons. All of the apps are available in versions as free iPad apps, as Chrome apps, and for use in the web browser of any computer. With the exception of the flashcards app, all of the Math Learning Center's free apps are designed to provide you and your students with virtual manipulatives. By the way, the flashcard app is available in English and Spanish.

Last week I included Math Learning Center's Geoboard in my round-up of math resources. Geoboard is a good example of how all of the apps are intended to be used. Geoboard is a free app on which students stretch virtual rubber bands over pegboards to create lines and shapes to learn about perimeter, area, and angles. Another app features US currency to help students learn to add and subtract money. The Pattern Shapes app is designed to help students recognize and develop patterns by moving colorful shapes into place.

Applications for Education
It is important to note that except for the flashcard app all of the Math Learning Center apps are really just virtual manipulatives designed to be used as a part of lesson plan not as stand-alone practice apps. You will need to provide your students with feedback when they are using these apps.

MySimpleShow Offers a New Service for Classrooms

MySimpleShow is a great tool for creating explanatory videos. The service features artwork to drag and drop in individual story frames, background music, and automated narration in a variety of voices. But the best part of MySimpleShow is the storyboard editor. Students have to write the script for their videos before they can begin to adjust the visuals in their videos. In fact, when students write their scripts MySimpleShow uses the keywords in the script to suggest artwork to use in each frame of the video.

This week MySimpleShow launched a new classroom account option. A free classroom account will let you have up to 50 students in your account. Students who create videos in a classroom account have access to collaboration features. Additionally, classroom accounts have more music options and image options than free commercial accounts have. You can learn more about MySimpleShow's classroom accounts by watching this video that is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Using MySimpleShow can be a good way to create a Common Craft-style video in which students use simple drawings and words to explain complex topics. A few topics that are suited to explanation through this style of video are bitcoin, mobile phone networks, and compound interest.

Disclosure: MySimpleShow is an advertiser on

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

300+ Free Economics Lessons, Videos, and Educational Games

Econ Ed Link hosts hundreds of lesson plans and interactive games for teaching students about a wide range of topics in economics. Teachers can search the lesson plan index by grade level, concept, standard, or length of lesson (one class period vs. multiple class periods). Most of the lessons attempt to provide "real world" context.

The interactive section of Econ Ed Link many pages of videos and games. The videos and games can be used as stand-alone activities or as part of lesson plan. For example, Developing Good Credit Habits is a game appropriate for middle school and high school students. Students earn money by correctly answering questions about credit scores, interest rates, and spending practices. The purpose of the game is to purchase items and pay expenses without damaging your credit score.

Here's a relatively recent addition to Econ Ed Link's library of educational videos.

Applications for Education
Econ Ed Link offers lesson plans appropriate for all K-12 students. Many of the lessons are designed for use not only in the classroom but in the home as well. The parent section of Econ Ed Link offers good material that you can send home with your students to get parents involved in students' learning about personal economics.

Project Feeder Watch - Contribute to Tracking Bird Migrations

Project Feeder Watch is a public project administered by the Cornell Ornithology Lab and Bird Studies Canada. Project Feeder Watch collects data from backyard bird observers across the United States and Canada. Data is collected from November through April. The data collected is used for a variety of purposes including providing the public with information about the birds that can be found in their areas at various times during the year. The Project Feeder Watch map room allows you to select a species and see its migration pattern mapped over the course of a year.

Applications for Education
Project Feeder Watch is a public project. You and your students can contribute to the project by counting birds at a site near your school or even in your school yard.

Teachers could use the migration information available from Project Feeder Watch to develop a simple lesson in statistical analysis and predictions. You could have students look at the migration data for a bird that appears in their area and try to predict when the first one of those birds will be spotted outside of your classroom windows.