Sunday, April 29, 2018

TodaysMeet Is Shutting Down - Six Alternatives to Try

TodaysMeet is shutting down. James Socol, the creator and only developer of TodaysMeet, has announced that he's shutting it down on June 16th. I'm going to miss it and I know that a lot of you will too. I encourage you to read the announcement that James posted because it will give you a good understanding of how much sacrifice goes into producing and maintaining some of our favorite free tools.

I was introduced to TodaysMeet by Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano nearly a decade ago and I have used it ever since in classrooms, professional development workshops, and during keynotes. TodaysMeet provided an easy way to give every student a digital voice in classroom discussions. TodaysMeet has been my go-to backchannel tool for so long that it's going to take some time to settle on the best alternative, but here are the alternatives I'm going to be using in various settings over the next few weeks.

Tozzl
Tozzl is a chat platform that allows you to quickly create private, password-protected message boards as well as public boards. To get started visit Tozzl and select "create a new Tozzl." Then you can name your message board and set a privacy password (optional). Tozzl assigns a new, unique URL to each message board. On your message board you can add sections for chat, file sharing, to-do lists, and YouTube videos. You can also import the feed of a Twitter hashtag into your Tozzl boards.
Update: As of July 17, 2018 Tozzl seems to be in a perpetual state of "under construction."
Update: On October 17, 2020 the new owners of the domain tozzl.com threatened to sue me if I didn't take down this post. Needless to say, I don't recommend that anyone go to that site ever. 

Tozzl, Tozzl, Tozzl!!!



Backchannel Chat
This is a service that provides exactly what its name implies. On Backchannel Chat you can create a free backchannel room (AKA chat room) in which you can post comments and questions for your students to respond to. Your students can respond in realtime. Students can ask you and their classmates questions within the confines of your Backchannel Chat room. The free version of Backchannel Chat limits you to 30 participants at a time.

Google Slides Q&A
The Q&A function built into the presentation mode of Google Slides is a good option for gathering questions from students when they are viewing slides that you or their classmates present. For now, this is probably the option I will use during keynote presentations.



Mentimeter
Mentimeter is an audience response tool lets you create polls and quizzes for your audience to respond to during your presentations. Responses to open-ended poll questions can be displayed as a word cloud, but there isn't a true chat function in Mentimeter. You can create and display polls and quizzes from the Mentimeter website or you can use their PowerPoint Add-in to display your polls and quizzes from your slideshow. Your audience members can respond from their phones, tablets, or laptops.

GoSoapBox
GoSoapBox allows you to have your audience respond to questions through their laptops, tablets, and phones. Polls and Discussion in GoSoapBox are the meat and potatoes of the service. The Polls tool allows you to survey your audience by having them select an answer choice in response to a question. The Discussions tool allows you to have audience members reply to open-ended questions. One of the simplest yet effective survey options in GoSoapBox is a tools called a Confusion Meter. The Confusion Meter allows members of your audience to simply say, "yes, I get it" or "no, I don't get it." The Confusion Meter, like all of the GoSoapBox survey tools, can accept anonymous feedback. You can use the Social Q&A tool in GoSoapBox to have students submit their questions to you. Students can see each other's question submissions and vote them up if they want to.

AnswerGarden
AnswerGarden is a neat service that allows you to embed a open-ended feedback tool into your classroom blog or website. With an AnswerGarden embedded into your blog your students can simply type responses to your question and see their responses appear in a word cloud. Creating an AnswerGarden is a simple process that does not require you to create an account. To get started go to the AnswerGarden homepage and click "create AnswerGarden." On the next screen you will enter a question or statement for your students to respond to. To share your AnswerGarden with students you can give them the link or embed the AnswerGarden into your blog as I have done below. Optionally, before sharing your AnswerGarden you can turn on moderation of responses and set an admin password.

Thanks to Kathi Kersznowski for alerting me to the closure of TodaysMeet. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

PhET, Grasshoppers, and AR Creatures - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where spring is in the air. Lately, we've had some rainy days mixed with wonderfully warm and sunny days. That's a winning combination to make the flowers grow start to sprout in our gardens. It's also great for getting outside to walk, run, bike or just enjoy not having to wear a parka. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that the weather lets you get outside for fun too. And if the weather isn't great, take some time to catch up on this week's top stories on Free Technology for Teachers.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. PhET PowerPoint Add-in - Add Science & Math Simulations to Slides
2. A Fun App That Helps Kids Learn How Animals Adapt to Their Environments
3. 5 PowerPoint Features Often Overlooked by Students and Teachers
4. How to Use Flipgrid - A Guide for Getting Started
5. Grasshopper - Learn to Code on Your Phone
6. WikiWhere - A Challenging Map Game
7. How to Convert Old Google Sites to New Google Sites

Online PD Opportunities
On May 7th I'm launching a self-paced course about classroom video projects. This is in addition to all of the other on-demand webinars and self-paced courses currently available on PracticalEdTech.com.

For the rest of the month, group packages for my G Suite for Teachers online course are on sale. If you have five or more teachers register from your school, you get 40% off. Have more than 15 and you can get an even better deal.

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.
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.
QuickKey provides an efficient way to conduct online and in-person formative assessments.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Book Creator Now Offers "Read To Me" Mode Online

Last summer the Book Creator team launched a web-based version of their popular iPad app. The web-based version, called Book Creator for Chrome, has been a hit with teachers and students.

The latest update to Book Creator for Chrome includes a feature called "Read To Me." Read To Me is a text-to-speech function that reads the words on the pages of any book created in Book Creator. Read To Me highlights each word as it is read aloud. The pages of the books automatically turn when the end of a page is read aloud.

Read To Me works in Chrome, Safari, and Edge. It also works within the iPad app.

Book Creator's Read To Me includes the option to change the speed at which the text is read aloud. You can also specify whether or not words are highlighted and whether or not multimedia elements are played within the book when Read To Me is enabled.

Watch Live - Bison Calves in Yellowstone

A few minutes ago I was browsing Facebook when I noticed that the Yellowstone National Park page was livestreaming images of bison and their new calves. You can view the stream here right now.


If you're not able to view the stream because of restrictions on your school filters or you want more information about bison, check out the following resources.

Meet the American Bison does a fine job of showing younger students basic facts about bison. If you look carefully, you'll also notice that it does a great job of modeling how to cite the sources of images used in a video.


Older students who want to learn about bison should turn to the resources available on the Yellowstone National Park website. Those resources include the following video about the challenges of bison conservation.



And find more resources for learning about Yellowstone in this blog post written by Beth Still.

TED-Ed Lessons About Every Element on the Periodic Table

For years I have referred readers to the University of Nottingham's Periodic Table of Videos. That table provides a video about every element that is in the Periodic Table. Recently, via Lifehacker, I learned that the producers of the Periodic Table of Videos partnered with TED-Ed to create lessons about every element in the Periodic Table.

TED-Ed's Periodic Videos page features an interactive Periodic Table of Elements. Click on any of the elements to launch a video. Below the video you will find a link to the related TED-Ed lesson. (Note, I had to reduce my browser size to see the links). Each of the TED-Ed lessons follows the typical format of providing a handful of multiple choice and short answer questions. The lessons also include some links to additional references.

Here's the lesson about Technetium.


If the questions that the TED-Ed lessons ask are too simple for your students, you can customize the lesson after registering on TED-Ed. You can also create similar lessons by using EDpuzzle.