Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Updated - 5 Online, Collaborative Whiteboard Services

Online, collaborative, whiteboards can be great tools for hosting quick review sessions for your students. Your students can also use these tools to conduct online study sessions with each other. Here are five free online whiteboard tools to try.

Draw Chat is a free service that allows anyone to create a video chat over a whiteboard, PDF, image, or map. To use Draw Chat you just have to visit the site and click "Start New Whiteboard." Once your whiteboard launches you will have the option to enable access to your webcam and microphone. You can have people join your whiteboard video conference by sending them the link assigned to your whiteboard. Draw Chat allows you to draw or type on a shared whiteboard. Additionally, you can upload a PDF or an image to annotate on the whiteboard. A fourth option for drawing on Draw Chat is to import the URL for a Google Map and draw on that map.

Skype Interviews is a free Microsoft service that was developed for employers to use to interview potential employees. It was specifically designed with coders and programmers in mind as there is a code editor component that lets candidates display their skills in realtime. Yesterday, Microsoft added a whiteboard to Skype Interviews. The whiteboard in Skype Interviews allows you to draw on and share a virtual whiteboard while in your call. You can also type on the whiteboard. A few pre-made shapes are also available to add to your whiteboard to create a flowchart.

Realtime Board is an online whiteboard tool that I have been recommending for the last half-dozen years. At its basic level Realtime Board provides a blank canvas on which you can type, draw, and post pictures. You can connect elements on your boards through a simple linking tool. Realtime Board includes an activity tracking feature. This feature lets you see the changes that have been made to a shared Realtime Board whiteboard.

WebRoom is a free service for hosting online meetings. WebRoom doesn't require you to download any software and you don't need to register in order to use it. WebRoom lets you use your webcam if you want people to see your face during the meeting. A whiteboard space is provided. You can draw on the whiteboard or upload a file to share and discuss on the whiteboard. A text chat space is provided in each WebRoom meeting. It is possible to share your screen with other meeting participants. However, to share your screen you will need to install the WebRoom Chrome extension.



Stoodle is a free online collaborative whiteboard tool hosted by CK12. On Stoodle you can create a whiteboard space and invite others to use it with you. Registration is not required in order to use Stoodle. Stoodle has voice and text chat options, but it does not have a video chat option. In the video embedded below I demonstrate the features of Stoodle. Update 2/9/2019: This tool is no longer online.



A Spreadsheet of Phones That Do and Don't Support Google Expeditions

Yesterday, I answered an email from a participant in my recent Intro to VR & AR webinar. She was having trouble getting Google Expeditions to work on one of her phones. I did a little research and found that the phone she was trying to use Expeditions on didn't have a gyroscope. The absence of a gyroscope made Expeditions not work as expected. I was able to discover that information with the help of Andrew Caffrey's spreadsheet of devices that do and don't support Google Expeditions.

Andrew Caffrey's site has other good information for teachers who are interested in learning more about Google Expeditions including directions for making your own Google Cardboard viewer.

On a related note, Roman UrsuHack offers the following video that provides an overview of making your own VR viewer.


The template that Roman UrsuHack follows in the video can be found here (link opens a PDF).

Monday, June 11, 2018

If You Want to Create Polite Digital Citizens...

Warning! This post is a bit of a rant. 

The sleep-deprived state that I exist in as the father of two kids under age two has made my patience for impolite email and social media messages shorter than ever. That said, I am noticing three disturbing trends in my email inbox and in the social media interactions that I see. First, more than ever I am receiving impolite and downright rude email. Second, people who I know are teachers sharing fake news and fake giveaways on Facebook. Third, people who appear to be using Twitter just to prove that they're "thought leaders" or "change agents" by arguing with anyone who will engage. That's the trend that turned me off to Twitter chats years ago and it seems that behavior spread outside of Twitter chats. I wouldn't accept that kind of digital behavior from students and I hope that teachers would be better models of good digital behavior.

Two highlights in my inbox of late include,
"I've been following your suggestions for a while and I have to say there [sic] total crap!" "I'm not sure you know what you're talking about. I tried (product name removed). It sucks!" 
Here are my suggestions for modeling good digital citizenship. 

1. Avoid hitting send before taking five or twenty good, deep breaths.

2. Stop sharing fake giveaways on social media. Delta isn't giving free airplane tickets. Carnival Cruises isn't giving you a stateroom. And the New England Patriots aren't giving away playoff tickets. If you think there's a chance that a giveaway like one of those is true, look for the verified checkmark on Facebook or Twitter. If it's not there, it's fake.

3. Stop sharing memes from Like Farms. Check your own confirmation bias before sharing.

4. Stop sharing without reading. I have the privilege to have more than 500,000 social media followers. It's alarming to me the number of times that I see my Facebook posts shared between friends with a note like, "I didn't read this, but it seems good."

5. Don't feed the trolls. Be nice.

Three Good PowerPoint Add-ins for Math Teachers

PowerPoint has many features that students and teachers often overlook. That's bound to happen with any program that has been around as long as PowerPoint has and includes as many features as PowerPoint does. One of those overlooked features is found in the Add-ins available for PowerPoint. Browse through the gallery of Add-ins and you'll find some excellent tools for math teachers and students.

The GeoGebra PowerPoint Add-in lets you access GeoGebra materials directly from your PowerPoint slides. You can also use the Add-in to create graphs, shapes, and spreadsheets within your slides. The GeoGebra PowerPoint Add-in works in the desktop and online versions of PowerPoint.

Khan Academy's math videos and math practice exercises are available in a PowerPoint Add-in. The Khan Academy PowerPoint Add-in lets you find videos and exercises to insert directly into slides. The exercises that you insert into your slides are fully functional which means that you could use them for live demonstrations without having to leave your slides.

PhET provides free interactive math and science simulations covering topics in physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, and mathematics. In the PhET library you'll find simulations appropriate for elementary, middle, high school, and university students. More than 50 of the PhET simulations are available to insert into PowerPoint presentations through the use of PhET's free PowerPoint Add-in. With the Add-in installed you can browse the available simulations and insert them into your slides. The simulations work in your slide just as they do on the PhET website.

Free Alternative to GooseChase

This morning I received the following email from a reader who wants to create a digital scavenger hunt for an upcoming conference.
"GooseChase has the features that I want but would cost $200. That is a tough sell for a game no matter how great I think it would be. This activity is not only a way to encourage teachers to make connections, it has clear application to the classroom. But, like I said, $200.... Do you have another idea?"
My response was to take a look at what Metaverse can do. I've often described Metaverse as a DIY platform for making educational versions of games like Pokemon Go. Through the Metaverse Studio anyone can program an augmented reality app without having any prior coding or programming knowledge. You can create scavenger hunts that are based on locations. You can also create augmented reality games that are location-independent.


You can even use Metaverse to create digital breakout games.