Thursday, July 26, 2018

Climate Kids' Big Questions Teaches Students About Climate Change

NASA's Climate Kids website has many excellent online and offline resources for teaching students about climate change. One of those resources is the Big Questions wheel. The Big Questions wheel guides students through the basic concepts and issues related to climate change. Seven big questions are featured in the wheel. Students select a question to discover the answers through the exploration of a series of smaller questions. Each question is addressed with a mix of image, text, and video explanations.

The Climate Kids Big Questions are:

  • What does climate change mean?
  • What is the big deal with carbon?
  • What is the greenhouse effect?
  • How do we know the climate is changing?
  • What is happening in the oceans?
  • What can we do to help?
  • What else do we need to find out?
Applications for Education
After working through the Big Questions you could have students play some of the Climate Kids online games which address topics including recycling, renewable energy, and climate history. Some of the hands-on activities featured on Climate Kids include re-purposing old clothing to make re-usable shopping bags, creating your own paper, and garden projects.

Climate Kids includes a page for teachers. On that page you can find a directory of resources aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. Besides the directory, the page for teachers offers galleries of media that you can use in your climate change lesson plans.

Headliner - A Slick Online Video Editor

Headliner is an online video editing tool that could challenge Adobe Spark and WeVideo for the top of my recommended video tools list. I just learned about Headliner from their PR person this afternoon. 99% of the PR emails that I'm sent are useless (seriously, I got one today about lawn fertilizer), but the one I got about Headliner is in the 1% of useful PR emails.

Headliner is a free online video editor that was designed for the purpose of making videos for use on social media, but the editor could be used for making videos for any purpose. To get started using Headliner you do need to create a free account on the site. Once you've created an account you can begin making videos from scratch or by following one of the simple templates in Headliner. Using the blank template is probably the best way to get to know the features built into the Headliner editor.

The first time that you open a blank project in Headliner you might think that you have to upload audio to start. That's because Headliner displays a prompt to upload audio as soon as you open the editor. I found that you don't have to actually upload audio to get started. Instead of adding audio to start you can import pictures, use the built-in image search tool, import video, or use the built-in video search tool. Once you have imported media you can adjust the duration of display, add pan and zoom effects, insert transition effects, and add text to the video. Of course, you can also add audio to the video at any time.

Completed Headliner projects can be downloaded as MP4 files, embedded into blog posts and webpages, or shared on social media.

Applications for Education
Headliner could be a great video creation tool for high school students to use to make short documentary-style videos. While it is relatively easy to use, making a short documentary in Headliner would require a good bit of advanced planning and patience in editing images, video clips, text, and audio into one polished final product.

Editing PDFs and Nine Other Microsoft Word Tutorials

On Wednesday morning I published a couple of tutorials about annotating PDFs and annotating Google Slides. Shortly after publishing those tutorials Mike Tholfsen Tweeted a link to Microsoft's 10 Handy Tips for Microsoft Word. One of those tips is using Word to edit PDFs. A short video tutorial for that process is embedded below.

The nine other tips in Microsoft's 10 Handy Tips for Microsoft Word are:

  • Dictate to type
  • Spelling, grammar, and clarity check.
  • Track changes
  • Insert a table
  • Add and edit text
  • Insert headers and footers
  • Insert or remove page breaks
  • Add a table of contents
  • Change line spacing
Video tutorials for all of those tips can be found here

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The New Gmail is Coming Soon to More Domains and Users

Back in April Google revealed a redesigned Gmail user interface with a fantastic set of features including reply suggestions, message snoozing, and follow-up reminders. When it was announced the new Gmail interface was only available to those domains in the Early Adopter Program. Today, Google announced that the new Gmail interface will soon be available to all G Suite domains.

There are a few options that G Suite administrators can use for the roll-out of the new Gmail interface. No matter which option is chosen, by October 16th the new version of the Gmail UI (user interface) will be the only one available to new users and current users will see the option to revert to the old version disappear.

Option 1: Make the new Gmail the default for all users immediately. 
This option will make the new Gmail the default for all users in a domain as soon as the administrator activates it. Users will still have the option to use the old Gmail until October 16th.

Option 2: Allow users to select the new Gmail UI and features when they're ready. 
This is the default option for domains who participated in the Early Adopter Program. This option will allow domain administrators to let their users choose to use the new Gmail UI and features when they're ready. However, all users who have not opted-in by September 18th will automatically be transitioned beginning on September 18th. Users will still be able to revert to the old Gmail UI until October 16th.

Option 3: All users begin the transition to new Gmail UI and features on August 21st. 
This is the default option for domains that didn't participate in the Early Adopter Program. This option leaves users on the current version of Gmail until August 21st. After August 21st they'll see the option to try the new Gmail UI and features. If they don't opt-in by September 18th, they'll automatically be transitioned. Users will still be able to revert to the old Gmail UI until October 16th.

What does this mean for teachers?
A change like this can be hard, especially at the beginning of the school year when you already have a lot of other things on your plate. But in this case the change is a good thing because the features in the new Gmail UI can help you get through your inbox more efficiently.

Smart Reply is my favorite feature of the new Gmail UI. Smart Reply creates suggestions for replies to send to messages in your inbox. This can be a real time-saver when your inbox is full of emails that contain similar types of questions. I've been using Smart Reply on Gmail on my phone all summer and it has proven to be convenient for short messages.

Nudging is the other feature of the new Gmail UI that I like a lot. Nudging prompts you to reply to emails that you haven't responded to. Nudging also prompts you to follow-up on messages that you sent but didn't receive a reply to. 

How to Annotate Your Google Slides

On the heels of answering questions about how to annotate PDFs, I received a question on the Practical Ed Tech Facebook page about annotating Google Slides. You could do that by exporting your slides as PDFs and then importing them into Kami. Or you can use the drawing and commenting tools built into Google Slides. In the following video I demonstrate how to annotate Google Slides by using the drawing and commenting tools built into Google Slides.

Applications for Education
You could use the drawing and commenting tools in Google Slides to give your students feedback on the content and design of their slideshows before they present them to your class. You might also use the drawing and commenting tools as I demonstrated in the video to have students respond to questions about elements within a slide.