Monday, October 1, 2018

A Fantastic Virtual Tour of the Houses of Parliament

CNN recently published a fantastic virtual tour of the Houses of Parliament or the Palace of Westminster, to be more precise. The narrated, self-guided tour lets viewers explore ten aspects of the Houses of Parliament including the House of Commons, the Robing Room, and the Members' Lobby.

Within each of the ten parts of the tour viewers can click on the interactive labels or simply sit back and listen to the narrator describe what is shown, its history, and its significance. Viewers can click and drag to explore the entirety of the 360 degree views of each stop in the tour.

Applications for Education
CNN's virtual tour of the Houses of Parliament could be a great introductory resource for lessons on British government and comparative government. While the tour's narration does provide a lot of good and interesting information it also could lead to middle school and high school students asking a lot of questions.

H/T to Maps Mania.

Seven Good Places to Find Writing Prompts

Anyone who has ever taught language arts has heard, "I don't know what to write about" from a student or two. If you've ever heard that from a student, take a look at the following sites and apps to find writing prompts.

Emoji Prompts uses emojis as writing prompts. To generate a prompt just go to the Emoji Prompts site and click the blue "and then" button to add emojis to the screen. Students can write stories inspired by the combinations of emojis that are displayed. Emoji Prompts was created by Ian Byrd and I learned about it from one of Tony Vincent's recent Tweets.

Story Dice for iOS is a free app that lets you select up to ten dice from four story categories. The dice feature pictures that are intended to prompt you to write about them or include them in a story. You can roll the dice by shaking your iPad or by just tapping the roll icon. Want to write your own Star Wars fan fiction? Story Dice has a Star Wars category.

Scholastic Story Starters is a great tool that students will enjoy using to create short, creative fiction stories. Scholastic Story Starters offers four story themes; fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, and scrambler. To create a story on Story Starters a students picks a theme, enter his or her name, chooses his or her grade, and spins the big wheels of prompts. The student can spin the wheels until he or she finds a prompt he or she likes. After the prompt is selected the student can write his or her story using the letter, postcard, notebook, or newspaper format provided by Scholastic Story Starters. When the story is finished it can be printed.

StoryToolz offer a nice collection of useful tools for writers. Writers who are struggling to come up with ideas for fiction stories will like the story starters featured on StoryToolz. StoryToolz has three tools that you can use to get story ideas; Random Conflicts, Half Title Generator, and Story Idea Generator. To use any of these three tools just select the tool from the main menu then look at the randomly generated idea. If you don't like the options, run the tool again until you get options that you like.

Toasted Cheese is a daily writing prompt site that publishes prompts on a monthly calendar. The whole month is laid out for you with a different prompt each day. Don't see anything you like on the current calendar? That's okay, click through the previous months to find old prompts. Periodically, Toasted Cheese holds writing contests which you can learn about by clicking on the links on the calendar. The writing contests are based on one or more of the prompts from the calendar.

Make Beliefs Comix is a multilingual comic strip creation service that offers more than 300 comic templates. These printable templates are in addition to the online Make Beliefs Comix creation tool. The templates are divided into dozens of thematic categories including history, holidays, and civil rights. There is even a category of templates titled Emotions which is designed to help students express how they are feeling through comic characters. The printable templates from Make Beliefs Comix could be excellent resources to use as creative writing prompts. You could have students start a simple story by using the templates then expand the story into a longer narrative.

Writing Sparks. Writing Sparks offers timed writing prompts to share with your elementary school students. Students can respond to the prompts by writing on paper, in a word processing document like MS Word, or by writing on the Writing Sparks website. The Writing Sparks website provides students with templates to complete as they respond to each writing prompt. In the video that is embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use the free Writing Sparks service.

Mind Over Media - New Resource for Teaching Propaganda and Media Literacy

This is a guest post from writer and researcher Beth Holland (@brholland).

I first met Professor Renee Hobbs from the Media Education Lab last spring at the SXSWedu conference. She led a fascinating discussion about how to foster media literacy and digital literacy in an age of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence. Towards the end of the session, she posed a question that has perplexed me for months: how do we help students develop critical literacies such that they comprehend what media might be telling them when they cannot readily view the biases behind the algorithms generating that information? In other words, when students are constantly surrounded by media and messages, how can they quickly, efficiently, and accurately identify propaganda or bias versus information?

This week, in collaboration with a team of scholars from the European Union, Professor Hobbs announced the launch of Mind Over Media - a free online resource devoted to helping individuals understand how to recognize and interpret propaganda in media. This site expands an earlier project that Professor Hobbs completed with the United States Holocaust Museum.

Whereas the initial project focused specifically on propaganda and the rise of Naziism during World War II, the Mind Over Media project addresses the broader idea of propaganda in the 21st century. A teachers page includes a complete curriculum as well as eight lesson plans. Teachers can create a free account to curate media for their lessons and view sample, teacher-created custom galleries. Because the platform includes a crowdsourcing feature to encourage educators to share more examples of propaganda, the library of available media will continue to grow.

Three Digital Portfolio Styles - And Tools for Making Them

This post originally appeared in my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter and on my Practical Ed Tech website. 

This week I am working with a group of teachers who want to have their middle school students create digital portfolios that they will maintain throughout the school year. The first part of our work will be to decide what artifacts they want students to put into their portfolios and how they want those artifacts displayed. To guide that work I've broken various digital portfolio tools into three style categories.

Simple, Shareable Folders
This style is the least aesthetically pleasing but it can be the easiest way to get started. In this style students use Google Drive folders, OneNote notebooks, Dropbox folders, or a similar type of online storage tool that lets them share folders with you. These won't have any aesthetic appeal and there isn't much room for students to explain why they added a particular artifact, but if your students are already using Google Drive or OneNote this method is quick as it doesn't introduce a new tool to them.

It is important to note that if you decide to use this style you need to develop a folder structure and naming conventions that all of your students must follow. Without an established folder structure and naming conventions for students to follow you will pull your hair out trying to figure out which artifacts are where within the portfolio.

Website or Blog as Portfolios
In this style of digital portfolio creation students write blog posts or create web pages to showcase examples of their best work. When students do this they should include explanations of why they document, presentation, video, or other artifact is an example of their best work.

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano coined the term Blogfolio to describe using blogs as portfolios. I recommend reading her detailed overview of the ways that students and teachers can utilize blogs as portfolios.

If you decide to pursue using blogs or websites as portfolios I recommend trying Edublogs, Google Sites, Weebly for Education, or Blogger.

  • Edublogs is great for kids who don't have email accounts or Google accounts because you can manage their usernames and reset passwords for them. 
  • Google Sites is good if your students are already using G Suite for Education because they can import anything from Google Drive into the pages of their Google Sites. 
  • Weebly for Education is a good choice if you want to have students make their own websites, but you're not a G Suite for Education school. Weebly for Education will let you create and manage student accounts. 
  • Blogger is my last choice of these four options but it is still solid if your students are over age 13 and they have Google accounts. 
Use a Service Designed for Digital Portfolios
This is the route to go if you have students making a mix of digital and physical products that you want to store in one place. This is also the route to go if you're not married to school-wide deployment of G Suite for Education or Microsoft 365 Education. There are two tools that I recommend more than any others in this category. Those tools are SeeSaw and ClassDojo Student Stories

Both SeeSaw and ClassDojo let you create multiple classrooms with your account. In those classrooms you can assign activities to your students. An activity could be a prompt to add a particular type of artifact to the portfolio. Both systems let students take pictures, record videos, and write explanations of the items that they add to their portfolios. Additionally, SeeSaw will let students record themselves talking over pictures that they have added to their portfolios. Both systems were designed with K-6 students in mind, but can be used by students of all ages. You really can't go wrong with either service. 

Here's a video overview of ClassDojo's Student Stories


Here's a video overview of SeeSaw.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ten Tools for Teaching With YouTube Videos

If you can get past the distraction of cute animal videos, video game highlights, and other nonsense, you can find excellent educational videos on YouTube. But even then it's not enough to just share the video with your students either in your classroom or online. When sharing videos with students in an online format, add some questions for them to answer or ideas for them to consider as they watch. Here are five tools that are good for doing that.

After a few years EDpuzzle remains at the top of my list of recommended tools for creating flipped video lessons. It is a neat tool that allows you to add your voice and text questions to educational videos. On EDpuzzle you can search for educational videos and or upload your own videos to use as the basis of your lesson. In your EDpuzzle lessons you can make it a requirement for students to answer a question before moving forward in the video. EDpuzzle has an online classroom component that you can use to assign videos to students and track their progress through your video lessons.

Vialogues is a free service that allows you to build online discussions around videos hosted online and videos that you have saved on your computer. Registered users can upload videos to Vialogues or use YouTube videos as the centerpieces of their conversations. After you have selected a video from YouTube or uploaded a video of your own, you can post poll questions and add comments that are tied to points in the video. Your Vialogue can be made public or private. Public Vialogues can be embedded into your blog or website.

VideoNotes is a neat tool for taking notes while watching videos. VideoNotes allows you to load any YouTube video on the left side of your screen and on the right side of the screen VideoNotes gives you a notepad to type on. VideoNotes integrates with your Google Drive account. By integrating with Google Drive VideoNotes allows you to share your notes and collaborate on your notes just as you can do with a Google Document. You can use VideoNotes to have students submit questions to you and each other while watching videos. Of course, you can insert questions into the conversation for your students to answer too.

Teachem is a service that uses the TED Ed model of creating lessons based on video. On Teachem teachers can build courses that are composed of a series of videos hosted on YouTube. Teachers can write questions and comments in "flashcards" that are tied to specific parts of each video and display next to each video. Students can take notes while watching the videos using the Teachem SmartNote system. Creating a Teachem course a straight-forward process of choosing a video URL then writing corresponding questions. When you create a Teachem course you can make it public or private. Public courses can be accessed by anyone that has address for your course. Teachem contains an option to collaborate with colleagues on the creation of courses.

TES Teach makes it easy for teachers to organize and share educational materials in a visually pleasing format. On TES Teach you arrange videos, links, images, and files around any topic of your choosing. TES Teach has built-in search tools so that you do not have to leave your TES Teach account in order to locate resources. When you share a set of TES Teach materials with your students they can give you feedback to show that they understand the materials or they can ask questions about the materials. You can also see if your students actually looked at all of the materials that you have shared with them.

Remove Distractions
When you're showing a video in your classroom you can remove distracting sidebar and "related" materials from YouTube with the following tools. 

ViewPure is one of my longest standing recommendations for viewing YouTube videos without distractions. At its basic level to use View Pure just copy the link of a video into the "purifier" on the View Pure website and then click purify. Your "purified" video will be displayed on a blank white background. You can password-protect links to videos that you share through ViewPure (click here for directions). In the last year ViewPure expanded to offer curated collections of educational videos.

Watchkin is a service that provides a few ways to watch YouTube videos without seeing the related video suggestions and comments. You can enter the direct URL of a video into Watchkin to have the sidebar content removed. You can search for videos through Watchkin and have family-friendly results displayed (if a video appears that is not family-friendly Watchkin has a mechanism for flagging it as inappropriate). Watchkin also offers a browser bookmarklet tool that you can click while on YouTube.com to have the related content disappear from the page.

Quietube is a convenient tool that you can add to your browser's bookmarks bar. With Quietube installed you can simply click it whenever you're viewing a video on YouTube and all of the related clutter will be hidden from view. Installing Quietube requires nothing more than dragging the Quietube button to your toolbar.

Tube is a free tool that provide a minimalist view of YouTube. When you go to the Tube website the only things you will see are "Tube," a disclaimer, a link to the developer's Twitter account, and a search box. Enter your search terms into the Tube search box and a list of results appears below it without showing any advertising or other sidebar content. When you click one of the videos in the search results it is displayed nearly full-screen on a plain white background.

SafeShare.tv makes it possible to view YouTube videos without displaying the related videos and associated comments. To use SafeShare.tv simply copy the URL of a YouTube video and paste it into SafeShare.tv. SafeShare also offers browser a bookmarklet tool that will eliminate the need to copy and paste links from YouTube into SafeShare.