Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Voicepods Has New Editing Features - Turn Text Into Voice Recordings

A few weeks ago I introduced a new tool called Voicepods. Voicepods is a service that will create voice recordings based on the text that you write. The voice recording that is generated from your text can be listened to online and you can download it as an MP3 to use wherever MP3 playback is supported.

This week Voicepods introduced two new features. First, Voicepods now has an editor that you can use to add pauses, emphasize words, change the pitch and the speed of the voice, and spell out the words in a passage. Second, Voicepods now has the option to collaborate on projects. Students can use the collaboration feature to work with each other or to share work with their teachers.

Watch my video to see how easy it is to use Voicepods.

5 Science & Math Resources That Have a Halloween Theme

Now that we're into October I'll start to see a lot more searches for "Halloween" on this blog. Here's a a handful of Halloween-themed math and science resources.

SciShow Kids has a playlist of videos covering topics that are frequently connected to symbols of Halloween. Those topics are bats, spiders, skeletons, and the changing colors of leaves. In the video about bats students learn how bats use sound to find their way at night, how and why bats hang upside down, and how they rear their offspring. In the video on spiders students learn about the role of spiders in controlling flying insect populations and how spiders create webs. In the video about the human skeleton students can learn about the functions of the skeleton as well as how bones grow and heal over time. Finally, in the video on leaves students learn about the correlation between chlorophyll, sunlight, and leaf color.



The Halloween Collection by PBS Learning- Links to a variety of Halloween-themed lesson plans for students of all ages. Make sure you don't miss the video of the flesh-eating beetles!

Coding with Monsters- Who doesn't love to code? When it is involves monsters it is even better!

31 Days of Halloween STEM activities- Engineering, edible science, chemistry, and slime! Kids of all ages will love making glow in the dark slime! 

Number Chase - Math vs. Zombies is a free iPad game with a Halloween theme. The game is has three virtual worlds each containing ten levels of basic math problems. The object of the game is to correctly solve as many math problems as possible before the zombies catch you. The math of the game is basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

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.