Thursday, October 18, 2018

Why Have Students Make Simple Animations?

Last week I wrote about having middle school students create presentations from a combination of illustrations and videos that they made. In that post I shared Brush Ninja animation tool. That's just one of many tools that students could have used to animated GIFs to include in their slides. The point of the activity wasn't to have students learn how to use Brush Ninja, it was to have students create animations to demonstrate their understanding of a process.

In the example that I shared last week students made animations to illustrate forms of energy. That topic was a fairly natural fit to illustrate with animations. But animations can be used to illustrate nearly every topic that is taught in K-12 schools. I was turned onto this idea many years ago when I read Dan Roam's Back of the Napkin and Unfolding the Napkin books. These books make the point that if you truly understand a concept, you can illustrate it with simple drawings on the back of a napkin or other blank canvas.

You don't need to be artistically inclined at all in order to make effective illustrations. In fact, in Unfolding the Napkin I learned that simple stick figures were often all that is needed to illustrate a concept. And if you do use the concepts of Unfolding the Napkin in your classroom, you will have to remind some students to focus on the concepts first before getting hung up on the aesthetics of their sketches.

Watch the following video in which Dan Roam explains the concepts of Unfolding the Napkin.

Plickers Brings Back Individual Student Reports!

Back in September the folks at Plickers, a popular student-response service, released a bunch of updates to their mobile apps and website. Some of those updates, like easier display of questions have been popular. Some of those updates were panned by teachers. Fortunately, the Plickers team has been responsive to the voices of their users and is making adjustments accordingly. To that end Plickers once again has individual student reports.

To generate individual student reports in Plickers you do have to assign each card to each of the students on your classroom roster. After you have done that you can poll your class at any time by having them hold up their assigned cards then scan the room with the Plickers app open your phone or tablet. All of your students' responses will then be available in your reports.

The Basics of Plickers
Plickers is a free polling service that I started using back in 2014. It is unlike any other polling system because only the teacher needs a phone or tablet to make the system work.

To use Plickers you have to give each of your students a card or piece of paper that has a large, unique QR code on it. Each edge of the QR code has an "A," "B," "C," or "D" printed on it. When you ask your students a question they all hold up their cards with their answer choices (A,B,C, or D) on top. Then you scan the room with your phone or tablet while you have the Plickers app open. Plickers will quickly tally all responses and put them into a report for you.

You can print the QR codes directly from the Plickers website. If you use that option, I recommend printing on card stock. You can also purchase laminated Plickers code cards on Amazon.

Applications for Education
Plickers is a fantastic polling system to use in classrooms that don't have computers or tablets for every student. The advantage of Plickers over just having students raise their hands is that Plickers can be used for anonymous polling. To conduct an anonymous poll have all students hold up their cards at the same time. Because each card has its own unique pattern students don't know how their classmates are answering a question.

Plickers can also be a good option in classrooms in which taking out a tablet or laptop for a quick activity can be a bit of a hassle (I'm thinking of a couple of 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms that I recently visited).

EDU in 90 - Short Overviews of Google's Education Products

I have published more than 250 Google tools tutorial videos over the last few years. But if my dry screencasts aren't your style, try Google's EDU in 90 series of videos. EDU in 90 offers 38 videos designed to introduce viewers to some of the things that students can do with Google's various products like Google Drawings, Google Arts & Culture, and Google Earth. You can watch the entire playlist here or watch a couple of the sample videos that I have embedded below.

EDU in 90: Google Arts & Culture

EDU in 90: Google Drawings in the Classroom

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

JotForm - A Better Way to Create Online Forms

Disclosure: JotForm is an advertiser on

If you have ever looked at a form on a web page and thought, "I'd like my forms to look like that," then JotForm is the service you need to try. JotForm is a service for making fillable online forms. You can use JotForm to create registration forms, course evaluation forms, permission slips, and more. And with JotForm's new integrated PDF editor submissions through your forms can be automatically turned into PDFs that you can print or email.

How to Use JotForm to Create an Online Form
To create a form on JotForm sign-up for a free account then click the "create form" button. You can then choose to create a form in which all questions and response fields are on one page or you choose to make your form in a "card" format in which viewers respond to one question per page. Once you have selected a layout you can choose to use a template, build a form from scratch, or import questions from an existing form even if that form was made with another service. I was able to successfully import questions from a Google Form!

When building a form from scratch in JotForm you drag question types from a menu into your blank form. You can add open response questions, multiple choice questions (single selection and multiple selection), and questions that require a response in the form of a file upload. There is also a star rating question format. Additionally, you can add pictures, charts, block text to forms that you design in JotForm.

After you have added all of your questions it's time to customize the color and font scheme of your form. It's here that JotForm stands out from the crowd. You can apply any colors to your form that you can think of. The text options are almost as plentiful as the color options. And if you really want to customize your form's look, you can open the advanced editor where you'll find options for text alignment, background images, and object spacing. There's even an option for adding custom CSS for those who have those skills.

When you're done adding questions and tweaking the design of your JotForm form you can preview it to see how it will look to visitors. If you like the way it looks, you're ready to publish it. You can share your JotForm forms by emailing or posting your form's URL online. JotForm forms can also be embedded into your existing web pages. Those are options are typical of every online form-builder. What makes JotForm different is that it contains an option to download your form as a fillable PDF!

Responses to your JotForm form are found through your JotForm dashboard. To see responses simply select your form then click "submissions." You can see all submissions in a spreadsheet format or you can view them as individual PDFs that you can download, print, or email. And speaking of PDFs, JotForm has an excellent guide to editing PDFs.

Applications for Education
JotForm could be a great tool for making forms for online permission slips, surveys, course registrations, or short quizzes. From a design editing perspective, JotForm is way ahead of Google Forms.

A New LOC Online Collection - Theodore Roosevelt's Papers

I have always found Theodore Roosevelt to be one of the most fascinating characters in U.S. History. That is why I was excited this morning when I saw an email from the Library of Congress announcing the online publication of Theodore Roosevelt's papers.

The LOC's collection of Theodore Roosevelt's papers is divided into sixteen sections. Included in those sections are his personal diaries, executive orders, speeches, and business papers. One section that I find particularly interesting is the collection of the scrapbooks that he kept. Like most online Library of Congress artifacts, you can download copies of Roosevelt's papers.

Applications for Education
This is a tremendous collection of primary sources about the 26th President of the United States. The documents within the collection could be used in a service like DocsTeach as part of analysis, comparison, or sequencing activities.

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