Friday, November 16, 2018

How to Create a QR Code for a Voice Recording

Just a few minutes ago I answered an email from a reader named Chris who wanted a recommendation on how to have students create voice recordings that play back when a QR code is scanned. My recommendation was to try Vocaroo. Vocaroo lets you record for free (no registration required) then have a QR code automatically generated for your recording. In the following video I demonstrate how to record with Vocaroo then generate a QR code.


The only drawback to this method is that Vocaroo won't host recordings indefinitely. See the following note from their FAQ page.

How to Create Show Your Work Questions on GoFormative.com

Last week at the EdTech Teacher Summit in Boston I gave a presentation about formative assessment (you can see the slides here). GoFormative.com was one of the tools that I featured in my presentation. One of the key features of GoFormative is the "show your work" question type that allows students to draw responses to questions. In the following video I demonstrate how to create "show your work" questions on GoFormative.

Three Tools for Creating Custom Maps Without a Google Account

Google's My Maps is a great tool for designing custom maps. The problem with it is that students can only save their work if they have Google accounts. If your school uses G Suite for Education that's probably not a problem, but it is a problem for students who don't have G Suite accounts. If that's the case for your students, then try one of the following tools for making custom digital maps.

GmapGIS is a free digital mapping tool that lets you draw and type on top of base layer maps. You can select satellite, street, relief, or a hybrid map as your base layer. Once you've made that selection you can use freehand drawing tools, line tools, and shape drawing tools to mark-up the map. Right-clicking on any of the lines or shapes you draw will open a menu of labeling options. You can also add placemarking pins to your map. When you are finished drawing labeling you can share your map by sending the link that is automatically generated for your map. You can also save a KML file for your map and view it in Google Earth.

National Geographic's Mapmaker Interactive can be a good alternative to using Google Maps in your classroom. Mapmaker Interactive offers a number of features that students and teachers can utilize without the need to enter an email address or register to use the Mapmaker tools. Those tools include measuring distances, adding placemarks, layering information, and switching between base map layers. In the following video I provide an overview of the features in National Geographic's Mapmaker Interactive.


Scribble Maps is a free tool for creating custom, multimedia maps online. Since 2009 this has been my go-to alternative to Google's MyMaps and Maps Engine Lite tools. Scribble Maps provides a variety of base layer maps on which you can draw freehand, add placemarks, add image overlays, and type across the map. Compared to creating a custom map on Google Maps, Scribble Maps is much easier for students to learn how to use. Scribble Maps also provides far more default placemark icons than Google's My Maps tool. Scribble Maps will work in the web browser on your laptop, Chromebook, iPad, or Android tablet. In the following video I provide an overview of how to use Scribble Maps.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Mapping the Ingredients in Thanksgiving Meals

Last year on Thanksgiving I discovered an ESRI Storymap titled Where Does Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? Of course, having discovered it on Thanksgiving Day it was a bit too late to be useful so I'm sharing it again this year in advance of Thanksgiving.

Where Does Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? displays where eight popular Thanksgiving foods are grown and harvested in the United States. The storymap includes a map for each ingredient. Each map shows the locations of commercial producers. Fun facts are included in the storymap too. For example, did you know that Illinois has at least twice as many acres of pumpkins as any state?



Applications for Education
You could use the Thanksgiving meal storymap to spark students' curiosity to investigate questions like "why does Illinois grow so many pumpkins?" or "why don't we harvest any pecans in New England?"

A Digital Differentiation Model

This week I am hosting some guest bloggers. This entry is from Danielle Lagnese.

Personalizing learning in my classroom four years ago was challenging. To say the least. Imagine eight red buckets from Dollar Tree filled with binder clipped packets of worksheets. We did the best we could, but humidity curled the papers beyond recognition. Activities were limited to what could fit on a piece of 8X11 white paper. Students were compliant, but the activities were antiquated even if my desire to reach each student where they were was genuine.

In 2015, we moved to having Chromebooks carts in each Social Studies Classroom and using Google Classroom districtwide. My ability to make differentiation manageable, rather than something that would overload me, changed overnight. I was faced with an opportunity to create a system that would reflect the pedagogy I believed in and serve my students without sacrificing my personal style. Creating “learning playlists” have improved ability to differentiate in a digital environment. They’ve given my students choice, voice, an opportunity to reflect on their learning, and an increased growth mindset. They’ve given me a chance to try out new tools, adapt my instruction anytime, and a refuge from red buckets of crumpled worksheets. I’m able to do all of this with Google Forms, Google Sheets, and Google Classroom.

My unit planning starts the creation of a playlist - here’s a PDF of the finish product. I consider which learning activities all students must do within this curriculum. The diversity of my students makes this a small number. Our students’ reading, writing, vocabulary, listening, and technology skills range widely and I want to move all students forward while meeting each exactly where they are. This is not a science and it’s something I hope to improve at every day.

The top part of the Google Sheet contains these required activities. I try to make it as visual as possible and I mix colors and images to help students use the sheet as independently as possible.

In the initial planning phase, I leave a few of these rows blank so that I can use formative assessments to make decision about what activities are necessary for all students as we move through the unit. This should be a living document that I can adjust at any time as I teach real humans whose capacities expand constantly.

The bottom part of the Google Sheet contains individual activities. This is a much larger area of real estate on the sheet, which reflects the percentage of activities are personalized in my 8th grade Social Studies class. This may look different in different subject areas and grade levels.

After I have created categories for the unit, I add individual activities. This can be extensive. One unit can have 15-20 activities in the individual section. The best way to “make it manageable” here is to collaborate with your departments or grade levels. Take advantage of the best resources around you - other educators.

Within each category, there may be different choices - leveled, specific skills, or choices for different interests:

The most important column in the individualized section is the materials section. This is where all the learning lives. Some links prompt students to make copies of activities, or link to directions, flipped videos, Google Forms, or other digital tools. I can pull students to a small group for extra practice at any time and they can track and reflect on that practice in this space.

I leave a spot below this blank canvas for students to write in their goal and the amount of points they’ve earned. I use a formula so the sheet works for kids to automatically track their progress. As we progress through the unit, my kids conference with me constantly. I give them feedback, they use evidence from their work to convince me how many “points” should be earned for each activity.

Goals are set on the first day of the unit using Google Form. Students answer questions like these to evaluate their strengths and calculate a points goal.

The final step is the “assessment conference” I have with students. Students run the conference. Here’s a script for how I model that. They tell me what activities they did, why they chose them, how they used the feedback the got, and why they deserve to have met their goal. If students didn’t meet their goal, we reflect on that together and come up with ways to meet them in the future. Using this method has made personalization manageable for me and I hope that it can help you too!

Danielle Lagnese is a middle school Social Studies teacher in East Windsor, NJ. She has presented at conferences around the state about digital differentiation and using technology to personalize learning. You can follow her @MissLagnese on Twitter.