Thursday, January 24, 2019

Three Good Places to Find Hands-on STEM Activities

On a fairly regular basis I'm asked for recommendations for hands-on STEM activities. In fact, just this morning I answered an email from a reader who was seeking that recommendation. Here are three of my go-to recommendations for hands-on STEM activities.

Microsoft has two excellent and free resources for those who are seeking ideas for hands-on STEM lessons. The first is MakeCode. MakeCode offers free programs that students can use to develop their programming skills. These include coding with LEGO Mindstorms, Adafruit, and Micro:bit. Checkout the MakeCode YouTube channel for great project ideas.

The second offering from Microsoft is called Hacking STEM. The idea behind Hacking STEM is to make low-cost or no-cost hands-on STEM projects accessible to as many people as possible. You can follow Microsoft's directions as written or modify the projects to use other materials to build the projects. In the following video I explain how I modified one of the Hacking STEM projects. So you might say that I hacked a Hacking STEM project.


Science Snacks from Exploratorium has been a recommendation of mine for a few years now. Science Snacks are activities that can be conducted with inexpensive and readily available materials. Each Science Snack comes with a materials list and step-by-step directions. Science Snacks are also accompanied by a written explanation of the science at work in the activity. Many Science Snacks, like Penny Battery, include video demonstrations and explanations.

Working with Arduino circuit boards is a fantastic way for students to develop programming skills. Students write programs on their computers then see their programs "come to life" through the lights, motors, and robotics connected to their Arduino boards. The Arduino project hub is full of project ideas for beginner through advanced programmers. If you're new to Arduino and wondering what hardware to purchase to get started, there are many inexpensive kits for beginners. I'm partial to this Arduino hardware kit for beginners.

Share Rubrics and Other Improvements to Microsoft Teams for Edu

Back in August rubric grading was added to Microsoft Teams for Edu. With that feature enabled you can attach rubrics to assignments for students to see before and after completing an assignment. Equally important, you'll be able to grade an assignment using that rubric without having to open multiple tabs or windows. This week at the BETT Show Microsoft launched new features for Microsoft Teams for Edu including improvements to grading process in Teams.

Microsoft Teams for Edu now lets you share rubrics with your colleagues. This means that you can share a rubric with a colleague, get feedback on it, and collaborate on editing a rubric.

If you spend more time using your tablet or phone than you do using your laptop, you'll be happy to know that you can now grade assignments on the Teams iOS and Android apps.

Microsoft's Grade Sync now integrates with popular SISs like PowerSchool and Infinite Campus. This means that you'll be able to easily move grades from Microsoft Teams for Edu into your student information system. Watch the following video for a short overview of how this will work.


Finally, Turnitin users can use that service within Microsoft Teams for Edu.

Students Can Create Their Own Tours to Share in Google Expeditions

Googles' Tour Creator launched last spring and since then has become one of my favorite tools for history and geography classes. One of my few complaints about it was that while students could easily build virtual reality tours, it wasn't always easy to share those tours with their teachers and classmates. That is about to change. Yesterday, Google announced that the updated version of the Expeditions Android app (iOS support is coming soon) will allow sharing of tours that students build in Tour Creator.

If you haven't tried Tour Creator, take a look at the following tutorials that I created.

How to Use Google's VR Tour Creator (The Basics)



How to Add Points of Interest in Tour Creator


How to Include Narration in Tour Creator


Applications for Education
In addition to making tours for history and geography lessons, students can use Tour Creator to build VR tours based on their favorite books. My detailed directions for that process are available here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

JotForm Offers a Great Way to Collect Registrations for Summer Camps and Field Trips

Summer might feel far away right now, but those of us who organize summer camps and summer field trips are already getting into full planning mode for the summer. If you have organized any kind of camp, field trip, or summer workshop you might have used Google Forms or good old fashioned paper forms to collect registration information. This year there is a better way to collect and organize registration information. That way is to use JotForm to organize camp registrations.

What is JotForm?
JotForm is a service for creating great-looking and highly-functional forms for collecting information from form visitors. You can embed your JotForm forms into an existing webpage or you can simply direct people to the URL for your stand-alone JotForm form. JotForm offers dozens of design themes that you can apply to your forms. In the gallery of themes you'll find designs that like this one that are perfect for summer camp registrations. And if you're making the switch from using Google Forms to using JotForm, you can import your Google Forms' information directly into a theme in JotForm.

Features of JotForm not Found in Google Forms
JotForm has a lot of features that make it a great tool for creating registration forms. Some of those features include the option to have personalized confirmation notices sent to registrants without the need for a third-party add-on, the option to collect signatures in forms, and the option to collect payments directly through your forms. Those features are all available in the free version of JotForms. Those who choose to upgrade can create HIPAA-compliant forms which can be used to collect important information like food allergies in your registration forms.



If you're interested in using JotForm to create registration forms for summer camps and similar activities, you will want to check out this guide on how to start a camp.

How to Use JotForm?
Whether you're creating a form for summer camp registrations, creating a form for a field trip, or creating a form to make an interest survey, JotForm is equally easy to use. Watch my video tutorial or read on for detailed directions on how to use JotForm to create forms.



To get started you will need to create a free JotForm account. Once you have created your account click the "create form" button and choose whether you want all questions to be on one page or if you want to have respondents answer one question per page in an index card style. 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 including Google Forms.

If you choose to build a form from scratch rather than use a template you will have to drag question types onto a blank form canvas. 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 you can customize the color and font scheme of your form. 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.

After you have added all of your questions and settled on 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.

Disclosure: JotForm is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

How to Change Google Classroom Notification Settings

Earlier today a subscriber to my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter asked me if it was possible to change the frequency of Google Classroom notification emails. Yes is the answer to that question.

Here's how to change Google Classroom notification settings:
1. Sign into Google Classroom.
2. In the upper, left corner of the screen click on the "hamburger" or "three line menu."
3. At the bottom of the menu select "settings."
4. Notifications options will appear in the settings menu.
5. Choose your global settings and choose your class-by-class notification options.

A video of this process is included below.


Click here to read more about Google Classroom notification settings including how to change notification settings in the Google Classroom mobile apps.