Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A Couple of Free Online Alternatives to Audacity

On Monday someone Tweeted at me a request for an alternative to Audacity that his students could use online to record and edit audio tracks. My first thought was to try SoundTrap, but they no longer offer a free version of their product. So my next suggestion was to try Twisted Wave. This morning I started searching my archives and recalled another online alternative to Audacity. That tool is Beautiful Audio Editor.

Twisted Wave is a browser-based audio recording and editing tool that functions in a manner similar to GarageBand. Through TwistedWave you can create and edit spoken audio recordings from scratch. Your completed tracks can be exported to Google Drive and SoundCloud.If you have existing audio tracks in your SoundCloud or Google Drive account you can also import it into TwistedWave to edit those audio tracks. TwistedWave's audio editing tools include options for fade-in, fade-out, looping, sound normalization, and pitch adjustments. The editor also includes the typical track clipping tools that you would expect to see in an audio editing tool.

Beautiful Audio Editor is a free audio editor that you can use in the Chrome and Firefox web browsers. Beautiful Audio Editor lets you record spoken audio directly and or import audio that you have previously recorded in MP3 and WAV formats. You can edit and blend multiple tracks in the Beautiful Audio Editor. When your audio editing project is complete you can download it as an MP3 file, download it as a WAV file, or you can save it in Google Drive.

Tracing the Evolution of Phones - A Google Scholar Practice Activity

Google Scholar can be an excellent place to find articles from academic journals. Articles from academic journals aren’t the only things that students can search for on Google Scholar. Google Scholar provides search tools for locating court decisions and tools for locating patent filings. A good way for students to practice using the patent search feature in Google Scholar is to trace the evolution of telephones through patent filings. For example, The patent search option in Google Scholar can be used to help us find out how many subsequent, related patents have been filed since Alexander Graham Bell's 1876 patent.

In the following video I demonstrate how your students can use Google Scholar to trace product development through patent research.

Applications for Education
Using the patent search function in Google Scholar can be a good way for students to attempt to trace product developments over time. In this case the challenge for students would be to find the major, subsequent innovations in telephone technology. Of course, the concept can be applied to almost any product that has been patented at some point in time. Read more about the strategy and application here.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Two Image-based Search Challenges to Use With Your Students

One of my favorite ways to reinforce the use of good search strategies to students is to show interesting pictures and have students try to make a long list of questions about what they see. Then I let the students try to find the answers to those questions. When they get stuck, I intervene to remind them of one of the search strategies that they have been taught. The other method that I use is to give students a bit of an image-based riddle to solve through the use of the search strategies that they have learned. Outlines of both types of challenges are included below. (Feel free to use the images, just give me credit for them).

Challenge #1 - The Big Truck!
I like to use this one with elementary school and middle school students. I display the following picture in the front of the room then ask students to ask any questions that they have about it. A lot of students will ask things like, “is that real,” “how big is it,” and “can I drive it?” All of those questions above can be answered by using various search strategies and tools. Using the "similar images search" in Google Images will help you answer these questions. Google Maps Street View will help you answer the questions too. And while not essential to answering the questions, refining your search to a specific top-level domain could help too.

Challenge #2 - The Camel!
This is a challenge for middle school, high school, and college students. It involves a bit of geography, geology, and folklore.

Step 1: Take a look at the following pictures.

2. Find the camel in the second picture. (Hint: it’s the outline of a camel you’re looking for, not an actual camel).
3. The search challenge is to find out which mythological person rode that camel.
4. Identify the connections between the camel and the shoe.
5. Explain how the camel in the picture was actually formed.

The Explanation of the Camel Challenge
1. The camel is outlined in the picture below.

2. Students need to think about mythology beyond the usual Greek mythology that they tend to default to. The picture should give students a clue or two that this "camel" isn't in a typical environment for a myth or folklore involving a camel. They should rule out stories that center on a camel in a desert environment. Eliminating those stories will narrow the list of possibilities.

The camel is actually at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

3. Once students figure out where the camel is located, they should be able to discover that the camel is part of the story of Finn McCool (also written as Fionn MacCoul or Fionn mac Cumhaill).

4. The shoe is representative of Finn McCool's shoe that, according to the folklore, he lost while fleeing from the wrath of Scottish giant, Benandonner.

5. The camel is actually a basaltic dyke.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Search Strategies, PDFs, and the Super Bowl

Good morning from Maine where I'm not doing anything particularly exciting other than brewing up a batch of chili to have during the Super Bowl tomorrow night. Between stirs of the chili I'm working on materials for a bunch of workshops and keynotes that I have coming up over the next three months. The first is next week and then I have at least one every week for through the April. When those are over it will almost be summer. Speaking of summer, the first registrations for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp came in this week. Register in February for the lowest rate.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Ten Search Strategies Students Should Try
2. Ten Overlooked Google Docs Features
3. CleverPDF Offers 20 Ways to Work With PDFs in Other Formats
4. Free PDF Containing 30 Pages of Illustrated Vocabulary Lessons
5. Take Your Class On a NFL Virtual Field Trip
6. How to Create a Self-grading Quiz from Google Classroom
7. Boclips - Millions of Ad-free Educational Videos

Now Booking Summer Workshops!
I know that June can feel a long way away in the middle of January, but I'm already booking my summer workshop calendar. If you'd like to have me come to your school this spring (I have two May openings) or summer, please take a look at my speaking page and fill out the short form at the bottom of it.

And speaking of summer, the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is happening on July 15th and 16th. I've secured a beautiful location for it that offers lots of activities for the whole family within walking distance. Register in February and you'll save $70! Registration is now open here.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
TypingClub offers more than 600 typing lessons for kids.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.

Seterra offers a huge selection of geography games for students. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Ten Search Strategies Students Should Try

Students often think that because they can type a phrase into Google or saying something aloud to Siri they know how to search. Of course, any teacher who has heard a student say "Google has nothing on this" or "there's no information about my topic" knows that students don't inherently know how to search despite growing up in a world filled with Google and Siri. When your students need help formulating or refining a search, have them review the following ten tip. Better yet, have them review these tips before starting their next searches.

Ten Search Strategies Students Should Try
1. Ask your teacher-librarian/ school librarian for help. He or she can probably give you access to databases that aren’t otherwise publicly accessible. He or she likely knows more about search than anyone else in your school building.

2. Search is a thinking skill just as much as it is a technical skill. Take time to stop and think about your query terms before typing your query into the search box. Account for all information that you have when you are formulating your queries.

3. Brainstorm alternative words and phrases. Think about the words that other people might use to describe the same topic. Turn to your notebook or textbook to find words and phrases associated with your topic.

4. Use a pre-search checklist. Did you brainstorm alternative words and phrases? Did you check in your notes for clues that can help you in your search? Did you make a list of things you already know about your topic? If not, do that now before typing your query into Google.

5. Try alternative search engines. Google.com is not the only search engine that you can use. Ask your librarian about databases that you can access through a school account. Try Google Scholar, Bing, Wolfram Alpha, or Duck Duck Go.

6. Look within your search results. This means actually clicking the links on the search results page and reading through the pages. If a web page or document is particularly long, use “control+F” on a Windows computer or “command+F” on a Mac to search for specific words and phrases within a page.

7. Refine your Google search according to file type. Web pages generally rank far above documents, spreadsheets, slides, and Google Earth files in search results. That doesn’t mean they’re not valuable. In fact, they can be more valuable than some web pages that appear at the top of search results. Open the advanced search options in Google and scroll down to the field that lets you search according to file type. You can then search for PDFs, Word Docs, PowerPoint, Excel files, Google Earth (KML) files, and RTF (Rich Text Format) files.

8. Refine your search results according to date. On a Google search results page you can open the “tools” menu and specify that you only want results from sites that have been updated within a particular time frame.

9. Refine your search results according to domain. By default Google will serve up results from any site that ranks in its search algorithm. You can narrow the scope of your search by using the advanced search menu and entering a top-level domain in the “site or domain” field. Some examples of top-level domains are .edu, .mil, and .gov. Every country has its own top-level domain too. Canada’s top-level domain is .ca. Refine a search by using .ca in the “site or domain” field in Google’s advanced search page and you’ll only get results from sites based in Canada.

10. Combine strategies. Using each strategy on its own can help you get better results and find what you’re looking for. But combining multiple strategies like refining by top-level domain and file type can help you get more specific results faster than just scouring the web one search results page at a time.

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