Saturday, February 9, 2019

Search, AR, VR, and Stories - The Week in Review

Good morning from cold and windy Maine. How windy? In the words of my two-year-old, "soooo windy!"

Before sharing the list of the week's most popular posts, I have an update about Free Technology for Teachers that will answer some of the questions that I've received lately. The reason for the lighter posting over the last week is three fold. First, and the biggest reason, is that I'm determined to finally finish writing a book that I started almost 18 months ago. Pounding out 1,000+ words a day on that is much more difficult than writing three or four blog posts per day. Second, I'm spending time writing on Ed Tech Fitness and building that community. Third, I'm building and revising new keynote presentations for the conferences that I am speaking at over the next couple of months. So no, I'm not shutting down this blog. I haven't lost interest in it. I just have a couple of things that for first time in years I'm putting slightly ahead of the blog for the next few weeks. By March, I'll be back to publishing three or four posts per day.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. What is Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?
2. Ten Overlooked Google Docs Features
3. How to Use Google Slides to Create Choose Your Own Adventure Stories
4. Two Image-based Search Challenges to Use With Your Students
5. Ten Search Strategies Students Should Try
6. A Couple of Free Online Alternatives to Audacity
7. Tracing the Evolution of Phones - A Google Scholar Practice Activity

Now Booking Summer Workshops!
I know that June can feel a long way away right now, 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.

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 8, 2019

How to Use Google Slides to Create Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

Google Slides has lots of little hidden features and overlooked tools that students can use to make all kinds creative presentations. One of those overlooked features is linking slides to other slides. If used correctly and with a little planning students can create choose-your-own-adventure stories by using the slide linking feature in Google Slides. That's what I explain and demonstrate in the following video.



Building Models to Understand Brain Injury - A Hacking STEM Project

I'm still working through many of the notes that I took during the 2019 BETT Show that wrapped up in a London a couple of weeks ago. One of the new things that I saw there was a new Hacking STEM project called Building Models to Understand and Mitigate Brain Injury. This is one the newest projects added to Microsoft's Hacking STEM library.

In Building Models to Understand and Mitigate Brain Injury students create a model brain that is connected to pressure sensors to measure the force of impact on the brain from a hit to the head. Those sensors are connected to a Excel where data from each impact is immediately charted. My shakily recorded video shows the model and connected Excel sheet in action.


This project and corresponding lesson plan are intended for use with middle school students. Of course, you could modify it for high school students. The complete lesson plan is available for free right here. Microsoft estimates the cost of materials for the project at $3/ student excluding the Arduino circuit board which are not terribly expensive.

The lesson plan isn't just building a model and recording data about impacts on the brain. There is a design component that you can add to the lesson. In the design component students design various helmets and helmet materials. They then test their designs using the same simulation method that was used to impact in the initial simulation.

While this project could be great for any middle school science class, it could be particularly meaningful to students who participate in sports like soccer and football that have a high risk of head injuries.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

What is Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?

Go to any educational technology conference or ed tech blog today and you are bound to encounter augmented reality and virtual reality products. They’re the hot topics of the day in the educational technology industry. Every week I answer questions from readers about AR and VR. One of the patterns I've discerned from answering those questions is that a lot of people aren't clear on what AR and VR really are what is different about the two technologies. Here's a concise overview of AR and VR.

What is Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?
Augmented Reality (AR) displays digital content (video, picture, animation) in a physical world. This is digital content is typically displayed on your mobile phone or internet-connected tablet. The display of digital content is often triggered by location. Pokemon Go is a mainstream example of augmented reality displays triggered by location.

The other way the display of digital content can be triggered is by focusing the camera of your phone or tablet on an object. You’ll find examples of this in children’s books that have companion AR apps. Kids can read the book and scan the book’s pages with a companion app to see digital content.

Virtual Reality (VR) is a digital experience is typically displayed inside a virtual reality headset or viewer like Google Cardboard. The digital content that you see is not dependent on your current physical location, but it does require that you have a VR viewer. Fortunately, VR viewers are inexpensive. You can get ones that are suitable for classroom use for under ten dollars on Amazon and many other retailers. You can even make your own VR headset. A quick search on YouTube for “DIY Virtual Reality Headset” will lead you to lots of videos on how to make your own VR headset.

Apps to Quickly See How AR & VR Works
Like most things in educational technology, it’s better to try AR & VR than to just read about it. Here are a couple of apps that will let you quickly and easily experience AR & VR.

Plum's Creaturizer from PBS Kids is a free iOS and Android app that lets students create fun cartoon creatures and then place them into outdoor settings through the use of augmented reality. The purpose of the app is to have students learn and show how the characteristics of an animal help it thrive in its environment.

Google Expeditions has AR and VR experiences. The AR content in Google Expeditions lets students view and manipulate digital content in a physical world context. The AR content can be used as components in science, math, geography, history, and art lessons. Some examples of the more than 100 AR experiences that you'll find in the app include landforms, the skeletal system, dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, the brain, and the Space Race.

To use the AR content available through Google Expeditions you will need to print marker or trigger sheets that students scan with their phones or tablets. Once scanned the AR imagery appears on the screen. (You can actually preview some of the imagery without scanning a marker, but the imagery will not be interactive or 3D). Students don't need to look through a Cardboard viewer in order to see the AR imagery. You can get the Google Expeditions Android app here and the iOS version here.

The Smithsonian has a neat VR app called VR Hangar. The app, available on iOS and Android devices, contains three virtual reality tours about landmark moments in aviation history. Those moments are the Wright Brothers' first flight, Chuck Yeager's record-breaking flight in the Bell X-1, and the Apollo 11 mission. You can use VR Hangar with or without a VR headset, but it is much better with a VR headset.

Come to the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp to learn more about AR and VR and how you can use it in your classroom. 

Anchor Has Been Acquired by Spotify

Anchor, one of the best new podcast creation tools to emerge in the last few years, has been acquired by Spotify. In an email sent to users and in this blog post Anchor's founders announced the acquisition. According to Anchor's announcement the acquisition by Spotify won't change how you can use Anchor to record, edit, and publish podcasts through Anchor's apps and browser tools. That is good news because Anchor provides one of the two best ways for students to create podcasts. Watch my video to learn how you and your students can create a podcast with Anchor's free tools.