Monday, March 4, 2019

My 5 Favorite Google Docs Add-ons

Last Friday I shared my five favorite Google Forms add-ons. That same day I posted a video featuring a convenient hack for speeding up the process of commenting on students' Google Docs. Those posts spurred a couple of emails from readers regarding Google Docs add-ons. The following are my favorite Google Docs add-ons.

Kaizena is a Google Docs add-on that lets you add voice comments to your students' documents. With the Kaizena add-on installed simply highlight a word or a sentence in a document and then record a voice comment about that highlighted word or sentence. Voice comments can be used in conjunction with text comments. Students need to have the add-on installed in order to listen to the audio comments.

Pixabay for Google Docs is a free Add-on created by Learn In 60 Seconds. With this free Add-on installed you can quickly search for an image. Search results appear in the right hand margin of your document. Double-click on an image to insert it into your document. You can resize the image just as you would any other image that you upload to a Google Document.

Knowing the right keyboard shortcuts to type the accents and characters is one of the challenges that students face when learning and trying to type in a new language. Easy Accents is a Google Docs Add-on that can eliminate that challenge. Easy Accents provides a virtual keyboard that enables students to quickly insert the letters and accents found in French, German, Spanish, Māori, and many other languages.

I don't like it nearly as much I used to, but the EasyBib Bibliography Creator Google Docs add-on is still useful. The EasyBib Bibliography Creator makes it easy to cite resources and format a bibliography in APA, MLA, or Chicago style. As many teacher-librarians will be quick to point out, EasyBib isn't always up to date with the latest requirements of APA and MLA.

The Tag Cloud Generator add-on will create a word cloud in the right-hand margin of any of your Google Documents that contain more than one hundred words. This is useful for quickly identifying the most frequently used words in a document.

Join Me on Wednesday for Practical Ed Tech Live!

Last week I hosted my first live Q&A session of the year. A handful of you sent me questions last week and I enjoyed answering them. A few people sent me questions after the broadcast. I'll be answering those and any new questions this Wednesday at 4pm Eastern Time. You can send questions in advance through this Google Form or join the live broadcast on my YouTube channel and Facebook page to ask questions during the broadcast.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel to get a notification when the broadcast begins.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Five Good Places to Find Current Events Stories for Kids

For a couple of years I taught an elective that was all about current events. That was one of my favorite social studies teaching assignments because I enjoy listening to what students have to save about the news. CNN Student News was one of my go-to resources when I was teaching that current events course. Today, CNN Student News is called CNN 10. CNN 10 provides good, short overviews of the previous day's important new stories. Unfortunately, CNN 10 doesn't offer the discussion question sheets that CNN Student News did.

Here are some other good places to find news stories that written and produced for classroom use. 

DOGOnews is a student news site that features articles for K-8 students. DOGOnews covers current events stories in the areas of science, sports, entertainment, and variety of topics that fall under the banner of social studies. Teachers can find stories by browsing the categories, filtering by grade level, or filtering by grade level.

Youngzine is a great service that provides teachers with current events articles written for classroom use. I first used the site in 2012 and it has only gotten better in the seven years since then. Youngzine articles feature a mix of news, sports, and entertainment stories for elementary school students. A new edition is published weekly. Most articles on Youngzine are accompanied by a supporting video. Articles that reference locations include a map so that students can quickly identify the setting for a story. All articles are accompanied by critical thinking prompts for students. Those prompts can be used in Youngzine online classrooms created by teachers.

Smithsonian TweenTribune offers articles written for students in grades five through eight. A version for older students is available as TeenTribune. A version for K-4 is available as TT Junior. All articles are accompanied by Lexile score label.

PBS NewsHour Extra is a good site for middle school and high school students. The site offers a searchable database of articles. A searchable database of lesson plans is also available on PBS NewsHour Extra.

How to Create Featured Blog Posts

A couple of weeks ago, in anticipation of the Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge, I updated my chart of recommended classroom blogging tools. If you're participating in the blogging challenge, you might find yourself wanting to feature a post at the top of the blog. This could be a post that contains important information about the classroom blog or it could be the most outstanding post of the week that you want to make sure everyone sees when landing on the blog's homepage. Either way, Blogger and Edublogs offer a "featured blog post" setting that you can enable. Watch this short tutorial to learn how it works on both platforms.

Getting Started With the Smithsonian Learning Lab

The Smithsonian Learning Lab allows teachers to create and search for documents, images, videos, interactive animations, and lesson plans from a wide range of Smithsonian-hosted resources. It also lets you create collections to share with others as well as create assignments to give to your students. The video playlist embedded below teaches you how to collect, customize, and share collections of resources in the Smithsonian Learning Lab.

Applications for Education
The Smithsonian Learning Lab's collections feature on its own is great, but the collections are better when you can share them with others. In the Smithsonian Learning Lab you can create a classroom. Students join your classroom by entering the password that you choose for your classroom. Once students have joined your classroom you can share resources with them. You can also distribute assignments to students through your Smithsonian Learning Lab classroom.

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