Wednesday, May 15, 2019

How to Use the New Version of Google Books

On Monday I published a list of my ten go-to tech tools for social studies teachers and students. Google Books was one of the tools that I included in that list. Recently, Google Books got an updated user interface. The new interface includes some handy features including an option to quickly locate libraries near you that have your chosen book available to lend out. Watch my new video embedded below for an overview of how to use the new version of Google Books.

Google Books is a fantastic tool for students to use to locate books and search within those books. As is demonstrated in the video even if a book isn't available to download in its entirety, students can still search within the book to determine if the book contains enough references to make it worth their time and effort to buy or borrow a copy of the book.

5 Ways for Students of All Ages to Make Animated Videos

Making animated videos is a great way for students to bring their written stories to life on screen. Those could be fiction or nonfiction stories. Some nonfiction animated video topics include making a video to illustrate a historical event, making biographies, and explaining complex concepts in simple animations like Common Craft does. In the fiction realm you might have students make an adaptation of a favorite story or an animation of their own creative writing. Whichever direction you choose, the following five tools offer good ways for students of all ages to make their own animated videos.

Toontastic 3D
Toontastic 3D is a great app for making animated videos that I have been using and promoting since its launch a few years ago. Toontastic 3D can be used on iPads, Android tablets and phones, and Chromebooks that support Android apps. Students can use Toontastic 3D without having to create or sign into any kind of account.

To make an animated video with Toontastic 3D students simply open the app, select a background scene or draw their own, select some characters or draw their own, and then record themselves talking while moving their characters around the screen. When students have completed their recordings they can add background music to their videos. Finished videos are saved directly to device on which the video was created.

Animaker is a service that students can use to create animated videos in the web browser on their Chromebooks, Windows computers, or Macs. Students create videos in Animaker on a slide-by-slide basis. Animaker provides lots of background settings that students can add to the slides that will form their videos. On each slide students add the pre-drawn characters that they want to have appear in their videos. Each character's appearance and positioning can be edited in each slide. Once the backgrounds and characters have been positioned students can add audio to each their videos by selecting from a gallery of royalty-free audio, by uploading audio recordings, or by using the built-in voice-over tool in Animaker.

Brush Ninja + Screencastify
This is a method of making an animated video that I detailed back in October after using it with a great group of eighth grade students. This method calls for making animated GIFs with the free Brush Ninja drawing tool and then recording a series of GIFs with the Screencastify screencast video tool for Chromebooks. You can get detailed directions for combining Brush Ninja and Screencastify in this post.

Google Slides + Screencastify or Screencast-o-Matic
Google Slides, like PowerPoint and Keynote, provide users with lots of ways to animate elements within their slides. Use those animation tools to make clipart and simple drawings move on the screen. Then capture those movements with a screencasting tool like Screencastify or Screencast-o-matic. Of course, you'll want to include a voiceover while recording. This method can be used to create animated videos like those made popular by Common Craft. You can read about and then watch this whole process in this Practical Ed Tech article.

Draw and Tell
Draw and Tell is a free iPad app that has been on list of recommendations for K-2 students for many years. In this free app students can draw on a blank pages or complete coloring page templates. After completing their drawings students then record a voiceover in which they either explain the drawings or tell a story about the characters in their drawings.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Easy Notecards and Flashcards

Easy Notecards is a free study aid that Vicki Davis introduced to me eight years ago. This post is an update on what I wrote eight years ago.

As you probably guessed from name, Easy Notecards is a free tool for creating text-based and image-based flashcards. What makes Easy Notecards a little different from other notecard and flashcard services is that you can search for public notecard sets according to textbook topics and titles. This is possible because when an Easy Notecards user creates a set of cards he or she can tag the cards with a book title and chapter within that book. For example, if I am making a set of cards based on chapter four of the U.S. History textbook The Americans I would tag that set with "The Americans, Chapter 4."

The cards that you create and or find on Easy Notecards can be used in five ways. They can be used as traditional flashcards that you simply flip back and forth. They can be used in a matching game. The cards can be used in a quiz game. Your cards can be used in an online bingo game. And the cards can be printed.

Easy Notecards offers an online classroom feature. The classroom is used to share cards with a class. The class is assigned a code and only those who have the code can access the cards. Those who have the code can contribute cards to the class.

Applications for Education
When I first tried Easy Notecards eight years ago it was in beta and the options were limited. Today, Easy Notecards has more than two million notecards available through the site. As students prepare for exams, it could be worth their time to explore Easy Notecards for review materials.

Ten Great Tech Tools for Social Studies Lessons

Over the last decade I've written about a lot of excellent resources for social studies lessons. Over time some of those tools have faded away and others have moved to the forefront of my top recommendations. Here's my current list of ten top tools for social studies lessons.

Timeline JS
Timeline projects as as old as history classes themselves. It used to be that timelines were only made on paper. Today, students can build timelines that include videos, audio recordings, pictures, and interactive maps. Timeline JS is the best tool for making multimedia timelines today.

StoryMap JS
StoryMap JS is produced by the same people that make Timeline JS. StoryMap JS enables students to tell stories through the combination of maps and timelines. On StoryMap JS you create slides that are matched to locations on your map. Each slide in your story can include images or videos along with text.

Google's VR Tour Creator
Google's VR Tour Creator is a free tool that enables anyone to create virtual reality tours that can be viewed online and in the Google Expeditions app. In the year since the VR Tour Creator was announced it has added features for including featured images and audio recordings.

Google Expeditions
Google's free virtual reality application that lets students virtually tour more than 800 places around the world. The best of Google Expeditions is the option for teachers to lead students on virtual tours. When leading students you can point out the landmarks that you want to make sure they see and you can ask them questions about those places. Here's a list of tips for getting started with Google Expeditions in your classroom.
If you have ever considered making a current events podcast or a history podcast, makes it easy to do that. You can record, edit, and publish through The best part is that you can publish your podcast to up to ten podcast networks from one place with just one click.

Metaverse Studio
With Metaverse Studio students can create augmented reality games and tours. Making an augmented reality tour of historic landmarks in your community can be a good way to have students research local history and produce a product that they can share with the community.

In today's media climate it is more important than ever for students to be able to recognize what is and isn't valid information, how media is manipulated, and how to be responsible consumers of media. Checkology is a service that is designed to help students develop those skills. Checkology's free version offers four interactive modules for students to complete. Each of the modules is comprised of between twenty and forty-seven instructional video clips and interactive comprehension checks. The four modules are titled Info Zones, Democracy's Watchdog, Practicing Quality Journalism, and Misinformation. As you might expect, the contents of the modules gets progressively more difficult as each section is completed.

Google Earth
The desktop and browser versions Google Earth should be a standard in the collection of tools that a social studies teacher uses. Google Earth provides a great way to view places and collections of places around the world from overhead and street-level views. Viewing in Google Earth lets students zoom-in and explore details in a manner that simply can't be replicated in printed maps. And students can build their own tours in Google Earth. Take a look at this playlist to find tutorials to help you get started using Google Earth in your classroom.

If you want to have your students try their hands at making Ken Burns-style documentary videos, WeVideo is great tool for that purpose. With WeVideo students can mix images, video clips, audio, and text to create a short documentary video. Here's a collection of short tutorials on how to create a video with WeVideo.

Google Books
Google Books offers a huge collection of books, magazines, and newspapers that are in the public domain. For history teachers this means there is an abundance of books about famous battles, biographies, and other works that your students can access for research. The option to search within a book is useful in helping students find information within a book.

Rivet - A Reading App from Google

Rivet is a reading app from Area 120 (a Google property). The free app offers more than 2,000 books for students to read independently. The books are appropriate for students in Kindergarten through second grade (5-8 years old). All of the books provide audio support to students in the form of an option to tap on a word and hear it read aloud. When students tap on a word they will hear it read aloud and can then read a definition of the word. Students also have the option to practice saying the word aloud. When students say a word aloud they get instant feedback on their pronunciation of that that word.

All of the books in Rivet have the audio support functions described above. Some of the books have even more audio support in the form of story dictation. There are some books that display a little audio icon in the bottom, left corner of their pages. When students tap on that audio icon they can hear the entire page read aloud to them.

Rivet offers more than just books for students to read. The app will track how long a student spends reading in the app. Students can earn badges for time spent reading and consecutive days of using the app.

Rivet is available for iPads, iPhones, Android phones, Android tablets, and Chromebooks that support the use of Android apps.