Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Best Apps & Sites for Learning According to AASL

While ISTE's annual conference is the place that all of the big ed tech companies showcase their new developments for the coming year, AASL's annual conference is featuring best apps and websites for teaching and learning. The American Association of School Librarians annual conference was held over the weekend and that's when they revealed their lists of best apps and best websites for teaching and learning in 2019.

Many of the apps and websites on AASL's best of 2019 lists are apps and sites that I've previously reviewed and or created tutorials about. The apps and sites that I've reviewed that made the AASL's lists are featured below. You can find AASL's full list of best apps here and best websites here.

Best Apps for Teaching & Learning
ChatterPix Kids is a free app (Android version here, iPad version here) that students can use to create talking pictures. Students open the app, snap a picture or import a picture, draw a face on the picture, and then record themselves talking for up to thirty seconds. I've used this app with students as young as first grade, but my favorite example of using ChatterPix Kids is found in this video made by Kindergarten students with a little help from their teacher.

iCell, produced by the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology, is an app that high school biology teachers and their students should check out. The app provides students with 3D models of plant, animal, and bacteria cells. Each cell model can be viewed in detail by zooming in and rotating the model on your iPad. Students can learn about the parts of the cells by tapping on them to reveal their labels and a brief description of that part’s function. Click here for the iPad version. Click here for the Android version.

Sites in VR is a free Android and iOS app that provides a 1700 virtual reality views of significant landmarks around the world. The app is a good one for those who would like to experience a bit of virtual reality without having to use a virtual reality headset. Sites in VR provides imagery that you can navigate through by moving your phone or tablet in a manner similar to that of using a virtual reality viewer like Google Cardboard.

Stop Motion Studio is a great app for creating stop motion videos. The app is available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac operating systems. The basic (free) version of Stop Motion Studio lets you take as many pictures as you like and string them together in a sequence that plays back at a frame-per-second rate of your choosing. Each frame can be edited individually before you produce the final video. You can also add narration to your video in the basic version of the app. Completed projects can be saved to your device and from there you can share them on YouTube or on your favorite social network.

PBS Kids ScratchJr is a PBS Kids-themed version of the popular ScratchJr app. PBS Kids ScratchJr is available as a free iPad app and as a free Android app. The app is designed to help five to eight year old students learn basic programming concepts through a drag-and-drop interface. Just like the ScratchJr app, on PBS Kids ScratchJr students program a story or game by selecting background settings and characters for each frame of the story. Then in each frame students select the actions that they want their characters to take. Students snap programming pieces together to make characters move and talk in their stories and games.

Tynker made AASL's list of best apps for teaching and learning. It can be used by students to learn programming skills on their iPads. But it is also available to use in your web browser. The web browser version offers far more functions and features. Click here for my overview of Tynker.

Wolfram Alpha also made AASL's list of best apps for teaching and learning. The app provides much of the same functions that the web version of Wolfram Alpha provides. Over the years I've written many articles about using Wolfram Alpha for a variety of purposes including making comparisons, using it in Google Docs, creating strong passwords, and for help in solving mathematics problems.



Best Websites for Teaching & Learning
Anchor.fm is a free podcast recording, editing, and publishing tool. One of the things that I love about Anchor is that you can quickly publish your podcast to all major podcasting platforms with just one click. Anchor removes all of the technical set-up steps that are typically associated with publishing a podcast. Watch my tutorial below to learn how to get started using Anchor.fm to create a podcast.



Brush Ninja was one of my favorite discoveries last summer. Since then I have been showing it off to anyone who will listen. I included it in my best of the web presentation at TXLA and in a recent workshop on formative assessment. Brush Ninja is a free service for creating animated GIFs that you can then include in slides and videos. Last fall I used with 8th grade science students. You can read about that experience here.



Edpuzzle is a free service for creating video-based lessons or "flipped" lessons. It's a service that has been around for many years and continues to grow and improve. Earlier this year I published the following tutorial on how to use Edpuzzle to create video-based lessons with videos that you find online or with videos that you have stored on your computer.



Explore.org is another website that has been around for many years yet still made AASL's list of best sites for teaching and learning. That just goes to show how good Explore.org is as a resource for students. One of the many features of the site is network of live nature webcams. he way that I recommend using Explore.org's webcam streams is to have students pick an animal or animals that they want to watch grow over the course of a few weeks. Have them watch for a few minutes a day and record observations in an online or physical journal. The Google Science Journal app could be a good option for writing those observations.

GeoGuessr is a fun and challenging geography game based on Google’s Street View imagery. The game presents players with imagery of a location in Street View and the player then has to guess where where in the world that place is. Some challenges are easier than others, but none are actually easy. To guess correctly players need to study the imagery for little clues that tip-off the location. I've been using GeoGuessr since 2014 when I wrote about using it to spark inquiry about geography.

Google's VR Tour Creator is one of my favorite new tools of the last year. AASL seems to agree with me because it is on their list of Best Websites for Teaching & Learning 2019. I've made a series of tutorials on how to use Tour Creator. You can watch those tutorials here.

Knight Lab at Northwestern University produces some of my favorite digital tools for social studies students. Among the many tools that Knight Lab offers you will find Timeline JS for making multimedia timelines, Juxtapose for making comparisons of images, and Storyline JS for making interactive charts. The versatility of the Knight Lab tools is probably a contributing factor to it landing on the AASL's list of best sites for teaching and learning.

Thunkable is a free service for creating your own iOS and Android apps. It's one of the four tools that I frequently recommend to teachers who want their students to try app development.

Wakelet has stormed onto the ed tech landscape over the last year. It's quickly become a popular service for bookmarking, sharing bookmarks, and note-taking.


Thanks to Kathy Ishizuka for her School Library Journal article about AASL's new lists.

Now You Can Share Kahoot Games in Microsoft Teams

Last week Kahoot released some game creation updates in advance of the ISTE conference. This week Kahoot made an announcement during the conference. That announcement was that you can now share Kahoot games in Microsoft Teams. With this update you will be able to share games for live play in your classroom and share games for play at home or anywhere outside of your classroom.

Sharing for Live Play
To post one of your Kahoot games in Microsoft Teams for live play in your classroom, simply open the game editor then select open the sharing menu. In the sharing menu you will see an option to post your game in Microsoft Teams. Look at my screenshots below to see where to find the sharing menus.


Sharing for At-home Play
Sharing a Kahoot game to Microsoft Teams for at-home play (what Kahoot calls "challenge" play) the process is similar, but slightly different. In this case you will click the Challenge button in your Kahoot game editor. Then select "create" and on the next screen choose the option to share to Microsoft Teams. See my screenshot below for more explanation.

You can learn more about using Kahoot within Microsoft Teams in this post on the Kahoot blog.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Google Expeditions is Now Available on Chromebooks!

Google Expeditions is probably the most popular virtual reality app for use in classrooms today. One of the things that has kept it out of some classrooms is that it requires the use of a compatible phone or tablet. That is going to change this summer.

As announced at the ISTE conference, Google is adding support for use of Google Expeditions on Chromebooks and Chrome OS tablets. The initial list of supported Chrome OS devices is fairly short, but will be expanding just in time for the back-to-school rush in August.

Find Out if Google Expeditions Will Work on Your Chromebook
To find out if Google Expeditions will work on your Chromebook or Chrome OS tablet, take a look at the technical requirements here. The Acer Chromebook Tab 10 and the ASUS Chromebook Tablet CT100 are the only devices that fully support both VR and AR Google Expeditions right now. There are Chrome devices that will support VR expeditions while not supporting AR expeditions. Again, both lists will expand in August.

How to Use Google Expeditions
If you haven't tried Google Expeditions, take a look at the following tutorial that I created. The tutorial includes the teacher and student perspectives of Google Expeditions.



Create and Use Your Own Google Expeditions Tours
Thanks to Google VR Tour Creator you can create your virtual reality tours to use in Google Expeditions. Watch my tutorials below to learn how to get started.


Two Lessons About Invasive Species and the Threats They Pose

My favorite bike training ride goes through a portion of the White Mountains National Forest on the Maine-New Hampshire border. As you enter the forest you'll see reminders about not bringing in firewood from outside of the area. The reason for the reminders is to prevent the spread of invasive insects that can damage the ecosystem. As is explained in this new National Geographic 101 video, invasive insects, plants, fish, and other animals can all wreak havoc on an ecosystem.



Last year TED-Ed published a lesson about invasive species. The Threat of Invasive Species explains the problems caused when plants and animals are introduced to non-native habitats. The lesson explains how plants and animals get introduced to new environments, what happens when they are introduced to those environments, and what some governments do to try to control invasive species.

Book Creator Adds New "Magic Ink" and Autodraw Tools for Making eBooks

Book Creator, the massively popular ebook creation tool, has added a new set of drawing tools. A couple of the highlights of the new drawing tools are Magic Ink and Autodraw. Magic Ink is a feature that will enable students to fill the pages of their Book Creator with chalk-like drawings as well as fill drawings with tie-dye style coloring.

Autodraw is a new Book Creator feature that appears to be made for people like me who are not blessed with the ability to draw much more than a stick figure. Autodraw will let people like me start sketching an object and then have it automatically completed in a much clearer form. To use this feature just start drawing on a page in Book Creator and it will try to predict what you're drawing. Book Creator will give you a selection of suggested drawings that you can insert in place of what you have attempted to draw.

Learn more about Magic Ink and Autodraw by reading Book Creator's announcement or by watching the video below.



Applications for Education
Book Creator's Autodraw feature could remove some of the frustration that students feel when trying to illustrate pages in their ebooks.