Thursday, August 15, 2019

Three Ways to Create Shortened URLs People Can Actually Spell

Whenever I have a webpage that I want a group of students or colleagues to go to at the same time, I use a URL shortener to turn long URLs into things that are easy to copy and spell. Sure, I could email the link in advance or post it on Google Classroom, but when I do that I've introduced an intermediate step that is full of distractions (colleagues start reading email, students start looking at grades).

Bitly has been my URL shortener of choice for many years because it lets me customize the shortened URL and track click-throughs. That said, lately I find that I also like Yellkey a lot. Finally, I can't write about URL shorteners without mentioning TinyURL which has been around forever, it seems. All three of these tools can be used to create custom shortened URLs. Demonstrations of how to use all three tools are included in the video below.

How to Add an Animated Clock to PowerPoint Slides

This afternoon I received an email from a reader who had watched my video about adding timers to PowerPoint slides. My video features a timer with a digital countdown display. She wanted to know if there is a way to add an analog clock countdown display to a PowerPoint slide. It is possible to do that through the use of shapes and animations in PowerPoint, but it does take some time. Normally, I would make a video about how to do this, but this time I'm just going to refer you to this tutorial from The Tech Train channel on YouTube.

And if you're curious about how to add a digital countdown to PowerPoint slides, my tutorial on that process is embedded below.

How to Annotate Webpages With Seesaw's Chrome Extension

Seesaw recently released an updated Chrome extension that makes it easy for students to save and annotate articles in their digital portfolios. With SeeSaw's free Chrome extension installed students can save an entire webpage or select a portion of the page to save. Once they've made a selection of what to save the Chrome extension will automatically open SeeSaw in a new browser tab where students can then highlight, draw, and type on the saved page. Students can also record themselves talking about the pages they've clipped. Watch my video below for a quick overview of how SeeSaw's free Chrome extension works.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Google is Adding an Originality Checker to Google Classroom

Today, in what they're spinning as a feature to "help students turn in their best work," Google announced the addition of an originality checker to Google Classroom. Google is calling this new feature Originality Reports.

Originality Reports in Google Classroom will let students and teachers check documents for elements of plagiarism originality against the millions of webpages and books that are indexed by Google. Students will be able to run Originality Reports on their own work before submitting it as an assignment in Google Classroom. Teachers can run Originality Reports on any work that has been submitted through Google Classroom.

Originality Reports is a feature that is in a beta testing period. G Suite for Education domain administrators can apply here to have their schools participate in the beta.

I've applied to participate in the Originality Reports beta on behalf of two domains that I manage. Until then all I can tell you about the Originality Reports functions is what I've gleaned from Google's announcement and GIF of the feature. It appears that Originality Reports will display in the margins of documents any possible matches for sentences or phrases found online.

From a business standpoint, Originality Reports certainly looks like an attempt by Google to compete with other plagiarism detection services like TurnItIn.

On a related note, in a few weeks I am releasing an on-demand course that will be full of practical ways to use all aspects of G Suite for Education in your classroom. Register here to be notified when the course is available. 

DocsTeach Adds New Documents and Lessons About Suffrage

Earlier this week the Library of Congress launched a new crowdsourcing campaign to transcribe more than 20,000 primary source documents related to the women's suffrage movement in the United States. The LOC isn't the only organization to make primary sources related to suffrage available online. DocsTeach, produced by the National Archives, has a Women's Rights section that was updated this summer to include more primary source documents and more teaching activities.

The Women's Rights section on DocsTeach offers seven instructional activities built around primary source documents. Those seven activities are:

You don't have to use these activities exactly as written. When you create a free DocsTeach account you can make copies of the activities and then modify them as needed for your students. You can also create new activities from scratch based on the primary source documents available on DocsTeach.