Tuesday, September 17, 2019

My Approach to Creating Search Practice Activities for Students

This week's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week Newsletter featured ten Google search tips for students. It's all well and good to give those tips to students and show them how to use them, but for the tips to really sink in students should get some practice using them. To that end, you can use some the free lesson plans available through Google's Search Education page. But I've always been a bit of a DIYer so I like to create my own search challenges. Here's an overview of the process that I use.

The process that I use is heavily influenced by following the work of Dan Russell. His title is Senior Research Scientist for Search Quality and User Happiness at Google. What that means for you, for me, and for students is that he spends a lot of time studying how people search and using that information to help people conduct better searches. His blog Search ReSearch offers lots of explanations of detailed search methods. Many of his examples include images and mine do too.

Here’s the process that I use to create my own image-based search challenges for students.

  1. Select an interesting picture that you can build a little story around. Incorporate into that story some clues that students can use to answer the questions that you will ask students to answer about the image.
  2. Create a few questions based on the image. I like to arrange the questions in an order such that the correct answer to the first one provides clues toward answering the subsequent questions.
  3. Take a test run of answering your own questions to detect any possible confusion or pain points for students.

Here’s a sample image-based search challenge that I developed and frequently use.

  • The story: The picture in this blog post is one that I took while walking through a historic neighborhood in Maine. I was told that the house was once owned by a Vice President of the United States but I couldn’t find any signs around the house that confirmed that rumor. With the use of a couple of Google search tools I was able to confirm that it was, in fact, owned by a former Vice President. Furthermore, it’s now the site of a historical collection that contains the last Duesenberg produced.

  • Questions:
    • Which former Vice President owned this house?
      • How did you find that?
    • What is the address of the house?
    • Will the sunset be on the front or back of the house?
      • What Google tools did you use to find that answer?
    • Who owns the last Duesenberg?

Here’s the outline of the possible steps students might take to get the answers to the search challenge questions.

  • Find a list of all former Vice Presidents of the United States. (Wikipedia provides an accurate list). Work through the list to find the Vice Presidents who either resided in Maine and or owned property in Maine.
    • Alternatively, conduct a search along the lines of “vice presidents owning property in Maine.”
    • Through both methods students may come up with answers that include George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Hannibal Hamlin, and Nelson Rockefeller.
    • After creating the list of possible owners of the home, students turn to Google Images to search for pictures of the properties of respective VPs.
  • Another method that students can use to get to the answer to the first question is to take a copy of the picture presented to them and upload it to Google Images. This will create a list of possible matches for the original picture. (Note, by the time you read this students might come across one of my blog posts describing this search challenge).

  • Through one of the methods outlined above students should determine that the house was owned by Hannibal Hamlin. It is at this point that some students will mistakenly think that the home in Bangor, Maine when it is actually in Paris, Maine (sometimes listed as South Paris or Paris Hill). From here students can turn to Google Maps or Google Earth to find the address for the home. The use of Google Maps or Google Earth will let students see the orientation of the house to determine if the sun will set on the front or back of the house.

  • Now that students know where the house is (Paris, Maine) and who owned it (Hannibal Hamlin) students can add Duesenberg to a search for Paris Maine or Hannibal Hamlin House in a manner like this “Paris Maine Duesenberg.” Those search results will lead to many articles are about the car collection of Bob Bahre, the current owner of the home and car collection.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Practical Ed Tech Podcast #8 Featuring Dr. Beth Holland

At the end of the last episode of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast I mentioned that I had recently recorded a great conversation that I had with Dr. Beth Holland. That recording is now available as episode #8 of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast.

In the episode Beth and I talked about her work at COSN around issues of digital equity and what digital equity means in schools. Because I want listeners to know a bit more about my guests than just their professional work, Beth and I also talked about stand-up paddleboarding and her burgeoning stand-up paddleboard racing career. It was a fun conversation and I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.

You can listen to episode 8 here on Anchor.fm or find it on one of the following podcast networks:

7 TED-Ed Lessons for Constitution Day

Tomorrow is Constitution Day in the United States. As I shared last week, C-SPAN and DocsTeach have lots of free lesson plans and online activities. TED-Ed also has a bunch of lessons that are appropriate for Constitution Day.

The Making of the American Constitution.

Why is the US Constitution So Hard to Amend?

Why Wasn't the Bill of Rights Originally Included in the US Constitution?

How is Power Divided in the US Government?

A 3-Minute Guide to the Bill of Rights

How do Executive Orders Work?

What You Might Not Know About the Declaration of Independence

Sunday, September 15, 2019

My Top Twelve Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students

Last week I published a list of my top five Google tools for social studies teachers and my top five non-Google tools for social studies teachers. If you missed either of those lists or you want all of them in one place, I've put together the following combined list and added two more items to make it an even dozen tools for social studies teachers and students.

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.

VR Tour Creator
This is Google's free service for creating virtual reality tours. In a social studies classroom students can use it to record virtual reality tours of historical landmarks, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, or unique geographic features that spurred the development of civilizations. A playlist of VR Tour Creator tutorials is available here.

Google Earth
Google Earth is available in two versions. The Pro version is the version that you can install on your desktop. That's the version that I prefer if given a choice because it includes more features that the web browser version. Google Earth Pro can be used by students and teachers to record narrated tours and to layer historical imagery on top of current map views. You can find a playlist of Google Earth tutorials here.

Google Books
This is an often overlooked search tool. Google Books provides students with access to millions of free books and periodicals. Google Books really shines when you start looking for work that was published in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. One of the best features of Google Books is the ability to search within a book for a phrase or keyword. Learn how to use Google Books by watching these tutorial videos.

Google Expeditions
This is Google's free virtual reality service. Students can use it to go on more than 800 virtual reality tours. You can either guide students through the tours or let them guide themselves. Take a look at these videos to learn how to start using Google Expeditions.

Google Keep
Google Keep is a bookmarking and note-taking tool that students can use as part of their G Suite for Education accounts. It's a convenient tool to use to save bookmarks with notes. Students can add labels to their bookmarks to make them easy to organize. The best feature is that students can access their Google Keep bookmarks and notes from Google Docs to insert their bookmarks and notes directly into the papers they're writing. Here's a set of Google Keep tutorial videos.

DocsTeach is a free service provided by the U.S. National Archives. Through DocsTeach you can create online activities based upon primary source artifacts from the National Archives. Your students can complete the activities online. Don't let the fact that the service is provided by the National Archives fool you into thinking that it can only be used for U.S. History lessons. You can upload any primary source artifact that you like to your DocsTeach account to develop an online history activity. DocsTeach offers more than a dozen activity templates that you can follow to develop your primary source-based lessons.

When I taught social studies I liked to use video clips as part of current events lessons. I also liked to use excerpts from documentary videos. If you use videos in the same way, EDpuzzle is a tool that you need to try. EDpuzzle lets you add questions directly into the timeline of the video.

Conversations about historical events and current events is an important aspect of teaching social studies. Sometimes the constraints of the classroom setting (time, attendance, student dynamics) limit the amount of constructive conversation that takes place. Synth is a free platform that you can use to have students record short podcasts and then reply to each other's podcasts with audio comments of their own. Watch this video to see how it works.

If you want your students to make short documentary-style videos, WeVideo is hard to beat. It works on Chromebooks, Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac (though if you have a Mac, iMovie is just as good). Those who have upgraded WeVideo accounts can even use it to make green screen videos.

RWT Timeline & Sutori
Elementary school teachers who are looking for an easy way for students to create timelines that include pictures should take a look at Read Write Think's Timeline Creator. Students can use it without creating any kind of online account and it's simple to use. Watch this video to see how it works.

Middle school and high school teachers who are looking for ways for their students to create multimedia timelines would do well to try Sutori. Sutori offers a collaborative multimedia timeline tool for students. Students can work together to add pictures, text, and video to timelines that they build in Sutori. Teachers who use Clever or Google Classroom can use those rosters to add students to Sutori.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast Episode #7

On Friday I recorded the seventh episode of the Practical Ed Tech podcast. In the episode I shared some news about a change in my career, some highlights from the week in educational technology, and answered a handful of questions from readers. I broadcast live on my YouTube channel when I record. Join me for the next live edition later this week. Notes from the episode are available in this Google Doc.

You can listen to episode 7 here on Anchor.fm or find it on one of the following podcast networks: