Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference - Call for Proposals

In December I'm hosting a free online conference called the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference. The purpose of the conference is to give teachers an opportunity to share their creative classroom projects with other teachers. If you have an idea that you would like to present, please complete this short presentation proposal form. If you've never presented in a webinar format before, I'll give you some training in advance.


Register to Attend
  • It's Free! Register here and you’ll be registered for all live sessions (it will be recorded for those who cannot attend the live broadcasts).
    • December 10th at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm ET.
    • December 11th at 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm ET.
    • December 12th at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm ET.

Two Ways I'm Using Pictures in Formative Assessments This Fall

This fall I'm teaching a few computer science classes. The curriculum for one of those courses is heavy on hardware and hardware repair. This month my students and I have been using a lot of pictures and diagrams. There are two ways that I've been incorporating those pictures and diagrams into formative assessment.

Formative Assessment With Images on GoFormative
I've been using GoFormative about every week or two to have students answer questions based on a diagram that I upload to GoFormative.com. I like using GoFormative.com for this purpose because I can add multiple questions to the same diagram. Students know exactly which part of the diagram each question is referring to because the questions appears when they click the digram. In addition to wiring diagrams I've done this with a picture of a multimeter.

Students Documenting Processes With Pictures
One of the first hands-on activities that my students did this year was to disassemble and then reassemble some old desktop computers. Originally, I was going to have students draw diagrams throughout the disassembly process. That proved to be time-consuming and inaccurate (sloppy drawings, poor penmanship). So I switched it up and had them start taking pictures on their phones then labeling those images before sharing them with me via Google Classroom.

The act of photographing and labeling wasn't graded (other than done/ not done). I wanted to see which students could recall and document well and which still needed help with the process.

I'll be sharing more ideas about using images in the formative assessment process in my upcoming webinar, Five Fun Formative Assessment Methods

Monday, October 28, 2019

How to Adjust the Captions on YouTube Videos

This week's Practical Ed Tech newsletter featured a few things that we can do to improve the accessibility of the slides and videos that we use in our classrooms. One of those things is to turn on the captions when playing a YouTube video in class. Another is to create a transcript of the YouTube videos that you show in class.

Just turning on the captions is a good first step. It is possible to adjust the size and color scheme of the captions for students who needs that. In the following video I demonstrate how to adjust the size, style, and color scheme of the captions displayed on a YouTube video.



As I pointed out in the video above, it is possible to view an automatically generated transcript of some YouTube videos without the use of a third-party tool. Other videos will require a third-party tool to generate a transcript. If that's the case for a video that you need to create a transcript for, try using VidReader. My demonstration of VidReader is embedded below (note that when I made the video the service was going by a different name, the tool works the same way).

How Vocabulary Lists Help Students Conduct Better Searches

Can you identify this mushroom
found in the forest near my house
in Maine?
In chapter five of The Joy of Search Daniel Russell explains the process he used to determine whether or not a plant that he found was poisonous. When I read that chapter a couple of weeks ago I was struck with the reminder that more domain-specific knowledge one has, the deeper the search he or she can conduct. In other words, the greater your vocabulary about a topic, the more ways you have to search for more information about that topic.


One of the things that I often make my students do when they're conducting online research about a topic is to make a list of all of the terms and words they know that are associated with that topic. Google's old Wonder Wheel product was a helpful aid in that process as was the now defunct Wiki Mind Map. In any case, making lists of vocabulary terms can help students recall bits of information that then helps them in formulating and refining search queries.

I made this pre-search checklist a few years ago as a tool to help students think about what they know about a topic before they begin searching online. One of my ninth grade students computer science students used the third part of that checklist, "what are the words or phrases other people would use to describe your topic?" this morning when he was trying to come up with some ideas for a meditation app that he's designing and will eventually build with the MIT App Inventor. His answers and subsequent search took him in slightly new design direction.

So the next time your students seem to be floundering in their online search endeavors, consider having them stop and make a list of vocabulary they know about their central topic.

To learn more about search strategies your students can use, take a look at my on-demand webinar Search Strategies Students Need to Know. And for truly advanced methods, read Daniel Russell's The Joy of Search

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Robocompass - A Robotic Geometry Box

Robocompass is described by its developer as robotic geometry box on 3D. Not being a math teacher and not having taken a math course since the Clinton administration, I wasn't exactly sure what "robotic geometry box" meant at first. So I gave it try and quickly realized that it is an online tool for graphing and drawing just like I did with a pencil and compass when I was in high school. But Robocompass is neater (no pencil smudges) and has a function for playing back the steps of creating a graph or chart.

Robocompass lets students save their work directly into their Google Drive accounts. Students who don't use Google Drive can share their work by providing a direct link to their work or by embedding it into a blog post or web page.



Applications for Education
Robocompass could be a good alternative to using paper and pencil because it does provide an easy way for students to save their work online and share it with you. You can play their work back to see the steps they took.

Disclosure: Robocompass is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com