Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Week in Review - Might as Well Eat Cake

Good morning from Maine where the sun is soon to be shining and the snow is gone. At this time last week we were still recovering from the effects of a big spring snowstorm. In the middle of last week's power outage my friend and colleague Dr. Wendy Robichaud and her husband sent us a cake. The cake came with a nice reminder that we can all use from time-to-time. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you can enjoy some cake or something equally fun too.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. How to Quickly Create a Narrated Video from PowerPoint or Google Slides
2. How to Quickly Incorporate Google Meet Into Google Classroom
3. An Option for Making Sure Students Know They Have Google Classroom Assignments
4. How to Use Google Hangouts Meet in Google Classroom
5. How to Share Your Videos in Google Classroom - With and Without YouTube
6. Screencastify Submit Looks Promising - Easy Way for Students to Make Videos
7. Ten Fun and Challenging Geography Games for Students of All Ages

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  • My most popular webinars are available on-demand right here
  • If you prefer live webinars, I am planning to host some more later this month and in May so stay tuned for more information about those soon. 
  • I'm always available to schedule custom, online PD for your school.

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  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing. - A Convenient Way to Take Attendance for Large Classes is a new service that could be helpful whenever we return to having classes in-person instead of virtually. is a system that lets students check themselves in for your class.

With the system you simply project a QR code and your students scan it with their phones to check themselves in. Students who don't have a smartphone can check in by using a corresponding check-in code that is displayed next to the QR code. The QR code and check-in codes are dynamic which means they change from class to class so that students have to be there in class to get the correct code.

Applications for Education
I tested and found it to be a easy to use. I can see it being helpful to those who teach large classes.

There are some issues that will keep me from using it with my classes. First, I know all of my students by name and face so I can take attendance in less time than it would take to project the QR code and get students to scan it. Second, even if students use use the numeric check-in code they still have to verify their phone numbers. For those two reasons I don't see it being a tool that K-12 teachers will use, but it could be a solution for taking attendance in university classes and for conducting check-ins for large conferences.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Put Scrap Cardboard to Use With One of These Hands-on Learning Projects

Instructables is one of my favorite places to find ideas for all kinds of hands-on projects from complex Raspberry Pi and Arduino projects to simple things made with cardboard, there are projects for everyone on Instructables.

Currently, Instructables is hosting a contest called the Speed Cardboard Challenge. As the name implies, you have to design and make something out of cardboard. You also have to publish directions that other people can follow to make your project. The contest runs through April 20th at midnight Pacific Time. There are twenty prizes being given away. The top prize is a $500 Amazon gift card.

At the time of this writing, there are 134 entries into the contest. You can see the entries on the Speed Cardboard Challenge. Some of the entries are things that kids can definitely do at home. Those are making a 360 viewer, making a cardboard speaker, and making a pinball machine.

Thanks to online shopping and quarantining there is an abundance of cardboard in my life. Projects like the ones on the Instructables Speed Cardboard Challenge provide a good way to put some of that cardboard to use. Heck, I might even turn some of that cardboard into a set of drawers to organize loose office supplies.

Applications for Education
In a webinar that Rushton Hurley and I hosted earlier today someone asked for our thoughts about just letting kids come up with questions to explore. I think that's a great idea! Doing things like Instructables cardboard projects can be a good way to spark students' imaginations for STEM-related questions to explore. Depending upon the project and the age of your students they could come up with questions about PSI (pounds per square inch), calculating area and volume, or the structural integrity of various adhesives as they interact with cardboard.

Kids Can Learn About National Parks on a Virtual Road Trip With Nature Cat

PBS Kids Nature Cat collection offers a bunch of great activities that elementary school students can do at home with or without direct involvement of parents. One of the activities that kids can probably do on their own is the Nature Cat Road Trip.

On the Nature Cat Road Trip students learn about a handful of national parks. The Road Trip is essentially an interactive board game. Students pick a character to move along the game board after they spin a number spinner. At various stops along the way students learn about national parks and complete little activities at those stops. Completing the activities gives students virtual souvenirs.

The PBS Kids Nature Cat collection has more than just interactive games. The collection also includes some hands-on learning activities that students can complete at home with the help of their parents. These activities include making pinecone bird feeders (my kids did that a couple of weeks ago), making a little indoor garden, and making a composting station.

PBS Kids Nature Cat Mobile Apps
Nature Cat's Great Outdoors is a free app from PBS Kids. The app, available for iOS and Android, provides students with activities they can do outdoors in all kinds of weather. There are activities for sunny days, rainy days, and snowy days. An example of a rainy day adventure is recording the sounds of rain drops and the sounds of splashing in puddles. The app has more than 100 adventure suggestions built into it. Students earn digital badges for completing adventures.

Nature Cat's Great Outdoors has a journal component that students can use to record observations and ideas. The journal lets students save audio recordings, type notes, and draw. Students can record and write on blank journal pages or respond to one of the prompts included in the journals.

Fact Fragment Frenzy - An App to Practice Identifying Facts

Yesterday, I shared Common Craft's new video about facts and opinions. In looking for some related resources I came across a blog post that I wrote a few years ago about a free iPad and Android app from Read Write Think. The app is called Fact Fragment Frenzy.

The purpose of Fact Fragment Frenzy is to help students learn how to pull facts out of a passage of text. The app includes a demonstration video in which the narrator explains which words in a text represent facts and which words do not represent facts. After watching the demonstration video students can use the app to practice identifying facts in a passage.

Fact Fragment Frenzy lets students practice identifying facts in a passage by having them drag words from a text into a digital notebook within the app. The app contains five practice passages.

Applications for Education
Fact Fragment Frenzy could be a good app for elementary school students to use to learn how to identify the important facts in a passage. One downside to the app is that it doesn't provide students with feedback on the choices that they make in the app. You will have to review your students' choices in order for them to receive feedback.

Read Write Think offers some lesson ideas that incorporate Fact Fragment Frenzy.