Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Three Free iPad Apps for Learning Programming Basics

An iPad isn't the ideal device for practicing coding and programming principles. I prefer to have students use a full-size Windows or Mac computer as they can split their screens to see lessons and practice in side-by-side windows. But if an iPad is the only device your students' have to use, there are some free apps your students can use to learn programming and coding basics. Here are three that I've used in the past and still recommend.

Daisy the Dinosaur
Daisy the Dinosaur is a free iPad app designed to introduce young students to  some programming basics. The app asks students to create commands for Daisy the Dinosaur to carry out. There is a free play mode in which students can make Daisy do whatever they want. But to get started you might want to have students work through the beginner challenges mode.

PBS Kids ScratchJr
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. In the app 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.

The difference between PBS Kids ScratchJr and the regular ScratchJr app is found in the character and background choices. In the PBS Kids version students can select backgrounds and characters from some of their favorite PBS Kids programs including Nature Cat, World Girl, and Arthur.

Grasshopper is a free app that teaches JavaScript coding through a series of easy-to-follow tutorials. The free app, available for iOS and Android, starts off with an introduction to the basic vocabulary of coding before moving into the coding lessons. You have to pass the vocabulary quiz before your can jump into the lessons. Each lesson has a tutorial, a practice activity, and a quiz. You have to successfully complete each lesson before progressing to the next one. If you need to stop a lesson, Grasshopper saves your place until you can resume. Grasshopper offers an optional reminder service that will encourage you to practice on a daily schedule.

Five Tools for Telling Stories With Maps

One of my favorite alternatives to traditional book report assignments is having students create multimedia maps based on books they've read. Google Lit Trips first made that idea popular more than a decade ago. Of course, creating a multimedia map is also an excellent way for students to summarize and geo-locate a series of related historical events. Here are five tools that students can use to create and tell stories with maps.

Google Earth - Desktop Version
The desktop version of Google Earth provides one of the classic ways to create a map-based, multimedia story. Students can add pictures, text, and videos to the placemarkers in their Google Earth tours. And students can use the built-in recording tools to make tours that viewers can watch on their own. Here's a short overview of how to make a Google Earth tour. Check out Google Lit Trips for ideas on using Google Earth for literature lessons.

Google Earth - Web Browser Version
While it still doesn't have quite as many options as the desktop version, the browser version of Google Earth does now have tools for making your multimedia tours.

VR Tour Creator
Google's VR Tour Creator lets anyone make a virtual reality tour that can be played back in your web browser and or in the Google Expeditions app. Don't limit use of VR Tour Creator to geography lessons. You can have students use it to make virtual reality book tours. Here's an introduction to using VR Tour Creator.

ESRI Story Maps
ESRI Story Maps is a tool that you can use to create a variety of map-based stories. The basic ESRI Story Map lets you combine pictures and locations to playback as a series of slides. Here's a good example of an ESRI Story Map.

Storymap JS
Storymap JS offers a nice way for students to create stories in which slides are matched to locations on a map. Here's an overview of how it works. StoryMap JS can be used by students to tell all kinds of stories including, as demonstrated below, personal stories that are connected to locations.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Sharing vs. Publishing Google Docs

I have published more than 1,000 tutorials on my YouTube channel over the last ten years. Some of those videos feature older versions of tools that many of us every day. This was pointed out to me this week when I was asked if I had a current video covering the differences between publishing and sharing Google Docs. That's why I made a new video today.

Google Docs can be shared directly others Google Docs users by entering their email addresses in the sharing menu. You can also use the option for "anyone with the link" to view, comment on, or edit your document. But there is also an option to publish your document as a simple webpage that doesn't give people the option to make copies of your document or view it in the Google Docs editor. In the following video I demonstrate all of those options and explain the differences between them.

One thing that I didn't include in the video is that Google Classroom users can share documents by making an assignment and selecting "make a copy for each student."

Three Free Webinars You Can Join This Week

If you're looking for some new ideas to try with your classes next fall or you're looking for answers to ed tech questions, consider joining one of the following free webinars this week. Recordings of all of these webinars will be available to those who register in advance.

A Framework for Using Educational Technology

In this free 30 minute webinar I'll walk you through my simple framework for evaluating and choosing the pick educational technology tools for you and your students. This is a system that has served me very well for more than a decade and you can use it too. The best part of it is that you don't have be a "techy" person to make this framework work for you.

Activities Across Grade Levels - The Cool of Digital Citizenship

This webinar will be hosted by Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and Susan Stewart. This webinar will feature resources and tools that not only help students develop stronger digital citizenship, but ways about it that can be fun and cool for them and you!

Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff

In this webinar Rushton Hurley and I will answer your questions about all things related to educational technology. And we'll share a couple of cool things that we've recently found around the Web.

Monday, June 8, 2020

How to Create an Online Game of Connect Four

Twice this weekend I had readers email me to ask about creating an online Connect Four game for students to play to review key vocabulary and concepts. There are a couple of tools that I recommend for creating that type of review activity. First, offers a virtual manipulatives template that will let students drag and drop to sort vocabulary words. The shortcoming of the template is that students don't get any kind of immediate feedback. The other tool I recommend is the Connect Fours template from

The Connect Fours template on lets you create a Connect Four game that provides students with instant feedback. To create your own Connect Fours game head to the game page and select "create new game." On the next screen enter the terms that you want displayed on your game along with the title for the groupings of terms. Your game will be assigned its own URL that you can distribute however you see fit. Watch my video below to see how it works.

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