Thursday, June 11, 2020

Canva Now Has a Desktop App for Windows and Mac

Canva is a tool that I use almost daily for everything from creating YouTube thumbnails to designing full presentations like the one that I'm giving this afternoon. And as I wrote earlier this year, there are at least ten good ways to use Canva in your classroom. That's why I was excited this morning when I read the news that Canva now offers a Windows and Mac desktop app. I've already installed it and it's great! You can get the Windows version here and the Mac version here.

Canva for desktop includes all of the same features that are found in the web browser version. Those features include seemingly endless graphic design templates, image editing tools, animation tools, and simple website publishing tools. You'll also find libraries of high quality pictures, drawings, icons, music, and b-roll video clips.



The aspect of Canva for desktop that I like the most so far is being able to have multiple designs open and quickly switch between them. I'm also excited about being able to run it in the background separate from my web browser. That feature should make it easier to present a slideshow made with Canva and not have to keep flipping between web browser windows when I want to give a demonstration of something outside of the slideshow.

The National Zoo's Activities You Can Do at Home

My daughters are currently obsessed with a book titled On the Loose in Washington D.C. It's a book created in the "Where's Waldo" style, but instead of having to find Waldo you have to find animals. The premise of the book is that all of the animals have escaped from the Smithsonian's National Zoo and you have to find them. The preface to the book encourages readers to visit the National Zoo's website to learn more about the animals. That's what I did this week when I found the Smithsonian's National Zoo's Activities You Can Do at Home.

There are sixteen activities in the Activities You Can Do at Home collection. There are activities suitable for students of all ages. Even though nearly all of the activities could be modified for any age, a target age is listed below each activity in the collection.

Some of the activities in the Activities You Can Do at Home collection include simple games that kids can play on their own, live animal webcams that students can watch and record observations about, and there are some full-blown plans for lessons that you could carry out over the course of a few days.

Here are a few of the activities that stood out to me as I reviewed the Activities You Can Do at Home collection:

  • Rainforest Wonders - this activity features a guide to helping K-2 students explore the world around them through the use of five senses. This could be a great one to recommend to parents who are looking for activities to do at home with their kids.
  • All About Amphibians - this eight-part activity is set-up like a mini online course for elementary school students to learn about the differences between reptiles and amphibians and the role of amphibians in an ecosystem. Kids will also see some neat pictures and videos of amphibians in this activity.
  • National Zoo Webcams - sit back and enjoy watching some of the most popular animals at the zoo. And if you want to encourage kids to document what they see, you can distribute an observation recording sheet. 


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
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."