Thursday, July 9, 2020

A Dozen Lessons About Inventions That "Changed the World"

It was a hot and humid afternoon here in Maine. In fact, the weather app on my phone said that it was "oppressively humid." I'd say that was right. The only good thing about the heat and humidity is that it provides the perfect reason to enjoy a popsicle with my toddlers. Having that popsicle reminded of a TED-Ed lesson that I came across a few years ago.

How the Popsicle Was Invented is one of twelve lessons in a TED-Ed series titled Moments of Vision. The videos in the series teach short lessons about inventions that have "changed the world" in serious and not-so-serious ways. For example, the invention of the stethoscope did change health care. The invention of the Popsicle, however, just makes summer days a little more enjoyable.


Ask your students to look around their homes or around your school for everyday items that many of us use. Then send them off to research and present the origins of those everyday items. An item that come to mind as I look at my desk is the tab on soda pop cans.

How to Selectively Copy Google Slides

I'm fortunate to get lots of emails from readers who ask all kinds of questions. One of the questions that I recently answered came from a reader who wanted to know if there was an easy way to copy chunks of sections of a long Google Slides presentation into a new one without having to manually copy and paste. Fortunately, my answer was "yes, you can do that." And like a lot of the questions that I answer, a screencast video offers a better explanation than what I can write. That's why I made the following short video to demonstrate how to selectively copy slides from one Google Slides presentation to another.


By the way, you can find more than 300 other G Suite tutorials on my YouTube channel.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Three Interesting Resources for Students to Learn About Career Fields

One of the benefits of working and living in a small community is that I get to see what many of my former students do after high school and college. Some of my former students have joined the teaching profession themselves. Some bounce around from job-to-job or career path until they find what they really like. The point being that often we don't understand what a particular profession is really like unless we hear from people who are in it themselves. That's why resources like iCould, Next Vista, and What People Don't Get About My Job are excellent to share and discuss with students.

iCould is a UK-based website that features videos of people sharing their career stories. The stories cover people in all types of careers and at all phases of their working careers. One of the the main purposes of iCould is to expose viewers to what different types of jobs really entail. Visitors to iCould can search for stories by job type, life theme, or keyword tags. The teaching resources section of iCould includes some classroom activities that your students can complete to help them learn more about a particular career path, discover their own interests, and learn about what makes people successful in their careers.

What People Don't Get About My Job is an older piece from The Atlantic, but is still worth sharing and discussing with your students. The article is comprised of 26 contributions from readers explaining what most people don't understand about their jobs. There is one job for every letter of the alphabet. In the article you will find jobs like Kindergarten Teacher, IRS employee, zookeeper, and even unemployed.

Next Vista for Learning offers more than one hundred short videos of people talking about their careers. Some of the careers in the video library include librarian, nurse, engineer, musician, and chemist.

Three New Flippity Templates to Try


Flippity is one of my go-to recommendations for anyone looking to make interesting things with Google Sheets. A couple of days ago I published a video about Flippity's new board game template. That's not the only new template recently added to Flippity's catalog of offerings. The other new templates on Flippity are an updated progress tracker, a self assessment quiz template, and a renamed spelling game template. 

Flippity's updated progress tracker template is simply called Leader Board. It replaces the old progress tracker template that Flippity offered. The Leader Board displays names, avatars, and points. You input the progress or scores into your Google Sheet and Flippity will generate the leader board on a stand-alone webpage that you can share.

The self assessment quiz template from Flippity lets you create an online game in which players answer multiple choice questions and are then told something about themselves based on those answers. The example that Flippity provides is a quiz that tells you what kind of Lord of the Rings character you are.

The third new template on Flippity isn't really new. It's actually a rename and slight redesign of their old hangman template. The hangman template is gone and is replaced by a melting snowman template. Players guess the letters in a mystery word. If they answer incorrectly, the snowman melts a little bit. The goal is to spell the mystery word before the snowman completely melts. Try it here.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Three Alternatives to Smore

Over the weekend I answered an email from a reader who was looking for an alternative to using Smore to create online posters and newsletters to share with teachers and parents. Smore is great for some people, but it can get a little too pricey for some people. Here are a few alternatives to using Smore to create online posters and newsletters.

ConvertKit is the service that I use for my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. ConvertKit offers some nice templates for formatting your emails. I don't use those templates because I prefer to send plain text email, but it's nice to know that I could use those templates. The real reason that I use Convert Kit is because I can easily create different segments within my mailing list to send personalized emails to different groups within my mailing list. That function could be useful to schools who want to send different personalized emails to parents based on the grade that their children are in. ConvertKit has a free plan that allows you to have up to 1,000 people on your mailing list, use all of the templates, and send as many emails as you like.

Canva doesn't offer a mailing list component, but it does offer lots of templates for making online posters and simple webpages to announce events. Once you've published your poster or page, you can email the link to it or post it on your LMS. Here's a video about how to use Canva to create and publish a multimedia poster.


Adobe Spark, like Canva, offers an easy way to design and publish simple webpages to use for announcements and updates to share with your school community. One of the things that I like about Adobe Spark is that you can share your designs directly into Google Classroom. Here's my short video on how to use Adobe Spark to create simple webpages.