Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Video Puppet is Now Narakeet - Still Turns Slides Into Narrated Videos

Back in April I featured a neat service called Video Puppet that turns PowerPoint presentations into narrated videos. This morning I got an email notifying me that Video Puppet has been re-branded as Narakeet (why? I don't know).

Narakeet does all of the same things as Video Puppet. The only change is the name and a few new additional features. Those new features include greater control over the voice-over. You can now have multiple voice-over voices in your video and you can now control pauses in the narration.

Here's the video I made about Video Puppet last spring. The functions in Narakeet are exactly the same.

Whiteboard Chat - Online Whiteboards You Can Share and Monitor

Whiteboard Chat is a free service that you can use to create collaborative whiteboards to use with your students. It is possible to use Whiteboard Chat without an email address which makes it quick and easy to get started.

There are two ways to use Whiteboard Chat. The first is to create one whiteboard that you share with all of your students. The second way to use Whiteboard Chat is the more interesting option. That option is to create individual whiteboards for each student to use that you can also observe.

To get started with Whiteboard Chat simply head to the site and click on the big "Start Drawing" button. Next you have the choice of "start collaborating" or "start teaching." The "start collaborating" option will launch a single whiteboard that you can invite your students to join. The "start teaching" option will launch an instructor whiteboard plus a grid of individual whiteboards that you can share with your students. When you use that option each student has his/her own whiteboard to draw on that you can also observe from your computer. In both cases you invite students to whiteboards through unique invitation URLs that you can post in Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, or any other place that you typically post links for students.

Applications for Education
Whiteboard Chat could be a great tool for math classes meeting in Google Meet. You could use Whiteboard Chat's teaching mode to give students their own whiteboards to work on that you can also view without having to fumble with screen sharing.

Earlier this year I wrote about similar product called Whiteboard Fi. You can read and watch that overview here. Whiteboard Chat seems to be a more polished version of Whiteboard Fi.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Using a Bicycle as a Generator

This morning I welcomed my new students into my classroom. In talking with one of them I learned that he likes to tinker with old bicycles. As we were talking he mentioned trying to create a power generator with a bicycle. That conversation took us to YouTube where we started looking at videos about using a bicycle to generate electricity. Here are a couple that I thought were worth sharing.

Can You Power a House With a Bicycle?
This is a video produced a few years ago by NPR's Skunk Bear. The answer is no, you can't power a house with a bicycle. The video does a great job of explaining how many bicyclists you would need in order to power an average house for a month.


Homemade Bicycle Generator
This video was produced a few months ago by Backyard Trail Builds (a channel about building bike trails and jumps). What's good about this video is that the producer explained his initial mistakes and how he corrected them. The video is also not so detailed that it doesn't inspire more curiosity about how to improve on the design. When we have time later this year to attempt making a bicycle-powered generator, this will be a video that my students and I reference.

TeacherMade - Quickly Create & Share a Variety of Online Activities

Disclosure: TeacherMade is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com. 

As the new school year begins we’re all trying new things while also trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy. TeacherMade is a new tool that lets you tick both of those boxes. With TeacherMade you can quickly and easily convert some of your favorite “old standby” activities into online activities to share with your students.

TeacherMade is a free service designed by Laura Bresko, a former K-12 school teacher and entrepreneur. According to Laura, “My goal with TeacherMade was to create a way for us to make online worksheets that are easier than Google Slides. We are still in the process of perfecting it, but I think we’re off to a pretty good start!”

You can use TeacherMade to turn your PDFs, Word docs, Google Docs, and pictures into online activities. And if you choose to make your activity a graded one, TeacherMade will automatically score responses for you. I know that, for me, that’s a huge timesaver.

How to Use Online Worksheets with TeacherMade
To get started using TeacherMade you can sign-up with your G Suite account or register with any other email address and password of your choice. Signing up with G-suite is a good idea if you use Google Classroom, because TeacherMade is focusing on creating a deep integration with Google Classroom. Once you’ve done that you’re ready to start creating your first activity.

The best way to discover all that TeacherMade can do is to upload a PDF that has a variety of question types on it. For example, the screenshot below is of a PDF that has a multiple choice question, a fill-in-the-blank question, and an identification question. (Quick tip if you don’t have a PDF: you can quickly create one by using the “download as PDF” option in Google Docs or the “save as PDF” option in Word).

After uploading your PDF worksheet to TeacherMade you’re ready to begin adding question elements to it. Your uploaded PDF will appear in TeacherMade’s activity editor. It is in the editor that you can add ten different question and activity types. To the PDF that is pictured above I added a field for students to fill in the blank, a place for them to select one of the choices in my multiple choice question, and check boxes to the states in the map of the continental United States.

To add elements like text boxes and check boxes to your PDFs simply open the “Insert” menu in the TeacherMade activity editor then choose the type element you want to add. You can then position your chosen activity element on your PDF by clicking and dragging it into place. If you want to change the size of the element you can do that in the same manner that you would resize a picture in a Word doc or Google Doc.

TeacherMade will automatically score your students’ responses if you choose that option. To do that you’ll just need to enter correct answers when you’re adding your question elements to your uploaded PDF.

Question & Activity Types You Can Add in TeacherMade:
  • Multiple Choice
  • Matching
  • Fill-in-the-blank (short answer)
  • Hotspot (students click all that apply)
  • Drop-down menu selection
  • Checkboxes
  • True/false
  • Open answer
  • Fractions and mixed numbers
  • Algebraic expressions

It’s important to note that within the multiple choice and checkboxes menus there is the option to include up to eight answer choices.

Distributing TeacherMade Online Activities to Students
You can preview the student view of the online activities that you make in your TeacherMade account before you give them to your students. I think that’s a key feature because too often the only way to see how a student actually sees an assignment is to create your own “demo student” account.

After previewing your activity you’re ready to assign it to your students. You can do that by distributing it through Google Classroom or by giving students a direct link to your assignment (that’s the option I’d use if I wasn’t using Google Classroom). Students can log into TeacherMade with a Google (G Suite for Edu) account. You can also assign usernames to students for them to use with your activity. Students don’t need to have email addresses to complete a TeacherMade activity if you choose to assign usernames to them.

When you assign an activity to students through TeacherMade you can choose to let them instantly see their scores, instantly see their scores and the correct answers, or you can keep scores hidden until you’ve reviewed them. Speaking of reviewing scores, at any time you can see how much progress your students have made on an assignment. And in terms of progress, you can require students to complete an assignment in one session or you can let them save their progress then return to their assignments at a later time.

Bottom Line
TeacherMade is a promising new service that will make it easy to quickly transition your favorite in-class activities and assessments into online activities and assessments. The fact that your students don’t need email accounts makes TeacherMade suitable for all grade levels.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Create an Online Philosophical Chairs Activity With Jamboard

Last week I got an interesting question from a reader named Chuck. I'm not sure that my answer or the question has broad appeal, but I found it interesting so I made a video about it. Chuck's question was as follows:

I have been struggling to find a tool that I can use to do Philosophical Chairs in a virtual classroom. The discussion/debate part is no problem, what I need is a tool where students can move an avatar or a picture of themselves to a certain area of the screen to indicate their position on a topic. All students need to see the same screen but the only item they can move is their avatar/picture and nobody else's. If you know Philosophical Chairs then you will immediately see what I am talking about. Do you have any ideas for a tool or a platform that could do this?

I didn't know of a tool that was made specifically for hosting online philosophical chairs activities, but I did think that using Google's Jamboard is one possible solution.


It's important to note that Jamboard won't prevent a student from moving a classmate's avatar so this is a solution that will only work if you can get your kids to respect the rules of the activity. If that's a problem for your students then you might want to try using Padlet as suggested by Rushton Hurley in our latest episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff.