Friday, October 2, 2020

Research Starters from the National WWII Museum

Last week at the end of one of my classes we were talking about how everyone was adjusting to wearing masks all day and social distancing in school. A couple of my students grumbled about it. That grumbling was met by a reply from another student who said, "Guys, it's not that big a deal! It's not like World War II and we have to ration everything!" That statement then launched the conversation down the road to explaining what rationing in WWII meant. (Yes, this was all happening in my computer science class). I did a quick Google search to find some images of ration books from WWII to help some of the students understand what we were talking about. 

My Google search for "WWII ration books" took me to the National World War II Museum's website (a great museum to visit in person if you're ever in New Orleans). On the website there is a digital exhibit about ration books. That exhibit is part of a larger section of the National World War II Museum's website. That section is called Research Starters

Research Starters covers ten topics related to American involvement in World War II. Some of those topics include rationing, D-Day, and the role of women in WWII. The research starters aren't intended to be comprehensive overviews of the topics. Instead, the research starters are designed to launch students into further investigation of the topics. In some cases the research starters will point students to another section or collection on the National World War II Museum's website and in some cases students will have to leave the site to further their investigations. 

Applications for Education
When I taught U.S. History I always found visuals like those in the ration books exhibit to be useful not only in helping students understand the topic at hand but also for inspiring some conversation and curiosity. If you teach U.S. History, the Research Starters collection on the National WWII Museum's website is one that I'd keep bookmarked. 

How to Add Shapes and Drawings to Google Docs

Yesterday morning I had a colleague come into my classroom to ask me how she could create a document that had some arrows and boxes in it. Basically, she was trying to replicate and then slightly modify a diagram she'd seen in a textbook. I showed her a couple of methods for doing this. I'm guessing that my colleague isn't the only person who has or will wonder how to add shapes and drawings to a Google Doc, I made the following short video

In the following video you'll see two ways to add shapes and drawings to Google Docs. The first method is to use the special characters menu in Google Docs. The second method involves using the "insert drawing" menu in Google Docs. 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

NASA ScienceCasts Explains the Harvest Moon - It's Tonight!

Tonight is the night of the annual Harvest Moon in the northern hemisphere. The harvest moon comes on a different evening each year. If the weather is cooperative, tonight will be a great evening to get pictures of the moon rising. I hope that this year is the year I finally get a good one. 

The harvest moon is the full moon that is closest to the northern autumnal equinox. In the short video below the team at NASA ScienceCasts explains why it is called the Harvest Moon and why other moons have names too (have you heard of the snow moon or the wolf moon?). I found the video interesting, and I hope that you and your students do too.

Good Video Lessons About Cyberbullying and Digital Privacy

Students in my school district, like students in many other school districts, have more unsupervised time on their hands than ever before. That factor combined with the general "cooped up" feeling that many are having as a result of measures prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community has led to an increase in cyberbullying this fall. In response to that I spent some time on Wednesday talking to my students about cyberbullying, how to spot it, and how to respond to it. I also made them watch this Planet Nutshell video about stopping cyberbullying. 

I've featured the Planet Nutshell NetSafe series in the past. For those who haven't seen it, it's a series of eighteen videos for K-12 students. There are videos specifically for elementary school and specifically for middle school and high school students. The videos cover topics like preventing cyberbullying, digital privacy, and the dangers of distracted driving. The videos were produced by Planet Nutshell in collaboration with the Utah Education Network. A few of the videos from the NetSafe series are embedded below. 

A Similarity Checker in Word - How Did I Miss This?

I've written about Google Classroom's originality reports in the past. I've also posted tutorials on looking for matching documents via Google Drive. This week, thanks to Mike Tholfsen, I learned that my Microsoft-using friends have a similar feature available to them via the online version of Microsoft Word. 

The similarity checker in Microsoft Word uses Bing to determine if there is a match or strong similarity between what a student puts in his or her document and a publicly available webpage. You can see a full overview of how the similarity checker works by watching this video produced by Mike Tholfsen. 

It is important to note that the similarity checker in the online version of Microsoft Word is only available to paying Office 365 subscribers and not to users of free Office 365 accounts. I decided to write this blog post anyway because I know that many of you reading this are working in schools that do have paid Office 365 accounts.