Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Two Short Lessons on Checks & Balances

Today is election day in the United States. While the election is fresh in our students' minds, it is a good day to review how the three branches of federal government work in a system of checks and balances. 

In addition to voting for President we'll also be voting for members of the House of Representatives and some will be voting for Senators. Those are two thirds of the branches of federal government. The other branch is judicial branch which is not elected by the people. If you'd like a couple of videos to share with your students, here are two that I recommend. Show these live or put them into EDpuzzle to make sure your students actually watch them. 

How is Power Divided in the United States Government? is an older TED-Ed lesson but is still a good one. In three minutes it covers the origin of the office of the President, the adoption of the Constitution, and gives an example of what each branch of the government is responsible for. 



A little more in-depth overview of the system of checks and balances is found in Crash Course's Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances. While the TED-Ed lesson is good for elementary school and middle school, the Crash Course lesson is appropriate for high school students who have a little bit more background on the basics of the structure of the federal government.



Bonus video!
Tom Richey made this popular video about the structure of the U.S. Congress and the roles of the House and the Senate.

How to Use Vimeo Record to Create and Share Screencasts

Last week Vimeo released a new screen recording tool to use in Google Chrome. That tool is simply called Vimeo Record. While it didn't do all that well in my comparison of similar screencasting tools, it is rather easy to use and does provide a nice alternative to using YouTube or Google Drive for sharing your screencast videos. If want to see how it works before you install it, take a look at this short video overview of how to use Vimeo Record


Monday, November 2, 2020

Five Uses for Wakelet in Your Classroom

Disclosure: Wakelet is a new advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers. 

Over the last few years I've watched Wakelet grow from something that looked like "another bookmarking" tool into a full-fledged platform for creation and sharing of educational resources. Wakelet can be used for creating instructional videos, building portfolios, making online art galleries, bookmarking, and much more. A quick look at the Wakelet for Educators page will give you lots of ideas about how other teachers are using Wakelet. Here are five uses that I've mentioned in the past and or jumped out when I visited Wakelet for Educators.  

Create an Instructional Video





Prompt of the Day.
If you're not using a learning management system that contains an easy way to post daily prompts for your students to reply to, consider using Wakelet. You can post a prompt in the form of text, picture, or video and then have your students reply by writing a reply, recording a video, or by uploading an image. Just make sure you've enabled collaboration on your Wakelet collections.

Organize Research
With Wakelet's browser extension it's easy to save links and files to then organize into collections for a research project. Here's a video on how to use Wakelet's browser extensions.



Video collections.
Want to do more than just make a playlist in YouTube? Consider making a collection of videos in Wakelet. You can include videos from many sources besides YouTube and organize collections by theme or topic.

Three Ways to Conduct Polls in Google Slides

I have one group of freshmen this fall that is quiet and will rarely speak unless directly called upon. This is true of them when they're in my classroom and when they're on Zoom. So I call on them directly and I have them complete exit tickets in Flipgrid. Recently, I've started polling them at the start of class so that I have a bit more information about what they're thinking and how they're feeling before I jump into the day's plan. 

I'm using Poll Everywhere in Google Slides to conduct my polls because I like the word cloud output option. Slido and the native Q&A function in Google Slides can also be used for polling. 

How to use Poll Everywhere in Google Slides.

How to use Slido in Google Slides


How to use the Q&A function in Google Slides

The 2020 Great Thanksgiving Listen

The Great Thanksgiving Listen hosted by StoryCorps is back for the sixth year in a row. This annual event is intended to get people to record audio stories with family and friends. This year there might be a lot more remote recording than in the past, but the goal of the project is still the same. 

The Great Thanksgiving Listen was originally developed to get high school students to record the stories of their parents, grandparents, and other older family members. It has expanded over the years to be open to anyone who wants to participate.

StoryCorps has always provided materials to help students and teachers get involved in The Great Thanksgiving Listen. This year the resources have expanded to include a video overview of how to use the relatively new StoryCorps Connect platform to remotely record stories. If students can record in-person, the StoryCorps mobile app is still available as well. Resources for teachers include lesson plans, handouts, and even letters and a permission slip that you can send home to help explain the project to parents.


Applications for Education
I love Thanksgiving and I love oral histories. If I was still teaching social studies (I teach computer science now) I would have my students participate in The Great Thanksgiving Listen as a way to have them gather local history stories in the context of personal stories. Before The Great Thanksgiving Listen came along I did this kind of project with a social studies class by having them record their parents' and grandparents' stories about going to our local county fair.