Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Use a Zoom Virtual Background for Lesson Outlines

One of the many challenges of teaching in a hybrid classroom setting this fall is giving the kids who are attending virtually a similar experience to those who are attending class in-person. To that end, one of the things that I'm trying this week is using virtual background in Zoom that lists the bullet points for the day. I have three or four bullet points for the day written on my whiteboard in class every day. I do this as a way to let kids know what the goals and big points for day are. I'm now trying to remember to do the same in Zoom with virtual background for the kids who are joining virtually for the day. 

There are other uses for virtual backgrounds in Zoom besides my bullet point idea. If you're teaching from home, you might just want to hide or improve the background. If you've positioned your webcam/ laptop in your classroom in such a way that the background includes other students, you might want to use virtual background to hide them. Or you might simply want to use a virtual background as a means to inspire curiosity. If I was still teaching social studies instead of computer science, I'd be tempted to use pictures of UNESCO World Heritage sites in my Zoom virtual backgrounds. 

If you've never tried using a Zoom virtual background, watch this short video in which I explain how to use a virtual background and share some good places to find virtual background images. 

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