Thursday, November 5, 2020

Calendars, Schedules, and Favicons - Three Easy Classroom Blog Enhancements

Writing yesterday's post about blogging permission slips inspired me to look back through my YouTube channel and find some blogging tutorials I've made over the years. A few that jumped out as being as relevant today as the day that I made them are this one about embedding calendars, this one about scheduling blog posts, and a couple about customizing a blog's favicon. 

Embedding Calendars

Adding a calendar page or a calendar into the sidebar of a blog is a good way to help students and their parents about upcoming due dates and events in your classroom or school. Blogger and Edublogs make it easy to include Google Calendar in your classroom blog. This video shows you how to do that. 


Scheduling Blog Posts
One of the best ways to get students and parents into the habit of reading your classroom blog is to post on a consistent schedule. Using the scheduling tools in Blogger and Edublogs enable you to write a batch of blog posts at once and then schedule them to appear over time. (I do this quite a bit here on Free Technology for Teachers). Here's a tutorial on how to do that. 


Custom Favicons
A favicon is the little icon that appears in a browser tab when you're visiting a website. If you use Blogger, WordPress, or Edublogs your favicon will default to that brand. You can change the favicon to make your blog stand-out in a sea of open browser tabs. This video shows you how to change it in Blogger and this one shows you how to change it in Edublogs



Wednesday, November 4, 2020

A Template for Getting Permission for Publishing Student Blogs, Podcasts, and Videos

Even though it's not as trendy as podcasting or vlogging, blogging is still a great way to have students publish their thoughts and findings. Blogs are also still a good tool for students to use to create portfolios of their work that include writing, videos, and podcasts. Before your students, especially those who are under 13, start publishing on a public-facing platform you should explain to parents and students why they're publishing and get permission from parents. Edublogs offers an extensive guide to obtaining permission for student blogging. The guide could also apply to podcasting and vlogging. 

The Edublogs guide to obtaining permission to blog with students includes a sample permission slips that you can copy and modify. The guide also includes framework for having discussions with school administrators and with parents about why you want your students to publish their work. Another good component of the guide is a set of guidelines for students and parents regarding publishing and commenting behaviors. 

It's guides like this one and other quality support resources that helps keep Edublogs at the top of my list of recommendations for student blogging platforms. If you're interested in getting your students blogging or using blogs as digital portfolios, take a look at the directions in my Practical Ed Tech Handbook and then create your first blog with Edublogs, Blogger, or Weebly for Education.  

Join me Tomorrow for Two EdTech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff

After a one week break Rushton Hurley and I are resuming our weekly webinar series Two EdTech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. The webinar is tomorrow (November 5th) at 4pm ET/ 1pm ET. Register here, for free!

Like the title implies, in every episode we answer questions from teachers like you and share a couple of cool things that we've found on the web. We also tell a few jokes that make us laugh. We aim to keep it light while also making it informative and helpful. Join us! 

If you can't make it for the live session, sign-up anyway and you'll get an email when the recording is ready to view. 

Take a look at some of the previous episodes right here.

How Batteries Work - And a Resource for Safely Experimenting With Circuits

From cell phones to laptops to toys we and our students rely on batteries for a lot of what we do in our daily lives. But have you ever stopped to think about how batteries actually work? Or have you asked your students to think about it? TED-Ed offers a good lesson that answers the question, "how do batteries work?"

In How Batteries Work students learn about the origins of batteries, how batteries work, the differences between disposable and rechargeable batteries, and why rechargeable batteries eventually cannot be recharged any more. Students watching the video will also see the difference between dry cell and wet cell batteries.



Applications for Education
To extend the lesson on batteries consider using TinkerCad to have students build simple circuits that are powered by batteries. TinkerCad provides an online environment in which students can do that. On TinkerCad you can create a virtual classroom  in which you can see the circuits and other designs that your students create. In fact, I use it for introducing Arduino to my freshmen before giving them the physical Arduino hardware to use. 

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.