Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Three PD Opportunities With Me Starting Tomorrow!

Every week Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I host a free webinar called Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. It's a fun 30-ish minute webinar in which we have fun answering all kinds of interesting questions about educational technology and share some interesting things that we've found around the web in the last week or so. The next episode will be hosted tomorrow at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT and you can join us by registering for free right here!

One of the ways that I've been able to keep Free Technology for Teachers going for the last thirteen years is through the support of people like you who register for my Practical Ed Tech webinars, courses, and workshops. Right now I'm offering an on-demand course called A Crash Course in Making and Teaching With Video. That course consists of six self-paced modules designed to give you the knowledge and skill to create video lessons for your students. A favorite module in that course shows you how you can make sure your students actually watch your instructional videos.

Next Tuesday at 4pm ET I'm hosting an encore presentation of Formative Assessment for Virtual and Hybrid Classrooms. Getting students to interact with you and each other is a challenge for many of us who have recently transitioned to virtual and or hybrid classrooms. Without that interaction it can be tough to get a sense of whether or not students are “getting it.” In this one-hour webinar I’ll share five formative assessment methods that work in virtual and hybrid classrooms. Learn more and register here

Wizer Now Offers a Google Drive Add-on

Wizer is an online platform for creating multimedia worksheet activities that you can distribute to students through a variety of means including Google Classroom. On Wizer you can design worksheet activities that include pictures, text, videos, and audio. One of its better features is the option to add questions directly on top of images and diagrams. A variety of question formats are supported including open response, multiple choice, and matching questions. Years ago I made this video about how to use Wizer. The interface has changed a little since then but the tools are the same. 

This month Wizer released a Google Drive add-on that lets you quickly convert PDFs that are in your Google Drive into online worksheets on Wizer. With the add-on installed you can simply select any PDF in your Google Drive then choose "open with Wizer" to use that PDF in Wizer where you can then add interactive elements. 

Applications for Education
Wizer has exploded in popularity this year as a result of more teachers looking for tools to create online activities for elementary school students. The Google Drive add-on should make it easier for those who already have PDF worksheets stored in Google Drive to create online activities for their students to complete. I particularly like the ability to add image and diagram-based questions to PDFs in Wizer.

Mixkit Now Offers Free Sound Effects, Music, and Video Clips for Your Multimedia Projects

Back in February I published a video overview of how to use Mixkit to find free b-roll video and music to use in multimedia projects. This week the folks at Mixkit added sound effects to their library of free media. The sound effects library is separate from the music library in Mixkit. The sound effects library contains things like short clips of dogs barking, doorbell chimes, and car horns blaring. Just like with the other libraries in Mixkit, you can find sound effects by conducting a keyword search or by just browsing through the content tags. 

The licensing terms for assets on Mixkit are clear. You can download videos and audio files from Mixkit to re-use and remix. You don't have to credit Mixkit, but they will appreciate it if you do credit them.

Applications for Education
Mixkit is a good resource to bookmark and share with your students when they need music, sound effects, or b-roll videos to use in their own video projects, podcasts, or other multimedia presentations. If you're worried about your students wasting time browsing through the Mixkit galleries, create a shared Google Drive or One Drive folder that you add a collection of Mixkit files to for your students to use.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A Handful of Games for Fun Typing Practice

Last week I was writing a blog post early in the morning when my three year old came out of her room. She saw what I was doing and wanted to help. Since she can recognize all of the letters of the alphabet I let her type a few letters of each sentence. That little process reminded me of how fast I type even though my technique isn't perfect. All that to say, practicing typing whether through writing or playing a game does make you a quicker typist. For kids, playing a game is a more fun way to develop typing skills than writing blog posts or email. Here's a handful of games for kids to play to develop their typing skills. 

Before it was acquired by IXL ABCya produced a lot of games designed to help elementary school students sharpen their skills in a lot of areas. Those games are still available. Included in ABCya's catalog of games is a fun typing game called Cup Stacking. In this game students have to type the letters that they see on the cups that appear on their screens. When they type the correct letters the cups stack up into a pyramid. Once the pyramid is built students have to type the letters again to deconstruct the pyramid. The object of the game is to build up and take down the pyramids as quickly as possible.

Typing Rocket is another typing game developed by ABCya. Typing Rocket is a sixty second game in which students make fireworks explode by typing the letters that appear on the rockets in the games. In the sixty second span of the game students try to correctly type as many letters as they possibly can. The rockets speed up as the game progresses.

Typing Club is a free typing instruction site that offers some unique features for students and teachers. One of those features is a story-based typing practice activities. In those activities, demonstrated here, students unlock stories as they type. Unlocking the next part of the story provides and incentive for students to type accurately and quickly. That's not the only way to develop and practice typing skills in Typing Club, but it is the most engaging way to practice.

TypeTastic is a service that offers free typing games. The games start with basic skills like identifying the letters on a keyboard and build up to touch typing skills. TypeTastic has its games divided into three sections. The first section called "Let's Build a Keyboard" features games for the youngest students who are just learning to recognize letters on a keyboard. The second and third sections called "Hop Onto the Keys" and "Keyboarding Kickstart" feature progressively more difficult games intended to help students develop their touch typing accuracy and speed. Each game within each section contains multiple levels for students to work through. Each game could take students an hour or more to completely master.

Create Your Own Online Typing Practice Activities!
Flippity offers a free Google Sheets template for designing your own online typing activities for your students to play. To do this you simply make a copy of the template provided by Flippity then fill in the words and or phrases you want to have appear in your activities. Flippity hosts the activity and provides unique URLs for your activities to share with your students. In this video I provide a demonstration of how the template works. (Please note that the beginning of the video references a Google Sheets add-on that is no longer available. Instead, simply get the template here on 

Three Thanksgiving Science Lessons

I don't think there's a meal I like better than a classic Thanksgiving turkey with potatoes, squash, stuffing and cranberry sauce from a can (my mouth is watering just thinking about the "shlop" sound the cranberry sauce makes as it pops out of the can). Behind all of that deliciousness is a whole lot of interesting science. The Reactions YouTube channel, produced by The American Chemical Society, has a few good video lessons that address the science of a traditional American Thanksgiving meal. 

Better Thanksgiving Potatoes Through Chemistry explains the chemical properties of raw potatoes and which ones to pick for roasting based on their chemistry. The video then goes on to explain the science of roasting potatoes before finally revealing the best method, based on science, for roasting potatoes.

The Truth About Tryptophan explains why it might not be just the turkey that is making you sleepy after a big Thanksgiving dinner.

Finally, How to Fry a Thanksgiving Turkey Without Burning Your House Down provides an overview of the science involved in deep frying a turkey and how you can use that knowledge to avoid a disaster on Thanksgiving.