Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Three G Suite/ Google Workspaces Updates to Note

In the last week Google has announced three new features for G Suite for Education/ Google Workspaces tools that are frequently used by teachers and students. Here's a quick overview of those new features.

More Text Style and Appearance Options in Google Sites
This is a welcome and long overdue update to Google Sites. You can now customize your font size, style, and color within the text boxes that you insert into the pages of your Google Sites. This means that you can mix and match font styles and colors on the same page. Previously, changes happened on a site-wide basis.

Improved Handling of PDFs
As announced on Monday, Google has made some updates to how PDFs are handled in Google Docs. Now when convert a PDF into Google Docs format you shouldn't see as many issues with image placement and table placement as before. My students are going to be pleased with this update as I do distribute a few PDFs per week in Google Classroom. 

Improved Originality Reports
Google Classroom Originality Reports will now check for special characters that students insert into documents to try to "trick" automated plagiarism detection programs like Originality Reports. According to the announcement from Google, students will sometimes use Greek or Cyrillic symbols in place of English letters in a plagiarized document. That was actually new to me as I had never thought of that as a way to circumvent automated plagiarism detectors. 

As is usually the case, these updates are rolling out over the course of a couple weeks. If you don't see the updates in your Google account today, check again in a few days. 

Dozens of Bell Ringers to Start Your Social Studies Lessons

C-SPAN Classroom has long been one of my go-to recommendations for social studies teachers. It's particularly good for those who are developing lessons about civics and government. Bell Ringers is one of the many good resources that C-SPAN Classroom provides for free to all teachers. 

C-SPAN Classroom Bell Ringers are short video clips accompanied by a few discussion questions and a list of key vocabulary terms. Bell Ringers are intended to be warm-up or introductory activities that you can complete with your students in five to ten minutes. 

It has been six years since I last wrote about C-SPAN's Bell Ringers. In that time the collection of activities has grown by leaps and bounds. There are now Bell Ringers about world history, branches of government, economics, education, Supreme Court cases, and more than two dozen other topics. Here's a recent Bell Ringer about identifying fake news stories. 

Applications for Education
Bell Ringers are equally suitable for in-person and online classrooms. In an online classroom I'd have students watch the videos and answer questions independently in Google Classroom then bring the group together in Zoom to discuss a few responses. Without making them write answers before discussion some students would probably avoid watching or participating as the videos themselves aren't terribly entertaining even though they are quite informative. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Free Webinar - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff

Every Thursday afternoon I join Rushton Hurley for our live webinar series titled Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. We took a break for Thanksgiving last week but we'll be back this week at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT and we'd love to have you join us. It's a fun and free half-hour webinar in which we answer all kinds of questions and share some neat things that we've found on the web. 

Three Ways to Create Online Forms to Collect Samples of Your Students' Work

This blog post originally appeared as in my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. Subscribe to have my favorite tips sent to your inbox every Sunday evening

Teaching online classes and hybrid classes is a new challenge for many if not most of us. Collecting samples of work like math problems that students have traditionally done on physical paper is particularly challenging for some. One solution to that is to create online forms through which students or their parents acting on their behalf can submit pictures of their work. On a similar note, many teachers of world languages have reached out asking for advice on collecting audio recordings of their students speaking. Both of those challenges can be addressed by creating online forms to which students upload audio recordings. 

Here are three good options for creating online forms to which students can upload samples of their work as image, video, and or sound files. 

Google Forms has offered a file upload option for the last few years. Watch this video to see how it works.

JotForm is another good tool for creating online forms that accept file uploads. JotForm also lets you create forms that people can fill and sign online. Watch this video for an overview of some of JotForm's key features.

Microsoft Forms offers a file upload option. Students have to be signed into their school-issued Microsoft accounts in order to upload files. Here's a video overview of how this works. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

City Walks - Hear and See Cities Around the World

City Walks is a neat website that I recently learned about from Larry Ferlazzo. On City Walks you can go for a virtual walk in more than a dozen cities around the world. You can experience the cities with or without sound. You can go for virtual walks in the daytime or at night. At the start of each walk you'll see some quick facts about the city that might help you understand a little more about what you're seeing during the walk. 

City Walks is essentially a really nice display of street-level YouTube videos with some additional menu options overlaid on them. That's not meant as a knock on the site as it is a nice site. That does mean that there isn't any interactivity built into virtual walks like you might experience in a virtual reality experience. The video sources for City Walks are clearly labeled in the lower-right corner of each screen. 

Applications for Education
City Walks isn't going to replace Google Expeditions (ending in 2021) or Google Arts & Culture, but it is a good additional resource to have bookmarked when you want to give students a street-level view of cities that they learn about in your classroom. 

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