Friday, December 4, 2020

Another Good Word Cloud Generator

A couple of weeks ago I shared an overview of seven good tools for creating word clouds. This week a new word cloud tool was launched on Product Hunt so I gave it a try. The new tool is called Free Word Cloud Generator and it's exactly that, a free word cloud generator. 

Using Free Word Cloud Generator is easy. You simply go to the site, paste in a chunk of text, and then click "visualize." Your word cloud can be downloaded as a PNG or JPEG file. There are options to exclude numbers and special characters from your word cloud. You can also change the font type, color, and display density. 



Applications for Education
Free Word Cloud Generator doesn't require users to register. In fact, there doesn't appear to be an option to register. That should make the tool a little easier for some students to use compared to other word cloud tools. In general, word cloud tools like Free Word Cloud Generator are good for helping students identify the most frequently used words in passages of text they are reading and or writing. In the context of analyzing their own writing word clouds can help students identify words or phrases that they might be using a little too often.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Write on PDFs in Google Classroom - Good Tool for Math

Earlier this week one of my colleagues asked me if there was a way that her students can do free-hand writing on documents that she shares in Google Classroom. She teaches mathematics and was looking for a better option to having students take pictures of handwritten work and uploading it to Google Classroom assignments. My suggestion was to have her students try using a Chrome extension called Lumin PDF.

Lumin PDF is a Chrome extension that enables students to draw on top of PDFs that you open in Chrome. After drawing on the PDF students can save the PDF as a new copy or replace the existing copy of the PDF that was sent to them in Google Classroom.

Here's my video overview of how students can use Lumin PDF to write on PDFs that are assigned to them in Google Classroom.

Twelve Free Apps for Math Instruction

Math Learning Center is a resource that I've shared in the past. The last time I wrote about it was a couple of years ago. Back then it offered ten free apps containing virtual manipulatives for math lessons. Since then MLC has expanded to offer twelve free apps. Ten of them are available for iOS, Android, and Chrome while two are currently Chrome-only. 

Math Learning Center apps are designed for teaching elementary school mathematics lessons. With the exception of the flashcards app, all of the Math Learning Center's free apps are designed to provide you and your students with virtual manipulatives. By the way, the flashcard app is available in English and Spanish.

Geoboard is one of the oldest and most popular apps offered by Math Learning Center. It is a good example of how all of the apps are intended to be used. Geoboard is a free app on which students stretch virtual rubber bands over pegboards to create lines and shapes to learn about perimeter, area, and angles. 

Applications for Education 
It is important to note that except for the flashcard app all of the Math Learning Center apps are really just virtual manipulatives designed to be used as a part of lesson plan not as stand-alone practice apps. You will need to provide your students with feedback when they are using these apps.

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.