Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Formative Adds New Features for Creating Great Online Assessments

Formative is an online assessment platform that I've used and recommended for years. There are two features that keep me coming back to it. First, you can create questions that students respond to with free-hand drawings that they make on their computers or tablets. Second, you can upload documents and images to then add questions that appear directly on the documents and images. 

This week Formative announced a few new features that I like and I think you'll also like. First, there is now an integrated image search. Instead of having to find an image then upload it to your assessment, you can now just search within Formative and insert an image from the search results. Second, you can now link existing classes to your Google Classroom. Third, Formative will now automatically format hyperlinks that you include in your assessments.

For my friends who teach social studies, Formative has a new collection of history assessments that you can quickly copy into your account. The new assessments come from Stanford History Education Group and Open Stax. 

If you've never tried Formative, take a look at this video to see one of my favorite Formative features in action.

Monday, December 7, 2020

How to Reduce Noise in Microsoft Teams Meetings

Good microphones like Blue Snowball microphones can help you sound better in a virtual meeting. But you can also use a new feature in Microsoft Teams to reduce the background noise that comes through your calls. In this new video Mike Tholfsen demonstrates how to reduce background noise in Microsoft Teams calls. It's an impressive demonstration of filtering noises like crunching chips and vacuum cleaners running. 

Applications for Education
If your school is using Microsoft Teams for online instruction, this feature is one that you'll want to show your students and colleagues how to use. It can help you sound better which in turn will help your students follow your instruction a bit better. It can help your students sound better which will make it easier to hear their questions during live online instruction. 

New Shapes and Fonts in Book Creator

Book Creator is one of my favorite tools for creating ebooks. It's a versatile tool that can be used to publish multimedia fiction and non-fiction stories. I've also recommended using it to have students create portfolios of their best work. 

Last week Book Creator introduced a few new features. Two of those are available to all users including those who are on the free plan. Those new features are new shapes and new font choices. The new shapes can  be added to any page and customized on any page in a Book Creator book. The same is true for the twelve new fonts available in Book Creator. 

I wasn't terribly excited about new shapes until I watched this video that Book Creator published. It demonstrates how the shapes can be used together to create artwork in a book. 

A Fun and Free PD Webinar!

Every week I join Rushton Hurley for a fun half-hour webinar that is simply titled Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff. We enjoy answering questions that are sent in before and during the webinar. And we enjoy sharing some interesting things that we've found around the web. My shares lean toward "cool and practical" while Rushton's lean toward "cool and inspiring." Register here to join us for the next webinar this Thursday at 4pm ET/ 1pm ET. 

The recording of last week's episode is available to view here. All of the resources we shared can be found here on the Next Vista for Learning webinars page

Five Key Features of Making Comics in Canva

Last week Canva introduced new comic strip creation templates. There has long been tools for making comics in Canva, but now Canva is offering templates specifically for making comics. Canva's comic gallery contains templates for making comics in a variety of layouts and formats. All of the templates can be customized to your heart's content. 

If you are a current Canva for Education user, you may already know that your students can now collaborate online on any graphics. That's just one of the many good features available when making comics in Canva. In this video I demonstrate how to create comics in Canva and outline five key features of creating comics in Canva. 

Five Key Features of Making Comics in Canva

  • Online, real-time collaboration on comic strips. 
  • Customize hundreds of pieces of artwork/ drawings/ clip art. 
  • Customize the size, spacing, and number of frames per comic. 
  • Publish comics as stand-alone websites. 
  • Publish comics as PDFs and images. 

Applications for Education
In my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I outlined five ideas for incorporating comic strip creation into your classroom. Those ideas included illustrating vocabulary words, illustrating favorite stories, creating timelines, making digital greeting cards, and illustrating original writing.