Wednesday, December 9, 2020

How to Reduce Noise in Zoom Meetings

On Monday I shared Mike Tholfsen's tutorial on how to reduce background noise in Microsoft Teams calls. That prompted a few people to ask me if the same thing can be done in Zoom. Yes, you can filter background noise with some tools that are built into Zoom. 

In the advanced audio settings for Zoom you can adjust the level of filtering that you apply to steady and intermittent background noise. The default setting is "automatic." You can adjust that setting to be "aggressive" to filter more background noises. 

You'll find the advanced audio settings in Zoom by clicking on the small drop-down menu that appears next to the microphone icon during your Zoom calls. 

In this new video I provide a demonstration of how to reduce background noise in your Zoom meetings. 

How to Share Books in Google Classroom and Google Sites

One of my favorite features of Google Books is the option to clip sections of free ebooks to share with students. It's also possible to share with your students an entire ebook from Google Books. You can then use those clips or full books to spark discussions in Google Classroom. Another way to use the clipping and embedding feature of Google Books is to create a digital bookshelf of public domain works in a Google Site. Both of those things are demonstrated in this new video that I recorded yesterday afternoon. 




Watch this short video for a general overview of how to search in Google Books.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

You.com - A Future Rival to Google Search?

This afternoon TechCrunch posted a story about Richard Socher's new venture called You.com. You.com has a lofty goal of replacing Google as our go-to search engine. 

You.com's homepage is short on details right now, but it appears that it will be a search engine that doesn't rely on advertising for funding and that it will give you greater control over the privacy of your search activity. It sounds promising, but so did Blekko when it launched with a similar goal of being a better search engine ten years ago. If you have forgotten about Blekko as I did until today, here's the Wikipedia page about the defunct search engine

 I like the idea of a search engine results pages that aren't influenced by advertising or prior search activity. That's one of the reasons why I encourage teachers and students to try alternatives to Google Search from time to time. I hope that You.com can follow through on its goals. I've already registered for the beta list. You can do the same right here

The Growth of Mount Everest - A Math and Geology Lesson

Mount Everest is nearly a meter taller than it was a day ago. No, it didn't actually grow a meter overnight. China and Nepal have agreed on a new measurement for the height of Mount Everest. There are at least two lessons that can be developed out of this news. 

One of the reasons for re-measurement of Everest is the 2015 earthquake in the area. Some geologists argued that it may have caused a drop in snowcap of the mountain. Other geologists contend that it has grown overtime as a result of shifting tectonic plates. It's also worth noting that Chinese and Nepalese surveyors haven't always agreed on how to measure the mountain. Whatever the reason for the re-measurement, there is a lesson here for students. 

The height of Mount Everest is measured using trigonometry. Chinese surveyors use the Yellow Sea as sea-level and Nepalese surveyors use the Bay of Bengal as sea-level. From there fixed line-of-sight points are used in measuring distance and height. Here's a good, basic overview of how that works. CBBC has a more basic overview for younger students

Pages 10 through 13 of Mount Everest, The Reconnaissance 1921 (available for free in Google Books) explains the difficulties of accurately measuring Mount Everest in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. It's interesting to note that most accepted measurements were more than 100 feet higher than today's accepted measurement. Tell your students that Mount Everest has shrunk over the last 100 years and ask them to solve the mystery of the shrinking mountain. 

SciShow Kids has a good video about how mountains are formed. It's appropriate for elementary school students who haven't previously learned about tectonic plates. 


TED-Ed also offers a lesson that explains why the height of Mount Everest changes. Why is Mount Everest so Tall? explains why the peak of Everest is so high, why other mountains are longer from base to summit, and how mountains are formed. 

A Virtual Tour and Videos for Learning About Breaking the Sound Barrier

Chuck Yeager died yesterday at the age of 97. He was the first person to fly an airplane faster than the speed of sound. The BBC's article about Chuck Yeager's passing included some archival footage of his flight in the Bell X-1 that he flew. Watching that footage reminded me of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum's VR Hangar app which included virtual tours of the X-1 and other famous aircraft and spacecraft. 

Unfortunately, the VR Hangar app is no longer available. But you can see the Bell X-1 in the Google Arts and Culture app as well as on the Google Arts and Culture website.

TED-Ed offers a lesson about breaking the sound barrier. The lesson is called The Sonic Boom Problem and it explains how a sonic boom is created and how math is used to predict the path of a sonic boom in the atmosphere. 



Here's some archival footage of Yeager's flight in the Bell X-1.