Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Book Creator Has a New Color Selection Tool

A couple of weeks ago Book Creator introduced some new shapes and fonts to use in the creation of multimedia ebooks. This week Book Creator added a new color selection tool that will help you apply the exact color you want to use on those shapes and other page elements. 

Book Creator now offers the option to use color hex codes to choose colors instead of just selecting a color from a paint palette. Using a hex code gives you the finest level of control over color selection. If you're not sure what a hex code is or what the hex code for a particular color is, HTML Color Codes is a handy reference site to consult. 


Make Offline Copies of Important Files in Your Google Drive

Monday's little Google services outage was a bit of an "oh, crap!" moment for many people who have come to rely on Google to create, store, and access all kinds of important files. While I was able to get by without Google Drive for an hour on Monday morning, it was a good reminder to make offline copies of important files a little more often. If find yourself feeling the same way, take some time this week to create offline copies of the important files you have in Google Drive. This little video shows you a few methods for making offline copies of Google Docs and other files in your Google account. 
 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

When Will It End?

I'm tired, you're tired, our students are tired, we're all tired. I'm tired of switching from in-person classes, to online classes, to hybrid classes, back to in-person classes, back on online classes, back to hybrid classes, and starting every Friday wondering what the format for the next week will be. Yes, we're all adapting and making the best of it, but it has to end at some point, doesn't it? 

The distribution of the first COVID-19 vaccines provides some hope that the pandemic will end sooner than later. There's still a long way to go until we're "back to normal." So when does a pandemic end? I know I'm not the only one to ask that question. My students have asked the question and I'm sure some your students have asked the same question. Six months ago TED-Ed released a video to address that question. If you haven't seen it, now is a good time to watch it and share it with your students. 



Yes, we will eventually get "back to normal." Until then, hang in there.

Five Ideas for Online Breakout Room Activities

Breakout rooms in Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet provide a good way to get students talking and working in small groups. For some students, talking to a couple of classmates in a small breakout room is a lot less intimidating that talking to you "in front" of the whole class. Small breakout rooms give students a chance to talk and test ideas with a couple of classmates before subjecting their ideas to the silent or spoken criticism of the whole class. There are lots of other ways to think about using breakout rooms, here are some of my ideas for using breakout rooms with students. 

1. Digital Scavenger Hunts/ Digital Breakout Games

Get students working together to solve problems as part of a digital scavenger hunt that unlocks little rewards. If you have a Breakout EDU account, you might find some good digital challenges there. Otherwise, consider using Flippity's online scavenger hunt template to create a game in which students solve problems to unlock each part of the game.

2. Peer Review

We often associate peer review with writing. There are plenty of other areas in which peer review is an appropriate activity. I'm having students conduct peer review of the apps they're designing in my class. You might have students conduct peer review of short videos they've created. 

3. Three Color "Quiz"

A couple of years ago I was doing some reading on formative assessment methods and came across a paper published by the University of Nebraska Digital Commons (link opens a PDF of the paper). In that paper was the outline for an activity called a three color quiz. I started using that activity in my classroom and found it quite useful in determining which of my students knew material on their own and which ones needed help. The premise is that students spend a few minutes writing about a topic on their own in one color. Then they spend a few minutes writing while consulting a couple of classmates. That writing appears in a second color. Finally, they spend a few minutes writing while consulting classmates, their notes, and textbooks/websites. That writing appears in a third color. 

4. Project Planning/ Progress Monitoring

One of my classes is working on year-long independent and small-group projects. I use a SMART project planning and monitoring framework with them to try to keep them moving on the projects. Using breakout rooms is a good way to give students a time and place for discussions about their projects. 

5. Virtual Social Time

One of the things that a lot of kids are missing right now is the experience of social interactions with classmates. Yes, many of them are Snapping, TikTok-ing, and texting their friends. But that doesn't replace having a conversation with classmates who aren't in their current circle of friends. Consider giving your students 5-10 minutes for casual conversations to interact with classmates they might not otherwise be communicating with. 

How to Create Breakout Rooms in Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet

Breakout rooms can be useful to get students talking and working in small groups in a virtual class meeting. Here are directions for creating breakout rooms in Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet. 

How to Create Breakout Rooms in Zoom
To create breakout rooms in Zoom you'll first need to make a small change in your account settings. The change is to enable the breakout rooms option so that a "breakout rooms" button appears in your meeting controls during your meetings. 

To enable breakout rooms in Zoom:

  1. Open your account settings. 
  2. Select the "Meeting" tab. 
  3. Select "In Meeting (Advanced)."
  4. Move the Breakout Room slider icon to the on position. 
  5. Breakout rooms should now appear as an option in the meeting controls for every meeting you host. 


How to Create Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams
This is a new feature in Microsoft Teams. To use the breakout rooms function you need to be using the latest version of Microsoft Teams (check with your IT admin if you're not sure that you're on the latest version). Then you can follow the detailed directions that Mike Tholfsen (product manager for Microsoft EDU) provides in this video


How to Create Breakout Rooms in Google Meet
Google Meet offers a breakout room functionality only for those people who are using a paid version of Google Workspaces or G Suite for Education Enterprise Edition. If your school has the paid version, you can enable breakout rooms by clicking on the "activities" icon during a call. You can find more details about the feature here

For those who are using the free version of Google Workspaces or G Suite for Education, there is a third-party Chrome extension for creating breakout rooms. The latest version addresses some of the problems with previous iterations. One thing to keep in mind when reading reviews of third-party extensions is that developers are often at the mercy of Google's constantly evolving policies and programs. That means that sometimes an extension stops functioning correctly not because of something the developer did but because Google made a change that the developer hasn't yet responded to.