Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Seven Apps and Sites to Encourage Healthy Diet and Exercise Habits

It's that time of year when many of us have healthy eating and exercise on our minds. Even if you're a regular exerciser like me, the December can be a tricky time to stick to good eating and exercise habits. The following apps and sites might help you get back on track. And if you or your students are making New Year's resolutions to move more and eat better, these apps and sites can help. 

MoveIt is a free Chrome extension that tries to help you avoid sitting in front of your computer for too long. At intervals of your choosing MoveIt will prompt you to get up and complete a short exercise. You can set the intervals to be as frequent as every five minutes or as infrequent as every hour. You can also disable MoveIt altogether for the times when you absolutely cannot be interrupted.

Sworkit Kids which I featured yesterday provides you with short exercise your students can do in your classroom or at home. Sworkit Kids simply features short video demonstrations of a movement like diagonal hopping accompanied by a countdown timer. There is also a Sworkit app for adults which provides full workouts to follow along with on your phone, tablet, or computer. 

GoNoodle is a popular service that has been around for five or six years. It's changed a little bit over the years but at its core it is still designed to promote physical fitness in a fun environment. GoNoodle features lots of free videos that lead students in short, 2-5 minutes, exercises. These are fun exercises like dancing that can be done in your classroom or at home with parents. Many of the videos are also available on GoNoodle's YouTube channel

One of the simple improvements that I made to my diet a six years ago was not using sugar in my morning coffee (I never used cream). The CDC's Rethink Your Drink helped me understand how many extra calories I was taking in by adding sugar to my coffee. Rethink Your Drink provides a chart of sugar content and calories found in popular beverages. The PDF also contains a chart of suggested alternatives to drinking sugary beverages. In addition to the charts Rethink Your Drink provides suggestions on ways to cut sugar calories safely while not sacrificing nutrients.

On a similar note to Rethink Your Drink, Sugar Stacks is a good website for understanding how much sugar is in the food and beverages that we consume. Sugar Stacks lists popular food and beverage items in ten categories. Every item is pictured with a stack of sugar cubes. Each sugar cube represents four grams of sugar. This is a great way to see just how much sugar you really consume in your favorite snack or beverage.

Space Chef is a free iPad app from the Lawrence Hall of Science. The purpose of the app is to introduce students to healthy foods and recipes that they may not have ever tried or even heard about. Space Chef features a fast-paced game in which students have to quickly grab the ingredients for a recipe. The ingredients scroll past them in three streams or flight paths. Students are shown a recipe at the top of the screen and they must grab the appropriate ingredients as they stream across the screen.

Walking, running, and biking are three simple ways to get regular exercise. I live in an area that doesn't have many sidewalks or even wide shoulders on the road so it can be hard to find safe places for those activities. If you live in a similar area, you might also hear the same complaint from students and parents. To help them find safe routes you could create walking, running, and biking routes in Google Maps. In this short video I demonstrate how to do that.

My Favorite Feature of OneNote's Chrome Extension

OneNote is the Microsoft product that I use more than any other in my daily work and personal life. I have it installed on my Android phone for taking notes and bookmarking things that I find while reading through my favorite blogs on Feedly. I also use the OneNote Chrome extension on my computers to write notes, to annotate PDFs, and to save webpages. Within the context of saving webpages is where my favorite feature of OneNote's Chrome extension is found. 

The OneNote Chrome extension makes it possible to quickly save the content of an article on a webpage without saving all of the sidebar content, advertisements, or headers and footers of the webpage. It simply saves the source link and the content of the main article. I use this feature a lot when saving recipes from cooking websites that seem to be littered with pop-up advertisements. Here's a short video overview of how to use OneNote's Chrome extension to save webpages without saving the sidebar content. 

Applications for Education
Saving just the main article content from a webpage is useful for those who want to print an article to have their students read. It's also useful for those who are sharing OneNote notebooks with students. Save just the article and its source link to so that your students can read it without distractions in a shared OneNote notebook.

Here are a few related OneNote tutorials:

Monday, January 4, 2021

Boomwriter's Writing Bee - A Unique Creative Writing Contest for Kids

Disclosure: Boomwriter is currently an advertiser on my blog. 

Boomwriter’s Writing Bee is a free event that takes a unique approach to inspiring elementary and middle school students to participate in a creative writing project. 

A traditional student writing contest basically gives students a prompt and tells them to “go write” and then months later a few students find out that they’ve won. Boomwriter’s Writing Bee is not a traditional writing contest at all. Boomwriter’s Writing Bee provides opportunities for students to get feedback throughout the writing process and it provides you with lesson plans to support your students’ involvement in the Writing Bee.

Who Can Participate
Boomwriter’s Writing Bee starts now and runs through May. It’s open to all third through eighth grade classrooms who are registered by their teachers. To register your classroom simply head to the 2021 Writing Bee webpage and click “Create my Class Writing Bee.” You’ll find that button centered between images of Jeff Kinney and Jerry Craft.

How it Works
The Writing Bee asks students to write their own middle and end chapters to complete a story that was started by Jeff Kinney (the author of the Wimpy Kid series) or by Jerry Craft (author of the Newbery Medal-winning New Kid). Students read the story starter provided by Kinney or Craft inside of their Boomwriter online classroom, watch a short video introduction, and then start writing.

Boomwriter’s writing platform provides you with a place to see all of your students’ stories in progress and give them feedback. What’s unique about Boomwriter is that when students have finished writing their stories those stories can be read by their classmates without knowing who wrote which story. Students can read small batches of their classmates’ stories then vote for their favorite story. In the Writing Bee there is a winner for the favorite middle chapter and favorite ending chapter in each classroom. The winning authors from each classroom are then invited to the online Writing Bee finals that will take place in May 2021.

Key Points to Consider
Any third through eighth grade classroom can participate in Boomwriter’s Writing Bee. Boomwriter provides free access to their platform for the entirety of your classroom’s participation in the Writing Bee.

The Writing Bee is completely online so you can use it whether your classroom is online, in-person, or hybrid of both.

Boomwriter provides supporting materials for you to use throughout the Writing Bee. These materials include vocabulary activities, graphic organizers to help students organize their story ideas, and lesson guides. You can also check out my YouTube channel for a video overview of how the Boomwriter Writing Bee platform looks from a teacher’s perspective and from a student’s perspective.

Finally, Boomwriter provides an option for you to have your students’ writing printed as a softcover book. That’s available whether your students win the whole Writing Bee or not.

Sign-up and get your class started on the Writing Bee today. 

A Demonstration of Sworkit Kids

Just before the winter (summer) holiday break I published a short article about using Sworkit Kids to lead your students in fun brain break activities during long classes. If you missed that article, the gist of it is that Sworkit Kids provides you with short videos of dozens of exercises that you and your students can do right in your classroom for a few minutes or more. In this short video I provide a demonstration of how to use Sworkit Kids. 

How to Add a Dynamic "Latest News" Section to Google Sites

A couple of weeks ago a reader emailed me with a question about creating a Google Site that her colleagues could comment on. She wanted to have a section in her site that had tips and news for colleagues who could then ask her questions about those tips. 

The old version of Google Sites had a commenting function built into it. Unfortunately, the current version of Google Sites doesn't have a commenting function built into it. There is a work-around that can work if you're sharing your Google Site with your colleagues and or students in the same G Suite for Education domain. 

To create a news section that automatically updates in Google Sites and that your colleagues and or students can comment on, use a Google Document embedded into a page in your Google Site. To do this you'll create your Google Document then change its access permissions to allow anyone in your domain to comment on it. Then you'll embed the document into a page on your Google Site. Whenever you update the Google Document, the updated version will appear on your Google Site as well. In this short video I demonstrate the whole process of creating a dynamic news section in Google Sites.