Thursday, January 7, 2021

Virtually Explore America's Quietest Roads

America's Quietest Roads is an interactive map created by a road traffic analytics company called Geotab. The map features the quietest state or federal highway in all fifty states. They define quietest as having the least average number of vehicles traveling the road throughout the year 2015. 

It's important to point out to students that the data is representative of state and federal highways. I'm sure that you can find quieter roads in your state, I know I can, than what is represented on the map. None-the-less, America's Quietest Roads does provide a nice way to virtually explore scenic and quiet roads around the United States.

When you click on a road on the America's Quietest Roads map you'll see a pop-up window that includes a Google Street View image of the road and some basic information about the length of the road. You can click through the Street View imagery to explore more of the road or click on the Google Maps link to view the road in a larger context. 

Applications for Education
America's Quietest Roads could be a fun map for students to explore to see the scenery of various parts of the United States. I'd also consider having students think about and investigate what makes a road more or less traveled than another.

H/T to Maps Mania.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Google Docs Comments Now Include Autocorrect and Smart Compose

Smart Compose is a feature of Gmail and Google Docs that some people dislike, but I love it. I know that it saves me time when writing responses to emails. I also use it in Google Docs when I'm writing lesson outlines and find that it's helpful there, most of the time. That's why I was happy to see that Google is adding Smart Compose to the comments function in Google Docs. Using Smart Compose in the comments in Google Docs should prove to be a time-saver when giving students feedback on their work. 

Autocorrect is also going to be available soon in Google Docs comments. Instead of just indicating that word is misspelled with a red underline, Google Docs will now just correct the spelling. 

According to Google's announcement, Autocorrect and Smart Compose will be on by default for all users. Autocorrect and Smart Compose can be disabled by individual users. 

As is usually the case with updates to Google Docs, these new features are available now for some users and will be rolled-out to all users over the next few weeks. 

Video - How to Annotate Your Screen in Google Meet

Last week I wrote a blog post about drawing on or annotating your screen during a Google Meet call. The way to do that is to use a free Chrome extension called Annotate Meet. Annotate Meet lets you draw on top of any tab or window that you share during a Google Meet. What I didn't mention last week is that Annotate Meet will let you save your drawings as image files. So if you were using Annotate Meet to conduct a math lesson you could save all of your work as an image that you then share with your students in Google Classroom. 

In the following video I provide a short demonstration of how to use Annotate Meet. 


Applications for Education
As I wrote last week, Annotate Meet could be useful for providing remote tech support to students. I would use the annotation tool to draw on my screen to show students where they to click on their own screens. Annotate Meet could also be great for drawing on articles to highlight important parts of articles that you share with your students. I'd also consider using it when providing remote editing or feedback to students.

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: