Friday, January 29, 2021

Dotstorming Gets an Updated Look and Easier Navigation

Dotstorming is a multimedia collage tool that has some neat voting and discussion features built into as well. I used it for a few years but haven't written about it since 2018. This morning I got an email from the developer of Dotstorming. The email announced a brand new look which includes an improved user interface.

Functionally, Dotstorming is the same as it ever was in terms of functionality. You can still create a collaborative board where you and your students can add notes and pictures. Dotstorming still lets you have chats on shared boards and still lets you vote for your favorite note or image added to your collaborative board. What's changed is that it's now much more obvious where to click to create boards, to create notes, to vote, and to chat. Previously, most of those features were "hidden" in drop-down menus. 

Dotstorming still provides teachers with tools to disable chat and or voting. It's possible to disable chat while still having the voting function turned on. 

Applications for Education
The value of Dotstorming in an online or in-person classroom is that it allows you to gather ideas or answers to a problem from your students and then have your students vote for the favorite idea or answer. Those vote totals can then be the basis for discussions with the whole class or in small groups.

ICYMI - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions - Episode 30

Last week Rushton Hurley and I hosted the first 2021 episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff (we're seeking suggestions for a better name). In case you missed it, the recording and slides are now available to view here or as embedded below. 

Some of the highlights from episode 30 of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff include:

  • How to help students find "lost" items in Google Classroom. 
  • The answer to the "what's the most common question you get?"
  • Adding voice comments to Google Classroom and Google Docs. 
  • A DIY document camera.  
We're hosting the next episode on February 18th at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT. You can register here to join us

A Good Video Series for Introducing Arduino

Earlier this week I shared how I used Tinkercad to introduce my students to key concepts in Arduino design and programming. One of the supplementary materials that I posted in Google Classroom for that course is a series of introductory videos produced by Bob at I Like to Make Stuff

In a three-part series he covers the big, basic concepts of programming in general before moving into the specifics of Arduino programming. The final video in the series puts everything together for viewers. And if you're wondering what an Arduino is, Bob has that covered too.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Book Creator Now Offers More Templates and Themes

At the end of last year Book Creator introduced a new couple of new features (new fonts and new color options) and hinted that something bigger was on the way. That new thing is here! Book Creator has just introduced eighteen new templates and themes for all teachers and students. 

Book Creator now offers templates for making yearbooks, school newspapers, cookbooks, photobooks, and more. Templates have preconfigured layouts that you can use by replacing the placeholder content with your own content. In some ways it reminds me of working with some of the templates that Apple's Pages program offers. 

Book Creator's new themes are a little more flexible than templates. Themes have preconfigured layouts and place holder content, but the emphasis is more on color schemes and fonts than it is on layout. A few of the themes that you'll find available right now include antique, neon, and graffiti. 

Book Creator's new templates and themes can be accessed from the "New Book" menu in your Book Creator account. Instead of picking a blank layout you can pick one of the templates to start your multimedia writing project. 

Applications for Education
For someone like me who lacks an eye for visual design, Book Creator's new templates and themes are a blessing. Not only can using a preconfigured template or theme make my work look better, they can also inspire some creative thoughts about the possibilities for my work. I'm sure the same can be said for many students who prefer to focus on the writing and less on the visual design aspect of a project (I was always the kid that hated "poster projects" when I was in elementary school, too). 
Here's a little video preview of Book Creator's new themes and templates.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

How to Save Your Zoom Meeting Annotations

Last week a colleague asked me if there was a way she could save the sketches that she made for students during her Zoom calls. Since we work in the same building I just walked to her room and showed her how to save the annotations. But I'm sure that there are other teachers who have the same question so I made this short video to demonstrate how to save the annotations from a Zoom call. 

Applications for Education
Zoom's annotations feature can be great for drawing or illustrating a concept talking to your students. It's also useful in highlighting a passage of text that you might have shared with your students and displayed on your screen during a Zoom meeting.