Friday, February 26, 2021

Build a Solar Oven - Hands-on Science Project

This week SciShow Kids released a new video about a favorite hands-on science project, building a solar oven. As you might expect, the video explains the science of using solar energy and explains the basics of how to build a solar oven. However, the video isn't quite detailed enough to be the only source that you or your students consult when building a solar oven. Fortunately, NASA, the US Department of Energy, and the Lawrence Hall of Science all offer detailed directions. 

NASA provides two sets of detailed, written directions for building solar ovens. This set of directions (link opens a PDF) was created for students in 7th through 9th grade. This set of directions (link opens a PDF) for building a solar oven was written for 6th through 8th grade students and culminates with students attempting to make s'mores with their ovens. 

Cooking With 'Sol (link opens a PDF) was published by the US Department of Energy. It was written for students in 5th through 8th grade to follow directions to create a solar oven. 

DIY Sun Science is a free iPad app from The Lawrence Hall of Science. The app features directions for hands-on lessons about the sun. The lessons are a mix of activities that students can do on their own and activities that they should do with adult supervision. All of the activities use common household goods. Some of the activities that you will find in DIY Sun Science are measuring the sun, making UV detectors, detecting solar storms, and cooking with a solar oven.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

How to Record a Video in Gmail

Sometimes it is easier to reply to an email with a video than it is to write out a reply. For example, when a colleague asks me for help with Google Classroom I could write step-by-step directions or I could record a short screencast that would accomplish the same thing. Loom's Chrome extension makes it easy to do that. 

With Loom's Chrome extension Gmail users can reply to email by simply clicking the Loom icon and recording a video. The video is then instantly uploaded to your Loom account and inserted into the body of your email. In this short video I demonstrate how to record a video right from your Gmail inbox. 


Yes, there are other tools for making screencast videos. And you could use one of those to make a screencast for a colleague, but I think Loom's Chrome extension streamlines the process better than other screen recording tools. 

Applications for Education
Besides being helpful when answering help requests from students or colleagues, Loom's Chrome extension could be useful in having students explain exactly what they need help with when they send you an email. Sometimes students don't know exactly how to phrase their requests in writing so giving them the Loom option could be a good way to get a better understanding of what they're asking. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Why Do We Use Filler Words? - And a Tool to Help You Eliminate Them in Presentations

TED-Ed recently published a new video that addresses the question of why we say "like" and other filler words in our conversations. The video is full of interesting pieces of information about why we use filler words and how they can serve a purpose in conversations. For example, saying "like" is often serving the same purpose as an "um" in conversation. Another neat thing I learned from the video is that a filled pause can help toddlers identify uncommon or new words. The video is titled Why Do We, Like, Hesitate When We, Um, Speak? and you can see it with its associated lesson on this TED-Ed page
 


Watching this TED-Ed lesson reminded me of a good tool for practicing presentations so that you don't use too many filler words. That tool is Microsoft's Presenter Coach which is available in the online version of PowerPoint. Presenter Coach will give you feedback on the pacing of your presentations, your use of filler words, and your use of sensitive phrases. In this video I demonstrate how to use Presenter Coach in PowerPoint. 

Kahoot Acquired Whiteboard.fi - What Could That Mean for You?

Last spring I got quite excited about a new online whiteboard tool called Whiteboard.fi. A lot of other people did, too. This blog post that I wrote about Whiteboard.fi had more than 100,000 hits! The success of Whiteboard.fi didn't go unnoticed by other educational technology companies as evidenced by the announcement that Kahoot has acquired Whiteboard.fi.

The announcement that Kahoot published was short on details on about what the acquisition of Whiteboard.fi means for both services going forward. Initially, it appears that Whiteboard.fi will continue to operate as normal. My guess is that Kahoot plans to integrate some or all of the functions into of Whiteboard.fi into the Kahoot game platform. 

If Kahoot were to integrate Whiteboard.fi into its game platform we could see options for teachers to use a whiteboard function to draw or write math problems and or diagrams. We could see options for students to reply to questions with free-hand drawings and writing on individual whiteboards. I'm curious to see what the engineers at Kahoot and Whiteboard.fi develop together for teachers and students. 

Here's a short video overview of how Whiteboard.fi works today. 

How to Install and Manage Chrome Extensions

In this week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I outlined the things that I look for when I am considering installing a new browser extension or add-on. At the end of the newsletter I included directions for installing and removing extensions in Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. Those directions were provided as a series of screencast videos. The one about installing and removing Chrome add-ons is available to view here and as embedded below.  


On a related note, here's the difference between signing into your Chrome profile and your Google account.