Friday, February 26, 2021

It's Maple Syrup Time, Yay!

Here in Maine we're starting to notice that the days are getting a little longer and the sun is a little higher in the sky during the day. That means, as a few of my friends pointed out on social media this week, it's time to start tapping maple trees for syrup season. 

The process of collecting sap and turning it into maple syrup provides some great science lessons for students. The process of creating maple syrup can teach students lessons about why maple sap is easiest to collect in late winter/early spring, what makes the sap run, and it teaches students about evaporation. 

Here are a few video lessons about making maple syrup: 

Ever Wonder How Maple Syrup is Made? is a video from Highlights. The succinct video shows a mix of the old way of using buckets to collect sap and the modern method of using hoses.

My friend Gardner Waldeier AKA Bus Huxley on YouTube collects maple sap to make maple syrup. He does it the old fashioned way and he made a video about the process. Gardner's video shows viewers how he collects maple sap and turns it into maple syrup. In the video he explains why maple sap is collected at this time of year, how much sap he'll collect from a large tree, and just how much sap it takes to make a gallon of maple syrup. You also get a nice tour of Gardner's woodlot.

Maple Syrup the Modern Way is a three minute video about the process commercial producers use to make syrup.

On a related note for my friends who like to run or bike and might be looking for a new energy bar or  gel, take a look at the Untapped Maple products. I just bought a sample pack a couple of weeks ago and I love it! It's so much easier to eat an Untapped Maple waffle than a Clif Bar in the middle of a hard workout. The Untapped Maple gels are way easier to choke down than anything else I've tried over the years. I'm planning to use the waffles and gels as part of my fueling strategy for the Unbound Gravel 200 in June. 

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 - What Could That Mean for You?

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

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

If Kahoot were to integrate 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 develop together for teachers and students. 

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