Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Sherlock Bones - A Virtual Owl Pellet Dissection Activity

One of the great things about living where I do is that a walk in the woods is always just a few steps away. One of my favorite things about walking in the woods is finding all kinds of neat, natural things including dropped moose and deer antlers. While those are rare finds, I do regularly come across owl pellets on my walks. 

An old SciShow Kids video (embedded below) explains what an owl pellet is and what can be learned by dissecting an owl pellet.



Unfortunately, most students don't get the experience of walking in the woods and finding owl pellets. You can order owl pellets from a science lab supply company or you could have your students virtually dissect an owl pellet. Kid Wings is a website all about birds. The site includes a virtual owl pellet dissection activity called Sherlock Bones. In the virtual owl pellet dissection students pick apart an owl pellet, examine the bones inside it, then match those bones to the skeleton outline they've been provided. 


This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web.

Three Tips to Get More Out of Webinars

Back in 2007 or 2008 I watched a professional development webinar for the first time. I can't remember exactly what the webinar was about (it was something about Second Life), but I do remember thinking that I didn't get "it." After that I watched bunch of free webinars about all kinds of things because that's what I thought I should do to be a modern teacher staying current in his practice. Finally, in late 2011 I paid to join a webinar and something weird happened, I got a lot more out of the experience. Since then almost every webinar I've attended, both free and paid, has been a good learning experience. Here's what I figured out about learning from webinars.

1. Participate in live webinars, don't just watch them.
Every webinar platform has some kind of chat or Q&A feature. Use it! Use it to ask the presenter questions. An experienced webinar presenter will be able to handle questions in real-time. Don't be afraid to ask clarifying questions. Even when I'm attending webinars about things with which I'm already familiar, I make an effort to think of questions to ask. This forces me to tune-in and listen with more focus than if I was just listening in the hopes that something said by the presenter will jump out at me.

2. Close Facebook and take notes.
If I cannot attend the live version of a webinar, I still find great value in recorded webinars. When I watch recorded webinar I focus on it the same way I would during a live session. That means closing Facebook and taking notes in my notebook. In that notebook I write the questions that I want to send to the presenter via email.

3. Act on webinar ideas quickly.
When I participate in a webinar my participation isn’t over until I actually act on what I was just taught. Just like in a traditional classroom setting, it’s important to try for yourself what was just demonstrated for you. Do this as quickly as you can.

If you're ready to try these tips, register for a session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp

How to See What's Hidden Behind a TinyURL

Last week I wrote a blog post about how to see what's hidden behind a Bitly shortened URL without actually clicking on the link. The trick is to add "+" to the end of the Bitly URL to see what's behind it without clicking on it. A few people emailed me to ask if the that worked with other URL shortening services. The answer is it works with TinyURLs

I've tried the "+" trick with a bunch of other URL shortening tools and TinyURL is the only one besides Bitly that I've found it to work with. 

What's the trick?
The trick is to add a "+" to the end of any TinyURL address in order to land on a safe TinyURL page that reveals what the original link was that got shortened. You can then decide if you want to click through to the destination or not.

If you want to try this with a TinyURL, tinyurl.com/emkns9a8 will lead you to the page for the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp, but adding a “+” at the end of that TinyURL will take you to the page where you can see the original link without clicking on it.

Here's a video overview of how to see what's behind a TinyURL without actually clicking on the link.


Applications for Education
As I wrote last week, building good digital citizenship and cyber safety skills is something that all of us should be helping our students do. Showing them little tips like this one to avoid clicking on suspicious links is one of the ways that we can help our students build their digital citizenship and cyber safety skills.


This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that regularly steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Zoom Now Offers a Cool Immersive View

Are you tired of looking at the same old view in your Zoom meetings? You're not alone! It appears that even the people who work at Zoom are tired of the same old views. To remedy that problem, on Monday Zoom introduced a new immersive view option for Mac and Windows users

Zoom's immersive view will show your meeting participants on same screen in background of your choosing. Zoom has a bunch of pre-made immersive view backgrounds that you can pick from including an art gallery view, a fireside chat view, board rooms, and even an outdoor setting. You can also upload your own image to use as part of an immersive view. 

When you enable immersive view for a Zoom meeting all participants will be placed into position in the immersive view scene. The default setting is for Zoom to automatically place participants in the scene, but you can choose to manually place people in the scene. 

Three Steps to Enable Zoom's Immersive View

First, you need to be aware that immersive view is available by default to those who are using personal or pro (single license) accounts and have updated to the latest version of Zoom for Windows or Mac. If you are using a school license or other group license for Zoom, your account administrator (usually your IT department) will need to enable immersive view for your account. 

Second, make sure you are using the latest version of Zoom for Mac or Windows. You can do this by launching Zoom on your desktop, signing into your account, then selecting "check for updates" in the drop-down menu under your account profile picture. 

Third, launch a Zoom meeting. With the meeting running click on the "view" button in the upper-right corner of your Zoom window. The view button should now have three options. Those options are "speaker," "gallery," and "immersive" view. Click on the immersive view option and you'll be asked to pick a background for your immersive view. 

Three Common Questions

Zoom has an extensive set of immersive view directions and FAQs on their website. The ones that I think teachers and students will ask about are whether or not immersive view works on Chromebooks, if virtual backgrounds are required, and how many people can be in an immersive view. 

1. It doesn't work on a Chromebook or iPad. 

2. If your computer doesn't currently support virtual backgrounds/ green screen in Zoom, the immersive view option won't work for you either. 

3. You can have up to 25 people in an immersive view. 

Applications for Education
Using immersive view in Zoom meetings probably isn't going to make a significant change to the way that you teach in Zoom. That said, at this point in the school year, I think we could all emotionally benefit from adding a little fun and novelty into our next Zoom meetings.

On the topic of virtual meetings, this summer I'm hosting the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. It will be conducted via GoToWebinar instead in Zoom.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web.

Birdcams for Spring Observations

We have robins and finches nesting in the hanging plants on our porch and in the eave of our garage. This morning when I let our dogs out at 4:45 all of the birds were still in their nests with their little heads poking up to see what all of the commotion was about. Yes, the birds make a mess by the time summer arrives but we enjoy seeing the birds rear their young. 

If you'd like to observe nesting birds and or have your students do the same, you can do so through the webcam streams hosted on Explore.org. At this time of the year you'll find livestreams of ospreys, eagles, owls, and more hosted on Explore.org and its corresponding YouTube channel



Applications for Education
Birds aren't the only animals featured in the Explore webcams, they just stand out right now because the rest of the year the nests will be empty. Your students can certainly explore all of the other webcams on Explore that feature polar bears, tigers, goats, and many other mammals. All of the webcam feeds have a little pop-up menus that contain more information about the animals featured in the feeds. All videos can be streamed via YouTube or the Explore website. I kind of like just having the owl webcam on as soothing background noise, students might like that too.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.