Monday, June 7, 2021

Five Features of Canva Presentations You Might be Overlooking

Canva has become my go-to presentation design tool over the last few years. Even when I know that I'm going to end up giving my live presentations from PowerPoint or Google Slides, I still use Canva to design the presentation. In the last year Canva has added features that make it a serious rival to PowerPoint and Google Slides. In this short video I highlight my favorite "hidden" features of Canva that you might be overlooking. 

The features shown in the video are:

  • Polling an audience
  • Creating MP4 files
  • Publishing slides as a website
  • Collaborating on designs
  • Recording narrated presentations

Many more features of Canva are highlighted in this playlist of Canva tutorials. Some of the features in that playlist include creating timelines, design certificates, making greeting cards, and publishing comic strips.

How Tall Can a LEGO Tower Get? - Life's Biggest Questions

While getting caught up on my reading in Feedly this morning I came across a new comic from The Oatmeal. The comic addresses the question, "how tall can a LEGO tower get?" (It's a copyright-protected work so you'll have to view it on The Oatmeal website). The comic is based on a 2012 BBC article titled How Tall Can a LEGO Tower Get? The comic and the article prompted me to turn to YouTube for videos about building giant LEGO towers. YouTube did not disappoint me in my search for videos that explain the math and physics highlighted in the BBC's article and The Oatmeal's comic. 

Last fall a YouTube channel titled Life's Biggest Questions tackled the question of "how tall can a LEGO tower get?" The video explains the math that was used by researchers at The Open University to figure how tall a LEGO tower would get before the blocks collapsed under their own weight. Of course, the mathematical answer assumes that the tower wouldn't topple over before reaching it's maximum height. So you then have to consider the overall stability of the structure instead of just weight-bearing capability of the structure. Watch the video to learn more, it's quite enjoyable. 

Applications for Education
The question of "how tall can a LEGO tower get?" is a fun prompt for diving into discussions about math and physics. Before showing students the video or the article mentioned above, I'd have them make guesses as to the answer then write out lists of the variables that they can think of that would influence how tall the tower could get. Then after they watch the video I'd have a little classroom contest to see who can build the tallest tower with the LEGOs available in my classroom.

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

Friday, June 4, 2021

Science Research Papers Annotated With Teaching Resources

Science in the Classroom is a free resource for teachers from Science Magazine. On Science in the Classroom you will find research papers containing interactive annotations to help students understand the content of the papers. In the right hand margin of each paper you will find a section called "learning lens." The learning lens offers seven types of interactive annotations that students can enable. Of those seven types of annotations, the glossary annotation is the one that students will probably use most often. The glossary annotations highlight key words and terms in the article. Clicking on a highlighted annotation reveals a definition.

Applications for Education
In addition to the interactive annotations for students Science in the Classroom provides teachers with discussion and reading comprehension questions. At the bottom of each article on Science in the Classroom teachers will also find a list of suggested teaching activities.

Three Good Options for Annotating PDFs

In last week's Practical Ed Tech newsletter I shared three good options for adding audio comments to Google Docs, Word docs, and PDFs. That prompted a couple of readers to ask me about options for annotating PDFs. I have a few recommendations for annotating PDFs. The one you pick may depend upon whether you prefer to use tools that work with your Google account or ones that work with a Microsoft account. 

Annotate PDFs in OneNote
OneNote has lots of neat features built into it. One of those neat features is a tool for annotating PDFs. In this short video I demonstrate how you can do that.

Annotate PDFs with Lumin PDF
Lumin PDF is a Chrome extension that enables students to draw on top of PDFs that you open in Chrome. After drawing on the PDF students can save the PDF as a new copy or replace the existing copy of the PDF that was sent to them in Google Classroom. Here's my video overview of how students can use Lumin PDF to write on PDFs that are assigned to them in Google Classroom.

Annotate PDFs with Kami
Kami is a service that enables users to annotate and comment on PDFs. You can do this directly on the Kami website or in Google Drive with Kami's Chrome extension. Kami also works with Word and Pages files.

Here's a couple of videos about how Kami works.

An Easy Way to Digitally Sign Documents

This blog post was inspired by my mother who asked me how to do this a couple of nights ago

Whether it's a form for your HR department, permission slips for athletics, or an acceptable use agreement for a school-issued laptop, back-to-school season often involves signing a lot of documents. In the old days those documents would be printed and you'd sign them then stick them in a mailbox and hope they didn't get lost in the shuffle. Today, most of the forms we need to sign can be sent, signed, and returned online. There are many tools available that make this quick and easy to do. HelloSign is the one that I use and recommend for digitally signing documents that have been sent to me.

In the following video I demonstrate how to use HelloSign to fill-out and sign documents online.

Applications for Education
If you have permission slips or other forms for parents to sign, consider sending them the link to this video to show them how easy it is to sign and send documents to you.

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