Wednesday, July 28, 2021

An Itchy Science Lesson

Summer here in northern New England brings us long and sunny days that make us forget about the short and frigid days of winter. Those sunny days come with a catch. The catch is blooming poison ivy and biting insects that make us itch. But what really makes us itch? Is there any way to avoid itching? And how can you make those itchy feelings go away? Those questions and more are answered in the video Why Do We Itch? produced by It's Okay To Be Smart.

Applications for Education
We've all heard of various home remedies for itchy skin and your students probably have too. Before watching this video have students share some of those home remedies. Then have them watch the video and see if the science matches what their home remedies are supposed to do.

How to Give Partial Credit in Google Forms

Google Forms provides an easy way for teachers to create self-grading quizzes. The current version of Google Forms lets you create self-grading quizzes that contain multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and even multiple selection questions. The one problem that some teachers run into when using self-grading Google Forms is how to give partial credit to students for answers that aren't 100% correct but also aren't 100% incorrect. 

A reader recently asked me how to award partial credit for answers to questions in Google Forms so I made this short video explanation. In the video you'll see how to award partial credit for answers to short answer questions and multiple selection questions. 

To learn more about how to create quizzes in Google Forms and how to add quiz scores to Google Classroom, please see this selection of videos that I published earlier this month. 

How to Refine DuckDuckGo Search Results

DuckDuckGo is becoming a popular alternative to conducting searches on The reason for that popularity is a reflection of DuckDuckGo's claim to not track search habits of individual users. While it is a good search engine, it still has a way to go to compete head-to-head with Google's advanced search options. That said, there are some advanced search refinement tools available in DuckDuckGo. 

In this short video I provide a demonstration of how to refine search results on DuckDuckGo. The video includes a demonstration of how to use a couple of "hidden" options that aren't obvious to most students. Those options are refining search results according to top-level domain and refining search results according to file type. 

Why You Should Refine Search Results by Language, Region, and Date

Google’s Advanced Search menu offers more than just tools for refining your search terms. In the Advanced Search menu you’ll find tools for refining search results according to language, region of publication, recency of updates, site or domain, filetype, usage rights, where search terms appear, and exclusion of explicit results. Some of those filters and why you’d use them are easy to ascertain from their names. The reason for using some of the other filters isn’t so obvious.

Narrowing search results by language of publication is helpful for the obvious reason of finding information in the language of your choice. It’s also helpful to narrow search results by language when researching a topic that originated in a language other than your own native tongue. Likewise, if the topic is widely written about by scholars who write in a language other than your own, narrowing a search to that language may lead you to more resources than if you limited yourself to content published in your preferred language. For example, if I'm researching a topic in Japanese history, after reading as much as I can in English I may narrow my search to content published in Japanese. But how do I do that if I can’t read or speak Japanese? Fortunately, modern web browsers including Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge have translation tools built into them. Of course, those translation tools aren’t without flaws but nonetheless they do open up a comparatively new world of research options.

Refining search results according to the region of publication is useful for many of the same reasons as refining search results according to language of publication. Additionally, viewing search results according to the region of publication is useful when evaluating perspectives on a historical event. Particularly divisive geopolitical events are often written about in distinctly different ways depending upon who is doing the writing, where they live, and their political alliances. Looking at these differences is good for developing a balanced understanding of events.

The option to refine search results according to the last update is obviously helpful when searching for the latest published information about a trending news topic. It’s also helpful when trying to locate webpages that were published during a specific range of dates. A good use case for this is to search for information that was published about an event as it was happening or immediately after it. Then compare that information to more recent information published about the same event. For example, students conducting research about the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001 can refine their search results to pages published or updated September 11, 2001 through December 31, 2001 then compare those results to that of search not refined by date of publication.

It should be noted that refining Google search results according to date of update or publication is not always accurate. One of the reasons for that is some website owners will manipulate the content of their pages to make it appear that their sites have been updated even though nothing has materially changed on the site. To get a better picture of what was published on a particular website on a given day, try using The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine contains archived versions of websites. Large, popular websites like are archived more frequently than smaller websites. You can learn how to use The Wayback Machine by watching this short video. A screen image of what looked like on September 11, 2001 as archived by The Wayback Machine is included below.

This blog post was written by Richard Byrne and originally appeared on If you see it elsewhere it has been used without permission. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Free Music for Classroom Projects

Creating multimedia projects like videos, podcasts, and audio slideshows is a great way for students to develop a variety of skills. Some of those skills are technical skills while others are soft skills that they can carry over into all aspects of academic life. Those soft skills include respecting the intellectual property of others. That's why when students create multimedia projects they should try to use media of their own creation, media in the public domain, or media that has a Creative Commons license. Finding images that meet that criteria is easy. Finding audio that fits that criteria is a bit of a challenge for some. That's why I've put together a new video that highlights my three go-to places to find free audio that students can use in their multimedia projects. 

In this short video I provide an overview of how to find and download free music from Pixabay, Dig CC Mixter, and Bensound. 

Pixabay's audio collection features instrumental recordings across a wide range of genres. You can listen to the tracks in their entirety before downloading them. Like all other media on Pixabay, you can download and reuse the sound tracks for free. And as they state in the terms of use, you don't have to cite them but it is appreciated.

Dig CC Mixter offers thousands of songs that are Creative Commons licensed. The site is divided into three main categories. Those categories are Instrumental Music for Film & Video, Free Music for Commercial Projects, and Music for Video Games. Within each category you can search according to genre, instrument, and style. When you click the download icon on a file you will be prompted to copy the attribution information that is required to include in your project.

Bensound offers a few hundred music tracks that you can download for free. Those tracks are arranged in eight categories. Those categories are acoustic/folk, cinematic, corporate/pop, electronica, urban/groove, jazz, rock, and world. You can listen to the tracks before you download them. When you click the download button you will see the clear rules about using the music. You can download and use the music in your video projects for free provided that you credit Bensound for the music. Alternatively, you can purchase a license to use the music wherever you want without crediting Bensound.

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