Friday, August 20, 2021

The 2021-22 Practical Ed Tech Handbook

Earlier this week subscribers to my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter received their free copies of the 2021-22 edition of The Practical Ed Tech Handbook. It's a 75 page PDF that features my favorite tools, tips, and strategies for using a wide variety of educational technology tools in your classroom. If you're not subscribed to my newsletter, you can now get your copy of The Practical Ed Tech Handbook right here

Table of contents for the 2021-22 version of The Practical Ed Tech Handbook:
1. Communication with students and parents – page 5
2. Creating Blogs & Websites – page 9
3. Web search strategies – page 16
4. Digital citizenship – page 27
5. Video creation and flipped lessons – page 30
6. Audio recording and publishing – page 42
7. Backchannels and formative assessment – page 44
8. Digital portfolios – page 48
9. Augmented and Virtual Reality – page 50
10. Intro to Programming and Makerspaces – page 54
11. Accessibility Tools – page 59
12. Ten Time-saving ways for teachers to use tech – page 65
13. Remote Instruction Tools and Strategies – page 67
14. DIY Game Creation – page 72

Get your copy of The Practical Ed Tech Handbook right here.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

How to Create Interactive Charts and Diagrams in Google Slides

Google Slides is full of little "hidden" features that are good to know how to use after you've covered the basics of using Google Slides. One of those little features is the ability to hyperlink any text or object within a slide. Another handy feature is a selection of premade charts and diagrams that you can add to your slides from the Insert drop-down menu. Combine both of those features and you can create interactive charts and diagrams in Google Slides. 

In this new video I demonstrate how to create interactive charts and diagrams in Google Slides. As I point out in the video, you can customize the color scheme and the fonts in the diagrams that you select from the Insert drop-down menu in Google Slides.

Applications for Education
As I demonstrated in the video above, using the hyperlinking function within a diagram is a good way for students to make interactive charts of the seasons of the year. In the past I've had students use that same combination of functions to create interactive charts of the branches of government. Last year I had students use that combination of functions to create mock-ups for mobile apps.

On a related note, watch this video if you or your students need a crash course in the basics of using Google Slides.

Birds, Fish, and a Search Tip for Science Students

Some of you may recall from my posts earlier this year that my family and I have a lot of birds that nest around our house. We put out lots of bird feeders and hanging plants which attract all kinds of birds. Some of our favorites are Orioles and Yellow Finches. Recently, I learned that yellow finch isn't actually the right name for what we see at our feeders. What we actually see are American Goldfinches whose Latin name is Spinus tristis. 

My discovery of the Latin name for the American Goldfinch was prompted by revisiting a passage from Daniel Russell's The Joy of Search. In the seventeenth chapter of his book Dr. Russell writes about his research of parrotfish. On pages 242 and 243 of his book he explains that used the Latin name for a specific type of parrotfish so that he was sure his search results were about the specific fish he was interested in and not all parrotfish. 

I tend to be a slow reader because I often stop to jot notes in my notebook or ponder questions that pop into my mind while reading. One of those questions that popped into my brain while reading pages 242 and 243 of The Joy of Search was, "have I been calling birds by the wrong name?" It turns out that I haven't been necessarily using the wrong name for our bird feeder visitors, but I haven't been using the most correct name. That discovery was made through a simple Google search for "yellow finch latin name." 

The tip for science students.
If students are getting mixed results or conflicting search results when researching plants or animals, using the Latin or scientific names for those plants or animals will quickly narrow the scope of their search results. Similarly, using the Latin or scientific names in a search on Google Scholar will lead ften to papers that are hyper-focused on attributes of those plants or animals. Just be careful because that can lead you down another rabbit hole as it did for me when I discovered a second, accepted scientific name for American Goldfinches.

Last Chance! Update Your Old Google Sites

Google is finally closing the book on the old "Classic" version of Google Sites on September 1st. They've been threatening to do this for almost five years and now the sun will set on Classic Google Sites at the end of this month. If you haven't converted your old Google Sites to the current version there is still time to do that. 

In the following video I demonstrate how to convert your old Google Sites websites to the current version. Fortunately, the process is very simple and quick. Just head to then click on "classic sites manager" in the left margin of the page. Then on the next screen you can select the site(s) that you want to convert. Once you've clicked "convert" Google will handle the rest. If you're not sure which version of Google Sites you are using, watch my video to learn how you can quickly tell which version you're using. 

On a related note, I have a complete playlist of Google Sites tutorials right here. The best video to get started is this one that walks you through everything you need to know to create your first website with Google Sites.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Flipgrid Virtual Backgrounds - How and Why

Last week Flipgrid unveiled a list of features for the 2021-22 school year. One of those new features is an updated menu virtual background options called backdrops. In the latest version of Flipgrid you can choose from a large selection of virtual background images or upload your own. Additionally, you can reposition yourself in front of your virtual background with just one click. And you can still use all of your other favorite Flipgrid options like picture frames with your virtual background. 

In this short video I demonstrate how to use virtual backdrops in your Flipgrid videos. 

Applications for Education
Flipgrid's virtual backdrop feature is a great one for students to use when they are recording videos from home. By using the virtual backgrounds they can hide the interiors of their homes. You could also have students use the virtual background option to record greenscreen videos about news stories, weather, or places they want to visit.