Thursday, September 9, 2021

700+ Free Typing Games for Kids

TypeTastic is a site that offers more than 700 free typing games for students of all ages. I first reviewed TypeTastic a few years ago shortly after it was launched and only offered thirteen games. Since then it has obviously added hundreds of more games and many more features. Just like when it launched a few years ago, TypeTastic's games are all optimized to work well on a laptop, desktop, or tablet. Although one might argue that learning to type on a tablet makes it more difficult to develop touch typing skills.

TypeTastic is designed for students to work through units of games. Before each game there is an introduction to a new skill and or a review of a previous skill. Each game within each section contains multiple levels for students to work through. Each game could take students an hour or more to completely master.


TypeTastic is divided into sections for K-2, upper elementary, and middle school/ high school. For K-2 the games start with basic skills like identifying the letters on a keyboard and build up to touch typing skills. The upper elementary games begin with learning and practicing the homerow before progressing through learning to touch type numbers and symbols. The middle school/ high school section has the same progress as the upper elementary section but has a greater emphasis on speed. The games are also a little more complex than the elementary school games.

Applications for Education
TypeTastic offers two free versions. There is an ad-supported version that anyone can access and a basic schools version. The schools version is free for teachers who register with a verified school email address. The schools version removes advertising and gives you an access code that you can share with your students to access the ad-free version of the games. There are also paid plans that give teachers access to reporting on the progress of their students. 

Create, Reflect, Outline, Create - A Video Creation Process

On page 76 of Invent To Learn Stager and Martinez write, "The movie can be done without a storyboard or script, the 3D object may not be the most precisely planned out, but the point is to create something that can be shared and talked about." Later in the same chapter they advise avoiding overteaching planning as it can stifle creativity in some students.  

For years now my outline for student video projects has been influenced by reading that passage in Invent to Learn.  

We're well aware that most students when given some time will figure out how to use a video editing tool. We don't need to spend lots of time teaching that as most of our kids will be biting their tongues as we fumble with things they already know how do or at least feel confident that they can do. Therefore, I skip the "how to use iMovie" with students and jump right to the creation phase. The whole process is outlined below. (Bear in mind, this is a process for videos that will have a finished length of five minutes or less).

1. Create - let the kids have a crack at making their videos. If some students have a nature inclined to planning first, let them. If others want to jump into the process right away, that's great too. When I make screencast videos I don't always plan them first, I just make them. If the first attempt doesn't result in a polished work, that's okay because now I know what I need to change for the next attempt.

2. Reflect - take a look at what was made. What is good about it? What needs to be changed?

3. Outline - create that outline or storyboard now that you know what to keep and what to change.

4. Create - this is the second attempt at the video.

5. Revise - take a look at what the second attempt at creation yielded. Revise the outline again for the next round of editing or re-shooting.

6. Create - this is the second round of editing or it could be a complete re-shoot of a video.

7. Share - when you're happy with your video (it may take many more rounds of steps 5 and 6) share it with the world. Share it on Next Vista for Learning, YouTube, your classroom blog, or anywhere else that there is a potential audience for your work.

Tinkering With Arduino in Tinkercad

Tinkercad is a free service that I used for the last two years to introduce my students to designing and building Arduino-powered circuits, cars, and simple machines. As I wrote back in January, Tinkercad was great for introdcuing Arduino in a pandemic. Besides the Arduino aspect, Tinkercad is also a great place to find inspiration for makerspace activities. 

Later today Tinkercad is hosting a free webinar for educators who want to learn how to get use all of what Tinkercad offers. The webinar is at 7pm ET/ 4pm PT. 

If the timing of Tinkercad's webinar doesn't work for you, don't worry. Tinkercad's YouTube channel is full of recordings of previous webinars. It also contains a great playlist of tutorials for learning about Arduino in Tinkercad



Applications for Education
My favorite benefit of using Tinkercad to introduce Arduino is that students don't risk breaking any physical products while learning important lessons about circuits. Students can use Tinkercad to learn about Ohms Law and the use of resistors without the risk of actually burning out an LED or other element of an Arduino circuit. Once they've used Tinkercad to master the basics of Arduino then they can safely move on to using physical Arduino products.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Blur Faces and Objects in Screencastify Videos

Disclosure: Screencastify is currently an advertiser on my sites. 

Earlier this week I published a post about Screencastify's new feature for adding interactive questions into your videos. That's not the only new thing that Screencastify offers in its updated video editor. Another great feature is the option to blur faces and objects in your Screencastify videos. 

To blur things in a Screencastify video simply record your video as usual then save it and open it in the Screencastify video editor. In the editor you can highlight the area of your video that you want to blur. The blur can appear for as little as one second or as long as the entire length of your video. You choose the amount of time that the blurring appears for by simply dragging the timeslider in the Screencastify video editor. It is also possible to blur multiple objects in the same scene. All of these options are demonstrated in this short video overview of the Screencastify video editor



Applications for Education
The option to blur things in your videos is a great way to protect your and your students' privacy when publishing a video. Besides blurring faces you may also want to blur names or email addresses if they appear in a screencast video.

How to Quickly Create a Bibliography in Word

In my previous post I wrote about why every fall I revisit how to cite sources and create bibliographies. In that post I also included directions for using inline citation and bibliography generator in Google Docs. Microsoft Word has a very similar tool that students can use. 

In this short video I demonstrate how to insert citations and create a bibliography in Microsoft Word documents.

  

Applications for Education
Whenever I write blog posts or publish videos about tools like these I get emails from readers who like to point out that bibliography tools make it "too easy" or that there is some discrepancy between the tool and the latest minor update to MLA or APA. My point in getting middle school and high school students to use these tools is to help them build the habit of citing their sources. When they reach the point that they have a college professor who is a stickler for bibliography formats or they're submitting research papers to journals then they can worry about the minutia of the bibliography standards of academic research papers.