Wednesday, November 3, 2021

A Punny Explanation of Savings Bonds

Last weekend I was talking with a friend about Christmas presents for our kids when I sarcastically said, "just give them savings bonds, that's what every kid wants." A day later I was still thinking about that conversation when I wondered if kids even know what a savings bond is. That thought prompted me to search on YouTube for a kid-friendly explanation of savings bonds. That's when I found Bond. Savings Bond

Bond. Savings Bond. is a pun-filled explanation of what savings bonds are, how they work, and why they're generally safe investments. The video also explains what junk bonds are, why they're risky, and why some people buy them despite the risk. As you might have guessed from the title, the video is full of fun James Bond puns. 



Applications for Education
Bond. Savings Bond. could be a good video to use to introduce or recap a high school lesson about basic savings and investment methods. If you and your student like this video, you might want to check out some of the other videos produced by Two Cents, a PBS Learning Studios production.

Google Docs Gets an Improved Citation Option

For a few years I recommended EasyBib's Google Docs add-on for creating citations and bibliographies in Google Documents. I got away from it when it started to get glitchy. What I always liked about it was that it had an integrated resource search that made it easy to quickly look up books and websites then populate your citations with just one click. Google has now released a similar feature as an integrated part of Google Docs. 

You can now search for books and online resources within the Google Docs citation tool built into Google Docs. You'll find this option when you open the Citations option from the Tools drop-down menu in any Google Document that you're editing. Open the Citations menu in your Google Document, enter your search, then click on a matching resource and Google Docs will format a citation that you can add to your document with just one click. 

Applications for Education
This is a nice improvement over the previous citation tool that was built into Google Docs. My only concern is that when there are multiple possible matches for a resource students will just click on the first option instead of actually reviewing the matches before inserting them into their documents.

Like almost all Google Docs updates, this one could take a couple of weeks to appear in your account or it could be there right now.

Reading Progress + ReadWorks in Microsoft Teams = Awesome!

This fall I've been seeing a lot of people Tweet about how much they like the new Reading Progress feature in Microsoft Teams. Not being a regular Teams user myself, I didn't give it a good look until this week. I wish I had looked at it sooner! 

Reading Progress in Microsoft Teams gives you insight into how your students read. With Reading Progress in Microsoft Teams you can get insights into how long it takes students to read an assigned passage and the words that they struggle to pronounce. You can also gain insight into whether students struggle more or less with fiction or non-fiction reading. As you might expect, you can also use Reading Progress in Microsoft Teams to view progress in your students' reading abilities. 

How it Works
With the Reading Progress and Insights function enabled (your Microsoft IT admin can disable it), you assign an article to your students to read. The article can be something that you upload in the form of a PDF or Word Document. Alternatively, you can use the integrated access to ReadWorks to import an article for your students to read. A student then reads the article aloud and Microsoft Teams will analyze the student's reading. As the teacher you can then view analysis of the student's reading. Mike Tholfsen has a great video about Reading Progress in Teams. Jump to the 4:16 mark in Mike's video to see the student's perspective of completing a reading assignment in Microsoft Teams.



ReadWorks Integration
ReadWorks is one of my favorite free resources for language arts lessons. ReadWorks provides high-quality fiction and non-fiction articles and lesson plans for K-12 ELA teachers. Every article on ReadWorks is accompanied by a Lexile score and a suggested grade level. Any article that you select will also be accompanied by a list of key vocabulary terms and suggested questions to give to your students. The integration into Microsoft Teams makes it easy for teachers to find high-quality, reading level appropriate, articles to share with their students.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

TinyTap - Create Your Own Educational Games in Your Browser

TinyTap is a company that is best known for its iPad app that lets teachers create educational games to share with their students. I've used it and written about it for almost a decade. Recently, TinyTap made a fantastic update. You can now use TinyTap to create your own educational games in the web browser on your computer.

To create your own educational game on TinyTap simply head to TinyTap.com and click "create." From there you'll see a menu of six game types to create. (There is an intermediate prompt tosign-in or sign-up if you haven't already done so). You can then watch tutorials on game design or simply jump into creating a game. All games are created in a slide-by-slide basis. Within each slide you can add pictures, text, and audio prompts. You can choose how your students interact with questions and prompts in your game. They can interact by tapping, clicking, circling objects, matching objects, typing, or speaking. Here's a short tutorial on making a shape puzzle game on TinyTap.  



If you'd like some inspiration for creating your own TinyTap games, browse through the public gallery of teacher-created games. The gallery is organized according to age, topic, and skill. When you find a game that you like you can use it as is or copy it and customize it in your account.

Applications for Education
One of the things that I've always appreciated about TinyTap is that you can make games that are perfectly tailored to your students' needs.

TinyTap games can be shared with your students via Google Classroom and through the TinyTap platform. Additionally, you can link to the games in any LMS. Games can also be embedded into blog posts and websites as I've done with this fun dinosaur game.

Certify'em - Send Personalized Certificates via Google Forms

Certify'em is a Google Forms add-on that I've been using for the last few years whenever I need to distribute personalized certificates. Certify'em will automatically send certificates to students when they get a minimum score on a quiz conducted with Google Forms. You set the minimum passing score that triggers the delivery of the certificate. If students achieve that score or more, a personalized certificate is sent to them via email or Google Drive. 

Certify'em has always provided some certificate templates and the option to utilize your own certificate template. Recently, Certify'em added some new certificate template options. The new options include updated designs and an easier way to utilize your own certificate templates. 

Previously, if you wanted to use your own template design in Certify'em you had to create it in Google Slides before importing it into Certify'em. Now Certify'em lets you simply click "Create My Own" from the certificate template menu to jump right into designing your own custom certificate template. 



Applications for Education
Besides using Certify'em to give students certificates for doing well on a quiz or test, I use Certify'em to send certificates to people who have completed one of my professional development courses. I've also seen Certify'em used to send certificates to students who have successfully completed lab safety and protocols assessments.