Thursday, November 4, 2021

NatGeo MapMaker - Create, Share, and Print Custom Maps

National Geographic MapMaker is a nice mapping tool that I've been using and recommending for years. It was recently updated with an improved user interface, additional data sets, and more annotation tools. 

With NatGeo MapMaker you can create custom maps to display datasets, to compare datasets, to illustrate collerelations, and to illustrate points. National Geographic MapMaker includes lots of datasets that you can have displayed on your map with just a click. You can display multiple datasets on the same map for comparison or correlation illustration. 

National Geographic MapMaker can be used for more than just displaying datasets. You can also use it to illustrate ideas for students by highlighting, annotating, and adding custom points to your map. Additionally, you can choose from six base maps the one that best fits with the purpose of your map. Maps that you create with NatGeo MapMaker can be shared online and or printed as PDFs to distribute to your students. 

In this new video I demonstrate how to use National Geographic Mapmaker. My demonstration includes using NatGeo Mapmaker to create a map that displays fault lines and volcano locations relative to where I live. 

Applications for Education
National Geographic MapMaker is a great tool for making maps to distribute to studnets to use in all kinds of geography lessons. As I demonstrated in the video above, you could use it to create a lesson about tectonic plates and volcanoes. National Geographic MapMaker could be used to create lessons in which students make correlations between population density and light pollution. Or you might simply use it to print a map with latitude and longitude lines to help students learn about where they live in the world relative to other locations. 

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 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.