Thursday, December 2, 2021

A Science Lesson for Winter Application

Winter temperatures have arrived in Maine. There's a light coating of snow on the ground. And my daughters and I are excited about the start of ski season! While we like all of these things about winter, there is one thing we don't like. That thing is dealing with cracked, chapped, and dry lips. During the winter I go through lip balm like a kid goes through Halloween candy. Perhaps you and your kids have the same problem in the winter.

What causes chapped lips? What can you do to prevent your lips from chapping, besides using lip balm? The answers to those questions and more are found in this Brain Stuff video titled What Causes Chapped Lips? The video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
I appreciate videos like this one because they address questions that many students are naturally curious about. This video can be brought into part of a larger health lesson on the importance of hydration.

What You Should Know About Pings and Traceroutes

As I wrote in my recent weekly newsletter, using the ping command on your computer is an easy way to check if a website is down or if the problem is with your computer. Using the ping command in the command prompt window on your computer might seem like something only computer science teachers and students should do, but the reality is that any teacher or student can benefit from knowing how to do it because it provides a quick and reliable way to determine whether or not a website is down. 

Here's a demonstration of how to conduct a ping on a Mac and here's a demo of how to do it on a Windows computer.  

A traceroute shows you all of the traffic hops (connections) between your computer and a destination (often a website, but not always). This information can be useful in determining where the connection between your computer and a destination breaks down. In other words, it's a simple network diagnostics tool. Running a traceroute is also an interesting way for students to see where in the world traffic is going to and coming from. Run a few traceroutes with your students and see if they're surprised by what they see. Here's a demo of how to run a traceroute on a Mac and here's how it's done on a Windows computer.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Scan Documents and QR Codes With Your Chromebook

Chromebook users will be happy to learn that Google has released an update that provides more utility for the camera that is built into Chromebooks. The update gives Chromebook webcams the ability to scan documents and QR codes. 

 To scan a document with your Chromebook you now need to just open the camera app on your Chromebook and then hold a document in front of the camera. The edges of the document should be automatically detected, but if they're not you can still crop the scan as needed. The scanned document can then be saved as a PDF or as a JPEG file. 

Your Chromebook can now also scan QR codes just like an Android phone can scan a QR code. Simply position the QR code in front of the camera and then it will read the QR code and let you open any information included within that code (typically links or contact information). 

Applications for Education
I can see the scanning feature becoming popular amongst math teachers whose students use Chromebooks. Students can solve math problems on paper then simply scan those papers and send them to their teachers as PDFs in Google Classroom or via Gmail (I'd choose via Google Classroom to make it easier to organize submitted assignments).

As with all updates to Chrome OS and Google Workspaces, you might not see this feature immediately on your Chromebook. Make sure your Chromebook is updated (simply restart it to update) and be patient. 

Two Easy Ways to Make Your Own Mobile App

On Monday morning I answered a question from a reader of my newsletter who wanted to know if there was a way for someone who wasn't "techy" to create her own iPhone app. My immediate response was to say yes and suggest giving Glide Apps a try. I've been using Glide Apps for almost three years now and it just keeps getting better and easier to use to create mobile apps. 

Glide Apps enables anyone who can make a spreadsheet in Google Sheets to create his or her own mobile app. If that sounds simple, that's because it is just that simple. The headers that you put into your spreadsheet and the data that you enter into your spreadsheet is used by Glide to generate a mobile app for you that will work on Android and iOS devices.

In this new video I demonstrate two ways to use Glide Apps to create your own mobile app. The first method is to pick one of the Glide Apps templates and then modify the information within the template. The second method is to start from scratch with a blank Google Sheet. In my demonstration of the second method I explain and show how you can include maps and other multimedia elements.

Applications for Education
In the past I've written about a handful of ideas for using Glide Apps in school. Those ideas are listed below.

1. Create a mobile study guide: This was the first thing that I thought of when I discovered Glide. You or your students could create an app that lists each section or unit of your curriculum. In each section you can provide videos, podcasts, or simply link to additional documents for review.

2. Create a mobile version of school handbooks: When parents have a question about your school, their first instinct is probably to pick up their phones to search your school's website or to call the office. A mobile version of your school's handbook could make it easy for parents to quickly find the answers to frequently asked questions.

3. Create a guide to your community: Are you looking for a community service project for your middle school or high school students? If so, consider having them develop a guide to the highlights your community.

4. Develop a mobile reporting system: Do you have students or parents using Google Forms for logging information about multiple goals like independent reading, outdoor play, or behavior goals? If so, consider placing links to all of those forms in one convenient app. You'd do this by placing the links to your Forms in the columns in your spreadsheet before publishing it through Glide.

5. Room Use Schedule: For many years I worked in a school that had more teachers than classrooms so it was always kind of a guessing game as to who was using which room when. Having an app that made it easy to find out who was using which rooms at which times would have been amazing! With Glide you could create that kind of app.

A Fun and Educational Use of Chrome's Inspect Tool

In this week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I shared some of my favorite "techy" tricks to impress your students and colleagues. One of those tricks is to use the inspect tool in Chrome to view the code behind any webpage and then modify it to change what appears on the page on your computer. 

The inspect tool in Chrome lets you see the code behind any web page and change that code to display anything that you want in place of the original text and images. Watch this short video to see how it works.

Applications for Education
Chrome's inspect tool provides a good way for students to see how the code of a webpage works. I often had my ninth grade coding students do that last year.

You can also use the inspect tool to alter an article on the web to make it a satire story. Then print the page and give it to your students to try to identify the satire elements of the story.