Monday, December 13, 2021

Use Google Drive to Add Questions and Comments to PDFs

In my previous post I shared directions for using Formative to add questions to PDFs. Another option is to use Google Drive to add questions and comments to PDFs. 

Adding comments to PDFs in Google Drive is one of those little features that is quite handy but is often overlooked. To add a comment to a PDF in Google Drive simply open the PDF in Drive (after you've uploaded it) and the click on the comment icon in the upper-right corner of the screen. Anyone that you share the file with will be able to see your comments and respond to them (provided you allow commenting). Watch this short video to see how you can use Google Drive to add questions and comments to PDFs. 



Applications for Education
In the video above I used the commenting feature to add a question to a PDF copy of a primary source document (a letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams). I did that as a means to spark discussion and research by students. Of course, you could also just use the commenting feature to give feedback on a PDF that students share with you.

Use Formative to Build Questions Into Primary Source Documents

Formative is a great tool for creating all kinds of online activities from simple multiple choice quizzes to in-depth examinations for documents. One of the ways that I like to use it is to upload a document and then build questions into the document for students to answer while reading. In this new video I demonstrate using a PDF of a primary source document (a letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams) in Formative. 



Applications for Education
Using Formative to add questions into a primary source document can be a good way to conduct some quick comprehension checks as students are reading. If you change the nature of the questions to something like, "what's a tricky part of this passage?" or "what's something you don't understand about this passage" then Formative becomes a tool for gathering information about what parts of the document are difficult for your students.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Story Behind QWERTY - Why Keyboards Aren't in Alphabetical Order

Thinking back to my middle school typing class (done on electric typewriters, not computers) I remember wondering why the keyboard wasn't arranged in alphabetical order. I was recently reminded of that when my five-year-old asked me the same question. I knew that the answer was related to the frequency of use of certain letters and also the early limitations of typewriter keyboard configurations. But to get a better answer I turned to YouTube where I knew I had seen a video on the topic not that long ago. 

CNN's The Story Behind QWERTY explains the origins of the QWERTY keyboard and why it is still the standard on computer keyboards today. 

We're Counting Birds! - A Lesson in Citizen Science and Canva Template Creation

Here in Maine the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is conducting a survey of birds in our state. This is known as a bird atlas. This includes counting birds all across the state in all seasons. There's an opportunity for citizens to participate. Since we put out bird feeders at our house year-round, we're participating in the atlas. 

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife provides some forms (link opens a PDF) for participants to fill out to record their observations. The forms are great, but they're rather plain. So to get my daughters excited about writing down our observations of birds at our feeders, I used Canva to put together a little more eye-catching Winter Bird Observation sheet. An image of the form is included below. 

If you would like a copy of this form, just use this Canva template link to view, duplicate, and customize the form. You will need to have a free Canva account to duplicate and customize the form. I created the form by selecting a Canva worksheet design template then swapping out some of the decorative elements for the bird drawings. The bird drawings were found in the "elements" tab in Canva's design editor. 

Applications for Education
There are a few directions to head from this blog post. First, consider using Canva to create your own nature observation lists for your students to use at home or school. Second, keeping a record of animal observations is a good way for kids to learn about animal habits and habitats. Third, you and your students can contribute to projects like the Maine IFW bird atlas. eBird is a Cornell Lab of Ornithology project that invites bird observations from everyone. Project Noah is another collaborative project to which you and your students can contribute observations of animals in your neighborhood.

Why is Snow White?

On my phone I keep a list of questions that my daughters (ages 4 and 5) ask me. The questions are about things that I haven't thought about for a long time, if ever. For example, last week my youngest asked me why snow is white. If you have kids who are wondering about the same thing, take a look at the following short videos that I watched in an attempt to better explain to my daughters why snow is white. 

For Elementary School

Why is Snow White? produced by It's AumSum Time has the most kid-friendly explanation of why snow is white of the three videos I've included in this blog post.



For middle school and high school.
The Weather Channel offers this one minute explanation of why snow is white. The video does a good job of succinctly explaining how snow crystals reflect all colors which makes snow white. 




This Week I Found Out produced a little longer explanation of why snow is white and in the process also explained why polar bears are white despite the fact that their fur is clear.