Monday, January 10, 2022

Read Aloud in Edge and Other Immersive Reader Uses

Yesterday morning I published a blog post about using the Read Aloud Chrome extension. In the introduction to that post I mentioned that I usually recommend using Immersive Reader in Microsoft Edge if you need to regularly have webpages read aloud. A reader emailed me this morning to ask why I prefer Immersive Reader. Here's the short explanation that I gave. 

Immersive Reader in Edge lets users pick the voice in which pages are read aloud, lets users chose the speed at which pages are read aloud, and it lets users adjust the size and spacing of the font that is displayed while pages are read aloud. There are some additional features that are also helpful in some situations. For example, you can have parts of speech highlighted by Edge. In this short video I provide a demonstration of using Immersive Reader in Microsoft Edge. 

Here are a few more ways to use Immersive Reader.

How to Highlight, Annotate, and Share Pages in Microsoft Edge

How to Have PDFs Read Aloud by Using Microsoft Edge

How to Use Immersive Reader in Microsoft Forms

What's the Difference Between Snow, Sleet, and Freezing Rain?

Yesterday it started to sleet during my daughters' skiing lessons. They didn't mind and kept right on skiing. But I heard a lot of other parents saying things like, "what the heck? why isn't this snow? it's cold enough to be snow!" As an amateur meteorologist I knew the answer was that while the temperature at ground level was cold enough for snow, the atmosphere above us wasn't cold enough to create snow. As a parent who didn't want to be "that guy" in the group, I just sipped my coffee with the other parents standing in the sleet. If you're curious about the answer, I have a couple of quick video explanations for you to watch.

The following videos explain the conditions that create freezing rain, sleet, and snow. 

Freezing Rain Explained is a video from the Weather Channel. The video includes a demonstration that science teachers could recreate with dry ice in their science labs. 

The Difference Between Snow, Sleet, and Freezing Rain is a video from a news channel in my hometown. This video not only does a good job of explaining the differences, it's also a good model for using some simple green screen effects to create an explanatory video.

Speaking of green screen effects, my ebook 50 Tech Tuesday Tips includes ideas and tutorials for creating green screen videos. Get your copy right here!

Old School Meets New School in Volley for Education

Last week I wrote a lengthy blog post and shared a few videos about an exciting new messaging platform called Volley. Even though I spent a long time dabling in Volley and setting up some spaces in it, I never really settled on a great, quick description of it. Then on Friday afternoon as I was walking my dogs it hit me, Volley is like if message boards or listserves (I'm really dating myself with that reference) had video and audio components. 

If you're about my age or older, you probably remember the first online courses being almost entirely text-based and conducted through a message board or listserve platform. In those courses you would have a section for group discussion (with perhaps some subsections) and a section for dialogue with just the instructor. You'd write to participate in the discussions. 

In Volley you could set-up an online course discussion with the same structure of places for group discussion and places for individual discussions with the instructor. The benefit of using Volley is that those discussions can include video and audio dialogues in addition to the text component. There's also a handy screen recording tool that you can use to make videos in which you give private feedback about a student's essay or slideshow. That simple process is demonstrated in this video

Applications for Education
Volley could be the solution you're looking for if you're someone who always liked the structure of message boards for online courses, but wished it had video and audio messaging components.

Disclosure: Volley is currently an advertiser on this blog. 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Science of Winter Olympics Sports

The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to start in a little less than one month from now. I'm looking forward to sitting on my couch and drinking some hot chocolate while watching the world's best in alpine and nordic skiing. I also enjoy watching curling even though I don't always understand all of the rules of that game. There's a whole lot of science behind all of the Winter Olympics events that we see on our screens. If you have students who are interested in the events, capitalize on that interest and share these Olympics-based science lessons with them. 

The National Science Foundation offers a YouTube playlist of sixteen videos on the science of Winter Olympics events. These short videos teach lessons on the physics and engineering behind the events we see on television. The videos are a decade old, but the science concepts covered are just as relevant to these Olympic games as they were to previous Winter Olympics.

It's hard to host skiing and snowboarding events without a lot of snow. That's why a lot of the snow we'll see on television during the Winter Olympics is human-made snow. How to Make Snow (If You're Not Elsa) is a short video produced by SciShow that explains how snow is made at ski resorts by using cooled water and compressed air.

In the United States NBC owns the rights to nearly all Olympics-related footage and logos which is why it's a little disappointing that they don't offer more student-focused resources than this PDF guide to the Winter Olympics and some YouTube videos that aren't well organized beyond this playlist. I went through the NBC News Learn channel and highlighted a few favorites and included them below.  

Science of the Winter Olympics: Building Faster & Safer Bobsleds

Science of the Winter Olympics: Banking On Bobsled Speed

Sliding Down At 90 MPH: The Science Behind The Fastest Sport On Ice

Science of the Winter Olympics: The Science Friction of Curling

Science of the Winter Olympics: Figuring Out Figure Skating

Science of the Winter Olympics: The Science of Snowboarding

Read Aloud in Chrome

My usual recommendation for teachers and students who need webpages read aloud is to use Immersive Reader which is built into Microsoft Edge. But if Edge isn't available to you then you might want to try the Read Aloud extension for Chrome. The Read Aloud extension does exactly what its name implies, it reads pages aloud. 

The Read Aloud extension doesn't offer nearly as many options as Immersive Reader in Edge offers, but there are a few customizations that you can make to it. You can adjust the speed at which pages are read, the size of the text as it's displayed when being read aloud, and you can change the size of the text box that is displayed when a page is read aloud. 

Watch this one-minute video to see how Read Aloud for Chrome works.