Tuesday, January 18, 2022

50 Tech Tech Tuesday Tips - And a Free Webinar

At the end of 2021 I released a new ebook for tech coaches, media specialists, and anyone else who is responsible for delivering short professional development sessions in their schools. The ebook is called 50 Tech Tuesday Tips. It was curated from more than 400 editions of The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter

On January 31st at 4pm ET I'm going to host a webinar just for those who have purchased a copy of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips. If you've already purchased a copy, thank you! You'll be getting an email with webinar information later today. If you haven't yet purchased a copy, get one by January 30th and you'll be able to join us. 

In the webinar, A Framework for Technology Integration, I'll share my framework for helping teachers use technology in meaningful ways in their classrooms. I'll also provide some examples of how I've done it in the past and how you can replicate them in your school.  

About the eBook:

50 Tech Tuesday Tips provides you with ideas for lots of helpful things that you can teach to your colleagues and to students. Throughout the eBook you'll find tutorials and handouts that you can pass along in your school. 

Some of the many things you'll find in 50 Tech Tuesday Tips include:

  • What to do when a web app isn't working as you expect.
  • Building your own search engine.
  • How to create green screen videos.
  • Improving instructional videos. 
  • Streamlining email management.
  • Creating educational games. 
  • DIY app creation.
  • Podcasting tips for teachers and students. 


Get your copy of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips right here!

No, this ebook isn't free but the tools that feature within it is free to use. Creating something like this takes many, many hours but reading it can save you many, many hours. Purchases of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips make it possible for me to create other free resources like The Practical Ed Tech Handbook that I update and give away to thousands of teachers every year.

Monday, January 17, 2022

A Couple of Good Places to Find Science Activities for School or Home

While standing around watching my daughters' ski lesson on Sunday I ended up chatting with another parent. The conversation inevitably turned to "what do you do?" When she found out what I do she excited, and with a tinge of relief, asked if I had any suggestions for science activities she can do at home with her elementary school age students. My immediate suggestions were to take a look at Exploratorium's Science Snacks and Microsoft's Hacking STEM. 

Exploratorium's Science Snacks website has dozens and dozens of hands-on science and engineering projects for students of all ages. There is a subsection of the site called Family-Friendly Snacks that offers activities specifically designed for parents to do at home with their kids. The vast majority of the projects can be done with common household items. And in response to the COVID-19 outbreak Exploratorium has a selection of activities and videos about viruses.

Hacking STEM is a Microsoft website that offers a couple dozen hands-on science and engineering lessons. The activities are a mix of things that students can probably do on their own and some that probably can't be done without the supervision of a teacher or parent with working knowledge of the concept(s) being taught. For example, the mini solar house project that I've done with ninth grade students was done safely without my direct supervision (I removed the hot glue gun component and had them use tape). But the "party lights" activity on the same page is not something I'd have students do on their own without direct supervision. 

Five Uses for QR Codes in School Settings

Over the weekend I shared a neat QR code generator called QRToon that lets you create a QR code that includes a cartoon version of yourself in it. Writing that post got me thinking about how far QR codes have come since I first saw them while working for Roadway Package Systems (now called FedEx Ground) in the late 90's. As a package handler and later as a dock coordinator, I hated QR codes because the tiniest smudge and made the code nearly impossible to scan with the big, clunky scanners we had. And generating the QR code labels seemed to take forever. Fast-forward a quarter century and QR codes are easy to make and easy to scan on mobile phones. 

Five Uses for QR Codes in School Settings
Now that QR codes are easy to make and easy to scan with mobile phones and tablets, they can be helpful in accomplishing a lot of things in school settings. Here's a short list of ways to consider using QR codes in your school. 
  • Share sign-in/sign-out sheets via QR code. If you're using Google Forms or Microsoft Forms to maintain sign-in/sign-out sheets, post a QR code on the wall of the room to be signed into or out of to make it easy for students or colleagues to access those forms. Here's a demonstration of using QR Code Monkey for that purpose. 

  • Share links to important and frequently updated webpages like the school lunch menu. Last year the daily lunch menu was plastered all over my school in the form of a QR code that students could scan to get the day's menu and place orders in advance. One of the easiest ways to make a QR code for that purpose is to use the QR code generator that is built into Google Chrome. Here's a demo how that works

  • Create QR codes to access voice messages. With the Mote Chrome extension installed you can simply click the Mote icon to record voice notes. When you're done speaking simply click the share button and you'll have an option to view and download a QR code. Anyone who scans your QR code will be able to listen to your voice recording. Watch this short video to learn how you can share voice notes via Mote QR codes.  

  • QR codes can be useful for distributing important contact information to parents and students. QR Code Monkey lets you not only create QR codes for URLs, but also create QR codes to distribute contact information like phone numbers and email addresses. 

  • I forget which school I that I first saw it in, but a handful of years ago I visited a school library in which there was a selection of books that had QR codes inside the dust jacket. The QR codes linked to book trailer videos that students had made about those books. 

How to Make QR Codes
I've linked to a few tutorials above. I'm also listing them below for easier access.

Create QR Codes With QR Code Monkey



Create QR Codes With QRToon



Create QR Codes With Google Chrome

Sunday, January 16, 2022

QRToon - Cartoons in Your QR Codes

QR codes are handy for making long URLs easy to access on mobile devices. Last year I used QR codes to make my classroom sign-in/sign-out forms easy for students to access on their phones. I typically use either QRCode Monkey or the QR code generator built into Chrome. Recently, I discovered another neat QR code generator called QRToon

Like all QR code generators, QRToon will create a QR code for any URL that you specify. The difference between QRToon and other QR code creators that you might have tried is that QRToon will let you upload a picture to use in your QR code. That picture is then turned into a cartoon version. The QR code in this post includes a cartoon version of a headshot of myself that I uploaded to QRToon. 

Using QRToon is easy and it does not require registration. Simply head to the site, enter the URL that you want to turn into a QR code, and then upload a picture. QRToon will generate the QR code with your cartoonized portrait in it. You can download your QR code as PNG file to print and use wherever you like. 

It's worth noting that QRToon will only work with pictures that have just one human face in them. It didn't work when I tried to use it with pictures that had me and my kids in it. It also didn't work when I tried to use pictures of my dogs and cats.

Applications for Education
Does the world need another QR code generator? Probably not. Is it nice to have a personalized QR code that includes your likeness? Sure. The utility of QRToon is probably in just being able to personalize your QR codes to include your likeness in them for your students to recognize.

By the way, the QR code in this post will direct you to my eBook, 50 Tech Tuesday Tips

Questions From My Daughters - What Are Freckles?

Last night one of my daughters asked, "what are freckles?" I did my best to explain that freckles are spots of melanin in our skin. Of course, I then had to try to explain to my five-year-old what melanin is. She then asked why she has freckles and one of her classmates doesn't. That was an answer I couldn't give beyond, "everyone's bodies are a little different." This all led to her trying to count the freckles on my arm. 

After my freckle discussion with my daughter, I turned to my favorite source of kid-friendly science explanations, SciShow Kids. There I found Why Do I Have Freckles? which does a good job of explaining what freckles are, what makes them appear, and why some people don't have any and why some people have lots of them. Should you find yourself trying to explain freckles to children, Why Do I Have Freckles? is a good resource to consult as is the SciShow video Why Do We Get Freckles?


Applications for Education
Besides answering the question of "what are freckles?" both of these videos could be good for introducing some biology concepts to older students. At just three minutes long, both videos are a good length for making online lessons in tools like EDpuzzle or Vialogues.