Wednesday, February 9, 2022

New Lesson Plans from DocsTeach

DocsTeach is one of my favorite resources for U.S. History teachers and students. The platform makes it easy to find curated collections of primary source documents and offers great templates for creating online lessons based on those documents. And if you don't have time to make a new activity, DocsTeach offers hundreds of premade primary source lesson activities for elementary school, middle school, and high school classrooms. Recently, DocsTeach added some new ready-to-use teaching activities based on primary source documents. 

New DocsTeach Activities

There are six new DocsTeach activities that were recently featured in the DocsTeach newsletter sent out to registered users. I've listed and linked to them below. And at the end of this post I've included my tutorial video about how to use DocsTeach to create your own online activities based on the primary sources hosted on DocsTeach.  

Here's my video overview of how to create and distribute your own primary source activities via DocsTeach.

On a related note, next Tuesday (February 15th) I'm hosting a webinar all about search strategies for history students and teachers. Join Me!

40,000 People Get Their Ed Tech Tips This Way

Yesterday morning I logged into my YouTube studio dashboard and saw that my little channel of screencast videos now has 40,000 subscribers! My videos aren't anything fancy. I just write some bullet points on a notepad then record using Screencast-o-matic. I do some light editing (blurring, trimming, and occasionally adding text overlays) and then hit publish. I've never had a video go "viral" nor do I try to make them go viral. The point is just to make clear and concise videos that help teachers. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

How to Create VR Tours of Local Landmarks

I live near a little ski mountain called Mount Abram that is totally geared toward being family-friendly, affordable (seriously, my kids ski the whole season for $20!), and community-oriented. During the weekends when my kids are in lessons I like to skin up the mountain. By skinning I burn a lot calories and I get to take in some views that a lot of people miss when they only ride the lifts. 

I like to take a lot of pictures of this little winter playground at Mount Abram. Last weekend when I stopped to take some pictures I used the photosphere mode on my Pixel 5 to capture a 360 view of the intersection of a few trails. Doing that reminded me of a cool tool called Story Spheres that offers an easy way to make little virtual tours of places that you photograph. 

How to Create a VR Tour

There are many ways that you could create a virtual reality tour. This is a simple method that utilizes the native camera app on a Pixel 5, Google Photos, Story Spheres, and Vocaroo

Step 1: Use the photosphere mode in the camera app on a Pixel 5. (If you don't have a Pixel 5 or 6, there are other camera apps you can install to capture 360 imagery). Save the picture to Google Photos. 

Step 2: Go to your Google Photos account and download to your computer the 360 image that you want to use in your VR tour. 

Step 3: Create a free account on Story Spheres.

Step 4: Create a new story on Story Spheres. The editor will walk you through uploading your 360 image. 

Step 5: Use to record short audio narration for your Story Sphere. Save the recording as an MP3 file. 

Step 6: Upload your MP3 to your Story Sphere story (again, the editor guides you through that process). 

Step 7: Publish your Story Sphere!

I provide a complete overview of this short process in this short video

Applications for Education
Creating a VR tour with Story Spheres can be a great way to get students to research, create, and share little reports about landmarks in their communities. Their Story Spheres could be included as part of a larger multimedia project that they publish on Google Sites or a similar platform.

Are you a tech coach or media specialist looking for some new ideas to share with your colleagues? If so, 50 Tech Tuesday Tips is an eBook you need. You can get it right here.

How to Create Collaborative To-do Lists in OneNote

In this week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I featured some tools and ideas for students to use to manage group projects. OneNote was one of the tools that I mentioned using for that purpose. It's a good option for students who are already using OneNote because they don't have to learn a whole new tool just to keep track of a group project.

OneNote for Project Management

An easy for students to use OneNote for group project management is to simply create a new shared notebook and on the first page include a task list. Then when group members complete tasks they can check them off. The nice thing about this is that students can see the task that have been done and who did them. They can also uncheck tasks or add notes if a task needs to be done again.

Watch this short video to learn how to create collaborative task lists in OneNote.

Are you a tech coach or media specialist looking for some new ideas to share with your colleagues? If so, 50 Tech Tuesday Tips is an eBook you need. You can get it right here.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Use TinyTap to Create Interactive Lessons and Games With Soundboards

Disclosure: TinyTap is currently an advertiser on

Over the last four weeks I’ve highlighted different ways to use TinyTap to create educational games for your students. This week I’m going to take a slightly different approach and share ideas for using TinyTap’s soundboard option to make interactive lessons and games.

What is a TinyTap soundboard?

A soundboard in TinyTap lets you add an image to a slide then create interactive hotspots on that image. Those hotspots can be made to play audio files when students tap or click on them. You can also use the hotspots to direct students to more information about the items they’ve tapped or clicked on. And if you want to use the soundboard as the basis for a game, you can do that by making sounds play and animation appear when students tap or click hotspots. We’ll take a look at all three of these options in this post.

How to Create a Basic Soundboard Activity
The first soundboard activity that I’m going to create is a simple one about America’s favorite pastime, baseball. Just like all of the other TinyTap games and activities I’ve made in this series, I started by logging into my free TinyTap account and clicking “create game.” Then I added a title slide and used TinyTap’s creation packs to pick a style and layout for the slide.

After making my title slide I created a second slide that became the basis for my soundboard activity. I used TinyTap’s integrated image search to find an image of a baseball field and added it to my slide.
Once the picture of the baseball field was added to my slide it was then time to start using the soundboard tools. To do that I chose “set activity” then chose “soundboard.” See the GIF below for details on where to find those options.
After choosing the soundboard option I then had to trace each place on the image that I wanted to become a hotspot. In this case that meant tracing home plate, first base, second base, and third base. As soon as I traced a base I was prompted to add audio and text (optional). I did this five times on the image of the baseball field. The first was to record a general overview of the field and the other four were to explain each base on the field. The final step in making my soundboard about baseball was to record instructions for students to follow. These instructions are played as soon as students view the soundboard slide. To record my instructions I just opened the “options” menu in the soundboard editor then clicked on the recording button. The GIF below provides a quick overview of where to find the soundboard recording options.
With my soundboard complete I can now publish it and share it with my students. When they tap on each base on the baseball field they’ll hear a short audio recording about it.

If you’ve read this far, you might have already come up with some ideas for how to use the soundboard activity type in your classroom. If not, here are some other ways that a basic soundboard activity could be used in your classroom.
  • Place sheet music on a slide then create hotspots for students to practice reading music.
  • Add a map to a slide then add hotspots for students to hear the name of each country, state, or province read aloud.
  • Put a set of vocabulary words on a slide then create hotspots for students to tap to hear the pronunciation of each word.
Make Your Soundboard Link to More Resources
One of the really neat things about TinyTap’s soundboard tool is that you can make each hotspot on a slide direct students to more information about the items they tap or click on. In the case of my baseball field soundboard, I made it possible for students to learn more about the rules of baseball by tapping on each base on the field. For example, when a student taps on home plate he or she will be directed to a new slide that provides information about the importance of home plate in the game of baseball.

To create my soundboard activity in which students learn more about each base on the baseball field I once again started by adding an image of a baseball field to a slide. Then I created slides about each base (each one has an image, some text, and a short audio recording). After creating the slides about each base I then went back to the slide that has the image of a baseball field and selected the soundboard option.

With the soundboard activity type enabled I once again traced each base on the field and recorded a little audio. But this time I also selected the option to “jump to page.” When I selected “jump to page” I could then choose which of the slides I wanted students to see when they tapped on a base. A GIF of this process is included below.
As with all of the activity types in TinyTap, there are many ways to use the combination of soundboards and “jump to page” to develop engaging activities for your students. Here are some other ideas for using soundboards to create interactive lessons for your students.
Create a Multiple Answers Soundboard Game
The third way that you can use soundboards in TinyTap is to create a multiple answer game. Once again I’ll use the image of a baseball field in my example of creating a multiple answer game with TinyTap’s soundboard option. In this game I’m going to ask the question, “which bases do players touch when they hit a triple?”

To create my multiple answer game I add an image of a baseball field to a slide in my TinyTap game. Then I selected the soundboard activity type and traced each base that I want to have jump out with confetti when tapped. So in this case I traced first, second, and third base. Then I used the options menu for the activity type and recorded myself asking the following question, “which bases do players touch when they hit a triple?” If students tap or click on home plate, nothing happens. If they tap first, second, and third bases then confetti appears to indicate that they got it right.
Throughout this post I’ve used the example of a baseball field because I think sometimes physical education gets overlooked on educational technology blogs. (I’m also staring out at three feet of snow on my lawn and daydreaming about summer). There are other examples of using the multiple answer format for games in TinyTap. Here’s a few ideas to consider:
Sharing TinyTap activities
Soundboard activities, like all TinyTap activities, can be shared in a variety of ways. As is highlighted in the screenshot below, TinyTap activities can be shared to Google Classroom, embedded into web pages and blog posts, or posted anywhere that you would typically share URLs for your students to access (Microsoft Teams, Canvas, Schoology for example).

Get Started!
It’s free and easy to get started making your own soundboard activities on TinyTap. Register for a free account and then click the “create game” button to get started. There are helpful tutorials embedded throughout the process and you can also watch my video tutorial to see the whole process of making a soundboard activity.

Learn More About TinyTap
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I've highlighted a bunch of TinyTap features over the last four weeks. If you missed those posts, take a look at the list below: