Thursday, February 10, 2022

Ten Overlooked Google Docs Features for Students and Teachers

As Google Docs has improved and added more features over the years some of those features get forgotten or just plain overlooked. Just because those features don't jump out, doesn't mean they're not helpful to students and teachers. In this new video I highlight ten of my favorite "overlooked" Google Docs features for students and teachers. 

  • These are great for organizing group notes.
Special Characters.
  • These provide an easy way to add accent marks, math symbols, arrows, and emojis to documents.
Task lists.
  • These are different from checklists and are accessible regardless of which Google Doc you're currently viewing in your account.
Changing Default Text.
  • Tired of the standard 11 point Arial font? Change the default font to anything you like.
Table of Contents.
  • This is a great way to link and jump to sections of long documents. The table of contents works even if you export the document to PDF.
  • Change the default substitution settings so your name is never misspelled again. Or change the settings to disable some of the automatic features in Google Docs.
  • Teach kids where this is so they can find definitions and synonyms without leaving Google Docs.
  • Students can use the built-in camera option to add pictures of handwritten work to their Google Docs.
  • Mark a document as confidential or draft.

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.

Blurred Backgrounds and More Microsoft Teams Updates

I'm not a daily user of Microsoft Teams so I rely on Mike Tholfsen's excellent YouTube channel to stay abreast of the latest features added to Microsoft Teams. It was through his recent video Top 5 New Features in Microsoft Teams that I learned about blurring backgrounds in Teams. I had assumed that the web version of Microsoft Teams already had that feature and I was bit surprised to find that it's just now been added to the web version of Teams. 

The other new features highlighted in the video include hiding your own video when speaking, hitting the spacebar to temporarily mute or unmute, changing the hand raise order, and using OneNote chiclets in Teams. Watch the video to learn how all of these features work and why they might be helpful to yo when teaching online. 

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.