Thursday, February 24, 2022

NASA From Hidden to Modern Figures

NASA's From Hidden to Modern Figures is an excellent resource for teaching about the women who made significant contributions to the development of NASA's space program. The site features written and video biographies of Katherine Johnson, Mary W. Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan who were instrumental in many of NASA's missions including the first orbit of Earth. Here's a short video introduction to the series. 

In addition to the profiles of the Johnson, Jackson, and Vaughan there are nearly a dozen other women featured in the Modern Figures video library.

Applications for Education
As a dad to two little girls who often reminds them that they can do anything that boys can do, these are the stories that I want them to hear when they're in school.

To support the use of the Modern Figures resources in classrooms, NASA offers a Modern Figures Toolkit for teachers. The toolkit includes eight lesson plans for elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. The lesson plans cover things like the effect of gravity on orbit, calculating launch windows, moon phases, and designing landing equipment. The toolkit also includes some nice handouts like this collection of bookmarks that contain short biographies of the women featured in Hidden Figures.

Brush Ninja - Make Animated GIFs, Emoji Art, and More!

Brush Ninja is a tool that I've been using and recommending for a few years now. Brush Ninja makes it incredibly easy to draw a series of images and quickly turn them into animated GIFs. In the fall of 2018 I used Brush Ninja with some middle school students to create animations to illustrate their understanding of forms of energy. You can read more about that activity right here

Brush Ninja is still a great tool for making animated GIFs. In fact, it has gotten better since I first started using it. You can now use custom backgrounds including background pictures that you take with your webcam. The animated GIF creator also now lets you change the size of the canvas you're drawing on. And there are now twice as many stickers available in the GIF creator than when I started using it. 

In addition to making animated GIFs, Brush Ninja now has three other tools. Those are an emoji art creator, a collage maker, and a comic book creator. The emoji art creator lets you click on a canvas to place any of hundreds of emojis into a pattern to create digital artwork. The collage maker is exactly what it sounds like, a tool for making photo collages. The comic book creator simply lets you upload a series of images to a comic book template that you can print and fold. 

An overview of all of the Brush Ninja tools is provided in this new video that I recorded on Wednesday. 

Applications for Education
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I've had students use Brush Ninja to make animations to illustrate their understanding of forms of energy. I longer explanation of that instance can be read here. An explanation of my initial introduction to the concepts behind sketching in the classroom is available here

One of the reasons that Brush Ninja continues to by one of my go-to tools is that it doesn't require students to register or sign-up for anything in order to use all of the available features. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

How to Record Screencasts in Gmail

Nimbus Screenshot is a Chrome extension that I've featured in the past as a good tool for creating annotated, scrolling screenshots and for creating screencast videos on Chromebooks. The latest update to Nimbus Screenshot added the ability to record screencast videos directly from your Gmail inbox. 

With Nimbus Screenshot installed in Chrome you will see its icon appear in the composition window whenever you're composing a new message or replying to a message. Simply click on the Nimbus icon and you can start recording a screencast of your browser tab, a specific window, or your entire desktop. When your recording is finished it will be automatically inserted into the body of your message. 

Watch this short video to see how you can record a screencast in Gmail by using Nimbus Screenshot.

Applications for Education
Nimbus Screenshot in Gmail provides an easy way to reply to requests for tech help. Creating a quick screencast video to answer a student's or a colleague's question about how to do something on his or her computer can be a lot more efficient than trying to write step-by-step directions.

How to Link Within Google Earth Projects

Google Earth in all its forms has been one of my favorite educational technology tools for well over a decade. The web version of Google Earth has improved significantly since its launch five years ago. One of the relatively new features of the web version of Google Earth is the ability to link to places within your projects (AKA tours). 

Linking within your Google Earth tours allows you have guide viewers of your tours to specific places without them having to click through every stop of the tour. In other words, it allows them to skip around without having to navigate sequentially. Watch my new video to see how this works. 

Applications for Education
One of my favorite ways to use Google Earth is to have students develop tours based on a series of events. They add a markers for each event on the places the events happened. Within each marker they write descriptions of the event including its connection to other events. By including links in the place markers students can more accurately connect the series of events in their Google Earth projects.

Learn more about Google Earth in A Crash Course in Google Earth & Maps for Social Studies.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

PhET Releases Ten Updated Simulations With Interactive Descriptions

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have already seen this news but it's worth sharing here as well. PhET now has ten simulations that include interactive descriptions. This makes the simulations accessible to students who rely on screen readers to access the web. 

Read PhET's announcement here

This brings the total of PhET simulations that have some type of accessibility feature to 33. That's fourteen more than when I wrote about PhET's accessible simulations last fall.

For those who aren't familiar with PhET, it is a service that provides free interactive math and science simulations covering topics in physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, and mathematics. Many of the simulations can be included in PowerPoint presentations and embedded into Google Sites. Additionally, PhET offers lesson plans that incorporate their simulations into remote math and science lessons.