Tuesday, April 12, 2022

ICYMI - Two EdTech Guys Take Questions

Last week Rushton Hurley and I hosted another episode of our Two EdTech Guys Take Questions webinar series. If you missed it, you can watch the recording right here or as embedded below. Rushton does a great job of sharing links to all of the resources that we mention in the webinar. That list of resources can along with the slides from the webinar can found right here on the Next Vista website under Season 2, Episode 10. 



The next live episode of Two EdTech Guys Take Questions will be on May 12th at 4pm ET. Register here to join us for the fun.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Tract Offers Fun Ways to Wrap-up the School Year

Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

At this time last year my students were starting to get antsy and I was starting to think of some fun ways to keep them excited about learning even as they were starting to get excited about the end of the school year. One of the things that I did to keep them engaged was to have them teach some short lessons on their favorite topics from our computer science curriculum. I wish that I had access to Tract when I did that last spring because it would have made my planning a lot easier and my students’ lessons a lot better.

Tract is a free service that I’ve featured a handful of times during this school year. You can read my initial overview of Tract here. In short, the whole concept behind Tract is to provide a structured, peer-to-peer learning platform. On Tract teachers create classroom accounts that their students join. Teachers can then let students go down any learning path of their choice or follow a course suggested by their teacher (take a look at these five Genius Hour activities in Tract). Either way, students learn from video lessons and challenge activities created by other students on the Tract platform.

Learn Through Teaching Lesson Plan
Tract isn’t just a passive learning platform on which students watch video lessons and complete some challenge activities. As I alluded to above, Tract can be used by students to create lessons for other students to complete. To that end, Tract has recently published a new free lesson plan called Learn Through Teaching.

Tract’s Learn Through Teaching free lesson plan was developed by Esther Wojcicki. She is Tract’s co-founder and Chief Learning Officer, an award-winning educator, and the author of How to Raise Successful People. The Learn Through Teaching lesson plan is designed to be carried out over the course of seven weeks. Each week has its own mission for students to complete. A mission is a task or series of tasks for students to complete. Each mission is connected to short student-produced videos about the task(s) at hand.

The first five lessons in Tract’s Learn Through Teaching lesson plan could be completed in a typical class meeting as they have a suggested timeframe of forty minutes or less. The last two lessons each have a suggested timeframe of two hours. It is in the last two lessons that students record and edit their video lessons, review each other’s work, and make revisions before publishing their final lessons.

Watch this short video for an overview of Tract’s Learn Through Teaching lesson plan.
Try Tract’s Learn Through Teaching Lesson Plan Today!
As I look out my window and see some signs of spring I can start to see the end of the school year just over the horizon. The Learn Through Teaching seven-step lesson plan could carry you and your students to that horizon to end the school year on a high note.

Reminder, sign-up for Tract with the code BYRNE to get your free classroom account!

Other Ways to Use Tract This Spring
If having students create their own learning paths in Tract doesn’t seem like the right fit for your classroom at this time, there are other ways to use Tract that don’t require students to develop lessons. You can create a Tract classroom account (use the code BYRNE to get free access) then let your students explore some of the many interesting learning paths available to them in Tract.

All of the Tract learning paths feature student-created video lessons. The learning paths cover such a wide array of topics that there is sure to be at least one learning path of interest for every student in your classroom. Students will find learning paths about making and playing video games, creating TikTok videos, photography and videography, music, sports, and a whole lot more.

Students earn digital coins for completing learning paths in Tract. Those digital coins can be used for good by redeeming them for digital prizes that benefit others. For example, students can redeem 250 coins to make a donation of one meal via Second Harvest of Silicon Valley toward the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger. Students can also trade in coins for 1:1 mentorship sessions with content creators. You could create a little classroom competition to see which student can earn the most digital coins in the month of April or May.

Watch this video for a complete overview of the teacher and student perspective’s of Tract.



A Calendar of Tract Events to End the School Year
If you’d like even more ideas about how to use Tract for fun learning activities to wrap-up the school year, take a look at the new Tract Community Calendar. I’m particularly interested in the Earth Week tasks in which students can earn double coins for completing Earth Day-aligned learning paths.

A Free Design Skills Course for Students

As you probably know, I am a huge fan of Canva. I use it on a daily basis to create YouTube thumbnails, presentations, and teaching materials like my new Around the World With Google Earth activity. The great thing about Canva is that enables people like me who don't have an eye for design to create things that look pretty darn good. But learning all of the features of Canva can take a while if you don't know where to start or where to look. That's why Canva has recently released a new design course for students

Canva's new Design Skills for Students course is a seven-part, self-paced course that teaches high school age students everything they need to know to create great graphics, animations, presentations, and more. Each part of the course has a short tutorial video followed by a practice activity for students to complete. Take a look at the first lesson right here


If you are looking for some Canva tutorials for yourself, take a look at my big list of more than three dozen Canva tutorials

The game templates are a fun aspect of Canva that many people overlook. Here's my short overview of how to use those templates. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Seven Activities for National Poetry Month

A little Twitter conversation last week reminded me that the start of the baseball season is full of hope and for all but one team ends with heartbreak. There's a lot of poetry in that. And so it's fitting that the start of the baseball season is in April and that April is National Poetry Month

Poets.org offers thirty activities for celebrating National Poetry Month. If you'd like even more ideas for National Poetry Month, take a look my short list of suggestions below. 

ReadWriteThink Poetry Interactives
Earlier this year ReadWriteThink relaunched nearly all of their interactive writing tools so that they no longer relied on Flash. That means you can now use them in any modern web browser. My favorite of their interactive poetry writing tools is the Word Mover tool that resembles refrigerator magnet poetry. Take a look at this short video to see the current version of ReadWriteThink's Word Mover interactive.



Coding With Poetry
Coding With Poetry is a feature from Code.org. There are two activities available on the Coding With Poetry page. The first is a short, Hour of Code activity in which students animate a poem by writing some simple code. The second is a longer activity that is part of Code.org's Computer Science Connections curriculum. In the second activity students write a program that writes poetry (I did a similar thing with my 9th graders last year and it took some of them two class periods to complete it).

Poetry With AI
Verse by Verse is an experimental AI project from Google. Verse by Verse lets you compose poems by combining lines from the works of famous poets. In other words, it's a poetry remix tool. To use it you simply visit the site and select three poets to inspire you. Then you write your own first line of a poem. Once you've written a line of your own Verse by Verse will suggest three lines from each of the three poets you originally selected. You can then include those lines in your new poem. Finished poems can be downloaded as text overlaid on an background image.  

Poetry Comics
Make Beliefs Comix offers more than 700 writing prompt pages. All of the pages are designed to be printed and given to students to write on. Within that collection you will find a small collection of poetry pages. All the the printable poetry prompt pages include artwork designed to spark a student's imagination. Some of the artwork is in color and some is in black and white. A bonus of the black and white artwork is that you're essentially getting a coloring page and a poetry prompt in one package.

Poetry 180
Poetry 180 is a Library of Congress project that was created when Billy Collins was the U.S. Poet Laureate. The purpose of the project is to provide high school teachers with poems for their students to read or hear throughout the school year. Collins selected the poems for Poetry 180 with high school students in mind. I didn't look at every poem in the list, but of dozen or so that I looked at, none would take more than a few minutes to read in a classroom. Speaking of reading in class, Collins encourages teachers to read the poems aloud or have students read the poems aloud. To that end, here's his advice on how to read a poem out loud.

There's a Poem for That!      
There's a Poem for That is a series of twelve TED-Ed lessons featuring six famous works. The lessons include poems from from Frost, Shakespeare, Yeats, O'Keefe, Gibson, and Elhillo.

Jamboard Magnetic Poetry
On Google Jamboard you can create a set of sticky notes with words on them. You could color code the sticky notes to make verbs one color, adjectives another color, and nouns a third color. Once you've made your word bank you can then divide the Jamboard and add directions for writing a poem with the words in the word bank. Finally, share your Jamboard as an assignment in Google Classroom. When you share it in Google Classroom make sure that you choose the option of "make a copy for each student" so that students have their own copies to work on without having to manually make copies for themselves. 

In this short video I explain how to use Google Jamboard and Google Classroom to create online magnetic poetry assignments for your students. 

Five Image Editing Features Built Into Google Slides

Regular readers of my blog probably know that I'm a big fan of using tools like Canva, Adobe Creative Cloud Express, and Pixlr to edit and enhance pictures. But sometimes those tools feel like they have almost too many options. Furthermore, some schools don't allow access to those tools because they would prefer that students use tools in Google Workspace. In both cases, it's worth knowing how to use the image editing features that are built into Google Slides. 

There are five image editing features in Google Slides that I always point out to students and to teachers who come to one of my workshops. Those features are color filtering, transparency and brightness adjustments, drop shadows and mirroring, cropping with shapes, and border adjustments. Watch this short video to see all of those features in use.