Tuesday, April 12, 2022

How to Create a Professional Development Series in Gmail

As we head into the last part of the school year some of us are starting to think about and plan professional development activities for the summer and the following school year. It's nice to be able to offer in-person PD sessions again and I'm looking forward to facilitating a few of those this summer. There's also still a need to provide professional learning opportunities that don't require everyone to be in one place (physically or virtually) at the same time. It was thinking about that idea that prompted me to think about options for delivering self-paced professional development. 

Gmail's scheduling feature could be used to create a series of timed, progressive emails aligned to a specific topic or theme. For example, you could create a series of four emails that contain directions on how to use features of Google Forms. The series might start with the basics of using Google Forms and then each subsequent email would build upon that. Each email could contain a written overview, a video overview, and a "do now" practice activity. 

Watch this short video to see a demonstration of how to create a professional development series in Gmail. 

Applications for Education
In the video above I used the schedule send function in Gmail to create a professional development series for teachers. The same concept could be applied to creating a mini-course for students to complete over the summer. If you teach an AP course that requires students to complete some assigned reading over the summer, you could create a series of scheduled emails to check in with them and have them reply to a couple of questions. Of course, you might also do that in Google Classroom.

The Mystery Pollinator!

This morning my local television news station broadcast a segment about hummingbirds and when to put out hummingbird feeders. We always put out a few hummingbird feeders every summer so I watched the segment with slightly more interest than some of the other filler stories they show every morning. One little aspect of the story was to remind viewers that hummingbirds play a role in the ecosystem as pollinators. That little fact reminded me of a SciShow Kids video from last spring about flowers and pollination

Flowers and Their Pollinators is a cute video that explains to kids how bees, butterflies, bats, and birds help to pollinate flowers. The video concludes with the revelation that hummingbirds are the mystery pollinator in the story. Click here to jump to that segment of the video. 

Applications for Education
Before showing this video to students I'd ask them to share their ideas about how plants grow and spread to new areas. I'd also ask them think about what makes flowers bloom. As I'm learning from my own kids who wonder about these things, kids come up with some interesting thoughts about these kinds of questions. This video offers answers that little kids can understand.

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.