Thursday, May 12, 2022

How to Create an Online Course With Three Simple Tools

Summer is coming (in the northern hemisphere) and for many of us that means spending some time participating in professional development activities as a leader, learner, or both. If you find yourself trying to create some online professional development courses for the summer, I have a new video just for you

In this video I demonstrate how to create an online professional development course by using Google Classroom, Screencastify, and EdPuzzle. In the video I show how to use Screencastify to record and build interactive questions into your videos before sharing them in Google Classroom. The video also shows you how to use EdPuzzle to add interactive questions to videos that you find on YouTube then share those activities in Google Classroom. 



On a related note, you might also be interested in these other ways to create online professional development courses to share in your school or school district.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

SplashLearn - More Than Just Fun Math and ELA Practice

When an email about SplashLearn splash landed in my inbox last week I didn't give it much thought because I get dozens of pitches every morning and because at first glance I thought it was just another rote practice app. It turns out that I was wrong about it just being a rote practice app. 

At its core SplashLearn is a service that provides a free and ad-free environment in which students can practice their math and ELA skills. Students can use it in the web browsers on their computers or use the free SplashLearn mobile apps. 

The way that students access the SplashLearn games and other activities is through your free classroom account. As a teacher you sign-up for SplashLearn then create accounts for them. Creating accounts for your students is quick and easy. You can manually enter names (or just initials), import a spreadsheet of names, or import a Google Classroom roster. The students are given little avatars to represent themselves. Students then access SplashLearn by going to the link that you give them and then tap their avatars followed by the image that represents the class password. (See my screenshot below for details). Alternatively, students can open SplashLearn then select "student" and enter the class code. 


As you might have guessed by now, because your students access SplashLearn through the classroom account that you create, you can see their progress in your teacher dashboard. It's in your teacher dashboard that you can find standards-aligned math and ELA activities to assign to your students. To find activities to assign to your students you simply pick math or ELA then the grade level followed by the standard for which you want to find activities. Activities can be assigned to the whole class or to individual students within your class.


Applications for Education
The value of SplashLearn is found in the teacher dashboard. Specifically, the way in which you can find activities and assign them to your students as needed is where SplashLearn becomes valuable. Through that dashboard you can quickly find activities to help your students practice and strengthen their skills while also monitoring their progress.  

Living Wage vs. Minimum Wage

Last night I was reading a discussion on FlyerTalk that got into the question of whether or not tipping should be an expectation of hotel housekeeping staff. That discussion veered off into a bigger question of minimum wage versus livable wage. That discussion reminded me of two resources that I've highlighted in the past to help students understand why minimum wage and livable wage are almost never the same thing. 

The Living Wage Calculator is a great resource hosted by MIT. The Living Wage Calculator displays the current minimum wage and livable wage in all fifty U.S. states, the counties within each state, and the largest metropolitan areas within each state. The data is provided based on individuals and families. For example, the livable wage for a single person in my county is $16.97/hour versus the minimum wage of $12.75 while the livable wage for a family of four with two working adults is $24.04/hour versus the minimum wage of $12.75/hour. To support these calculations the Living Wage Calculator includes a corresponding table of typical expenses for each given location. Those expenses include taxes, housing, transportation, child care, and food. 

Life on Minimum Wage (link opens a Google Doc) is an activity that I developed almost thirteen years ago to help my civics students recognize how difficult it is to save money when your only job(s) pay minimum wage without benefits. To win at Life on Minimum Wage the students have to reach five financial goals that they select. To earn money the students have to complete the tasks of their assigned jobs. The students then have to pay required bills before using money for their selected financial goals. As the game progresses students will be issued "surprise" cards which require them to spend money on things like speeding tickets, trips to a health clinic, and increases in rent. All of the jobs in Life on Minimum Wage are connected so that if one business slows production or closes, the workers of another business are also impacted. The goal here is to demonstrate the effects of a business closing on a small town's economy.

Important notes before using this activity:
I have not adjusted this activity to account for inflation since 2009. You'll probably want to do that.

Before you email me about the Browning rifle goal card, please understand that these were goals chosen by my students in a rural community in which hunting is often a family tradition. You're welcome to change that card for use in your own classroom.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

How to Create and Send Personalized Certificates in Google Workspace

As we get close to the end of the school year you may find yourself needing to create and distribute certificates to students. These could be for recognition of any number of things from honor roll to volunteer work. It used to be that giving certificates for these occasions required buying ream of pre-printed certificates from a catalog and then manually writing students' names on them. Today, there are some easy ways to create customized and personalized certificates. In fact, you can do that with the Google Workspace tools you may already be using on a regular basis. 

In the following video I demonstrate how you can design your own customized certificates in Google Slides. In the video I used Pixabay to find borders to use in my certificate. That's not the only source that you can use. Any site that offers public domain imagery could be used in the same way to design your own certificates.



Use Certify'em to Issue Personalized Certificates on an as-needed basis. 
This is the method to use if you don't have a pre-existing list of students that need a certificate or you want to be able to issue certificates on-demand. Certify'em is a Google Forms add-on that will let you automatically issue a certificate to students when the pass a quiz in Google Forms with a minimum score of your choosing. I use Certify'em to issue certificates to people who complete my professional development webinars and courses. Watch this video to learn how to use Certify'em. 


Use autoCrat to create personalized certificates in bulk. 
This is the method to use if you already have a list of the students who should receive a certificate for something like honor roll or perfect attendance. To use this method you will need to have or create a Google Sheet that lists the students' names. Once you have that list you can run the Google Sheets add-on called autoCrat to automatically personalize the certificate for each student on the list. The certificate template must be made in Google Slides. Watch my video to learn how to use autoCrat and Google Slides to create personalized certificates in bulk.

Another Easy Way to Create End-of-Year Slideshow Videos

Yesterday I shared three quick and easy ways to create end-of-year slideshow videos. Shortly after I hit publish on that blog post I realized that there was another great option that I've been overlooking for a few years. That option is built right into Google Photos. 

In Google Photos there is a section called "utilities." It is in the utilities section that you'll find the video creation tool. To use it all you need to do is select up to 50 pictures and or videos that you have stored in your Google Photos account. Google Photos will then automatically select display length for each image or video and automatically add background music to your video. If you don't like what was automatically selected for your video, you can manually adjust display length and choose different background music. 

Watch this short video to learn how to make an audio slideshow video with Google Photos. 



The video creation tool in Google Photos does limit you to 50 images per video. If you need to make a longer video, you could make two or three videos in Google Photos then download them and combine them in iMovie or WeVideo.