Friday, June 3, 2022

Five Fun Science Games for Kids

I'm taking my daughters to a science museum today. Thinking about the museum and the interactive displays that they have got me thinking about some of the science games that I've reviewed over the years. I went into my archives and pulled out five fun science games for elementary school students. 

Peep and the Big Wide World, produced by WGBH, offers a great collection of online games, videos, and offline activities designed to help students learn and practice skills in math and science. One emphasis of the games that I tried is recognizing patterns. In all there are twenty-one online games available through Peep and the Big Wide World.

Shutterbugs Wiggle and Stomp is an educational game produced by the Smithsonian. The purpose of the game is to help children recognize the movements of animals. In the game children move through a virtual zoo with a zoo keeper. As they go through the virtual zoo the zoo keeper will ask students to take pictures of animals who are demonstrating running, jumping, stomping, and other movements. Shutterbugs Wiggle and Stomp can be played online.  

Habitats is a fun little game from the Smithsonian Science Education Center. The online game challenges elementary school to match animals to their habitats. The game shows students images representative of four habitats; desert, coral reef, jungle, and marsh. Students drag pictures of animals from a list to their corresponding habitats. Students receive instant feedback on each move they make in the game. Once an animal has been placed in the correct habitat students can click on it to learn more about it in the Encyclopedia of Life.

Aquation is a free game offered by the the Smithsonian Science Education Center. The game, designed for students in upper elementary school or middle school, teaches students about the distribution of clean water and what can be done to balance global water resources. In the game students select a region to explore its current water supplies. Based on the information provided students take action in the form of building desalination plants, conducting further research, reacting to natural events, and attempting to move water between regions. Aquation can be played in a web browser. It is also available as a free iPad app and as a free Android app.

Feed the Dingo is a fun game that teaches students about the importance of maintaining balanced ecosystems. In the game students have to build and maintain a desert ecosystem. The game begins with a blank slate to which students have to add plants and animals. The game plays out over twelve virtual days. Each day students have to add more elements in order to maintain balance in the ecosystem. At the end of each day students are given feedback as to which plants and animals are healthy, which are in danger, and which have died.

Lessons for World Bicycle Day

If you've been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I love to go for long bike rides. That's why I'm excited that today is World Bicycle Day! To celebrate World Bicycle Day I have some bicycle-related lessons to share with you. 

Planning Safe Biking Routes
You don't have to go far to enjoy riding a bicycle. All you need is a bike, a helmet, and a safe place to ride. To that end, Google Maps and Strava can help you plan safe biking routes. In the following videos I demonstrate how you can use both of those tools to map safe bicycling routes. 

Can You Power a House With a Bicycle? is a video produced a few years ago by NPR's Skunk Bear. The answer is no, you can't power a house with a bicycle. The video does a great job of explaining how many bicyclists you would need in order to power an average house for a month.

Homemade Bicycle Generator is a video by Backyard Trail Builds (a channel about building bike trails and jumps). What's good about this video is that the producer explained his initial mistakes and how he corrected them. The video is also not so detailed that it doesn't inspire more curiosity about how to improve on the design. 

The Physics of Bicycling
Minute Physics offers two videos about the physics of bicycles. In How Do Bikes Stay Up? we learn how bikes stay upright, how design and weight influences balance, and why bicycles are difficult to balance in reverse.

The Counterintuitive Physics of Turning a Bike explains how we turn bicycles.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Use Google Drive to Comment on PDFs, Images, and Videos

Google Drive can be used to store just about any kind of file that you have. What a lot of people overlook is that you can use Google Drive to comment on those files without converting them into Google Docs or other Google Workspace formats. For example, you can upload a PDF to your Google Drive account, share it with others, and write comments on it without having to convert into any other file format. 

In this new video I demonstrate how to use Google Drive to comment on PDFs, images, and videos

Applications for Education
One of the ways that I've used this Google Drive feature in the past is to help my history students read through primary source materials. I would take a scanned copy of source that was available as a PDF, upload it to Google Drive, and then share it with my students. My students could then use the commenting feature to ask me clarifying questions about the document and I could use the commenting feature to highlight parts of the document to which I wanted to draw their attention.

Newsletters vs. Blogs and Social Media - Thoughts for Tech Coaches

A few weeks ago a reader reached out to me for advice on creating a tech tips newsletter for her staff. Specifically, she wanted to know if she should create a blog and then email the posts to staff or if just a newsletter would be enough. It was a question that I was happy to answer. These are the thoughts that I shared with her and some additional ideas about newsletters compared to blogs and social media.

Does Your Whole School Want More Email From You?
The first question to consider is does everyone in your school want your tech tips sent to them every week or day? The answer, unfortunately, is probably not. So while you think you’re being helpful, the reality is that those who don’t want to read your newsletter every week will just be trashing your email before they even read it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write it, it just means that you should consider other ways to distribute it.

One of the ways to distribute your newsletter is to simply ask people if they want to get it. You can do this with a simple Google Form or Microsoft Form and then add those people who say yes to a contact group in your email account. Another option is to use a tool like ConvertKit that lets you create a sign-up form and automatically add those who sign-up to your mailing list. I shared details on how to use ConvertKit in this April blog post.

Create a Blog or Simple Website
Again, just because not everyone in your school wants you to email them every week doesn't mean you shouldn’t write a weekly tech tips newsletter. You’re going to produce some great information that everyone in your school is going to want or need at some point. If you’re only using email, you’re going to have to dig through your email to find the tip that you wrote in September to share with someone who needs the information in April.

Write the content of your newsletter on a simple blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger then take that content and email it to those who do want to be a part of your weekly mailing. Then when someone who is not on your mailing list asks you for help, you can simply send them to your blog where they can search or you can send them a link to a specific blog post.

What About Social Media?
Yes, there is an archive of your social media postings, but good luck searching through that archive in an efficient manner when someone asks you a question in March that was addressed by the tip you posted in late August.

So if you enjoy the process of making social media posts, go ahead and post your tips on your favorite social media platform. But if you’re trying to specifically reach the people in your school, that’s not how I’d spend my time. (Full disclosure: I’m rather burnt out on social media and slowly breaking up with it).

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Games for Students to Play to Improve Their Typing Skills

A few days ago I published a short video about an interesting way to improve your typing skills while reading classic literature. That video prompted one reader to send me an email this morning to ask if I had suggestions for typing practice sites for elementary school students. The following are the things that I recommended to her. 

TypeTastic is a site that offers more than 700 free typing games for students of all ages. TypeTastic is designed for students to work through units of games. Before each game there is an introduction to a new skill and or a review of a previous skill. Each game within each section contains multiple levels for students to work through. Each game could take students an hour or more to completely master. 

Flippity offers a free Google Sheets template for designing your own online typing activities for your students to play. To do this you simply make a copy of the template provided by Flippity then fill in the words and or phrases you want to have appear in your activities. Flippity hosts the activity and provides unique URLs for your activities to share with your students. In this video I provide a demonstration of how the template works. (Please note that the beginning of the video references a Google Sheets add-on that is no longer available. Instead, simply get the template here on 

ABCya offers games designed to help elementary school students sharpen their skills in a many areas. Included in ABCya's catalog of games is a fun typing game called Cup Stacking. In this game students have to type the letters that they see on the cups that appear on their screens. When they type the correct letters the cups stack up into a pyramid. Once the pyramid is built students have to type the letters again to deconstruct the pyramid. The object of the game is to build up and take down the pyramids as quickly as possible.

Typing Rocket is another typing game developed by ABCya. Typing Rocket is a sixty second game in which students make fireworks explode by typing the letters that appear on the rockets in the games. In the sixty second span of the game students try to correctly type as many letters as they possibly can. The rockets speed up as the game progresses.

Popular Posts