Thursday, June 23, 2022

Amazing! This Interactive Story Building Lesson Still Works!

Last night I was scrolling through my archives to see what I was writing about ten years ago. I do that from time to time to see which of those things that I was writing about a decade ago is still relevant and viable. It was during that process last night that I came across Word Tamer. 

Word Tamer is a site for learning the process of developing characters, settings, and plots. Word Tamer is set up as an interactive journey through a carnival of literary devices. As students move through the carnival they develop characters, develop a setting, and develop a plot for their stories. At each stop in the Word Tamer carnival students can print out the words they have written. Along the way there are videos to help students understand the roles of characters, settings, and plot development in crafting a good story.

Applications for Education
I first learned about Word Tamer more than a decade ago when Kristen Swanson wrote about it. Kristen recommended Word Tamer because she thought that the narration and graphics make the site UDL-friendly. I think that Word Tamer has potential to get reluctant writers started on their way to crafting creative stories.

A Quick and Easy Way to Make Printable Mazes

Maze Generator is a free site that does exactly what it says on the tin, it generates mazes. To make a printable maze on Maze Generator just select the shape, size, and style you want your maze to have. The shape options are rectangle, triangle, circle, and hexagon. You can also choose the level of difficulty and starting point for your mazes. After you have made all of your size and style selections just hit the "generate" button to get a printable PDF.

Watch my short video to see how easy it is to create a printable maze with Maze Generator. 

Applications for Education
From time-to-time we all need a low-tech to no-tech activity for our students. You might need a no-tech activity for students to do after finishing a test. Completing a maze on paper is a decidedly no-tech activity for students. But making the maze on your computer for to replicate, modify, and print is low-tech activity. If you find yourself wanting to make a maze, take a look at Maze Generator.

Meet Otus - A Fun and Free ISTE Event

Disclosure: Otus is currently an advertiser on

Otus is a learning management system that first popped onto my radar nearly a decade ago. Since then I've watched it evolve from an iPad app to a complete learning management platform for teachers, students, parents, and administrators to use on any device. Along the way they've incorporate third-party resources and developed some great features to help teachers, parents, and administrators develop a full picture of student progress. 

At next week's ISTE conference Otus is hosting a fun and free event for all teachers, tech coaches, and school administrators. On Tuesday evening (June 28th) Otus is hosting a NOLA-themed cocktail reception featuring Kermit Ruffins. Kermit Ruffins is a jazz trumpeter, singer and composer, and an actor, from New Orleans. You can get more information and your free ticket to the event right here!

Earlier this week I got a chance to catch up with one of the co-founders of Otus, Chris Hull. We talked for quite a while about all things education, our kids, and why Otus is hosting this free event for educators. I recorded part of our conversation and published it on my YouTube channel. Watch the recording of our conversation here or as embedded below. 

Head to The Chicory in New Orleans on June 28th to enjoy an evening of live music and free food hosted by Otus. Tell them I sent you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

New Google Forms Customization Options

There is good news for those who are tired of the same old font choices in Google Forms. Starting today (for some users) you can now mix and match font styles in the Google Forms that you create.

On Tuesday Google announced the release of new font options. These options include using different fonts for the headings, subheadings, and body text on your Google Forms. The best part is that it appears there are now more overall font choices! Instead of being limited to the handful of built-in font choices, it appears that you can now use additional fonts like those that you would typically find in Google Docs and Slides. 

Applications for Education
This is a bigger development for some teachers than others. Those who like to customize the look of their Google Forms now have more options. If it turns out that you can import fonts like those in the Lexend family, that could improve the accessibility of Google Forms for some students.

As is the case with nearly all updates to Google Workspace, the new font options in Google Forms will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks. If you don't see the new options today, you should see them soon.

On a related note, here's a series of short Google Forms tutorial videos created to help new Google Forms users learn everything they need to know and some common mistakes to avoid. 

My Three Favorite Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students

As longtime readers of this blog know, my background is largely in social studies with a smattering of teaching computer science and doing some corporate training. It's teaching social studies that will always be my first professional love. I've also been using Google Workspace tools with students (previously G Suite, previously Google Apps, previously Google Drive, previously just a collection of Google tools) for fifteen+ years. These are my three favorite Google tools for social studies teachers. 

Google Earth
Google Earth is available in two versions. The Pro version is the version that you can install on your desktop. That's the version that I prefer if given a choice because it includes more features that the web browser version. And while there are work-arounds for the web version, the Google Earth Pro is a lot better for recording narrated tours. You can find my playlist of Google Earth tutorials here.

Want a lesson plan for introducing Google Earth to your students? Check out Around the World With Google Earth

Google Books
This is an often overlooked search tool. Google Books provides students with access to millions of free books and periodicals. Google Books really shines when you start looking for work that was published in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. One of the best features of Google Books is the ability to search within a book for a phrase or keyword. Learn how to use Google Books by watching these tutorial videos.

Google Scholar 
Unlike search results on, Google Scholar search results isn’t a ranking of websites. Instead, Google Scholar search results are lists of scholarly articles related to your query. Google Scholar can also be used to locate United States patent filings as well as state and federal court cases. Here's an overview of five key features of Google Scholar that students should know how to use.

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