Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Getting Started With Microsoft Flip

Back in June Microsoft threw a big party to announce that they were rebranding Flipgrid. What was once called Flipgrid is now Microsoft Flip. Fortunately, not much else changed and all of my favorite Flipgrid features still work. That said, some people have already been asking me for tutorials about Microsoft Flip. That's why I created this new tutorial on getting started with Microsoft Flip

In Getting Started With Microsoft Flip you'll see:

  • How to create a Microsoft Flip group.
  • How to create a topic in a Microsoft Flip group.
  • How students can reply to topics in Microsoft Flip. 
  • How to give feedback to students in Microsoft Flip. 
Watch the video on my YouTube channel or as embedded below. 

Timelapse and Virtual Field Trip - The Great Salt Lake

This morning my attention was grabbed by a BBC video titled Utah's Great Salt Lake is Running Out of Water. It's a fascinating video about the conditions that have contributed to the Great Salt Lake shrinking by nearly two-thirds in this century. Spoiler alert: drought isn't the biggest contributor to the shrinkage. 

Watching the BBC's video about Great Salt Lake prompted me to do a little searching for more information about the lake and its ecosystem. That search led me to a few things worth sharing with students. 

In Google Earth you can view timelapse imagery of Great Salt Lake. In the desktop version of Google Earth you can view imagery dating back to the 1970s. In the web version of Google Earth you can view imagery dating back to the1980s. Both will let you see the shrinking shoreline of the lake over the last few decades. Here's a short Google-produced video of the timelapse imagery of Great Salt Lake. On a related note, here's how to find timelapse imagery in Google Earth.

Last year The Natural History Museum of Utah produced Virtual Field Trip - Great Salt Lake. This ten minute video that takes students from the origins of Great Salt Lake through today. Along the way students can learn about changes to the lake's water level and ecosystem. 

The Genetic Science Learning Center hosted by the University of Utah offers a handful of resources for helping students learn about the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. Those resources include an interactive food web, an interactive brine shrimp lifecycle display, and an interactive map of Great Salt Lake microenvironments.

On related notes, I'll be speaking in Salt Lake City in August. And if you'd like to learn more about using Google Earth in your classroom, join me on August 2nd for a webinar titled To Geography & Beyond With Google Earth and Google Maps

Monday, July 25, 2022

Double Rainbow Lessons!

My daughters love rainbows. They have rainbow dresses, rainbow bracelets, rainbow stickers, and anything else that can have a rainbow on it. So they were super excited last week when we saw a double rainbow from our front porch! (You can look on my Instagram for better pictures of it than the one in this post). Their excitement and later questions about how rainbows are made prompted this post. If you have children in your life who are curious about how rainbows are made, the following two videos are for you. 

How to Make a Rainbow is a SciShow Kids video that I featured when it was released about six years ago. The video gives directions for a little activity in which kids can make rainbows appear on white paper by properly positioning a glass of water in front of ray of sunlight. The video then goes on to explain what makes rainbows appear outside. 

How Rainbows Form is a Physics Girl video that goes a bit beyond the basics that the SciShow Kids video covered. How Rainbows Form explains dispersion and refraction of light. The video also explains what causes the colors of the rainbow to appear in the order we see them. Finally, at the end of the video viewers learn what causes the appearance of a double rainbow.

Five Ways TARA Can Help You Save Time This Fall

Disclosure: TARA is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

At the end of the last school year I spent some time exploring a new edtech tool called TARA. It’s a service that solves problems for new teachers and veteran teachers. Those problems are having more time to do the parts of your job that you love and finding new resources and ideas to bring into your lesson plans. As the new school year approaches TARA is adding more features for teachers and coaches that could prove to be tremendously helpful this fall.

#1 -TARA Helps You Quickly Find New Strategies
The resource bank is probably my favorite feature of TARA. That’s because the resource bank contains more than six dozen instructional strategies that you can incorporate into your lesson plans that you create in TARA (more on that in the video at the end of this post). The strategies include templates for handouts that you can use in your lesson plan. Most importantly, the strategies in TARA’s resource bank include tips on how to use the strategies and additional readings about strategy implementation. For example, the close reading strategy tips include a link to this helpful guide from the Harvard College Writing Center.
The resource bank is obviously a good resource for new teachers but it shouldn’t be overlooked by experienced teachers. When you feel like you’re stuck in a rut or your “old reliable” lesson plan isn’t clicking with kids anymore, browse through TARA’s resource bank for some inspiration for a new strategy to try.

#2 - Faster Lesson Planning and Modification
TARA is designed to be a complete lesson planning tool. To that end, you can write your lesson plans inside of your free TARA dashboard and add supporting resources like handouts from the resource bank to your lesson plans. Once your lesson plan is assembled it’s automatically added to your planning calendar. The best feature of that calendar is that if you’ve created a multiple day lesson plan that you later need to shift (because there was a surprise fire drill that interrupted your day), when you move one part of the lesson plan the rest will shift with it.
Another helpful component of TARA’s free lesson planning tool is that you can tag all of your lesson plans with standards. Currently TARA supports Common Core standards and most state standards (all states will be available this fall).

Finally, if you’ve created a lesson plan that worked well and you want to use the same framework for a future lesson, you can do that in your free TARA account. To do that simply click “create new template” in the lesson planner then paste in the information from the lesson that you want to use as a template. Instructional coaches or administrators using TARA can use the lesson planning tool to create templates to share with teachers.

#3 - Create Shortcuts to Your Frequently Used Resources
In your free TARA account you have a homepage called HQ that you can customize. On your HQ you can place shortcuts to your most frequently used online resources like Infinite Campus, Google Classroom, and Kahoot. You also include shortcuts to resources that are in PDF or Word format. Shortcuts to frequently used resources is only one half of your HQ page. The other half contains your to-do list, a notepad, the resource bank mentioned earlier, and a progress monitoring tab.
#4 - To-do Lists With Attachments and Sharing
Take a look at my screenshot above and you’ll see that my to-do list has a place for attachments, due dates, and sharing. Just the act of writing a to-do list can give you a bit of focus for the day. Beyond that, having attachments to the tasks on your to-do list can be a time-saver when you actually start the task. TARA does have a collaboration component for teaching teams which means that you can share your to-do list to divide and conquer tasks with your team.

#5 - Streamlined Progress Monitoring for Teachers and Administrators
The first four items in this post focused on streamlining lesson planning and task management in TARA. There’s another aspect to TARA that’s equally valuable. That aspect is progress monitoring and coaching.

Teachers can use TARA to keep track of individual students’ progress toward specific goals or objectives. This aspect of TARA was designed for students who have IEPs, but it could be used for any student. In the HQ of your TARA teacher account you can click on the “progress” tab to record observations about their students. Watch this short video to learn more about progress monitoring in TARA.

TARA offers accounts for administrators and instructional coaches to use to give teachers feedback on lesson plans. Administrator accounts also include a place to record notes during observations and then share those observations. The flow of teachers sharing lesson plans and administrators giving feedback is just as quick and more structured than using a collaborative document like Google Docs or Word online.

Get Started Using TARA Today!
Teachers can sign up for free to use TARA right now. After you register I’d start by adding some shortcuts to things like your LMS and most-used resources onto your TARA HQ page. Once that’s done you’ll want to create some classes and start writing lessons. Have a favorite lesson plan already in Google Docs, Word, or PDF? If so, you can import that into your TARA account. Finally, dig around in the resources tab in TARA and look at some of the strategies you might want to use in a new or updated lesson this fall.

Watch the following short demo video to see how TARA works for teachers.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Two More Tools That Can Help Students Stay Focused on Online Tasks

On Friday morning I shared a browser extension called BeTimeful that limits your access to social media sites during your working hours. As I wrote in that blog post, there are similar tools worth noting. Here's a short overview of some tools that can help students remove distractions and stay focused while working online.

StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that I've used for years whenever I feel like I'm falling into the bad habit of chasing rabbit holes on the internet. StayFocusd lets me specify the sites that I want to block from myself or limit my time spent viewing them. After specifying the sites and the amount of time I'll allow myself on them, a countdown timer appears whenever I view those sites. The timer resets every 24 hours.

Pomofocus is a task timer that is based on the Pomodoro method of getting things done. On Pomofocus I create a list of tasks then start the timer. Each task is allotted 25 minutes (you can adjust that). After 25 minutes there is a five minute break timer that automatically appears. After the break the next task timer appears.

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