Thursday, August 4, 2022

How to Create a Badge Tracker in Google Sheets

A few days ago a reader reached out to me with a question about creating a badge tracking system to keep track of students' progress toward various goals. While there are quite a few companies that offer badges as part of their systems, ClassDojo comes to mind, she was looking for something that was a little more independent and customizable. My suggestion was to try using the Badge Tracker Google Sheets template from Flippity

Flippity's Badge Tracker template lets you create a customized badge system. You can add in your own badge designs and set your own badge goals. It can be used to award complete badges and partial badges to students. 

Watch my short video that is embedded below to learn how to use Google Sheets to create your own badge tracker

Short Lessons on Centripetal Force and Tea Cups

Last week I took my older daughter to Storyland to ride the roller coaster as many times as she wanted to. Today, I'm taking my younger daughter for a daddy-daughter day at Storyland. Her favorite rides are the Flying Dutch Shoes, Alice's Tea Cups, and the Cuckoo Clockenspiel. In other words, she likes to spin around and feel the effects of centripetal force. 

Thinking about those spinning rides prompted me to look for some concise explanations of centripetal force. Here are a few resources that I found that could be helpful to students. 

CK-12 offers a couple of interactive simulations and lessons about centripetal force. Students can use these on their own or as part of a larger lesson that you lead. 

Planet Nutshell published a concise, animated explanation of centripetal force. You can watch it here or as embedded below. 



Here's a student-produced video addressing centripetal force in the context of "the tea cup problem." Jump to the two minute mark to see how he enlists the help of his brother to create the explanation.


Finally, PhET offers lots of lessons and interactives to help students understand various forces in physics. Make sure you look at their list whenever you need help explaining a physics concept to students. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Significant Changes to Screencastify's Free Plan

Screencastify is a versatile screencast recording tool that I've used over the years to create many kinds of instructional videos including Common Craft-style videos and virtual tours. As I write this blog post, I still prefer Screencastify to the new built-in recording option in Chromebooks. That said, it should be noted that Screencastify has just introduced some significant changes to their free plan. 

Here's What's Changing in Screencastify

The new free version of Screencastify increases the recording time for your videos from five minutes to thirty minutes. That's a huge change! The trade-off is that you now can only store ten videos in your free Screencastify account. That's also a huge change! The previous free version allowed unlimited videos as long as they were under the five minute limit. You can still export all of your videos as MP4 files. So if you find that you bump up against the ten video limit, you can export one or delete one to get back under that limit. 

Ways to Use Screencastify in Your Classroom

How to Use Virtual Backgrounds in Microsoft Flip

Virtual backgrounds and background blurring are features of Microsoft Flip that can be helpful to you and your students in a few ways. First, virtual backgrounds and blurring are useful in protecting student privacy when they are recording at home or anywhere else outside of your classroom. Second, you can use virtual backgrounds as a teaching aid (see my video below for more about that). Third, virtual backgrounds are just fun and provide a nice way for you and your students to express a little personality. 

In the brief video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to use virtual backgrounds and how to blur backgrounds in Microsoft Flip videos


Learn more about Microsoft Flip in the following videos:

How to Convert Word Documents and PDFs Into Microsoft Forms

There are many little features of Microsoft Forms that shouldn't be overlooked. And there is a new big feature of Microsoft Forms that definitely shouldn't be overlooked. That feature is the ability to import Word documents and PDFs into Microsoft Forms. 

The import feature in Microsoft Forms makes it possible to quickly take a quiz that you've written in Word and have it automatically turned into a quiz that students can complete in Microsoft Forms. Likewise, you can do the same with a quiz that you have in a PDF. This feature works with quizzes that are written in multiple choice, true/false, and short answer format. 

Watch my video that is embedded below to learn how to convert Word documents into quizzes Microsoft Forms



Applications for Education
If you, like me, have quizzes or tests that you wrote years ago before Microsoft Forms and Google Forms existed, this new import feature in Microsoft Forms could be a huge time-saver!

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