Friday, September 16, 2022

The WWII Rumor Project - An Activity in Learning Through Primary Sources

A handful of years ago the Library of Congress launched a crowd sourcing project called By the People. The purpose of the project is to enlist the help of the public to transcribe thousands of primary source documents that are housed by and have been scanned by the Library of Congress. Over the years there have been collections of documents from the American Civil War, papers from the American Revolution, presidential papers, documents about suffrage, and documents about the integration of Major League Baseball. The latest By the People campaign is seeking help transcribing a collection of documents from the WWII Rumor Project carried out by the Office of War Information

Anyone can participate in the LOC's Crowd project to transcribe documents in the WWII Rumor Project collection of notes and diaries. To get started simply go to the collection and choose a document. Your chosen document will appear on the left side of the screen and a field for writing your transcription appears on the right side of the screen. After you have completed your transcription it is submitted for peer review. A demonstration of the process is included in the video below.

Applications for Education
The By the People project is a good opportunity for high school students and some middle school students to learn about the role of information control in the United States during World War II while contributing to a national project. All of the collections in By the People do have timelines and some other resources that help to provide context for the documents that are in need of transcription.

The Smithsonian has a similar crowdsourcing project called Smithsonian Digital Volunteers.

Seven Good Resources for Teaching and Learning About the Value of Money

My daughters have recently started receiving a little weekly allowance. One of them is very interested in saving as many of her dollars as possible for as long as possible. The other sees the money and immediately thinks of the things she'd like to buy. This has led to some conversations around our dinner table about the value of money. The most recent conversation prompted me to compile the following list of resources for teaching and learning about the value of money. 

 Peter Pig’s Money Counter is a fun little game designed to help kids learn to recognize U.S. coins, to recognize the values of U.S. coins, and to add the values of U.S. coins. The game is available as a free iPad app and as a free Android app. There are three levels in Peter Pig’s Money Counter and three games within each level. The first game asks students to sort coins into jars. The second game requires students to count coins and select the matching total value. The third game has students look at two piles of coins and determine which one has the greater value. The difference between the levels is the quantity and variety of coins displayed.

What Gives a Dollar Bill Its Value? is a nice TED-Ed lesson on the influence of the United States Federal Reserve banks on the value of currency. The lesson includes a short piece about the correlation between inflation and the overall health of the U.S. economy. The lesson is probably best suited to high school students who already have a basic understanding of how the value of currency is determined.

How to Spot a Counterfeit Bill is a fun TED-Ed lesson about money. In the lesson students learn about the chemistry of counterfeit detection. In other words, they learn why and how those highlighter pens work on when a store clerk runs one over a twenty dollar bill.

Why Can't Governments Print an Unlimited Amount of Money? is another TED-Ed lesson about the value of money. The purpose of the video is to explain how governments, particularly the United States federal government, were able to spend trillions of dollars on COVID-19 economic relief programs in the last year. The video explains the role of central banks in controlling the money supply and the concepts of inflation and quantitative easing. There is also an explanation of government bonds, why they're sold, and who buys them. Overall, it's a solid video for middle school or high school students. 

Compound interest can be a wonderful thing if you're saving money. How compound interest works is a concept that every middle school or high school student should learn as it helps them see the value of saving money in a bank account.  This Common Craft video does a nice job of explaining the concept in a way that middle school and high school students can understand. This Investopedia video offers a slightly different, but equally helpful explanation of compound interest vs. simple interest.

The Inflation Calculator created by lets you enter a dollar amount then select two years to see the change in the value of the original dollar amount over time. Watch this short video to see how it works.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Display Note Broadcast Adds Helpful Features to Improve Screen Sharing

Display Note Broadcast is a tool that I started using last spring as a means for broadcasting my screen to the screens of other people in the room. It provides a simple system in which you click a sharing button, display a join code for your audience, and then they enter it on their computers to see your screen. Display Note Broadcast also has a Google Classroom integration that makes screen sharing as simple asking your students to click a link in Google Classroom to see your screen. Here's my video overview of how it works

This week Display Note Broadcast announced the launch of some new features that will improve your experience and your students' experiences when you share your screen with them. Those new features include microphone and camera sharing, reduction of the "infinite mirroring" effect, and improved annotation tools. 

Display Note Broadcast now lets you share your camera and microphone. This means that students who can't see you well or aren't even in the room with you can now see you on their screens when you have your camera turned on (think of it like Zoom on-demand). This also means that students who have difficulty hearing you, can listen to you on their computers at a volume that works for them. Watch this video for a brief overview of these new settings in action. 

Live Draw is Display Note Broadcast's annotation feature. With this feature enabled you can draw on your screen and students see your drawings and annotations on their screens. This could be great for giving quick visual instructions to your students. Here's a brief video overview of the Live Draw feature

Finally, if you have ever started a screen sharing session and seen your screen mirrored 1,000 times, you've experienced "infinite mirroring." This happens with lots of screen sharing tools and not just with Display Note Broadcast. Display Note Broadcast has taken a step to cure this problem by adding an overlay effect to remove the appearance of infinite mirroring when you look at your shared screen on your own computer. 

Synth is Shutting Down to Focus on Focusable - Other Audio Recording Tools to Try

Synth is a podcasting tool that I've used and shared with countless teachers since 2018. Unfortunately, as the title of this post states, the owners of Synth are shutting it down to focus on their new service called Focusable (a cool service that I'll be writing more about in the next issue of the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter). According to the email sent to users last night, Synth will be shutting down on October 13th. 

If you find yourself now looking for some alternatives to Synth, here are my suggestions for tools to try. 

Simple Audio Recording Tools

I've been using Vocaroo for more than a decade. It's incredibly simple to use. Just head to the site, click the record button, and start talking. When you're finished recording hit the stop button. You can listen to your recording before downloading it as an MP3. If you don't like your recording you can create a new one by just refreshing the homepage and starting again.

Online Voice Recorder offers the same simplicity of Vocaroo plus a couple of features that I've always wished Vocaroo had. One of those features is the ability to pause a recording in progress and resume it when I want to. The other feature is the option to trim the dead air at the beginning and end of a recording.

Twisted Wave
Twisted Wave offers many more features than either of the tools mentioned above. But at it's most basic level you can still just head to the site, launch the recorder, start talking, and then export your recording as an MP3 all without creating an account on the site. For those who are looking for a way to save audio directly into Google Drive, Twisted Wave offers that capability. 

Watch this video for a short overview of all three of the services mentioned above. 


Anchor is a simple and free platform for recording, editing, and distributing podcasts. Recording on Anchor can be as simple as just holding down the record button on your phone or on your laptop and then releasing it when you're done talking. Anchor lets you upload external audio files to include in your podcast. Finally, if you want to distribute your podcast to Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Podcasts, Spotify (Anchor’s parent company) or any other large podcast networks, Anchor simplifies that process for you. Watch the video here to learn how to publish a podcast through Anchor.

Asynchronous Audio Conversations
Microsoft Flip made its name as a service for teachers and students to use to record and share short videos with each other. But there were some teachers and students who preferred not to appear on camera. To remedy that, for a few years I would recommend that people just cover the webcam when recording. But now Flip has an audio-only recording option. You'll find that option in the "options" menu that appears when you launch the recorder that is built into Flip. See the screenshot below to locate the audio-only option in Microsoft Flip.

Disclosure: The owner of Synth and Focusable is an advertiser on this site. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Three Audio Slideshow Video Projects for Students of All Ages

Tools like Adobe Express, Canva, and good ol' Animoto make it easy for students to quickly create videos. I often use these tools when introducing video production projects to teachers who have never attempted to have their students make videos. Here are three types of assignments that you can build around audio slideshow video tools.

Biographical/ Autobiographical Stories
Have students arrange a short audio slideshow about historical figures they're learning about in your classroom. Canva and Adobe Express offer built-in image search tools that makes it easy for students to find public domain or Creative Common-licensed pictures.

Have students tell short stories about themselves to introduce themselves to their classmates. Students can pull pictures from their personal cell phones or social media accounts to complete this project. (If social media is blocked in your school, ask students to download pictures at home and place them in a Google Drive or OneDrive folder to use in school).

Book Trailer Videos
In place of or in addition to a traditional book report have students create an audio slideshow video about books they've recently read. Students can use images they made or grab images from sites like Photos for Class and Pixabay to use in their videos. 

Video Timeline
Whether they're studying current events or historical events students can create video timelines by arranging images into a sequence that demonstrates the development of a significant event. Ask students to layer text onto their images to include dates and descriptions.

But it's too easy!

The knock against tools like these is that they make it "too easy" for students to make a video and that they don't learn anything by making videos through these tools. As with most things in the world of edtech it's not so much the complexity of the tool that matters, it's the assignment that you give to students that matters.