Saturday, November 19, 2022

Five Digital Mapping Tools That Aren't Made by Google

Google Earth and Google's My Maps are great tools for students to use to create multimedia maps. But Google isn't the only game in town when it comes to digital map creation tools. In fact, there are some good ones that are freely available to you and your students outside of what Google offers. Here's a summary of five good ones that are worth trying. 

Scribble Maps is a tool that I've used and recommended for years. As the name implies, you can use it to draw on maps. You can also use it to create multimedia map markers. The best part is that you can use it without creating an account or enter any personal information. In this short video I provide an overview of how to create a multimedia map on Scribble Maps.

ArcGIS Story Maps is a free tool that you can use to create a variety of map-based stories. The basic ArcGIS Story Map lets you combine pictures and locations to playback as a series of slides. The learning curve is a bit steeper than the other tools in this list, but the finished product is quite slick. Here's a good example of an ArcGIS Story Map.

Padlet is one of the most versatile tools you can put in your digital toolbox. Creating multimedia maps is just one of the many things that you can do with Padlet. In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate creating a multimedia map by using Padlet's built-in maps. The video also covers how to share your Padlet maps, how to add collaborators to the map, and settings you need to know before inviting students to be collaborators on your Padlet maps. 



Felt is a new mapping tool that I recently started using. So far I think it's great! Felt offers a lot of easy-to-use tools for creating custom maps. Some of those tools include drawing and highlighting on maps, annotating maps with notes, adding custom placemarks, and overlaying datasets on your maps. Watch this video for an introduction to using the basic tools offered by Felt. 


StoryMap JS is a tool that I've been using and recommending for many years. StoryMap JS enables students to tell stories through a series of slides that appear on a map. Each slide is matched to locations that you choose on your map. Each slide in your story can include images, text, and hyperlinks. In this short video I demonstrate how to create a story map with StoryMap JS.


Friday, November 18, 2022

How to Create a Story Map

StoryMap JS is a tool that I've been using and recommending for many years. It's a free tool that students can use to create a story map in a manner similar to Google's My Maps or the old Google Tour Builder. The difference between those tools and StoryMap JS is that StoryMap JS is much easier for new users to master. 

StoryMap JS enables students to tell stories through a series of slides that appear on a map. Each slide is matched to locations that you choose on your map. Each slide in your story can include images, text, and hyperlinks.

In this short video I demonstrate how to create a story map with StoryMap JS.



Applications for Education
StoryMap JS is a great tool for students to use to map a series of events or a series of thematically connected places. In the video above I gave the example of mapping a series of roadside attractions. Some other ideas for story maps that you could have your students create include biographies, natural landmarks, notable buildings, and cultural centers.

Loom Adds New Features That Will Be Helpful to Teachers and Students

Loom is one of the tools that I regularly recommend when I'm asked to recommend a video tool for creating instructional videos. This week Loom announced two new features that could prove to be quite helpful to teachers and students. 

The first new feature to note is a floating speaker notes tool in the Loom desktop app for Windows and Mac. The speaker notes are basically sticky notes that you can use to write a script or just some talking points to use to keep you on track while recording a screencast video with Loom. You can move the notes around while recording. The best part is that while you can see your speaker notes while recording the notes aren't visible in the final recording that you save. 

The second new feature of note in Loom is the option to create and set defaults for all of the videos that you record. You can set defaults both for what appears in your videos and what viewers can do with your videos (reactions, downloads, responses). 

Applications for Education
Whenever I lead a workshop or webinar about classroom video projects I always recommend that students create a script or at least a list of talking points before recording. Doing that helps students focus on the main point(s) of their videos and it gives them something to refer to while recording. The new floating sticky notes in Loom could be very helpful to students while they are recording so that they stay on track while recording.

Setting video defaults could be a time-saver for teachers who are creating a lot of instructional videos.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Science Behind My Favorite Thanksgiving Foods

American Thanksgiving is one week away. The traditional Thanksgiving meal is one of my favorite combinations of foods. My mouth is watering just thinking about turkey, potatoes, squash, stuffing and cranberry sauce from a can (I love the "shlop" sound the cranberry sauce makes as it pops out of the can). 

This year I'm in charge of cooking the turkey on my smoker. There's a science to doing that that I've been reading about and watching a lot of videos about over the last couple of weeks. The one I like the best is How to Smoke a Turkey for Thanksgiving by Mad Scientist BBQ.



And there's science to what makes all of the food associated with Thanksgiving delicious. The Reactions YouTube channel, produced by The American Chemical Society, has a few good video lessons that address the science of a traditional American Thanksgiving meal. 

Better Thanksgiving Potatoes Through Chemistry explains the chemical properties of raw potatoes and which ones to pick for roasting based on their chemistry. The video then goes on to explain the science of roasting potatoes before finally revealing the best method, based on science, for roasting potatoes.



The Truth About Tryptophan explains why it might not be just the turkey that is making you sleepy after a big Thanksgiving dinner.



Finally, How to Fry a Thanksgiving Turkey Without Burning Your House Down provides an overview of the science involved in deep frying a turkey and how you can use that knowledge to avoid a disaster on Thanksgiving.



Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Where I'd Like to Go - A Geography Lesson With Google Drawings

I originally wrote this blog post and recorded the video in 2021 while thinking about icebreaker activities for the start of the school year. The activity is also great for Geography Awareness Week. 

As the new school year starts many you may find yourself looking for some new ideas to break the ice and get to know your new students while they also get to know each other. One thing that I've always asked my students is "where in the world would you go if you could go anywhere today?" Recently, I've started thinking about turning that question into the prompt for an activity in which students learn a bit about Google Drawings

The idea is to have students virtually place themselves anywhere in the world through the use of Google Drawings. To do this students first need to find a picture of themselves and remove the background from it. Photoscissors makes it quick and easy to remove the background then download a new background-free image. Once they have a picture of themselves then students open Google Drawings where they insert a picture of place that they want to visit or revisit. Finally, they then insert their profile picture over the background image in Google Drawings. Those steps might sound complicated, but they're not. In this short video I show the whole process. 



As I mention in the video above, you can modify this activity to be completed with Google Slides or Google Jamboard. And, as is also demonstrated in the video above, you can use Google Classroom to distribute a template for the assignment.