Saturday, February 25, 2023

"Why Does He Do So Much Sniffing?" - Another Question from My Daughters

If you read this blog regularly, you've probably picked up that I love dogs. So of course I was excited years ago when  TED-Ed published a lesson about how dogs "see" with their noses. And I enjoyed it again this week after my youngest daughter asked me why our dog does so much sniffing.

How Do Dogs "See" With Their Noses? provides a great explanation of how dogs noses work. The most interesting part of the video is the explanation of how dogs' senses of smell allow them to identify friends, foes, and potential threats. The video is embedded below. You can find the full lesson here.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Why That Image Link Won't Work in a Flippity Template

Earlier this week I wrote about and published a video about making memory games with Flippity. Almost every time I write about Flippity I get an email from someone who has run into a problem with images not rendering. This week was not an exception to that pattern. 

There are generally two reasons why an image link doesn't render an image in a Flippity template. The first reason is that the link itself is incorrect. The link (URL) has to end in .png or .jpg or .jpeg in order to work correctly. You can usually find the correct URL by simply right-clicking on the image and selecting "copy image address." 

The other reason why an image link might not work in a Flippity template is that the image host doesn't allow hotlinking. For example, Pixabay doesn't allow hotlinking to its images.

What is hotlinking?
In a nutshell, hotlinking is inserting a picture into a blog post through a URL rather than uploading the image file itself to your blog. You can read more about hotlinking on the Simple English Wikipedia or on Host Gator's page about preventing hotlinking to your own work.

Why you and your students should avoid hotlinking.
Hotlinking itself isn't bad if you're only linking to images that you own and control online. For example, let's say that you have a Flickr account to which you upload dozens of pictures that you took. You could use the embed code or the link that Flickr provides to post your images in your blog post.

When hotlinking causes trouble is when you link to another person's image hosted in their account or on their servers. Even if the image is in the public domain you probably don't want to hotlink to it. In fact some services, like Pixabay which hosts public domain images, block attempts at hotlinking. They block hotlinking because when you hotlink you're using more of their bandwidth than if you simply downloaded the image to your computer then uploaded it to your blog.

The biggest concern about hotlinking is not knowing exactly who or what you're linking to. As Sue implied in her Tweet this morning, it is possible that the image you linked to and the image displayed could be changed without warning. It's also possible that the link a student inserts to hotlink links back to site or host laden with malware that could then rain down havoc on your blog.

A Good Series on How Computers Work

We use computers every day. But how many of us actually know how they work? Sure we know how to use the software, but I'm thinking about the hardware. How does that aspect of your computer work? has a good video series that addresses that question and more.

Through watching the videos in How Computers Work you can learn about memory, logic, circuits, binary, and the interaction between hardware and software. Get started by watching Bill Gates introduce the series.

Applications for Education
If you're planning to do any classroom projects with Raspberry Pi or Arduino, this series of videos could provide a nice primer for students. Similarly, the videos might help students complete the picture of how computers work after completing a hands-on Raspberry Pi or Arduino activity.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

My Updated Guide to Media for Classroom Projects

Over the last year some of my old favorite sources of media for classroom projects changed or completely disappeared. They’ve been replaced by some new and updated sources for free sound effects, music, videos, pictures, and drawings to use in classroom projects. That's why I created an updated guide to finding media for classroom projects. 

People who are subscribed to my Practical Ed Tech Tip-of-the-Week Newsletter had a copy of the guide emailed to them on Sunday evening. If you'd like a copy emailed to you, sign-up for my newsletter and I'll be happy to send it to you. A few highlights from the guide are included below.

The Library of Congress can be a good place to find images to use in classroom projects, if you know where to look on the site. I recommend looking in the Free to Use and Reuse collections. Those are collections of images that are thematically arranged. Here’s a brief overview of how to find images on the LOC’s website.

Pixabay is one of my go-to sites for public domain images. Pixabay also offers public domain video clips that you can download for free. To find video clips on Pixabay simply choose "video" from the drop-down menu that appears in the right edge of Pixabay's search box.

Dig CC Mixter offers thousands of songs that are Creative Commons licensed. The site is divided into three main categories. Those categories are Instrumental Music for Film & Video, Free Music for Commercial Projects, and Music for Video Games. Within each category you can search according to genre, instrument, and style. When you click the download icon on a file you will be prompted to copy the attribution information that is required to include in your project. Here's a little video overview of Dig CC Mixter

The Google Docs Features Starter Pack

I recently published a playlist of 76 Google Docs tutorials. But you certainly don't need to use all of the features of Google Docs demonstrated in that playlist let alone watch all of the videos. In fact, I'm often asked for a list of the "must-know" features instead of all of the "could use" features. Here are ten features that new users can benefit from learning early on.

1. Font options
Besides the default options in the font drop-down menu there are hundreds of other options available when you choose "more fonts" at the top of that menu. And while we're on the topic of fonts, it is possible to change the default font.

2. Page orientation
In the "File" drop-down menu you'll find a "page setup" option that allows you to change page orientation, set margins, and even change the page background color.

3. Find and Replace (Ctrl + H)
The next time you find yourself sitting down to start writing summative reports before parent-teacher conferences, create a template that you can quickly modify for each student. Then you can use the find and replace function to quickly change names, adjectives, and even entire sentences without having to create each report from scratch.

4. Personal dictionary 
In the "tools" menu select "personal dictionary" to teach the spell check to ignore the spelling of names or other words that are often marked incorrect by spell check despite being spelled correctly. For example, the last name of a friend of mine is Wankowicz, that name is never recognized by spell check unless the spell check is customized through the "personal dictionary" function.

5. Custom spacing
The default line spacing in Google Docs is 1.15. You can change that to anything you like, if you know where the line spacing settings are found. You can find the settings in the "format" menu. You can also find it in the toolbar. See the screenshot below for direction on finding the line spacing settings in the toolbar.
Click image to enlarge.

6. Version history
This feature was formerly called "revision history." Select "version history" to find the various iterations of your document. You can set different names for each version. This is a great feature for seeing the evolution of a student's document.

7. Adding collaborators
Click the "share" button in the upper, right corner of your document to invite people to become collaborators on your document. You can give people full access to edit your document or you can restrict them to only being able to make suggestions and comments on your document.

8. Lock shared documents
Google Docs includes the option to make your document available for anyone to view even if they don't have Google accounts. But just because people can view your document it doesn't mean that they have to be able to make copies of or print your document. Use the "advanced" option on the sharing menu to disable the option to print or copy your public documents.
Click image to enlarge.

9. Insert drawings
Need to insert a signature? Want to quickly add a flow chart to a document? Use Google Drawings within your document. You'll find that option in the "insert" drop-down menu.

10. Export your document.
Prefer to print a PDF? Have someone who insists that you send him or her a Word file attached to an email instead of using Google Docs? You can do both of those things by selecting "download as" in the File menu.

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