If you have already made the switch to Google Apps, you have probably been experimenting with the Big 3: Docs, Spreadsheets, and Presentations. These are all great tools that support creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, but have you ever taken a look at Google Drawing? It’s one of the best tools you probably never knew you had. Hidden away from view, it is easily accessed with one click of the Create button in your Google Drive.
Working with Google Drawing is easy. You can add shapes (hold down the shift key for perfect circles or squares), arrows, lines, text boxes, and tables. Images can be uploaded from your computer, added via snapshot, or linked from the web. If you need to search for an image, Google Drawing has you covered. Just click Insert > Image, choose Search and you can select from copyright-friendly image results from Google Search, the LIFE Photo Archive, or stock images (these have some restrictions when used outside of Google Drive, so proceed with caution).
Once you have created your drawing, there are many ways you can use it in your classroom. For example, you can make seating charts or create content to use with students, such as KWL charts, math drawings, or virtual manipulatives. Even better, have your students use it to make any number of products, such as word webs, timelines, comic strips, or graphic organizers. In fact, there are so many ways to use Google Drawing, we have added a new page to the LVUSD Teaching with Google Apps website. Want to learn more? Visit the Google Drawing page.
We all know that video captions can increase accessibility for English learners and students with hearing difficulties or learning disabilities, but were you aware that captions increase comprehension for all students? If you are making and sharing your own YouTube videos, you should consider taking just a few extra minutes to add captions. It’s easy and it will enhance learning for your students. Here’s how:
- Log in to YouTube.
- Click on the icon in the upper right to see the YouTube and Google Account menu links. Click on Video Manager.
- Click the dropdown menu next to the Edit button for the video you would like to caption. Select Captions.
- At this point, you may see that your video already has automatic captions generated by YouTube’s speech recognition technology. You can either edit these or upload a completely new caption file. Follow the appropriate steps below.
To edit existing captions (either automatic or captions you have uploaded previously):
- Click on the caption track. The caption track panel will open.
- Click inside the caption track panel and edit the text.
- Scroll to the bottom and Save or Save a copy (for automatic captions).
If you want to add new captions, you have two options. You can either type them up first and use them as a script while recording your video (usually my preferred method since I like to have a script anyway) or you can record your video, then listen to it and type up what you said.
To add new captions from a file:
- Make sure you have saved your file as a .txt file. On a Mac, you may wish to create the file in TextEdit. On a PC, you would use Notepad.
- Click the large blue Add captions button. Select Upload a file.
Set your track language. If you choose to add a track name, it will be displayed when viewers click the cc button below your video; otherwise the track language name (English) will be shown.
- Click Upload, browse to the file with your captions, and click Open. The text will be automatically synced with your video.
To add new captions by typing up what you said after you have recorded the video:
- Click the large blue Add captions button. Select Transcribe and sync.
- Set your track language. If you choose to add a track name, it will be displayed when viewers click the cc button below your video; otherwise the track language name (English) will be shown.
- When you have finished, click Sync.
I strongly encourage you to try adding captions to your videos. It won’t take you long and your students will thank you for it (and even they don’t say anything, they will still be thankful).
If you’d like to read more about the benefits of video captions for students, you may want to take a look at these articles:
- Video captions increase comprehension, Science Daily
- Captioned media: Literacy support for diverse learners, Reading Rockets
Tech note: Screenshots for this post were created using Skitch. I chose this application because it creates text with a background shadow that makes it easier to read when the image is small, as it is here.
Looking for to jazz up that same old project? Feel like you have been doing the same thing year in and out! Here are two ways to integrate multiple content areas while building creativity and incorporating technology. For the sake of this post we are going to use the 4th grade Mission project as our lesson that needs a new twist. Instead of having students create a model of their Mission using tools like cardboard, pretzels and twigs let them create a 3D model using an app. Sketchup is a free 3D modeling app by Google. It is intuitive, easy to learn and fun! Google offers great training videos that students can access on their own while creating their design. Another great modelling app is MineCraftEdu. You have probably heard of it, as MineCraft it is very popular with students. What you might not have known is that there is a version of the app for educational usage. The education version has a custom mode, which is a customized modification of the game, that allows teachers to make the game more effective and focused. There are also many how to videos available on YouTube for this game but chances are your students already know how to use this one. There are also great resources for teachers starting with MineCraft Teacher blog that offers a list of other resources or the MineCraftEdu site. Check out these final products!
Of course these apps can be adapted for many other uses, I am sure you can think of one right now! The added benefit is that when using either of these tools kids are using math skills like proportion and scale. They also will need to understand and properly use the X, Y and Z axis. They will be introduced to building and architecture materials and terms, all while playing a game for homework.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could let your students browse websites on iPads and iPhones without having to worry they will be distracted by or accidentally click on advertisements? Weblock – AdBlock for iOS is an app that you can install to block ads on iPads, iPhones, or iPods, and it will work no matter what browser or application your students have open. You can use the predefined lists they set up or you can create your own rules to allow or block any website, page, or domain. There is a little bit of set up required, but the app provides good instructions. If you are interested in downloading this app, you will want to act soon. It normally costs $1.99, but it is free for a limited time. Get it while you can!
If you have ever used Wordle, you know what a word cloud is. Also called a tag cloud, word clouds are visual representations of word frequency. Word cloud generators work by analyzing text and counting the number of times each word has been used. They then create an image in which the more frequently used words are larger. This allows students to see at a glance which words are the most repeated in the document. Word clouds are wonderful tools for helping students identify main ideas and key topics in a passage. They allow for student creativity in a way that just listing ideas in a graphic organizer does not. Here are a few of my favorite word cloud generators for you to explore. I also recommend that you take a look at slideshare user Gemma Holtam’s presentation, 50 Interesting Ways to Use Wordle in the Classroom. Her suggestions are applicable to any of the word cloud generators below.
Tagul (http://www.tagul.com) allows for many types of customizations (layout shape, fonts, colors, etc.). What makes it really stand out is that if you embed your created image, when you roll over a tag, it animates and can be clicked to a Google search for that term (the default behavior) or to any other website you have assigned. The service is free, but requires registration with a valid email address to use, which may limit some classroom applications. Text may be added by typing in the box or copying and pasting, but can also be uploaded from a spreadsheet or pulled from any website you desire. The commonly used word filter can be customized to remove the basic set of words or just those you want it to remove. Below is an example of the text from the Declaration of Independence; be sure to hover over the tags to see how they move.
ABCYa Word Clouds for Kids (http://www.abcya.com/word_clouds.htm) works just like Wordle, but doesn’t run on Java, so it runs on all popular browsers. It is easy for young students to use, since it offers enough color and font options to make them happy, but not so many that they are overwhelmed. Text can be added only by typing directly in the box or by copying and pasting; there is a filter (on by default, but you can turn it off) to remove the most common English words. The generated word clouds can be saved to your computer or printed easily. The image below was created using text from an information page for elementary students.
Tagxedo (www.tagxedo.com) works similarly to Tagul, but doesn’t require a login. There are many choices of shapes, and you can upload your own as well, although it is not as easy to do as it is in Tagul. Text can be added by typing in the box or by copying and pasting. You are also supposed to be able to add text from a URL as well, but I have not been able to do so. Saving and printing your image is easy. This site could be a good solution for many who liked Wordle but are now finding that it no longer works for them and don’t want to use a site where logins are needed.
Word Sift (http://www.wordsift.com) is a website maintained by Stanford University ELL Resources, but it is wonderful for all students. It works a little differently than the other word cloud generators, as it identifies the 50 most common words in the text you enter and only incorporates those into the cloud. They appear in alphabetical order, but can be easily sorted in various other ways with the click of a button. The most frequent word is entered into the Visual Thesaurus below the cloud and the resulting word web is shown. The results page also includes sample sentences and images from Google searches of the most frequent words. If you are interested in learning more about this excellent product, I recommend that you visit the site and watch this video explaining how it works (4:42 minutes).
To help kick-off the elementary CyberSmart Week here is a great video you can share with your class!
I just ran across a resource I couldn’t wait to share with you. It’s called CC.BetterLesson and it is a searchable database of over 3,000 Common Core-aligned, classroom-ready lesson plans, complete with resources. Lessons are available for all grade levels from kindergarten to high school.
The lessons have been created by master teachers from all over the country. The site is very well-organized, and you can search by grade level, subject, or even a specific Common Core standard. The lessons and units are easy to follow and often contain reflections by the teacher who created them. These teachers are part of the NEA Master Teacher project and they are sharing their lessons to the CC.BetterLesson site as they teach them. By the 2014-15 school year, CC.BetterLesson estimates they will have 16,000 CC-aligned lessons. Personally, I can’t wait.
The site also contains a section for community discussion. There are not many posts yet, but I know that won’t be the case for long.
CC.BetterLesson is free to use. After I had looked at several lessons, the site did ask me to register, but the registration is free. When I logged in, I found options to save and schedule lessons, as well as to post on the community discussion board.
Next time you have a few minutes, head over to CC.BetterLesson. You’ll be glad you did!
Last month, I was lucky enough to attend a seminar put on by the Bureau of Education and Research on using iPads in the classroom. The speaker, Zachary Walker, shared many valuable ideas and resources to help the attendees make the most of their classroom iPads. He also shared some easy to implement classroom management techniques to make sure that the mobile devices in your room have a positive impact on learning.
One of the reasons we like to use iPads and tablets with our students is because these devices are so engaging, but the engagement factor is a double-edged sword. When we want the kids to stay on task, it’s usually our friend, but when we are ready to have students pay attention to something else, the siren call of a colorful iPad screen can be a problem. Here are some suggestions from Zachary Walker that you can use to manage your classroom and help your students stay on task while they are using mobile devices:
- Dock Your Device: Have students to put their device face down on the far right corner of the desk. This ensures that they are not distracted by whatever is on the screen or playing with them under the desk while you would like them focused elsewhere.
- Screens Up (or Apples Up): When you say “Screens up,” students should immediately hold up their iPads/tablets with the screen facing you. This allows you to do a quick scan of all the devices to make sure students are on an appropriate app or website.
- Hands Up: Students should leave their devices face up on the desk and put both hands in the air when you say, “Hands up.” You can continue talking while you walk around the room and scan the devices to make sure everybody is on task.
- Time the activity: Let the students know before they begin how much time they will have to work on the devices. Use a timer so they can keep track of how long they have. Any timer you can project for them will do. Try typing “2 minute timer” into Google or, for a more entertaining interface, install the free application Howler Timer on your computer.
- Noise meter: Finally, if you have your own iPad, install the Too Noisy app. Put the iPad where students can see it or project using your Elmo or Apple TV. Let the students know that if the noise level gets too high, the mobile devices will have to be put away, and let peer pressure help keep the volume at the level you have set as acceptable.
Zachary Walker’s website, lastbackpack.com, is an excellent resource for mobile learning ideas and lesson plans. I highly recommend checking it out. If you are on Twitter, you can follow him @lastbackpack.
LVUSD’s CyberSmart week will be held February 3-7, 2014. While the activities are aimed at elementary students and their families, we encourage all teachers to spend some time this week talking about cybersafety and digital citizenship. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires schools to “provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response.”
Elementary teachers should plan on spending about 10 or 15 minutes each day discussing these topics with their students. To make the task easier, the media specialists have created a new website containing grade-specific activities and lesson plans for each day. In addition, the website contains pages with teacher and parent resources. Secondary teachers will find that the teacher resources and site source pages contain a wealth of information that they can draw upon. Even after CyberSmart week is over, we will continue to update the site as we find quality resources to share.
As we have for the past few years, we will be using Woogi World, a virtual educational community created to teach elementary students about cybersafety. Teacher login information will be posted on the CyberSmart Week website as soon as it available.
Visit the LVUSD CyberSmart Week website.
Click here to access the LVUSD’s Teacher Guide to Cyber Safety in the Classroom.
Timelines are a great way for students to conceptualize and understand events. They allow students to visually depict a sequence of events over a period of time. They can also be used for project management where users can collaborate and set due dates and goals. Using a digital timeline creator has many advantages. First there is always the need for more space. I am sure all of you have had that timeline handed in on a piece of paper where the student has run out of space so the events get smaller and smaller and unreadable. Using a digital timeline will alleviate that problem. There is infinite space for students to work with. Digital timelines also allow students the ability to collaborate and share their work via the internet. Students can work from their own home on the same project. They can also add videos, photo’s and links to the timeline. Digital timelines are easy to use and easy to update if needed. Teacher’s can also comment and grade the timeline online and link them to their website easily. There are many timeline creators to choose from so I have chosen my top three,=. Each one has a different look and feel so they lend themselves to different projects.
Dipity (http://dipity.com) offers interactive collaborative timelines that allow users to easily create events. Events may consist of images, embedded video, links, text and mapping features.
Timetoast (http://www.timetoast.com) is a place to create timelines that you can add to your blog or website. You can create historical timelines of important events, or build a timeline of your vacation.
TikiToki (http://www.tiki-toki.com) is a great application for multimedia timeline making . It allows its users to create stunning animated timelines. TikiToKi is very easy to use and above all its basic version is completely free .