Sunday, February 28, 2016

Teach your Science Students about Sound with TwistedWave

Teaching the concept of sound, pitch, frequency, and amplitude can be a little abstract since sound waves can’t normally be seen. However with the help of technology, students can get a much more concrete understanding of these topics.

In Ohio, sound is part of the science curriculum in Kindergarten, Grade 5 and Grade 7. In each case the students are supposed to explore how changes to sound waves can affect the pitch and loudness of the sound. The Ohio model curriculum encourages teachers to use virtual tools to visualize or simulate these concepts.

A great tool to do this is the free Chrome Web App called TwistedWave. This is a free online tool that lets you record sound, play it back, see a live visualization of the sound waves, edit the sound (pitch, amplitude, etc), and see the effect those changes have.

See below for a video tutorial showing how to use this web app, then read through the rest of the blog post for more details on the tool as well as the Ohio science standards addressed.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

4 Fake Sites to Teach Students Website Evaluation

As adults we (hopefully) know that not everything online is true. For our students though, this is a concept they need to learn.

Students can use Google to quickly find millions of websites matching their search request, but are they able to determine which sites actually contain information that is accurate, unbiased, up to date, and written by someone with authority?

One step in helping our students identify quality information online is to introduce them to the exact opposite… websites that pretend to be truthful but actually are full of intentionally incorrect information.

Such “fake” websites can be a great way to show students that just because something is online, does not mean it is true. You can ask students to do research on one of these sites as part of an assignment and then see how many were able to realize the site was not authentic. This can be a fun and engaging way to begin a lesson on website evaluation.

Now you might think this would be easy to do since there are so many sites online that are biased or misleading. However, if we are going to use these sites with students we need to look for certain characteristics:
  • Believable - The fake website needs to look not fake. That is, it should look reasonably modern and not like a practical joke from the late 90’s.
  • Child Safe - The site needs to avoid inappropriate content. There are loads of hoax / humor / satirical websites, but many of them have adult content not suitable for students (for example, I think The Onion can be hilarious, but it is absolutely not appropriate for education).
  • Operational - Sadly many of the great fake websites of the past are no longer maintained, or have shut down entirely.
So what are some great websites that meet these criteria, and that you can use with your students to help them learn how to evaluate online information? Below are four of my favorite “fake” sites…

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Google Apps 101 for Preservice Teachers (and 5 practical steps for them to take)

Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a group of students at Youngstown State University here in Ohio. These were students preparing to become teachers, and they asked me to share about Google Apps for Education.

It is very important for teacher candidates to become aware of and proficient with Google Apps and how it can be used to transform teaching and learning. When looking for a teaching job, it is highly likely that the schools they encounter will use Google Apps to some level.

  • Of the 30 school districts I directly support in my job, all 30 of them are Google Apps districts
  • Google Apps for Education is widely used throughout the state of Ohio, across the country, and around the world
  • Chromebooks account for more than half of all classroom devices, surpassing Apple and Microsoft options

Below is a slideshow presentation I went through with the students to give them a big picture overview of what Google Apps is, the benefits for schools, and details of the most common Google Apps tools and how they are often used in schools.

Below that you will also find my suggestions for what preservice teachers can do between now and getting a teaching job to improve their knowledge and skills with Google App tools.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pocket Can Read this Post on the Go (in lots of accents)

One thing we never have enough of is time. Eventually we will have Google self-driving cars, and then we will be able to reclaim all the time we lose commuting. But until then, Pocket provides an awesome way to safely multitask when driving, or jogging, or mowing the lawn.

Pocket is an online tool that has been around for several years, and comes in many formats including a Chrome web extension, Chrome web app, Android app, and iOS app. At its core, what Pocket does is let you save interesting articles and blog posts for later, so you can read them when you have time, all from one central interface.

Well recently I discovered a new feature that really transforms the power of Pocket… text to speech.

If you save a web article or blog post to Pocket with the Chrome web extension while on your computer, you can then open it up with the Pocket app on your mobile device and have it read aloud to you. This is a fantastic way to collect interesting articles throughout the day, then listen to them on your way home or at the gym or such.

Below are the specific directions, as well as how to get lots of additional voices to use for when Pocket reads.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The 4 C’s of Education

Our students’ future will most likely look quite different from our past. If we want them to be successful after graduation it is critical that we help them develop the skills they will need in five, ten, or fifteen years from now.

In the past the “3 R’s” were good enough (even though only one of those skills actually started with an ‘R’ - Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic).

For our students future they need the “4 C’s” to be successful.

Recently I had the privilege to speak on this topic at the 2016 Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC16) in a “FREd Talk” (which means "Finding Real Education"). These are very short (5 minute) speeches with 20 slides that change every 15 seconds. They are sort of OETC’s version of TED Talks. Just a lot faster.

See below for the recorded video of my “4 C’s of Education” talk, the unabridged slideshow that goes along with the full presentation, as well as the rest of the blog post where I explain some of the key concepts.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Creating Video PD with Free Google Tools

Whether you are a technology trainer, teacher, administrator, or anyone involved in education, one question we are always asking is how can we improve the quality and impact of our professional development. We face many challenges including:

  • Schedules - finding time when people can meet
  • Travel - getting everyone together in one place
  • Levels - moving at a pace that is not too fast for some or too slow for others
  • Resources - there is only one of you and hundreds (thousands?) of them

As a technology integration specialist, and a Google Certified Trainer and Innovator, I have struggled with the same concerns. Back in December of 2014 I tried something new to help address this need. I used free Google tools to create, deliver, assess, and track video professional development.

Below you will find loads of information about how I did this, as well as free resources you can use to do this yourself. You can watch the one-hour training video below, view the slideshow, read the rest of the post, and check out all the linked templates and resources.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Could Editions at Play change textbooks?

The concept of a school textbook has been challenged and has been changing for many years now as technology offers new, creative options.

Recently Google launched an experiment called “Editions at Play” which allows authors to create “Books which cannot be printed” as Google puts it. That is, these are digital books that contain non-print features such as interactivity, multimedia, street view maps, and more.

I can’t help but wonder if this new platform could be a valuable alternative for school textbooks, providing interactive, dynamic, media-rich content for student learning. Let’s take a deeper look…

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Learn about Presidents with Google Instant Search

This Presidents Day it is easier than ever to learn a little more about our Commanders in Chief. Google Search is always an excellent way to find information on any subject, producing a list of valuable related web links. However for certain topics, you don’t even have to click a link to get more information because Google Search provides that instantly with rich search results.

Simply run a Google search for “presidents” and you will get a thumbnail list of all the Presidents of the United States. You can click the left and right arrows to move back or forth through time.

If you want to learn more about any particular POTUS, just click on the thumbnail image. This will pop up an information card on that president with more information. Depending on the president you may find details including:

  • Images (with a link to more)
  • Brief bio (with a link to Wikipedia)
  • When and where they were born and died
  • When they served as president
  • Their vice president
  • Their spouse and children
  • Their political party
  • Their famous quotes
  • Other related people

More and more, Google is adding rich search results to give information with one less click. Examples of instant search results include word definitions, translations, unit conversions, calculations, nutrition information, movie times, and more.

For more details on such search options see Google help page at:

Monday, February 8, 2016

GEG Ohio Meetup at OETC16

If you will be attending the 2016 Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC16) in Columbus, Ohio please join us for a Google User Group Meet-up on Thursday, February 11th at 8:00AM.

We will meet in room E160-162. Everyone is welcome to attend.

This will be a great opportunity to meet other Google-using educators, share ideas, learn new things, and get a chance to win some Googley prizes!

See you there!

My OETC 2016 Sessions

I am excited and honored to once again present at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC 2016) in Columbus this February 9th through 11th. I always look forward to this opportunity to see old friends, make new friends, share some ideas, and learn so many new things from others.

Below is a list of sessions I will be presenting at OETC 2016, along with any associated resources. Please feel free to join me for any of these sessions. I look forward to sharing, learning, and chatting with you!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Best Highlighting Tools for Students

Digital highlighting tools go beyond simply bringing attention to important text. With highlighting extensions students can use multiple colors, assign meaning to each color, and collect the highlighted content in a new document or web page.

With good highlighting tools, student can use different colors to identify:
  • Parts of speech - nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.
  • Topic sentences and supporting details
  • Claims, evidence, and bias
  • Vocabulary words and definitions
  • Key ideas
Then they can pull all the highlighted content into a new Google Document or web page, and arrange the content by category (color) or by position in the text.

See below for information about what I consider to be the best highlighting tools for students. See the video where I demonstrate each one and read the rest of the blog post for descriptions and links for each one.