Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Engaging Quiet Students with Google Forms

When I was a student (many, many years ago) I dreaded class participation. Now don’t get me wrong… I loved school. I was a straight-A student who excelled in all my subjects, loved to learn, and took the most challenging courses.

I just didn’t like to talk.

You see, from the time I was a little child into my early teen years, I used to have a stutter. Some days were better than others, but one thing that always brought out the stutter was speaking out loud in class. When a teacher asked a question, I most always knew the answer, but was hesitant to raise my hand. And nothing was worse than the teacher having each student in class take turns reading from the chapter in the textbook. The closer it got to me, the more nervous I became, trying to determine which paragraph would fall on me and which words I would undoubtedly stumble over.

And I am sure I was not alone. For a wide variety of reasons, student may be reluctant to speak up and participate in class:

  • Perhaps they wrestle with a speech impediment.
  • Maybe they fear they do not have the right answer or a valuable contribution.
  • Or they just need more time to think before they are ready to answer.
  • Or maybe they are shy.

Thankfully today technology provides us with more tools for students to participate in class, share their ideas, and ask questions. One great option is to use Google Forms. See the rest of this blog post below for some ideas on how Forms can not only involve the quiet kids, but improve class engagement for everyone.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Exploring Tangrams with Google Drawings

At some point in your life, probably in school, you have had the chance to play with a tangram puzzle. If somehow you are not familiar with this, a tangram is a popular Chinese puzzle made up of:

  • 2 big right triangles
  • 1 medium right triangle
  • 2 small right triangles
  • 1 square
  • And 1 parallelogram

The object of tangram puzzles is to create an image by moving, rotating, and flipping the pieces as needed. Common images to make include animals, boats, people, objects, letters, and such.

In schools, tangrams can be a great way for students to learn and explore:

  • Problem solving
  • Spatial reasoning
  • Geometry transformations - moving (translation), turning (rotation), flipping (reflection)
  • Fractions
  • Creativity - when making their own tangrams

There are lots of ways for students to explore tangrams from physical blocks you can purchase, to virtual tangrams online. One great tool for creating, solving, and exploring tangrams is Google Drawings. It makes it easy to create shapes, and then move, rotate, and flip the shapes as needed.

See below for everything you need to get started using Google Drawings for tangrams. This includes a free blank template with all the tangram pieces already created, a dozen pre-made tangram puzzles to solve, and detailed directions on how to manipulate the shapes using tools in Google Drawings and create your own tangram puzzles.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Comparing Countries with Google Maps

Maps are a powerful tool to help students understand and explore our world. However, maps are never a perfect representation, which can sometimes lead to misunderstandings. For example this could include confusion on how big land masses really are when compared to each other.

A big reason for this is the popularity of the Mercator projection map. This is the map we are used to seeing, which takes the spherical world and lays it out on a flat map. To do this, the map has to stretch out the landmasses as you move further North or South from the equator. As a result, areas such as Antarctica or Greenland end up looking much larger than they really are.

Recently I came across a neat website called “The True Size Of” which is built on top of Google Maps. The site does a great job of helping users compare the real sizes of states and countries, relative to each other. This can help students get a better idea of how large other countries really are and improve their understanding of the world.

See below for a quick overview of how the site works, along with some examples of the comparisons you can make.