Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Graph a Pi-Line Skyline with Google Sheets

Pi Day is March 14th each year (since the date is 3/14 and Pi starts out with 3.14). As a previous middle school math teacher, this is always a fun day to be a math nerd, do Pi-themed educational activities, and of course eat some real pie!

Over the years I have shared a couple technology activities for celebrating Pi Day. These include:

  • Create "Pi Poems" with Google Sheets - A fun creative writing project where students make a poem where the length of each word corresponds to each digit in Pi.
  • Discovering Pi with Google Sheets - An interactive hands-on activity where students measure real world circular objects, compile their data in a shared collaborative Sheet, then looks for patterns to discover Pi.

This year I wanted to add another tech activity and was inspired by a creative project where students make Pi-themed artwork. The idea is for students to create a vertical bar graph, where each bar's height corresponds to each digit of Pi. This gives the impression of a city skyline, which the students them color in to make their own art piece.

Although this is a fantastic paper and pencil activity, it could also translate over to a fun technology version. This project can be done with Google Sheets to add in an element of learning how to use a spreadsheet to make a bar graph, while still having fun and making a colorful creative work of art.

See below for details on how this can be done, as well as a template you can use (if you would like) to help your students with this project.

Monday, March 11, 2019

15 More Instant Google Searches for You and your Students

A while back I shared a post on 20 of my favorite instant Google searches (you can see that post and those resources at this link.)

The idea is that when you do a Google search, sometimes Google goes above and beyond the normal list of search results and provides instant search cards at the top of the page. These cards contain the information you searched for, but also include interactive controls to let you dig deeper, branch off, or experience the information in a more engaging manner, which can be valuable for both teachers and students.

In my earlier blog post we explored search tools for rolling a die, setting a timer, defining a word, calculating areas, running a metronome, and more! Since then Google has added many new interactive instant searches, so I thought it was time to share a second installment. See below for 15 new searches with details on how they work and how they can be used in school.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Add Videos to Slides with the Screencastify Add-on

Having been in education for last 27 years (but who's counting?) I have seen incredible advancements in technology. One area that has experienced much growth is recording and sharing video. I remember doing video projects with students using a large camcorder that recorded to video tape. Then we got those flip video recorders that we all thought were the height of technology. And of course now we can record with everything from phones to webcams to drones.

As easy as it is now to record video, anything we can do to make the process even smoother is a win for our students. Technology shouldn't put up hurdles to jump over, but instead empower our students to seamlessly create, express, and share their ideas.

Recently one of my favorite video tools, Screencastify, has made this process even easier with a new add-on for Google Slides. This new tool allows users to locate their recorded videos and insert them into their slideshows with fewer clicks and less time than ever. This can be especially helpful for younger students and for those still learning how to use these tools.

See below for details on how to install and use this new add-on, as well as ideas for how students can use this in school.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Background Removal Tools and Activities

Last year I shared a post on finding, creating, and using transparent images in education, such as having students cut themselves out of a picture and them put themselves into a new image.

Since then, we have seen lots of new tools pop up that make the process so much easier for removing the background of an image. So I figured it was time to revisit this topic, explore the new tools, and expand on the ideas for how students can use these in school.

The big reason for these new tools is the growth and improvement in artificial intelligence. In the past, if you wanted to remove the background from an image, it was a very manual process where you would select and delete portions of the image bit by bit. Now with machine learning, most or all of the heavy lifting can be done by the computer as it is getting so much better at identifying separate items in an image. It's like "green screen" without the actual green screen.

In this post we will look at some new tools, as well as review some classic options that still have their place, and then explore fun and engaging projects students can do. As we look at the tools we will start with the most easy to use and then move to those that require more input from the user, but also give more control.