Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip: Flashcards with the Quizlet Chrome App

Flashcards are often used to help solidify concepts for deeper learning.  While not appropriate for all types of learning needs, many teachers & students use flashcards as part of distributed practice.  Today's tech tip is about a free digital flashcard tool: Quizlet (available via web browsers and via apps for Chrome, iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Nook, and Windows phones).  This post explores the web or Chrome app version.

While you don't need an account to use existing flashcard sets on Quizlet, students and teachers can sign up using their CCSD GoogleApps logins if they will be creating sets.  

There are 6 study modes for sets.  Not only can you study using the flashcard mode, but you can also have it generate practice for you, test your spelling, create assessments and games.  Immediate feedback is built into the modes.

Quizlet also has image, audio, and multiple language support.  When creating flashcard sets, you can include images in the definition that match your term (it has a built-in image search tool or you can upgrade your account and upload your own images).  You can also choose different language options (useful for world language teachers).  Finally, when clicking on terms or definitions, Quizlet will read the terms or definitions out loud for you (try it out in the embedded example below).

Speaking of embedding, Quizlet provides embed code so that you can put sets into other sites (like Schoology or blogs).  That way, students can use sets without having to log in or search Quizlet's site.  A pull-down menu in the lower corner lets you choose between study modes if the set has been embedded (the example below is for the 5th Grade FOSS unit for Mixtures and Solutions).

When creating card sets, you can also combine with other sets, create folders, invite others to edit, or make them private. As a teacher, you can also create a class for internal collaboration.

If you or your students would like to use flashcards on any device for free, Quizlet is worth a look.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip: Being Smarter with YouTube -- Turn Off the Lights

Many teachers & educators like to use YouTube and other video clips to support learning and instructional goals, but one of the downsides to showing a clip for an audience (via projector) is that sometimes you get content that you didn't necessarily want to display (especially if you're working with a class full of kids).  A typical YouTube clip has "suggested" videos on the sides, comments at the bottom, and other content like ads.  CNN.com and other sites with videos have similar layouts (extra content).

One easy solution if you're using the Chrome browser is to install the "Turn Off the Lights" extension (although it's available for other browsers as well). Once installed, the Turn Off the Lights icon -- which is a light bulb -- appears in the right side of your URL bar in Chrome (right next to the star or bookmark icon).  When you go to a YouTube window or an article with a video on a news site, you can click on the light bulb icon and it will darken everything on the screen except the clip, effectively hiding distracting or questionable content.

Before Turn Off the Lights is enabled
After Turn Off the Lights is enabled
You can also customize how this extension behaves with web pages & video clips.  Right-clicking on the icon will give you a menu with "Options."  For example, you can opt to leave certain parts of the YouTube page visible (like information about the clip), you can have customized backgrounds or effects, and you can also tell it to automatically dim whenever you go to a certain site. If you want to have students focus on certain parts of a page, you can have a spotlight effect so that your  mouse can "light up" certain parts of the page while the rest remains "lights out."

There are other tools that accomplish similar effects with video, but Turn Off the Lights is easy to use and has solid customization choices.  If you show videos to audiences and would like to focus their attention on the actual clip, it's a great option.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip: Creating Thinking Maps in Google Drawings

Tomorrow, February 5th, is Digital Learning Day, so we thought we'd post about creating digital Thinking Maps on the Chromebooks.  While there are quite a few options for creating free-hand drawings in Chrome or other browsers, today's post will focus on Google Drawings.  Google Drawings (like other Google Docs) allow for live collaboration, sharing, & publishing.

Most people are familiar with using Google Docs for creating documents, but there's another option under the "Create" menu when you're in Google Drive -- Drawing.

After you select "Drawing," you'll be taken to a blank canvas with shape, text, and line tools in the top toolbar.  If students are comfortable using drawing tools (they all work in a similar way), they can start creating on their own.  However, if students need a few models for practice, they can use the existing Thinking Maps Templates in the CCSD Template Gallery. (You can either use the link here, or you can go under the "File" menu inside of any existing drawing and choose "New" -> "from Template."  Other templates are also available in the CCSD gallery for presentations, documents, forms, and spreadsheets.)

If you see a drawing template that you'd like to use, click "Use this Template" and it will create a version inside of your own Google Drive to edit and share.  Tip: use "ctrl + D" in Chrome to duplicate shapes in Google Drawings.

The templates in the CCSD Gallery are only there to help staff and students get comfortable using the drawing tools.  Because students should be creating these from scratch, the templates are a good option for those just starting out. 

If you would like to participate in Digital Learning Day but aren't sure where to start, having students create a digital Thinking Map could be a great option.