Scratch as a Content Area Tool

Scratch, developed by a group at MIT, has a tremendous reputation as a computer science learning & creation tool.  But, I believe it is under-appreciated as a tool for the content areas.

It is a great way for students to show their mastery of content standards, while honing their computer science skills and practicing the 4 C’s.  It’s also a great way for educators to create content for their students to interact with.

This summer, I hope to make some examples of how Scratch can be used in content areas.  For now, here’s a little taste:

Scratch in Edu Animation

“Kids These Days . . . “

Adults these days start sentences with “Kids these days . . . “ way too often.  And here’s the thing that I want to point out about that phrase:

Any sentence starting with “Kids these days” is not an excuse.  It is an observation (it’s also a loosey-goosey generalization, but we’ll save that for another post).  However, adults often use it as an excuse.

So?  Isn’t “excuse vs. observation” just syntax?  Well, you may think it is until you see an educator who’s struggling to lead his/her students to mastery shrug their shoulders and say something like “Kids these days want to play on their phones and video games instead of studying.”

Why is it important to draw the line in the sand between excuse and observation on this statement?

Excuse – “Sure, my students aren’t achieving mastery, but it’s not my fault – kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study.”

Observation – “Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . ”

What’s up with the “. . .” in that observation?

Any good educator uses observations (a.k.a., informal formative assessments) to make decisions about how to best lead their students to deeper learning.  It’s what you put after the dot dot dot that is what makes a good teacher a great teacher.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll try using gamification in my course.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll start integrating more technology into my teaching.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll look for an app that they can interact with on their mobile devices to continue their learning.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll learn about the apps, games and sites that they’re using to see what I can learn to support my instruction.”

The most important thing about this . . . 

If you’ve made it this far in this post, and I hope you have, then you get to hear what I consider to be the most important thing about “kids these days”:

We are teachers these days.
It is our responsibility to teach kids these days.
We can’t change them, nor should we want to.
Kids from “back in my day” are gone.
Learn to understand kids these days.
Strive to inspire kids these days.

FILTER Formula in Google Sheets

You can filter using menu buttons and create filter buttons in Google Sheets, but sometimes it’s valuable to setup a FILTER formula.  One such instance is shown in the GIF below: when you have a Sheet that contains data about many students across many grades or classes.  Using a filter formula, you can create a tab for each class or grade.  You can also create tabs for certain criteria (like lower scores that require follow-up).

=FILTER(range, condition1, [condition2, …])

Note from the formula above, that you can actually identify multiple criteria (such as Mr. Kotter’s students who scored below a 75%).

Filter Formula (Google Sheets) Animation

Creating GIFs in Camtasia 2

You may have noticed: I create lots of GIFs.
You may have wondered: how does Jake make his GIFs?

I ❤️ the functionality of creating them in Camtasia 2 for Mac.  Under Advanced Export is an option for “Animated GIF.”  It’s pretty much that simple….

However, if you choose to do this, you want to put some thought into how & where you plan to use your GIF.  Certain platforms have time & file size limits for GIFs.  Others do not.  Twitter, for example, limits GIFs to 5 MB.  To obtain the perfect balance between high quality image and low enough file size, I leave the settings all of the way up and then nudge them down until I hit something just a hair under 5 MB.  I prefer the frame rate at 30 and won’t go below 20.  If a frame rate of 20 doesn’t get me low enough, I decrease the dimensions.  If needed, I even use custom dimensions to hit that sweet spot of quality-file size. (More content after GIF)

Make GIFs in Camtasia Animation

Twitter doesn’t appear to have a limit for the time length of the GIF.  However, the longer the GIF, the higher the file size.  So, I cut my GIF’s at 20 seconds.  That was always the limit for GIFs in the SnagIt extension, and it seems like a good number, so I go with it.  To hit this limit, I increase the speed of my videos to get them right to 20 seconds.

Increase Speed for GIFs in Camtasia Animation

(When I last checked, Google Apps for Education Certified Trainers received Camtasia for free.  If you’re not eligible for that I believe it’s well worth the actual education price.)

Print Speaker Notes in Google Slides

We all know from experience, as well as the infamously-hysterical and on-point “Death by PowerPoint,” that slideshows should involve minimal text.  But, for many people, this is where cognitive dissonance enters.  They believe this to be true, but need somewhere to plan what they will say.

Well, Google Slides has a spot for “Speaker Notes,” and here’s how you print them to have ready during your next presentation:

Print Slides Speaker Notes Animation

Password Protected Google Forms

First off – I can’t take credit for this idea – just the GIF below.  I’ve heard it mentioned most recently on the Google Teacher Tribe podcast who credited the idea to Jeremy Badiner.

There are a lot of uses, but here are the 4 main ones that I can see:

  1. Post a Google Form (i.e., an assessment) to your LMS early, but students won’t be able to access the questions until you give them the password.
  2. Set this form as part of a BreakOutEDU style activity – participants can only access the form once they’ve found the password in the previous stage.
  3. Make it so only your intended audience can fill out a form.
  4. Keep sensitive information within the form, just like a password-protected website.

One important note: setting “error text” is essential – otherwise it will tell the user the password.

Password Protected Forms Animation

TwitListManager

If you’ve been on Twitter for a long time, you probably follow more people than you can possibly keep up with.  And, if you’re like me, it probably bums you out when you’re missing some good posts from some of the people that you really want to see everything from.

The solution is lists.  Create lists in Twitter that contain the “important” people or that relate to a certain thing (i.e., the school you work for).  Don’t worry: your lists can be private.

Well, if you’ve ever created lists in Twitter, you know that it’s clunky. TwitListManager is the best solution for that that I’ve found.  Go to the site, log into Twitter and assign all of the accounts you follow to certain lists.  Easy-peasy.

 

TwitListManager Animation

My strategy:

  • First, I have lists for my school district and my friends (I read every tweet in those lists).
  • Second, I separate everyone into Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3.  Level 1 are the people who I really want to see posts from.  I try to read all of them.  Level 2 are people who I’d like to read the posts from, but they’re not a priority.  Maybe if I have to wait an hour in the doctor’s office waiting room…  Level 3?  Well, I’m just following them to be polite.😬 Sorry, if you’re in Level 3! 😬
  • Finally, I have some other lists that I use at certain times.  That includes things like the NFL Draft–I use that list for a few days every April–and Fantasy Football–I look at that lists on Sunday’s in the fall and when I’m setting my lineup.

 

The Draftback Extension

One of the earliest edtech tools that I recommended to the teachers involved in the Writing Ourselves project, which I am the Technology Director for, was the DraftBack Extension.  Once enabled, the extension allows you to playback your writing process for any doc that you are an editor on.  Obviously, the best use case for this would be to have students do this.

What a powerful way for students to reflect on their writing process and for educators to assess (and offer feedback on) the way that they go about the writing craft.  Awesome sauce.

Draftback animation

Jump to a Page in a PDF

If you’re like me, scrolling through a really long .pdf hoping to find the right page drives you bonkers.  Did you know that, when looking at a .pdf in Google Chrome, you can jump directly to a page number?

Note: This is based on the number of pages in the document and occasionally the publisher of the PDF didn’t count the cover page and other initial pages in their numbering.  So, typing in page 10, might actually land you on page 9 because the cover page didn’t count.  But, hey, at least you only have to scroll one more page!