Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Cardboard + Google = Virtual Reality Immersion

Imagine planning a field trip to Paris with your French class. You'd need passports, permission slips, plane tickets, chaperones and about a week's worth of time. Now, imagine you could walk down the ChampsÉlysées without leaving your classroom for less than $10.
This is the vision of Google Expeditions. At the moment, the official Expeditions program is in limited areas and consists of a guided exploration of a location through a class set of cardboard virtual reality headsets. However, even if you're not lucky enough to get in on the ground floor of this program, you can bring a similar experience to your students for a nominal cost.

Google Cardboard is a free app that runs on most smart phones and iPods running iOS 8.0 or later. There is a long list of compatible apps from race-car games to Google Street View and this is where the magic happens. In order to use the app, you'll need a viewer. These range from the simple, folded cardboard devices the program is named for, to higher-end, durable viewers made from molded plastic or metal. The idea is simple and emerged in the 1800's with the invention of the stereoscope.

I bought a simple cardboard model online and was using it within minutes of opening the package. It takes a minute to get used to virtual reality, it can make you a bit dizzy or nauseous and some may notice that it bothers their eyes after a few minutes, but the effect of standing in the middle of Venice, Rome, Paris, or even under the sea at the Great Barrier Reef is worth the odd sensations that come with VR.

The cardboard model I bought only cost $9.99 and does a perfectly acceptable job, but it is cardboard. By the time I'd passed it around the 8th grade French class, the edges were looking a little grubby, so I ended up duct-taping it to reinforce the joints and protect the surfaces. But, once you've bought the components (lenses, magnet, NFC tag) you could easily replicate the structure and reuse those parts to save money. Alternately, I'd suggest buying a few of the more durable (and disinfect-able) models and using it as a small-group station. Maybe buy a few and check them out from the school's library. The potential experience is worth the small investment and as time goes on, the apps available with certainly increase in number.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Even more ways to add games!

Check out this cool quiz-creation tool! Quizzizz works in a similar way to Kahoot with a couple of key differences. The student sees both the question and answer choices on their screen and you can set question time up to 5 minutes.

Both have an extensive bank of ready-made quizzes that you can use. Check out this quick walk-through to see if it could work in your classroom!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Gamify Your Class

Whether you want to quickly assess your students understanding after a discussion or would like to have students perform assessments of their peer's understanding of their presentation, Kahoot can add a fun, gameshow atmosphere to your class.  Use iPads, Chromebooks, Lab computers or the students' smartphones!

So often, students give presentations, receive their grade, and that's it. But wouldn't it be great to find out if their audience actually learned anything from all of their hard work? Wouldn't student audience members pay more attention if they knew they were going to be playing a game using the information their peers shared?

Kahoot does what all of those sets of "clickers" and fancy software packages promised, but without the hassle of additional devices and almost no learning curve!

Once you've gotten an account,  you log in and choose what type of questions you want to ask.

Then when you're ready, project your quiz screen and students will see something like this.

Students would just need to go to (on ANY device with internet access) and enter the game's pin number, enter a nickname (I'd suggest 1st name or Google username) and when you (or the gamemaster) starts the game, they'll see the 4 choices on their screen.

Please let me know if you'd like to start using this in your class, I'd be happy to co-plan a lesson with you!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Weekly Tech Tips

In Classroom, when students open an assignment, their document will open in a new tab, leaving the assignment's instructions hidden on their previous tab. Alice Keeler's come up with a brilliant solution for this in the Classroom Split Chrome Extension.
Give it a try!

Go to the Chrome Web Store and add the extension. 

Once you've added it, open an assignment in Classroom and click on the extension.

You will now see your screen split into two parts. One with the assignment's instructions and the other with the copied document.
Tech Tip of the week #2 is also from Alice Keeler! It is a quick settings change that will allow you to automatically convert any Word Docs that are shared with you into Google Docs.
Step 1: Open your Google Drive
Step 2: Click on the gear icon at the upper right
Step 3: Click Settings
Step 4: Check Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Alien Assignment

Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning & Children's Media has created several apps for young children. My favorite is Alien Assignment. It's a free app available in the Apple app store (it's an iPhone app bus can be used on the iPad or iPod as well- iOS 4.3 or later). Children are introduced to the Gloop family of aliens whose ship has crashed landed and who need the child's help to fix it.

Through the camera feature on the device, children are asked to find objects and photograph them as examples of items the aliens could use to replace the broken parts of their ship. Directions are spoken and children must pay close attention so that they know what their photo assignment is. The open-ended assignments can lead to some
creative and out-of-the-box thinking when children are looking around the room. For example, the assignment to find something with buttons led to kindergartners locating buttons on classroom snowmen, a teacher's sweater, and the keyboard of the computer. Children can then be asked to justify their choices when reviewing their photos with an adult.

This one, simple, free app encourages active listening, following directions, creativity, critical thinking,
reasoning, problem solving, and camera use. It is recommended for ages 4 and up and would be an excellent choice for grades K-2. Extension activities could include partners assigning each other items to find and photograph or having children write their explanations for their photo choices.