Sunday, October 8, 2017

EDpuzzle or PlayPosit: Which Should I Use?

Some of my post popular posts have been those in which I compare two or three similar tools to help others decide which one to use. My conclusion is almost always the same: all tools offer a great variety of features and which one someone chooses ultimately is probably determined by which feature is most important.

I have been using both EDpuzzle and PlayPosit (fka EduCanon) for several years. My school purchased a school license for PlayPosit this year and I have been developing some professional development materials for our staff. This renewed work in PlayPosit has catalyzed one of these comparison posts.

If you have never used either tool, EDpuzzle and PlayPosit are both tools that allow users to embed interactive components into videos. In both tools, students will be faced with questions that they must answer in order to continue with the video. Videos can be watched individually or as a class. Teachers can create classes and assign videos. Then they can monitor student progress as students respond to questions.

Below is a chart where I compare the two tools:

If you are interested in specific features I did not showcase here, check out the EDpuzzle FAQs here or the PlayPosit FAQs here

Ordinarily, my conclusion is that the compared tools are both great and should be chosen based on what features are desired. With EDpuzzle and PlayPosit, I am going to take a slightly different position. If you are looking for a free tool, EDpuzzle is the way to go. It has a slight advantage in that you can send students to a weblink from inside a video as part of their standard free package. They also offer apps for iOS, Android, and Chrome. If you have a little extra to spend, though, PlayPosit offers so many bells and whistles to the $144/year Master Teacher package that you will easily get your money's worth if you use a lot of videos.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Keep your eye on EquatIO

I've had a post on the Chrome extension EquatIO in my drafts queue all summer long. I saw something exciting about EquatIO last week, so I moved the post up to the top of the list. EquatIO began its life as a Google docs add-on called g(math). TextHelp, maker of the popular Read & Write for Google, have given g(math), created by John McGowan, new life and possibilities as a Chrome extension.

The EquatIO Chrome extension creates an easy way for users to insert math problems, symbols, and more into Google docs, slides, sheets, forms, and drawings. Users can input math via text, handwriting, LaTex coding, or spoken word, making it a versatile solution for everyone. There is a free version (integrates with Docs only) and a premium version (integrates with all the others too). There are some extra-special awesome features like predictive generation of symbols and formulas for chemistry, but only in the premium version.

In order to use the Chrome extension, you must be signed in to Chrome, even if you are just using the free version. Once you have it installed, click the icon in your toolbar and a pop-up window at the bottom of your browser window lets you start creating math. All of this is nifty, but not as exciting as what I tried last week.

It seems that TextHelp has big plans for EquatIO. Last week I tried a digital interactive use of this cool tool called MathSpace. I started at and built a math problem like this:

Then I clicked the blue share button in the upper righthand corner and got this:

Teachers (or students, parents, etc) can select to share with individual copies or individual copies and expected responses. Then click Continue to get a shareable link to email or post on social media or Google Classroom.

Students click on the link to see a copy of the math that was shared. They can create an answer and send it back to the teacher. EquatIO is a Chrome extension that is also a student response system! Below is one of the answers I received back when I tried it [N.B. Sometimes the people you can count on to play math in the afternoon do not actually want to do math.].

I was impressed at how easy this was to share (2 steps!) and retrieve. I was also impressed at all the tools you can use to create math. My science teaching colleagues will appreciate the list of items you can add to the canvas - cars, pulleys, people, levers, gears, shapes, and more. It's a great list of unique items that you don't find on many other tools.

As if I wasn't already excited enough about EquatIO, I saw this tweet after I tried the interactive features:
Very excited to see TextHelp partnering with Desmos so that their calculator tool will end up in the EquatIO MathSpace. As I said above, keep your eye on this tool as TextHelp quickly adds more functionality to make EquatIO indispensable. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Classkick + Manipulatives = Winning

I've written about Classkick for practicing skills, fostering collaboration, and differentiating instruction. If you haven't tried Classkick, here are the basics: You create assignment slides and students work on them. You can see work, and offer feedback, in real time. Students can also offer anonymous assistance to each other. Classkick offers an iOS app and also a browser-based tool. No matter which way I use it, I always love it! Last week, I tried it in a new way, to support work with manipulatives. True to form, Classkick exceeded my expectations again.

I wanted to create an assignment where I could monitor student progress as they built models atoms and molecules with little velcro balls called Bunchems. I started by uploading a PDF to Classkick. The PDF was made of images from slides I created to help students understand the differences between elements, compounds, and mixtures on a particle level. Between content slides, I created assignment slides where students would have to build something and take a picture of it with the iPad. Then upload the image for feedback. In the images below, you can see the "Good work" sticker that tells a student that she completed the task correctly and, in the second, my green helping text that seeks to redirect.

With Classkick, I could easily respond to each student as s/he built a model. The feedback inspired conversations at tables where students worked together. "How did you represent this one?" "Why is that better than what I did?" "Is there another way we could build this?" The conversations were even better than the activity itself.

As always, I love how I can look at the whole class view pictured below. All of the work is captured and saved, so I can return to this assignment to study misconceptions and create my next instructional steps. 

I loved how all the work they did was recorded. With manipulatives, once you take them apart and move on to the task, the work is gone. With Classkick, students can return to this assignment and study the pictures or revisit their ideas. 

Whether or not you use manipulatives and models, I recommend Classkick for your short list of apps to try this school year. With so many great options, it will likely fit whatever lessons you can think of. As kids draw, write, and insert images, they will work collaboratively and you save all the data. You can grade assignments within the tool, too. With so many good features, Classkick always feels like a win.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Host Remote Meetings with FreeConferenceCall

I had a great experience this week with FreeConferenceCall. I had assembled a committee of people from all over Ohio and we needed to meet to finalize a recommendation. Rather than try to get to one location, we used FreeConferenceCall to meet digitally. It was so easy. I downloaded the desktop app and clicked the video button to begin the meeting. I could invite people by email or share a link. As people joined the meeting, they showed up on the right of the screen. If they used a webcam, we could all see up to five video feeds. If they called in, they had a white placeholder screen with their name or phone number.

I had considered a couple of other similar services, but what swayed me toward this one was that many people could participate at once. I only needed space for 12 participants (2 more than Google Hangouts allows), but FreeConferenceCalll allows for 1000 participants! That was just one of many things I liked. Here are some of the others:

  • When someone is talking, they automatically move to the center of the screen. Other participants' video feeds (or placeholders for audio callers) move to the right.
  • Screen sharing is so easy with the click of a button. Screen sharing also includes a drawing tool and the ability to switch presenters.
  • The entire thing can be recorded for people who were unable to participate.
  • The very simple dashboard includes common icons that make using the tool easy.
  • The chat feature allows users to send responses to all participants or to certain ones. This feature was great for one of my participants who we couldn't hear.
  • When the meeting is over, data is available about how long it lasted, how many people participated, and so on.
  • It's free.

If you need a free way to connect with people and conduct a meeting or bridge classrooms or collaborate with faraway colleagues, FreeConferenceCall is one I would recommend. Check out their list of features here and the FAQs here.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Stroke of Genius [Hour]

Dalton created a chicken nugget game controller.
Kids bitsboxing during Genius Hour.
In my last post I mentioned the inclusion of a Genius Hour into coding camp. The addition of an extra day this year created some found time in our camp structure. With a plethora of new coding apps and tools coming out all the time, we decided to allow for free exploration of a variety of these tools at the end of camp each day.

Our daily routine at coding camp includes completed the unplugged and computer-based activities provided by We also schedule time to work with ozobots. When we finished those projects, we set up centers around our room where students could choose coding activities to further explore. Our coding centers included:

As high school teachers managing upper elementary students, we really weren't sure what to expect when we first provided this time. We worried that students would not be able to focus for find enough to do for the full time we allotted. To say we were pleasantly surprised is an understatement. Each day they worked diligently. Some stayed in one place for the entire time, while others moved around, but they rarely had to be reminded of expectations during this time. They couldn't wait to get to Genius Hour every day. In fact, one student said she wished every hour of school was a Genius Hour. Several campers said their favorite thing about camp was something they learned during Genius Hour. Not convinced? Watch this video where Katie describes what she learned through Scratch.

My only previous experience this sort of loosely structured activity or assignment was in a professional development class that I teach about Google at Lake Erie College. After a typical class here, the participants write lesson plans or reflection papers about how to incorporate the tools we explored. In an effort to include Google's "20 time," I encouraged class members to propose a project, focused on a Google tool, and begin it during class instead of the typical lessons or paper. I just finished teaching this class for the fifth time and almost everyone chose the project option this time. Some created school calendars to share with colleagues and schedule events, some set up Google Classrooms or blogs for the coming year, and others leveraged Google tools in ways they hadn't before this class. Regardless of the project, people were grateful for the time to work on something that was meaningful to them. Just like the kids at coding camp.

As summer begins to wind down and my attention turns to returning to my own classroom, I need to think about how I can incorporate Genius Hour in my classroom. Any chemistry teachers doing this? I'd love it if you'd share your ideas.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

When Coding is Your Jam

Last week I co-hosted our second annual Coding Camp for students entering fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. This year our camp expanded from four half days to five, so with that change came some new activities. One of them was the addition of Genius Hour (more on that in a subsequent post) where we encouraged campers to explore an application of coding that interested them. One of the more popular selections was the new Osmo Coding Jam.

Osmo is an attachment for your iPad that allows a child to play with Osmo toys in front of the iPad and interact with the Osmo apps on the iPad. There are nine different apps, with more on the way, that target everything from language arts to math to art. Read more of my thoughts on Osmo here. In a post a year ago, I highlighted Osmo's Coding app. This spring Osmo released Coding Jam, an app that creates music by arranging coding blocks.

I tested out the app before camp. Though the app is very intuitive, users begin with a tutorial mode that asks for certain combinations of the coding blocks to create certain sounds. This is especially helpful for students who are new to coding or new to Osmo. Through this process, a player learns where the blocks have to be placed and how to click them together and turn arrows to create the drag-n-drop style code that is similar to Scratch. As users work through levels of coding challenges, they earn new characters who play different sounds.

In addition to this step-by-step walkthrough, a studio mode allows free play and creation of masterpieces. Here coders can choose characters (and their unique sounds) and use the coding blacks to program a melody. They repeat this process until three character musicians combine their talents to play a collaborative tune. This studio mode is where Coding Jam really surpasses the capability of the original Coding app. The studio mode encourages application of coding steps while simultaneously valuing creation and musicianship. With interesting programmed chord progressions like those from Pachelbel's Canon or a typical blues sequence, kids will make beautiful music where they can change and incorporate many elements. My children, ages 11 and 13, both preferred the studio mode because they were very familiar with the Osmo and Coding apps and wanted to be left alone to create.

Last week at Coding Camp, Osmo Coding Jam was an option for all campers at the end of our sessions. Once a child sat down and started creating, we often had to almost drag them away from the station for parent pick-up. Osmo seems to specialize in engaging, intelligent toys and apps; Osmo Coding Jam definitely lives up to its brand. Check it out for your small coders!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Are you #NOTATISTE, too?

This week you can't swing a dead cat without hitting 5 or 10 tweets about ISTE17. I've never been, and I'm sure it's awesome (or is it?), but I have participated a couple of times in the #NOTATISTE Community on Google Plus. The community was started in 2013 by Dennis Grice, but this year is hosted by Peggy George, Vicky Sedgwick, and Jennifer Wagner.

In the #NOTATISTE Community, there are resources to make your own badge, connect with others, attack daily challenges, and win door prizes. In short, lots of great sharing like there is at ISTE without delayed flights and overpriced hotel rooms. Today's daily challenge was to post about someone you follow (Here's looking at you, Eric Curts!). The community of G+ has almost 2000 members (wow!) and you can meet some of them here.

I like the atmosphere and the sharing on Google Plus, but I really like the communities. Anyone can start a community about any topic. I belong to a bunch of them (Google, iPads, Apple, Science Specialists, Math Specialists, Coaches, Makers, STEM), some more active than others. Communities are a great place to connect with like-minded educators. If you have never joined one or checked one out, this is a great opportunity to do so. You might even win a door prize! Come learn with us!