Saturday, October 28, 2017

Atomic Models? I Can Storyboard That!

Sometimes people ask me what do I do to entice reluctant adopters to try something with technology in their classrooms. My answer is based on my own experience: start by remaking the worst lesson. Some technology integration is likely to make the worst lesson less awful. A little success will breed enthusiasm and a willingness to try again.

For a long time, my own worst lesson was a lesson about the atomic models. I had a video I showed with excellent content, but the trouble with the video was that it was a video of a filmstrip. Literally, it was a moving picture where the pictures did not move. I used it for years, justifying this by saying that the great content outweighed the disengaging still images. When I first started using iPads in my classroom, this was the first lesson I remade. I asked my students to read about the models for homework. The next day they made comic strips to illustrate atomic history.

I have used the iPads for this for years, but now that my school is a 1:1 school, I decided to try a new tool. I have always really liked Storyboard That, so I decided to try it out this year. Storyboard That has a free and premium version of the tool. The free version allows users to create a three-cell or six-cell comic with an incredible array of customizable scenes and characters. The premium gives more options for cells. The best part of the premium plan is that you can pay for a month at a time (instead of paying for a year at a time), so you can buy it just for the month you need it. They offer a 14-day free trial, too, so you can try before you buy. I used that for this lesson.

My students found the tool easy to use. They worked most of one class period on their storyboards but they could finish for homework if needed. This was a definite advantage over using a set of iPads on a cart. They did a great job with the comics, so I printed them in color. One student said "I'm going to frame this" when I returned them! Based on that comment and these samples, you can see that students thought the assignment was fun and they were proud of their creations.

It's very easy to create and manage an assignment on Storyboard That. The interface is quite intuitive. I created generic logins for each lab group and asked them to work collaboratively in one account per group. This worked pretty well; I'll do it this way again in the future.

Storyboard That also has teacher guides and resources galore. If you need ideas for how you would use this tool, you don't have to go any further than this page. In fact, if you want to try the lesson I described above, you can find a teacher guide I created here. There aren't nearly as many guides for STEM subjects, but there are a zillion ELA resources for all ages and many history guides as well.

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.