Kids US Atlas is an iPad app that features an interactive map of the United States. On the interactive map you will find twenty-five animals that are indigenous to the United States. Tap on the animals to read about them, to hear about them, and to watch videos about them. The text passages about the animals are accompanied by a picture and a narrator who reads the text aloud. The videos show the animals in their natural habitats. Each video is roughly thirty to ninety seconds long.

Kids US Atlas is a freemium app. The map that features animals of the United States is completely free to use. As you can see in the screenshot below, there are some interactive maps in the app that are only available through in-app purchase.

Applications for Education

Kids US Atlas provides a nice way for elementary school students to learn about animals indigenous to the United States. A follow-up activity to students exploring the app would be to have them create their own maps of other places in the United States that their favorite animals live. For example, if a student chooses the Moose that is depicted as being in Maine he or she could then make a map that shows the other states in which Moose are regularly found.

On a related note, if you have been thinking about updating your iPad, Amazon still has brand new, current generation iPads on sale for only $249!

I write a lot of blog posts. Over the last decade I've written more than 15,000 of them. That's 1,500 per year for an average of 4.1 per day for ten years. Naturally, I am frequently asked, "how do you come up with blog post ideas?" Here's an overview of where my ideas for blog posts originate.

Questions from Readers

Every week I receive a few dozen emails from readers who have questions about a wide array of ed tech topics. I also get a lot of questions sent to my on Twitter and Facebook. I develop blog posts based on the questions that I think could appeal to other readers.

Press Releases

I am inundated with press releases. About 95% are total rubbish. The 5% that aren't rubbish will inspire a blog post or two. (If you want to get on the mailing list for a PR firm, just send them a note. They always want more email addresses in their databases).

Reading Books

There's something about reading a physical book that helps me develop blog posts. I don't read books about blogging. I mostly read history books and biographies. I'm re-reading Theodore Rex right now. Somehow as I'm reading thoughts about blog posts creep into my head. This morning I was reading Theodore Rex and when I read a passage about railroad travel I got the idea for a blog post about making a virtual tour of a railroad journey.

Writing in a Paper Notebook

In the past I've talked about this on my YouTube channel. I take time every week to sit down with a coffee and my paper notebook to brainstorm blog post ideas. I make lists and webs of ideas for blog posts.  I refer to that notebook on those days that I can't think of anything to write about.

Scrolling Through Feedly

When I was getting started in blogging I spent a lot of time reading RSS feeds via Google Reader. I switched to Feedly when Google Reader was shut down. I don't spend as much time as I did five years ago scrolling through RSS feeds, but I still spend 20-30 minutes a day scrolling through the sites that I like the most. When I find something on blog that inspires a blog post of my own, I mention that either in the body of the post or as a hat tip at the end.

You can learn more strategies for developing blog content in my online course, From Blog to Job. It's a self-paced course that is currently on sale at 25% off!

Earlier this week I received an email from a reader who wanted to know if it was possible to make videos automatically play in Google Slides. It is possible to do that if you set the video properties to automatically play when slides advance. With that setting enabled your video will automatically play when you advance slides in full screen mode. Watch my one minute video to see how you can set your videos to autoplay in Google Slides.

Last week I shared a tutorial on how to download individual Google Documents. That method works well if you only need to download one item. But if you need to download a whole bunch of documents at once, it can be a little tedious unless you use the method that I demonstrate in the following video. With the method demonstrated in the following video you simply select all of the files that you want to download and they'll all be added to one .zip folder that you can save on your desktop.

Learn more about Google Drive and Google Docs tricks in my online course, Getting Going With G Suite

Flipgrid is one of the most popular ed tech tools to emerge in the last couple of years. It can be used as tool for video-based formative assessment, it can be used as an alternative to a classroom YouTube channel, and it can be used to connect classrooms around the world. Those are just a few of the ways that teachers use Flipgrid.

At this time last year I published a video about how to get started using Flipgrid in your classroom. In the ensuing twelve months Flipgrid added a bunch of new features. But the most exciting update of all was that Flipgrid was acquired by Microsoft who then immediately made all of Flipgrid's features free for everyone! So to reflect that fact that all of Flipgrid's features are free, I made an updated video on how to get started using Flipgrid.

This video covers all of the basics that you need to know to get started using Flipgrid in your classroom. In the video you'll learn:

  • How to sign-up.
  • How to create a grid.
  • How to create a topic.
  • The difference between a grid and a topic. 
  • How to post prompts for students. 
  • How to post responses to your students' videos. 

Check out my YouTube channel for more Flipgrid tutorial videos including how to create IDs for students who don't have email accounts and how to grant guest access to Flipgrid topics.

Emoji Builder is a fun little site for making your own emojis. To design your own emoji on Emoji Builder you simply pick a base face then add on eyes, mouth, and accessories from menus on the site. When you're done designing your emoji you can download it as a PNG. The site doesn't require any kind of registration.

Applications for Education

I have to admit that it took a long time for me to see the potential uses of emojis in a classroom for anything more than just decoration or distraction. Then in August Tony Vincent published a vocabulary game that uses emojis and I finally saw a clever way to use emojis in a classroom. Emoji Builder could be used to have students create emojis to represent themselves, their emotions, or, as Tony suggested, vocabulary words.

H/T to Lifehacker.

Last week I posted the nomination form for the 2018 Free Technology for Teachers Readers' Choice Awards. Today is the last day to make nominations. The form will close at the end of the day and I'll be opening the final voting on Saturday. You can use the form embedded below to nominate your favorite educational technology app, site, or service. You can make nominations in one category or all of the categories. Please make only one nomination per category.

Google Expeditions is one of my favorite virtual reality apps for students and teachers. The app provides hundreds of virtual reality experiences for students. There are VR experiences that can be used in social studies, science, and art classes. The guide mode in Expeditions is fantastic for pacing activities inside of the app. Rather than just having students looking through a VR tour you can direct them to specific places within a tour and ask them questions about the places that you have directed them to. In the following video I demonstrate how to guide students in the Google Expeditions app.

As mentioned in the video you need to make sure that you and your students are using the same wi-fi network. You don't, however, need to all use the same type of device. In the video above I used my Android phone in guide mode and an iPad in the join mode.

The iPad version of Google Expeditions lets students explore imagery by dragging the imagery. The iPhone and Android versions of Google Expeditions are designed for use in a VR viewer. I have used and been happy with the VR viewers from VeeR, Knox Labs, and Printor. Printor offers the cheapest ones at just $5.99.

Get the Google Expeditions iPad app here.

Get the Google Expeditions Android app here.

Join my Teaching History With Technology course to learn more about using virtual reality in history classes. 

The winter solstice is about a week away. I always like to go outside to snowshoe or ski on the solstice just to say to the world that a lack of daylight isn't going to ruin my fun. Not everyone feels the same way about the shortest day of the year. And if you're looking for some resources to help students understand the winter solstice, take a look at the resources I have listed below.

What is a Solstice? is a National Geographic video. The two minute video explains why we experience solstices. The video also explains why the solstice and the first day of winter aren't always the same.

PBS Kids Nature Cat has a cute video that explains the basic concept of winter and summer solstice.

Last year TIME published a video featuring "four things you probably didn't know about the winter solstice." Spoiler alert! You probably knew them, but the video will remind you about those things.

Mechanism Of The Seasons is a six minute video about why the length of daylight we receive in a location changes throughout the year. This video could be helpful in a flipped classroom environment.

Even though it is not about the winter solstice, Why the Full Moon Is Better In Winter is a good companion resource to go with those featured above.

Math is Visual is a website that features videos and images that are designed to help students understand mathematics concepts. There's more to the site than just some videos and pictures. With every video you will find written directions for using the visual aids in a lesson. You can find videos on Math is Visual by using the search box or by going to the how to page and choosing from the playlists on that page.

Math is Visual was developed by Kyle Pearce. In the following video he demonstrates how he used some of the math is visual concepts with his kids.

Applications for Education

If you're an elementary school teacher or a middle school math teacher who is looking for some new ideas and materials for teaching mathematics, Math is Visual is a great resource to bookmark today. Even if you don't use the visuals from the site, you can use them as inspiration for visuals that you create for your lessons. And I think that Mr. Pearce would argue that the methodology shared on the site is the most important part of all.