Category Archives: Websites

Evaluating Online Information

I recently curated an entire list of sites to help teachers use in the classroom for lessons on evaluation online information – and most of the links on the list came from Facebook. I am not ignorant of the irony in that statement, but I will say that the particular Facebook group that this came from is my favorite and most educational – the Distance Learning Educators group. If you are looking for help or ideas in anything related to distance learning, this group is extremely knowledgeable and supportive. When a teacher recently asked for advice for lessons to use with her 12th graders about fake news, a stream of educators responded, and most of the answers were new to me.

My recent post on Factitious and Spot the Troll was beginning to get a bit unwieldy as I kept updating it, so I decided to move on over to a shareable list on Wakelet. (Here is my post about Wakelet in case you are new to it.)

This is a live document, so I will continue adding resources as I find them. I hope you find at least one useful link for your own classroom in this list!

Image by Sophie Janotta from Pixabay

Jigsaw Explorer

UPDATE 10/22/2020: Jigsaw Explorer now has a feature to hide puzzle previews in case you want students to solve the puzzle before seeing the final picture. Learn more here!

Want to add a little light fun to your online classrooms? How about doing a collaborative jigsaw puzzle? Jigsaw Explorer might be just the ticket for a bit of community building.

There are many online jigsaw puzzle sites out there, as I found out when I started doing a bit of research on this topic. Techie Teacher wrote a great post about using Jigsaw Planet. But I had the specific criteria that I wanted it to be a site where I could use my own picture (so I could possibly use something connected to the curriculum), and that it could be easily collaborative. Jigsaw Explorer seems to fit the bill.

You can, of course, use the puzzles already provided on Jigsaw Explorer – including their Friday mystery puzzles which only give you part of the image. This particular site does not allow you to actually upload pictures initially*, so you need to get the web address of the picture you want to use. I did a Creative Commons Search for a picture of the frog life cycle, right-clicked, saved the image address, and pasted it here. You can then add credits to your puzzle and choose the number of pieces. Once you create it, you are given links to share the puzzle, and an embed code if you want to put it on your own website. When you open a puzzle you’ve made, you will see an icon with the silhouette of two people, which allows you to share the puzzle in multiplayer mode. You choose a nickname and create a game link to copy and share. Up to 20 people can be working on the same puzzle at a time. Here are more instructions for the multiplayer games. *Also, if you do actually want to upload a picture you already have on your computer, you can click on the three lines in the top left within a puzzle to make your own.

I tried doing an activity like this last year, when I was doing a digital breakout (escape room), and the students were supposed to put the puzzle together to reveal a clue. I didn’t realize that there was a preview button so they actually didn’t need to solve the puzzle! Unfortunately, this is the case on all of the online jigsaw puzzle sites that I found. However, I found this great video from Joli Boucher that shows how you can put a jigsaw puzzle on Google slides. It’s a bit time-consuming, but definitely an option if you are trying to keep the final picture a mystery. (For other ideas for digital breakout tools, you can visit this post.)

Since I have family members and friends who love to do jigsaw puzzles, I’m hoping to do a Zoom Jigsaw party soon! One idea for the classroom might be to showcase student art by making it into a jigsaw puzzle. You’re all so creative, I am sure you will think of lots of ways to use this with your students.

Free image/jpeg, Resolution: 720×542, File size: 51Kb, Frog Life Cycle Diagram N3

Vote By Design

If you are looking for non-partisan resources about voting to use for secondary, college students, and adults, you should definitely take a look at the Vote by Design site created by a team of educators at the Stanford d.school. The site provides free materials that include lesson plans and interactive workbooks for students, as well as a Nearpod experience. By framing the conversation around the responsibilities of the president, this 45-90 minute activity guides the participants to consider, “What are the leadership qualities best suited to this job?” instead of, “Which candidate do you like more?”

You can find downloads for the free materials here, including videos to help guide you in facilitating the session. Additional resources, including a link to one of my favorites, iCivics, are on this page. For more information about the origins of Vote by Design, and the logistics of using it with your students, you can visit their FAQ page.

Statistics show that nearly half of the eligible voters did not vote in our last presidential election in 2016. Due to their age, most high school students won’t be able to vote this year. However, we have the opportunity to encourage them to take advantage of this hard won American right in their future.

Photo by Noah Pederson on Unsplash

Whiteboard.Fi

Whiteboard.Fi is a free tool that you can use to generate a room of individual whiteboards for your students that you can monitor in a grid view. If you don’t have the pro version of PearDeck, which allows students to draw on slides, this is an alternative you may want to consider. There is no registration required for the teacher or students, so it is quick to create a room and equally easy for students to join by using the room link or a QR code.

Because there is no registration, and no tie to any credentials, students will need to type in a name when joining, so be prepared for some hijinks with nicknames if your students are prone to be silly. You can enable a waiting room where you decide whether or not to admit students, so that may help.

Once students have joined, or at any time, the teacher can “push out” images as backgrounds for whiteboards, which can be great for labeling diagrams. Or, as you can see in the picture below, this might be another way for to conduct the “Peel the Fruit” Visible Thinking Routine, where students can give individual comments for each layer on their own whiteboards.

Students can also toggle back and forth between what is displayed on the teacher whiteboard, such as a math problem, and what they are doing on their own board.

There are many tools on the menu for students -including a grid background, music background, and math symbols – that you wouldn’t find on most whiteboards. Students can also scroll down and add pages, similar to Google Jamboard.

When you are finished with your session, the teacher can download all of the whiteboard responses as a PDF, in case it is needed as a formative assessment. If the teacher has enabled it, students can also save their whiteboards as PDF’s.

I have seen some teacher comments on social media that they sometimes had technical difficulties with Whiteboard.Fi, but according to their website they have just updated their servers (9/29/2020). As with any tech tool, you should definitely try to practice it on your network ahead of time to make sure it isn’t blocked by your district and have a backup plan in case there are connectivity issues.

The creator of Whiteboard.Fi, Sebastian Laxell, offers this service and all of its features free. However, if you want to contribute to the upkeep of the site, you can subscribe on his Patreon site here.

Factitious and Spot the Troll

UPDATE 10/22/2020: I found so many more websites for evaluating online information that I corrected a Wakelet list. Click here to view it.

Like many of you, I am worried about the misinformation flying around on social media, especially lately. The incendiary posts that seem to be easily flung from one person to another are exacerbating the anger and hopelessness many are already feeling due to months of restrictions.

It’s more essential than ever to teach our students how to look for reliable sources and information. I generally use Snopes.com if I am fact-checking anything, and it seems extremely unbiased and well-balanced. If you are looking for other potential fact-checking sites, this page from the American University Library has a list.

While I was looking at the AU site, I noticed a link to a game called, Factitious. You can play the game to determine whether news articles are fake or genuine. The original game is from 2018, but there is also a Pandemic Edition. The game seems suitable for middle school and up.

Another interesting quiz to try, which was shared on Facebook (sorry, I can’t remember who share it with me!) is the Clemson University Media Forensics Hub game, Spot the Troll, shows you social media profiles of 8 different account, and you must decide if they represent real people or not.

Both of these games give more information about how to spot “fakes” online. Of course, there are no hard and fast rules, as the people behind this misinformation are becoming more sophisticated. The biggest takeaway is to never accept what you read online at face value without doing some digging – especially if it seems designed to incite fear or anger.

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

Levaraging the Immersive Reader tool during Virtual Learning

For one of my current consulting jobs I am making short how-to videos for different technology tools that are helpful in distance learning. One of the recent ones that I have been recommending to teachers has been the Immersive Reader tool from Microsoft, which can be used within many of the company’s own products, like Microsoft Word, but can also be used on the Microsoft Edge web browser and in other ed tech products like Newsela and Wonderopolis.

I first wrote about Immersive Reader in a post from 2019, where I included several ways to support diverse readers and speakers with technology that I had learned about at TCEA in 2019. Leslie Fisher had done some quick demonstrations of Immersive Reader and other tech tools that could help students with translating, reading, and writing on the internet. Unfortunately, the teens and tweens I was teaching at the time did not have adequate equipment to support some of these during class – such as headphones and private screens – without making them feel singled out. Because of the pandemic, more technology has been dispersed and many students are working independently, so students may be more inclined to use these tools – if they know about them.

For the web version of Immersive Reader, students need to be using the Microsoft Edge Web browser (though there is an unofficial chrome extension that mimics Immersive Reader if you want to go that route – read my post about extensions first). When using Edge, students can generally right-click on a web page, and choose to have it read aloud. But many pages with articles will have an extra feature that you can see in the URL window – a book icon. If the book icon is visible, you can click on it. (Please be aware that the icon is only available on articles – and even then may not be present if the article is heavy with advertising and photo galleries.)

After you click on the book, you will be in “Reader View,” which takes away all of the distractions on the page. You will also get a menu right under the URL window that gives you many more options.

You can still have the page read aloud (and choose from dozens of voice options as well as the speed). But you can also use Text Preferences to change the size of the text, its spacing, and the background color. Under “Grammar Tools” you have the option of splitting words into syllables, and/or designating parts of speech with any color(s) you choose. “Reading Preferences” allows you to focus on one or more lines at a time, enable a picture dictionary, or translate the page into a different language.

I have no doubt that students will be distracted when they are first introduced to the tool. Even I got a little off-task trying to hear words read to me in different voices. But once students have explored it, and have it available to them at all times, the novelty should wear off, and students can use Immersive Reader to enhance their learning. To de-stigmatize its use, I would encourage all of my students to learn how to use it, so that it becomes as normalized as grabbing a dictionary off the shelf. (Okay, that’s probably not as normal anymore, but I think you get the picture.)

For some more ways that Immersive Reader can be used, including other apps that support it, I recommend reading this article, “3 Ways to Support Your Students Using Immersive Reader,” from Ditch That Textbook.