KidzType: Free & Fun Online Typing Tutorial

This post is sponsored by KidzType

Even as technology has become ubiquitous in schools, keyboarding classes are quickly disappearing. As a result, parents, students, and teachers are often looking for resources to help students learn touch typing. KidzType is a free online resource to help kids learn how to type using different types of activities and games.

Typing Lessons

Students are presented a variety of typing lessons to help familiarize them with the fundamentals of keyboarding. These are organized into groups that gradually increase in complexity. For example, the first series of lessons focus on learning the home-row of keys. Students then move on to upper and lower rows. Students gradually work through each of the groups of lessons as they master the entire keyboard. During the lesson, students are shown a series of keystrokes on a screen and are prompted to enter the directed keys without looking down at the keyboard. While they do this, the program measures accuracy and speed.

Typing Practice

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-2-36-49-pmStudents can practice current and past lessons using a series of typing practices. Similar to the typing lessons, students are prompted to enter a series of keystrokes that are displayed on the screen. The program then records their speed and error rates. Practices are more complex than lessons; they combine previous exercises and become more complicated. Higher level practice exercises include typing paragraphs and incorporating various key rows, numbers, and special characters.

Typing Games

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-2-44-22-pmKidzType isn’t a standard typing tutor; it uses a variety of Typing Games to keep students engaged with the material. For example, the Typeroids Home Mission is an alien shooting game. By typing the designated letters or words, students shoot the alien invaders to ward off the invasion. There are several other games that students can play to help them hone and build their typing skills.

Whatever your student’s skill level or aspirations, KidzType is great way for them to become skilled, touch typists.

Teaching the Presidential Debates

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Carter-Ford debate via Wikimedia Commons

This is the first election cycle where my students are voluntarily and eagerly tuning in for the Presidential Debates. This offers many of us a unique opportunity to further educate them about Presidential Politics.

This week’s Backstory podcast explores the history and impact of Presidential Debates in American History. You can access it here: Fighting Words – A History of Debate in America. Not only is this a wonderful educational podcast, but it’s interesting and engaging.

Using Social Media in Natural Disaster

I just finished preparing my home (as best as I can) for Hurricane Matthew. Now, I hunker down, watch, and hope that it gives us a wide pass. Social Media now plays an important role in our lifestyles and that includes emergencies. Here are a few ways to employ it:

Keep People Updated

Hurricane_Frances_2004.jpgUse Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, LinkedIn) to share status and safety with friends and family. Many of us have a lot of friends and families all over the country (or world). It can be a challenge to field messages from them when preparing for, during, or cleaning up after an emergency. A Facebook post (or using Facebook’s Safety Check) can let everyone know that you are okay, any change of location if you evacuated or had to seek alternative housing, and requests for help.

Stay Updated

Federal, State, and Local Governments, as well as Emergency Agencies, will update their Social Media accounts regularly. Be sure to follow (or at least check) the Twitter accounts of your local Government, your City’s Emergency Management, Government Officials, School Districts, and more. A few National Organizations you may want to watch specifically: FEMA, the Red Cross, and NOAA.

Communicate

Landlines are still your first line of defense in an emergency (cell towers will come down first and landlines aren’t reliant on power). However, even with a landline you may get busy circuits. If you have a cell signal or can find an internet connection, Social Media communicators are your friend! Using tools like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, or other Direct Message tools can help you to keep in touch.

I hope that you find these tools useful for your next emergency! Stay safe out there!

How to Create a Self-Graded Quiz in Google Forms

The new Google Forms allows you to create self-grading quizzes right within the form (no need for an add-on!). This is a great way to create bell-ringers, exit tickets, or quick assessments. Creating a self-graded form is easy! screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-1-37-25-pm

First, create a new Google Form and give it a title. Next enter your questions (for auto-grading, they will need to be in the form of multiple-choice, check boxes, or drop-down. Once you have created your quiz, click on the settings button (the gear shaped icon in the top right). Select the “Quizzes” tab and toggle on “Make this a Quiz.”

Next you can select when students will see their scores and if they can answers they left blank.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-1-37-38-pmNext, you will need to set your answer key. At the bottom of questions you have already created or new ones that you create, there will be a blue “Answer Key.” Click on this button. You will then select the right answer(s) that will be used as the key. You can also set the number of points each question is worth.

Once you have set all of your answers and point values, the quiz is ready to go! You can share with students via email, link, or even QR code!

Interactive Presidential Debate Resource

Our amazing librarian informed me of  a great tool launched by PBS and Microsoft watchingthedebates.org. It allows you to “watch and interact with every debate since 1960.” This is a great resource to help students (and adults) learn how Presidential debates are structured and impact the electorate during an election year.

You can filter debates based on theme, year, or other interests. You can watch the videos sand give feedback! This is a fantastic tool for analyzing political discourse.

How to email a Google Doc (Without Leaving Google Docs)

The best feature of Google Docs is the ability to collaborate with others. Sometimes, you need to send a copy of a Google Doc to someone who doesscreen-shot-2016-09-15-at-8-08-10-am not work in the Google atmosphere. You can easily email a Google Doc as an attachment to someone right within the document! To do this, click on File –> email as an attachment.

Next, in the pop up window, select the form you would like (PDF, MS Word, Rich Text Format, HTML, Plain Text, Open Document, or just paste it into the email itself! Enter the email address, include a message, and your email is sent! This is a feature that works even if your domain does not have gmail enabled (although you should tick “send a copy to myself” if you would like a confirmation of the email).

This is a great way to send off finished drafts or to share material with individuals who do not work within the Google platform.

Coding in the Classroom with Swift Playgrounds

I was so excited to see Apple announced Swift! This is a game changer for coding in the classroom… or just in the home. Check out Jonathan’s wonderful overview of this new tool.

Jonathan Wylie: Instructional Technology Consultant

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The recent release of iOS 10 unlocked a creative coding opportunity for iPad classrooms called Swift Playgrounds. It’s an iPad app that lets you solve interactive puzzles that are designed to help you learn the basics of how to code in a programming language called Swift. It is aimed at students aged 12 and over and is part of Apple’s Everyone Can Code initiative. So, if you are looking for new ways to start coding with students, this could be a great new platform for you to explore. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Swift?

Swift is an open source programming language that was developed by Apple engineers and released in 2014. It was created to help developers build apps for iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS. Swift has its origins firmly rooted in another programming language called Objective-C, but Swift is generally considered to be more concise. The…

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