Friday, September 29, 2017

The Why’s and How’s of Student Badges

All individuals want to be recognized when they learn something, and badges can accomplish that. Whether it is mastering a new skill, meeting a goal, or doing a good deed, students (and adults!) seek validation for their achievements.
At first glance, the word “badge” may conjure up images of a Girl Scout’s sash featuring material badges that demonstrate mastery. While the concept is similar, the badges of today have implications far beyond that simple picture. Today’s badges are credentials that represent skills, interests, and achievements earned by an individual through specific projects, programs, courses, or other activities.

Reasons to Use Student Badges in the Classroom

Badges celebrate learning and can motivate students to do well in school and beyond. Take a look at a few reasons why you should reward student learning with badges.
  1. Acknowledge Accomplishments
    student badges
    Click HERE to download a PDF.
Badges show accomplishments. They can be awarded to students for completing a difficult assignment, doing an act of kindness, or improving behavior.
  1. Promote Collaboration
Badges provide greater opportunities for student collaboration, cooperation, and interaction. Students will motivate and encourage one another, as well as compete with one another, to earn various badges in the classroom.
  1. Validate Progress
Badges can certify that students are meeting specific goals and showing progress in their learning. This will lead to visible improvements in the classroom.
  1. Expose Skills
Badges uncover students’ skills that a number or letter grade might not show. This might be empathy, entrepreneurship, leadership, cooperation, or  deep thought. They give students a way to share what they have learned in a public way.
  1. Surpass Traditional Assessments
Badges can be used as an additional assessment tool to assist in the identification of a student’s specific strength and weaknesses. Go beyond written tests, quizzes, and grades in order to identify areas needing improvement.
  1. Give Joy in Learning
Badges can add a fun element to the classroom as students are encouraged to compete against one another.  Show students that there can be fun in learning.

Types of Badges to Use in the Classroom

The type of badge you use in the classroom depends on what works for you and your students.
With digital badges, you can create and download a digital version of the badge and post it to a student portfolio or class blog page.  Some resources for making digital badges can be found at the Badges for Professional Learning blog post.
With traditional badges, you can download or create a badge that you make many copies of and distribute. You could even display them for a while on the classroom bulletin board before giving them to your students.
With button badges, you turn student badges into buttons using a button machine. Students could then pin their earned button on their jacket or backpack.
Have you ever used badges in your classroom before?  If so, what has worked for you?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fabulous Presentations with Google Slides

Creating moving and engaging Google Slides presentations that look fabulous are more important than ever in getting your message across.
Presentations are opportunities to show people different ways of thinking about a topic and to tell a story. How you structure your presentation impacts how people receive your perspective. Let’s explore a few tips to create fabulous presentations with Google Slides.

Tip #1: Enthrall listeners with powerful narratives.

“It is more difficult to process information if it is coming at us both verbally and in written form at the same time,” says Garr Reynolds, author of the Presentation Zen book and blog. A stirring story well-illustrated can make it easier for your audience to process information. Avoid bulleted lists, lots of text, fancy and transitions and animations. These just get in the way of the story you are telling. Charts are fine to include when they align to the story you are trying to show and tell.

Tip #2: Engage with pictures.

“Pictures should contain the story within a frame,” suggests Tatjana Soli in The Lotus Eaters. This isn’t a bad approach when selecting pictures that capture the flow of your narrative. Once you have crafted an enthralling story, you need pictures that illustrate each well-defined idea or concept. The simpler the image, the more impact it can have on the viewer.
Here are some ways to add pictures to a Google Slides individual slide:
You can upload (put) your own picture; grab a snapshot if on a device equipped with a camera; paste in the URL (web address) to a picture you have found online, in your albums, or on Google Drive; or take advantage of Google’s Image Search. Notice that the results shown are labeled for commercial reuse with modification.
You can also rely on free image repositories, such as those shown below, to find relevant, breathtaking images that adhere to a particular theme for your overall presentation. Here are my top eight image search sites:
  1. Compfight
  2. Creative Commons Search
  3. Free Images
  4. Free Images Collection
  5. Pexels
  6. Pixabay
  7. UnSplash
  8. Wikimedia Commons
You can also reshape images in Google Slides using the Crop tool. Simply select the desired shape.

Tip #3: Enhance experiences with multimedia.

You can enrich user experiences by adding multimedia. Google Slides allows you to embed videos from YouTube, as well as any videos you may have stored in Google Drive. The latter option makes it easy to insert audio files that have been saved as MP4 files. These MP4 files have audio, but no video, and can provide an emotional touch or enhance an image.
  1. Navigate to the non-YouTube MP4 you want to insert in your Google Slide.
  2. Use an image or text item to serve as the hyperlink to the MP4 file.
  3. To play the MP4 file, click the hyperlinked image or text.
Read this information from Google for an illustrated how-to.

Tip #4: Enchant the eyes with fonts.

“If you need to put eight-point or ten-point fonts up there, it’s because you do not know your material,” says Garr Reynolds. Instead, take advantage of large font size and easy-to-read fonts. In Google Slides, you can add fonts, as detailed in a previous blog entry. Here’s an excerpt:
Step 1 – Go to the Font Drop Down Menu and Choose MORE FONTS at the bottom of the list.
Step 2 – Select the Fonts That Appeal to You. Once you have selected the font(s) you want to use, those will appear in your font list, represented by “My fonts.”
Be brief and use large font sizes with only a few words on the screen. Vary colors of your font text to match the theme of your slide show.

Tip #5: Enlist the help of available slide templates.

Are you stuck for a creative look to your slide theme? Then check out this blog for some amazing templates that can serve as your starting point or an inspiration for what you want to create yourself.