Helpful Resources

Students...there are so many useful tools out there, depending on what you want to accomplish, that's it's often daunting just to get started.  Well, have no fear...because I've taken the work out of school work!  Please use this page as a resource to help you with any number of different projects you'll encounter throughout my class(es), and--as always--let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Prepping for the Science Section of the ACT

The science section of the ACT is only 35 minutes, but of course, accounts for 20-25% of your composite ACT score (depending on whether or not you are completing the writing portion of the ACT.  Whether or not  you consider yourself "a scientist," there are some really basic strategies that everyone can learn to improve the science score of their ACT.  Visit this site to get started.

Feeling confident that you are prepared for the Science section of the ACT?  Prove it with this Quizlet game.

Want to try some practice problems. Take a stab with this Kahoot! game.


Becoming a Chromebook Connoisseur...


Editing a video...

More and more, you are going to be asked to be literate when it comes to creating your own multimedia, such as videos. Well, this is nearly impossible to do with terrible software like Windows Movie Maker, which isn't even backwards compatible--causing tons of corrupt files and hours and wasted time.

For this reason, I prefer cloud-based video editing (unless you're doing monstrous projects or videos that require a level of expertise that online editors can't compete with.  However, if that's the case, I would assume you are already using Adobe, Final Cut Pro, or one of the other leaders in the field.)

Cloud-based editing has quite a few advantages...it saves your work in real-time so you don't have to worry about losing any data, but it also has the benefit of being available to you where ever you have an internet connection.  All you need to do is log into the website and you're back to editing.  Additionally, publishing to social sites like Facebook or YouTube are seamless and most even allow for easy integration with Cloud Storage like Google Drive or DropBox.

Of all the online video editing tools that I've used, I much prefer WeVideo.  It's free.  It's updated and improved constantly. And it has a whole slew of useful and exciting features, including free music and easy incorporation of online content.

Editing a photo...

Trying to remove the background of a photo but only have access to Paint? :-)Well, have no fear, because Pixlr is here!  Pixlr is the most comprehensive, free, cloud-based photo editor out there, with features incredibly similar to Adobe Photoshop.  
Want even more good news?  It's also free for mobile devices...so don't even hesitate to download it for your Android or iOS device if you have one! 

FYI...in case you weren't aware, Microsoft has actually integrated a lot of really cool photo-editing right into their software over the last few updates as well.  Features like "Background Removal" or "Filters" actually make a separate photo-editor less and less of a necessity!

Designing and delivering a presentation...

  1. PowerPoint
    • A classic, but a goodie...and I don't think it's going away anytime soon. A lot of people claim to hate PowerPoints, but I would argue that the sentiment arises simply because these people haven't seen PowerPoint used correctly!  PowerPoint remains one of the most (if not, the most) comprehensive presentation softwares out there, with limitless potential.  People simply need to know how to deliver a powerful presentation, and when it boils down to it, this simply means taking it easy on the amount of text and infusing TONS of visuals and multimedia, as well as discovering ways to engage the audience kinesthetically by actually getting them involved in the presentation.
    • Don't have PowerPoint at home?  No worries!  You can access it for free by signing up for One Drive, which I discuss in greater detail above.  Another bonus: this online option also allows for group collaboration.
  2. Keynote
    • Apple's equivalent to PowerPoint, which you can also access now online (through iCloud) for free so long as you have an Apple ID.  The best part is, if you've purchased an Apple product after October 2013, you can download the full program with all of its features to your device for free and edit on the go as well.
    • Another cool tidbit of information...if you like some of the quirky transitions that Keynote offers, you can even upload PowerPoints to Keynote and edit them there.
  3. Google Slides
    • While it's much simpler than Microsoft's counterpart, Slides (now integrated into Google Drive) has come a long way and allows for very simple collaboration amongst peers.  Additionally, Google is constantlyimproving the user experience so I expect features to only improve in the months and years to come.
  4. Prezi
    • Frequently bashed for causing "motion sickness," this free, online presentation software is also a pretty amazing tool...if used correctly.
       Unlike traditional presentation software, Prezi utilizes a "zoom in/out" method on a single canvas to highlight supporting arguments around a main idea. Feel free to see Prezi in action by taking a look at this presentation I've made for my Histology unit in Human Anatomy and Physiology.
  5. Haiku Deck
    • New to the table, but equally powerful, Haiku Deck is a visually-stunning piece of presentation software, available for free in the cloud or on an iPad.  It focuses your presentations on pictures and visual organizers...not text!
  6. Sway
    • Brand new and recently added to the Office suite by Microsoft, Sway is a totally new way to reimagine presentations.  Use Sway to create rich, beautifully visual presentations that are cloud-based, integrate with social media, and are viewable on any time of device. 

Doing research...

Conducting research can be one of the most difficult things you do if you don't know how to search for valid and reliable sources.  As a general rule of thumb, primary sources (those actually written and/or published by the person or persons responsible for the research) are ALWAYS better than secondary sources (wherein someone or some organization is reporting on someone else's research.  To learn more about the "Types of Sources" please follow this link.

To get you started on your research, I would recommend the following online tools:
  1. World Factbook
    • The World Factbook provides information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities. Our Reference tab includes: maps of the major world regions, as well as Flags of the World, a Physical Map of the World, a Political Map of the World, a World Oceans map, and a Standard Time Zones of the World map.
  2. refseek
    • Currently in public beta, RefSeek is a web search engine for students and researchers that aims to make academic information easily accessible to everyone. RefSeek searches more than one billion documents, including web pages, books, encyclopedias, journals, and newspapers.  RefSeek's unique approach offers students comprehensive subject coverage without the information overload of a general search engine—increasing the visibility of academic information and compelling ideas that are often lost in a muddle of sponsored links and commercial results.
  3. Wolfram Alpha
    • Not a search engine...a computational knowledge (or thinking) engine!  This website is a must!  It can even calculate calculus problems and show how it arrived at its derivation.
  4. Google Scholar
    • The Google Search Engine, but one that only generates a report from reputable sources!
  5. ZanRan
    • An amazing one-stop-shop for data and statistics!
  6. BadgerLink
    • An amazing way to access peer-reviewed periodicals through our library!

Writing a paper...

Citations are probably one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to writing a paper.  While I still feel as though using Microsoft Word's integrated References tools is the simplest way to cite sources (since it makes in-text citations a breeze), if you don't have access to Word, you may need another vehicle to ensure you're citing things correctly.  

If you use Google Chrome, I absolutely MUST recommend Cite This For Me.  It's a Chrome Extension that, once installed, simply requires the tap of a button to save and archive your research.  It will also generate a bibliography for you as well.  Just make sure to double-check your dates...I have found that all automated bibliography generators have trouble pulling dates from websites.

My other two favorites are: KnightCite and EasyBib.  EasyBib is particularly handy because all you need is the URL and the website will enter in all the field for you.  The downside...it's only free for bibliographies created in MLA format, and science classes require that bibliographies are done in APA.  However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel...EasyBib has now been integrated into Google Docs.  See the video above under the "Storing your stuff..." section.

Surely, you know to have your paper proofread, I hope.  But what about checking to make sure that you didn't accidentally plagiarize?  It's been my experience that most students that plagiarize actually do it unintentionally.  Don't let this happen to you.  Check your paper for plagiarism using Paper Rater.

Screen-casting...

Capturing your desktop screen is sometimes a really neat way of creating instructional videos or demonstrating your understanding of a particular topic.  There are a whole slew of software options that you can try out here.  Camtasia is probably one of the best, but it's also very expensive.  Jing is a freeware version of the same suite, but it only records up to 5 minutes of video and you are limited to a Flash Video file format, which doesn't play well with Windows Media Player.

My go-to screen-casting software is actually just a Google Chrome extension called Screencastify.  As part of the browser, it's always at the ready, it works on Chromebooks, and it also allows you to record your entire desktop, not just your browser contents.  Another bonus...you can use your webcam to show yourself so that the video isn't one of those creepy disembodied voice deals! :-)  If you're not a fan of Screencastify, Screencast-o-matic offers very similar features.

Creating your own review games or study aids...

As you're probably aware by now, I LOVE playing games.  They make learning more fun and they add a layer of competition that seems to increase student effort.  If you're interested in making your own review games, look no further than my website: Rankin's Hall of Game.  There, you will find everything you need to review like a champ! :-)