Google
 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August's Ten Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Good evening from Maine where I had a busy day of fishing and walking with my dogs. I hope that all of you had an equally good weekend. At the end of every month I take a look back at the ten most popular posts of the month. Writing this post gives me a chance to see what I should write more of and it gives you a chance to catch neat things that you might have missed earlier in the month.


The ten most popular posts from August, 2014.
1. Two Good Random Name Selection Tools
2. Math Word Wall Posters for Elementary School Classrooms
3. Two Google Apps Updates You Might Have Missed This Week
4. Seven Web-based Tools for Delivering Flipped Lessons
5. Great Google Search Strategies Every Student Can Use - Infographic
6. 20 Good Map Creation Tools for Students
7. Five Good Resources for Teaching Digital Safety and Citizenship to Elementary School Students
8. NEWSELA + Google Docs = Differentiated, Collaborative Reading!
9. WordWriter - A New Way of Learning Vocabulary Through Writing
10. Two Ways to Explore the News Through Maps

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference? Click here to learn about my keynote and workshop offerings. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is offers professional development workshops in Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.
BoomWriter and WordWriter are fantastic tools that help students develop their writing skills.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter, on Google+, or on Pinterest.

CNN Student News - A Great Resource for the 2014/2015 School Year

One of my go-to resources for current events lessons is CNN Student News. With the start of a new school comes a new season of CNN Student News. The video format for the 2014-2015 school year is the same as it has been for years. The roughly ten minute episodes feature US stories, a world news stories, "shout out" to a classroom, and a quick quiz. Transcripts for each show are available for download. On the CNN Student News site you can also find suggested viewing questions to cover with your students. The latest commercial-free episode is embedded below.

12 Good Tools for Gathering Real-time Feedback from Students

Chatrooms and polling services provide good ways to hear from all of the students in a classroom. These kind of tools allow shy students to ask questions and share comments. For your more outspoken students who want to comment on everything, a feedback mechanism provides a good outlet for them too. This summer I tried out a few new tools for gathering real-time feedback from students. Those new tools are featured at the top of my updated list of backchannel and informal assessment tools.

Newer tools on the block...
81 Dash is a nice backchannel platform that I learned about during the "Smackdown" at Hack Ed 2014. 81 Dash provides a place for teachers to create chat rooms to use with students to host conversations and share files. Once you are registered you can begin creating rooms. In your chat room you can exchange messages and files. As the owner of a room you can delete messages written by your students. Students join your 81 Dash room by going to the URL that is assigned to your room. When they arrive at your room for the first time they will be asked to register. There are two registration options. Registering as a "guest user" does not require students to enter email addresses.

EverySlide is a free (for educators and students) service that allows you to share your slides directly to the iPads, laptops, Chromebooks, and Android devices used by members of your audience. As you move through your shared slides you can pop-up a poll to gather feedback from your audience. EverySlide supports PowerPoint and Keynote slides. To get started just upload your slides to EverySlide (you can re-use uploaded slides for multiple groups). When you're ready to present give your audience the access code for your slides. At the end of your presentation you can grab a spreadsheet of the responses to your poll questions.

Geddit is a new service that allows you to quickly gather feedback from your students through any web-enabled device. Like similar services Geddit gives you the ability to push questions to your students' devices. You can create and send multiple choice and short answer questions. You can also simply ask "do you get it" at any time to check for your students' general feelings about a lesson you're conducting. The feedback that you gather from your students through Geddit can be displayed in a variety of graph and list formats. The list format that I like best shows me how each student responded to my "do you get it" question and highlights the students who responded with "no" or "kind of." you can now comment and send messages directly to individual students through Geddit. This feature will allow you to follow-up with a student who replied "I don't get it" to a question.

Plickers is a neat student response system that I learned about at ISTE 2014. Since then I have shown it at a handful of conferences and it has been a smash-hit every time. Plickers uses a teacher's iPad or Android tablet in conjunction with a series of QR codes to create a student response system. Students are given a set of QR codes on large index cards. The codes are assigned to students. Each code card can be turned in four orientations. Each orientation provides a different answer. When the teacher is ready to collect data, he or she uses the Plickers mobile app to scan the cards to see a bar graph of responses. Click here for a full run-down of ideas for using Plickers.

AnswerGarden is a neat service that allows you to embed a open-ended feedback tool into your classroom blog or website. With an AnswerGarden embedded into your blog your students can simply type responses to your question and see their responses appear in a word cloud. Creating an AnswerGarden is a simple process that does not require you to create an account. To get started go to the AnswerGarden homepage and click "create AnswerGarden." On the next screen you will enter a question or statement for your students to respond to. To share your AnswerGarden with students you can give them the link or embed the AnswerGarden into your blog as I have done below. Optionally, before sharing your AnswerGarden you can turn on moderation of responses and set an admin password.

ParticiPoll is a service that you can use to add interactive polls to your PowerPoint presentations. Your polls are created and delivered within your PowerPoint slides. Once you've added ParticiPoll to your PowerPoint you can create as many polls as you like. Each poll can have up to six response options. The best aspect of ParticiPoll is that you don't have to leave your slidedeck at all in order to administer the poll and see the results of your poll. Your audience can respond to your ParticiPoll poll through their cell phones, tablets, or laptops. To respond they simply go to the URL for your poll and choose a response. When you want to display the poll results you just click to the next element in your PowerPoint slidedeck and the results are displayed for all to see. All polls are anonymous.

The Old Reliables...
Infuse Learning is a free student response system that works with any Internet-connected device. Infuse Learning allows teachers to push questions, prompts, and quizzes out to students' devices in private virtual classrooms. In an Infuse Learning room a teacher can give students a wide variety of formats in which to response to a question or prompt. Students can reply to prompts and questions in standard multiple choice, true/false, and short answer formats. Infuse Learning also offers an option for students to reply by creating drawings or diagrams on their iPads, Android tablets, or on their laptops.

Kahoot is a service for delivering online quizzes and surveys to your students. The premise of Kahoot is similar to that of Socrative and Infuse Learning. On Kahoot you create a quiz or survey that your students respond to through any device that has a web browser. Your Kahoot questions can include pictures and videos. As the teacher you can control the pace of the Kahoot quiz or survey by imposing a time limit for each question. As students answer questions they are awarded points for correct answers and the timeliness of their answers. A scoreboard is displayed on the teacher's screen. Students do not need to have a Kahoot account in order to participate in your activities. To participate they simply have to visit Kahoot.it then enter the PIN code that you give to them to join the activity.

Socrative is the standard to which I compare all new student response systems. Socrative uses cell phones and or laptops (user's choice) for gathering feedback from students. You can post as many questions as you like in a variety of formats. One of the more fun question formats is the "space race" format in which students can work individually or in teams to answer questions as quickly as possible.

Poll Everywhere is a service that allows you to collect responses from an audience via text messaging. The free plan for K-12 educators provides selection of features and quantity of responses that is adequate for almost any classroom. One of the neat ways to display feedback gathered through Poll Everywhere is in word clouds. The word cloud feature integrates with WordleTagxedo, and Tagul.

TodaysMeet, a long-time favorite tool of mine for backchanneling in the classroom, this summer introduced two long-requested features. First, you can now create an account on TodaysMeet. By creating an account you can keep track of all of your chatrooms in one place, restrict access to your rooms, and close rooms early if the conversation gets too far off track. The second feature added to TodaysMeet is the ability to moderate comments in a chatroom. Click here for more information about these updates.

Padlet (formerly known as WallWisher) is a tool that has been used by teachers in a variety of ways for years now. I've often used as a collaborative know-want-learn chart and as an exit ticket tool. Padlet works on interactive whiteboards, on iPads and Android tablets, and in the web browser on your laptop.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts of the Week

Good morning from Maine where the cool air, sweaters on sale, and school buses rumbling down the road indicate that school is back in session in my county. If you started school this week, I hope that it was a great first week of the 2014-2015 school year. Enjoy the weekend! If part of your weekend includes getting caught up on educational technology news you might have missed, the list below is a good place to get started.


Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. NEWSELA + Google Docs = Differentiated, Collaborative Reading!
2. How to be Notified When Someone Completes Your Google Form
3. Interactive History Posters and a Dictionary of Historical Terms
4. Try the New ViewPure for Distraction-free Viewing of YouTube Videos
5. Five Good File Conversion Tools
6. StoryMap JS - Create a Mapped Story to Save in Google Drive
7. Remind Launches Stamps and Voice Messages

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference? Click here to learn about my keynote and workshop offerings. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is offers professional development workshops in Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.
BoomWriter and WordWriter are fantastic tools that help students develop their writing skills.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter, on Google+, or on Pinterest.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Cautionary Reminder About Backchannels

I frequently write about and talk about the benefits of using backchannel tools like TodaysMeet in the classroom. Some of my favorite backchannel tools are featured in this guide. Here's a cautionary tale from my early days of using backchannels in my classroom.

Four years ago I had a short (15-20 minutes) video that showed to students in my Civics class. For some reason I got the idea that I would award a bonus point (added to a quiz I recently gave) to the first student to correctly answer the questions I posted in the back-channel. In hindsight making chat a contest was a very bad idea because most of my students either posted guesses as quickly as they could or they tuned-out because they didn't think they could answer quickly enough. In the end, because of my mistake, my students didn't pay attention to the video as well as they would have otherwise. So while a back-channel can definitely improve the educational value of showing a video in class (case in point here), it must be done correctly.

Two Google Apps Updates You Might Have Missed This Week

This week Google released a couple of updates that many of us have been eagerly waiting on for months. The most significant of those updates is the release of the Google Slides iPad app. The app allows you to create and edit Google Slides presentations on your iPad. The app also supports editing PPT files on your iPad. And as you would expect from Google, the Google Slides iPad app supports collaborative editing of slide content. Click here to grab the new Google Slides iPad app.

The second update of note, although not nearly as significant as the iPad app update, is a new way to search for special characters in Google Slides, Documents, and Drawings. You can now perform a keyword search for special characters to insert into your slides, documents, and drawings. To perform a keyword search open the "insert" menu then select "special characters."


IXL Math Practice - A Free iPad App for Elementary School Students

IXL Math Practice is a free iPad app from the popular online math practice service, IXL. IXL Math Practice offers hundreds of math practice problems for students in Kindergarten through sixth grade. The practice problems are arranged according to grade level and mathematics skill. To find a set of practice problems students select their grade level then select a mathematics skill to practice.

Applications for Education
IXL Math Practice can be used without creating an IXL account by simply tapping "continue as guest" after opening the app. Guests can use the practice problems. However, guests cannot track their points or receive digital trophies for reaching points levels. Students who have IXL accounts (accounts are not free) can track their points and earn digital trophies.

Disclosure: IXL is an advertiser on iPadApps4School.com

ABCya's 100 Number Chart Offers a Fun Math Activity for Kids

From time to time I like to feature offerings from the sponsors of Free Technology for Teachers. ABCya.com is the longest running sponsor of this blog.

ABCya's 100 Number Chart offers a simple online activity for elementary school students. The chart offers "beginner" and "challenge" activities. In both activity levels students have to drag numbers into their proper places on a number line. In the "beginner" level students are shown a number line of ten numbers at a time. In the "challenge" activities students are shown numbers 1-100 and have to drag the missing numbers into place in the number line.

Applications for Education
ABCya's 100 Number Chart isn't a revolutionary online activity by any stretch of the imagination. That said, it is a well-designed and fun little practice activity for young students. ABCya's browser-based activities are now written in HTML5 which means that they will work on iPads and Android tablets.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Remind Launches Stamps and Voice Messages

A couple of weeks ago I shared the news that Remind (formerly Remind 101) was planning to launch voice greetings and a feedback option. Those services are now available in the Remind mobile apps.

You can now create short audio messages to send to students and their parents. Messages can be up to fifteen seconds long. Voice messages can be sent to individuals or to groups.

Stamps is the new feedback mechanism available through Remind. Students and their parents can now reply to your Remind messages by selecting one of four stamps to indicate that they have received your message and their thoughts about your message. For example, a student can use a question mark stamp to indicate that they don't feel prepared for an upcoming quiz.

Applications for Education
Much like I pointed out in yesterday's post about ClassDojo's voice message option, the Remind voice message option could be a better option than a text message when you want to convey your enthusiasm for the improvement that a student is making in your classroom.

Kaizena Adds Tags to Voice Comments for Google Documents

Kaizena is a great add-on for Google Documents and Google Presentations. Kaizena allows you to add voice comments to Google Documents and Presentations that are shared with you. Earlier this month a notification feature was added to Kaizena. Today, Kaizena added a feedback tagging option.

Kaizena tags allow you to select a portion of a document or presentation at tag it with a skill, a Common Core standard, or an element from a rubric.

Kaizena can be added to your Google Documents through the Add-ons menu in Google Drive.

Applications for Education
Tags can be combined with voice comments. Use voice comments to explain to students how they met a standard that you have tagged in one of their documents or presentations.

StoryMap JS - Create a Mapped Story to Save in Google Drive

StoryMap JS is a nice tool for creating mapped stories. On StoryMap JS you create slides that are matched to locations on your map. Each slide in your story can include images or videos along with text. As you scroll through your story there are simple transitions between each slide.

StoryMap JS integrates with your Google Drive account. To get started with StoryMap JS you have to grant it access to your Google Drive account. StoryMap JS will create a folder in your Google Drive account where all of your storymap projects will be saved. With StoryMap JS connected to your Google Drive account you will be able to pull images from your Google Drive account to use in your StoryMap JS projects.

Applications for Education
One of the best examples of StoryMap JS for classroom use is found in the Manifest Destiny storymap featured on the StoryMap JS homepage. StoryMap JS could be a great way for students to create visual summaries of historical events and themes. Students could also use StoryMap JS to create short historical fiction works.

Students Can Create Study Planners on ExamTime

ExamTime is a neat service that students can use to create flashcards, mind maps, and practice quizzes to help them study. In addition to creating review materials students can create schedules for studying on ExamTime.

Through the ExamTime study planner students can create schedules for reviewing study materials for all of their courses. The study planner allows students to create recurring calendar events to study a particular topic at a given time every day or week. The video below offers an overview of the ExamTime study planner.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

LibrAdventures - A Map of Writers and Their Stories

LibrAdventures is a neat use of Google Maps that displays the place and the events that influenced famous authors and their works. LibrAdventures also includes some artists and film directors. You can explore LibrAdventures by selecting a name, a location, or an event from the drop-down menus at the top of the LibrAdventures homepage. You can also explore LibrAdventures by clicking placemark icons on the map.

Applications for Education
LibrAdventures could be a good resource for helping students see the connection between place and stories. You could have students create their own LibrAdventure-like maps on Google Maps.

H/T to Google Maps Mania

Video Creation and Editing 101

Creating videos is one of my favorite classroom activities for students. A well-planned video project can be used to have students sharpen their research, writing, and revising skills while developing video production skills. Below you will find a collection of tips and resources for learning to become a better video editor. If you're looking for a mobile video creation tool, take a look at this comparison chart.

In the video below WeVideo offers three key tips for shooting better videos.


The Vimeo Video School offers more than five dozen videos about creating better videos. Two of their videos are embedded below.


Quick Focusing Tips from Vimeo Video School on Vimeo.



Zoom vs. Moving Camera from Vimeo Video School on Vimeo.

Stillmotion is a video production company based in Oregon. They offer a series of videos all about how to tell stories through video. The series takes you through the planning, shooting, and editing of a video. The series isn't a how-to on the technical side of production as it is a how-to plan and think about the process of producing a great video. The first video in the series is embedded below. Below the video I've linked to the other videos and text outlines in the series.


Storytelling The Stillmotion Way: Part 1 from stillmotion on Vimeo.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


ClassDojo's Messenger App Now Supports Voice Messages

Two weeks ago ClassDojo launched a stand-alone messenger app. The app allows you to send messages from your mobile device to your students and their parents. The messenger app protects the privacy of you and your students by not relying on your cell phone number to send messages.

Today, ClassDojo announced the addition of voice messages to the messenger app. Voice notes in the ClassDojo messenger app can be sent to individuals or to groups of students and parents. The voice option is still in beta so you will need to sign-up here to receive early access.

Applications for Education
Text messages are great because they're quick and easy to send and receive. That said, there are times when voice does a better job of conveying your message. Sending a voice message could be a better option than a text message when you want to convey your enthusiasm for the improvement that a student is making in your classroom.

Monday, August 25, 2014

C-SPAN's New Student Documentary Contest

This fall C-SPAN is once again hosting a documentary video contest for students. The contest is open to middle school and high school students. To enter the contest students need to create a documentary video, 5-7 minutes in length, on the theme The Three Branches and You. Students should tell that demonstrates how a policy, law or action by either the Executive, Legislative, or Judicial branch has affected them or their communities. The deadline for entries is January 20, 2015. This year $100,000 in prizes will be awarded. The theme and the deadline for this year's contest have been announced, but the rules page hasn't been updated yet. The rules from last year's contest are available here.

Applications for Education
Even if your students don't enter the contest, creating videos about a policy, law or action by either the Executive, Legislative, or Judicial branch has affected them or their communities could be a great project for a civics class.

How to be Notified When Someone Completes Your Google Form

This morning I received an email from a reader who was looking for a way to be notified whenever someone completed the "contact me" form he had created through Google Forms and embedded into the Google Site for his classroom. Google Sheets, where Google Form responses are collected, has a built-in tool for notifications. To be notified, open the "tools" menu while viewing the spreadsheet on which your form responses are collected. In the "tools" menu select "notification rules." In the "notification rules" settings you can choose to be sent an email when someone submits new information through your Google Form.  Screenshots of the process are included below (click the images to view them in full size).



ReadWorks Adds Vocabulary Lists to Accompany Common Core-aligned Reading Passages

ReadWorks is a free service that has cataloged hundreds of lesson plans and nearly two thousand reading non-fiction and fiction passages aligned to Common Core standards. Vocabulary lists and lessons are the latest addition to ReadWorks. Now when you select a passage and a lesson in ReadWorks you can find a list of key vocabulary words to go with the passage. Click on a word in one of the vocabulary lists to find its definition and a list of sample uses of the word. At the bottom of the vocabulary list you will find PDF of practice exercises to give to students.

Applications for Education
With a free ReadWorks account you can search for lessons and reading passages by grade level, lexile score, reading skill, subject area, and text type (fiction or non-fiction). In your ReadWorks account you can create digital binders of the lesson plans and reading passages that you want to use.

Note: not all of the ReadWorks passages have accompanying vocabulary lists yet.

NEWSELA + Google Docs = Differentiated, Collaborative Reading!

This is a guest post from Beth Holland of EdTechTeacher.org, an advertiser on this blog.

Whether you teach elementary, middle, or high school, a common challenge exists: finding non-fiction content at reading level. This is an especially pressing concern for teachers incorporating the CCSS Standards into their curricula. Given that varied reading levels may exist within a single class, it can seem virtually impossible to have all students access the same content in a way that allows them to comprehend the material. Creating differentiated reading groups may seem equally unrealistic since it is impossible for a teacher to work with multiple students or groups all at the same time. To quote Jennie Magiera (@MsMagiera), we also need a means to “clone the teacher.”

Solution: NEWSELA + Google Docs = Differentiated, Collaborative Reading!

NEWSELA solves the first dilemma by providing teachers with a database of non-fiction articles. Additionally, each article can be adjusted by Lexile for up to five different reading levels, and some articles include comprehension quizzes.


Sample NEWSELA article

Though it is possible to create classes and push out content from within NEWSELA, by incorporating Google Docs, we can address the second challenge of allowing teachers to virtually be in multiple reading groups, and with multiple students, all at the same time. By disseminating the content to your students as a Google Doc set to Comment Only, you create collaborative, leveled reading experiences!

With Google Docs, you can leave comments as reading prompts to which your students can reply as well as give them the opportunity to highlight and comment on the text themselves. As a teacher, you can then take part in all of the virtual conversations as well as see what connections your students are making to the content.

Sample Google Doc with Comments
Sample Google Doc with Comments.

In fact, you can experience this as a student by responding to my comments in this Google Doc. I adjusted the NEWSELA article, Baby elephants born in zoos celebrated, and presented it at the lowest available Lexile (750L). Note that with NEWSELA, the available levels adjust depending on the intended audience of the article.

Even if students do not have Google accounts, this activity is still possible by setting the sharing permissions to Anyone who has the link can comment and asking the students to visit that link in order to participate in the activity - just like I did with the sample Doc.

Set-Up Process

From a teacher’s perspective, here is how to make this all happen.
  1. Find an article from NEWSELA that you would like for your students to read.

  2. Create Google Docs for your desired reading levels.

  3. Copy & Paste the contents of the article, at reading level, into the Docs. IMPORTANT - don’t forget to model good digital citizenship for your students and cite the original article.

  4. Share the Docs as Comment Only.

  5. Watch your students start reading from any device (laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, even smart phones)!

As an added bonus, if you have your students are working on computers or Chromebooks, they can install the Read & Write Chrome extension in the Chrome Browser to hear the documents read out loud. From an iPad or iPhone, students can comment using the Docs app and use Speak Selection for that text-to-speech feature.

By combining these two FREE tools, it is now possible to differentiate your instruction, provide your students with a new way to connect to content, and clone yourself all in one!

To learn more ideas like this one, EdTechTeacher will be hosting two FREE, live webinars in the coming weeks: Back to School with iPads and Back to School with Google. Registration is Open!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Interactive History Posters and a Dictionary of Historical Terms

The beginning of the school year is when a lot of history teachers find themselves explaining why the study of history matters. (Likewise, teachers of other subjects find themselves explaining why the study of their content area is important). TeachingHistory.org offers a couple of explanations and examples in the form of interactive posters for students.  Doing History is Like Solving a Mystery is an interactive poster for elementary school students. The poster uses images with notes to guide students through the process of developing good research questions and recording their ideas. History is an Argument About the Past is an interactive poster for middle school and high school students. The poster walks students through identifying primary and secondary sources of information then using that information to create an argument.

One of the struggles students have in learning any new subject is learning the key vocabulary. History Today offers a good glossary of history vocabulary. The History Today Historical Dictionary contains hundreds of concise entries. You can search for explanations of terms and events or search for mini-biographies by entering your query into the Historical Dictionary search engine. You can also browse the dictionary in alphabetical order. Each entry includes links to related entries and further reading suggestions.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Try the New ViewPure for Distraction-free Viewing of YouTube Videos

ViewPure is a service that allows you to watch and project YouTube videos without seeing the related sidebar content typically seen on YouTube.com. ViewPure offers a free browser bookmarklet that you can use to clear the sidebar content while viewing a video on YouTube.

ViewPure has been around for a four or five years. Recently, the site was updated to offer helpful search tools. You can now search for YouTube videos through the ViewPure website. When searching for videos through ViewPure you don't see sidebar content, you only see videos. You can choose to use strict filtering while searching through ViewPure.

Applications for Education
The ViewPure website and ViewPure browser bookmarklet are great tools for teachers who want to show a YouTube video in their classrooms, but don't want to risk displaying "related" sidebar content. To be clear, ViewPure is not a work-around if your school blocks YouTube and it is not a tool for downloading YouTube videos. (Downloading YouTube videos is a violation of the YouTube terms of service).

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from the Free Technology for Teachers World Headquarters in Woodstock, Maine where a light fog is hanging in the valley. As the summer winds down and the school year begins I just want to say thank you to all of you that subscribe to my blog and visit it regularly, you are the reason that I write every day. This blog wouldn't thrive without you, thank you. I hope that everyone has a fantastic 2014-2015 school year.


Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 20 Good Map Creation Tools for Students
2. Two Good Random Name Selection Tools
3. How to Embed Remind (101) Messages Into Google Sites
4. Activities for Teaching Students How to Research With Google Books
5. Use Google Drive to Share Videos Privately
6. Word Sense - See the Connections Between Words
7. The Public Domain Review - A Good Place to Find Public Domain Media

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference? Click here to learn about my keynote and workshop offerings. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is offers professional development workshops in Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.
BoomWriter and WordWriter are fantastic tools that help students develop their writing skills.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter, on Google+, or on Pinterest.

Friday, August 22, 2014

ClassDojo In the High School Classroom

This morning on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page someone asked about using ClassDojo in the high school setting. I admit that when I first saw ClassDojo I didn't think it would be a great fit for high school classrooms. It had a very childish appearance due to the cartoon avatars and the default behavior recording categories. A couple of months after I had put ClassDojo into the "K-8 only" I spoke at a conference in North Carolina where a couple of high school teachers (unfortunately, I don't remember their names) explained how they were using ClassDojo.

ClassDojo allows you to create your own standards to record in your class rosters. For high school students you could set standards for participation in classroom discussion be creating a standard like like "use of evidence in argument" or "thoughtful consideration and reply to opposing viewpoints." If your students are working in groups you could create standards like "efficient delegation of tasks" or "makes effort to include all group members."

The video below demonstrates how to add behavior standards to ClassDojo.

Otus - A Great Online Learning Environment

Otus is a free online learning environment that I first learned about in July. One of the founders of the company recently gave me a hands-on tour of the environment, I was impressed by the possibilities of what I saw. Otus was originally designed to be a service for teachers to distribute assignments, quizzes, polls, reading materials, and essential information from their iPads to their students' iPads. Otus has expanded to support use within a web browser on laptops and Chromebooks.

To get started with Otus sign up as a teacher either on the iPad app or in your web browser. Once you have registered as a teacher you can create classrooms. Students join your classroom through either the student iPad app or through a web browser. Either way students have to enter your class code to become a member of your Otus classroom.

The possibilities for teachers using Otus seem limitless. A few of the key features that grabbed my attention are the polling tools, the resource libraries, and the assessment tools. The polling function in your Otus classroom allows you to quickly create and deliver one question polls to your students. You can create your poll as a multiple choice, true/false, or open response poll. You can choose to display names next to poll responses or hide names.

The resource libraries in Otus are called bookshelves. In each of your Otus classrooms you can create bookshelves of reading materials in PDF format, add links to resources, and soon you'll be able to import files from your Google Drive account. Resources can be organized into folders and labeled with tags for easy sorting as you build your bookshelves. You can choose any item from your bookshelves to share with any of the students in your Otus classroom. It appears that you can share with an entire class or share with an individual student.

In the assessment section of your Otus classroom you can create multiple choice, true/false, and open response questions. You can assign assessments to students to complete immediately or to complete by a specified date. Soon you'll be able to create assessments that ask students to hand write and annotate materials.

Applications for Education
I only listed my favorite options in Otus, there are many others to explore. If you're looking for a good way to distribute lesson materials and assessments to students through your iPad or Chromebook, Otus is well worth taking some time to explore.

Close Reading Strategies, Rubrics, and Sample Assessments for History Teachers

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County has an excellent resource for history teachers. The UMBC Assessment Resource Center for History offers sample assessments based on readings from six eras in U.S. history. The assessments include multiple choice question and performance tasks based on close reading exercises. The performance task assessments include scoring rubrics, sample responses from students, and the documents that students need in order to complete the performance tasks. Click here (link opens PDF) for a sample performance task.

Multiple choice assessments featured on ARCH are based on documents and images that students evaluate before making their answer choices.

Applications for Education
It will benefit students if you work with them to go through ARCH's historical thinking rubric before letting them attempt the performance tasks. ARCH's historical thinking rubric is more than just a rubric. There are small sections on close reading methods that students can benefit from if they are given guidance on how to employ the strategies outlined in the rubric section of ARCH.

Thanks to Glenn Wiebe for the tip in his post on assessing critical thinking skills.

Tackk Lessons - Lesson Plans Featured on Tackk - Digital Portfolios and More

Tackk is a free service that was originally designed for creating simple webpages, but has morphed into a good tool creating digital portfolios and assignment portfolios. This summer Tackk Edu was created to showcase examples of using Tackk to create and distribute assignments to students. Visit Tackk Edu to see science, math, social studies, art, and language arts lesson plans that utilize Tackk.

To create a Tackk page you do not need to register for an account, but unregistered Tackk pages expire after seven days. If you register for the service your Tackk pages stay up indefinitely. I recommend registering for a free Tackk account before creating your first page. Creating a Tackk page is a simple matter of uploading an image then adding text in the customizable fields above and below your images. Tackk pages can also accommodate videos, audio files, and maps.

Tackk is currently running contest for schools. The My Rockin Summer contest will award $1,000 to the school that creates the best gallery of Tackks about summer vacation.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Use Real Pictures in ClassDojo Profiles

ClassDojo has been on a roll with new feature releases this summer. The latest update allows you to customize student profiles and your own profile by adding real pictures. Now instead of just using the cartoon avatars you can use headshots in your ClassDojo profiles and rosters.

Applications for Education
Using real pictures in ClassDojo profiles is a good complement to the new option to share classes and reports between teachers and administrators within a school building. Having real pictures in the profiles when you share classes and reports could help your colleagues recognize which students you're referring in your reports.

ClassCharts Seeks Schools for Case Study

ClassCharts is an excellent tool for creating online seating charts, behavior charts, and behavior reports. Individual teachers can use ClassCharts for free. Whole school implementations require a licensing fee. But this year ClassCharts is giving away licenses to schools that use PowerSchool and are willing to participate in a case study. This PDF provides more details on the free whole-school offering and case study.


ClassCharts allows you to create online seating charts for each of your classes. Through those seating charts you can record attendance, give virtual kudos to students, and record negative and positive behaviors. The information that you record in ClassCharts can be shared with parents and students through special log-ins that you supply to them.

ClassCharts offers a couple of features that I really like. These features make it different from other online behavior chart services. The first feature that stands-out to me is the option to upload pictures of students to your seating charts instead of just relying on cartoon avatars. The second feature that I love is the option to invite other teachers to collaborate on the tracking of student behaviors. For example, I can invite a teaching assistant who provides support to a special education students in my classroom to record behavior information when she is working with those students. I can also invite other teachers on my team to view and document behaviors about students so that we can discuss that information during team meetings.

The latest feature added to ClassCharts is also its most-promising feature. That feature is the use of artificial intelligence to create seating charts based on recorded behaviors and interactions of students. ClassCharts refers to this feature as "influences." The influences feature will show you the effects of placing two or more students next to each other in your classroom. The information provided through "influences" is based on the behaviors you record for individual students. ClassCharts "influences" will show you if a student's behavior and performance improves or declines based on who they are seated near.

Videos to Help You Get Started Sending Text Message Reminders Through Remind (101)

Remind, formerly Remind 101, is a great tool for sending important reminders to students and their parents. Through Remind students and their parents can sign-up to received text messages on their mobile devices. You send the messages from your computer or mobile device without students or parents seeing your personal cell phone number. Last week I introduced Remind to a bunch of teachers in Delta, Colorado and they loved it. If you would like to give Remind a try this year, the following five videos will show you what you need to know to get started.






Remind's full collection of tutorial videos is available here.

How to Use Box.com to Display PDFs in Blog Posts

From time to time I create PDFs to use in blog posts. Sometimes I do that because a PDF provides a better view of the content I'm sharing (see this post containing a chart for an example) and other times I display PDFs to make it easier for folks to print my information as I did with this post about ed tech tools that were updated this summer. I use Box.com to display PDFs in blog posts. Watch the video below to learn how to embed PDFs into your blog posts (I use Blogger in the demo, but the process is essentially the same for Kidblog users too).


There are three reasons why I choose Box over Google Drive or Scribd. First, the Box.com document viewer looks and functions much better than Google Drive does when it comes to PDFs. In fact, if you have a large file like my A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School Google Drive won't display a preview of it, it just displays a download link. The second reason that I chose to use Box is that Box will email me a weekly update about the usage of my shared files. I can also log-in whenever I want to see the current usage statistics about my shared files. Finally, I have learned that many schools block Scribd.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Use Google Drive to Share Videos Privately

Google Drive is full of options that often go overlooked. One of those options is privately sharing videos. To share videos through Google Drive upload them to your Google Drive account, preview them, then share by using the sharing options at the top of the preview screen. The sharing options allow you specify who can access the video. The screenshots below outline the process. (Click the images to view them in full size).

Step 1: Upload your video to Google Drive.

Step 2: Select you uploaded video.

Step 3: Click the share button.

Step 4: Choose your sharing options.

The Public Domain Review - A Good Place to Find Public Domain Media

The Public Domain Review is a website that features collections of images, books, essays, audio recordings, and films that are in the public domain. Choose any of the collections to search for materials according to date, style, genre, and rights. Directions for downloading and saving media is included along with each collection of media.

As you might guess, nearly all of what I found in the collections on The Public Domain Review is content of a historical nature. The collections include short descriptions that explain the significance of the media you're accessing.

Applications for Education
The Public Domain Review could be a great place to find historical media to use in history lessons, literature lessons, and art history lessons. If you're looking for colorful imagery to use as filler or backgrounds in slide presentations, the collections on The Public Domain Review are probably not your best bet. In that case, I would look to Pixabay for images that are in the public domain.

Explore Iceland in Google Street View

Getting ready for skiing at midnight
in Iceland. 
Iceland is of my favorite places in the world for vacation. I've been there twice (from where I live it's easier and cheaper to get to Iceland than it is to go to California). Iceland full of natural beauty that I've been fortunate to explore on mountain bike, skis, and sailboat. Now everyone can explore the natural beauty of Iceland through Google Maps Street View.

The latest update to Google Maps Street View includes imagery captured by driving on Iceland's Golden Road and imagery captured by people walking through Iceland's natural wonders like ├×ingvellir where I once pretended to hold Europe back from North America. Read the history and look at the Street View imagery and you'll see how I did that.

Iceland is known for its geothermal activity and waterfalls. You can see plenty of both in the new Street View imagery.


View Larger Map

Applications for Education
The new Google Street View Imagery of Iceland could be useful in starting conversations with students about how geothermal activities and shifting tectonic plates influence the landscape of a place.