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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Most Popular Posts of September

It's the last day of the month and as I do every month I've compiled a list of the most popular posts of the month. This month FreeTech4Teachers.com received more than 1,000,000 pageviews for the first time. That is amazing! Thank you to all of you who have shared posts through Tweets, Pins, Facebook, and other means. Your support keeps this blog going.



Here are the most popular posts of the month:
1. Powtoon Is Giving Away Free Accounts to Teachers - Create Animated Videos Online
2. Socratic Smackdown - A Game for Learning and Practicing Discussion Strategies
3. Engage Students in History With Fake Facebook and Fake SMS
4. 12 Good Tools for Gathering Real-time Feedback from Students
5. Frequently Overlooked Google Search Tools and Strategies
6. How to Use the Random Name Selection Tools on Classtools.net
7. How to Create Trading Cards for Historical and Fictional People, Places, and Events
8. Sources of Free Sound Effects and Music for Multimedia Projects
9. MyStorybook - A Good Platform for Creating Picture Books
10. Turn a Set of Spreadsheet Cells Into Easy to Read Documents

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.
GoSocialStudiesGo is an online textbook for social studies students.

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.

Explore Planet Nutshell's Teacher Library for Great Educational Videos

I became a big fan of Planet Nutshell the first time that I saw their series of videos on Internet Safety. They've also produced great videos on Financial AidClimate Science, Health, Mathematics, and Physics. This morning I was exploring the Planet Nutshell website and notice that all of the education videos are now available in one section of the site labeled Teacher Library.


NetSafe Episode 1: What is the Internet? (Grades K-3) from Planet Nutshell on Vimeo.

ClipPod - Shared Notes and Attachments for Google Calendars

ClipPod is a neat Google Calendar add-on that allows you to share notes and attachments through Google Calendar events. By adding ClipPod to your Google Calendar you can have conversations with your collaborators about your calendar events. While Google Calendar already allows you to add attachments to event details, ClipPod's attachments option allows you and your collaborators to exchange notes about your shared attachments.

Applications for Education
ClipPod could be a handy add-on to use when you are trying to schedule and plan a meeting with colleagues. Rather than a string of emails or a collaborative document, you can have all of your notes and files connected directly to a date and time on a calendar.

To get the most benefit from using ClipPod all of your calendar collaborators will need to have ClipPod installed.

How to Format Block Quotes in Google Documents

A couple of days ago a reader emailed me to ask for directions on formatting block quotes in Google Documents. This morning I created a video to answer that question. In the video below I explain and demonstrate how to format block quotes in Google Documents.

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Google Tools Tutorial Videos in One Playlist

Over the last year I've created a bunch of how-to videos to answer common questions about Google Drive, Docs, Spreadsheets, Forms, Chrome, Maps, and Earth. This evening I finally put all of those videos into one playlist. That playlist is embedded below.


I'll be adding more videos to this playlist as I create them.

The Solutions to Common Stains Found in One Great Database

Stain Solutions is a handy website developed by Susan Taylor at the University of Illinois Extension. The site is a database of dozens of common stains and the solutions to remove them. Click on a stain in the chart and you will be taken to a list of the ingredients needed to make a solution that will remove your chosen stain. Directions and warnings are provided along with the solutions.

Applications for Education
I don't know of any teacher who hasn't stained work clothes themselves or had them stained as the result of a student mishap. I've stained enough neckties to create a drop-cloth. Coffee, ink, and markers seem to be the leading causes of those stains. Solutions to remove all those stains can be found on Stain Solutions.

H/T to LifeHacker.

Video Book Reviews in the Common Craft Style

This evening on the Common Craft blog I saw a video in which someone reviewed The Art of Explanation by making a video in the Common Craft style. The producer of the video, Bruce Herwig, wrote a blog post explaining the lessons he learned in the video production process.


Applications for Education
I've written about book trailers a handful of times in the past. (Most recently in this post in June). Usually those projects are focused on having students produce something that will get other students interested in a book. The approach that Bruce Herwig uses in the video above is slightly different as it focuses more on providing a clear overview of the book rather than just trying to hook viewers into reading the book. That approach could be a good one for high school students to use as a means to providing reviews of non-fiction works that may not have the entertainment value of fiction works.

Long Awaited Features Added to Google Forms

Whenever I lead a workshop about Google Forms teachers always ask if there is a way to limit response and if there is a way to randomize the order of the questions in the form. Starting today the answer is yes. Google has finally added those options to Google Forms.

Limiting form responses to one per person is now a simple matter of checking the box labeled "only allow response per person." That option appears above the title of your form.

Randomizing the sequence in which questions appear on your Google Forms is now just a matter of clicking the box labeled "shuffle question order." With that box selected each person viewing your form will see the questions in a different sequence.

Click the image to view it in full size.
These new features are available now to anyone using a Gmail account to access Google Forms. According to Google's official Google Apps Updates blog the new features will be rolled out to Google Apps for Edu and Business users over the next two weeks.

There were some other new, but less significant, features added to Google Forms today. Those features include shortened URLs for sharing Forms, the option to search with the help menu, and limiting "grid style" questions to one response. 

I don't think that the shortened Forms URLs will be terribly useful because the shortened URLs cannot be customized and they are case sensitive just like Goo.gl URLs. I prefer to use Bitly to create custom shortened URLs. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Freeplay Music - Another Good Place to Find Music for Multimedia Projects

Earlier this week I shared a list of good places to find free music and sound effects for your students to use in their multimedia projects. The next morning Kinshasa Msola emailed me to with the suggestion of adding Freeplay Music to that list. I'm glad that she did because Freeplay Music was a great suggestion.

Freeplay Music hosts more than 15,000 music files that your students can download to use in their multimedia projects. The Freeplay Music education license allows students and teachers to use the music for free within the confines of the school. Publishing those projects on YouTube requires a slightly different though still free license. You can find the details of the licenses here.

The Week In Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine. By the time most of you read this I will be fly fishing on my favorite lake in the state. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you have fun things planned too. If part of your weekend includes getting caught up on ed tech news, take a look at this week's most popular posts on Free Technology for Teachers. On a related note, my Practical Ed Tech tip of the week email contains this list and is sent on Sunday evenings only. You can join that email list here.

The most popular posts of the week:
1. Frequently Overlooked Google Search Tools and Strategies
2. How to Create Trading Cards for Historical and Fictional People, Places, and Events
3. How to Share Materials By Using Files and Folders on Google Sites
4. Comics in the Classroom - Webinar Recording
5. CK-12 Introduces Dozens of Interactive Physics Simulations
6. Resources for Teaching About the Sights and Sounds of Autumn
7. ContextU - A Good Digital Textbook on the American Revolution

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.
GoSocialStudiesGo is an online textbook for social studies students.

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, September 26, 2014

How to Disconnect 3rd Party Apps from Google Drive

I recently received an email from a reader who was wondering how to disconnect the 3rd party apps that she had connected to her Google Drive account. This is a fairly common question so I decided to make a quick screencast of the process of disconnecting apps from Google Drive. In the video below I demonstrate the process in the old and new Google Drive interfaces.

Common Core Quest Expands to Cover All Common Core Math & Language Arts Standards

A couple of weeks ago I review OpenEd.io's new iPad and Android app Common Core Quest. At that time the app did not offer practice quizzes and review materials for all math and language arts standards. This morning I received the news that it now covers all of those standards.

The free Common Core Quest app gives students access to hundreds of practice quizzes aligned to Common Core standards in math and language arts. Before and after taking a quiz students can watch short video lessons that address the skills needed to master the standards contained in the quizzes.

To use Common Core Quest a student selects his or her grade then selects the math or language arts standards he or she is working toward mastering. (Teachers will probably have to provide directions to students and their parents as to which standards they should be working toward). The student will earn digital badges when he or she shows mastery of a standard through quiz scores.

Click here for the iPad version. Click here for the Android version.

5 Ideas for Using Padlet In School - Suggestions Welcome

Padlet is a great tool that I frequently use in my workshops. One of the reasons that I like it so much is that it is easy to use. I also like it because it can be used for a bunch of purposes. Here are five ways that I like to use it. At the bottom of this post I have included a Padlet wall that I encourage you to use to add your ideas about using Padlet in the classroom.

Padlet as a simple blogging platform:
Padlet walls can be arranged in free-form, grid, or stream layouts. Creating a Padlet page in the stream format could be a good way to create a simple, collaborative blog for students. You could create the page, select "stream" format, and make the page accessible for students to write short posts on. Their posts could include images and videos. If you want to, you can password protect your Padlet pages and moderate messages before they appear on your Padlet page.

Padlet Mini as a bookmarking tool:
Padlet Mini is a Chrome extension that you can use to bookmark websites. When you click the Padlet Mini extension in your browser you will be presented with the option to save to one of your existing walls or create a new Padlet wall. Click here for a video on using Padlet Mini.

Padlet as a KWL chart:
Padlet can be used to create a KWL chart that students can contribute to anonymously (or not anonymously if you want them to sign-in). Create a wall, make it public, and ask students to share what they know and what they want to know about a topic. If you allow anonymous posting you might get contributions from shy students who might not otherwise speak-up in class. Of course, if you allow anonymous commenting you should have a conversation with your students about what an appropriate comment looks like. (You could also turn on moderation and approve all notes before they appear). Padlet works well when projected on an interactive whiteboard.

Padlet for group research and discussion:
A few years ago I showed my special education students a short (18 minutes) video about cultural changes that took place in the US during the 1920's. After the video we discussed what they saw. Then I had students search online for other examples of cultural change in the 1920's. When they found examples they put them onto a Wallwisher wall that I projected onto a wall in my classroom. The wall started with just text being added to the wall and quickly progressed to YouTube videos being added to the wall. Once every student had added a video to the wall we stopped, watched the videos, and discussed them.

Padlet as a showcase of your students’ work:
If your students are creating digital portfolios, creating slideshows, or producing videos you could use Padlet to display all of your students’ best work on one page. Create the wall, call it something like “my best work this year,” and have your students post links to their works.



Kids Can Play the Roles of NASA Engineers on the NASA HIAD Game

HIAD is the name for NASA's Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator technology. In the NASA HIAD game (available online and as mobile apps) students learn to control HIADs to land them safely back on Earth. In the game students have to navigate the HIAD while accounting for velocity of the HIAD, wind speeds, timing of inflation, and shape of the HIAD. Make a mistake and the HIAD could burn up on re-entry or crash when it misses the landing zone. The game has four progressively more difficult levels. The first level teaches students the basics concepts and skills needed to complete the game.

Applications for Education
Playing the NASA HIAD game could be a fun way for middle school students to see how velocity, trajectory, and friction affect spacecraft upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sources of Free Sound Effects and Music for Multimedia Projects

In a post earlier this evening I shared Josh Wanner's video about the important role of music in video projects. Just as with images, it is important to have students use music and sound effects that they have permission to use. The following resources offer music and sound effects that students can use for free in multimedia projects.

Royalty Free Music hosts music tracks that can be reused in numerous ways. Royalty Free Music charges the general public for their downloads, but students and teachers can download quite a bit of the music for free. To access the free music tracks students and teachers should visit the education page on Royalty Free Music.

Musopen's collection of free recordings contains performances of the works of more than 150 composers. You can stream the music from Musopen for free. You can also download five recordings per day for free from Musopen.

The Internet Archive hosts an extensive collection of music and other audio recordings that you can download for free. You should point out to students that they need to look at the usage rights closely when they find things on the Internet Archive. Not everything that is available to download for free is eligible to be reused for free.

The Free Music Archive provides free, high-quality, music in a wide range of genres. The content on Free Music Archive is used under various creative commons licenses. The New York State Music Fund provided initial funding for FMA. FMA seeks to maintain a high-quality resource through the use of selected curators who approve or deny all submissions to the collection. Anyone can download music from FMA for use in podcasts, videos, and other digital presentation formats. The music collections can be searched by genre or by curator.

Sound Bible is a resource for finding and downloading free sound clips, sound effects, and sound bites. All of the sounds on Sound Bible are either public domain or labeled with a Creative Commons license. You can find sounds for use in podcasts, videos, slideshows, or other multimedia creations.  

The next time you need common sounds like doorbells ringing, dogs barking, or car horns honking to use in a multimedia project you could try to record those sounds yourself or you could turn to SoundGator to find free recordings that you can download. SoundGator offers free sound recording downloads. There are twenty-three recording categories that you can browse through to find the perfect sound for your project. You do have to register on SoundGator in order to download recordings. After registering you can download recordings directly to your computer to re-use in your projects.

Students Can Get Office 365 for Free (Some Conditions Apply)

Microsoft's Student Advantage program allows eligible students to get free copies of Office 365. To qualify students have to be enrolled in a school that has purchased Office organization-wide for all faculty/staff via the Microsoft Volume Licensing program. If your school has done that then your students are eligible to request a free copy of Office 365 for their personal computers. The program is currently open to students in the United States and will expand globally later this year. Click here for complete directions and terms for taking advantage of this offer.

Send Reminders to Parents and Students Through Class Messenger

Class Messenger is Scholastic's attempt to get in on the teacher to parent and teacher to student messaging market. Class Messenger offers free iPhone and Android apps that allow teachers to send messages to parents and students on a group or individual basis. Class Messenger allows you to send text and picture messages. Students and their parents can reply to your messages without seeing your personal phone number. Likewise, you don't see personal phone numbers of your students.

Class Messenger categorizes messages within the app. There are categories for homework assignments, general reminders, surveys, and volunteer requests.

One of the aspects of Class Messenger that I appreciate is that when you register for an account on Class Messenger there are demo classes already made for you to use to explore the app. The demo classes eliminate the worry of accidentally sending messages before you completely understand how the app works.

Class Messenger doesn't have to be used on an iOS or Android device. It is possible to use the service through the Class Messenger website.

Applications for Education
The Class Messenger service could be a great tool for keeping parents informed about what is happening in your classroom as well as helping to keep students on track. The service could be good for sending reminders to all parents about things like due dates for paperwork or homework that their children need to complete.

The survey aspect of Class Messenger could be handy for gathering responses from students on quiz review questions.

Don't Forget the Music - The Difference Music Makes In a Video

Don't Forget the Music is the title one of the finalists in Next Vista's latest video production contest. In the video Josh Wanner explains why music choice matters in a video production. To demonstrate his points Wanner plays the same video clip with three different music tracks in the background. The video is embedded below (jump to the one minute mark if you just want to see the demonstration).


Don't Forget the Music was created by using WeVideo and all of the music in the video is from WeVideo's audio library.

Applications for Education
When Animoto launched back in 2008 I had students create short videos to insert into a wiki about U.S. Presidents that they were building. It quickly became apparent that we were going to have to have a discussion about soundtrack choices. Josh Wanner's demonstrations in Don't Forget the Music would have been a great asset to me during the conversation with my students.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

National Geographic Bee Registration

Thanks to one of my friends who teaches middle school, I was just reminded that registration is now open for National Geographic's National Geographic Bee. The annual competition is open to students in fourth through eighth grade in public, private, and homeschools in the United States.

National Geographic offers a daily GeoBee quiz to help students practice for the National Geographic Bee. The quiz offers ten new questions every day. Students earn points based on accuracy and speed. For more resources to help students learn geography, take a look at these tools for playing and creating geography games.


Frequently Overlooked Google Search Tools and Strategies

This morning I spent some time reading the first part of the solution to Dr. Daniel Russell's most recent search challenge on Search ReSearch. Dr. Russell is a search anthropologist working at Google. Every week he posts search challenges that are designed to introduce you to new ways of searching for information.

The solution to Dr. Russell's recent challenge of finding the places Mark Twain mentions in "Around the Equator"? involves a strategy that I had not thought of or even knew existed until this morning. That strategy includes a creating a spreadsheet and then extracting named entities from it. To be honest, I would need Dr. Russell's tutorial open on a monitor next to me in order to replicate the process.

Reading through the solution to Dr. Russell's search challenge, which is a very advanced one that I wouldn't expect most high school students to employ, got me thinking about a search strategy and tools that I haven't employed before. That prompted me into thinking about creating a list of accessible search tools and strategies that middle school and high school students often overlook. Here's my short list of tools and strategies that are often overlooked.

Google Books: Google Books can be a good research tool for students if they are aware of it and know how to use it. In the video below I provide a short overview of how to use Google Books for research. You can also find screenshots of the process here.



Google Scholar: Google Scholar, like Google Books, is one of the research tools that students often overlook when searching on the web. Google Scholar can be an excellent place for high school and college students to find peer-reviewed academic papers, journals, theses, books, and court opinions. In the video below I demonstrate how to create a library of resources in Google Scholar as well as how to create Google Scholar Alerts that will notify you when new content related to your research appears in Google Scholar.


You can find screenshots of these processes here.

Google Earth, Maps, and Street View imagery: When confronted with a location-based search challenge Google Earth and Google Maps can provide a student with a lot of clues. Looking at placemark information in a Google Earth or Google Maps file can often reveal a clue if not the complete answer to a challenge. Likewise, Street View imagery provides visual clues that you might not otherwise find in a Google Images search. Dr. Russell suggests comparing historical and current imagery in Google Street View. Read the full explanation here.

Control F (Command F): Many students have the bad habit of only glancing at the webpages they open from a search results page. Or worse yet, only reading the brief snippet that appears below the link in a search results page. The reason for this behavior that students often give is “it takes too long to read the whole page.” To remedy this teach your students to use “Control F” (Windows) or “Command F” (Mac) when they open a webpage from the search results page. Control F or Command F allows you to search within any webpage for any letter, word, or phrase. Using this function can be quite helpful to students who want to determine whether or not a particular webpage contains information relevant to their research topics. Simply seeing the count of the number of times a word or term appears on a page can be an indicator of whether or not the page contains information relevant to a research topic.

Public Data Explorer: Google's Public Data Explorer draws on data sets from the World Bank, the US CDC, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other sources of public data. This is a great tool when I'm conducting a search that is centered around statistics. For example, it was much quicker to find the 1997 unemployment rate for Maine by searching in the Public Data Explorer than it was to do the same search at Google.com.

Image Metadata: pictures taken with digital cameras often contain a lot of information in the form of metadata. That metadata can tip you off to when and where a picture was taken. That information can then be used as clues to solving a larger search challenge. A great example of this can be found in this Search ReSearcher challenge from April, 2013. Check out FotoForensics for a tutorial on accessing image metadata.

Google Advanced Search Page: The Google Advanced Search menu should be bookmarked on every student's computer. From this page students can quickly refine searches according to file type, region, language, usage rights, reading level, domain, and or site. The advanced menu is also great for students who have forgotten about things like using quotation marks around search terms, using "or," and how to exclude words from search results.

And just as a reminder, on the Google Search Education site you will find beginner, intermediate, and advanced lesson plans for five skill sets.

How to Type Non-English Characters in Storyboard That Stories

During the Comics in the Classroom webinar that I hosted on Monday night we learned that you can now use non-English characters in Storyboard That comics. If you don't want to sit through the whole recording of the webinar to see that feature, check out the short video I made just to demonstrate how to type non-English characters in Storyboard That.


Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers.

How to Use the New Room Controls in TodaysMeet

Over the summer TodaysMeet added some new great new features for teachers. You can now create accounts on TodaysMeet, close rooms early, embed chat transcripts into a blog post, and moderate comments. In the video below I provide an overview of those features.


Click here for screenshots of the comment moderation process.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Audioboo Is Now Called audioBoom - Still the Same Great Service

The popular audio recording service Audioboo announced today that they will now be called audioBoom. You do not need to create a new account in order to continue using the service. Just as before you can create audio recordings and match them to pictures online or through the audioBoom Android and iOS apps.

Applications for Education
The audioBoom education section is full of great examples of using the service in classrooms.

One of the ways that I've suggested using Audioboo in the past is to have students use the mobile app to create short podcasts while on a field trip. The same can be done with the newly rebranded audioBoom.

Students can use the online version of audioBoom to create short recordings in which they explain the focal point of a picture that they have taken.

audioBoom recordings can also be inserted into ThingLink image projects.

Comics in the Classroom - Webinar Recording

Last night Storyboard That sponsored a webinar on using comics in the classroom. The webinar reached capacity quickly and unfortunately some people who wanted to join the live session could not get in. The recording of last night's webinar is now available to view online. I have embedded the recording below (if you're reading this in RSS or email, you may have to click here to see the video).


The slides from last night's session are included below.

ContextU - A Good Digital Textbook on the American Revolution

Back in May I shared information about a great U.S. History resource called ContextU. ContextU's purpose is to help students see the greater context for significant events in history. When it launched last spring ContextU was focused on the American Civil War. Thanks to Ken Halla, I have learned that ContextU now offers a section on the American Revolution.

Just like in the Civil War section, in the American Revolution section on ContextU students open a table of contents from which they can select an event, person, or theme to see it in the context of other events, and themes leading contributing to the American Revolution. Through timelines, Google Maps, diagrams, flow charts, timelines, and text ContextU provides context for each chosen event, piece of legislation, or theme. Students can jump from event to event or from theme to theme by following the hyperlinks within each diagram.

Applications for Education
ContextU's American Revolution section is still being developed but what is available now is quite good. The advantage of ContextU over a textbook as well as many other websites is the ease with which students can see how an event fits into the larger context of the causes of the American Revolution.

CK-12 Introduces Dozens of Interactive Physics Simulations

The CK-12 Foundation was busy creating new things this summer. Over the summer they launched a new Android app and new tools for finding and viewing review materials. This week they released dozens of new interactive physics simulations.

Each of the CK-12 physics simulations start with an introductory animation that explains the concept being demonstrated. After watching the demonstration students can play with a set of variables to see the effects of changing those variables. For example, in the archery demonstration students can change how far a bow is drawn to see what affect that has on the speed of the arrow. After experimenting with variables students can click the "challenge me" button to view a set of questions that ask them to utilize the information they learned through the simulation.

Applications for Education
The CK-12 physics simulations that I tried were not in-depth enough to be stand-alone lessons. That said, the simulations could make excellent supplementary materials to use as part of lesson online or in-person. I think that middle school and some high school students will enjoy experimenting with the variables in the simulations.

Video Review Lessons - A Student Video Project

This is the point in the new school year at which many teachers are wrapping their first units of the study of the year. One of the activities that I did to wrap-up and review units of study was to have students create short video lessons about topics we covered in each unit. Each student chose (or was assigned if they didn't want to choose) a topic and created a sixty to ninety second video that was shared with the class. The videos were shared on a class wiki hosted on Wikispaces. My students used a variety of tools for making their videos including iMovie, WeVideo, KDenLive, and JayCut (now defunct). What follows are the tools that I recommend now.

Web-based and desktop video tools:
PixiClip is a good option for creating simple instructional videos. PixiClip provides a whiteboard space on which you can draw, upload images to mark-up, and type. While adding elements to your PixiClip whiteboard you can talk and or record a video of yourself talking. In fact, you can't use the whiteboard without at least recording your voice at the same time. Recordings can be shared via social media, embedded into blog posts, or you could grab the link and include it on webpage.

Screencast-O-Matic is a screencasting tool that I featured last week. It is available in a free version and a pro version. The free version allows you to record for up to fifteen minutes at a time (that is plenty of time for most screencasts), publish to YouTube in HD, and save videos to your computer as MP4, AVI, and FLV files. Screencast-O-Matic features a highlighted circle around your cursor so that viewers can easily follow your movements on the screen. A webcam recording option is included in the free and pro versions of Screencast-O-Matic. All of these features could be used by students to create simple video lessons in which they talk over a set of slides on their computers.

WeVideo is the web-based video editing tool that I probably mention more than any other on Free Technology for Teachers. Students can create videos by uploading images, video clips, and audio recordings to their WeVideo accounts. WeVideo also includes tools for recording voiceovers and using webcams to create raw video footage.

iPad video tools:
On the free eduClipper iPad app you can create instructional videos on a whiteboard in the Khan Academy style. You can also use the app to create a video in which you annotate an image or document while talking about it. After creating your video you can save it to an eduClipper board that you have shared with your students through the eduClipper classroom setting. Your students can view the videos on their iPads or in the web browsers on their laptops.

30hands is a free iPad app that makes it very easy to create a narrated slideshow. To create a basic narrated slideshow on 30hands all you need to do is import images from your iPad’s camera roll then press the record button below each image to record your narration. If you don’t have any pictures on your iPad you can take pictures using the 30hands app. 30hands also allows you to draw images instead of importing pictures. You can combine imported pictures with drawn images in your presentations. And you can draw on top of imported images. When your project is complete you can save it on your iPad or share it with the 30hands community.

eduClipper and 30hands are great for simple videos, but some students may want to create a bit more complex video. In that case, don't overlook iMovie which comes standard with new iPads. 

Android video tools:
SyncSpace is a whiteboard app available Android tablets. SyncSpace can be used to create drawings and documents on your tablet. You can create using free-hand drawing tools, using typing tools, or a combination of the two tool sets. Your drawings and documents can be sent to and synced with other users so that they can comment and edit your drawings and documents.

Clarisketch is a free Android app that has great potential for classroom use. The app allows you to take a picture or pull one from your device’s camera roll and then add your voice to it. While you are talking about your picture you can draw on it to highlight sections of it. Completed projects are shared as links to the video file hosted on Clarisketch. You can share the link to your Clarisketch video and have it play on nearly any device that has a web browser. See my sample here.

WeVideo's Android app allows you to create and edit videos on your tablet or phone. If you're looking to create a slide-by-slide instructional video in which you or your students talk about what's happening on the screen, then WeVideo could be a good choice for you. Wes Fryer recently wrote a great post about his experience with the app. In that same post Wes also did a nice job of comparing it to some similar iOS apps.

(Disclosure: I am an advisor to eduClipper). 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Resources for Teaching About the Sights and Sounds of Autumn

Last week I shared an idea for creating a timelapse of the changing colors of autumn. Today we have the autumn equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. This seems like an appropriate time to share some resources for teaching about the sights and sounds of autumn.

On National Geographic's Education page there are two resources worth noting. The first is a simple illustration of the position of Earth relative to the sun throughout the year. That illustration could support your use of this hands-on activity designed to help students understand the changes in intensity and duration of sunlight on their part of the world throughout the year. Both resources are appropriate for elementary school students.

Sixty Symbols offers an eleven minute video about equinoxes and solstices. It's not a video that most kids will find engaging, but I'm including it because in it you can see a demonstration of how you can use the free Stellarium software in your lessons.

To help students understand why the leaves change colors in the fall, the Maine Forest Service has an animated video explaining why leaves change colors. The video is titled Maine's Autumn Magic and you can watch it here. To help students understand some of the terms in the video, the Maine Forest Service has a glossary of tree terms.

USA Today has a simple interactive illustration that students can click through to see how the weather affects the color of leaves. Students can select individual tree leaves to see what different leaves look like throughout the seasons.

Although they're not as informative as the two resources above, National Geographic has a couple of nice photo galleries of fall foliage. Click here for a small gallery of images from Acadia National Park. Click here for a gallery of images from the Adirondack Park.

Untamed Science offers a good, partially animated, explanation of why leaves change colors, what produces the colors, and why bright and sunny days are best for viewing red leaves. The video is embedded below.


Autumnal Colors is a short video produced by Thomas Rasel. The two minute video highlights the sights and sounds of autumn. A bugling elk and a squirrel preparing for winter are a couple of the sights and sounds included in the video.


Autumn from Thomas Rasel on Vimeo.


Autumn Stars and Planets is a short PBS video that explains why the stars and planets that we see from Earth change with the seasons. The video is embedded below.


Reactions, a great YouTube channel from the American Chemical Society, released a new video about the chemistry involved in the process of leaves changing color. The videos explains how chlorophyll and the glucose stored inside trees help reveal the reds, yellows and, browns of fall foliage.

The Lives of Baby Fish

The Secret Lives of Baby Fish is a cute and informative TED-Ed video that I watched over the weekend. The video explains how coral reef fish reproduce, grow, and survive. Through the video viewers can also learn about how new research is changing marine scientists' understanding of some aspects of the geographical distribution of coral reef fish.


While I enjoyed the video because it is well-produced, I was equally happy with the accompanying questions found on the TED-Ed site. Instead of just asking "did you pay attention?" types of questions, the first three questions ask students to think and use the information they just heard.

How to Share Materials By Using Files and Folders on Google Sites

This morning I received the following request from a reader:

Right now we tutors email our objectives to the parents which has worked well, but for families with multiple kids, they can conceivably receive 12 emails per week! I'd like to cut down on things going into their inboxes, and I was thinking there ought to be a way we tutors can upload our weekly files to one site with folders per grade level and then the parents can go to that place and grab what they need.

My suggestion was to create a file cabinet page on Google Sites. In the video below I demonstrate how to do this.

Updated - A Comparison of 11 Mobile Video Creation Apps

Six months ago I published a comparison chart of eleven popular mobile video creation tools. A couple of people recently pointed out to me that some aspects of the apps on that chart have changed. This morning I updated the chart to reflect those changes. The chart contains apps for iOS and Android. The chart can be viewed as embedded below or you can grab a copy through Google Drive (click "File" then "make copy" to save a copy for yourself).

Crash Course Reactions - A Student Video Project

Over the weekend I watched John Green's new Crash Course video about the causes of WWI. While I watched the video I thought about whether or not I would use it in a high school history classroom. In the video Green covers a lot of somewhat advanced content quickly.

Ultimately, I decided that I would use a video like Who Started World War I? with students who already have a solid understanding of the basics. Then I would ask them to create their own short videos to expand upon a point made by Green. It is also possible that I would have students who want to make a counterpoint to something in the Crash Course videos, that would be acceptable video project too.


Like a lot of student video projects, I'm not looking so much for production value as I am for content value. In other words, I'm evaluating the students use of facts in supporting the main point of their videos.  There are a lot of tools that students could use to create their videos for this project. They could simply use the webcams in their laptops to record themselves then edit the content in WeVideo. They could also use a tool like Knowmia or 30 Hands to create their videos on their iPads.

To be clear, I'm not picking on John Green's Crash Course series. The same type of activity that I described could be undertaken with any number of topics discussed in YouTube videos.

Image Credit: "DC-1914-27-d-Sarajevo-cropped" by Achille Beltrame - Cropped version of File:Beltrame Sarajevo.jpg. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where the sun is shining and the air is cold. I had to use an ice scraper to clear my car's windshield on Friday morning. This is my favorite time of the year to be outside. I plan to enjoy today's sunshine by playing with my dogs at our favorite pond, Oversett Pond. While we wait for things to warm up a bit, I'll write out this week's list of the most popular posts of the week.



Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Socratic Smackdown - A Game for Learning and Practicing Discussion Strategies
2. MyStorybook - A Good Platform for Creating Picture Books
3. Pixabay Updates Make It Easier to Find Quality Public Domain Images
4. Mark Your Calendar for an Afternoon of Free Webinars About Google Apps
5. Piano Maestro Offers a Fun Way to Learn to Read and Play Sheet Music
6. Use Google Drive to Share Videos Privately
7. Use This Interactive Map to Discover Artifacts Used in Ken Burns Productions

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.
GoSocialStudiesGo is an online textbook for social studies students.

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How to Use Join Codes to Add Students to Wikispaces Wikis

Last week I posted information about having your students join a Wikispaces wiki by using "join codes." I had a couple of people email me this week to ask for a help with this process. I created the following video to demonstrate how to create join codes for your Wikispaces wikis. In the video I demonstrate using the new and old versions of the Wikispaces interface.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Expedition Insects - A New Interactive Book from the Smithsonian

Expedition Insects is a neat interactive book from the Smithsonian Science Education Center. The new book was written to helps students in third through fifth grade learn about insects from all over the world. The book is full of pictures and videos to complement the text. Throughout the book students can click or tap on underlined words to quickly access their definitions.

Expedition Insects was created for the iBooks platform. It is interactive if you read it on a Mac or on an iPad. A non-interactive version of the book is available to read too.

Applications for Education
By reading and watching the content in Expedition Insects elementary school students can learn about how the insects survive in their respective environments. Students can also learn about the role that insects play in ecosystems.

How to Create Trading Cards for Historical and Fictional People, Places, and Events

The Trading Card Creator is one of my favorite tools offered by Read Write Think. The Trading Card Creator allows students to create trading cards about people, places, and events both real and fictional. It is available as a browser-based tool, as an iPad app, and as an Android app. In the video below I demonstrate how to use the browser-based version of the Trading Card Creator.

(yes, that is one of my dogs shaking his collar that you hear in the background).

Applications for Education
Some of the ways that the Trading Card Creator could be used by students is to create a set of trading cards about characters in a novel, to create a set of cards about people of historical significance, or to create cards about places that they're studying in their geography lessons.

Jeopardy Rocks - Another Tool for Creating Review Games

Jeopardy Rocks is a new tool for creating Jeopardy-style review games. To create your game click "build now" on the Jeopardy Rocks homepage, choose a URL for your game board, and enter your email address. To create your questions just click on a square and enter your questions and answers. You can go back and edit your game board whenever you like by entering your board's URL and entering your email address again. When it is time to play your game in your classroom you can have up to six teams represented on the game board.

Applications for Education
Like nearly all Jeopardy-style review games, Jeopardy Rocks is a simple tool that you can use to quickly create a review game to use with your students.

A couple of similar tools that you might want to explore are eQuizShow and FlipQuiz. Both of those tools offer galleries of public review games that you can use in your classroom.

ReadWorks Offers New Common Core-aligned Science Articles for High School Students

ReadWorks is a great non-profit service that offers hundreds of lesson plans and more than two thousand reading non-fiction and fiction passages aligned to Common Core standards. Recently, ReadWorks added a new batch of science passages with accompanying question sets to use in high school classrooms.

Vocabulary lists and lessons are one of my favorite aspects of ReadWorks. 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.

With a free ReadWorks account you can search for lessons and reading passages by grade and skill. In your account you can create digital binders of the lesson plans and reading passages that you want to use. Learn more about ReadWorks in the video below.


How ReadWorks Works from ReadWorks on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gooru Leaves Beta and Adds New Features

Gooru is a nice service for creating and sharing collections of educational videos, images, and texts. The service recently dropped the "beta" label and added some new features for teachers.

Gooru's Class Reports tool for teachers has been updated to give teachers more ways to monitor their students' progress as they work through collections of resources and quizzes. Teachers can now choose between three reports options. Scored Questions will reveal students' responses on multiple choice and true/ false items. Open-Ended Questions will show students' written responses and provide a place for teachers to give students direct feedback. Collection Breakdown shows teachers the time spent on a collection and class averages.

Gooru has added new collections of content created by partner organizations and schools. Two of the collections that I like are the National Geographic resources and the Next Gen Personal Finance resources.

Applications for Education
If you haven't seen Gooru before its biggest appeal is in the ease with which you can create collections of videos, images, and interactive websites to use as part of a flipped lesson. Being able to add quiz questions for students to answer as they go through one of the units you've created is the feature of Gooru that I like best. By having students answer as they go through the collection I can get a sense of what I need to spend more or less time covering in my classroom.