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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How to Send Emails from a Google Spreadsheet

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. This was the most popular post in June, 2014.

Have you ever found yourself sending strikingly similar though slightly different emails to all of your students or all of their parents at the same time? If so, you may have entered the email address, copied and pasted a message into the message, modified it slightly, then pressed send before repeating the process for the next message. That can be time consuming. Instead, save yourself a ton of time by sending emails from a Google Spreadsheet. Doing this requires adding a script to a Google Spreadsheet containing email addresses. It might sound complicated, but it really isn't. Watch the short video below from the Google Developers team to learn the process.


Applications for Education
Using this Google Spreadsheet script could be a great way to send similar though slightly customized messages to students and their parents. I might use it to send feedback to students on things that don't necessarily fit into the school's LMS.

How to Flip Your Classroom With eduClipper and PixiClip

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. This was the second most popular post in June, 2014.

Teachers interested in trying the flipped classroom model often ask me for recommendations for video creation tools. They also often ask me for ideas on sharing videos without using YouTube. One answer to both of these questions is to use eduClipper.

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.


Whiteboard and Annotations from AdamBellow on Vimeo.


If you don't have an iPad, 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 in an eduClipper board that you have shared with your students.


Disclosure: I am an advisor to eduClipper with a very small equity stake in the company.

Find Primary Sources from All Over the World on the World Digital Library

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. This was the third most popular post in June, 2014.

Last week in Iowa I shared some good resources for teaching with technology and primary sources. One of my favorite resources that I shared is the World Digital Library.

The World Digital Library hosts more than 10,000 primary documents and images from collections around the world. Sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the mission of the World Digital Library is to promote the study and understanding of cultures. The WDL can be searched by date, era, country, continent, topic, and type of resource. In my search of the WDL I noticed that roughly half of the resources are historical maps and images. The WDL aims to be accessible to as many people as possible by providing search tools and content descriptions in seven languages. The WDL can also be searched by clicking through the map on the homepage.

Applications for Education
The World Digital Library can be a great resource for anyone that teaches history and or cultural studies. The wealth of image based resources along with the document based resources makes the WDL appropriate for use with most age groups. 

Project Based Learning - An Explanation and Model Rubrics

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. This was the second most popular post in May.

Last week I had the privilege to work with Tony Vincent to lead a workshop about project based learning. Two of the resources that we shared during the workshop were a video explanation of PBL and set of rubrics from the Buck Institute for Education.

The following video, produced by Common Craft for BIE, explains BIE's essential elements of project based learning.


BIE offers rubrics for assessing critical thinking skills, collaboration, presentation, and creativity and innovation in project based learning assignments. The rubrics are available with or without Common Core alignment. You can download the rubrics as PDFs or Word documents.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How Not to Cite an Image

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. This was the most popular post in April, 2014.

This morning one of my Facebook friends posted one of those "ten signs you're from..." Buzzfeed-like articles that sucked me in. As I looked through the article I noticed something strange about the image credits. In fact, they really were not image credits at all. The caption below the images simply reads, "Source: Google Images." Besides not naming the owner of the image, the author of the article didn't link to the source nor indicated that it was used by permission. I took a screenshot and added a comment to it. You can see my screenshot below. 
Click the screenshot to view it in full screen.

(Yes, you can use this screenshot if you want to share it with your students). 

Applications for Education
Between great public domain image sources like Pixabay (click here for other options) and Creative Commons image search tools there are few occasions when students should have to resort to claiming fair use to use a copyrighted image. If they do end up at that step, they should at least give proper credit to the owner of the image.

5 Ways for Students to Showcase Their Best Work

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. This was the second most popular post in April, 2014.

As the end of the school year approaches you may be looking for a good way for students to organize and share examples of their best work of the school year. If your students have blogs or wikis that they have maintained all year then all they need to do is move their best examples to the front page. But if that is not the case for your students then take a look at these five services your students can use to organize and showcase examples of their best work.

Page O Rama is a free service for quickly creating stand alone webpages. Creating a webpage with Page O Rama is very simple. Just visit the Page O Rama homepage, select a web address, title your page, and start typing. Page O Rama offers a good selection of text editing tools including page breaks. If you want to, you can add images to your Page O Rama pages too. If you think your page is something that you're going to want to edit and update occasionally, you can enter your email address to create an administrative log-in.

Dropr is a free service for creating portfolios of your images, videos, and audio files. Within your Dropr account you can have multiple portfolio pages. If you wanted to have a page for images that you took in the fall and a page for images that you took in the spring, you can do that in Dropr. To create a Dropr portfolio start by signing up with a social media profile or with your email address. Then start your first project by uploading a cover image. Once you have started a project you can drag and drop media from your desktop to the Dropr website. Each project can include text in addition to the media that you upload to it. Each of your projects will have a different URL. You can work on your projects in private until you are ready to share them with the world. Your Dropr projects can be embedded into a blog as a slideshow.

Populr is a service for creating simple webpages to showcase an example or two of your best work. On Populr you can quickly create a stylish webpage with pictures, text, and document uploads. Populr offers a selection of templates that you can modify or you can build your page from scratch. All of the editing (aside from typing text) is done through a drag and drop interface.

About.me is a good tool for students to use to create a digital resume to share as part of a college admissions application or an internship application. About.me makes it easy to quickly create a one page site highlighting your strengths, things you've published online, and your preferred contact information. About.me offers support for embedding YouTube, Vimeo, and SoudCloud files into your page. This is a great option for students who are hoping to find employment or internships in the media production field. Students can prominently feature their best videos and or podcasts on their About.me pages.

Tackk is a free service that was featured last week on Free Technology for Teachers. By using Tackk you can create a page to announce an important event, to advertise an event, or to show off your best digital works. 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 registered for the service before creating my first Tackk page. Creating my Tackk was a simple matter of uploading an image then adding text in the customizable fields above and below my image. Tackk pages can accommodate videos, audio files, and maps, but I did not include those items in my first Tackk page.

Seven Good Student Response Systems That Work On All Devices

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. This was the most popular post in March, 2014.

Earlier today I received an email from someone who had found this comparison chart of student response tools. He was interested in learning a bit more about each of them beyond what was in the chart so I put together this collection of information about popular student response tools. Each of these tools can be used on iPads, Android tablets, and in the web browser on your laptop or Chromebook.

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.

Quiz Socket is a tool developed for the purpose of enabling teachers to quickly gather feedback from students. Quiz Socket enables students to respond to questions through their cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Here's how Quiz Socket works. Teachers visit the Quiz Socket website and click "create quiz." A quiz code is assigned to the teacher. The teacher then gives that quiz code to students to enter on QuizSocket.com. Teachers then deliver multiple choice questions to students either verbally or by posting them on a whiteboard. The teacher controls the pace of the quiz by simply clicking "next question" to move the quiz along.

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.

Verso is a free service that offers a nice way to deliver flipped lessons to students and gather feedback from them. As a teacher you can create Verso classrooms that your students join. In your classroom you can post videos, links, and files from your Google Drive account. Include response prompts with each item that you post. You can specify how many responses you want to gather from each student. When students sign into your Verso classroom they will see every new item you've posted for them. If you've posted a video it will play within the Verso environment. Students can track their completion progress in their account dashboards.

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. The video below offers a nice overview of the Socrative system.


Socrative introduction video (new) from Socrative Inc. on Vimeo.

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.

Mentimeter allows you to pose a question to your audience and get instant feedback on that question through cell phones, tablets, and any other Internet-connected device. Mentimeter doesn't have has many features as Socrative or Poll Everywhere, but it is free and very easy to use.

Five Ways to Create and Use QR Codes In Your Classroom

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. This was the second most popular post in March, 2014.

Recently, through the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page I was asked for suggestions for tools for creating QR codes. Here are five suggestions that I often make in regards to creating and using QR codes in classrooms.

Russel Tarr developed the QR Treasure Hunt Generator. The QR Treasure Hunt Generator provides you with all of the things you need to get started creating your own QR codes and using them in your classroom. To use the QR Treasure Hunt Generator type out a series of questions and answers, generate the QR codes using the tool Russel Tarr provides, then print and display the codes around your classroom or school. Click here to view a sample QR Treasure Hunt.

Goo.gl is Google's URL shortening tool. When you shorten a link with Goo.gl a QR code is created for it too. To find the QR code, click the "details" link after your shortened URL has been made. The details page also shows you how many times your link has been used. This is useful to me if I want to make sure that all of my students have used the link. If I see that the link or QR code has been used 17 times, but I have 25 students, I immediately seek out the students who haven't followed the link.

QR Droid's QR Code Generator allows you to create QR codes that link to websites, chunks of text, phone numbers, email addresses, contact information, calendar events, and location coordinates. To create your QR code simply complete the information fields that you want to link to then select the display size for your QR code.

QR Voice is a free tool that allows you to create QR codes that when scanned will play a short audio message. To create your message and QR code you can record a voice message by clicking the microphone icon on QR Voice or you can type in your message. Either way you're limited to 100 characters. QR Voice is offered in Spanish, English, Japanese, and Portuguese. Teachers could use QR Voice to create QR codes that they then print and attach to objects in their classrooms or schools. Then have students try to identify those objects in the language that they're trying to learn. To check their answers students can scan the QR code and hear the correct answer on their phones or tablets.

TagMyDoc is a tool that allows you to apply a QR code to Word documents and PDFs that are stored on your computer. Upload your document then TagMyDoc creates and applies a QR code to it. You can print the document with the QR code on it or simply project the QR code for your students to scan and get a copy of the document on their mobile devices.

How to Create a Bibliography in Google Documents

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. This was the third most popular post in March, 2014.

One of the most useful new Add-ons for Google Documents is the EasyBib Bibliography Creator. The EasyBib Bibliography Creator makes it easy to properly cite resources and format a bibliography in APA, MLA, or Chicago style. The screenshots below provide directions for the process. (Click the images to view them in full size).

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 3:

Step 4:

Step 5:

Monday, December 29, 2014

7 Free iPad Apps for Science Lessons

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. This was the second most popular post in January, 2014.

I'm preparing to do a virtual presentation for a small district next month. My hosts asked for a list of some science apps that their middle school and high school students can use. This is part of the list that has free apps.

The Bill Nye The Science Guy  iPad app is a free iPad app on which students can watch Bill Nye videos, play games, and discover kitchen table science experiments to do at home with their parents. The app is beautifully designed. Students enter the app by “scanning” their thumbprints. After entering the app students select an object on Bill Nye’s desk. Each object launches a new element of the app. My only complaint about the app is that in the video section it looks like you have to buy the videos (it’s an option) even though you can watch them for free.

goREACT is a free iPad app from the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. This free iPad app allows students to virtually create chemical reactions. To create the reactions students simply drag elements from the periodic table to the “reaction area.” The app includes suggested reactions to help students get started. In all there are nearly 300 chemical reactions supported on the app. The app includes pictures and videos related to the reactions that students can virtually create on goREACT.

Powers of Minus Ten: Bone is a neat iPad app for biology students. The app takes students through ten levels of viewing the inside of human bones. Students can zoom through and explore each of the microscopic levels. The imagery starts at the level of viewing bones from the outside and ends with viewing the atoms within the bones. A neat aspect of the app is that students can select “healthy bone” or “broken bone.” By selecting “broken bone” students can view a broken bone and see how it heals. Update December 2014: This app is no longer free. It now costs $0.99


Virtual Heart is a free iPad app that allows users to take a closer look at how the human heart functions. The free app lets users speed up and slow down the virtual heart rate. Users have four views of the heart in the app. The views are of the electrical system, the valves, blood flow, and the interior of the heart. Each view can be experienced with or without labels. The first time each view is tapped, a short introduction to that view is displayed.

3D Brain is a free iPad app that features a model of the human brain. he app provides a three dimensional model of the human brain that students can rotate. To look at a specific part of the brain select it from the drop-down menu and it will be highlighted on the model for you to view. Click the “info” tab to read one page summaries about each part of the brain. On the app you can also find some case studies about disorders and brain damage.

Essential Skeleton is a free iPad app that students studying the human skeletal system should download. The app puts a 3D skeleton on your students’ iPads. Students can zoom-in, zoom-out, and rotate the skeleton 360 degrees. When students zoom-in and tap on a bone they will see its name in English and Latin, have the option to hear an audio pronunciation of the bone’s name, learn about the connected bones, and write their own notes about the highlighted bone.

Solve the Outbreak is a free iPad app produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The app is a game that contains three epidemics for students to research. In each investigation students have to read the background, read clues, analyze data, and answer questions. The questions put students in the role of a medical professional tasked with helping to curtail the spread of the epidemic. Points are awarded to students for correct answers.

Teachit Timer - A Slick Classroom Activity Timer

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. This was the most popular post in January, 2014.

I've tried a bunch of online timers in the past. Until now Online-Stopwatch.com was my favorite. Yesterday, Peter Vogel introduced me to an online timer that will be my go-to timer from here on. The Teachit Timer is a free online timer that allows you display a countdown timer and a count-up timer on the same screen. The Teachit Timer also allows you to choose an alarm sound.

Applications for Education
Whenever I have long blocks of instructional time I like to break it up with short breaks and or timed hands-on activities. One tool that can help to prevent the students and me from stretching the "break times" is to use a countdown timer like Teachit Timer.

How to Use Google Slides to Organize Research

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year.

Like many of you, when I was in middle school and high school I was taught to create index cards to organize our research. After creating the cards we sorted them into an order to support writing our research papers. That same concept can be applied to organizing research with Google Slides. In the video below I demonstrate how this is done.

Group Reading With Google Docs

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year.

Using the commenting feature of Google Documents is a good way to create a record of classroom conversations about an article that you have shared with your students. Using the commenting feature is also a good way to have the conversation about an article occur entirely online. In the video below I give a demonstration of how to do this.

How to Add Fonts to Google Documents & Slides

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. 

Earlier today I posted the picture you see to the left on my Google+ page with the comment "I decided to play with some new fonts found in Google Drive." A couple of people asked how I added new fonts.

To access and add custom fonts to your Google Drive Documents and Slides select "add fonts" from the bottom of the font selection menu that you've always used in Google Drive. Selecting "add fonts" will open up a new menu in which you can mix and match fonts to your heart's content. The screenshots below provide visual directions.
Click image to view full size. 
Click image to view full size. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

By Request - A Comparison of 5 Tools for Building Classroom Websites

Well it appears that my series of charts comparing ed tech tools is catching on because today I received my first suggestion for a chart topic. The suggestion was for a comparison of website creation tools. In the chart below I compare five popular tools for building classroom websites. You'll notice that the last column of the chart contains links to tutorials on how to use each service. You can find a Google Docs copy of the chart here or download it through the Box.com widget embedded below.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

5 Blog Platforms for Teachers Compared In One Chart

Maintaining a blog is my first suggestion whenever I am asked to give a recommendation for a good way to keep parents informed about what is happening in classrooms. The blog can be updated by teachers or by students and teachers. To help teachers decide which blogging platform could be best for them and their students, I created the following chart. The chart compares eight key elements of five common blogging platforms.

You can download this chart as a PDF through this Box.com link or click here to see it as a Google Document.


This is the eighth comparison chart in the series of PDFs that I have been creating in the hopes that they provide people with a quick way to select the best tools for them. This little project started because I am often asked to recommend "the best tool for X." Unfortunately, it is difficult to definitively state that one tool is the best because there are so many variables to account for in making that judgement. The age of your students, the technology that you have access to, your instructional goals are all factors that can influence what the best tool is for you. What's best in my situation and what's best in yours can be quite different. Hopefully, these charts will help you select the best tools for you and your students. The other charts are linked below.

Seven Alternatives to Google Image Search - Comparison Chart
11 Free Mind Mapping Tools Compared In One Chart
5 Timeline Creation Tools Compared - Chart
Nine Popular Student Response Tools Compared In One Chart
5 Web-based Audio Recording and Editing Tools Compared - Chart
5 Tools for Creating Multimedia Quizzes - A Comparison Chart
Five Tools for Creating Multimedia Textbooks - A Comparison Chart

The Week in Review - The Week's Most Popular Posts

Max enjoys his new toy.
Good evening from Maine where we enjoyed some unseasonably warm weather today. This week the number of posts was down a bit as I took some time to enjoy Christmas with my family. I hope that all of you have enjoyed some downtime this week too. Next week is traditionally the slowest week of the year for web traffic. Next week will feature the 25 most popular posts of the year.


Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Tools for Creating Multimedia Quizzes - A Comparison Chart
2. Five Tools for Creating Multimedia Textbooks - A Comparison Chart
3. Nine Popular Student Response Tools Compared In One Chart
4. 5 Free iPad Apps for Drawing and Sketching Notes
5. Two Good Random Name Selection Tools
6. Build Model Atoms and More on the NOVA Elements App
7. How to Save Links In Facebook

In January I am offering an online course titled Blogging and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders. Graduate credit is available for the course. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
HelloTalk connects students with native speakers to help them learn a new language.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
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.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting iPad Summit San Diego in February.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.
BoomWriter and WordWriter are fantastic tools that help students develop their writing skills.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Five Tools for Creating Multimedia Textbooks - A Comparison Chart

Anyone who has gone through the laborious process of trying to select a textbook knows that the perfect textbook doesn't exist. That said, thanks to some fantastic software and online tools we can now come closer to creating textbooks that are ideal for our students. Including video and or audio in a textbook can go a long way toward helping students recall information. I still wish that the Algebra II textbook I had in high school had video tutorials in it. The five tools featured in the chart embedded below provide good options for creating multimedia textbooks. A Google Docs version of the chart is available here.


This is the seventh comparison chart in the series of PDFs that I have been creating in the hopes that they provide people with a quick way to select the best tools for them. This little project started because I am often asked to recommend "the best tool for X." Unfortunately, it is difficult to definitively state that one tool is the best because there are so many variables to account for in making that judgement. The age of your students, the technology that you have access to, your instructional goals are all factors that can influence what the best tool is for you. What's best in my situation and what's best in yours can be quite different. Hopefully, these charts will help you select the best tools for you and your students. The other charts are linked below.

Seven Alternatives to Google Image Search - Comparison Chart
11 Free Mind Mapping Tools Compared In One Chart
5 Timeline Creation Tools Compared - Chart
Nine Popular Student Response Tools Compared In One Chart
5 Web-based Audio Recording and Editing Tools Compared - Chart
5 Tools for Creating Multimedia Quizzes - A Comparison Chart

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays!

I'm taking the day off to celebrate Christmas with my family.
Happy Holidays from all of us (Richard, Max, and Morrison) at FreeTech4Teachers.com

Digital card made on Canva.com

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Learn All About the Holidays on PBS Kids

All About the Holidays is a collection of short videos from PBS Kids. The videos, designed for elementary school students, present short lessons on Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa.  For pre-K students PBS Kids offers a separate collection of videos about the holidays. The pre-K collection has videos featuring Peg & Cat, Daniel Tiger, and Sid the Science Kid.

Applications for Education
It's a little late for this year, but you might find these videos helpful next year. Next year, have students complete this chart after watching the videos. (You may need to supplement the videos with some content of your own).

Christmas in Yellowstone

In browsing through Outside magazine's gallery of the Best National Park Photos of 2014 I was reminded of the documentary Christmas in Yellowstone. The documentary features the beauty of Yellowstone National Park in the winter. The most compelling aspect of the documentary is the chronicling of the struggles animals face to survive in the winter in the park. The documentary is embedded below.


Applications for Education
National Geographic Education offers 18 resources for teaching about the unique features of Yellowstone National Park. That collection is primarily focused on the geological aspects of Yellowstone.

How to Save Links In Facebook

Earlier today on the FreeTech4Teachers Facebook page someone asked how to save the links without tagging herself in a comment. The process is rather easy. When you see a post that you would like to save for later simply open the little drop-down menu that appears to the right of a post's title. In that drop-down menu you will see the option to save a link for later.
Click the image to view in full size.

To view your saved links just go to your Facebook homepage and select "saved."
Click the image to view in full size.

How to Syndicate / Republish an RSS Feed Through Your Blog or Website

Earlier this week I published a short post about an update to the RSS feed for this blog. Since then a couple of people have asked how to go about syndicating content from FreeTech4Teachers.com on their own blogs. I often have schools ask if they can do this as it provides a nice way for teachers to quickly see if there is a new tech tool that they want to explore.  In the video below I show you how you can syndicate the FreeTech4Teachers.com RSS feed through WordPress, Google Sites, and Blogger.


If you decide to syndicate my feed or that from any other blog, please set the widget to show the headline and first few sentences instead of the entire post. Publishing the entire post is akin to copying and pasting the entire post.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

iPad Apps for K-12 Students

Many of you are already aware that I maintain a few other blogs in addition to FreeTech4Teachers.com. One of those is iPadApps4School.com to which I have applied some lessons that I learned from making mistakes with this blog. One of those mistakes was not making it easier to sort resources according to grade level.

On iPadApps4School.com you can sort app reviews according to grade level category. Simply click on the grade level category in the sidebar to find apps appropriate for the age of your students. You can find elementary school apps here, middle school apps here, and high school apps here. I also have a category for pre-K students. If you want to be notified when a new app is reviewed, you can subscribe to email updates for iPadApps4School.com.

Build Model Atoms and More on the NOVA Elements App

NOVA Elements for iPad is an excellent iPad app for helping students learn about the periodic table of elements. The app is "hosted" by NY Times technology reviewer David Pogue. There are three primary features of the app. Those features are called Explore, Watch, and Play.

The Explore feature of NOVA Elements for iPad contains and interactive periodic table of elements. Students can tap through the periodic table to learn some basic information about each element. Students can also try to create each element by combining virtual protons, neutrons, and electrons until they have the correct combination.

The Watch feature of NOVA Elements for iPad contains twelve short video clips in which David Pogue explains some of the elements and how they are used in consumer products.

The Play feature presents students with common consumer goods like watches and tee shirts. Students have to identify the elements found in those consumer goods and construct the product.

Three Handy Timer Tools for Teachers

Whenever I have long blocks of instructional time I like to break it up with short breaks and or timed hands-on activities. One tool that can help to prevent the students and me from stretching the "break times" is to use a countdown timer like the three featured below.

You can simply type into Google search "set timer" followed by an amount of time and a countdown timer is displayed. An alarm beeps when time is up. You can make the timer appear full screen without advertisements by clicking a little box icon to the right of the timer. You can see this feature in action in the video below.



Russel Tarr's Classtools Countdown Timer has two slick features. You can create and set multiple timers on the same page. This means that if you had students sharing in rapid succession you wouldn't have to reset the timer for each student, you simply move onto using the next timer on the page. The second feature of note in the Classtools Countdown Timer is the option to add music to your timers. You can have your countdown timers set to music. Mission Impossible, The Apprentice, and Countdown are the standard music options. You can add other music by using the YouTube search tool built into the timer .

Online Egg Timer is a simple website offering three countdown timers on one screen. You can set just one timer or run all three at the same time with different settings. No registration is required in order to use Online Egg Timer. Just go to the site, set the countdown timer(s) using the up and down arrows, then click "start timers."

Three Video Explanations of What Creates the Northern Lights

I have been fortunate to see the Northern Lights a few times. It is truly one of the coolest natural things I've seen. So what makes the Northern Lights appear? Each of the following videos provide clear explanations.


The Aurora Borealis from Per Byhring on Vimeo.



Each of the videos could provide a good basis for a flipped lesson. The tools on this chart are good for building video-based quizzes.

The Most Popular New Ed Tech Service of 2014 According to Readers

Last week I posted a survey asking you to select your favorite new app or website of 2014. After five days of collecting responses I've closed the survey. Kahoot is the most popular new ed tech service amongst the 216 of you that voted.

Kahoot is a slick service for creating and delivering quizzes to your students' tablets, iPads, and laptops. On Kahoot you create a quiz or survey that your students respond to through any device that has a web browser (iPad, Android device, Chromebook). 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.

Check this chart to see how Kahoot compares to eight other student response systems.

How to Create Shape Puzzle Games for Your iPad or Android Tablet

Last week I wrote a couple of posts about the updates to TinyTap. In addition to the update making the app available on Android tablets, I like that you can now create shape puzzle games. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create a game by using TinyTap on your iPad or Android tablet.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Year According to Wikipedia Edits

Watching Wikipedia: #Edit2014 is an interesting way to take a look back at 2014. The video is a series of screenshots of pages added to and frequently edited on Wikipedia in 2014. Much like looking at Google's video of popular searches, watching Wikipedia: #Edit2014 reminds us of the popular news topics that trended throughout the year.


Applications for Education
After watching the video ask your students how many of these stories they remember. Then have them look at the Wikipedia entries to see what they would add or edit on the pages for the topics appearing in the video.

Google Maps Some Christmas Traditions Around the World

This year Google's Santa Tracker website has a neat feature about Christmas traditions around the world. The Christmas Traditions map features the traditions of seventeen locations spread across North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa. Click a placemark on the map to read a short summary of a tradition in that location.

Applications for Education
Google currently offers a selection of lesson plans based on the Christmas Traditions map. If those lesson plans don't fit your needs you might consider having students create their own holiday traditions maps on Google My Maps. Click here to find three video tutorials on creating maps through Google My Maps.

H/T to Maps Mania

Important Note for Those Syndicating the FreeTech4Teachers.com RSS Feed

About a month ago a couple of things changed with FeedBlitz (the service that I use to publish my RSS feed). First, if you have been syndicating my feed (which I encourage) through a widget on my blog or website, you will need to update to this feed address http://feeds.feedblitz.com/freetech4teachers&x=1 unbeknownst to me the old syndication feed stopped working.

Second, if you previously subscribed to the old FeedBurner feed, you may need to re-subcribe here if you haven't been seeing updates lately.

Of course, if you want to subscribe via email you can still do that here.

Scratch Jr. Provides a Great Environment for Learning About Programming

Earlier this morning I received an email from a subscriber to the PracticalEdTech.com newsletter. She was looking for suggestions on programming apps. One that came mind immediately is Scratch Jr. Scratch Jr. is based on the popular online Scratch program in which students can learn to program. Scratch Jr for iPad uses the same drag and drop programming principles used in Scratch. On Scratch Jr students can program multimedia stories and games.

To program a story or game on Scratch Jr students select background settings for each frame of the story. Then in each frame students select the actions that they want their characters to take. Students snap programming pieces together to make characters move and talk in their stories and games.

Applications for Education
Scratch offers a great way to introduce students to programming and logic. Scratch Jr for iPad makes it easy to introduce those same concepts to elementary school students.

Check out the ScratchED community for great examples of teachers using Scratch in their classrooms.

5 Tools for Creating Multimedia Quizzes - A Comparison Chart

There are plenty of online tools for creating multimedia quizzes and flipped lessons. I am frequently asked for recommendations for "the best" one. I'm partial to using Google Forms to create multimedia quizzes, but there are others worth trying too. The chart embedded below provides an overview of the key features of five popular tools for creating multimedia quizzes and flipped lessons. You can also get a Google Docs version of the chart by clicking here.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

5 Free iPad Apps for Drawing and Sketching Notes

Parts of this post originally appeared on one of my other blogs, iPadApps4School.com

Sometimes when students are taking notes words don't do enough to fully capture an idea. In those cases, being able to quickly sketch an idea will enhance students' notes. Sketching notes on an iPad enables students to edit and share sketched notes more quickly and easily than ever before. Here is a handful of iPad apps (some freemium, some completely free) for sketchnoting.

IdeaStorm is a free iPad app for quickly creating sketches and diagrams. IdeaStorm allows you to create individual sketches and collections of sketches. To create a sketch just tap the “new drawing” button and start drawing. You can choose from three line thicknesses and five colors to use in your drawings. All drawings are automatically saved in the app. IdeaStorm does not require or even offer the option for creating an account. Students of all ages can start using the app in a matter of seconds. One drawback to IdeaStorm is that drawings can only be shared if you take a screenshot of them, save them to your camera roll, and then share from your camera roll.

Idea Sketch is a simple app for creating mind maps on your iPad. One of the features of Idea Sketch that stands out is the option to flip back and forth between a web format and an outline format. This makes the app a good choice for students who occasionally prefer to a linear outline instead of a web layout. Creating a mind map on Idea Sketch is a simple process. To get started tap the “Ideas” button then tap the “+” button. All mind maps start on a blank screen that you fill up by tapping anywhere to add a text bubble. You can change the colors and sizes of each bubble. To add a new connected bubble just tap, hold, and drag a bubble into place. To switch to a linear outline format tap the “list” icon in the upper, right corner of the screen. Tap that icon again to switch back to the web format. Completed mind maps can be exported as images or shared via email.

Inkflow is an iPad app that can be used to sketch mind maps, draw pictures, write free hand, and just about anything else you might do with a pencil and paper. All of the pages that you sketch on and write on can be organized into little books that include page-turning effects. Inkflow is the perfect app for people like me who like to sketch out their ideas before sharing them in presentations, in writing, or in video productions. Inkflow is also great for people who like to take notes in a free-hand format in which they can easily include little sketches and diagrams along with their written words.

Penultimate provides a place for you to hand-write notes on your iPad. The app allows you to create multiple notebooks with multiple pages in each. You can change the color and size of the pen strokes that are created when you write in your notebooks. Each page in your notebook can include pictures that you have stored on your iPad or pictures that you take through the Penultimate app. The app provides the option to change the look of the virtual paper on which you write. You can copy and paste content from one page to another and from one notebook to another.

iBrainstorm is a free brainstorming application for the iPad and the iPhone. The app allows you to record brainstorming sessions using a combination of free hand drawings and sticky notes. You can share and collaborate with other users of iBrainstorm.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from the FreeTech4Teachers.com world headquarters (otherwise known as my house) in Woodstock, Maine. I know that many of you started your winter vacation yesterday, enjoy it! For those who have a couple more days to go, you can do it!

It's a crisp 15F and sunny here this morning, perfect for a walk in the snowy woods with my dogs. Before I strap on my snowshoes and take to the woods, I have this week's list of the most popular posts of the week.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 36 Online Games Kids Can Play to Learn About Engineering
2. Measure the Speed of Light With a Chocolate Bar and Microwave
3. Seven Alternatives to Google Image Search - Comparison Chart
4. Add Your Voice to Diagrams By Creating TinyTap Sound Boards
5. The Digital Declaration of Independence
6. ProjectWriter - A New Way to Assign and Manage Group Writing Projects
7. Create Your Own Educational Games on Your Android Phone or Tablet

In January I am offering an online course titled Blogging and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders. Graduate credit is available for the course. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
HelloTalk connects students with native speakers to help them learn a new language.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
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.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting iPad Summit San Diego in February.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.
BoomWriter and WordWriter are fantastic tools that help students develop their writing skills.

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