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Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Week In Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from the FreeTech4Teachers.com world headquarters in sunny Woodstock, Maine where the thermometer currently reads -9F. In other words, it is a great morning to snowshoeing with my dogs. (They don't wear snowshoes).

While I'm out snowshoeing my thoughts will surely wander to the next few weeks of conferences at which I will be presenting. This coming week I'll be in North Carolina for #NCTIES15, the following week I'll be in Sydney for the Future Schools Expo, and then I'll be at ASCD's annual conference in Houston. If you're going to be at any of these events, please say hello.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Browser-based Tools for Creating Audio Recordings
2. 5 Videos on Making Flipped Video Lessons
3. Google Launches YouTube Kids - An for Watching Family-Friendly Videos
4. Create a Word Cloud Within Your Google Documents
5. How Wind Chill Is Calculated
6. Google Classroom Now Lets You Customize Your Classroom Themes
7. 10 Good Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms Add-ons for Teachers

Registration is open for the spring and summer sections of my popular online courses Getting Going With GAFE and Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders. Graduate credits are available for both courses. People who are subscribed to the PracticalEdTech.com newsletter receive a discount on registration.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
Versal is a great tool for building interactive online course components.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
PresentationTube provides a good way to use PowerPoint to create flipped lessons.
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 host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
SeeSaw is a great iPad app for creating digital portfolios.

Customize Your Wikispaces Navigation With Favorites

Wikispaces has long been a favorite tool of mine for students to use to create resource pages and digital portfolios. Over the years Wikispaces has continuously evolved by adding handy little features to their service. One feature that I wasn't aware of until reading yesterday's Wikispaces blog post was the option for members of a wiki to customize the favorites navigation in their views of a wiki.

To add a page to your favorites in the navigation you simply need to click star icon in the upper left corner of a page in your wiki. Wikispaces offers screenshots of the process here.

Applications for Education 
Customizing the favorites navigation in a Wikispaces wiki could be helpful to students who are working together to develop a resource wiki. Each student could favorite his or her own page to make it easier to find each time he or she logs into the wiki.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Lesson Plan - How Expensive Are Payday Loans?

Econ Ed Link is a good source of comprehensive lesson plans for teaching economics lessons. How Expensive Are Payday Loans? is one of the featured lesson plans for use with ninth through twelfth grade students. The lesson is based upon a Federal Trade Commission video explanation of the costs of payday loans. The video in conjunction with the lesson plan teach students how to calculate the total cost of loan after accounting for finance charges, interest, and loan origination fees. The video is embedded below.


Applications for Education
How Expensive Are Payday Loans? could be a great companion lesson to my personal finance game Life on Minimum Wage. When students reach the point in the game that they need to borrow money, stop the game and interjection the lesson on the cost of payday loans.

5 TED-Ed Lessons on How the Human Body Works

This morning I visited TED-Ed's Lesson catalog and saw a new lesson about the pancreas. Seeing that video prompted me to look for other TED-Ed videos about the human body. I came up with four more and put them into a little playlist on YouTube. The five videos cover the pancreas, kidneys, lungs, heart, and liver. The playlist is embedded below.


Applications for Education
Earlier this week I shared five good apps and sites for learning about how the human body works. These TED-Ed lessons could make good companion lessons to using those apps. Like all TED-Ed lessons they're not thorough enough to stand alone, but they do make for good introductions and or concept reviews.

How to Search for Old Newspaper Articles in the Google News Archive

When I talk about search strategies in my workshops I stress the importance of getting students to utilize more than just the default Google.com search engine. One of the ways to do that is to introduce students to resources like the Google News Newspaper archive. In the Google News Newspaper archive you can search for a specific newspaper, search for article titles, or as demonstrated below you can search for a topic.


This is one of the resources that we will explore during my presentation Teaching With Technology and Primary Sources next week at #NCTIES15 in North Carolina.

Develop Science Writing Projects on ProjectWriter

Disclosure: BoomWriter Media is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Last month BoomWriter Media released a great new tool called ProjectWriter. ProjectWriter enables you to create writing assignments for students to complete in groups that you organize. Students log into their BoomWriter accounts (you can manage those accounts) and select the ProjectWriter tab to see their groups and their assignments. You can include a list of key terms that you want students to include in their writing assignments. The video embedded below provides an overview of the process.


Applications for Education
BoomWriter recently created a page all about using ProjectWriter in science classes. On that page you will find ideas like using ProjectWriter to have students work in groups to develop an experiment process. By using ProjectWriter for the experiment development process each student gets to contribute his or her ideas and you can monitor and give feedback on the process. Each student works on his or her section of the process individually then submits it to the group for review. This process is a bit more orderly than having all of the students trying to work on one Google Document.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

WeVideo Makes Updates to Their Online Video Editor

For the last couple of years WeVideo has been the alternative to iMovie that I've recommended when asked. The biggest selling point of WeVideo is that it operates completely online which makes it a good choice for Chromebook users and folks who don't have regular access to desktop video editing tools. The downside to WeVideo is that it can take some time to understand and master the nuances of WeVideo's editing tools. This week WeVideo took some steps to change that.

The latest updates to WeVideo's online video editor consolidated the features of the "basic" and "advanced" editors into one product. In combining the two editors into one WeVideo made it easier to edit the tracks in your video productions. You can now simply click on a track to edit it.

The other big update to WeVideo that I'm excited about is the new option to preview your visuals while recording a voice-over at the same time. In the past I had to record my voice-over then go back and adjust the visuals to match the duration of my voice-over. Now I can see the visuals while I record which makes it easier to time the pace of my speech and the pace of the transitions between visuals.

Applications for Education
In the past I've shared lists like this one in which I've suggested video projects that can be completed with WeVideo and similar tools. The highlights of that list includes creating documentary videos, creating Common Craft-style videos, creating instructional videos, and producing book trailer videos.

How to Use Tackk to Create Blogs and Digital Portfolios

Tackk is a free tool for creating blogs, simple webpages, and digital portfolios. It's flexible and easy to use so I included it in my Best of the Web presentation at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference earlier this month. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to create a simple digital portfolio on Tackk. As you'll see in the video you can sign up for Tackk in a variety of ways including using your Edmodo or Google credentials.


Applications for Education
Last summer Tackk created a Tackk Edu page to showcase examples of using Tackk to create and distribute assignments to students. Visit Tackk Edu to see science, math, social studies, art, and language arts lesson plans that utilize Tackk.

Now You Can Customize Headers, Footers, and Page Numbers in Google Docs

One of the complaints about Google Docs that I've heard for years is that it isn't easy to apply proper headers, footers, and cover pages to documents. This week Google took steps to change that for Google Apps for Education users.

You can now customize the placement of headers and footers in your documents. You can specify which pages those headers and footers appear on which makes it possible to create a cover page within your document. To customize header and footer placement just open the insert menu in your document and select header. Once your header is inserted you will have the option to display it or not display it on a page.

Google Docs users can now customize the placement of page numbers on their pages too. Open the insert menu then select page numbers to specify the placement of your page numbers.

Applications for Education
The new options for customizing headers, footers, and page number placements should make it much easier for students to format their papers to meet academic standards.

Thanks to Skip Zalneraitis for sharing this news on Google+ this morning. 

Webinar Recording - Storyboards in the Classroom

Last night I hosted a webinar with Aaron Sherman from Storyboard That. During the webinar we took a look at the new features of Storyboard That and how those features can be used in the classroom. Some of the new features include captioning storyboard frames, new graphic organizer layouts, and a slew of new teacher guides. The slides from the webinar are available here. The recording of the webinar is embedded below.


Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to Send Invitations to Events from Your Google Calendar Account

One of my favorite features of Google Calendar is the option to send email invitations to my events directly from my calendar. For example, when I schedule a meeting with three colleagues I simply put the meeting into my calendar then send invitations to those colleagues from my calendar event. My colleagues will receive email notifications of the event time, place, and any other details that I've added to the event's description. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to send email invitations to Google Calendar events.


I'll cover topics like this one and many more in my upcoming online course Getting Going With GAFE. Three graduate credits are available for completing the course.

60 Second Lessons on the Presidents of the United States

Grover Cleveland 
Thanks to Ken Halla's US History Teachers Blog I recently learned about PBS Learning Media's new series of short videos about all of the Presidents of the United States. In the series there is one short (60-90 seconds) video about each president for a total of 44 videos. The playlist is embedded below.


Applications for Education
If YouTube is blocked in your school you can view and download all of the videos through PBS Learning Media. In the same section of PBS Learning Media you can find 15 lesson plans about past Presidents and First Ladies.

Public domain image courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs online collection

Google Classroom Now Lets You Customize Your Classroom Themes

Google has just announced the addition of some nice new features to Google Classroom. In your Google Classroom account you can now upload your own images to use as background themes. If you teach multiple courses, you can apply different custom themes to each of those courses. An image cropping tool is included in Classroom to help you customize your themes.
Image courtesy of the Google Apps for Edu team
In other news, students can now use the Google Classroom iPad app to attach images and videos to their Classroom assignments even if those images and files were made using apps outside of the Google suite of services. Both the Android and iPad Google Classroom apps now let students view their courses' About pages to quickly access course materials.

How to Create a Contact Group in Gmail and Use It to Share Google Drive Files

This morning I received an email from a reader who is not using Google Classroom, but is using Google Drive to create and share files with her students. She wanted to know if there is an easier way than entering individual email addresses to share files privately. The answer is yes. If you create a contact group in Gmail you can use that group's name when to quickly share a Google Drive file with everyone in the group. I demonstrate this process in the video embedded below.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How to Build Your Own Search Engine

This evening I hosted a webinar for a school district in Florida. One of the many topics that we covered was building a custom search engine for elementary school students to use. If you have ever wanted to build your own search engine, the directions contained in the slides and videos below will get you started on the right path.


If you would like a copy of these slides open the slide editor then select "file, make a copy." You will have to be logged into your Google Account to make the copy.

Sight Words - Create Vocabulary Games and Flashcards

Sight Words is a service that provides vocabulary flashcards and games designed for K-3 students. On the site you can find pre-made flashcards and pre-made vocabulary games. All of the the flashcards and games are PDFs that you print to use offline.

In addition to the pre-made flashcards and games Sight Words offers templates for creating your own printable flashcards and games. Most of the games on Sight Words include detailed directions and videos on how to utilize the game in your lessons. The video on Sight Words Fly Swat is embedded below.


Prezi Is Now Available on Android Devices - Present Remotely

Cross-posted from my other blog, Android4Schools.com.

The popular presentation tool Prezi has released a new Android app. The new app allows you to access all of the presentations in your Prezi account. You can view your presentations and present them remotely from your Android phone or tablet.

The remote presentation option in Prezi Android works the same way as it does in Prezi for iPad. To present remotely select "present remotely" in your presentation's sharing options. Prezi will generate a remote sharing link that you should then distribute to your audience. Through that link your audience can follow your slides on their laptops, iPads, or Android devices. When you move the slides, the slides move on the devices being used by the members of your audience.

Applications for Education
Using remote presentation services like that available through Prezi's new Android app is a good way to keep your students on the same slide that you're projecting. Likewise, remote presentation services provide a good way for students to share with classmates.

H/T to The Next Web.

Google Announces Steps to Clean Up Blogger

If you log into your Blogger account today you will notice a new message from Google about adult content. Clicking the link in that message will take you to Google's new policy about posting adult content on Blogger blogs. The new policy will take effect on March 23rd. The new policy bars posting adult content on public Blogger blogs.

One of the long-standing problems with using Blogger in schools is that school district web filters have often blocked it because Google has allowed Blogger to be used to host adult-only content. Hopefully, this policy change by Google will clean-up Blogger and make it easier for schools to use. Blogger provides one of the easiest ways to create blogs, especially if your school is using Google Apps for Education.

Monday, February 23, 2015

How Wind Chill Is Calculated

If you follow me on Twitter you might already know that we are currently experiencing frigid wind chills here in western Maine. This got me thinking about how the wind chill is calculated. I didn't know (or couldn't remember the formula from the meteorology course I took in college) so I turned to YouTube where I quickly found this short explanatory video from Presh Talwalkar.


Applications for Education
There is obviously a math lesson waiting to happen here. But that lesson could be part of a larger assignment in which students develop weather forecasts and produce them as videos to share on a school or classroom website.

5 Videos on Making Flipped Video Lessons

Creating flipped video lessons is one of the topics that I frequently receive questions about in my email inbox. I've started putting together some videos about how to use various tools for creating and sharing flipped video lessons. In the videos embedded below I demonstrate how use EduCanon, VideoNotes, EDpuzzle, Versal, and Otus to create and distribute flipped video lessons.






Disclosure: Versal is currently advertising on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

5 Resources to Help Students Understand the Cost of Living

Teaching basic personal economics lessons is one of my favorite activities. Many high school students seem to enjoy the topic because they can relate to the experience of earning and spending money. I enjoy teaching the lessons because they are often an eye-opener for high school students when we get to the topic of cost of living. Here are five good resources for helping students learn about the cost of living.

The Living Wage Calculator is a website developed and maintained by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier at MIT. The purpose of the Living Wage Calculator is to provide a snapshot of what it actually costs to survive in counties and cities in the United States. The Living Wage Calculator shows the differences between minimum wages and minimum living wages for each county and some cities in the U.S. The calculator accounts for eight different household scenarios from single adult to two adults and three children living in the same household. The Living Wage Calculator only accounts for the basic monthly expenses in each scenario. After looking at the Living Wage Calculator's data for your county, ask your students to try to account for other expenses that a typical family has. After they look at the data for their county ask your students to try to locate help wanted postings that provide a minimum living wage in their county. Then have them determine what type of education and training those jobs require.

Spent is an online game designed to teach players about the challenges of living on minimum wage (or slightly higher) employment. Players begin by selecting a job which will provide the wages they have to survive on for a month. Then throughout the game players are confronted with challenges that they have to handle by making an "either or" choice. After each choice the player's account balance is adjusted. In addition to the change in the player's balance sheet, each choice is followed by an explanation of consequence of the choice made.

The Cost of Living Map produced with data from The Council for Community and Economic Research allows you to quickly compare the costs of living in U.S. cities. To use the map simply select two cities from the drop-down menu on the map. After making your selections you will see a graphic and an indication of which city is more expensive. The comparison is based on the costs of housing, healthcare, utilities, groceries, and transportation. My first thought when seeing this map was that I would use it as the jumping-off point for an assignment in which students research the factors that contribute to increases or decreases in the costs of living in the cities that they choose on the map.

Numbeo is a neat resource that could help students see the differences in the costs of living between cities. Numbeo claims to be the world's largest database of user-contributed data about the costs of living in cities. Some of the sets of data that you can see find in Numbeo include property values, transportation costs, and healthcare costs. Numbeo's database is user-generated so you will want students to take the information with a grain of salt. That said, Numbeo could be good resource for students to use to compare the costs of living in two or more cities. After comparing the costs of living in two or more cities, ask your students to try to determine the things that account for the differences in costs of living between two cities.

Life on Minimum Wage is a game that I developed years ago to help my student recognize how difficult it is to save money when your only job(s) pay minimum wage without benefits. To win (prize not determined yet) at Life on Minimum Wage the students have to reach five financial goals that they select. To earn money the students have to complete the tasks of their assigned jobs. The students then have to pay required bills before using money for their selected financial goals. As the game progresses students will be issued "surprise" cards which require them to spend money on things like speeding tickets, trips to a health clinic, and increases in rent.

A PDF of the lesson can be downloaded here.


Google Launches YouTube Kids - An for Watching Family-Friendly Videos

And now for something we've all been waiting for...YouTube now offers an app for watching family-friendly videos without having to sort through the stuff that isn't okay for kids to see.

The YouTube Kids app is available for Android and for iOS. The app allows children to browse channels and playlists in four categories: Shows, Music, Learning, and Explore. The app has built-in controls that allow parents to set limits how much time their children can spend watching videos. Parents can turn off the search function if they want to limit their children to just the videos in a playlist. Background sounds can be turned off by parents too.

Just about every tech blog on the Internet is reporting this story today. I first saw it on The Next Web.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

5 Free Apps and Sites for Learning About How the Human Body Works

Over the weekend on the FreeTech4Teachers Facebook Page I received a message from a technology integration coordinator who was looking for some apps that might be appropriate for middle school anatomy and physiology lessons. Here's what I pulled out of my archives to share.

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.

Visual Anatomy is an iPad app designed to help students learn the names of muscles, bones, organs, and systems in the human body. To use the app students select a system then click on the pinmarks in each image to learn about those parts of the body. The free version of the app has 300 pinmarks in standard resolution. The paid version of the app has 700 pinmarks with high resolution images.

Living Lung is a free iPad app from iSO-Form Medical. The app provides an interactive 3D model of human lungs. Users of the app can speed up or slow down the respiratory rate of the model. This free educational iPad app also allows users to add or remove labeled layers of the respiratory system. And as you might expect you can zoom in, zoom out, and rotate the model on your iPad.

If your students don't have iPads take a look at the Human Body Study Jams from Scholastic. Study Jams are slideshows and animations that provide a short overview of various topics in science and math. There are six human body Study Jams; skeletal system, nervous system, digestive system, respiratory system, muscular system, and circulatory system.

Code Fred is a free online game developed by the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. The game helps players learn about the human body's responses to trauma. The object of the game is to help "Fred" escape from the woods while he is chased by a wolf. To keep Fred running players have to pump blood, increase the flow of oxygen, and send adrenaline through Fred's body. If a player doesn't respond to the needs of Fred's body fast enough, he will get caught by the wolf that is chasing him.

MapFAST - Search for Books By Location

mapFAST is a great use of Google Maps for finding texts about places all over the world. Visit mapFAST, type in a location and mapFAST will generate a list of texts about that location. You can specify how close you to the actual location you want your texts to be by setting a radius parameter. For example, when I entered "Portland, Maine" I set the radius at 30km so any texts about places within 30km of Portland would show up in my results. The book lists generated by mapFAST come from Google Books and WorldCat. Through Google Books you may be able to read and print some titles for free.

Applications for Education
mapFAST could be a great tool for students doing research on a place or region. If you want students to look at books that are available for free viewing online, have them filter the Google Books list generated by mapFAST  to "Free Google eBooks" to find books that are freely available in their entirety.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

5 Browser-based Tools for Creating Audio Recordings - Videos on How to Use Them

 Earlier this week I featured some tools for creating podcasts across on a variety of platforms. An audio recording doesn't have to go through the full-fledged production process of creating an a podcast in order for it to be a valuable activity for students. Creating short, unedited audio recordings is a good way for students to record and share their reflections on things that they have learned and observed in your classroom. The following five tools can all be used for creating and sharing short audio recordings.

Clyp.it is an easy-to-use audio recording tool available to use in your web browser. To record on Clyp.it you simply go to the website and click the big record button (you may have to allow pop-ups in your browser in order for Clyp.it to access your microphone). When you're done recording click the share button and you'll be taken to a page on which you can download your recording or grab an embed code to post the recording on a blog. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use Clyp.it in your web browser. Clyp.it is also available to use as a free iOS app or as a free Android app.



Vocaroo is a free service that you can use to create short audio recordings. Creating a recording on Vocaroo is a simple process that does not require you to create an account or have any special browser plugins. Just go to the site and click record to get started. In the video below I demonstrate how to use it to create a recording and post in on your classroom blog.



SoundCloud's Android and iOS apps no longer have the recording features that they used to have, but the browser based version still offers a good recording tool. After recording in your SoundCloud account you can grab the embed code for any of your recordings. In the video below I demonstrate how to use SoundCloud to create recordings and publish them in your classroom blog.



AudioPal is a free service that anyone can use to create short audio messages to embed into blog posts. AudioPal offers three way to create messages. You can record using the microphone connected to your computer. You can record by calling AudioPal's phone system. Or you can create a message by using AudioPal's text-to-speech function. In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to use AudioPal's text-to-speech function and how to embed your messages into your blog.



AudioBoom offers an easy way for teachers and students to create short audio recordings that are matched to images. In the video below I demonstrate how to use the web version of AudioBoom to create a short audio recording. AudioBoom also offers free iPad, iPhone, and Android apps. AudioBoom's education section is full of great examples of using the service in classrooms.



The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good evening from the FreeTech4Teachers.com world headquarters in snowy Woodstock, Maine. After a long day of playing in the snow my dogs and I are enjoying some downtime. As you can see in the picture to the left, downtime for Max and Morrison means shredding rope toys. Whatever you're doing this weekend, I hope you're having as much fun as Max and Morrison had with their toys.


Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. More Fun With Math in Pictures
2. 10 Good Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms Add-ons for Teachers
3. How to Create & Distribute Flipped Lessons Through EDPuzzle
4. Speech to Text in Google Documents
5. The Real Benefit of Using Google Sheets Add-ons Like Flubaroo and Goobric
6. How to Search for Publicly Shared Google Docs, Slides, and Spreadsheets
7. A Couple of Tools That Make It Easy to Track Tasks

Registration is open for the spring and summer sections of my popular online courses Getting Going With GAFE and Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders. Graduate credits are available for both courses. People who are subscribed to the PracticalEdTech.com newsletter receive a discount on registration.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
Versal is a great tool for building interactive online course components.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
PresentationTube provides a good way to use PowerPoint to create flipped lessons.
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 host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.

Friday, February 20, 2015

That's Baloney! - A Fun Trivia Game for Kids

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

That’s Baloney! is a free iPad app designed to engage elementary school students in fun games about science, language arts, math, and social studies facts. The app has levels appropriate for students in grades two through six. The concept behind the games is a simple one; a statement is shown to the student and he or she has to decide if it’s “baloney” or if it’s true. The games is over after four incorrect choices or after answering all questions correctly. Students are shown a summary of correct and incorrect answers at the end of each game.

Applications for Education
Four players can play That’s Baloney! on the same iPad. Playing a few rounds of That’s Baloney! could be a fun way to get students to try to recall information from previous lessons. It’s also the kind of educational app that parents and children can use together.

A Couple of Tools That Make It Easy to Track Tasks

Last night I answered an email from a reader named Melissa who had a question that I'm asked on a fairly regular basis so I thought that I would my response into a blog post. Her question was,

"I was wondering if you knew of any way for students to track and mark off their learning tasks as they go throughout the day. I just want a really easy to-do list that my kids can easily 'check off' as they go and see how much they have accomplished."

There were two options that immediately came to mind when I read Melissa's question. First, was StrikeApp. Strike App is a simple to-do list creation and management tool. To use Strike App just title your list of things to do and start typing your list. When you've completed a task just come back and strike it out by clicking on it, dragging it off the screen, or "x-ing" it out. You can share your to-do lists by sending people the link to your list. For those people who like to experiment with different backgrounds and themes, Strike App offers a handful of designs to choose from.

The second option that I recommended to Melissa was FetchNotes. Fetchnotes is a neat service for creating and keeping notes online. Fetchnotes uses an interface for creating and sharing notes that will feel familiar to Twitter users. When you write a note, just use a hashtag to label your note. Then whenever you want to search for a note just enter a hashtag. For example, if I was a student taking notes in a history course I might use the hashtag "#revolution" for all notes related to revolutions. Then I could go back and read all of my notes about revolution by just searching for that hashtag. When you want to share a note with someone in your contacts you can do so by just putting "@" before the person's name. Fetchnotes works on the web and offers Android and iOS apps.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How to Use Text-to-Speech to Post Audio Messages on Your Blog

AudioPal is a free service that anyone can use to create short audio messages to embed into blog posts. AudioPal offers three way to create messages. You can record using the microphone connected to your computer. You can record by calling AudioPal's phone system. Or you can create a message by using AudioPal's text-to-speech function. In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to use AudioPal's text-to-speech function and how to embed your messages into your blog.


Applications for Education
AudioPal could be a good tool to use when you want students to create messages for an audio blog. I've used services like AudioPal to have students record and share short reflections on things that they learned during the school week.

AudioPal does require that you enter an email address in order to access the embed code and sharing links. If you're students don't have email accounts, you could set-up a classroom Gmail account (something like mrbyrnesclass@gmail.com) that all students enter. All of the AudioPal messages that your students create would then go to that one email account that you manage.

How Personal Impressions and News Reports Impact Our Thinking About Weather

Even 4WD trucks can get
stuck in the snow. 
Extreme is the word that local TV news stations like to use to describe this winter's weather in New England. There has been enough snow lately for the mayor to Boston to implore people to stop jumping out of windows into snowbanks. But is the weather pattern this winter really that "extreme" or is that just our impression of it? The latest Minute Earth video takes on the topic of how extreme weather affects our thinking about weather patterns in general. I found the video to be interesting from a psychology perspective. The video is embedded below.


This kind of video is an excellent candidate to be used as part of flipped lesson. VideoNotes, Vialogues, and EDpuzzle are solid tools for hosting discussions around shared educational videos.

Speech to Text in Google Documents

Last week I published a list of ten good Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms Add-ons. This week through a Tweet by Jen Deyenberg I learned of another good one to add to the list.

Speech Recognition is a free Google Docs Add-on that will allow to you speak to create a document. Get the Add-on by selecting "Get Add-ons" from the Add-ons drop-down menu in a Google Document. After selecting the Speech Recognition Add-on enable the permissions then select "start." Once you've selected "start" a new menu will appear on the right side of your screen. Click the start icon again then start talking. The transcription happens almost instantly as you talk.

The Speech Recognition Add-on does have one major flaw. That flaw is that you cannot use voice commands to insert punctuation, indentations, or spacing. To insert those elements you will have to use your keyboard.

Some Relatively Easy Ways for Students to Create Podcasts

Last night I received the following questions in an email from a reader named Pat. I'm sure that Pat is not the only teacher to wonder about these questions so I've turned my answers into a blog post.

I would like to make a podcast where two students are debating a topic. Is this outdated? Is there another platform where we can put audio, possibly some pictures to go with a presentation? A place where students can access it without a log in or having to have an itunes account. Of course, no money and lots of things are blocked by big brother (district). I have some old PCs, one ipad, an iphone 5 and a MacBook Pro.

Podcasting is not outdated at all. In fact, it seems to be making a resurgence after a lull a couple of years ago. If you want to publish your podcasts on iTunes you will have to follow all of the steps that Apple has outlined here. If you simply want to create audio recordings and post them online (on your blog, website, or a service outside of iTunes) then the process is rather straight-forward.

Podcast creation with a MacBook Pro:
The obvious choice here is to use GarageBand if you have it installed. GarageBand costs $4.99 in the Mac Apps Store. Obviously, it's not free but I'm mentioning it because I know of a lot of schools that install GarageBand as part of an image they install before distributing MacBooks to teachers and students.

Podcast creation on MacBook or Windows PC:
If GarageBand is not available to you, try Ocenaudio. Ocenaudio is a free audio editing tool available to use on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. The free software enables you to create audio recordings from scratch and or edit existing audio files. Once the Ocenaudio software is installed on your computer (no registration is needed to download or install the software) you can start recording spoken tracks by pressing the red record button. After making your recording you can click and highlight any section of it to delete it or adjust its sound qualities. If you're looking to adjust the sound qualities and effects of an audio file, you will like the option to preview adjustments before applying them to a file. All files created and edited in Ocenaudio are saved to your computer.

Audacity is probably the best-known open-source audio editing tool available today. There is very little that Audacity cannot do in audio editing. The learning curve is a bit steeper than that of some other tools in this post, but with that steeper learning curve comes development of editing skills that you won't get from simpler tools. A complete set of Audacity tutorials can be found here.

Podcast creation with browser-based tools and mobile apps:
AudioBoom offers an easy way for teachers and students to create short audio recordings that are matched to images. In the video below I demonstrate how to use the web version of AudioBoom to create a short audio recording. AudioBoom also offers free iPad, iPhone, and Android apps.


AudioBoom's education section is full of great examples of using the service in classrooms.

Clyp.it is one of easiest-to-use audio recording tools that I've tried. To record on Clyp.it you simply go to the website and click the big record button (you may have to allow pop-ups in your browser in order for Clyp.it to access your microphone). When you're done recording click the share button and you'll be taken to a page on which you can download your recording or grab an embed code to post the recording on a blog. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use Clyp.it in your web browser. Clyp.it is also available to use as a free iOS app or as a free Android app.



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The 2015 Google Science Fair Is Open

The 2015 Google Science Fair is now open. This annual event asks thirteen to eighteen year old students to carry out a test or experiment on a subject they’re passionate about, and submit their projects online. This year submissions will be accepted in fourteen languages from students all over the world.

To help students develop project ideas the Google Science Fair website offers an idea springboard. The idea springboard asks students to complete the phrases "I love," "I'm good at," and "I want to explore." From the students' responses to these questions the idea springboard generates a collection of videos and websites that could spark project ideas in their minds.

Applications for Education
The Google Science Fair website includes a section for teachers in which you will find lesson plans addressing the topics of how science changes the world and what good science looks like. These lesson plans are designed to guide students in the processes of inquiry and experiment design.


Click here to find complete details about entering the Google Science Fair.

How to Create & Distribute Flipped Lessons Through EDPuzzle

EDpuzzle is a neat tool that allows you to add your voice and text questions to educational videos. On EDpuzzle you can search for educational videos and or upload your own videos to use as the basis of your lesson. EDpuzzle has an online classroom component that you can use to assign videos to students and track their progress through your video lessons. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use the main features of EDPuzzle.


This is the 68th video that I have created and added to my playlist of Practical Ed Tech Tips.

More Fun With Math in Pictures

I love Instagram because it prompts me to take and share pictures of things that I might otherwise glance at then forget about. Before cell phones entered my life I rarely took pictures. Last week I took the picture that you see below. Almost as soon as it appeared in my Facebook feed via Instagram, my friend Kelly commented with, "shouldn't they be more concerned about weight than the number of people?" Kelly is a middle school math teacher so this picture was right in her wheelhouse of math prompts. (If you want to use the picture as a math prompt, you are welcome to download it).

Kelly's comment reminded me of the Bad Maths Flickr group which contains lots of examples of bad math spotted in stores and other public places. Some of the bad math is obvious as in this picture taken in a Walmart store. Other examples are not as obvious.

Along the same lines of taking math pictures, last year Andy McKiel shared a neat mathematics and photography project started by a grade 3 class in Thompson, Manitoba. The project asked students to take photographs of things representing various topics and concepts in elementary school level mathematics. There was a different concept for each day of the month of May. You can certainly modify the project to suit another month of the year.

New Features for Teachers Added to Teach Your Monster to Read

Teach Your Monster to Read is a fun game designed to help students improve the speed and accuracy with which they recognize letters and sounds. Students play the game as a friendly monster avatar. The game series of levels (or islands as they're called in the game) each containing activities for students to play to help their monster avatars learn to recognize letters and words. On each island students can earn prizes for their monsters and customize the look of their monsters.

The latest update to Teach Your Monster to Read offers new features to teachers. Teachers can now turn off the password requirement for students in their classes. This could be helpful if you just want to get students into the activities as quickly as possible. If you are using passwords you can now print passwords in capital or lowercase letters on password cards or in letters to parents. A new "letter to parents" template is available for teachers to download in their accounts. The letter can include log-in information for parents.

Applications for Education
Creating Teach Your Monster to Read accounts for all of your students is a simple process. Just register yourself as a teacher then enter your students' names (first names only) or upload a CSV file of your students' names. Teach Your Monster to Read will automatically generate a password for each student. As the teacher you can log-in anytime to see your students' progress.

A Short Guide to Taking Screenshots on Your Laptop and Tablet

Visual aids can be very helpful when you're introducing a new website, app, or software to students or colleagues. Being able to take and send a screenshot is also helpful when you're trying to explain a problem to your tech support person. Here's a short guide to taking screenshots on your iPad, Android tablet, Windows computer, Mac, or Chromebook.

Chromebook:
A quick search in the Chrome store will return a bunch of options for taking screenshots on a Chromebook. Of those results there are two options that I have used and recommend. Diigo's Awesome Screenshot tool and TechSmith's Snagit. Awesome Screenshot will only capture things that are displayed in your web browser. Snagit will capture everything on your screen. Snagit requires that you download the Snagit Chrome app and the Snagit browser extension. Awesome Screenshot is a simple one step installation. Both tools allow you to draw and type on top of your screenshot images.

Macbook and Windows laptops:
On a Mac you can use the keyboard combination of "Command+shift+4" to take a screenshot of a portion of your screen. "Command+shift+3" will capture everything on your screen. The shortcoming of these methods is that you cannot draw or write on your screenshot images unless you use import those images into another tool.

On a Windows computer you can use the Snipping tool to capture all or part of your screen. From there you can use the built-in tools for drawing on your screenshot.

For years I have used Jing to take screenshots on my Mac and on my Windows laptop. Jing allows me to select a portion of my screen, highlight image elements, draw arrows on my screenshots, and type on my screenshots.

Skitch is another screenshot tool that I have used over the years. It does all of things that Jing does plus it has a tool for blurring sensitive information that might appear in a screenshot. If you have an Evernote account, you can save Skitch images in your Evernote account.

iPad and iPhone:
Taking a screenshot on an iPad or iPhone is a simple matter of holding down your "home" button (the big round one) and power button at the same time. The image will save directly to your device's camera roll. When I need to draw, highlight, or type on an image in my camera roll I turn to Skitch again.

Android phones and tablets:
As long as your device is operating on Android 4.0 or later you can take a screenshot by holding down your home button and power/sleep button at the same time. The screenshot should save to your camera roll unless you've designated another place for it to save. Once on your camera roll you can use the image in other apps for drawing, cropping, annotating, and sharing. Some Android devices, depending on manufacturer, include a built-in screenshot image editor. I have two Android apps that I regularly use for annotating my screenshots, Pixlr and Skitch. Skitch on Android offers all of the same features that are outlined above. Pixlr is a more robust tool that allows you to apply image filters in addition to drawing and typing on your images.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Free Webinar - Storyboards in the Classroom - Stories, Graphic Organizers, and More

Next Wednesday at 7pm EST Storyboard That is sponsoring a free webinar all about using storyboards in the classroom. I will be hosting the webinar with Storyboard That's founder Aaron Sherman. Aaron and I will share ideas and examples for using storyboards in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. Some of the topics that we will cover include, using storyboards for storytelling, using storyboards for illustrating concepts, and using storyboards as flowcharts. We will also share lesson plans incorporating storyboards into language arts, social studies, and digital citizenship.

Registration is limited to the first 200 people. Click here to register.

Yes, the webinar will be recorded
The recording will be posted on FreeTech4Teachers.com the day after the webinar. It is not necessary to send an email to get the recording.

Reminder - Apps Don't Have To Be Isolated

About a third of the way through my latest Best of the Web presentation I stopped to make the point that many apps and sites can work together even if they were not originally designed to do so. For example, I frequently share examples of using PicCollage and ThingLink together to create interactive multimedia collages. Greg Kulowiec calls this app smashing. You will find lots of examples of app smashing on Greg's blog.

Getting to the point that you can app smash requires becoming comfortable with a variety of apps and or sites. That doesn't happen overnight, it takes time. Set a goal of learning to use one new app or site per month in your classroom and before the end of the year you'll be ready to app smash. You can also enlist the help of your students to develop app smashes. Your students probably have favorite picture or video apps on their phones, ask them what they're using and then brainstorm possible uses of those apps for the next project in your classroom.


How to Search for Publicly Shared Google Docs, Slides, and Spreadsheets

Searching by file type and searching by domains is a great way for students to refine their Google searches. Searching for and within a DOC, a PPT, or XLS file can lead students to resources that they might not otherwise have seen. But increasingly a lot of us are creating our documents, slides, and spreadsheets in Google Drive. Many of us are then publishing those files for anyone in the world to see. Thanks to the Google for Education Google+ page, today I was reminded that you can perform a Google search to look for publicly shared Docs, Slides, and Spreadsheets. The screenshots below illustrate how to do this.

To search for a public Google Document: enter site:docs.google.com after your search term.
Click image to view full size.

To search for a public Google Slides presentation: enter site:docs.google.com/presentation/ after your search term.
Click image to view full size.
To search for a public Google Drive Spreadsheet: enter site:docs.google.com/spreadsheets/ after your search term.
Click image to view full size.

ExamTime Launches New Mobile Apps for Reviewing Quizzes, Flashcards, and More

ExamTime is a service that launched a couple of years ago for the purpose of providing an online tool for students to use to create flashcards, mind maps, and practice quizzes to help them study. Last year they introduced a study planner tool that students can use to create schedules for reviewing study materials for all of their courses. The study planner allows students to create recurring calendar events to study a particular topic at a given time every day or week. Today, ExamTime launched a free iPad app and a free Android app.

I installed ExamTime's free iPad app this afternoon. One thing that I noticed right away is that you have to create your ExamTime account in your web browser before you can use the app. Once you have the app installed and you're signed-in you can review anything that you have created in your ExamTime online account and or browse through resources that others have shared publicly. You can search for publicly shared resources by entering a keyword or you can simply browse through a list of subject headings. Either way, when you find a resource that you like you can bookmark it and add it to your list of saved review materials.

There are two things that I would like to see added to ExamTime's free iPad and Android apps. First, the search tool would benefit from a filter that would allow you to search for resources according to material type. For example, I would like to be able to refine my search to show only flashcards or only mind maps. Second, ExamTime's new mobile apps don't support creating review materials. Creating review materials still has to be done in your web browser. Hopefully, in the future ExamTime will add resource creation tools to their mobile apps.

Applications for Education
If you and your students are already creating review materials on ExamTime then the mobile apps could provide a good way to take those materials with you wherever you go. On the browser-based side of ExamTime the study planner is a good tool for students to use to get in the habit of studying each topic for a chunk of time on a regular schedule instead of trying to cram the night before an exam.