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Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Month In Review - The Most Popular Posts

Last sunset of April, 2015
Good evening from Woodstock, Maine where the sun has just set on the last day of April. I hope that the month was a good one for you. And as we gear up for the end of the school year, I hope that May treats you well too.

As I do at the end of every month I have put together a list of the posts that received the most views during the previous thirty days. Doing this gives me a chance to reflect on the topics that appeal to the most people. It also gives you a chance to see if there are any new things that you might have missed during the month.

These were the most popular posts in April, 2015:
1. 5 Tools for Creating Multimedia Quizzes - A Comparison Chart
2. 124 Recordings of Famous Poets Reading Some of Their Poems
3. A Handful of Tools That Help Students Analyze Their Own Writing
4. Analyze My Writing - Way More Than Word Clouds
5. Tools for Creating Animations in Your Browser or On Your Tablet
6. How to Use Handwriting in Google Documents
7. Create a Simple Check-out/ Check-in System With Google Forms
8. Parapara Animation - Create Stopmotion Animations in Your Browser
9. Send Your Students on a QR Code Treasure Hunt
10. Google Classroom Now Supports Teacher Collaboration and Announcement Drafts

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.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
HelloTalk is a mobile community for learning a new language.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
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.

ContextU Provides Good Review Material for AP US History Exam

Earlier this week Ken Halla who runs the US History Teachers Blog sent me a note to remind me about ContextU as a source of review materials for students taking the AP US History exam. ContextU provides students with overviews of six eras in US history from Revolution through the Gilded Age.

Within each era overview on ContextU students will find a hyperlinked table of contents from which the can jump to an event, person, or theme to see it in the context of other events and themes. Through timelines, Google Maps, diagrams, flow charts, and text ContextU provides context for each chosen event, piece of legislation, or theme. Students can jump from event to event or from theme to theme by following the hyperlinks within each diagram.

Applications for Education
The advantage of using ContextU over a textbook to review is found in the ease with which students can see how an event fits into the larger context of the causes of events in U.S. History.

Pros and Cons of Emailing School Announcements

On Tuesday I evaluated the pros and cons of using social media for school announcements. Yesterday, I did the same for text messaging school announcements. Today, let's take a look at the pros and cons of using good old fashioned email for distributing school and classroom announcements.

Pros of using email for school announcements:
  1. There is essentially no limit to the amount of text and information you can pack into one email. 
  2. Easy to attach forms and or link to a Google Form in an email. This is helpful when you need to distribute things like permission slips. 
  3. Your school probably has a database of every parent's or guardian's email address. This makes it easy to add email addresses to mailing lists. 
  4. Most parents are familiar with how email works. The same cannot be said for social networks. 
  5. It is easy for parents and students to quickly reply to messages if they need to ask follow-up questions. 
  6. Many relatively inexpensive services are available to help you format and schedule email newsletter distribution. Alternatively, you can use spreadsheet scripts like this one can be used to schedule email distribution. 
Cons of using email for school school announcements:
  1. Not ideal for urgent announcements like school closings as people don't always check their inboxes regularly even if they have notifications on their smartphones. 
  2. Email is easy to ignore. 
  3. Some email services may flag your message as spam if it is sent to hundreds of people at once. You will have to encourage parents to whitelist your school's email domain. 
  4. Must remember to use BCC not CC when manually sending a message to a mailing list. Otherwise you expose all the email addresses to everyone on the list. And don't forget that not everyone knows not to use "reply all" when replying. 
  5. While occasionally a long email is necessary, long emails are skimmed and or ignored. You must resist the temptation to be long-winded in announcements. 
  6. As with all forms of digital communication we need to be cognizant of families in our school communities that don't have reliable access to the Internet. 
What do you see as the pros and cons of using email for school announcements? Let me know on Twitter

Turn Your Mind Maps Into Presentations With LucidChart's New Presentation Mode

Lucidchart is a good tool for creating flowcharts, mind maps, and graphic organizers. I've been recommending it for a couple of years because it can be added to Google Apps for Education accounts at no cost.

This week LucidChart introduced a new presentation mode that enables you to turn your diagrams into slide presentations. When you enable the presentation mode you can select elements in your diagram to become individual slides. You can re-size each element to make it fit your slides the way that you see best. When you're ready to present just click the presentation button and you can flip through the slides just like you would in PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Keynote. Watch the video below for a demonstration and you'll notice there's a little bit of Prezi elment to LucidChart's presentation mode too.


Applications for Education
LucidChart has always been a good tool for high school and college students to use to organize ideas around a key concept. The presentation mode will make it easy to take those ideas and flip them into an organized presentation.

Presentation mode is a premium feature of LucidChart. But remember that K-12 teachers and students get the premium features for free when they apply for a LucidChart education account.

Explore History Through Project Writer

Disclosure: BoomWriter is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

When BoomWriter started out it was simple platform for collaboratively creating fiction stories. Over the last couple of years it has steadily grown by adding WordWriter and ProjectWriter into the mix.

WordWriter is a BoomWriter service through which students practice using vocabulary words in context. ProjectWriter is a service through which students can collaboratively write reports while using vocabulary terms and dates that you have assigned to them. The benefit of using ProjectWriter for this process is that you get to see each student's contributions to the project in your teacher dashboard. You can give feedback to students individually or you can give feedback to the whole group.

Applications for Education
One the ways ProjectWriter could be used in a history class is to have students collaborate on the creation of a biography. For example, students could collaborate on the creation of a biography of George Washington. Create the project and assign students to write about the beginning, middle, and end years of Washington's. In the vocabulary list for the project you can include dates that you want students to mention, names of battles, and terms related to legislation that Washington signed as President.

Check out the ProjectWriter history page for more ideas about using ProjectWriter in social studies lessons.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pros and Cons of Using Text Messages for School Announcements

Yesterday, I published a post about the pros and cons of using social media for distributing school announcements. Today, let's take a look at the pros and cons for using text message services to distribute class and school announcements.

The services you might use for sending messages:
For this post I'm going to include not only services that send SMS but also services that simply allow push notifications/reminders on students' and parents' mobile devices. Some of the most popular services for sending SMS and push notifications to students and parents include Remind, ClassDojo Messenger, Google Voice, Class Messenger, Cel.ly, and WhatsDue.

Pros of using text messages for announcements:
  1. Immediate broadcast of messages to large groups of students and parents. Some of these services will let to schedule broadcasting of messages too. 
  2. People have a very hard time resisting opening text messages immediately whereas email is easy to ignore for hours or days. Don't believe me, the next time you receive a text message try to ignore it for one hour. 
  3. Even households that don't have laptops, desktops, or home wireless are likely to at least one person that has a mobile phone to receive text message alerts. The Cellular Telephone Industries Association claims wireless penetration in the U.S. is 104%
  4. You can attach files to your messages to enhance and or explain the larger context of your message. 
Cons of using text messages for announcements:
  1. You have to get parents and students to opt-in to receive messages. 
  2. While great for short announcements like, "school is cancelled due to snow" or "remember your field trip permission slip" text messages are not great for announcements that require explanations. 
  3. Depending upon the service you choose, you may find yourself receiving a lot of replies that should be handled by phone call or in-person conversation. 
  4. Despite the CTIA statistic above, some students and parents won't have reliable access to a mobile device that receives text messages. This is particularly true in communities in which pay-as-you go mobile plans are prevalent. 
In response to my post about using social media for school announcement Jonathan Rochelle brought up a good point about asking students to use social media while at the same time asking them not to use it all the time, like during your class. This same issue applies to text messaging. Whether you use social media or text messaging for classroom and school announcements it's important to communicate to students when it is and isn't appropriate to be using their mobile devices.

As you venture down the road to using social media and text messaging with students it's also important to clearly communicate to parents why you're using these methods to broadcast school information. Think about drafting a letter to parents in which you explain why and how you're using social media and text messaging for communication. Feel free to use some of my pros bullet points as a starting place for that letter. 

Password Alert - A Chrome Extension to Protect Your Google Account

Password Alert is a new Chrome extension that Google released less than an hour ago. The purposes of Password Alert is to alert you to phishing sites and to encourage you not use the same password on multiple services.

Password Alert tries to accomplish its goals in two ways. First, Password Alert will show you a warning message if you type your Google Account password into a non-Google site. Second, you will be encouraged by Password Alert to change your password if you are repeatedly using your Google Account password on non-Google sites.

According to Google's Online Security blog Password Alert will make Chrome save “scrambled” version of your Google Account password. And according to the same post, it only remembers this information for security purposes and doesn’t share it with anyone.

Applications for Education
Google Apps for Education administrators can push Password Alert onto users. Administrators can also set up alerts to be notified when users use their passwords on non-Google Apps sites. Administrators are also able to force users to change their passwords if they use their passwords on non-Google sites. Administrators can learn more about this on the Google Apps Updates blog.

Folks who don't use Chrome can take steps to secure their Google Accounts by using two-step verification, frequently changing their passwords, and avoiding using the same password for multiple accounts.

What is Hotlinking? - Why You and Your Students Should Avoid It

This morning Alice Keeler, Sue Waters, myself, and a few others had a nice Twitter conversation about sharing images online. In that conversation Sue indirectly brought up the topic of hotlinking. When I teach courses on classroom blogging I always talk about how to correctly use images in blog posts. One of the things that I stress in that lesson is avoiding hotlinking to images that you don't own and control online.

What is hotlinking?
In a nutshell, hotlinking is inserting a picture into a blog post through a URL rather than uploading the image file itself to your blog. You can read more about hotlinking on the Simple English Wikipedia or on Host Gator's page about preventing hotlinking to your own work.

Why you and your students should avoid hotlinking.
Hotlinking itself isn't bad if you're only linking to images that you own and control online. For example, let's say that you have a Flickr account to which you upload dozens of pictures that you took. You could use the embed code or the link that Flickr provides to post your images in your blog post.

When hotlinking causes trouble is when you link to another person's image hosted in their account or on their servers. Even if the image is in the public domain you probably don't want to hotlink to it. In fact some services, like Pixabay which hosts public domain images, block attempts at hotlinking. They block hotlinking because when you hotlink you're using more of their bandwidth than if you simply downloaded the image to your computer then uploaded it to your blog.

The biggest concern about hotlinking is not knowing exactly who or what you're linking to. As Sue implied in her Tweet this morning, it is possible that the image you linked to and the image displayed could be changed without warning. It's also possible that the link a student inserts to hotlink links back to site or host laden with malware that could then rain down havoc on your blog.
Click image for full size.

Best practices for using images in blog posts.
  1. Always try to use images that you own and upload to your blog. 
  2. If you don't own a suitable image then look for images in the public domain. Pixabay is a good place to look. Download the image and upload to your blog. 
  3. If you cannot find a suitable image in the public domain then look for images that have Creative Commons licenses attached to them. Photosforclass.com makes this easy to do. Download the image, upload it to your blog, give proper attribution to the owner of the image. 
  4. If items 1, 2, and 3 above didn't provide you with a suitable image then you can attempt to use an image under Fair Use guidelines. Fair Use is a murky water so Fair Use should be your last resort. If 1, 2, and 3 failed to produce a suitable image, repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 until you find a suitable image.

Commenting on Dropbox & Box Files - Alternatives to Google Drive

It is not a secret that I love Google Drive and use it for nearly everything that I do in my professional life. I know that not everyone loves Google Drive the way that I do therefore I also have Dropbox and Box accounts that I use for sharing files. Dropbox recently added a new option for all Dropbox users to comment on shared files.

Now in your Dropbox account you can open a file, write comments about the item in the file, and mention people in your comments. Mentions are created by using "@" and a person's name from your contacts or by simply entering a person's email address. When you mention a person in a comment he or she will receive a notification.
Click image for full size.

Box.com offers a similar commenting functionality. Open a file preview in your Box.com account and you can write comments and or assign tasks to collaborators on the file. The downside to this system is that your collaborators will have to download the file in order to make changes.
Click image for full size.
Dropbox and Box offer a limited amount of free storage compared to Google Drive. But both services frequently run promotions through which you can get more storage by Tweeting, Facebooking, or emailing promotions to your friends.

H/T to The Next Web for the Dropbox update.

Social Studies Teachers, This Course is for You

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 6.51.18 PM
History teachers come learn with me, Richard Byrne, and Ken Halla of US and World History Teachers’ Blogs. In Teaching History With Technology we take you through the process of developing engaging, web-based history lesson plans. This course features three interactive online meetings along with a discussion forum in which you can further interact with me, Ken, and your classmates. The class will meet online on July 16, 23, and 30th at 5:30pm Eastern Time.

For $97 you will:
  • Find and use flipped videos

  • Create your own flipped videos

  • Learn how to develop a Google Plus community for professional development and instructional purposes.

  • Develop an online Professional Learning Community.

  • Learn how to draw virtual maps.

  • Learn how to locate and help students locate online primary resources.

  • Find and use virtual tours on the Internet

  • Find and use flipped videos

  • Create your own flipped videos

To give everyone the attention they deserve, registration is limited to 25 participants.

Click here to register today!


Live sessions will be held from 5:30pm to 6:30pm EST on July 16, 23, and 30th.

All sessions are recorded for participants to download and watch whenever and wherever they live.

Questions? Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

SoundCloud Is Making It Easier for Anyone to Publish a Podcast

SoundCloud is one of the audio recording tools that I have been recommending for years. I've always liked the ease with which you can record, save, and share audio through the service. The option to insert text comments into SoundCloud tracks has been an appeal of the service too. Today, SoundCloud added a new feature that will appeal to anyone that has wanted to try his or her hand at podcasting.

SoundCloud for Podcasting creates an RSS feed for the recordings that you make or upload to your SoundCloud account. This doesn't seem like a big deal until you realize that by having that RSS feed created for you, you can then easily publish your podcast across multiple podcasting services including iTunes. Compare Apple's directions for publishing to iTunes to SoundCloud's directions for the same and you'll see why SoundCloud makes it easier to distribute podcasts.

Applications for Education
SoundCloud for Podcasting could be a great service to try if you have wanted to try podcasting with your students, but have been overwhelmed or frustrated by the process of distributing the recordings your students have made. The free SoundCloud for Podcasting plan provides hosting for up to three hours of recordings.

H/T to TechCrunch

New Animation Options Added to Google Slides

When I started using it with students Google Slides was a very basic slideshow creation tool. Over the years it has evolved and new features have been added. In fact, at one point there wasn't an option for building-in transitions or animations. When those were added they were still rather basic.

The latest update to Google Slides introduces more animation options. Now you can have objects simply appear or disappear in your slides on your click. Previously objects had to fade or fly in or out. Speaking of the fly in option, you can now set the direction from which objects fly onto your slides.

Pros and Cons of Using Social Media for School Announcements

When used correctly social media can be a fantastic aid in spreading the good word about your school. As I wrote in my post about socializing school events with social media, social media can be very helpful in building a positive feeling of community around your school too. On the other hand, social media isn't always the best way to share news about your school. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of using social media for school announcements.

The social media networks you might use:
In an effort to be concise this post will deal only with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram. Unless otherwise specified the pros and cons here will deal with all four networks as category rather than breaking out the pros and cons of each network individually.

Pros of using social media for school announcements:
  1. The likelihood of students checking their favorite social networks frequently is much higher than that of them checking email frequently. 
  2. You can quickly post concise messages with visuals that grab the attention of students and their parents. (I've been testing using large images into my Tweets lately. Each time I do I get more favorites and reTweets than I do with the same message that lacks a visual). 
  3. It is easy for students and or parents to share the announcement through a reTweet, tag or share on Facebook, tag/mention on Instagram, or a tag/mention or re-post on Google+. 
  4. It is easy for students and parents to reply to announcements. 
  5. A small archive of recent announcements is automatically created for you. 
Cons of using social media for school announcements:
  1. You must convince students and parents to follow or like your school's social media account. 
  2. Students and parents who follow a lot of social media accounts can easily overlook yours. This is especially true on Facebook because Facebook tends to hide posts from people/pages that haven't been interacted with on a frequent basis. (In other words, if you click on a lot of "cuddly kitten/ puppy" stories on Facebook you're more likely to see more of those than you are stories from sources that you don't click frequently). 
  3. You, your school administrator, or some committee within the school needs to decide who will be the "official" social media voice of the school. In other words, decide who gets to post on the school account. 
  4. Someone has to monitor and moderate conversations that arise from announcements posted on social media. On a Facebook page, Google+ page, or Instagram account you can delete inappropriate comments. On Twitter your only option is to block, mute, or report the offender. 
  5. Sharing lengthy announcements that require a lot of explanation can be done on Facebook or Google+, but that style of post tends to get ignored on social media or at the very least is not frequently shared from user to user.  
Tomorrow, I'll have a post about the pros and cons of using text message services to share school announcements

13 Online Exhibits About Air and Space Travel

Air travel fascinates me which is why The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is one of my favorite museums. One of my good friends recently took his kids there during spring vacation and judging by the Instagram pictures his kids liked it. I wish that every kid could have a similar experience. If a field trip to the museum isn't a possibility for your students, The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum does offer thirteen good online exhibits. I won't summarize all of them here, but I would like to point out the ones that I like the most.

America by Air online exhibit. American by Air is a series of thirteen online activities that take students through the history of commercial aviation in the United States.

How Things Fly features an interactive module in which students design their own airplanes. The activity starts with a simple and slow airplane that students have to modify until it reaches a target speed and altitude. As students modify the wings, fuselage, and engines of their airplanes they are given instant feedback on the effects of those modifications. In some cases the feedback includes the airplane crashing and the students having to start over again.

At first glance The Wright Brothers - The Invention of the Aerial Age looks like it's just a timeline of developments made by the Wright Brothers. Dig into the Interactive Experiments section of the exhibition and you'll find Engineering the Wright Way. Engineering the Wright Way offers interactive simulations in which students learn about wing design by joining the Wright Brothers for test flights in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Two more simulations about thrust and plane control will be released later this year.

Apollo to the Moon lacks the interactive simulations of the three exhibits featured above. That deficiency is made up for by the depth of the content in the exhibit. Apollo to the Moon contains seven chapters chronicling NASA's effort to put a man on the moon. The exhibit begins with a history of the Space Race and Kennedy's proclamation that the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960's. From there the exhibit moves into the design of rockets and other equipment to put a man on the moon. It concludes with a gallery of artifacts related to the Apollo 11 mission.

Monday, April 27, 2015

GeoGebra Quickstart Guides for Desktop and Tablets

From time to time I receive requests for help with GeoGebra. Not being a mathematics teacher, my hands-on experience with the program is limited to just messing around and trying things. When I'm asked for resources for learning how to use GeoGebra I point people in the direction of the GeoGebra website and YouTube channel.

On the GeoGebra YouTube channel you will find more 200 video tutorials. If you're just starting out with GeoGebra on your desktop or tablet, the GeoGebra quickstart videos will be of use to you. The videos are silent, but the visuals are clear.


Remind 2 Me - Send Future Reminders to Yourself

A couple of weeks ago I published a post about a service called Future Me that enables you to write letters to be sent to yourself at a future date. That service works well but a few readers expressed concern about Future Me's gallery of public letters. Remind 2 Me is similar in concept to Future Me except that it doesn't offer a public gallery of letters.

Using Remind 2 Me is very easy. To have reminders sent to you, just write out your reminder to yourself, enter your email address, and enter the date on which you need the reminder sent. You do not need to register for an account to use Remind 2 Me.

Applications for Education
My vision for Remind 2 Me in a classroom is the same as the one for Future Me. Both services could be used at the beginning of a school year. Students could write about what they hope to learn that year, what they do or don't like about school, and goals that they have for themselves. Then at the end of the school year students can read their letters and see how they've changed over the year.

Vizlingo - Short Videos to Illustrate Words

Vizlingo is an interesting little service for creating and sending short video messages. Here's what it does; you type in a short phrase like "hello world" and Vizlingo will play a short video clip for each word in the phrase.

Through the Vizlingo iOS app you can select which video clips you want to use and then send your video message to your friends via email, social networks, or YouTube.

Applications for Education
Vizlingo might be a fun little way for students to practice recognizing some vocabulary context clues. Not all of the video clips I went through on Vizlingo really matched the words I had typed so I had to sort through to find appropriate clips to match my words.

Use Monster Heart Medic to Diagnose a Healthy Lifestyle

This is a guest post from Sabba Quidwai (@AskMsQ) of EdTechTeacher - an advertiser on this site.

A recent app developed by UC Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science, and funded by a National Institutes of Health SEPA Award, serves as a great example for what we can achieve when we use technology in the service of community. This time, the collaboration resulted in educating people about the importance of healthy lifestyles and habits through the creation of Monster Heart Medic. This free, new app for iOS - and soon coming to Android - is a well crafted educational adventure game that explores the cardiovascular system by examining how it is affected by healthy living.


Meet Ragnar! A friendly 3 eyed monster who needs students’ help! Ragnar is not feeling very well and needs children to help him get better! The game is cleverly crafted through an interactive narrative. As students build their knowledge of the cardiovascular system and healthy living, they earn health achievements. Through hands-on tests, interactive simulators, discussions with health professionals, animated monster stories, and arcade games, players learn about common cardiovascular conditions, diagnostic tests, and what steps can be taken to get and keep a healthy cardiovascular system.

From learning about the different parts that make up the cardiovascular system, to truly embracing the role of a healthcare provider, students use medical tools like a stethoscope and pressure cuff to help diagnose cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, the app does a brilliant job of bringing to life and helping children visualize the dangerous effects of high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.

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We all know how much children love customizing characters and Ragnar is no exception! Children can customize him with hats, moustaches, hairstyles and much more. Even with the fun music and character customization, the ultimate goal and lessons of the game are never lost. The different game levels reinforce the importance of healthy food and lifestyle choices. As students diagnose and treat Ragnar, they will learn how to make these choices for themselves so that they do not end up like this monster!

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While Monster Heart Medic is geared towards children, teens and adults can greatly benefit from some of the fun as well. The exciting game play serves as a great tool for clinicians and parents. They can use it with children to enhance and develop their health literacy and make informed decisions about how to lead and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

This past year, I co-taught Advanced Topics in Education (ATEd), a project-based course where physician assistant students at the Keck School of Medicine of USC explore the changing dynamics in how people today communicate and investigate how they can use these different platforms that technology has afforded us to deliver patient education outside the four walls of the examination room. Monster Heart Medic serves as a brilliant example of how we can help tackle problems in healthcare by reaching out and delivering education; this time through a exciting game!

Learn more from Sabba this summer! She will be leading workshops for EdTechTeacher in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Two Good Mathematics Glossaries for Students - One in English and Spanish

Like a lot of kids, when I was a middle school and high school student the vocabulary of math often tripped me up. Once I wrapped my head around the meaning of terms I had an easier time understanding and solving the problems. Having a glossary of terms often helped me out. Here are couple of excellent mathematics glossaries for kids.

Math Vocabulary Cards is a free iPad app designed for elementary school students. The app offers exactly what its name implies, a series of flashcards of mathematics vocabulary terms. Each card contains a term, a diagram, and a definition. By default the term is hidden and students have to guess the term based on the definition and diagram. Students can also use the cards with the definitions hidden and the terms revealed. Math Vocabulary Cards can be used in Spanish or English. Simply select a language at the bottom of each card. Students can browse through the entire gallery of flashcards or choose a specific category of terms to study.

Jenny Eather's A Maths Dictionary for Kids has been around for years now. Every year it is updated with more great content for kids. The dictionary provides simple and clear definitions of math terms. Each definition includes a small diagram or simple activity to illustrate the term's definition. A Maths Dictionary for Kids does not have a search option, but it doesn't need one as all definitions appear alphabetically just like in a physical dictionary. Nearly all of the content in the dictionary can be printed.

Parts of this post originally appeared on one of my other blogs, iPadApps4Sschool.com.

Socializing School Events With Social Media

Last week I received a copy of Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick's book The Art of Social Media. It's a quick read that is full of actionable items. One of the chapters of the book is about incorporating social media into physical events like conferences. As I read the chapter I thought, "this could apply to school events."

Here's the general outline of how this could work:
1. Let's say your school's music program is having a fundraiser event like an auction or a costume contest.
2. Pick a hashtag for the event and let people know about it. Print it out and plaster it on posters with prompts like, "remember to tag your pictures, #myschoolrocks."
3.  Use a tool like Tagboard to monitor the hashtag and reTweet, Pin, reGram, tag, and otherwise help the event's hashtag grow.
4. After the event is over go through and choose a bunch of pictures and or Tweets to create a collage of highlights of the events. Tools like Pic-Collage and PicMonkey make it easy to build collages. (Remember to ask for permission to re-use another person's pictures). Post the collages on your school's Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts. Of course, you'll also want to use the collages in your school newsletter too.

Why do this?
1. Your students and their parents are already likely to be using social media during after-school events.
2. By encouraging the use of and tracking a hashtag you can have a better sense of what is being said about the event.
3. People love to see pictures of themselves (the selfie stick is the new symbol of narcissism) so by including their pictures in news about the event they're more likely to share news about the event.
4. If the event went well, people had fun, and money was raised (or whatever the event's goal was), you now have a small army of people who have positive feelings about the school that they are sharing throughout their communities. Sharing good feelings and comments about your school is always a good thing.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Week in Review - New Pageview Record

Good morning from the FreeTech4Teachers.com World Headquarters in Woodstock, Maine. For the third day in a row we are experiencing squalls, wind, and generally just a winter that won't quit. I probably jinxed it last week when I raved about how spring had finally arrived. Before I head outside to ride my bike in snow, I have this week's week-in-review to share.

This week saw FreeTech4Teachers.com receive a new record high for pageviews for a one month period, just over 1.1 million views. Put another way, that's 1.09 million more than I ever expected when I started this blog nearly eight years ago. A huge thank you to those who have been with me since the early days. And thank you to everyone that has helped the site grow by sharing posts through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other networks. It's seeing Tweets like the one below that make it fun for me to keep blogging. Thank you.


Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. A Handful of Tools That Help Students Analyze Their Own Writing
2. 124 Recordings of Famous Poets Reading Some of Their Poems
3. Google Classroom Now Supports Teacher Collaboration and Announcement Drafts
4. g(Math) for Google Forms Now Supports Handwritten Responses
5. How to Use Handwriting in Google Documents
6. 100 Practical Ed Tech Tips Videos
7. 10 Topics for School Blog Posts


PD Opportunities With Me
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.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
HelloTalk is a mobile community for learning a new language.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
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.

Friday, April 24, 2015

How to Use Handwriting in Google Documents

Earlier this week John Stevens tipped me off to using g(Math) to add handwritten responses to Google Forms. This morning John sent me a direct message on Twitter to tell me that you can now use handwriting in Google Documents through the g(Math) Add-on. John wrote out step-by-step directions with screenshots here. I made a short screencast of the process. That screencast is embedded below.


Thanks again to John Stevens for the tip. And thanks to John McGowan for developing g(Math).

How to Cite a Tweet in MLA, APA, and Chicago Style

As social media has evolved it has crept into academic work. I've even given research assignments in which I've asked my students to seek out and cite quotes from people on Twitter. More and more I'm asked, "how do I cite a Tweet?" In fact, I was asked this in an email last night. If you're citing for a blog post, you can just embed the Tweet. If you're citing for a more formal work you will want to follow guidelines of MLA, APA, or Chicago Style.

Guidelines and examples for citing a Tweet in MLA style can be found here. Guidelines and examples for citing Tweets in APA are available here. If you need guidelines and examples of citing a Tweet in Chicago Style, click here.

Those who use tools like EasyBib or RefMe should note that the Tweet citations generated by those tools don't exactly match the guidelines set by APA, MLA, or Chicago Style. I tried both tools for citing Tweets and found that I had to slightly modify the formatting produced by those tools.

How to Embed a Tweet Into a Blog Post

Last night I received an email from someone who had a question about sharing Tweets. She had seen my post about QR codes in which I shared a Tweet that had a picture in it. She wanted to do the same to share on her classroom blog the Tweets that parents and students sent during and about a school event (I think that's a great idea).  The process is rather easy and I demonstrate it in the video embedded below.

Nearly 700 Art History Books to Read Online for Free

Last night on the Free Technology for Teacher Facebook page I posted a set of resources for art lesson plans. That post reminded me of a couple of sources of free art history books that together offer nearly 700 books.

 The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts 437 art history books online. All of the books can be read online or downloaded as PDFs (warning, some of them are massive files). You can search through the catalog of books by thematic category, format, and publication type. And, of course, you can search through the books by title, author, and keyword.

The Getty Museum has put more than 250 art books online for anyone to read online and or download. You can find all of these books in the Getty Publications Virtual Library. You can search through the collection by author, keyword, or title. Alternatively, you can simply browse the collections. All of the free books are also available on Google Books.

Rethink Your Drink - A CDC Guide to Sugary Beverages

My favorite coffee mug.
Despite the fact that we're still having snow flurries at my house, the outdoor biking season has begun here in Maine. I've set a few goals for myself this season. One of the goals includes a personal best time on a local hill climb (follow me on Strava and you'll figure out which hill).

One of the ways to improve my climbing is by dropping weight. Since I don't have a spare $1,000+ spend on lighter wheels and other bike components, I decided to drop some of the weight from my body. One of the simple ways that I'm doing this is by cutting the sugar from my daily cups of coffee. I put about 1.5 teaspoons of sugar into my coffee three or four times per day which works out to 72-96 calories from sugar.

This sugar reduction quest got me searching for more information about sugar in beverages. One of the first things that I came upon was a PDF from CDC about sugary drinks. Rethink Your Drink provides a chart of sugar content and calories found in popular beverages. The PDF also contains a chart of suggested alternatives to drinking sugary beverages. In addition to the charts Rethink Your Drink provides suggestions on ways to cut sugar calories safely while not sacrificing nutrients.

Applications for Education
The charts in Rethink Your Drink could be good resources to use in a health and fitness class for students. You might combine Rethink Your Drink with these resources on how sugar affects the brain. And for good visuals about sugar, take a look at Sugar Stacks which by using sugar cubes shows how much sugar is in common foods and drinks.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Have Students Schedule Blog Posts for Their Future Selves

On Sunday evening I published a post about a service called Future Me. Future Me lets you draft a letter to yourself to be sent at future time of your choosing. I think that using Future Me could be a good way to have students write a letter at the beginning of the school year about where they would like to be at the end of the school year. Then at the end of the school year they can receive the letter and reflect.

The problem with Future Me, as pointed out to me by Ms. Drasby, is that it has a public gallery of letters which you might not want elementary or middle school students to read. An alternative to using Future Me is to have students write blog posts then simply schedule them to appear at months later. Blogger, Kidblog, Edublogs, and every other popular blogging tool offers the option for scheduling blog posts.

If you don't want to or can't add your students to a classroom blog then simply have them write the letters to their future selves in Google Docs or Word. Collect the letters and then you can transfer the text into blog posts that you schedule to appear in the future. (If you want to move text from Word into a blog post make sure you copy the text into the HTML editor of blog platform rather than using the "compose" mode, click here for more information on that topic.).

Another Good Source of AP U.S. and AP Euro Review Videos

Over the last couple of years I've shared a bunch of history lesson videos produced by Keith Hughes. Keith's videos are great! But it's always good to have another source of review videos. Enter, Tom Richey. Tom's videos on topics in U.S. and European history are designed for students preparing for the advanced placement tests on those subjects. Tom's videos have a slightly different, yet equally good presentation for students. I've embedded a couple of his videos below. You can find all of Tom Richey's A.P. U.S. History and A.P. European history videos here.



Three Frequently Overlooked Google Slides Features

For most classroom settings Google Slides is a great tool for students to use to create presentations. It works in any updated web browser (although it works best in Chrome) and it has enough features for most students without having so many that students waste time on frivolous tasks instead of focusing on story development. All that said, there are some handy features of Google Slides that new users overlook and that some veteran Google Slides users forget about from time to time.

In the video below I demonstrate how to use three features that I think are often overlooked in Google Slides. Those features are custom fonts, language settings, and image layering.

Tips and Tutorials for Quickly Grading Assignments With Flubaroo

Flubaroo is one of my all-time favorite Google Sheets Add-ons (formerly scripts) because it enables me to save time on routine tasks like grading quizzes and move on to fun things like actually working with my students.

Flubaroo has a bunch of features that you can take advantage of once you know how they all work. Some of these features include grading ranges of numerical responses, creating case-sensitive answer keys, accepting multiple correct responses to questions, and automatically sending grades to students. The Flubaroo help center explains how to do all of those things and more.

Before your students take another quiz through Google Forms, take a few minutes to explore the uses of Flubaroo. You just might find yourself spending less time grading and more time doing the things that make teaching fun.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Few Resources for Learning About Birds

About a week ago while walking my dogs I started to notice the sounds of birds returning my neighborhood. This morning a little fluffy bird landed outside my window stayed long enough for me to take a grainy picture of it. If you live in a northern climate like me, you and your students are probably starting to see the birds return too. Here are some resources for teaching and learning about birds.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers more than 7,500 hours of recordings of nearly 9,000 bird callss. The recordings are published on the Macaulay Library site. You can browse for recordings recommended by Macaulay Library or you can search for a bird by name. When you find a recording you can also see a Google Map of where the recording was made. While the recordings cannot be downloaded for free they can be heard for free. Click here for an example.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a YouTube channel that offers some nice mini documentaries about birds. I've embedded a video about Snowy Owls below.



Untamed Science offers a nice video about bird migrations. Physics of Bird Migration provides some short explanations of why birds fly in V formations, how they navigate thousands of miles and return to the same places every year, and how they prepare for a long migration. The short video is embedded below.



The Canadian Museum of Nature hosts a good collection of online games and animations about mammals, birds, and dinosaurs. A few of the games and animations are Canada-specific, but those and all of the others have a broad appeal. The three games that I tried were focused on the adaptations of animals to their environments. In the mammals section I played a game about the adaptations of polar bears and grizzly bears to their environments. In the birds section I played a matching game in which I had to pair the beak of a bird to the adaptation it represented. And in the fossils section I viewed an animation through which I learned how horned dinosaurs eat their food.

JohnnyAppl - Play Trivia Games and Plant Real Trees

Update April 2016: This appears to have gone offline. 

JohnnyAppl is a fun online trivia game that is perfect for Earth Day. JohnnyAppl offers a variety of trivia quizzes that you can play anonymously or as a registered user (via Facebook log-in). Similar to Free Rice, the game is supported by banner advertising on the right-hand side of the screen. The revenue from the advertising is used buy and plant trees through the Eden Reforestation Program.

As a player on JohnnyAppl you are credited with helping to plant a tree after correctly answering 150 questions. Don't worry, you don't have to answer all of them in one session. JohnnyAppl has trivia bunches of quizzes in categories including geography, vocabulary, science, and technology. After answering ten questions in a quiz you are given a score that shows you how you did compared to others taking the same quiz.

Applications for Education
JohnnyAppl is a site, like Free Rice, that I would like to on my classroom blog as a fun and somewhat educational resource for students to use during some free time if they finish a lesson early or are simply looking for something fun to do at home.

H/T to CNET.

Lingua.ly Releases an Updated Chrome Extension for Learning a Language Online

Lingua.ly is a free service designed to help people learn a new language while browsing the web. Today, Lingua.ly released an update to their Chrome extension. Lingua.ly's updated Chrome extension enables you to highlight any word on a webpage then double-click on it to find its definition and hear it read aloud to you. You can also add the word to a list of words to review in your free Lingua.ly online account. And for every word that you look up using the extension a flashcard is created and added to your free Lingualy online account.

Applications for Education
Lingua.ly's Chrome extension could be a good tool for students to use for support while reading webpages in the languages that they are trying to learn. For example, if I have a student who is trying to learn French and is reading a French newspaper online, he could benefit from using Lingua.ly when he encounters a word that is new to him.

10 Topics for School Blog Posts

I frequently hear people say, "I don't know what to write about," when I talk to them about maintaining a school or classroom blog. One of my suggestions is to think about what your students' parents want to know about. What do they ask you about at open house night or parent-teacher conferences? Think about that for a few minutes and you'll have a some good blog topics. I did that yesterday as I was preparing for my webinar Blogs and Social Media for Teachers & School Leaders. Here's the list of blog post topics that I developed.

  • How to manage your child’s web use
  • How to talk to kids about web use
  • How to prevent the summer slide
  • 5 fun, free educational activities to do at home (think Maker activities)
  • 5 local field trips to do on rainy days
  • 5 local field trips to do on sunny days
  • A glossary of Tween vocabulary
  • 5 things parents should know about Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram/ Snapchat/ YikYak
  • 5 tasty and healthy snacks to send to school
  • How to talk to kids about bullying
If you liked this post, would you please share it on Twitter by clicking the icon below.

Tweet: Have nothing to blog about? Try these 10 topics for school blog posts. http://ctt.ec/sYiAl+

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

124 Recordings of Famous Poets Reading Some of Their Poems

At the beginning of this month I shared five good resources for National Poetry Month. The Library of Congress recently released a new online archive about poetry.

The Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature contains 124 recordings of writers reading some of their poems and other works. Many of the recordings are long (one hour+) interviews with the writers during which they read some of their works. The audio can be heard on the LOC website and or embedded into blog posts as I've done here. Below you will find the recordings of Ray Bradbury and Robert Frost.






H/T to Open Culture.

Color Uncovered - An iPad App About the Science of Color

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

Earlier today I shared the TED-Ed lesson Eye vs. Camera which explains how our eyes perceive light and color. Exploratorium’s Color Uncovered iPad app provides a good introduction or follow-up to the TED-Ed lesson Eye vs. Camera.

Exploratorium’s Color Uncovered iPad app is essentially a seventeen part ebook with some nice interactive activities and videos built into it to support the articles. In Color Uncovered students will why we sometimes see colors that aren’t really there, how light influences the colors we see, and why dogs would have trouble with traffic lights if they drove. One of the interactive features on Color Uncovered that I particularly like is the “Colors Add Up” activity. In “Colors Add Up” students use a clear CD case (I’m sure any other clear piece of plastic will work too) to mix colors projected from their iPads. The app also gives students a couple of short lessons on how and why artificial colors are added to foods like salmon, candy, cheese, and fruit.

Applications for Education
Color Uncovered could be a nice app for use in art lessons and science lessons. Or combine the two topics into one lesson in which students learn about the science of light and how colors blend together.

Google Classroom Now Supports Teacher Collaboration and Announcement Drafts

Today, a couple of frequently requested features were added to Google Classroom. Those features are teacher collaboration in a Google Classroom course and saving announcement drafts.

To add a teacher to one of your courses you simply have to go to your course's "About" page and select "invite teacher." The teacher(s) that you invite can do almost everything that you can do. Invited teachers can post comments, post announcements, post assignments, and even grade assignments.
Image courtesy of Google Apps for Edu marketing team.

If you work like I do, you probably try to knock out a bunch of similar tasks in one block of time. If those tasks include creating announcements and assignments for the week, Google Classroom now makes that a little easier. You can now save announcements and assignments as drafts then publish them at a later time.
Image courtesy of Google Apps for Edu marketing team.