Google
 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Month in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Moonrise in Maine.
The end of the month is here. As I do at the end of every month I have put together a list of the most popular posts of the month. In this month's list you'll find resources for creating fun end-of-year review activities, free PDF handouts on digital storytelling, and tips on using Google Spreadsheets.




Here are this month's most popular posts:
1. Six Styles of Classroom Video Projects - A Handout
2. 12 Good Tools for Creating End-of-Year Review Activities
3. Ten Great Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures - A PDF Handout
4. Making the Most of Google Keep
5. Create Rubrics and Email Grades from a Google Spreadsheet
6. By Request - Five Options for Creating Videos on Chromebooks
7. 5 Good Ways to Send Text & Push Notifications to Students & Parents - A Handout
8. Seven Steps for Creating Videos In Your Classroom
9. Create Animated Videos and Presentations at the Same Time on Wideo
10. What2Learn - Create Your Own Review Games

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.
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.

Three Video Tutorials on Using Padlet in Your Classroom

As I mentioned in my mailbag post yesterday, Padlet is one of my favorite tools for gathering comments and questions from students. I've also used Padlet as a task management tool, as a blogging tool, as a multimedia collage platform, and as a tool for collaborative bookmarking of websites. In the playlist embedded below I explain and demonstrate how to do all of those things with Padlet.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mailbag - Answers to Questions from Readers

Every week I receive a questions from readers of FreeTech4Teachers.com. Some of those questions are very specific to a classroom or school while others have a more broad appeal. Those with a broader appeal end up in my periodic mailbag columns. Here are some questions that I've recently received whose answers may benefit a number of people. If you have a question for me you can email me directly at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com or if you're an email subscriber just hit the reply button on any email I send out.

Question:
My colleagues and I are looking for a way for students to post ideas (but not a polling site). Do you have any suggestions?

Padlet.com is a tool that makes it easy for students to post ideas. Tozzl.com is another that I like for that purpose. A video on how to use Padlet is available here. A video on how to use Tozzl is available here.

Question:
I teach journalism and have been exploring apps to help my students record, edit and post audio interviews and, if possible, narrated slideshows. Any free apps for iPhone and Android that you can recommend?

A few options come to mind for your situation. First, StoryCorps.me is designed to help people conduct and record great interviews. The app includes a set of questions that you can use in your interview. The question sets are varied depending upon the relationship that you do or don't have with your interviewee. While recording your interview you can swipe through the questions to help you keep the interview on track. Completed recordings can saved on your device and or shared with the StoryCorps community. Second, AudioBoom offers an app (iOS and Android) for creating audio recordings. You can apply a background image to display with the recording when it is posted online. Finally, I often recommend ShadowPuppet Edu for making audio slideshows on an iPad, but I fear that university students might find it a little too simple.

Question:
My local professional org. wants to create a free website for our group. And, we are using smore for a monthly newsletter. Is there a way we can combine our needs into a website with pages that archive monthly content say with Google? Where would we find info/training vids on this?

When you say, "say with Google" I assume you're talking about a Google Account. If that is the case then Google Sites is a good option for developing a website for your organization. You can have multiple page formats including an announcements page within your site. If you're trying to divide the workload in your organization then you can add multiple editors to the site too. As for training, I have a tutorial on Google Sites that can be viewed here. I also offer online training on Google Apps.

Question:
With my students I have created bilingual dictionary in Google sheets (two columns, one for English and one for translation). Do you happen to know of any way to turn it into online dictionary with a search box?

If you share the Spreadsheet with students in a "view only" mode they should be able to search within the spreadsheet (Ctrl+F will bring up the search box). The process for doing this would be to publish the spreadsheet to the web as "view only" (that setting is found under the File menu) then post the link on your blog or simply direct to students to the link through a Goo.gl shortened URL.

The Week in Review - The Winds Are Changing

Good evening from Woodstock, Maine where the wind is howling as the temperature is dropping. At this time of year around here we see a lot of rapid shifts in the weather. The shifts make it hard to plan outdoor activities (I should have ridden my bike before the wind picked up) and it creates some really cool colors in the sky like that in the picture to the left. From my office window on Thursday I shot a neat video of a thunderstorm rolling in. You can see that video here on my Instagram feed.

Speaking of summer. I'm offering a few online PD opportunities this summer. Teaching History With Technology begins in July, Getting Going With GAFE is offered in June and July, and Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is offered in July. 

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Making the Most of Google Keep
2. Ten Great Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures - A PDF Handout
3. Create Animated Videos and Presentations at the Same Time on Wideo
4. Dozens of Story Starters in One Free eBook
5. A Crash Course for Kids on Weathering & Erosion
6. Try Scratch Jr. for Programming Fun on iPads and Android Tablets
7. How to Create, Edit, and Share Notes on Google Keep

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.
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, May 29, 2015

How to Create, Edit, and Share Notes on Google Keep

After yesterday's post about making the most of Google Keep I received a few emails from readers wanting to know a bit more about how Google Keep works. To answer those questions I recorded the short video that you see embedded below (click here if you cannot see the video).

Ten Great Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures - A PDF Handout

Composing a story from scratch comes naturally to some people. For the rest of us creating a story from scratch can be a struggle. Over the years I’ve found that using pictures helps a lot of students get started on crafting stories. In some cases I’ve had students create collages to represent elements of a story. In other cases I’ve had them choose five pictures and write two hundred words about each. Being asked to write two hundred words about five pictures feels a lot less daunting than being asked to write one thousand words in one shot.

The PDF embedded below (click here if you can't see the embedded document) outlines how to use ten of my favorite free tools to create image-based stories.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Chemistry and Counterfeiting - A TED-Ed Lesson

How to Spot a Counterfeit Bill is a fun TED-Ed lesson about money. In the lesson students learn about the chemistry of counterfeit detection. In other words, they learn why and how those highlighter pens work on when a store clerk runs one over a twenty dollar bill.


The lesson on counterfeiting could pair nicely with another TED-Ed lesson about the value of money. What Gives a Dollar Bill Its Value? is a nice TED-Ed lesson on the influence of the United States Federal Reserve banks on the value of currency. The lesson includes a short piece about the correlation between inflation and the overall health of the U.S. economy.

Create Animated Videos and Presentations at the Same Time on Wideo

Wideo is a neat service for creating animated, Common Craft style videos in your web browser. I've been using and talking about the service for a couple of years now. Recently, Wideo added a new feature that allows you to generate presentations from your videos.

When you create a video in Wideo you do so by dragging and dropping clipart and text in storyboard frames. You set the position and animation sequence for each element in each storyboard frame. When you have completed your storyboards Wideo generates a video for you. The new presentation mode in Wideo will allow you to present each frame of your video independently just like in a slideshow. Watch the video below to learn more.


Applications for Education
The presentation mode in Wideo could be useful for having students talk about the process of constructing the stories they tell through videos. Wideo can be a great tool for students to use to bring their creative short stories to life. Wideo could also be used by students to create animated explanations of historical events, to animate biographies, or to teach other short lessons.

The free version of Wideo limits video length to 45 seconds. 45 seconds is long enough for a lot of video projects.

How to Turn Your Blogger Blog Into a Book - Video

Last week I wrote about using BlogBooker to create a physical record of your classroom blog. Since then I've had a few people ask for a little more guidance on how to use BlogBooker. The video embedded below will walk you through the process of using BlogBooker with a Blogger blog.

Making the Most of Google Keep

This is a guest post from Avra Robinson (@AvraRachel) of EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

Google Keep is a program that allows users to quickly and easily create, access and organize information such as notes and lists.  Before discovering Keep, I'd been using a different note-making app on my Android phone.  I made lists, checked items off lists, and colored my notes for easy sorting, but I was so accustomed to the world of sharing!  I really wanted a way to share my notes. I wanted a way to share a to-do list with my team teacher and help students create assignment to-do lists.

 I was thrilled to discover the sharing capabilities in Google Keep.  Sharing looks like any other Google sharing, and the person with whom you’ve shared your note gets an email alerting them to the shared note. Additional features include the ability to set a time or location-dependent reminder, change the color of a note, create a list, add images to a list, and archive notes.

GoogleKeep on EdTechTeacher

There is an Android app for Google Keep.  For my iPad, I discovered an app called, GoKeep and on my computer, I simply navigate to keep.google.com in any browser.  Or, in Google Chrome or on my Chromebook, I can access my notes and lists via the Chrome Web App.  There are even a few extensions such as Panel View for Keep and Category Tabs for Google Keep that create even easier access and organization based on color categories.

Educational Applications

While Google Keep is not meant to be as robust as Google Docs, Evernote, or Microsoft OneNote, it does have basic note-taking ability.

GoogleKeep - External Applications

Google Keep can also be a tool to augment student organization and time-management skills. Students can easily manage their complex lives by creating notes with reminders based on time or location!  For example, when a student arrives at the library, Google Keep on her mobile device will remind her to ask the librarian a question.  When she returns home, Google Keep on her mobile device will remind her to search for an overdue library book.

From basic note-taking to organizational skills, Google Keep capitalizes on some of Google’s fantastic features to help students and teachers keep up with the demands of school life.

Google Keep Notes

To learn more about working with Google Keep and other Google Apps, Avra will be teaching a number of Google and Chromebook workshops this summer with EdTechTeacher.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Try Scratch Jr. for Programming Fun on iPads and Android Tablets

If you're looking for a learning activity that kids can do on their own at home this summer, consider introducing them and their parents to Scratch Jr.

Scratch Jr. is based on the popular online Scratch program in which students can learn to program. Scratch Jr for iPad and for Android uses the same drag and drop programming principles used in Scratch. On Scratch Jr students can program multimedia stories and games.

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

If It Were My Home - Comparisons of Economic and Geographic Information Between Countries

If It Were My Home is a neat site that provides comparisons of countries. If It Were My Home will show you a comparison of geographic size of your country with that of another of your choosing. Beyond the size comparison, If It Were My Home shows you comparisons of twelve health and economics statistics about life in different countries. To view the comparisons just select two countries from the lists and click compare.


Learn more about If It Were My Home in the following Tekzilla video.

Office Lens - Now Available on Android, iOS, and Windows Phones

Office Lens is an app from Microsoft that is designed for converting pictures of notes on whiteboards and paper into notes that can be edited in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. I wrote about the app eight weeks ago when it was still in a limited beta for Android users. Office Lens is now available for all Android users. You can find the app in the Google Play store. The iPhone version is available here and the Windows Phone version can be found here.

Probably the best aspect of Office Lens is that hand-drawn images and figures captured through the app can be separated from the text to move and manipulate as individual objects in PowerPoint slides. See the video below for an overview of Office Lens.


Applications for Education
Office Lens could be a great app for students to use to snap a picture of something on a whiteboard then add their own comments to it in a Word Document.

The option in Office Lens to separate hand-drawn objects could be a good way to digitize a brainstorming session. When I brainstorm I often do it in a paper notebook that has pages of edits. By taking a picture of the brainstorming session I could separate each part of the notes then move them into new positions on slides or in a document.

H/T to The Next Web.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dozens of Story Starters in One Free eBook

Make Beliefs Comix is a great service that offers comic strip templates and writing prompts in seven languages. The templates and prompts can be completed online or you can print them out to give to your students.

The latest release from Make Beliefs Comix is a free ebook called Something to Write About (link opens a PDF). The free ebook contains dozens of writing prompts. Students can write in the ebook online and print their work. Alternatively, you can print all or part of the book to give to students.

Applications for Education
One of the things that I like about Something to Write About is that the writing prompts aren't just one sentence, "tell me about something interesting" prompts. Instead, nearly all of the prompts have further suggestions to help students start their stories. In many cases student will find a full page of further suggestions related to the original prompt.

As you can use the writing templates online or as printed documents, Make Beliefs Comix is a good resource for classrooms that do not have enough laptops or tablets for every student.

Celly - Create, Send, and Archive Group Text Messages

Last week I published a PDF titled 5 Good Ways to Send Text & Push Notifications to Students & Parents. In response to that PDF I've had a bunch of people suggest that I add Celly to that document. I was aware of Celly but I didn't try it until today.

Celly is a free service that enables you to create and manage contact groups for text messaging. Celly calls these groups "cells" and you can create as many as you need. You can manage these groups from your phone (Android or iOS) or from your laptop. Likewise, you can send messages from your phone or from your laptop. Like regular text messages you can attach files to your messages.


People can join one your Celly group by sending a text to the join code assigned to your group. People can also join via the web by going to the unique URL assigned to your group.

Applications for Education
From the perspective of a teacher or administrator Celly's big appeal is the option to archive all conversations that occur within a Celly group. You can set permissions in Celly groups to allow replies to messages that you send out. Or if you don't want to receive replies you can set permissions to not allow replies.

For students and parents who don't want to receive text messages, there is an option for them to receive email alerts instead.

Celly wasn't quite as intuitive to set-up as some similar services that I've used. I recommend watching the Celly intro videos to get started.

Use the Love Reading Map to Find Good Books

Last fall I wrote about two good places to find stories based on their locations. This morning through Maps Mania I learned about another service that offers the same function. Love Reading's Google Maps Mash-up has geolocated hundreds of books. You can browse the map to find stories based on their geographic settings. If you have a specific location in mind, you can enter it into the search box to find stories too.

Applications for Education
It could be a fun summer reading challenge for students to try to read their way around the world. Ask them to try to read a story from each continent. Or to try to read stories from as many countries as possible. The Love Reading map would be a good tool for finding stories to read toward that goal.

How to Create Image-based Quizzes and Polls on Riddle.com

Last week I shared a new service called Riddle that enables you to quickly create image-based polls and quizzes. In the video embedded below you can see just how easy it is to create a poll or quiz on Riddle.


Applications for Education
Riddle's format of using images as response choices could make it a good option for giving informal quizzes on topics that require a lot of visuals. For example, a quiz on fractions might use pictures which represent various fractions. A quiz on art history might use Riddle to showcase works of art of answer choices.

Monday, May 25, 2015

PicCollage for Kids - Create Visual Stories

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

PicCollage is one of my favorite apps for creating multimedia collages on my iPad. Creating those collages is a great way to visually summarize a trip, to tell a story, or showcase the highlights of research. I’ve shown PicCollage to hundreds of teachers over the last couple of years. The only complaint I’ve heard about it is that there is a public gallery of collages. I just discovered this morning that PicCollage for Kids removes that gallery. PicCollage for Kids also removes all social media connections to the app. Students do not need to create accounts in order to use PicCollage for Kids.

One of my favorite ways to enhance PicCollage projects is to use ThingLink to make the collages interactive. In the videos embedded below I demonstrate that process.


9 Ideas for Using ClassDojo

In my previous post I mentioned my new-found appreciation for ClassDojo. More importantly I have a new appreciation of why kids like it so much. If you haven't tried ClassDojo before or you have looked at it and thought, "my students won't go for that" take a look at the following nine videos featuring the various ways that you can use ClassDojo.


What Strava Taught Me About Why Kids Love ClassDojo and Digital Badges

Warning! Small humble brag ahead.

This morning I set out on my bicycle to complete a challenge that I had accepted on Strava a couple of weeks ago. (Strava is an app for tracking running and cycling activities. It also has a social networking component through which you can give your friends kudos for their rides and runs). The challenge was to ride 100km or more in a single, continuous trip. I finished it 3 hours and 24 minutes later. It was my first metric century ride.

I recorded the ride in the Strava app on my phone then crashed on my couch to recover from the ride. A minute later I heard an alert on my phone and expected it to be a friend giving kudos on the ride. Instead it was Strava congratulating me and telling me that I had unlocked the Gran Fondo challenge award. The award is the right to purchase a cycling jersey commemorating the achievement. At $120 and in a color I would never wear, I passed on the purchase opportunity. Nonetheless, I was stoked to have the opportunity. That's when I realized that the way I feel about Strava is the way that students feel about ClassDojo and other services that have digital badges/ recognition.

For a couple of years I've had teachers telling me how much they and their students love ClassDojo. I never got terribly excited about it. I understood that kids liked seeing a record of their points for classroom behaviors, yet I didn't understand the excitement that some kids express in earning digital recognition. I felt much the same way about ClassBadges. My experience today gave me a new understanding of digital badges. It's not about the badge. It's about the feeling that comes with the badge.

Old NYC & Old SF - Maps of Images of New York and San Francisco

Old NYC and Old SF are two great websites featuring thousands of historical photographs of New York City and San Francisco. The images are sourced from the New York Public Library and the San Francisco Public Library. Each image is geolocated on the map according to the latitude and longitude coordinates of where it was taken. In most cases those coordinates match street addresses, but not always.

Applications for Education
Old NYC and Old SF were featured on Maps Mania last week. I couldn't stop thinking about the maps (I'm a maps junky). As I thought about the maps over the weekend I realized that the images in the maps could be helpful to students who are reading about the history of either city or reading stories set in either city. For example, students reading The Great Gatsby or The Catcher in the Rye may be interested to see images of NYC from those decades.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Crash Course for Kids on Weathering & Erosion

A couple of months ago the producers of the popular Crash Course channel on YouTube started a Crash Course for Kids channel. Crash Course for Kids offers overviews of various topics (mostly science) through the use of greenscreen visuals and a lot of talking. Weathering and Erosion is the topic of one of the more recent releases on Crash Course for Kids. In the video students will see a comparison of Cape Cod's coastline in 1984 and 2014. That image combined with the commentary does a great job of showing students the effects of erosion.


Applications for Education
Like a lot of people this spring I've been spending time working on landscaping my yard. One of my projects has been to build terraces to slow erosion on my lot. After watching Weathering and Erosion: Crash Course Kids ask your students to find and take pictures of examples of erosion and erosion prevention measures in their neighborhoods.

You could also continue the lesson with Shape It Up. Shape It Up is one of many good educational games and activities on Kinetic CityShape It Up is an activity that would be good for use in an elementary school Earth Science lesson. The activity presents students with "before" and "after" images of a piece of Earth. Students then have to select the force nature and the span of time it took to create the "after" picture. If students choose incorrectly, Shape It Up will tell the student and they can choose again.

How to Quickly Create a Variety of Data Visualizations

On Friday afternoon I wrote about Silk.co's updated tools for creating data visualizations. The first time that you use Silk the account dashboard can be a little confusing. A couple of folks emailed me about it last night and this morning so I decided to make a little screencast about Silk.co. That video is embedded below.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Mailbag - Answers to Questions from Readers

Every week I receive lots of messages from readers who have questions about things I've written. I also receive a lot of message from people who are in search of suggestions for tools that solve a problem for them. Some of these questions are very specific while others have a broader appeal. Those with a broader appeal make it into my periodic mailbag posts. If you have a question, you can always email me at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com

Question:
My students will be starting a video project. They need to interview a teacher. They will be using Chromebooks for the assignment. Do you have any suggestions? I love tech but I'm a video novice?

My suggestion is to try WeVideo. WeVideo will allow students to edit raw video clips and splice-in transitions between segments of their interviews. WeVideo provides good tutorials for first time users. If you're just concerned with capturing the video and don't need a polished product, your students could record directly to YouTube. I have a video here that provides an overview of the basic YouTube setting teachers and students should know.

Question:
My current district ( I am leaving - moving away in two weeks) uses Google Drive for everything. Is there an easy way for me to "save" the things that I want to keep - take with me - when I go?

You can use the Google Takeout tool will to download everything from one account and then upload it to another. Otherwise, you can put everything in a folder (or two or three) then share that folder with yourself in your new account.

Question:
Which screencast software would you recommend and why please?

I use Screencast-o-matic.com for creating screencasts. It works well on every laptop I use and is free for recordings under five minutes long. The yellow circle that you see appearing in all my screencast videos is built into Screencast-O-Matic and I find it helpful in identifying a cursor in a screencast. The pro version of Screencast-o-matic.com costs $15/year and offers longer recording times along with removal of the Screencast-O-Matic watermark on videos.

Question:
I was wondering if you knew of any apps or online tools that students could use to create learning portfolios to take with them when they leave high school?

I generally recommend using Weebly or Google Sites for high school students to use to create digital portfolios. As long as they use personal email addresses rather than school email addresses, they will retain control over the portfolio for as long as they like.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Woodstock, Maine where I started the weekend by walking my dogs in blustery 32F weather, brr... I'm hoping that it warms up a bit before I head out for a bike ride later this morning. Whether it's hot, cold, dry, or rainy where you are this weekend, I hope that you have something fun planned too.


Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Six Styles of Classroom Video Projects - A Handout
2. 5 Good Ways to Send Text & Push Notifications to Students & Parents - A Handout
3. ABCya Story Maker - Draw and Type Stories
4. Breaking News from ClassTools.net
5. Free Online Music Theory Lessons
6. Five Good Resources for Teaching Digital Safety and Citizenship to Elementary School Students
7. Apricot - Create Writing Prompts for Students and Share Responses With Parents

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.
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, May 22, 2015

Silk Offers Great Tools for Creating Data Visualizations

Silk is a free tool that I first tried a couple of years ago when it was primarily a digital portfolio and simple web page creation tool. Since then it has evolved to include some fantastic tools for creating and sharing data visualizations.

To create a visualization on Silk you can upload data in a spreadsheet, manually enter data, or use one of data sets that Silk provides in their gallery. Once you've uploaded data or selected it you can use it to create fourteen different visualizations. To create a different visualization of the same data set simply choose a different visualization style from the Silk menu. See my screenshot below for further explanation.
Click to view full size.

Silk visualizations can be made public or kept private. If you keep your visualizations private you can still share them directly to other Silk members by inviting them to your project. Public visualizations can be embedded into blog posts as I have done below.




H/T to The Next Web for the update on Silk.

Google Safety Center - Good Tips for Parents

Google's Safety Center offers parents good advice on keeping their kids safe online. Much of the information provided in the Safety Center is focused on things like privacy settings, search filters, and Android app management. The information on settings and filters is complemented with advice on talking to kids about responsible online behaviors. That advice comes from organizations including Common Sense Media, iKeep Safe, and OnGuard Online.

Applications for Education
As the school year winds-down consider adding some information about Google's Safety Center to a school blog post, library blog post, or newsletter. Even if parents have seen this information before, it's worth remembering as we head into summer when many students will be home alone with lots of time to be on the web.

Getting Started With Canva - A Quick Guide to Creating Visuals

Last week I shared Canva's thirty design tutorials and lesson plans that incorporate designing infographics, comics, and other visuals. Today, Canva released a new video tutorial that covers just the basics of creating designs and downloading them from Canva. If you're the type of person who prefers to just jump into a tool rather than work through a long series of tutorials, this video is for you.


Applications for Education
Canva has some fantastic teachers developing lesson plans for them. Some of the newer lesson plans on Canva's education page include comic book creation, a lesson on sugar in our diets, and a lesson on illustrating ideas with infographics.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Create a Physical Record of Your Blog With BlogBooker

The end of the school year is near for many of us. If your students have been blogging all year, you might want to have a physical copy of what they've written this year. Creating a physical copy of a classroom blog is a great way to show students just how much they wrote in the course of the school year. It's one thing to tell them they wrote 10,000 words it's another to show them how many pages that is when printed.

BlogBooker is a free service that allows you to turn your the contents of your Blogger blog into a PDF. Using BlogBooker is a fairly straight-forward process. BlogBooker walks you through each step of the process except for the very first step which might sound a little too "techy" for some Blogger users, but it's actually quite easy. The first step in using BlogBooker is to export the contents of your blog as an XML file. This is actually easy to do in Blogger. Step one is to open the "settings" menu of your Blogger blog. Step two is to select "export blog" under "basic" menu. Step three is to click "download." Don't worry, exporting the contents of your blog will not remove any content from your blog. After you've completed the export process, jump over to BlogBooker and follow their directions for completing the transition from XML file to PDF.

How Do Batteries Work? - A Nice TED-Ed Lesson

How Batteries Work is a new video lesson from TED-Ed. In this lesson students learn about the origins of batteries, how batteries work, the differences between disposable and rechargeable batteries, and why rechargeable batteries eventually cannot be recharged any more. Students watching the video will also see the difference between dry cell and wet cell batteries.


Applications for Education
To extend the lesson on batteries consider using one of the seven resources featured here including the Blobz Guide to Electric Circuits and Squishy Circuits.

5 Good Ways to Send Text & Push Notifications to Students & Parents - A Handout

When it comes to communicating with parents nothing can replace a good face-to-face meeting. Face-to-face meetings are not easy to schedule. Not every communication requires the intimacy of a face-to-face meeting. A phone call, a text message, an email, a blog post, or a social media post might be all that you need in order to convey your message. In the PDF embedded below I explain the features of five services for sending text messages and push notifications to students and their parents. You can download the PDF here.

Who Cares That You Rode Your Bike?

As long time readers of FreeTech4Teachers.com know, every Saturday I publish a week-in-review post. In that post I always include something about what I'm doing that weekend. In the summer that is usually biking or fishing. In the winter it is usually skiing or snowshoeing. And it almost always involves my dogs. Recently, someone asked me why I do this by asking, "who cares that you rode your bike?"

I stumbled into doing the week-in-review posts six or seven years ago when a former colleague suggested it to me. She also suggested that I add a little personality to my blog. I took her suggestion and started to include a little blurb about my life along with the list of the most popular posts of the week. Over the years I've heard from lots of people in-person and virtually who tell me that they like that little personal touch. And more than a few have commented that my mention of an activity has reminded them to get outside too. I'm a big believer in the power of exercise to stimulate creativity. Many of my best ideas come to me while walking in the woods, riding my bike, or skiing. It's also important to remember to balance work with play.

And just a reminder, if you feel like you can't keep up with my pace of posting, I do offer a once-per-week email summary of the most popular posts of the week. That email comes from my PracticalEdTech.com blog. You can sign-up for the weekly email here.

I'll be covering topics like this one and more in my online course Blogger Jumpstart!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

ABCya Story Maker - Draw and Type Stories

ABCya's latest online tool is a tool for drawing and typing stories. ABCya Story Maker is a free tool on which students can draw pictures then write text to support their pictures. Story Maker provides lots of drawing tools for students to pick from. After drawing a picture students can click the text icon to type. Stories can be one page or multiple pages. When students have finished writing they can print their stories and or save them as PDFs.

Applications for Education
ABCya Story Maker can be used by students without registering on the site. Story Maker could provide a nice way for students to create visuals to complement their writing. Or the visuals that students make could inspire their writing.

Thanks to Kevin Jarrett for telling me about ABCya Story Maker.

Athenir - A Search Engine With Visualizations of Related Terms

This afternoon I had a nice Skype conversation with a Stanford student named Nick Hershey who has built a nice search tool called Athenir. Nick has lots of neat things planned to add to Athenir this summer, but for now it is a search tool. When you enter a search term on Athenir you will get results from Yahoo along with a graphic of related search terms. In that regard it reminded me of Google's, now defunct, Wonder Wheel tool.

Applications for Education
Athenir could be useful to students who are struggling to see connections between search terms and or are need of assistance in changing their search terms.

Riddle - Create Image-based Polls and Quizzes

Riddle is a new service for creating polls, quizzes, and what they call commenticles. The polls and quizzes that you create in Riddle can be image-based or simply text-based. If you choose to use images to represent answer choices you can have text appear below the image. Commenticles are polls that are based upon an article that you share. The purpose of a commenticle is to survey an audience for feedback about an article that you have shared with them. All polls, quizzes, and commenticles created in Riddle can be shared by embedding them into a blog post as I've done below or by sharing the poll's link on Twitter (I did that earlier today), Facebook, or any other social network.


Applications for Education
Riddle's format of using images as response choices could make it a good option for giving informal quizzes on topics that require a lot of visuals. For example, a quiz on fractions might use pictures which represent various fractions. A quiz on art history might use Riddle to showcase works of art of answer choices.

Classkick - Distribute Assignments and Give Feedback Through Your iPad

Classkick is a free service for creating, distributing, and assessing students' work through iPads. Through Classkick you can create an online classroom through which you distribute assignments to students. Students join your class by enter the class code into the Classkick app on their iPads. Once they've joined your classroom you can start distributing assignments.

The assignments that you create in Classkick can be based on screenshots, imported images, drawings, text, or voice recordings. Classkick lets you see what your students are working on within the app. You can give students feedback on their assignments directly through the app. Students can ask you for help while working in the app too.


Applications for Education
For classrooms that have iPads for every student, Classkick could be a great tool not only for distributing assignments but also for providing individualized feedback to students while they are working. The option to record your voice to create questions could be a great aid to students who struggle with reading but would otherwise be able to answer a question or explain a process to you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Apricot - Create Writing Prompts for Students and Share Responses With Parents

Apricot is a neat new service that aims to connect teachers, students, and parents through writing. The basic idea behind the service is that teachers give writing prompts to their students. Students respond to the those prompts. Teachers can then share those responses directly to parents through Apricot.

To use Apricot you register as a teacher and create an online classroom. It is possible to create multiple classrooms within your account. Students join your classroom by entering the join code provided by Apricot for your class. Once students have joined your Apricot classroom you can begin distributing writing prompts to them. If parents have joined your classroom you can share students' works with them. Parents join your Apricot classroom with join code.

Applications for Education
Apricot could be a good service through which students write weekly reflections on their learning. Those reflections can quickly be shared with parents. This kind of sharing could lead to better conversations at home than this old pattern: Parent: "what did you do in school today?" Student: "nothing."

Now You Can Add Images to Plickers Questions

Plickers is one of my favorite new tools of the last year. It has been a hit with every group that I have demonstrated it to.

Plickers uses your iPad or Android tablet in conjunction with a series of QR codes to create a student response system. Students are given a set of QR codes on large index cards. The codes are assigned to students. Each code card can be turned in four orientations. Each orientation provides a different answer. You can ask questions verbally or project them on a screen for students to see. When your ready to collect data, use the Plickers mobile app to scan the cards held up by your students. Plickers will show you a bar graph of responses. Responses can also be saved in your online Plickers account.

The latest update to Plickers allows teachers to add pictures to the questions that you create in your Plickers account. To add pictures you have to create your questions in your web browser instead of in the Plickers mobile app. Then to show the image-based questions to students you will have to project them from your laptop to a screen.

Applications for Education
Adding images to questions was the most requested feature in the Plickers user discussion forum. Many people wanted to be able to add pictures to questions in mathematics classes and art classes.

Here are three other ideas for using Plickers in your classroom:

1. Quickly taking the pulse of the class. Ask your students, "do you get this?" (or a similar question) and have them hold up their cards to indicate yes or no. You can do this with a saved class or a demo class in the app.

2. Hosting a review game. Create a series of questions in your saved Plickers classroom. To conduct the review have students hold up their cards to respond to each question. Every student gets to respond at the same time and you get to see how each student responded. This is an advantage over many review games in which only the first student to respond has his or her voice heard.

3. Take attendance. In a saved Plickers class each student has a card assigned to him or her. At the start of class just have them hold up their cards to check-in.

Collaboratively Create Multimedia Posters on LucidPress

Last fall I described LucidPress as offering the best of Apple's Pages with the best of Google Documents. Today, I was reminded of that as I explored the latest templates offered by LucidPress. LucidPress now offers an expanded set of templates for collaboratively designing and publishing posters.

I tried my hand at making a poster on LucidPress this afternoon. The process can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. I stuck with the basics of moving text and pictures around on the poster by just dragging and dropping. There are options for layering images with differing amounts of transparency, image cropping tools, and font customization options in each LucidPress template. You can also add videos into your projects (obviously they only play when viewed online).

You can use your Google Account to sign into Lucidpress and you can use items stored in your Google Drive account in your Lucidpress documents. Lucidpress has commenting and sharing features that are similar to Google Drive too. 

Applications for Education
Lucidpress is free for teachers and students (scroll to the bottom of the pricing page for information about access as an educator). Lucidpress could be an excellent tool for students to use to collaborate on creating flyers for school events, to create a collage showcasing a highlights of research, or to design a cover for an ebook.