Google
 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Create a Random Name Selector in Google Sheets

Last year I demonstrated how to create a Jeopardy-style game in Google Sheets. Then in February I published a tutorial on creating flashcards in Google Sheets. In both of those tutorials I utilized templates from Flippity.net. Recently, Flippity.net published a new template that can be used to create a random name picker in Google Sheets.

To create a random name picker from a Google Sheet simply use the template provided by Flippity and modify the spreadsheet to include the names of your students instead of the placeholder names in the template sheet. After modifying the template publish your new spreadsheet to the web, grab the Sheet's URL, and place that URL into the Flippity name picker. Step-by-step directions are available on the Flippity website.

Applications for Education
A random name picker created through Flippity can be used for more than just picking a single name at random. It can also be used to randomly create student groups of two to six members. You can also use the random name picker to generate seating charts.

The Month in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Teachers collaborating at the
Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp.


Good evening from Woodstock, Maine where the blue moon is shining brightly. July was a busy month as I ran three webinar courses, hosted the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp, and visited a couple of schools. And the biggest news of the month is that I became a member of the MindRocket Media Group where I will be developing some content for EdCircuit. Don't worry, nothing will change on FreeTech4Teachers.com as a result of me joining MindRocket.

 Here are this month's most popular posts:
1. Great Google Drive Add-ons for Teachers - A PDF Handout
2. Frequently Overlooked Useful YouTube Features - A PDF Handout
3. 50+ Google Tools Tutorial Videos
4. 7 Good Options for Building Digital Portfolios - A PDF Handout
5. Two Chrome Extensions That Can Help You Stay on Task
6. Ten Great Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures - A PDF Handout
7. Six Styles of Classroom Video Projects - A Handout
8. A Nice Tool for Creating Animated Maps
9. A Short Explanation of Google Apps Terminology
10. How to Apply Custom Avatars to ClassDojo Profiles

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.

EduSync's TeacherCal Helps You Plan and Organize Lessons

EduSync is a new company developing products to help teachers organize daily lesson plans and products to help students keep track of those plans. TeacherCal is the the first product from EduSync.

TeacherCal provides you with a calendar on which they can organize a schedule of lesson plans, quizzes, assignments, and projects. TeacherCal can be synchronized to your Google Account (optional). If you choose to connect your Google Account to TeacherCal, you can create new Google Docs, Forms, and Slides directly from their calendars. You can also attach files from Google Drive or upload attachments from your computer much like you can do in Google Calendar. What makes TeacherCal different from just using a Google Calendar is that you can tag your calendar events with standards, objectives, and additional instructions. Watch the video embedded below to learn more about TeacherCal.


If you decide to try TeacherCal, make sure that you allow pop-ups in your browser. I did not have pop-ups enabled the first time I tried TeacherCal and it was a frustrating experience.


I like TeacherCal's potential to be a good tool for organizing daily activities. Once the promised student/parent feature is added, TeacherCal will become a more powerful classroom tool.

A Crash Course in Economics

Economics is one of my favorite subjects to teach to high school students so I was excited when I saw that Crash Course is publishing a new series of videos about economics. The new course is not hosted by Hank or John Green. The new course is hosting by Adriene Hill from Marketplace and high school teacher Jacob Clifford. Their pacing is a bit more relaxed that the Green brothers' style which could be a good thing for many students.

The first video in the series provides an introduction to what the study of economics is and isn't. Opportunity cost is the first big concept covered in the video. The first video is embedded below.


The second video and the rest of the playlist is embedded below.


Click here for five good resources on teaching personal finance lessons.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Make Lesson Plans and Storyboards Pop With These New Guides

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

For the last couple of years Storyboard That has offered great guides to using storyboards in the classroom. The latest update to their Teacher Guides section includes new literature guides as well as guides for use in social studies and Spanish. A visit to the Teacher Guides section of Storyboard That reveals three new literature guides. Those guides are for teaching Stuart Little, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Frankenstein. You will also find a guide to teaching The Great Depression with storyboards and guide to teaching Spanish Direct Object Pronouns.

Storyboard That offers thousands of pieces of artwork that you can use in your storyboards. Much of that artwork includes posable characters and other customizable pieces. In a new blog post Storyboard That's Sarah Laroche explains and demonstrates how to take advantage of the artwork and customizations to create a eye-catching scenes in your storyboards.

In February I hosted a webinar all about the features of Storyboard That and ideas for using it in your classroom. The recording of that webinar is embedded below.

Vibby - Break YouTube Videos Into Segments With Commentary

Vibby is a new service for breaking YouTube videos into segments and inserting comments into those segments. To segment a YouTube video on Vibby simply grab the URL for the video and paste into the Vibby editor. Once inserted into Vibby you can highlight a segment on the video timeline. Vibby then play only the sections you've highlighted. Click on a highlighted section to add a comment to it. Videos edited through Vibby can be shared via email, social media, or embedded into a blog or website.


Applications for Education
Vibby could be a good tool to use when you want to share with your students just a few pieces of a larger video. Using the comments in highlighted sections could be a good way to call attention to important parts of a video or to add further explanation to a section.

An Easy Way to Create Your Own iPad & Android Games

Tiny Tap is one of the free iPad and Android apps that continues to stay in my Best of the Web presentations. Whenever I show it off there is always a great response to it.

Tiny Tap allows you to create simple games based on pictures that you take. The purpose of the games you build is to help young students (pre-K through grade 4) practice identifying objects and patterns.

To create a game on Tiny Tap you upload pictures or take new pictures and arrange them into a set. Then select each image to create questions about it. To create your question press the record button and start talking. When you have finished talking select a portion of your picture to serve as the answer. I created a small game about objects in my house. I took four pictures of things in my house. Each question asked players to identify the objects in my house. For example, when a player sees a picture of my kitchen he or she has to identify the tea pot by touching it.

Applications for Education
I've been giving demonstrations of Tiny Tap for nearly three years now. Over those years I've heard some great suggestions for using the app. I've seen some great uses of it too. Some of the examples that stand out include making games to help students learn about locations on a map, to help students recognize patterns on a timeline, and to help students learn colors. Check out Tiny Tap's gallery of games for more ideas.

Best of the Web - Summer 2015 Update

On Wednesday morning in Mooresville, North Carolina I presented an updated version of my popular best of the web slides. Those slides are embedded below. I try to provide something for everyone in the slides.

This Playlist Will Help You Learn How to Use Remind to Send Messages to Students

Earlier today one of my former colleagues sent me a Facebook message with questions about using Remind this fall. To help her get started I created the following playlist of tutorial videos. Nine of the videos in the playlist were produced by Remind the others were created by me. The full playlist is embedded below.



Applications for Education
Using text messaging services like Remind is an important part of a larger strategy for delivering your school and classroom announcements to as many people as possible. Email is great for longer messages, but it's hard to beat the efficiency of text messages for short reminder notes. And when you need to say more than can fit in a typical text message, try attaching a file to your Remind messages.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Three Webinar Recordings - Blogger, Google Drive, and YouTube

Last week I presented three webinars on behalf of Simple K12. If you couldn't attend the live sessions, you can now access the recordings through Simple K12.

Update 8/1/2015: Unbeknownst to me, Simple K12 has started to charge for these recordings. 

Click the links below to access the webinar recordings and hand-outs.
Blogging With Blogger. Hand-out.

10 Best Google Drive Add-ons. Hand-out.

The YouTube You Don't Know. Hand-out.

5 Important Things I've Learned About Classroom Blogging

1. Just ship it. Don’t spend too much time worrying about how the blog looks from a design standpoint because you can always tweak it later. When you’re getting started, any of the standard templates from Blogger, WordPress.com, KidBlog, Edublogs, or Weebly will do. The important thing is to get the blog started. As one of my bosses at FedEx used to say, “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”

2. Send out a blogging mission and permission notice to parents. Your school may not have a policy about student blogging, but it’s still a good idea to send a notice to parents about why their children are blogging. If you work with students under 13, you will want to explain how their privacy will be protected (no faces posted, no last names, pen names, etc). Jen Deyenberg shared a good blogging permission form here. A quick Google search for “blogging permission slips” will generate a bunch of other samples to evaluate.

3. Review Internet safety and etiquette protocols with your students. Planet Nutshell offers an excellent set of cartoon videos on Internet safety.

4. Create guidelines for how the classroom blog is to be used by students. If you’re planning to use the blog for active discussions with students, talk with them about tone. You might make it a classroom activity to develop online discussion norms. If you’re planning to use the blog as place for students to showcase their work, talk with students about how to offer constructive criticism. If the blog is going to include a widget through which students submit assignments, talk about file types and formatting so that you don’t pull your hair out converting a myriad submitted file types.

5. Expect that something will go wrong. You can plan until the cows come home, but there is always something that doesn’t go according to plan. In the case of classroom blogs that could be a mistake you make in posting a link or an inappropriate comment that a student writes. Treat these mistakes like any other mistake that happens in a classroom and turn them into teaching opportunities. If you made a mistake in posting a link or you posted a video that didn’t play correctly, explain what happened to the students so that you can all learn together. If a student posts an inappropriate comment (you should have comment moderation enabled to grab it before it goes live) use that opportunity to review Internet safety and etiquette with the student.

All of these lessons and many more will be explored in detail in my upcoming course, Classroom Blog Jumpstart starting on August 17th. 

Why You Might Want to Share a Tech Glossary at Your Next PD Day

A few years ago when I published my guide to using Blogger in the classroom I included a glossary of terms in it. That same glossary was also published as a stand-alone document that I often distribute when I lead webinars and workshops about blogging.

I created that glossary and others like it because I found that people in my workshops often had questions about the vocabulary that I and others were using. Distributing the glossary provides everyone in the workshop with a common vocabulary to use. Using that common vocabulary gives people a higher level of comfort in asking questions and more precision in articulating what they need from me.

We give students vocabulary lists and glossaries in our classrooms. We should do the same in professional development settings.

Supporting Teachers With Four Blog Posts

On Tuesday afternoon I met with the instructional technology facilitators in Mooresville, North Carolina. They are a great group of people doing excellent work with teachers and students. One of the things that we talked about during our meeting was how to share our ideas for using educational technology with the people that we serve. And, of course, we talked about how to support those people once we’ve shared our ideas with them.

One of the suggestions that I made to the group was to develop a four part messaging system to support the ideas we share with teachers. The system starts with a post on your blog in which you introduce a tool or strategy. That post should also be sent as an email. Then for the next couple of weeks write follow-up posts that support the implementation of the idea in the first post. These follow-up posts could be along the lines of “five ways to use X,” “five teachers who have used X,” “five things you might not have thought about regarding X.” These follow-up posts can also be sent as emails. The overall purpose of this strategy is to remind and provide reinforcement for your ideas about educational technology.

Here’s how I have implemented this strategy in the past when introducing people to Thinglink.
  1. Introductory post that includes an explanation of what Thinglink does and how it works.
  2. A post about five ways to use Thinglink. A reference back to the introductory post is included for the folks who missed it the first time.
  3. A post with examples of Thinglink projects completed by students. Again, a link to the introductory post is included for the folks who missed it the first time.
  4. A post introducing some less-obvious uses of Thinglink including some examples of app-smashing with Thinglink. For example, I often combine the use of PicMonkey and Thinglink. As with the two previous posts I include a link back to the introductory post that offers instruction on how to use Thinglink.

Using Hootsuite to Spread Your School's Message

Last month I shared an outline for distributing your school and classroom messages to as many people as possible. Hootsuite is one of the tools that I mentioned, briefly, in that outline. Hootsuite allows you to schedule Tweets and Facebook posts to appear on a schedule of your choosing.

Reasons for scheduling Tweets and Facebook posts: 
1. You're busy and might not have time to log-in and post on a daily basis.
2. You want to repeat your Tweets and Facebook posts.
3. You want to populate your Twitter feed with messages related to a school event. Use the hashtag you've chosen for the event in your Tweets. This could encourage parents and students to use the same hashtag in their Tweets.

Why you want to repeat Tweets and Facebook posts:
Twitter and Facebook updates stream past most of us at a pace that is faster than we can follow. If you post your message only once, you have only one opportunity to grab the attention of students and parents who are following your classroom or school Tweets and Facebook posts. Use Hootsuite to schedule your messages to appear in the morning and the evening.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Create Short Stories and More on Make Beliefs Comix

Make Beliefs Comix is a multilingual comic strip creation service that I've featured a few times in the past. Through Make Beliefs Comix students can create comic strips online without needing to register on the site. Make Beliefs Comix also provides teachers with a wealth of printable templates to use in classrooms that do not have enough computers or tablets for every student to use. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of how to create comic strips on Make Beliefs Comix.



Applications for Education
Make Beliefs Comix and other services like it provide students with a fun and familiar format for creative writing. Sometimes a little visual prompt provided by a gallery of cartoon characters can inspire students to start writing a story.

Now Take Notes on Drive Videos with VideoNot.es

This is a guest post from Beth Holland (@brholland) of EdTechTeacher - an advertiser on this site.

VideoNot.es allows students to take notes while watching videos. This tool is fantastic in a flipped, blended, or online classroom as students can have their typed notes automatically time-stamped to the video. Because VideoNot.es can be tied to a Google Drive account, all notes can also be saved and shared with others.

As described in previous posts on this site, VideoNot.es works with YouTube, Vimeo, Coursera, Udacity, Khan Academy, and EdX videos. However, for many schools, these are not sufficient options because of content filtering, and teachers have always asked if it could be possible for students to take notes on videos shared through Drive. Until last week, my answer had been “no.” But now, thanks to one of my EdTechTeacher Summer Workshop participants - Bill Melville (@bmelvillehwrhs) from Hamilton Wenham Regional High School - there is a solution. By manually changing the URL, students can now take notes on Google Drive videos! The screencast below walks through this process.



Thanks again to Bill for this discovery!

To learn more about working with Google Apps and Web Tools, EdTechTeacher provides FREE resources on their website

Great Google Drive Add-ons for Teachers - A PDF Handout

Last week I presented three webinars on behalf of Simple K12 (the recordings will be available later this week). The third of those webinars was all about Google Drive Add-ons and Chrome extensions for teachers. If you couldn't attend the live webinar, you can still grab the handout here or view it as embedded below.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

More Than 500,000 Historical Video Clips

This post comes from the "in case you missed it department." Last week the Associated Press announced the publication of more than one million minutes of archival footage on YouTube. That footage is being published in collaboration with British Movietone. A sample playlist is embedded below.


Applications for Education
Much of the footage in the AP and British Movietone archives is under two minutes. The short clips could be good as supporting material to add to a reference page for students. In general, students will need the larger historical context in order to appreciate the video clips.

How to Apply Custom Avatars to ClassDojo Profiles

Last week ClassDojo introduced the option to create student groups within your ClassDojo classrooms. This morning I received an email from someone who was curious about how to change the student avatar pictures within ClassDojo. That's a question that I often receive in my workshops too. To answer that question I created the short video that you see embedded below.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

More Physics Lessons About Bikes

A few weeks ago I shared some educational resources related to the Tour de France. Tomorrow, the Tour de France concludes in Paris. To mark the tour's conclusion I have two more educational resources about bicycles to share.

Minute Physics offers two videos about the physics of bicycles. In How Do Bikes Stay Up? we learn how bikes stay upright, how design and weight influences balance, and why bicycles are difficult to balance in reverse.


The Counterintuitive Physics of Turning a Bike explains how we turn bicycles.


Applications for Education
Both videos provide physics lessons based around an activity with which most students are familiar. Before letting students watch the videos ask them to try to explain how bikes stay up and turn. The first of the two videos could also provide inspiration for an outdoor physics lesson.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good evening from the FreeTech4Teachers.com world headquarters in Woodstock, Maine where the blueberries are ripe. Picking blueberries in my yard is one of my favorite things about living in Maine.

This week I was busy presenting six webinars including three for Simple K12. Thank you to everyone who participated in one or more of the webinars. The recordings of the Simple K12 webinar recordings will be available next week.

Next week  I'm hitting the road to speak in Mooresville, North Carolina. Professionally, there's nothing I enjoy more than visiting schools to work directly teachers.  If you would like to have me visit your school, send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Frequently Overlooked Useful YouTube Features - A PDF Handout
2. 50+ Google Tools Tutorial Videos
3. 7 Good Options for Building Digital Portfolios - A PDF Handout
4. ClassDojo Introduces Groups...More to Come
5. How to Create an Online Whiteboard Space
6. 5 Tools for Hosting Collaborative Brainstorming Sessions Online
7. Beyond Assessment: 3 Other Uses for Socrative

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, July 24, 2015

Explore Mongolia in Google Street View

The history and culture of Mongolia has fascinated me since I first read about in high school. It's one of the places on my not-a-bucket-list list (h/t Gillian Duffy for that phrase) that I want to visit. I'm not going be able to visit anytime soon, but I can virtually explore it Google Maps Street View imagery.

Google recently added Street View and off-Street Views to Google Maps of Mongolia. Through the Street View imagery of Mongolia you can virtually tour mountains, frozen lakes, desserts, and the streets of Ulaanbaatar.

Applications for Education
I love Google Maps Street View because it allows students to see and virtually explore places in ways that geography textbooks simply cannot support.

If you find a specific image or view in Google Maps Street View, you can embed it into a blog post or webpage. Click here for a tutorial on how to do that.

7 Good Options for Building Digital Portfolios - A PDF Handout

Next month I am leading a short workshop on building digital portfolios. In preparation for that workshop, like every workshop I lead, I created a short PDF summarizing the tools that we will explore. For the benefit of those who cannot attend my workshop I'm making the handout available here on FreeTech4Teachers.com. You can view it as embedded below and or grab a copy by clicking here. Within the PDF you will find links to tutorials on how to use some of the featured tools.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Frequently Overlooked Useful YouTube Features - A PDF Handout

One of the webinars that I did yesterday for Simple K12 was about useful YouTube features for teachers and students. If you couldn't attend the webinar you can still get the handout that I shared during the webinar. 8 Overlooked Useful YouTube Tools is embedded below as a PDF. You can also click here to grab it from Box.com.

Collect Names on Image-based Riddle Quizzes

Riddle is a nice quiz creation service that launched back in May of this year. Since its launch the developers have steadily added new features. The latest update introduced the option to collect the names and email addresses of people who complete one of your Riddle quizzes.


Riddle quizzes and surveys can be image-based or simply text-based. You can add links to your Riddle quizzes and surveys. Those links could be to sources of information, to videos, or to an online audio recording like those you can find on SoundCloud. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use Riddle to create a quiz.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

50+ Google Tools Tutorial Videos

Earlier today I conducted three webinars about various Google tools for teachers. Each of those webinars was only thirty minutes long so there wasn't a lot of time for individual questions. Since the webinars ended I've had a bunch of emails from folks looking for more instruction. My playlist of Google tools tutorials currently has more than 50 videos covering topics like Google Sites, Blogger, YouTube tricks, Google Calendar settings, and Google Drive features. The playlist can be found here or you can view it as embedded below.

How to Organize Free Conference Calls

Whether it is to collaborate with colleagues or to talk with parents about their children, from time to time you could find yourself in need of a free conference call service. At MindRocket Media Group we've been using FreeConferenceCall.com for our meetings and it has worked out well.

FreeConferenceCall.com makes it easy for anyone to quickly create a free and private conference call number. To create your account simply visit the site, enter your email address and choose a password. The service will then generate a phone number and an access code for you. Give that number and access code to your attendees and you're ready to start hosting conference calls. FreeConferenceCall.com does offer some paid upgrades like custom greetings and hold music, but the core service is completely free.

Google Calendar users who want to organize conference calls can put their FreeConferenceCall.com numbers and access codes into the invitations that they send out as Google Calendar events. Click here to learn how to create Google Calendar events and invite people to them.

Applications for Education
Skype and Google+ Hangouts can be great ways to host virtual meetings with parents. However, if the parents you're trying to invite to a virtual meeting don't have Skype or Google accounts, you have put up an obstacle to meeting. Dialing a phone number and entering an access code when prompted is a much easier way to get parents into a virtual meeting.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Use Your Google or Edmodo Account to Create HSTRY Timelines

Since the first time I tried it last fall I have been impressed with HSTRY. HSTRY is a great multimedia timeline creation tool. There are two features of HSTRY that make it stand-out from the crowd. First, as a teacher you can create an online classroom in which you can view all of your students' timelines. Second, as a teacher you can build questions into timelines that you share with your students. You can even insert explanations of the answers to your questions.

This week HSTRY added two new log-in options for teachers and students. You can now use your Google Account (consumer or Google Apps for Education) or your Edmodo account to use HSTRY. HSTRY now has apps in the Edmodo store and the Chrome store.

If you used HSTRY last year and you're planning to use it again this fall, you'll be happy to note that you can now archive your old HSTRY classrooms.

Check out the video embedded below to learn how to make a HSTRY timeline.

New Tagging and Discovery Features Added to eduClipper

A few weeks ago I shared a video of eduClipper's founder, Adam Bellow, talking about some new features being developed for the app. This morning those features went live.

These are the new features of eduClipper that you'll see when you update the free iPad app. 

1. eduClipper now has a new start-up tutorial for users. The tutorial makes it easier than ever before to start using the app efficiently.

2. The free eduClipper iPad app now has a featured content section showcasing the most popular content and content contributors on the service.

3. You can now add subject category tags to everything that you save in the app. The tags will make it easier to organize and find shared resources.

4. If you want to share content from your eduClipper account to Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, you can now do that with the sharing function built into eduClipper. 
Disclosure: I have a small advisory role with eduClipper.

Create Vocabulary Lessons With BoomWriter's Trending Words

Disclosure: BoomWriter is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

WordWriter is a free service within the BoomWriter platform that enables you to build vocabulary lists that you want your students to use in writing. You can have students write fiction or non-fiction pieces in which they have to use words that you assign to them. As the teacher you can log-in and see your students' progress toward correctly using each of the words correctly.

Toward the end of the last school year BoomWriter introduced a feature called Trending Words. Trending Words allows you to see the most frequently used vocabulary words across the WordWriter platform. You can filter the trending words list by grade level to find words that are appropriate for your students. You can select words from the Trending Words list to import into writing projects that you give to your students. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of this process.


Check out the videos embedded below for a complete overview of BoomWriter and WordWriter.


ClassDojo Introduces Groups...More to Come

Last week I had a conversation with ClassDojo's head of marketing, Manoj Lamba, about some of the new features they're rolling out before most teachers go back to school for the 2015-2016 school year. There are a few that I want to share with you, but I can only share one of them today (the others will be unveiled in early August). Beginning today you can create student groups in your ClassDojo account.

ClassDojo Groups allow you to arrange groups of students within your ClassDojo classroom. You can put students into groups according to tables or by another criteria that you select. You can give points and recognition to the entire group for things like working together, group problem solving skills, and any other behavior that you want to reward. Group points are displayed in students' profiles along with the individual points they've earned.

ClassDojo Groups work in your web browser as well as on the iOS and Android apps for ClassDojo.

Applications for Education
Check out the playlist embedded below for nine ideas on using ClassDojo.

Beyond Assessment: 3 Other Uses for Socrative

This is a guest post from Beth Holland (@brholland) of EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

Socrative is a free student response system that works on any device. With its built-in quick questions and quiz options, it is an incredible resource for formative and summative assessments. However, Socrative can be used for more than just quizzes.

Socrative as Backchannel

A backchannel is a digital conversation that runs concurrently with a face-to-face activity and provides students with an outlet to engage in conversation. Consider using the short answer option within the Quick Questions to give each student an opportunity to share his or her ideas before engaging in class discussion. For those students who may prefer to communicate in writing, or who might need more time to formulate their thoughts, this can be a great way for them to share their ideas.



By using Socrative instead of a more public backchannel tool such as Padlet or TodaysMeet, students may feel more comfortable sharing their ideas. Teachers may also consider using a teacher-paced quiz as a backchannel. Discussion questions could be crafted in advance and then pushed out to students as a way to guide the face-to-face conversation.

Socrative Space Race as Lab Procedures

While the initial intent of a Socrative Space Race is to provide some element of competition for students as they progress through an activity - Greg Kulowiec has a great blog post about how to do this. In a science lab, a Space Race could be used to present lab procedures and capture data across lab groups.

With the space race projected, lab groups and teachers have a virtual progress board. Upon completion, the spreadsheet report could then be shared with the students so that they can analyze not only their observations and data collection but also that of the entire class.

Socrative as Writing Center

Shawn McCusker (@shawnmccusker) uses Socrative to help students craft thesis statements. By asking them to type their draft theses into a short answer Quick Question, he can then push the sentences back to the class for a vote. As a group, they can discuss what makes a strong thesis statement and offer suggestions to their peers. Students can then rewrite their statements and submit them for voting as many times as needed in order to collaboratively improve their theses.

Socrative can also be used to set up a peer-editing session. Teachers can create a quiz with questions such as thesis statement, intro paragraph, textual evidence, etc. In fact, a single short response question could even be used for students to paste in an entire essay. Once the teacher has completed the activity, the reports can be used for a number of peer-editing activities:
  1. The individual PDF reports can be edited using a PDF annotation tool such as PaperPort Notes (iOS) or DocHub (computer/Chromebook). The PDFs could also be converted into Google Docs and then edited using the “Suggestions” feature.
  2. The spreadsheet report can  be shared with students as a Google Sheet and then formatted to include a “feedback” column.
  3. Using the Save-as-Doc Add-On in Google Sheets, teachers can take the Socrative report and convert it into a Google Doc to be shared with all of the students as “Comment-Only.” Once the Doc has been generated, students can use the Suggestions to provide feedback to their peers, and teachers then have a single document with all of the writing as well as the edits in one place.

When looking for one tool to use in a number of ways, Socrative is a great option for all areas of the curriculum.

If you are looking to learn more, Beth Holland will be a featured presenter at the November 17-18 EdTechTeacher iPad Summit Boston. Both Early Bird Registration and the Call for Proposals are open.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Now You Can Play Videos Within Your Diigo Groups

Diigo might not be as visually appealing as bookmarking sites like Pinterest, but in a lot of ways it is still an outstanding tool. One of the best features of Diigo, Diigo Groups, just got a couple of updates. First, you can now play YouTube and Vimeo videos directly within a group without opening a new tab or window. Second, you can now export the content (bookmarks) of a Diigo Group as a CSV or Excel file.

Applications for Education
If you're already using Diigo Groups to share resources with your students, you will probably enjoy the option for students to watch videos within a Diigo Group. You could have students use Diigo Groups to collaboratively create video playlists on topics that you're studying in class.

Short Lessons on the Origins of English

A few years ago Open University published a ten part video series on the history of the English language. Last week TED-Ed published a lesson titled Where Did English Come From? The TED-Ed lesson focuses on the evolution of language and similarities to other languages. The TED-Ed video is embedded below.


The History of English from Open University is embedded below. As with many Open University lessons you should screen them to judge their suitability for your high school students.

Three Registration-free Options for Collaboratively Taking Notes

Like many humanities teachers, I use a fair amount of group/ jigsaw reading activities. As a part of those activities I will ask students to share observations and questions with each other in-person as well as in an online document. Over the years I've had students use a variety of tools for sharing their notes with each other. These are the three that I tend to gravitate to right now.

TitanPad is a free tool that allows you to quickly create an online place to collaboratively create documents with one or more partners. You do not need to register in order to use the service. You can chat in real-time while creating a document. Every person contributing to the documents you build is assigned a highlight color so that you can easily track who wrote what in the document. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use TitanPad.


If you work in a school that uses Google Apps for Education then you can have students sign-in and work on a document together to record observations and questions. But even if you don't have GAFE accounts for students you could still have them use Google Docs. As the teacher you can create a document and share it as "public, anyone with the link can edit." Insert a grid into the document and ask students to take notes within the grid. I have students put their names in the grid squares in which they write. When the activity is complete, switch the sharing setting back to "can view only."

MeetingWords is a free service that is quite similar to TitanPad. MeetingWords can be used for creating an online notepad and chat room. Through MeetingWords you can quickly create an online place to collaboratively create documents with one or more partners. You do not need to register in order to use the service. You can chat in real-time while creating a document. Every person contributing to the documents you build is assigned a highlight color so that you can easily track who wrote what in the document.

How to Create an Online Whiteboard Space

Sketchlot is a free collaborative whiteboard service that works on any device that will work on a Chromebook, iPad, Android tablet, or any computer connected to the web. Sketchlot is designed for teacher and student use. Teachers create their own accounts and then inside that account they can create a list of students. Each student is assigned his or her own password to use to join a drawing shared by his or her teacher. Teachers can create as many drawings as they like and share them on an individual basis. Teachers can share their drawings to one or all of their students at a time. Students can create their own sketches to share back to their teachers through Sketchlot.

In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to create and manage a Sketchlot account.

5 Tools for Hosting Collaborative Brainstorming Sessions Online

Whether it is to solve a problem, plan a project, or develop new story ideas there are plenty of occasions in the course of a school year for students to brainstorm together. I still believe that nothing beats getting together in a room to swap ideas in person, but that's not always practical or possible. For those times when in-person brainstorming sessions are not possible, the following five tools offer a good way to host brainstorming sessions online.

Realtime Board is a platform for hosting online, collaborative brainstorming sessions. Realtime Board is built with HTML5 which means that it works equally well on your laptop and on your iPad or Android tablet. Realtime Board provides a blank canvas on which you can type, draw, and post pictures. You can connect elements on your boards through a simple linking tool. The boards that you create on Realtime Board can be shared publicly or privately. To help you communicate with your collaborators Realtime Board has a chat function built into every board. Realtime Board grants teachers and students access to all premium features for free. In order to get the premium features for free you do need to complete the form here.

Stoodle is an online whiteboard service supported in part by the CK-12 Foundation. Through Stoodle you can quickly create a collaborative whiteboard space. On your whiteboard you can type, draw, and upload images. You can connect Stoodle to your computer's microphone and talk your collaborators while drawing, typing, or sharing images. Stoodle does not require you to create an account. Stoodle will work in the web browser on your iPad or Android tablet. Watch the video below to learn how to create a Stoodle room.


Simple Surface is a browser-based tool for collaboratively creating outlines and mind maps.To get started with Simple Surface just click on "use for free now," double click on the surface, and then start typing. To create an additional thought box just double click anywhere on your board. To make sibling and child thought boxes use the enter and tab keys. You can edit the color and size of fonts. Your boxes can be linked to URLs too. Right-click on your surface to open the full menu of editing options.

iBrainstorm is a free brainstorming application for the iPad and the iPhone. The app allows you to record brainstorming sessions using a combination of free hand drawings and sticky notes. You can share and collaborate with other users of iBrainstorm. Sharing notes and drawings between users in a local setting is a simple matter of "flicking" an item to another user.

Last, but not least, Google Apps for Education provides a bunch of options for students to use to organize their thoughts. Students who prefer to illustrate their ideas can use Google Drawings to create a mind map then insert it into a Google Document. The commenting feature in Google Drawings and Documents makes it easy for team members to ask clarifying questions, make suggestions, and reply to questions and suggestions.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Try iBrainstorm for Collaboratively Brainstorming on iPads

iBrainstorm is a free brainstorming application for the iPad and the iPhone. The app allows you to record brainstorming sessions using a combination of free hand drawings and sticky notes. You can share and collaborate with other users of iBrainstorm. Sharing notes and drawings between users in a local setting is a simple matter of "flicking" an item to another user.


Applications for Education
iBrainstorm could be a great application for schools that are using iPads in a 1:1 setting. The option to combine free hand drawings and sticky notes makes iBrainstorm flexible enough to suit learning and creation styles of most students.

Five Nice NASA Resources for Teachers and Students

NASA's website full of excellent educational resources. I just did a quick look through my archives and over the last few year I've written about NASA-related topics more than sixty times. Here are five of the most popular NASA resources for teachers and students that I've covered over the years.

NASA's Lunar Electric Rover Simulator is a free iOS app that lets you explore the moon. The app is really a game in which players perform tasks to support the activities of a lunar outpost. Players transport items from place to place and along the way encounter lunar challenges to overcome. The app also includes an interactive gallery of images. You can download the app for free from iTunes.

NASA @ Home and City is a virtual tour of NASA-related science in our homes and cities. Students visiting NASA @ Home and City can rotate buildings and take a look inside to discover everyday items whose development has been influenced by technology developed at NASA. Each item within a building has a narrated explanation of how that items was influenced by NASA technology. For example, students can take a look inside the bathroom of a house to learn how cosmetics have been influenced by technology used at NASA.

Moonbase Alpha is an online game developed by NASA to be played on the Steam online gaming platformMoonbase Alpha a simulation/ role playing game in which players assume the role of an astronaut working to repair equipment in order to restore oxygen delivery to a settlement on the moon. The game can be played by up to six players at a time who communicate using voice over communication. (To play Moonbase Alpha you do need to install the Steam gaming platform (it's free) on a Windows-based computer.)

NASA Space Place is a sizable collection of fun projects, games, animations, and lessons about Earth, space, and technology. Before playing the games or attempting one of the projects, students should explore the animations and facts sections to gain some background information. The projects section of NASA Space Place provides teachers, parents, and students with directions for hands-on projects like building a balloon-powered rover, building relief maps, and building a moon habitat. The games section offers thirty games covering all of the subjects in the animations and facts sections.

NASA has an excellent interactive timeline tracing the history of astronomy and space exploration from the Greek philosophers through today. Planet Quest is actually three timelines combined into one. The three timelines cover technology, discovery, and culture as it relates to astronomy and space exploration. Each element on the timeline is narrated. Users can select individual elements on the timeline or choose autoplay to hear the narration of each item in sequence.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good evening from Woodstock, Maine where I'm recovering from a long bike ride in the rain. This week I hosted the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp in Portland, Maine. I huge thank you to everyone that came and participated. If you weren't able to attend this year, please consider putting it on your calendar for next summer. And if you would like me to organize a similar event for your school, please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Two Chrome Extensions That Can Help You Stay on Task
2. Three Classroom Uses for the Vocaroo Audio Recorder
3. 5 Google Maps Tutorials for Teachers and Students
4. Spoken Announces Updates to Their Audio Publishing Network
5. How Do Things Fly? - A Fun and Interactive STEM Activity
6. Three Audio Slideshow Video Projects for Students
7. Camp Google - Learn About Oceans, Animals, Space, and Music

Would you like to have me visit your school? Click here to learn about my PD services.

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.