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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Month in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good evening from Woodstock, Maine where the leaves on some trees are already starting to change colors. Fall is my favorite season of the year, but it still feels like summer is ending too soon. By now school is back in session almost everywhere around here and the few places that haven't started will be back in session soon. If you find yourself looking for some new ed tech resources to use in your classroom this fall, take a look at this month's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.

Here are the month's most popular posts:
1. The Practical Ed Tech Handbook - Download It Today
2. How to Create a Jeopardy-style Game in Google Spreadsheets
3. 12 Good Resources for Teaching Digital Citizenship - A PDF Handout
4. Google Classroom Adds Calendar Integration and Other Frequently Requested Functions
5. 5 Good Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers - And How to Use Them
6. How to Quickly Create Vocabulary Lists from a Document
7. 5 Tools Students Can Use to Keep Track of Assignments This Year
8. How to Create a Progress Chart in Google Sheets
9. Coordinate Back-to-School with Choice Eliminator and Google Forms
10. This Wage Calculator Shows Students Salaries In Terms They Can Understand

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference?
Click here to learn about my professional development 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.
HelloTalk is a mobile community for learning a new language.
MasteryConnect offers a series of apps for identifying standards. 
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.

My Two Ground Rules for Collaboratively Taking Notes

Earlier today I pushed a post about using MeetingWords as a collaborative note-taking tool. In that post I mentioned the need for setting some rules for students to follow during a collaborative note-taking session. Through trial and error over the years I've developed a few ground rules that help collaborative note-taking be a better experience for all involved. These are the two ground rules that I use with students.

1. Yes, it is possible to write over or correct a classmate's note, but don't do it without consulting him or her first. Use the chat feature (present in Google Docs and MeetingWords) to suggest a change to the person whose note you wish to change.

Making students ask each other before changing a note does two things. First, it prevents students from getting frustrated by having a classmate delete work without asking. Second, it facilitates conversation about what is or isn't an important note to record.

2. Use your real name. I want to know who has added what to the document. Your classmates want to know who they can talk to regarding a note.

Contributing to a notes document is different than participating in a backchannel chat in which I might just be looking for anonymous questions from students or anonymous responses to my prompts. In a collaboratively created document I want to see names so I know who is contributing, who is not, who needs help, and who is with me.

Try Meeting Words for Collaboratively Taking Notes

MeetingWords is a free and registration-free service 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 can chat in real-time while creating a document on MeetingWords. 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 MeetingWords along some commentary on how it might be used in a classroom.


If you don't have access to Google Documents or another collaborative document creation tool, MeetingWords provides a quick and easy way for students to take notes together. As I noted in the video, there isn't an option to moderate comments in MeetingWords so you will need to spend some time setting up rules and expectations for your students to follow when using MeetingWords.

About Downloading YouTube Videos...

These kittens don't violate YouTube's
TOS and we shouldn't either :)
This morning I received a Facebook message from someone looking for a recommendation for a tool to use to download videos from YouTube. I get that question fairly often. Usually it is asked by people who are working in schools that block access to YouTube. I used to make recommendations for tools that will download YouTube videos, I don't anymore and removed all of the old posts that did mention those tools.

Downloading videos from YouTube through a third-party service is a violation of section 4 of YouTube's terms of service. I don't want students thinking they can download anything they want without concern for copyright or a company's terms of service. Therefore, I think I should model for students the behavior of respecting copyright and a company's terms of service.

In addition to the copyright and TOS violations, the other concern with downloading YouTube videos through a third-party tool is the varying quality and reliability of those tools. That is of particular concern when you start to dive into the free services promising that function because while they may work, they may also offer a bunch of malware to go along with the video file.

I understand the tough position that teachers find themselves in when YouTube is blocked in their schools and there is a video on YouTube that they would really like to share with their students. I've been there, it is frustrating. My recommendation at this time is to talk to your administrators about using YouTube for Schools if you cannot convince them to allow teachers to access YouTube directly.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Week in Review - 3300 Downloads

Good morning from Woodstock, Maine where it shaping up to be a perfect late summer day. It's not too hot, it's not too cold, and the sun is shining. In other words, it's a great morning for sitting on my deck and drinking coffee while I write. I hope that wherever you are this weekend, you have an equally relaxing weekend.

Nine days ago I released the Practical Ed Tech Handbook. Since I hit publish on that post, more than 3300 people have downloaded it. I've heard from a handful of people who have printed it give to their colleagues. That is what I hoped would happen. Helping teachers learn about the resources available to them is why I started this blog many years ago. Thank you all for helping me share.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Google Classroom Adds Calendar Integration and Other Frequently Requested Functions
2. This Wage Calculator Shows Students Salaries In Terms They Can Understand
3. Eight Alternatives to Google Image Search
4. 50+ Google Tools Tutorial Videos
5. Good Online Bookmarking Tools for Students
6. The Practical Ed Tech Handbook - Download It Today
7. Updated Page of Video Creation Tools and Tutorials

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference?
Click here to learn about my professional development 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.
HelloTalk is a mobile community for learning a new language.
MasteryConnect offers a series of apps for identifying standards. 
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, August 28, 2015

5 Things I Learned While Re-reading Invent to Learn

While book publishers send me many books to read throughout the year, very few ever get mentioned on this blog because I am not in the business of writing book reviews. That said, when I do find a book that I think many of you will enjoy, I'll share it.

When Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager published Invent to Learn a couple of years I quickly read it on my Android tablet through the Kindle app. Then in March of this year I had a chance to talk with Gary for a while at a conference that we were both invited to in Sydney. While there I bought a paperback copy of Invent to Learn. I have now read it two more times and filled it with notes in the margins of the pages (scribbling notes is the best part about having a physical copy of a book). In no particular order, here are five highlights from the notes I've taken while reading Invent to Learn.

1. Avoid the "keychain syndrome" when developing projects.
Martinez and Stager cite Paulo Blikstein for developing this term to describe what happens when students learn to use fabrication tools like 3D printers. The point of the project shouldn't be to learn how to use the equipment (though that is needed) but to use the equipment to create things of meaning to them.

2. Skip the preload.
Stager and Martinez remind us to avoid the temptation to take "just a minute" to explain how a program or tool works. That "just a minute" can quickly turn into 25 minutes of "how to" instruction that students don't need because they are more than willing to push buttons, flip switches, click menus, and generally explore without a fear of not knowing what will happen. I've been guilty of this in my practice and I'm trying to cut down my preload time as much as possible.

3. Collaboration comes in different forms. 
Collaboration doesn't have to mean two or more students working together for the duration of a project. It could be as simple as observing and asking questions of a peer or group of peers.

4. Good project prompts are short and sweet. 
Skip the long-winded "by the end of this project you will have done..." and give students prompts that are clear and concise. The prompt should also give students the flexibility to satisfy the prompt in the way that they see best. I've employed this strategy for years. My experience has been that students who are used to being told, "here's the rubric, here's what you need to get a good grade" will freak out and flounder for a while until they realize that they have the power to respond to the prompt in a manner of their own choosing.

5. Instruction is useful, not everything has to be "discovered" by students.
There is a temptation to make every learning experience about students "discovering" information. Sometimes direct instruction is needed and is just as useful as students discovering on their own. Stager and Martinez give this example,
There is no reason to discover the date of Thanksgiving when you can ask someone. Instruction is useful for learning things that would take an instant or when little benefit would be gained by investigating it yourself
Beyond the philosophical items that I've featured above, Invent to Learn is full of fantastic resources for anyone interested in using the concepts of the Maker Movement, 3D printing, and programming in their classrooms.

Six Tools for Creating Online Timelines - A Comparison Chart

Last winter I published a comparison of five tools for creating timelines. This week I updated that chart to include a timeline creation tool that I've come to love over the last seven months, HSTRY. You can read more about HSTRY and learn how to use it by clicking here. My updated chart is embedded below as a PDF. You can also view it here in Google Docs format.

Take a Virtual Tour of Mount Vernon

Around this time last year I shared an interactive map of George Washington's life. That map was produced by MountVernon.org. From the same organization comes a virtual tour of Mount Vernon.

The virtual tour of Mount Vernon features 54 parts of George Washington's estate. Each stop in the tour is an interactive image on which you will see pinpoints that you can click to read or watch a video to learn more about what you're seeing the picture. You can rotate each image 360 degrees. To navigate the tour you can either click the directional arrows in the images or select an feature of the estate from the drop-down menu at the top the virtual tour website.

Applications for Education
The virtual tour of Mount Vernon could be a good supplementary resource for elementary or middle school lessons about George Washington. The virtual tour also provides some glimpses into the living conditions of both wealthy 18th century citizens along with those of poor and or enslaved people living in Virginia in the 18th century.

Formative - Quickly Gather Responses Sketched by Students

A few weeks ago I published a review of a new assessment tool called Formative. One of the best features of Formative is the option to have students sketch responses to questions. They can sketch on their tablets, Chromebooks, or laptops and submit those sketches to you in realtime. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how the draw responses function works in Formative.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How to Quickly Create an Audio Slideshow

Summarizing the highlights of an event, summarizing the key points in a story, and summarizing the results of research project are all common purposes for creating audio slideshows. Sharalike makes it quick and easy to create a video for any of those purposes. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of how quick and easy it is to create an audio slideshow with Sharalike.


On my updated page of video creation resources I have a playlist of tutorial videos. The latest addition to that playlist is this video about making audio slideshows with Sharalike.

GroupTing Makes It Easy to Organize Volunteers for Group Events

GroupTing is a new service that makes it easy to organize group events. The purpose of GroupTing is to enable you and your event attendees to keep track of who is attending your event and what they are bringing to it. For example, if I'm planning a classroom party and I need parents to contribute cups, beverages, snacks, plates and napkins, when I send out my invitations I can request that people bring one or more of those items. GroupTing allows me to specify how many of each item is needed and who has volunteered to bring the requested items.

Creating an event in GroupTing is quick and easy. To create an event just give it a name, set a location, set a date and time, then fill in the event details including the items that are needed for the event. Once you've created the event you can send email invitations directly from GroupTing. Recipients of your email will be able to click through to RSVP and indicate if they can bring things to the event. GroupTing will send event reminders to people who say that they are planning to attend your event.

You can also use GroupTing just for invitation management and skip the part about asking people to bring things to your event.

Applications for Education
There are other services like GroupTing, VolunteerSpot and Sign Up Genius come to mind, but GroupTing is probably the easiest to use. As mentioned above, it could be a great tool for organizing classroom holiday parties, PTA fundraiser events, or any other school event that relies on volunteer contributions.

This Wage Calculator Shows Students Salaries In Terms They Can Understand

As I've mentioned many times in the past, personal economics is one of my favorite topics to teach. Over the years I've developed games for teaching it and shared those along with other resources in posts like this one. This week on Life Hacker I discovered another resource that can help students understand the purchasing power of a salary.

Salaries in Real-Time is a simple wage calculator produced by Retale. The calculator shows you how long you would have to work in order to earn enough money to purchase hamburgers, televisions, running shoes, cars, and houses. You can view this information from the perspective of your own salary by entering it into the calculator. You can also see that information from the perspective of a surgeon, a nurse, a lawyer, a teacher, a web developer, a firefighter, a truck driver, or a construction worker. And just to put in perspective how rich they are, you can also see how long it would take Oprah or Lebron James to earn enough money to purchase one of the items on the list.

Applications for Education
Salaries in Real-Time provides a nice starting place for conversations about purchasing power. The calculator isn't without flaws. It only accounts for the time it would take to earn the money to purchase house or car if you did nothing but save 100% of the salary. I would take these numbers and ask my students to generate more realistic projections of the time it would take to earn and save enough money to buy a car or house in cash. That assignment would require them to account for taxes, cost of living, inflation, and other variables impacting earning and saving rates.

Storyboards in the Classroom - A Webinar Recording

Last night I hosted a webinar about using storyboards for a variety of purposes. The webinar was sponsored by Storyboard That. If you missed the live session, you can now watch the recording as embedded below.


Click here if you cannot see the video.

The slides from the session can be seen here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Two Good Apps for Learning Phrasal Verbs

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

One of the true challenges for English language learners is understanding the meanings of phrasal verbs. The following apps are designed to help students build an understanding of phrasal verbs.

The Phrasal Verbs Machine, developed by Cambridge University, is a free iPad app that aims to help ELL students learn the meanings of phrasal verbs. The Phrasal Verbs Machine provides students with short animations that illustrate the meanings of many common phrasal verbs. There is a written definition below each animation. Students can view the animations and definitions as many times as they like before trying their hands at the practice identification exercises. The Phrasal Verbs Machine provides definition translations in Spanish, French, Italian, German, Russian, and Portuguese.

Phrasalstein, developed at Cambridge University, is a great iPad app and Android app designed to help students learn the meanings of phrasal verbs. The app has a practice mode and a quiz mode. In the practice mode students select a verb and a preposition combination then see a short animation demonstration of the meaning of the chosen phrase. In the quiz mode students see an animation then have to select the matching phrase. Translations of the meanings are available in Spanish, German, Italian, Russian and French.

Eight Alternatives to Google Image Search

Last fall I published a chart comparing alternatives to using Google Image search. This evening I updated that chart to reflect a couple of changes to those tools and to add a new one to it. This chart is designed to provide a quick overview and comparison of good sources of images for students' slideshows and other multimedia projects. You can download the chart through the Box.com widget below or grab a Google Docs copy here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Updated Page of Video Creation Tools and Tutorials

It was recently, and correctly, pointed out to me that the video creation resources page on FreeTech4Teachers.com was terribly outdated. This evening I began to rectify that situation by removing the old information that was on the page and replacing with updated tutorials.

On the video creation resources page you will now find a PDF outlining six types of video projects, a playlist of videos about making flipped videos, a playlist of videos about making audio slideshow videos, a playlist about WeVideo, and a webinar recording about making animated videos.

I will be updating the page again later this week when I finish the next guide that I am developing.

Good Online Bookmarking Tools for Students

Earlier today I shared a set of tutorials on using Symbaloo to save and organize bookmarks. Shortly after that post went live I received an email from someone looking for other bookmarking tools that her students could use. Over the years I've tried a lot of bookmarking tools, the following are the ones that I recommend most often.

Diigo is a great option for bookmarking websites and sharing them with a group. You can use any of the many Diigo browser add-ons or mobile apps to bookmark websites. The Diigo bookmarking tools allow you to clip portions of a webpage, highlight portions of the page, and add notes to it while you bookmark. Adding those notes is helpful in letting your collaborators know why you saved a link. Diigo allows you to create public and private groups in which you share bookmarks. Creating a Diigo group is a good way for students to collaborate on a research task. Click here for a video on creating Diigo groups.

Padlet Mini is a slick tool collaborative bookmarking. Padlet Mini is a Chrome extension that you can use to bookmark websites. When you click the Padlet Mini extension in your browser you will be presented with the option to save to one of your existing walls (if you already have a Padlet account) or create a new Padlet wall. Padlet Mini is ideal for having students share links to interesting pages, pictures, and videos that they find about a topic that they are studying in class. Click here for a video about Padlet Mini.

A few years ago when Google announced that they were removing the list option from Google Bookmarks I started using Evernote for all of my bookmarks. The Evernote Web Clipper allows me to not only bookmark URLs but also annotate each bookmark with notes for myself about each URL that I bookmark. I also use the Evernote Web Clipper for clipping sections of webpages including text and images.



Annotary is a social bookmarking service that is similar to Diigo. By using Annotary in Chrome I can bookmark sites, highlight portions of pages, and annotate pages with sticky notes. Just like any good online bookmarking service, Annotary allows you to share bookmarks and search other peoples' shared bookmarks.

This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning Pinterest. If your school allows it and your students are old enough to have accounts, you could use Pinterest to bookmark your web findings. A better option than Pinterest for schools is eduClipper. eduClipper is a great place for teachers and students to collaborate on the creation of visual bookmark boards. Students do not need to have email addresses to use eduClipper and you can manage how your students share on eduClipper boards.

Disclosure: I am advisor to eduClipper.

30+ Symbaloo Tutorials

Symbaloo is an excellent service on which you can visually organize your favorite and most frequently used websites. Symbaloo allows you to bookmark your favorite websites and arrange them into tile boards that you can share or keep private. Symbaloo calls the tile boards webmixes. You can create multiple webmixes arranged according to topics of your choosing. Symbaloo offers a free iPhone app, a free Android app, and free Windows mobile app that you can use to add to and access your webmixes anywhere.

Symbaloo offers more than thirty tutorial videos to help users get started and understand all of the features of the service. That playlist is embedded below. I also recommend reading Travis Towne's 11 Helpful Hints for Combining Google Drive With Symbaloo.

Bumper Ducks - A Fun Game from the Smithsonian Science Education Center

The Smithsonian Science Education Center offers a selection of educational games for elementary school students. Bumper Ducks is one of those games that I recently tested.

Bumper Ducks is an online game in which students have to help rubber ducks navigate bodies of water to collect duck treats. To navigate the bodies of water students have to determine how hard to make a duck swim or fly and account for angles to avoid obstacles in the water.

Applications for Education
Bumper Ducks is not the most challenging game that elementary school students will play, but it could be a nice little activity for introducing or reviewing some basic geometry concepts.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Google Classroom Adds Calendar Integration and Other Frequently Requested Functions

Just in time for the start of the new school year, Google has added a bunch of new features to Google Classroom. All of the features added are things that I've heard teachers request since last year's initial launch of Classroom.

The most significant update to Classroom is the integration of Google Calendar. Now when you create an assignment in Google Classroom the due date will be automatically added to a Google Calendar for the class. You will, of course, also be able to manually add events to that same calendar. This feature will be rolling out to all Google Classroom users over the next month.

A new feature that is live for all Google Classroom users is the option to re-use any assignments, announcements, and discussion questions. So if you have items from a class that you taught last year, you will now be able to quickly copy them into this year's class.

To further encourage online discussions, Google Classroom now allows students to reply to their classmates' responses to the discussion questions that you post in your classroom. This sound create a more message board-like discussion environment. You can also turn off that feature if you don't feel that it will be beneficial to your students.

You've always been able to link to Google Forms in a Google Classroom post. Over the next month a new feature will be rolled out to allow you to attach Forms to announcements and assignments. The attachment will also include an option to link to the Form responses within Classroom.

Finally, you can now "bump" a post to the top of your Classroom's stream. This is similar to making a blog post sticky so that it always appears at the top of the page for students to see. Bumping a post could be a good way to make sure that students see an important message from you whenever they sign into your Google Classroom.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Week in Review - On the Road Again

Good morning from Woodstock, Maine where the weather is clearing and it looks like it will be a great day. This weekend I'm hitting the road in two ways. First, I'm heading out on my bike. Second, I'm hitting the highway with some friends to go see Willie Nelson perform (I know, I was also  surprised to find that he's still touring). Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you have time to do something fun too.

This week I hosted a short series of webinars called Classroom Blog Jumpstart. A big thank you to the folks who joined me for those webinars. If you missed it, I will be offering a similar series again in September.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. The Practical Ed Tech Handbook - Download It Today
2. How to Quickly Create Vocabulary Lists from a Document
3. 5 Tools Students Can Use to Keep Track of Assignments This Year
4. Coordinate Back-to-School with Choice Eliminator and Google Forms
5. 135 Practical Ed Tech Tips
6. How Students Can Create Movies and Digital Posters With Artifacts from the National Archives
7. CNN Student News is Back for 2015-2016


Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference?
Click here to learn about my professional development 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.
HelloTalk is a mobile community for learning a new language.
MasteryConnect offers a series of apps for identifying standards. 
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, August 21, 2015

Updated Comparison of Backchannel & Informal Assessment Tools

Last winter I published a series of charts in which I compared popular ed tech tools for things like blogging, informal assessment, and video production. As is to be expected in the tech world, some of the tools in those charts have changed. Therefore, I'm now going through each chart and updating it.

Yesterday, I published an update to my blogging platforms comparison chart. Today, I updated my chart comparing tools for backchannels and informal assessment. The most notable difference in this chart compared to the previous version is the removal of Infuse Learning which shut down in April and the addition of Formative. The updated chart can be seen as a PDF embedded below. You can get a Google Docs version of the chart here.

Copyright Lessons for Kids

Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright is a resource for kids produced by the Library of Congress. Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright is intended to help elementary school students understand the purposes and functions of copyright.

There are four sections to Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright. The first section, Copyright Exposed, features a short cartoon that explains how copyright protects artists. Files on Record, the second section, chronicles important historical developments in copyright law. The third section, Reading the Fine Print, answers common questions and addresses common myths about copyright laws. The last section, Steps to Copyright, instructs students on registering their own works for copyright protection.

Applications for Education
Copyright can be a difficult subject for some students to understand. That said, in a world filled with digital media, it is very important for students to learn how copyright affects them. Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright could be a great resource for introducing elementary school students to the regulations and rights associated with copyright.

Try This Handy Widget for Making Random Selections

Earlier this month I shared a method for selecting random names from a Google Sheet and in the past I've shared other random name selector tools. Those tools are great if you have names to enter. However, if you really want to randomly select people for a task or a prize, try using a random number selector from Random.org. Using one of Random.org's widgets you can specify a range of numbers from which a random number will be generated each time someone clicks "generate" on the widget. Try a widget below.

Applications for Education
The next time you need to draw numbers for a PTA raffle or you need to assign numbers to students, give Random.org a try.

Remind Expands Chat Features to Parent Groups

Earlier this year Remind added a chat function to their popular SMS service. At first the function only applied to students and parents replying to your messages. Then in June it expanded to allow chat between teachers in the same school. This week Remind expanded the chat function again.

The latest update to Remind's chat function allows parents who are subscribed to the same class, let's say @mrbyrnehistory for example, to send messages to each other. The expanded chat function will not allow parents to send messages to students that are subscribed to the class.

Applications for Education
The latest update to Remind's chat function could be useful for parent groups like booster clubs and PTAs that are organizing events. The chat function is slightly more robust than using a standard group text message as parents can send receive messages through the Remind app, through SMS, or through email.

Learn more about Remind in the video playlist embedded below.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Free Webinar - Using Storyboards & Graphic Organizers in the Classroom

Next Wednesday night (August 26th) at 7:30pm EDT I will be presenting a free webinar on using storyboards in the classroom. During the webinar I will share ideas and examples for using storyboards in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. Some of the planned for the webinar include, using storyboards for storytelling, using storyboards for illustrating concepts, and using storyboards as flowcharts. I will also share lesson plans incorporating storyboards into language arts, social studies, and digital citizenship.

Click here to register now!
The live session is full. You can register for the recording here.

The webinar is sponsored by Storyboard That. Aaron Sherman, the founder of Storyboard That, will be on the webinar with me to answer technical questions and share his insight from the feedback he's received from thousands of educators over the last couple of years.

This webinar has filled up every time that I've hosted it in the past. Space is limited so register early.

Yes, the webinar will be recorded.
  Register here to have the recording emailed to you even if you cannot attend the live session. 


Copyright and Creative Commons Explained

Last night during my class about classroom blogs we had a short discussion about copyright, Creative Commons, and public domain media. As I always do, I made the recommendation that students should always try to use their own media before looking for public domain and or Creative Commons licensed media. Before starting any blogging activity or other multimedia presentation assignment, I think it is good to review with students the basics of copyright and Creative Commons. The following two videos from Common Craft provide excellent overviews of these topics.




For a more in-depth look at copyright for educators, watch Dr. Wesley Fryer's Slideshare on the topic. Six years after he released it, it's still one of the best resources on the topic.



Common Craft videos can be viewed for free online but to download them or embed them you do have to be a subscriber to their service. Disclosure: I have an in-kind business relationship with Common Craft.

Updated Comparison of Blogging Platforms for Teachers

Last winter I published a series of charts in which I compared popular ed tech tools for things like blogging, informal assessment, and video production. As is to be expected in the tech world, some of the tools in those charts have changed. Therefore, I'm now going through each chart and updating it. The first one I've updated is this chart comparing five popular platforms for creating classroom blogs. The chart is embedded below as a PDF. You can also get the Google Docs copy here.

The Practical Ed Tech Handbook - Download It Today

If you have been wondering why I've only published one blog post in the last 36 hours, your answer has arrived. For the last couple of days I've been assembling a collection of my favorite ed tech resources and organizing them into a PDF that I'm calling The Practical Ed Tech Handbook. This isn't just a list of my favorite resources. I've included ideas for using these resources and in many cases I've included links to video tutorials about my favorite resources.

In The Practical Ed Tech Handbook you will find resources arranged in seven categories; communication with students & parents, web search strategies, digital citizenship, video creation, audio production, backchannels & informal assessment, and digital portfolios.

The Practical Ed Tech Handbook is embedded below. You can also grab a copy of it here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Handle Your Email More Efficiently With These Tools

Like most people, I have a love-hate relationship with my email inbox. As soon as it gets close to empty, it fills up again. I'm sure you can relate.

While I'm still not the best at handling my email efficiently, I do have a few tools that have helped me become a little more efficient. 

Auto Text Expander for Google Chrome is a convenient Chrome extension that I've recently started using. The extension enables me to create keyboard shortcuts for words and phrases that I frequently use in emails. In the video embedded below I provide a short overview of how this helpful Chrome extension works.
 

Add Reminders is a Google Sheets add-on that enables you to send emails from a spreadsheet. The add-on will format your spreadsheet so that you simply enter reminder messages and email addresses then specify a date on which you want your reminders sent. The Add Reminders Add-on allows you to send the same reminder to everyone in your email list or you can send individualized reminders to everyone in your email list. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use the Add Reminders Google Sheets Add-on.


The Add Reminders add-on for Google Sheets is great if you just need to send reminder emails. However, ff you want to create custom, personalized emails then you're going to need a slightly different spreadsheet script. Doing this requires adding a script to a Google Spreadsheet containing email addresses. It might sound complicated, but it really isn't. Watch the short video below from the Google Developers team to learn the process.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

CNN Student News is Back for 2015-2016

For years CNN Student News has been my go-to resource for current events lessons for middle school and high school students. This week CNN started to roll out new Student News episodes for the 2015-2016 school year.

The video format for this school year is the same as it has been for years. The roughly ten minute episodes feature US stories, a world news stories, "shout out" to a classroom, and a quick quiz. Transcripts for each show are available for download. On the CNN Student News site you can also find suggested viewing questions to cover with your students.

Padlet Privacy & Sharing Settings You Might Have Overlooked

Last week Padlet launched an iPad app to complement the outstanding web tool that they've offered for years. This morning someone on my Facebook page asked about an alternative that students could use if they didn't have email addresses. I replied with a short explanation of how Padlet can be used by students without using an email address. To further that explanation, I created the short video that is embedded below.


I've added this video to my playlist of Practical Ed Tech Tips and my playlist of Padlet tutorials.

How Students Can Create Movies and Digital Posters With Artifacts from the National Archives

The National Archives Experience Digital Vaults is one of the resources that I almost always share in my workshop on teaching history with technology primary sources. The Digital Vaults offers good tools that students and teachers can use to create content using images and documents from the National Archives. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how students can create digital posters and movies in the National Archives Experience Digital Vaults.


Applications for Education
Creating a short video featuring artifacts from the National Archives could be a great way for students to summarize a topic or theme in US History. When I've used it with students in the past I have asked them to demonstrate an understanding of the connections between the artifacts that they chose to use in their videos.

Please note that the Digital Vaults website loads a lot of media when you visit it for the first time. Give it ten seconds or more to load everything before you start to create and investigate. It also helps to be using an updated browser (Chrome or Firefox are best). 

Coordinate Back-to-School with Choice Eliminator and Google Forms

This is a guest post from Kate Wilson (@KateWilson13) of EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

Google Forms can be one of the best tools in the classroom for data collection and assessment as well as a great resources for teachers to use in order to get information from parents. In this Back-to-School season, you may need to coordinate times for parent-teacher conferences or the donation of shared classroom school supplies. While Google Forms offers a simple solution, teachers still need to spend time sifting through all the various responses - particularly when parents are trying to select a time or sign up for a single resource.

What if there was a way to eliminate choices from a question so as not to have sign-up conflicts? There is!

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Choice Eliminator is a Google Forms Add-On that removes options from a Google Form as they are selected by users. Need more than one quantity of an option? Advanced options allow Form creators to set the number selections available.

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Implementing this function requires just a few steps. The first time you want to use this Add-On with Forms, you must give permission for your Google Account to use the Choice Eliminator by going to “Get Add Ons” under the Add-Ons menu. Search for “Choice Eliminator” and select the “+Free” button. You will get a permission pop up. Be sure to hit “Accept.”

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Next, you need to create a form with options such as Multiple Choice, Drop Down, or Checkboxes. Once you have all your custom options, select “Start” under the Choice Eliminator menu under the Add Ons.

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This will open a sidebar application within the form. Select each question you wish to customize and check “Eliminate choices.” If you would like a choice to disappear only after a certain quantity has been selected, select “Choice Options” to set the quantities.



Every Google Form automatically generates a Google Sheet, so once responses start filling in, your appointment book or sign-up sheet is automatically created. Now that the information is in your Sheet, you can use the arrow buttons for each column to sort the data. With just these few steps, you can create an efficient and easy way to coordinate with your parents and students.

Looking to learn more for Back to School? EdTechTeacher is hosting a FREE Back-to-School Webinar Series. They also have a number of great resources about working with Google Apps for Education on their site.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Share What's Obvious...It Might Not Be Obvious to Everyone

This afternoon I was talking with someone who said that she wants to write more blog posts but feels like "everything I've written has been said already." I hear that a lot from new bloggers. My response is often based in the advice of Derek Sivers who says that "what's obvious to you, might be amazing to someone else." For a full explanation of this idea, watch the short video embedded below.


Applications for Education
This message needs to be shared with our students too. One of the ways you can do this is by having students write a weekly reflective blog post. They don't have to write complex blog posts, just a short summary of their learning and observations that week will do. In this way students can learn from each other. Even if they don't pick up anything brand new from this process, they will at least be reminding each other of what they have learned that week.

How to Quickly Create Vocabulary Lists from a Document

Last winter I was contacted by a high school student who had developed a neat tool for generating vocabulary lists and study sheets from a document. That tool is called Vocabulist. Vocabulist enables students to upload a document and have it extract words and definitions from it. Each word in the document is matched to a definition. If the definition rendered isn't exactly right, students can modify it within Vocabulist. Once the list of words and definitions is set students can download the list as a PDF or export the list to Quizlet where it will then be turned into a set of digital flashcards. (Students must have a Quizlet account). In the video embedded below I demonstrate how easy it is to create a vocabulary study sheet through Vocabulist.


Applications for Education
Vocabulist could be a nice aid to students when they need to learn a set of definitions. The Quizlet integration is a nice feature as it will allow students who use Vocabulist to put their flashcards on their mobile devices.

Riddle Adds More Features Teachers Will Like for Creating Online Quizzes

Late last spring a new platform called Riddle was launched for creating online quizzes. The first time that I tried it, I liked it. Since then the developer of Riddle has steadily added features to it. The latest batch of updates to Riddle is particularly useful to teachers.

The most important update to Riddle that teachers should note is a new option to require user names when replying to questions on a Riddle quiz.

Second, you can now build Riddle quizzes based on embedded YouTube videos. Previously you could only use images or text as question prompts in Riddle.

The third update of note is a new selection of text formatting tools. You can now bold and italicize your text. An option to make bullet lists is now available too.

Learn more about Riddle in my instructional video embedded below.


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.

5 Tools Students Can Use to Keep Track of Assignments This Year

While I appreciate services like Remind and WhatsDue for sending reminders to students about upcoming assignments, I also think it is important for students to take ownership of keeping track of their assignments. As we start the new school year many students will be looking for tools that can help them keep track of assignments. Here is a selection of tools that I've used and or my students have used over the years.

Strike App is a simple to-do list creation and management tool. To use Strike App just title your list of things to do and start typing your list. When you've completed a task just come back and strike it out by clicking on it, dragging it off the screen, or "x-ing" it out. You can share your to-do lists by sending people the link to your list. For those people who like to experiment with different backgrounds and themes, Strike App offers a handful of designs to choose from.

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

If your school is using Google Apps for Education or your students have personal Gmail accounts, they already have some great tools at their disposal. In Gmail students can simply select "tasks" under the "Mail" drop-down menu in Gmail. That will open a small pop-up window in which they can enter their lists of tasks. Google Calendar is what I use for keeping track of longer term projects. After entering a project due date I set a series of reminder alerts to be emailed to me at various intervals until the due date.

Dayboard is a free Google Chrome extension that opens your daily to-do list every time you open a new tab in Chrome. When you open a new tab for the first time Dayboard will appear and ask you to enter your to-do list for the day. After creating your to-do list for the rest of the day whenever you open a new tab you will see your list. You can place a checkmark next to items as you complete them. Dayboard does not require you to create an account, it works offline, and when I installed it it only asked for permission to view activity on the Dayboard website.

Google Keep can be an excellent to-do list app for Android and Chrome users. You can color code notes, make lists, and share notes. On an Android device you can set reminder alarms too. Click here for a video on how to use Google Keep.