Google
 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Polar Bears in Street View, Polar Bear Tracker, and Polar Bear Lesson Plans

Earlier today the Google Maps Blog featured Street View imagery captured by conservation organizations that are studying the effects of climate change on plants and animals. One of those organizations is Polar Bears International. I've written about some of PBI's work in the past and I think that this is a good time to revisit what PBI offers to teachers and students.

Polar Bears International offers a set of extensive lesson plans designed to help students learn about polar bears and their habitat. One of those lesson plans is called Street View and Polar Bears. In  Street View and Polar Bears students use Google Maps to explore the geography, geology, and ecosystem of the tundra around Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. At the end of the lesson students should be able to answer questions like "what are the characteristics of the subarctic tundra?" and "what would be some of the considerations for the construction of buildings, schools, houses, etc. in the subarctic?"


Bear Tracker is another feature of the Polar Bears International website. The Bear Tracker plots the travels of collared polar bears in Hudson Bay and the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. You can view the travel paths of one or all of the bears on each map. The map also offers play the travel paths recorded over time.

November's Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Good evening from the Free Technology for Teachers World Headquarters in Woodstock, Maine. It's the end of the month and as I always do at this time, I've put together a list of the most popular posts of the month. This list is based on the number of views each post received on this blog. I use Google Analytics to determine which posts had the most views. Google Analytics is also helpful in discovering the search terms that people use the most when they land on FreeTech4Teachers.com. That information sometimes helps me decide what to write about.

Here are this month's most popular posts:
1. Dozens of Great PowerPoints for AP History Students & Teachers
2. 5 Good Typing Instruction and Practice Sites for Kids
3. 4 Math Add ons for Google Docs
4. 3 Good Tools for Creating Rubrics
5. 10 Things Students Can Do With Google Keep
6. 7 Tools for Creating Flowcharts, Mind Maps, and Diagrams
7. 11 TED-Ed Videos on How the Human Body Works
8. Click to Spin - A Fun and Free Random Name Picker
9. Seven Web-based Tools for Delivering Flipped Lessons
10. A Fun App for Learning to Identify Plants and Animals

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.
AlfaTyping offers great, free typing lessons for kids. 
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.
Lesley University offers online education programs for teachers. 
Southeastern University offers online M.Ed programs.

A Guide to Choosing a 3D Printer

3D printers and 3D design software can be powerful tools that allow students to develop and test designs for all kinds of objects from toys to car parts. Selecting and purchasing a 3D printer for your classroom can be a daunting task. Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager offer some good advice about 3D printers in their book Invent to Learn. For a more exhaustive look at 3D printers on the market, take a look at the 2016 3D Printer Guide from 3D Hubs.

The 2016 3D Printer Guide from 3D Hubs is divided into five sections; Enthusiast, Plug N' Play, Budget, Kit/ DIY, and Resin. Each section offers reviews of a handful of printers. The reviews include a pro/con list for the printer, the price, reliability, software needed, and an option to get a sample print.

Applications for Education
If you have been considering purchasing a 3D printer for your school, the 2016 3D Printer Guide from 3D Hubs could be a helpful resource to consult.

To learn more about using 3D printers in school, take a look at this post written by Terri Eichholz.

H/T to Lifehacker for the 3D Hubs guide. 

5 Good Health & Fitness Apps for Students

A few years ago my school district received a grant to purchase exercise and sports equipment used in lifelong fitness activities like biking and snowshoeing. Part of the grant also went to developing programs to get people involved in lifelong fitness activities. I was reminded of this today as a new session of fitness classes kicks-off at the high school this evening. Further, I was reminded of some fitness and health apps designed to help students understand healthy diet and exercise choices.

Chew or Die is a free iPad, iPhone, and Android app that encourages people to try new healthy foods. The free app contains a series of healthy food challenges. The challenges include things like removing bread and potato-based starches with rice, trying a new vegetable, removing meat from your diet for a week, and sneaking more fiber into your diet. When you try a challenge take a picture of the food that you try and upload it to Chew or Die to challenge your friends to match your healthy choice. Click here for the iOS version. Click here for the Android version.

Sworkit Kids a free iOS and Android app designed to get kids moving with short, fun exercises. The app features workouts of five to thirty minutes in length (you pick the length). Each workout has a mix of fun exercises like diagonal hopping, crab walking, and hopping on one foot. You can choose exercises or let the app create a sequence of exercises for you.

Space Chef is a free iPad app from the Lawrence Hall of Science. The purpose of the app is to introduce students to healthy foods and recipes that they may not have ever tried or even heard about. Space Chef features a fast-paced game in which students have to quickly grab the ingredients for a recipe. The ingredients scroll past them in three streams or flight paths. Students are shown a recipe at the top of the screen and they must grab the appropriate ingredients as they stream across the screen.

Monster Heart Medic is another free iOS and Android app from the Lawrence Hall of Science. The app is designed to help students in elementary and middle school understand how the cardiovascular system is affected by diet and exercise. The app features a character named Ragnar that students must diagnose then help develop a plan to live a healthier life. Sabba Quidwai wrote an extensive review of the app here.  

Arthur Family Health is a free resource from PBS Kids. Arthur Family Health is designed to help parents, teachers, and students learn about common health challenges children face. Through videos, games (online and offline), and data sheets visitors to Arthur Family Health can learn about asthma, allergies, nutrition, fitness, and resilience (dealing with tragedies).

Learn Chinese with Pleco

This is a guest post from Jennifer Carey (@TeacherJenCarey) of EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

In the last few years, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) has become a prominent language in American Classrooms. As learning Chinese requires not only learning the spoken word, but learning a new text and character system, touch screen tools have become incredibly helpful in teaching students how to craft Chinese characters.

EdTechTeacher Pleco Source: Pleco

One of the best, free tools for students learning Chinese is Pleco, available in both Pleco iOS and Android Pleco. The free dictionary includes over 100,00 entries that are updated regularly. Students can look up words by Chinese characters, Pinyin (spaces and tones), or English and can even hand-write characters to look up information. Students can also cross-reference words by looking up character components and breaking down words into individual characters. Students can also use the Touch to Speak system to hear word pronunciation and sample sentences.

In addition to numerous free resources, there are several add-on purchases, including higher quality text to speech options, Document Reader with OCR recognition (you can upload content with your phone’s camera), and flash card creation. This is an excellent tool to add to your Chinese language learning toolbox.

For more tools to support student learning, EdTechTeacher has recently updated the App Recommendations on their web site.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Max is worn out by Thanksgiving.
Good evening from Orange, Connecticut where I'm spending time with family friends after Thanksgiving. If you celebrated Thanksgiving this week, I hope that it was fun and restful time for you.







Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 3 Good Tools for Creating Rubrics
2. 11 TED-Ed Videos on How the Human Body Works
3. How to Use Weebly & YouTube to Create a Video Blog Series
4. Three Ways to Share Bundles of Links With Students
5. Create Motivational Posters and Cards on Big Huge Labs
6. Print Posters With Almost Any Printer
7. Explore Petra in Google Maps

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.
AlfaTyping offers great, free typing lessons for kids. 
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.
Lesley University offers online education programs for teachers. 
Southeastern University offers online M.Ed programs.

An Overlooked YouTube Feature

YouTube contains many useful features that are frequently overlooked. One of those features is using your YouTube channel to store videos even if you don't make them public. Another overlooked aspect of YouTube is that it can serve as a file conversion tool for some video formats.

When you upload videos to YouTube you don't have to make them public. Since YouTube doesn't limit how many files you can upload, you can use your YouTube channel to simply store your video files for free. When you need the files, you can download them at anytime.

Occasionally, you may have a video file that you need converted to MP4. In that case, upload it to your YouTube channel. Once it has been uploaded and processed, you should be able to download it as an MP4. I recently did this with an AVI file.

Check out the screenshots below to see how to download your files from YouTube. (This only works with videos that you own and are in your YouTube account).
Click image for full size.
Click image for full size. 

I'll be sharing many more tips and tricks like this one in my upcoming workshop at the Ed Tech Teacher Google Jamboree in Medfield, Massachusetts. Please join us, it is going to be fun!

Winter Around the World - A Collaborative Student Project

As we head into winter in the northern hemisphere, Shannon Miller has a launched a global, collaborative project for students. Winter Around the World is an effort to collect stories, pictures, poems, and songs about winter. The submissions will be organized into a Google Slides presentation and then assembled into an ebook. The project is open students of all ages.

Applications for Education
Winter Around the World could provide a great way for students to see a different perspective on winter. My students associate snow and cold with winter while other students might not ever see snow during their winter seasons. Beyond the visual differences, students participating in Winter Around the World could learn about the activities that are popular during winters in different parts of the world.

The deadline for submissions to Winter Around the World is December 1st. If that deadline is too tight for your classroom, consider creating your winter around the world project with the teachers you are connected to through social media.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Fun App for Learning to Identify Plants and Animals

Earlier this week I shared a couple of apps designed to help you get your students involved in learning about nature by going outside and documenting their observations. It's not always practical to get outside. Your geography will also limit the number of plants and animals students can see on a walking tour of your school grounds and their neighborhoods. Therefore, I want to introduce another app for learning about nature.

Classify It! is a free iPad app designed to help elementary school and middle school students learn to classify plants and animals. In the app students are given a question and shown a selection of plants and animals. Respond to the question students have to correctly identify the plants and animals that answer the question. For example, on the second level of the game students are asked to identify the animals that are mammals and they then have to select the mammals from a gallery of pictures. If students need help understanding the question or prompt on a level, they can tap the question mark icon to receive a bit of clarification.

Creature Cards provide an incentive to students to complete each level of Classify It! with 100% accuracy. When students complete a level with 100% accuracy they receive Creature Cards. Creature Cards are essentially trading cards that feature a plant or animal picture along with some information about it. Students can make as many attempts as they need in order to complete a level with 100% accuracy.

25 Guides to Teaching U.S. History

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

Over the last couple of years Storyboard That has been steadily expanding their product offerings and their free teacher guides. The teacher guides have been developed by classroom teachers using the Storyboard That services.

The latest set of Storyboard That teacher guides are about U.S. History. A total of 25 U.S. History teacher guides are now available on Storyboard That. The guides are broken into four main eras; pre-Colonial - 1776, Independence to Civil War, Reconstruction to WWII, and post-WWII. You will find units for major events and themes within each era.

Applications for Education
The Storyboard That U.S. History teacher guides make use of the free and premium aspects of Storyboard That. Even if you don't have access to the premium features, you can still glean some good ideas from these guides. For example, the guide to teaching Federalism includes some excellent visuals that could be the basis for creating your own comparison charts. The visuals on the Constitutional Convention provide a good summary of the proposed plans of governance. The essential questions listed with each guide are excellent for facilitating classroom conversations.

Three Ways to Share Bundles of Links With Students

Trying to get all of your students to the same set of websites at the same time can be a frustrating experience for you and for them. Just a mis-typed character or two can create a frustrating experience for everyone in the room. One way to avoid this situation is to post all of your links on one course webpage or in a blog post. Another solution is to use a link bundling service that will group all of your links together into one package. Then instead of sending out a bunch of individual links you can just send one link that will open all of the bundled links for your students. Here are three services that you can use for just that purpose.

LinkBunch is a free service that you can use to quickly send a group of links to your friends, colleagues, and students. To use the service just visit LinkBunch, enter the links that you want to share, and click "Bunch." When you click on "Bunch" you will be given a URL to share with anyone you want to see the links in your bunch. When someone clicks on the URL for your Bunch he or she will be able to open the links you bunched together.

Bitly is one URL shortener that I have been using for years. It's simple to use, especially if you use the bookmarklet, allows you to customize URLs, and it offers good statistics about the use of your links. Bitly offers an option for bundling bookmarks into one package that you can share with just one link. Bitly bundles can be created collaboratively if you invite other Bitly users to bundle links with you. The nice thing about Bitly is that you can view how many times a link has been used. So if you have 25 students and the link has only been used 20 times, you know that at five students aren't where you need them to be.

FatURL is a handy little tool to use when you need to share a group of links to someone. To share a group of links through FatURL just copy and paste or type URLs into the bundle box. You can add comments to each link. After creating your bundle hit the share button to send it.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Quick Reminder About Google's Advanced Search Menu

This evening on the FreeTech4Teachers Facebook page someone made the comment that Google removed the advanced search tools. That is not true. The reading level refinement tool is gone, but the rest of the advanced search tools are still available. To access the advanced search menu conduct an initial search then open the gear icon in the upper, right corner of the screen. See my screenshot below for an explanation.
Click image to view full size. 

5 Good Tools for Creating Visual Stories of Thanksgiving (Or any other gathering of friends and family)

The holiday season is full of family photo opportunities. My brothers and I took a bunch of pictures throughout our Thanksgiving Day today. If you're reading this blog there's a good chance that you and your students did the same (according to Google Analytics more than 80% of readers are in the U.S.). Those pictures can tell a story of your day and or of your family. The following tools are great for telling stories with pictures.

Thematic is a simple service designed for creating and sharing picture stories. Thematic allows you to display up to twenty pictures organized around a theme of your choosing. You can add a line or two of text to each image in your story. Your completed story is displayed in a vertically scrolling format with each of your images occupying all of the available space in your browser. Completed stories can be shared publicly or kept private. Each public story can be shared via Twitter, Facebook, email, or embedding into a webpage. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to create a story on Thematic.



Earlier this year Adobe released a free iPad app called Adobe Slate. Adobe Slate is a free app that you can use to create image-based stories. Last month Adobe launched a browser-based version of Adobe Slate. The browser-based version of Adobe Slate is designed to help you create a visual story from the pictures on your desktop, from the web through a built-in Creative Commons search tool, from an Adobe online account, or from a Dropbox account. You start your story by importing a cover picture and writing story title. You then add pictures one-by-one and write captions for each. You can also write headlines for each image. One convenient feature of Adobe Slate is that the integrated image search tool will import Creative Commons attributions with the images you select. Adobe Slate has a dozen or so filters or themes that you can apply to your story. Completed stories can be published online through a variety of channels including Adobe’s platform, Facebook, or Twitter. Stories can also be embedded into a blog post.

Buncee is a nice tool that students can use to create multimedia stories. Students can use Buncee in the web browser on their computers or they can use Buncee's free iPad app to create multimedia stories. On Buncee students can create a visual story that is unveiled as a viewer scroll across the page. Buncee stories can also be set to play automatically when they are viewed. Students create their Buncee stories by adding custom background templates to Buncee slides. To each template students can add animations, pictures, text, drawings, and videos. Buncee provides a large gallery of media that students can use in their stories. Additionally, students can import media from their computers, from YouTube, from Vimeo, from Dropbox, from SoundCloud, and from Gooru. Completed Buncee projects can be viewed online and or saved as PDFs.


PicCollage is my go-to iPad and Android app for creating multimedia collages. It is a free app that allows you to quickly arrange pictures, video, text, and stickers into collages. From the app you can share your collage to Google Drive, Instagram, Facebook, Dropbox, and many other file sharing services. You can also simply save your collage to your tablet's camera roll. A video tutorial on PicCollage is embedded below.


PicMonkey is a web-based tool for creating image collages. If you import your PicMonkey collage into ThingLink you can create a multimedia collage. I demonstrate that process in the video embedded below.

A Musical Thanksgiving Tradition

It's 12pm on the east coast. This is the time that many radio stations play Arlo Guthrie's classic song, Alice's Restaurant. The story of the song can be found here and here. Happy listening!

A Fun and Educational Family Activity to do After Thanksgiving Dinner

The traditional picture of an American home after the Thanksgiving meal includes people sitting around and chatting and or watching football. This year, StoryCorps wants people to take a moment to record a conversation with an older family member. The Great Thanksgiving Listen is an initiative intended to facilitate conversations between students and adult family members over Thankgiving weekend. Use the StoryCorps mobile apps to capture the conversations. The StoryCorps mobile apps includes question prompts and a suggested script for conducting interviews.

TED-Ed and StoryCorps collaborated to produce the following video to explain the importance of recording oral history.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Get Outside With These Educational Apps

This coming Friday typically marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season here in the U.S. While many retailers open early and offer discounted items, my favorite retailer REI is staying closed and encouraging people to go outside and play. And I'm going to do just that. If you're looking for a way to conduct an educational activity outdoors this weekend or in the future, take a look at the following two apps.

iNaturalist is a community website for sharing pictures and observations of plants and animals. To enable easy sharing of observations, iNaturalist offers a free Android app and a free iOS app. Using the apps you can take a picture, geo-locate it, write your observations, and upload to the iNaturalist community. If your observation is incomplete, for example if you're not sure of a scientific name, you can ask the community to add comments to improve the recording of your observation. If you don't want to join the iNaturalist community, you can simply explore members' observations through the iNaturalist Google Map.

Project Noah is designed to get your students outside and recording observations of nature. Project Noah is a globally collaborative project to which anyone can contribute. On Project Noah you can share pictures and stories of the plants and the animals that you observe in your neighborhood. Project Noah has a section titled Missions in which you can find projects that you can contribute to. The Missions ask people to make contributions of images and observations about a specific animal, plant, or region. Check out the squirrel mission to get started.

The National Archives Mobile Apps Offer a Daily Glimpse at U.S. History

National Archives Today's Document feed is a good place to find primary source documents to spark discussion in your classroom. Everyday Today's Document features a new image or document from the archives. The documents are usually accompanied by some additional research links and lesson plan resources.

The same content found in the browser-based version of the Today's Document feed can be viewed in the Android and iOS Today's Document apps. With the mobile app you can select any day of the year to find out what significant things happened in US History on that day. You can also select “random” to have a random document or image appear. The mobile app provides the same background information that you can find online.

Applications for Education
The National Archives Today's Document feed is one that I've followed since the days of Google Reader. I've used the items in the feed as the basis for quick "this day in history lessons." I've also bookmarked many of the documents and pictures in the feed to include as part of larger lessons in U.S. history. For example, years ago I bookmarked a letter from Upton Sinclair to Theodore Roosevelt and used it in a lesson about labor conditions at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Gooru - Thousands of Resources for Online Lessons

Gooru is a free service for locating and organizing collections of educational resources to use in math, science, social studies, and language arts lessons. I've been following the service since its launch a few years ago. Over the years new features have been steadily added to Gooru.

The latest features added to Gooru include new ways to add content to classes in your Gooru account. You can now add content to your courses from either all of your saved resources or from a specific collection within your saved resources. Click here to learn more about how to add content to a course.

You can watch overviews of the Gooru website and iPad apps in the playlist embedded below.



Applications for Education
Gooru makes it easy to create collections of videos, images, and interactive websites to use as part of a flipped lesson. Being able to add quiz questions for students to answer as they go through one of the units you've created is the feature of Gooru that I like best. By having students answer as they go through the collection I can get a sense of what I need to spend more or less time covering in my classroom.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Explore Petra in Google Maps

Google's Street View imagery is continuously expanding. The latest update takes us to Jordan where we can virtually explore the ancient city of Petra. Much of the imagery used in the new Street View imagery was captured by placing the Street View Trekker camera. Take a quick tour of the imagery by watching the video below.


The latest update to Street View imagery isn't limited to Petra. Other historic sites in Jordan are included in the new Street View imagery. The imagery includes Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea. Click here for the complete collection of Jordan Street View imagery.

Applications for Education
Much like the Street View imagery of other UNESCO world heritage sites, the new Street View imagery of Petra allows students to virtually explore a place that can't be done by simply flipping through pictures in a book or on a website.

A Brief History of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

On Thursday morning millions of Americans will watch the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  If you and or your students are curious about how this tradition started and how it has evolved, Macy's has the answers for you. Macy's Parade History offers a short timeline with video clips explaining the history of the parade. On the same site you will also find pictures from past parades as well as a map of the parade route.

History offers the following short video about the history of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Geography, Geology, a Myth, and a Search Challenge

Over the years I've written a bunch of posts about creating search challenges for students (find three here, here, and here). I like to use image-based search challenges as a way to introduce students to a variety of search strategies and tools. The latest search challenge that I've developed involves a bit of geography, geology, and folklore.

The challenge set-up.
1. I share the following two pictures.


2. I ask students to find the camel in the second picture.
3. The search challenge is to find out which mythological person rode that camel.
4. Students are asked to identify the connections between the camel and the shoe.
5. Students have to explain how the camel in the picture was actually formed.

The challenge explanation.
If you want to use this challenge with your students, feel free to do so. Click on the pictures to enlarge them and then download them in full size.

1. The camel is outlined in the picture below.

2. Students need to think about mythology beyond the usual Greek mythology that they tend to default to. The picture should give students a clue or two that this "camel" isn't in a typical environment for a myth or folklore involving a camel. They should rule out stories that center on a camel in a desert environment. Eliminating those stories will narrow the list of possibilities.

The camel is actually at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

3. Once students figure out where the camel is located, they should be able to discover that the camel is part of the story of Finn McCool (also written as Fionn MacCoul or Fionn mac Cumhaill).

4. The shoe is representative of Finn McCool's shoe that, according to the folklore, he lost while fleeing from the wrath of Scottish giant, Benandonner.

5. The camel is actually a basaltic dyke.

3 Good Tools for Creating Rubrics

A good rubric can help students understand what is expected of them and it can help teachers score students' assignments consistently. Over the years I've tried a variety of tools for crafting rubrics. The first ones I created were done by hand on a photocopied grid (late 90's at the University of Maine, Farmington) and in Word Perfect documents. These are the tools that I now recommend for generating rubrics.

The old, reliable. 
How long has Rubistar been around? Long enough that I was using it before I started this blog in 2007. Rubistar is a rubric creation tool offered by 4teachers.org. On Rubistar you can select from a variety of pre-made rubrics and modify them to your needs or you can use the pre-made rubrics as they are.

New, quick & easy.
Quick Rubric is a free tool for writing, editing, and printing rubrics. On Quick Rubric you can create a rubric that is tailored to your points/ scoring system, the quantity of descriptors that you need, and utilizes the exact language that you specify. You can save as many rubrics as you like in your free Quick Rubric account. You can copy and modify rubrics your account so that you don't always have to start from scratch when creating a new assignment rubric.



For the Google Apps users.
Online Rubric is a Google Spreadsheets Add-on that enables to you create rubrics, enter scores, and email scores to students all from one place. Online Rubric provides very clear instructions for each step of the processes of creating a roster sheet, creating a rubric, and emailing grades to students.



Disclosure: Quick Rubric is owned by the same company that produces Storyboard That, an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

7 Holiday Flying Tips & Tricks

Thanksgiving in the U.S. is just a couple of days away. This marks the unofficial start of the holiday travel season in the U.S. I've been fortunate to speak at enough conferences and schools over the last few years that I've averaged more than 100,000 air miles every year. In other words, I've picked up a few tips to make flying a little less stressful. At this time last year a friend and former colleague asked me to share my top tips for reducing airline travel stress. Here are my top seven tips.

1. Check-in online as soon as possible. Most airlines let you check-in for a flight 24 hours in advance. If you don't have a pre-assigned seat and you want a chance at getting the best seat possible for your fare class (there are different fare classes beyond just coach or first), check-in early. Be aware that some airlines charge a fee if you don't check-in online.

2. Get there early! This is obvious, but it cannot be stressed enough.  Other than the holidays, summer is the busiest leisure travel time which means there are lots of people in the security lines who are unfamiliar with the process. Unless you have TSA Pre-Check or elite status on an airline, be prepared for long security lines. My friend Jess reported that the security line at Bradley International (Hartford, Connecticut) took more than an hour last weekend.

3. Plan for delays and cancellations. Even if it is bright and sunny at your home and at your destination, there can be delays to your flights. Before you get to the airport look at alternate flights to your destination that are available on your airline. You can do this by doing a dummy booking on the airline's website (stop before the field asking for your credit card). Write down those flight numbers and keep them handy in case of significant delay or cancellation. This will save the airline agent time and relieve a bit of your stress if you know what your options are.
Remember this when delays and cancellations occur; the airlines don't like delays any more than you do. The gate agents, flight attendants, and phone agents are probably more stressed out by the delay than you are. Getting huffy with them and saying things like "I'll never fly this airline again" won't help you or anyone else. (Insider info: Most flight attendants don't get paid for time on the ground when the aircraft door is open).

4. Know your airline's reservations desk phone number. When your flight gets delayed or cancelled you will have to wait in line to see an airline agent. Get on the phone with the airline's reservation desk while you're waiting in line. Often you will get through on the phone before you get to the front of an airport line. Give the phone agent the alternate flight numbers that you found before you left your house.

5. Bring a small power strip and make friends. There are never enough outlets to go around in an airport terminal. Bring a small power strip (I found one at Walmart that has four outlets with a one foot cord) and then you only need to find one outlet to charge your phone and those of your friends, family, or strangers.

6. Join the airline's frequent flyer program. Even if you only fly once a year, join the frequent flyer program. You can use the miles for things other than flights. For example, I only fly on United and Delta when US/ American doesn't fly to where I'm going. I collect miles from those trips and have used them for magazine subscriptions, gift cards, and even "bought" a coffee maker through frequent flyer miles.

7. Pack snacks. If you're traveling with small children, you probably have this covered. For the rest of us, it's a good reminder. I always pack a Clif Bar or two in my laptop bag. It's amazing what a couple of hundred calories can do for your mood during a flight delay.

Bonus tip for the nervous flyers: I was once a very nervous flyer too. That changed once I realized that the pilots want to land safely just as much as I do. Pilots won't fly unless they feel safe. Those sounds you hear the plane making, they're normal.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Drag and Drop Files from Your Desktop to Google Drive

Dragging and dropping files within Google Drive has been an available for feature for quite a while. I frequently use that feature to organize files in my folders. Now you can drag and drop files from your desktop directly into your Google Drive.

As long as you are using the latest version of Chrome or Firefox, you can drag files from your desktop to your Google Drive account. This removes the need for the manual upload step.

Applications for Education
This update to Google Drive could be handy when students are creating files outside of Google Drive that they want to store and share through Google Drive. For example, if students have made videos using iMovie on their MacBooks they can share those videos by dragging the from their desktops to their Google Drive accounts.

Last-minute Availability in Getting Going With GAFE

Tomorrow evening at 7pm Eastern Time we will have the first meeting of my popular online course Getting Going With GAFE (Google Apps for Education). Registration is still open and a handful of seats are available.

Getting Going With GAFE is a Practical Ed Tech five week webinar series designed for teachers and administrators who are new to using Google Apps for Education. In Getting Going With  GAFE you will learn everything you need to know to integrate Google Drive, Google Classroom, Google Calendar, and Google Sites into your practice.

Getting Going With GAFE costs $147. Three graduate credits are available for the course through my partnership Midwest Teachers Institute and Calumet College of St. Joseph. Graduate credits require an additional fee and completion of weekly assignments.

Course dates:
November 24, December 1, 8, 15, and 22nd. All classes meet online at 7pm Eastern Time. All classes are recorded.

Click here to register for the webinar series.

Print Posters With Almost Any Printer

Last night I published a post that featured a poster of explanations of common logical fallacies. This morning I received an email from a reader who wanted to know if there was a way for her to print the poster. My suggestion was to try using the Block Posters website.

Block Posters is a web-based tool to which you can upload a high quality graphic then divide it into letter-sized chunks for printing. Print out each section and put them together on a poster board to make your own poster.

Applications for Education
If you find a great infographic or poster that you want to display in your classroom, Block Posters could be a great tool for you to use. Want to create a giant jigsaw puzzle? Block Posters could be useful for that. Or if you have students create their own infographics that they want to display, you can print them out with Block Posters.

Explore Online Content with InstaGrok

This is a guest post from Jennifer Carey (@TeacherJenCarey) of EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

One of the most challenging things to tackle in education today is the glut of information that is available to students right in their pocket! With a few swipes, students can come up with thousands of resources; however, evaluating all of those sources serves as a challenge for students. Enter, instaGrok. InstaGrok is a search engine that brings together information in the form of an interactive mind-map, including text, videos, and more. It is available for free online, iOS App, and Android App.


After entering a query, instaGrok creates an interactive mind-map on the topic including multiple sources. Each node builds off of the subsequent one, giving students a visual idea of how concepts and ideas connect. When students select a source from instaGrok, it guides them through a process to help them vet their source by asking a series of questions about the author, publisher, website, and more. When they are finished building their Grok, students can share via email, link, Social Media, and even embed it onto a webpage. Check out this Grok I built on Project Based Learning:


Project Based lLearning | Learn about project based learning on instaGrok, the research engine

Students can also keep a journal in their Grok and test themselves with quizzes designed by the Grok engine. InstaGrok is a great way for students to begin exploring online content and learning how to vet various sources.

Looking to learn more about research or Project Based Learning? EdTechTeacher will be hosting their first Innovation Summit in San Diego, February 1-3, 2016.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Videos and Poster Explaining Logical Fallacies

When teaching current events courses, I always begin with lessons about about recognizing bias, propaganda, and logical fallacies. There are two good resources that I like that can help students understand logical fallacies.

The Guide to Common Fallacies is a series of short videos from the PBS Idea Channel. Each video covers a different common fallacy. The fallacies are Strawman, Ad Hominem, Black and White, Authority, and No True Scotsman. I have embedded the playlist below.



Your Logical Fallacy Is is a website that provides short explanations and examples of twenty-four common logical fallacies. Visitors to the site can click through the gallery to read the examples. Your Logical Fallacy Is also provides free PDF poster files that you can download and print.

11 TED-Ed Videos on How the Human Body Works

Last winter I started a playlist of TED-Ed video lesson about how the human body works. I started the playlist because I wanted a list that was a bit more refined than what I was finding on the TED-Ed website. The playlist started with five videos and is now up to eleven videos covering topics like how the lungsheart, and liver work. The complete playlist is embedded below.



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

How to Use Weebly & YouTube to Create a Video Blog Series

Earlier this fall ago I published a post about creating video blog entries on Blogger. Last week someone asked me how his students could do the same thing through Weebly. The process for creating a video blog series on Weebly isn't quite as simple as it is on Blogger, but it is still a straight-forward process. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create a video blog with Weebly and YouTube.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Create Motivational Posters and Cards on Big Huge Labs

Big Huge Labs offers a great collection of free tools for creating digital products with your pictures. Some of the tools that they offer include motivational poster creators, magazine cover creators, and trading card templates.

The Trading Card generator that allows you to create trading cards about people, places, and events both real and fictional. To create your card you simply upload a picture or import one from Flickr, Instagram, or Facebook then add some text details about the person featured in the card.

Applications for Education
There are a lot of ways that educators and students could use the free products offered by Big Huge Labs. The magazine cover generator could be used by students as the cover page to a biography or autobiography writing assignment. The poster templates could be used to create posters about classroom rules. The badge template could be useful for the first days of school for students and teachers to learn each other's names and express some personality at the same time.

The Big Huge Labs Trading Card generator could be used by students is to create a set of trading cards about characters in a novel, to create a set of cards about people of historical significance, or to create cards about places that they're studying in their geography lessons.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Good morning from Maine where I'm starting to prepare for Thanksgiving by going to the grocery store for the cranberry sauce and ingredients to bake the rolls that my sister-in-law has requested I bring this year. In this week-in-review I want to say thank you to everyone who has followed and shared my blog over the years. Next week will be the seventh anniversary of Free Technology for Teachers. I couldn't have kept it going without all of you. Thank you.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Good Typing Instruction and Practice Sites for Kids
2. 10 Good Resources for Geography Awareness Week
3. Three Good Ways to Use All Those Pictures Students Take
4. Padlet iPhone App Now Available - 5 Ways to Use Padlet in School
5. Three Activities for Geography Awareness Week
6. Frequently Overlooked Google Search Tools and Strategies
7. Tools for Creating Animations in Your Browser or On Your Tablet

There are still some seats available in my popular online course Getting Going With GAFE. The course starts on November 24th and runs for five weeks. There is an option to earn three graduate credits for completing the course. Click here to learn more.


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.
AlfaTyping offers great, free typing lessons for kids. 
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.
Lesley University offers online education programs for teachers. 
Southeastern University offers online M.Ed programs.

Sketch Nation Introduces Kids to Programming Ideas Through Game Creation

Sketch Nation is a free service that students can use to create their own simple video games.

Through the Sketch Nation platform students can develop their own games by selecting a game template then customizing it to their preferences. To develop their customized games students draw backgrounds and characters. Alternatively, students can import pictures to use as backgrounds and characters. In the advanced editor students can customize the actions within a game.

Sketch Nation works on iPads, on Android tablets, and in any modern web browser on your laptop.

Applications for Education
Sketch Nation isn't as robust as platforms like Scratch, but it does provide students with a nice introduction to some of the concepts of programming and game design. Click here for examples of teachers using Sketch Nation in their classrooms.

Thanks to David Kapuler for sharing Sketch Nation.