Google
 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Global Forest Change Explorer - Trends in Deforestation

The Global Forest Change Explorer is a new Google Maps product that provides visualizations of patterns in global deforestation. The Global Forest Change Explorer was developed in conjunction with Science in the Classroom and Dr. Matt Hansen of the University of Maryland.

On the Global Forest Change Explorer you can view patterns in deforestation and explore causes of deforestation. The map has three basic sections that you can explore. Those sections are countries, ecosystems, and hotspots. The hotspots section includes questions for students to investigate to discover the cause of deforestation in that location.

Applications for Education
The Global Forest Change Explorer offers a set of basic research questions for students to investigate. That question sheet can be downloaded as a PDF.

The Global Forest Change Explorer is a good example of the type of data that can be visualized in Google Maps. Students can use Google's My Maps in Google Drive to create their own visualizations of other data sets for things like erosion patterns, drought patterns, or changes in availability animal habitat. My playlist of Google Maps tutorials is embedded below.

The Month in Review - The Most Popular Posts

It's the end of the month and as I do every month I have compiled a list of the most frequently read posts of the last 31 days. May seemed to zip along quickly. This list offers an easy way to quickly see interesting and useful posts that you might have missed.

Here are the most popular posts from May, 2016:
1. 10 Sites and Apps for Vocabulary and Spelling Practice
2. Create an Interactive Video Summary of the School Year
3. A Fun Tool for Making Word Clouds in Fun Shapes
4. 12 Tools for Creating End-of-Year Review Activities
5. Great Tools for Creating Screencasts - A PDF Handout
6. 7 Tools for Creating Flowcharts, Mind Maps, and Diagrams
7. More Than 100 Sets of Primary Source Documents for Students
8. How to Blend Images in Google Slides
9. 10 Ways to Use Adobe Spark in School
10. 4 Google Apps Updates You Might Have Missed Last Week

Spring and Summer PD Opportunities With Me
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.
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.
FrontRow offers adaptive online ELA and Math practice activities.  
Teach n Go is a comprehensive platform for teaching online courses.
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.
Buncee offers a great tool for creating visual stories.

The Three Most Common Searches on Free Technology for Teachers

Every month I take a look at the most popular posts of the month. At the same time I look at the search terms that visitors enter most often on Free Technology for Teachers. This month the three most frequently searched terms were "random name selector," "kahoot," and "photos for class." Below I have assembled some resources about each of those terms.

Random name selector:
On Russel Tarr's Classtools.net you can find lots of great tools for your classroom. The Random Name Picker and the Fruit Machine are two of those tools that can be used in almost every classroom setting. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use both of those tools.


Flippity has a template for creating a random name picker in Google Sheets. You can learn how to use that template in the video that you see embedded below.



Kahoot:
In April Kahoot released a new team mode. The team mode is designed to be used with students who are sharing computers, tablets, or phones. In team mode students arrange themselves in teams around a shared computer or tablet. When you start a Kahoot game you'll now choose "team mode." With team mode selected your students will be prompted to enter a team name and a list of the team members. After the teams have entered their names you will be ready to start the game. One of the nice features of team mode is that students have time to discuss their answer choices before they are allowed to submit a response. From there the game is played and scored as any other Kahoot game is scored.

Kahoot's ghost mode essentially gives students the opportunity to play a Kahoot review game against themselves. In ghost mode students measure their progress against themselves. First, run a Kahoot game as you normally would. At the end of the game select "ghost mode" to run the game again. In ghost mode students play against their own scores from the previous game. Then when you run the game students will be competing against the "ghost" version of themselves from the previous running of the game. For example, I play a game as a student in the first running of a game then in the second running of the game I'll be competing against my previous score as well as those of my classmates.

One of the features of Kahoot that I frequently demonstrate in my workshops is the option to duplicate and edit quizzes that teachers have contributed to the public Kahoot quiz gallery. Duplicating and editing existing quizzes can save you a lot of time when you need to find a quick review activity for your students. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to find, duplicate, and edit quizzes in Kahoot's public quiz gallery.



Photos for Class:
Photos for Class is a free site that helps students find Creative Commons licensed images. The images that they download from Photos for Class come with attribution information embedded into the footer of the image. In the short video below I demonstrate how easy it is to find pictures through Photos for Class.


You can put the the Photos for Class search engine in your own blog or website. The video embedded below offers a demonstration of that process.


Disclosure: Photos for Class is owned by the same company that runs Storyboard That, an advertiser on this blog. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

How to Save Space and Time When Using Images in Your Blog

Whenever I publish a new blog post, I include an image in the post. Including an image helps draw readers in and it helps grab attention when it is shared on places like Pinterest and Facebook.

Folks who blog frequently may find it tiresome to look for new images all the time. Likewise, in a shared classroom blog setting your students may be pressed for time to find good quality public domain or Creative Commons images for every post. In a shared blog setting you may also find that you start to run out of storage space when every student uploads a bunch of high resolution images. 

In the video embedded below I demonstrate an easy way to re-use images from your Blogger or WordPress blog. 


In the video I mention that you should avoid hotlinking another blog's or website's images. This blog post explains what hotlinking is and why you should avoid it.

Learn more tips and tricks like this while earning graduate credits in my online course Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders

A Large Collection of Free eTextbooks for High School & College Students

Bookboon is a service that offers free etextbooks to high school and college students. The textbook section of Bookboon offers more than 500 digital textbooks. On Bookboon there are etextbooks available in ten core subject areas with additional subtopics with each subject area. The bulk of the etextbooks are focused on economics, engineering, and IT. You can browse the title lists to find a book you want or you can search Bookboon by keyword. Bookboon hosts books written in five languages. All of the books are free to download. The only catch is that you have to provide an email address before you can download the books.

Applications for Education
Bookboon's books are targeted to university students, but that doesn't mean that some of the books couldn't be used with high school students. And since the books are free it wouldn't hurt to download one that you think might work for your class and use excerpts of it to supplement other materials that you are already using in your classroom.

Rubrics for Assessing Wikis, Blogs, Podcasts, and Digital Portfolios

The University of Wisconsin, Stout has organized a nice collection of rubrics for assessing digital projects. In the collection you will find rubrics for assessing student blogging, student wikis, podcasts, and video projects. Beyond the rubrics for digital projects there are rubrics for activities that aren't necessarily digital in nature. For example, you can find rubrics for writing, research, and oral presentations.

Applications for Education
These rubrics might not fit perfectly with the projects you're students are working on, but they could provide a good starting point for creating your own rubrics. Perhaps you could show the rubric you're considering to your students and ask them for their input as to what they think is important to be evaluated in their projects.

A Fun Tool for Making Word Clouds in Fun Shapes

Although their popularity seems to have fallen a bit since their peak a few years ago, word cloud generators still provide students with a nice way to visualize the most frequently used words in a passage of text. Wordle is probably the best known tool for making word clouds, but there are plenty of others that accomplish the same thing. One such tool is WordClouds.com.

On WordClouds.com you can create word clouds in a variety of shapes and sizes with a wide array of color schemes. As you can see in the image below, I made my word cloud into the shape of a cat.

WordClouds.com works like other word cloud generators in that you simply paste a chunk of text into text editor then let the generator do the work of creating the word cloud. You can remove words like "the" and "it" from the word cloud. Finished word clouds can be downloaded from WordClouds.com in JPG, PNG, PDF, or SVG format.

Google Docs users will be happy to know that they can create word clouds within their documents. Watch the following video to learn how to do that.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

What Connects These Things? - A Search Lesson

Dan Russell has provided the inspiration for many of the web research lessons that I have conducted with students over the years. Every week he posts an interesting search challenge for readers then provides the answers a few days later. The challenges vary in difficulty, but I always learn something from them regardless of how difficult they are. This week he posted a challenge called What's In Common?

The What's In Common? challenge asks you to identify the shared characteristics of two or more pictures, events, and or scenarios. In Dan's post this week he asked readers to find the commonalities between three floods and he asked readers to find the commonalities between three plants.
What do these two have in common besides being dogs?
Applications for Education
What I like about the What's In Common? challenge is that I can make it as easy or as difficult as I need it to be based on my students' current skill levels. For example, I might make one challenge based on reading the content of webpages that students find while searching and make another challenge based on being able to discover and use the meta data in images.

How to Customize Background Scenes in Storyboard That Frames

Earlier this week Storyboard That introduced customizable background scenes for all users. I've had a few emails this week about how to change the colors and other elements in Storyboard That scenes so this morning I created the following short demonstration video.


Applications for Education
Watch this recent webinar recording to learn more about the many ways that Storyboard That can be used in your classroom.


Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on this blog. 

Summer Online PD Opportunities With Me

The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps have sold out, but there are other ways to learn with me this summer. This summer I'm offering three online PD courses for teachers. Two of those courses include a graduate credit option. You can bookmark the menu of courses here or read on for more information.

Getting Going With GAFE

Getting Going With GAFE is a webinar series designed for teachers and administrators who are new to using Google Apps for Education. Getting Going With GAFE is a five week course covering everything you need to know to integrate Google Drive, Google Classroom, Google Calendar, and Google Sites into your practice. Click here to learn more about the course including how to earn 3 graduate credits.

Summer section: July 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th, and August 2nd at 7pm Eastern Time. Click here to register

Blogs & Social Media for Teachers & School Leaders

Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is a five week webinar series during which teachers and school administrators will learn the how to choose the best blogging platform for their situations, how to set-up a blog for classroom and school-wide use, and learn about strategies on how to manage blogs in classroom and school-wide settings. Participants will also learn how to avoid the mistakes that often lead to blogging endeavors being abandoned.  After establishing blogs we’ll jump into using social networks like Twitter, Google+, and Instagram to reach out to parents, students, and other members of school communities. Click here to learn more about the course including how to earn 3 graduate credits.

Summer section dates: July 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, and August 4th at 7pm EST. Click here to register

Teaching History With Technology 

In Teaching History With Technology you will learn how to develop engaging and challenging learning activities through the use tools like Google Earth and Maps, video production tools, primary source databases, and how to help your students become better researchers. This course features three interactive online meetings along with a discussion forum in which you can further interact with me and your classmates. See the course highlights here.

Summer section dates: July 11th, 18th, and 25th at 7pm EST. Click here to register.

Discounts!

Subscribers to the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter can receive a discount on the registration for any or all of these courses by using the code "subscriber" during online registration.

Schedule a private webinar for your school. If you have ten or more teachers from the same district interested in a webinar, I can schedule a course tailored to your needs. To schedule a webinar series for your school send me an email richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com

The Week in Review - A Leisurely Breakfast at Home

Good morning from the Byrne Instructional Media, LLC headquarters in Woodstock, Maine. As I sit on my deck I can tell that it is going to be a beautiful weekend to play and relax in the outdoors. In fact, my dogs and I are going to do just that by going camping this weekend. Before we can do that I have to finish a couple of blog posts and Mason needs to finish his breakfast. As you can see in the picture to the left, he wasn't in a hurry to eat this morning. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you have time to relax just like Mason.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 4 Google Apps Updates You Might Have Missed Last Week
2. 12 Tools for Creating End-of-Year Review Activities
3. 10 Sites and Apps for Vocabulary and Spelling Practice
4. How to Create Images, Videos, and Web Pages With Adobe Spark
5. 10 Ways to Use Adobe Spark in School
6. Interactive Maps of Travel Through the Roman Empire
7. Thousands of Free eBooks for Summer Reading

Spring and Summer PD Opportunities With Me
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.
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.
FrontRow offers adaptive online ELA and Math practice activities.  
Teach n Go is a comprehensive platform for teaching online courses.
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.
Buncee offers a great tool for creating visual stories. 

Friday, May 27, 2016

10 Sites and Apps for Vocabulary and Spelling Practice

Last night I watched the conclusion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. A recap of the finals is available on the Associated Press YouTube channel. Like many others who watched the finals, I have to admit that there were some new-to-me words in the final rounds. That reminded me that I have a bunch of sites and apps in my archives that can help students learn new vocabulary words and practice spelling new words.

Stumpy’s Alphabet Dinner is a fun app in which students feed letters and shapes to cartoon characters. The letters and shapes that students feed to the characters have to match the letter or shape displayed on the character’s stomach. If the child makes an incorrect match the character spits out the letter.

Building Language for Literacy offers three nice little language activities from Scholastic. The activities are designed for pre-K and Kindergarten students. The spelling activity is called  Leo Loves to Spell. Leo Loves to Spell asks students to help a lobster named Leo identify the first letter of a series of spelling words arranged in a dozen categories.

Spell Up is a fun Google Chrome experimentSpell Up is a game in which you hear a prompt to spell a word then have to speak into your laptop or Chromebook to see the word spelled on your screen. If you spell the word correctly it stays on the screen where it becomes part of a tower of words. If you spell a word incorrectly, it will fall off the screen and you will be prompted to try again (you can skip a word after a few tries).

Knoword is a fun and challenging game that tests your ability to match definitions to words. Knoword is played like this; you're presented with the first letter of a word, its part of speech, and the definition. You then have to fill in the correct spelling of the word. If you enter the correct word, you earn points. If you don't get it right, you lose points. You don't have to register to play Knoword, but you can register if you want to. Registering for Knoword gives you the option to keep track of your game statistics. Registered users can also earn badges based on their performances. In the few games that I played I noticed that Knoword is probably best suited to use by students in middle school and high school. I think many of the words would be too difficult for elementary school students and they could end up frustrated with the game.

Your students can test their spelling skills against those of past winners of the Scripp's National Spelling Bee on Vox's Spell It Out challenge. Vox's spelling challenge presents you with the final winning words from twenty past national spelling bees. You will hear the word pronounced then you have to type it in the spelling box to submit your answer. Before submitting your answer you can hear the word used in a sentence and see the origin of the word.

WordWriter is a neat writing tool from BoomWriter. WordWriter allows teachers to create vocabulary lists that they want students to incorporate into a writing assignment. Assignments are distributed directly to students through the class lists that teachers create in their BoomWriter accounts. Students do not need email addresses to receive the assignments. Teachers can log-in at any time to see if and when a student has completed an assignment. Click here for videos on how to use the service.

World’s Worst Pet is a free iPad app that contains a series of fun vocabulary games. In the app players have to help bring home Snargg, the world’s worst pet, who has run away. To get Snargg back players have to fill his food dish by learning new vocabulary words. Each of the six levels in the game contain ten dishes (each dish represents a new set of words) that can be filled. Four games are available for each dish. The games are fill-in-the-blank, synonym identification, antonym identification, and definition identification. World’s Worst Pet is designed for students in grades four through eight. The app contains a total of 1,000 vocabulary words.

PrepFactory is a free service for high school students can use to prepare for the SAT and or ACT. PrepFactory offers students a series of tutorial videos and written tips to help them prepare for both tests. After completing a tutorial students can test themselves in a series of practice questions. Each question set is timed and and limited to chunks of ten questions at a time. Students can earn badges for completing tutorials or question sets. Click here for video of PrepFactory in action.

Spell 'til You Drop is a free iPad published by McGraw-Hill. To play the game students have to correctly spell words as they are read aloud to them. The app gets its name from the game format used throughout the app. For each correctly spelled word students move across a footbridge. For each word spelled incorrectly a piece of the bridge drops away. The object is to cross each bridge before it collapses.Spell 'til You Drop offers eight levels of difficulty for students to play. The levels are loosely based on grade levels. One complaint about the app is that it lacks a QWERTY keyboard. Students who are familiar with QWERTY keyboards may be frustrated by searching for letters in Spell 'til You Drop's letter bank.

Flippity offers a great template for creating spelling practice activities for your students. Using Google Spreadsheets you can create an activity in which students hear a word read aloud then have to type it correctly into a quiz form. Students receive instant feedback on their practice attempts. A demo of the Flippity spelling practice activity is available here.

Disclosure: Prep Factory and Boom Writer are advertisers on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

How to Use Flippity and Flickr to Create Sets of Image-based Writing Prompts

Flippity is a great service that offers a handful of templates for creating flashcards, random name selectors, Jeopardy games, and progress trackers in Google Sheets. This morning I was thinking about ways to create writing prompt generators when I realized that Flippity's flashcard template could be used to create sets of image-based and text-based writing prompts too. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Flippity and Flickr together to create sets of image-based writing prompts.


Applications for Education
One of the biggest challenges that some students face when tasked with writing a fiction story is coming up with an idea to start a story. Flipping through a set of images and text can be a good way to find some inspiration for a story. By creating the set of prompts with images you've selected, you can control the type of images and phrases that your students will see in the writing prompts.

If using Flippity and Flickr seems too difficult, take a look at these resources for more writing prompt generators to use with your students.


The Origin and Meaning of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is on Monday. Here are a couple of quick resources that you may want to include in a lesson about Memorial Day.

The Meaning of Memorial Day is a two minute video covering the origins of the holiday in the United States. The video is embedded below.



The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers the following video overview of the history of Memorial Day.


For more resources for teaching about Memorial Day, visit Larry Ferlazzo's list of resources.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mentimeter Adds a Quiz Option to Their Polling Service

Mentimeter is a nice service that allows you to pose a question to your audience and get instant feedback on that question through cell phones, tablets, and any other Internet-connected device. I reviewed the service a few years ago. Since then Mentimeter has added some more options for teachers.

The latest option added to Mentimeter is a quiz component. Like other quiz game systems, teachers create questions that students have to answer quickly and accurately. Mentimeter gives you the option to show immediate feedback on each question. There is a time limit that you can set for the questions. Students play along by either entering a quiz code on their phones, tablets, or computers or by scanning a QR code that you display to them.

Another neat response option in Mentimeter is the word cloud response. This lets you create an open-ended question for your students to respond to. Their responses are displayed as a word cloud on your screen. Mentimeter includes a profanity filter to preserve a classroom-friendly environment. Again, students join this activity by using a class code or by scanning a QR code.

Applications for Education
Mentimeter, like Socrative and Kahoot, is a good tool for collecting informal feedback from your students. You could use Mentimeter to ask students simple questions like, "do you feel ready for the quiz on Friday?" then use that information to formulate your next lesson plan. Tools like Mentimeter are also good to use as exit ticket systems at the end of a class meeting. Again, you can use the information collected through those exit tickets to influence how you design your next day's lesson plan.

Storyboard That Now Offers Customizable Scenes

Storyboard That has become a popular digital storytelling tool over the last few years. That popularity is due in large part to their response to feature requests from teachers. One of the newest features added to Storyboard That is the option to customize the background scenes in each frame of a storyboard.

Now when you drag a background scene into a frame on Storyboard That you can edit the scene by adjusting the color scheme, by changing the lighting (time of day), and by adding or removing elements from the scene.
Applications for Education
Watch this recent webinar recording to learn more about the many ways that Storyboard That can be used in your classroom.


Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on this blog. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Listening Effectively - Tips from a Student

The head tilt says, "I'm listening."
Last week I stumbled upon an older Life Hacker article about how to improve your listening skills. It's a good article that students should read. After reading the article I did a YouTube search for videos on the topic. I found plenty, but none that I thought were worth sharing here. So I headed over to Next Vista to see if there were any student-produced videos about listening skills. Sure enough there was one.

The following student-produced video explains the LEAP technique for effective listening.


How to Use ReadWorks Digital - Create, Share, & Grade Reading Assignments

A few weeks ago ReadWorks teased the launch of a new platform called ReadWorks Digital. Yesterday, ReadWorks Digital finally launched to general public.

ReadWorks Digital is built upon the popular ReadWorks service for finding articles aligned to grade level, lexile, and Common Core standards. ReadWorks articles are accompanied by reading comprehension questions, vocabulary lists, and discussion questions. The ReadWorks Digital platform makes it easy for you to distribute articles and assignments to students in an online classroom environment. Within ReadWorks Digital teachers can track students' progress on assignments, see responses to questions, and grade students' responses to questions.

In the video embedded below I demonstrate the teacher side and student side of ReadWorks Digital.



Neat Resources for Learning About Yellowstone

This month's issue of National Geographic Magazine is all about Yellowstone National Park. The magazine's website has some excellent articles, videos, and interactive graphics about the animals and geology of the park. Unfortunately, about half of the resources on National Geographic Magazine's website are restricted to people who have paid for a subscription to the magazine. Here are some other free resources for learning about Yellowstone National Park.

PBS offers some excellent videos about Yellowstone. Return of the Wolves examines how and why wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone and the effects of their reintroduction. The Volcano Under Yellowstone takes a look at the geology of the park including the famous geysers.



The USGS in partnership with the University of Utah produces the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory records and publishes data about volcanic activity in Yellowstone National Park. Much of the material on the site is very scientific in nature, but the Observatory website does offer some educational materials accessible to the non-scientist. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory offers videos about the volcanoes of Yellowstone. The Observatory also offers photographic tours of Yellowstone.

Some other good resources for learning about Yellowstone National Park can be found in Google Earth. Turn on the National Geographic and Street View layers to some excellent images from within the park.

In March National Geographic published a great video containing remarkable footage of elk, pronghorn antelope, and mule deer migrations in Yellowstone National Park. The short video describes the length and direction of the migrations made by these beautiful animals. Make sure you turn up the volume to hear the sounds of the elk, mule deer, and pronghorn bleats.

10 Ways to Use Adobe Spark in School

On Tuesday morning I published a video about how to use Adobe's new creative suite called Adobe Spark. That video was focused on how to use the three parts of Adobe Spark; post, page, and video. If you haven't seen the video, it is embedded below.


Now that we know how the tools work, let's take a look at some ways that teachers and students can use Adobe Spark.

Post:
Post is the part of the Adobe Spark that lets you create graphics like posters, announcements, and Internet memes.
  • Students and teachers can create simple posters to print and post in their schools to announce club meetings, campaigns for class elections, or to post encouraging messages to students.
  • To help students understand and show that they understand what propaganda messages look like, I have had them create simple early 20th Century-style propaganda posters of their own. Adobe Spark has built-in Creative Commons search that can help students find pictures to use for those posters. Students can also upload pictures they've found in the public domain.
  • Create a meme-style graphic to share on your classroom, library, or school website. The graphic could be intended to encourage students and parents to remind each other of an upcoming school event. You could also create a meme to encourage students to continue reading over the summer. 
Video:
As the name implies, this is the Adobe Spark tool for creating videos. Videos are created by adding text and images to slides. You can record yourself talking over each slide. A library of free music is available to layer under your narration or you can use that music in lieu of narration.

  • Create a short flipped-lesson with Adobe Spark. The recording tool makes it easy to precisely record your narration over the slides in your lesson. 
  • Have your students create video lessons. The slide aspect of Adobe Spark's video tool lends itself to students creating short Ken Burns-style documentary videos. Have them use Spark's search tool to find images to use in their videos or have them use a place Flickr's The Commons to find historical images. I've had students make this style of video to tell the stories of people moving west across the United States in the 19th Century. 
  • This is the time of year for end-of-school assemblies and celebrations. Use Adobe Spark's video creation tool to make a video of highlights of the school year. Rather than narrating the video you can use music from Adobe Spark's library. 
Page:
Page is the tool for creating simple web pages to showcase pictures, posters, videos, text, and links. 
  • Create an event invitation page. Create a page that outlines the highlights of an upcoming school event like a fundraiser or open house night. Include images of past events, images of prizes, or include a video about the event. Should you need people to register for your event, include a link to a Google Form. (Learn how to use Google Forms).
  • Create a digital portfolio. Spark pages provide a great format for digital portfolios. Students can organize their pages into sections to showcase videos they've made, documents they've written, and their reflections on what they've learned. 
  • Make a multimedia timeline. While it wasn't designed specifically for making timelines, Spark Page's formatting does lend itself to timelines. Ask your students to research a series of events, find media representative of those events, caption the events and media with dates, and then place them into the proper order.
  • Write an image-based story. Students can write a story about themselves by using pictures they've taken placed into a Spark Page. Another way to think about image-based stories is to have students search for images and use them as writing prompts. Ask them to choose five pictures and write a story that connects the images. 

Adobe Spark works in your web browser including on Chromebooks. Adobe Spark is also available as a series of iPad apps for Page, Video, and Post. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thousands of Free eBooks for Summer Reading

A couple of weeks ago I featured the summer reading packs offered by ReadWorks. Those reading packs are a great option for those teachers and students looking for relatively short articles. For those teachers and students in need of longer ebooks, I recommend taking a look at what Zing has to offer.

Zing is a service that offers thousands of free fiction and non-fiction ebooks to teachers and students. On Zing you can browse for books by topic, language, or reading level. You can read the books in your web browser on a laptop or tablet.

Zing is more than just a repository of free ebooks. In the Zing reader students will find a built-in dictionary and tools for taking notes while they read.

Applications for Education
If you create an accounts on Zing you will be able to create Zing classrooms. In those classrooms you can create and manage accounts for students. Through your Zing classroom portal you can check your students' reading logs.

Stackup - Create & Track Reading Goals in Chrome

Stackup is a free service that aims to help you give students credit for time spent reading quality articles online. On Stackup you can create reading challenges for your students. A challenge could be something like "read current events for 60 minutes this week." After creating the challenge you invite students to join it. Students can join by entering a challenge code on Stackup or you can invite them by email. Learn how Stackup works by watching the video embedded below.

How to Create Images, Videos, and Web Pages With Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark is a new suite of free tools for creating images, videos, and simple web pages. The blog-o-sphere was all abuzz about Adobe Spark late last week so I gave it a try too. Adobe Spark can be used in your web browser or you can download the Adobe Spark video, image, and web page iPad apps. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create images, web pages, and videos with Adobe Spark in your web browser.

Key features of Adobe Spark's web app include an integrated Creative Commons image search tool, the option to download images as JPEGs, and the option to download your videos as MP4 files.


Applications for Education
You and your students could use Adobe Spark to create short informational videos. The recording feature in Adobe Spark's video editor makes it very easy to precisely control the audio on each part of your videos.

The Adobe Spark web page tool provides students with a great way to tell stories through pictures. And the image tool provides you with a good way to create a graphic that can grab students' and their parents' attention in a social media posting from you or your school.

Monday, May 23, 2016

12 Tools for Creating End-of-Year Review Activities

This is the time of year that we think about activities that we can do to help students review the school year. At this time of the year I frequently receive requests for suggestions for tools to create review activities. The tools presented in the slides below can be used to create online games, iPad games, video quizzes, and interactive classroom exercises that engage students in reviewing the year's lessons.

Why We Make Irrational Decisions

The Psychology Behind Irrational Decisions is the title of a relatively new TED-Ed lesson that I watched over the weekend. The lesson focuses on the role of heuristics in our decision making processes. Of course, to understand the role of heuristics in making decisions students first need to understand heuristics. The lesson does a good job of defining heuristics for students. The video from the lesson is embedded below.


Applications for Education
A possible extension for this lesson is to have students think about and find examples of how heuristics can influence the statements people make in political discussions.

5 Good Options for Creating End-of-Year Audio Slideshow Videos

Over the last week I have had at least five people ask me for suggestions for a tool to create an audio slideshow video for an end-of-year assembly or similar exercise. The following are the audio slideshow video creation tools that I suggest more than most.

YouTube's audio slideshow creation tool is my first suggestion for people who have Google Accounts to which they have been saving a lot of images. YouTube's audio slideshow creation tool allows users to quickly import batches of images from their Google Drive accounts and or from their Android devices. The tool offers a large collection of Creative Commons licensed music that you can use in your videos. Watch my tutorial embedded below to learn more about how to create an audio slideshow in YouTube.


Stupeflix doesn't require users to register in order to produce a video. Stupeflix could be a good option to use with students who don't have email addresses that they can use in school. Like YouTube's audio slideshow tool, Stupeflix offers a library of free music. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Stupeflix to create a video without registering on the site.


Sharalike is another option to consider when you want to create an audio slideshow. The concept behind Sharalike is much like the one behind YouTube's Slideshow Creator and Stupeflix. To create an audio slideshow on Sharalike simply import some images from your computer, your Android device or from your iPad, drag them into the sequence in which you want them to appear, and then add some music. Sharalike offers a small collection of stock music that you can use or you can upload your own music.


Magisto is a video creation tool that allows you to quickly drag videos and images from your desktop and or Google Drive account to your Magisto account. From the videos you upload, Magisto will select the best portions to remix and blend with images. After you've uploaded the media that you want mixed, select a theme and music for your video. Magisto creates your video after you've completed the steps of uploading media, selecting a theme, and choosing music. The final video is emailed to you. In addition to a web-based tool Magisto offers a Chrome app, a Windows app, an Android app, and an iPad app.


Finally, Animoto is the standard in this category of video creation tool. Animoto offers a web app, an Android app, and an iOS app. All three apps let you quickly add music to a selection of your favorite pictures. You can upload pictures or import them from a number of social networks including Instagram.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Compare & Contrast Map - A Writing Template for Elementary School Students

Read Write Think is a great place to find story starters and interactive writing templates. A good example of that is found on Read Write Think's Compare & Contrast Map.

The Compare & Contrast Map is a template for creating a comparative essay. Using the template students are guided through writing three styles of comparison essays. To get started students identify two things that they wish to compare and or contrast. Then they choose if they want to write a "whole to whole" essay, a "similarities to differences" essay, or a "point to point" essay. Whichever essay type they choose, students are guided through the types of information they should put in each part of their essays. When their essays are complete students can share them via email or print them.

Applications for Education
For younger students who need help formatting an essay, the Read Write Think templates can be very helpful. If you haven't spent much time exploring the resources on Read Write Think's classroom resources page, I encourage you to do so.

Interactive Maps of Travel Through the Roman Empire

If you teach any lessons about the Roman Empire, take a look at ORBIS from Stanford University. ORBIS is Stanford University's Geospatial Network Model of the Roman Empire.

On ORBIS students can calculate the distance and travel times between 751 settlements in the Roman Empire. The calculations happen according to the modes of travel that would have been used during the time of the Roman Empire's greatest height. For example, I calculated the time and cost to travel by foot, wagon, and boat between Roma and Chalcis in March. The calculations include the cost of feeding donkeys along the way.

Click for full size image. 



Applications for Education
While you could certainly have students use Google Earth to map distances between settlements in the Roman Empire, ORBIS is a step above that because students can calculate travel times and distances according the modes of transportation that were available during the Roman Empire.

4 Google Apps Updates You Might Have Missed Last Week

Last week Google released a new product and updated some existing products that are of interest to teachers and students.

Last Monday at the Google I/O conference Google introduced a new product called Spaces. Spaces is a service that lets you create small communities to share links, notes, and pictures. Take a look at my video about Spaces to see how it works.

On Wednesday of last week Google added a new charts feature to Google Slides. You can now import charts made in Google Sheets and display them in your slides. You can also use and modify one of the new charts templates in Google Slides. My video here demonstrates how to use the new charts feature in Google Slides.

Also on Wednesday of last week Google announced some updates to the Google Classroom API. The updated API could lead to more apps integrating with Google Classroom, not the least of which being improved gradebook options through Google Classroom. Learn more about these updates in the explanation that I shared on Thursday.

Finally, Google announced that Android apps can now be developed and published for use on Chromebooks. Beginning in June end-users will be able to add Android apps to the Acer R11, Asus, Flip, and Pixel Chromebooks. Support for running Android apps on other Chromebooks will be added later in the year. The list of supported devices can be seen here.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Week in Review - The Lilacs Have Arrived

Good morning from the temporary Byrne Instructional Media, LLC office in Connecticut. I'm working in Connecticut this morning because I'm down here to see the hooding ceremony for my friend of 20+ years who has just completed her Doctorate of Nursing Practice.

Meanwhile back in Maine the lilacs in my meager garden have started to bloom. Hopefully, we don't get any more snow to cover them as we did briefly on Monday morning.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Create an Interactive Video Summary of the School Year
2. Great Tools for Creating Screencasts - A PDF Handout
3. More Than 100 Sets of Primary Source Documents for Students
4. How to Create a Biking or Walking Route Map in Google Maps
5. How to Create a Google Spaces Community
6. Geopedia - A Map & Wikipedia Mashup
7. How to Create an Interactive Series of Videos

Spring and Summer PD Opportunities With Me
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. 
FreshGrade is a great online digital portfolio tool. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
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.
FrontRow offers adaptive online ELA and Math practice activities.  
Teach n Go is a comprehensive platform for teaching online courses.
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.
Buncee offers a great tool for creating visual stories. 

FreshGrade Helps You Quickly Create Video Slideshows of Your Students' Best Work

While I was preparing my handout on digital portfolios I noticed a cool feature in FreshGrade that is perfect for the end of the school year. In your FreshGrade account you can quickly create video slideshows highlighting your students' best work. To do this simply sign into your FreshGrade account then under the reporting tab select create learning slideshow. Then to create the learning slideshow choose a student's name, choose up to ten images, and then the video slideshow is created for you much like the way that an Animoto video slideshow is created.

Applications for Education
FreshGrade's learning slideshows can be shared directly with your students' parents. This could be a great way to send home a positive note to parents at the end of the school year.

Disclosure: FreshGrade is currently running an advertising campaign on FreeTech4Teachers.com

10 Good Options for Creating Digital Portfolios - A PDF Handout

For the majority of readers of this blog the end of the school year is already here or will be here within a month. This is the time of year that I get a lot of requests for suggestions on digital portfolio tools. If you find yourself looking for a digital portfolio tool and or have colleagues asking for suggestions, take a look at the ten options featured in my PDF handout embedded below or grab the Google Docs copy.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Interview With Colleague 2 Colleague

In August I am keynoting the Colleague 2 Colleague conference in Missouri. As a promotion for the conference, yesterday I was interviewed by the conference chair, Brent Zweifel. The video of the interview is embedded below.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

theLearnia Offers a Good Way to Create Video Lessons

theLearnia is a free service that I reviewed about four years ago when it was primarily a social network built around video lessons. This week I took another look at theLearnia and learned that the site is now focused on helping teachers create video-based lessons.

On theLearnia you can create video lessons up to fifteen minutes in length. Your video lessons can be simple whiteboard style instructional videos or they can be videos based on slides that you either create on theLearnia or upload as PowerPoint files. I gave the service a try this afternoon. I simply uploaded a set of PowerPoint slides then hit the record button to narrate what was shown on my slides. theLearnia also provides tools for drawing on top of your slides and or writing additional text. Videos created on theLearnia are hosted for free and you can share your videos through typical social media channels and or by embedding your video into your blog or website. You can see my test video here.

Applications for Education
theLearnia could be a good way for teachers who already have a bunch of PowerPoint slides to turn those slides into flipped video lessons.

A Crash Course in Physics

On the last day of March Crash Course launched a new series of videos about physics. The series now contains seven videos on friction, integrals, derivatives, Newton's Laws, and motion. The playlist is embedded below.



For some physics lessons that younger students might enjoy, take a look at NASA's Rocket Science 101.

To use these Crash Course videos as part of flipped lesson try EDpuzzle, VideoANT, or VideoNot.es.

Why You and I Should Care About Updates to the Google Classroom API

This week the Google for Education blog published a post that most teachers probably scrolled right past because the first sentence referenced the Google Classroom API. I don't find fault with any teacher who scrolled past the post because most of us aren't developers and aren't going to be developing our own apps to integrate into Google Classroom. But I do want to explain why you might care about the latest update to the Google Classroom API.

This week's Google Classroom API update lets developers build applications that can access assignments, grades, and workflow in Google Classroom. What this means for end-users (teachers and school administrators) is that we could soon see better gradebooks and reporting systems that will eliminate the need to manually transfer grades into or out of the gradebook in Google Classroom.

The update Google Classroom API will also let developers create more seamless integration between their apps and Google Classroom. For example, GeoGebra now fully integrates into Google Classroom. That integration lets teachers add GeoGebra assignments directly into their Classroom streams and lets students submit to you via Classroom their work completed in GeoGebra. Watch the video below to see how that works.

How to Insert & Modify Charts in Google Slides

On Wednesday afternoon Google announced the release of a new feature in Google Slides. The new feature is the option to insert charts and graphs from Google Sheets. You can insert pre-existing charts from your Google Sheets or you can create a new chart or graph from scratch in your Google Slides. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to insert a chart into Google Slides and how to modify the chart.


Applications for Education
Students could use the new charts feature to create representations of data they collected in a research project. They could also use the new charts feature to display representations of data found in the Google Public Data Explorer database.

If you found this video to be helpful, visit my YouTube channel for more than 300 ed tech tools tutorial videos.