Google
 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Month in Review - Heading Home

Good afternoon from an airplane somewhere over upstate New York. I'm my last flight heading from the ISTE 2016 conference. This is also my last flight for a month. June was a fantastically busy month as I had the pleasure and privilege of working with teachers at ten events spread across five states. But now I'm ready to stay home for the next month to play with my dogs, ride my bike, and get ready for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps.

As I do on the last day of every month, I have put together a list of the most popular posts of the last 30 days. This month the most popular post was about Google's new grading tool in Google Forms.

Here are this month's most popular posts:
1. Google Forms Can Now Automatically Grade Quizzes Without an Add-on
2. 15 Tools for Teaching History With Technology - A Handout
3. Google Cast for Education Gets Your Students on the Same Page
4. The Best Ways to Use Padlet - Examples from Teachers
5. An Illustrated Mathematics Glossary
6. Three Geography Games Based on Google Maps and Google Earth
7. 7 Blogging Platforms for Teachers Compared and Ranked
8. Click to Spin - A Fun and Free Random Name Picker
9. Ten Good Video Channels for Science Students
10. How to Use the New Version of Padlet

Bring Me To Your School or Conference
Click here to learn about my professional development services. 

Online  PD Opportunities With Me
Take a look at the online workshops I'm hosting throughout the spring and summer.
 
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. 

7 Word Summary of ISTE 2016

As the ISTE 2016 conference was winding down yesterday I took one last long walk through the vendor hall. I went up and down every aisle of the expo and at the end I published my summary of the vendor hall in this Tweet:


Now to expand on those points in my Tweet:

1. I counted no less than ten companies offering student data collection and analysis tools. That only accounts for the companies focused entirely on that service. There are many, many other companies touting data collection and analysis as part of a larger service. Those booths seemed to be occupied by school administrators. I didn't see many teachers hanging around those booths.

2. Maker spaces and the Maker movement were all over the ISTE program. The conference program had plenty of workshops and presentations on topics related to the maker movement. There were playground areas set up for people to learn about 3D printers, robotics, and programming. In the vendor hall nearly every 3D printer company and robotics kits company had booths swarming with activity.

3. Google and Samsung had dueling booths featuring virtual reality headsets. I had many discussions with conference goers about virtual reality. The consensus seems to be that we're all fascinated with the possibilities but have concerns about the scalability an long-term use of virtual reality in classrooms.

4. Google, Google, Google. They made some big announcements this week about Forms, Cardboard Expeditions, a new screen sharing app, and an "apps bundling" scheme to sell sets of Chrome apps. Their booth was packed every time that I went into the vendor hall. It was interesting to see many other vendors standing around watching the Google presentations.

5. Damage control products were prominently displayed throughout the ISTE vendor hall. You could find a protective case for just about every tablet, Chromebook, phone, and laptop imaginable. There were also plenty of companies selling network monitoring software and web filtering products designed to protect your school network and or block access to websites.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Three Interesting Studies on Virtual Reality in Education

This week at ISTE 2016 Google and Samsung had large booth displays devoted to virtual reality headsets. The proliferation of virtual reality headsets has been the catalyst for some good conversations about the value of virtual reality in education. Many have wondered if it is a novelty or if could have a meaningful impact on students. I have been a part of those conversations. But as I want to be prepared with good information on the topic, I turned to Google Scholar to see what has been written on the topic of VR in education. The following three papers stood out to me.

Construct3D: a virtual reality application for mathematics and geometry education.

On the usability and likeability of virtual reality games for education: The case of VR-ENGAGE.

Can virtual reality improve anatomy education? A randomised controlled study of a computer‐generated three‐dimensional anatomical ear model.

All three of these studies found that virtual reality was beneficial to students. Each study came to that conclusion in a different context. The first found an improvement in students' comprehension of geometrical concepts. The second found an improvement in students' understanding of geographical concepts and relationships, but only with prior knowledge. And the third study found an improvement in students' understanding of anatomy.

These three studies had small sample sizes and control groups that could probably be categorized as "high achieving, highly engaged" students. Whether or not the outcome of the students linked above will be similar to those of other students is still to be determined. That said, I'm excited to see what happens with virtual reality in K-12 classrooms over the next five years.

Disclosure: Samsung paid for my hotel room during the 2016 ISTE conference. 

5 Features to Look for on Formative in the Fall

Earlier this week at the ISTE 2016 conference I had a nice meeting with the founders of the popular assessment tool, Formative. Formative is hard at work to add new features in time for the new school year in the northern hemisphere. The list of features that they showed me is fifteen deep. Many of those features are focused on data, but some are focused on providing solutions to practical problems that almost every teacher has faced at one time or another while using online assessment tools. These are the five practical Formative features that I'm looking forward to seeing this fall.

  • Send assignments/ quizzes to individual students. 
  • Scheduling a start time and an end time for assignments/ quizzes. 
  • Scheduling a time for the return of quiz scores/ feedback. You'll be able to hold scores until every student has completed the assignment/ quiz. 
  • Students will have a progress meter to show them where they are in a particular quiz/ assignment. 
  • Improved font formatting tools. 

Applications for Education
One of the things that has helped Formative become popular is the "show your work" response option that allows students to draw responses to your questions and prompts. The addition of these new features should only help to make Formative a better tool for gathering formal and informal assessment responses from students.

Connect Your Classroom Through SeeSaw Connected Blogs

On Tuesday morning at the ISTE 2016 conference I sat down with the founder of the popular digital portfolio tool, SeeSaw. He showed me some of updated features of SeeSaw's free product as well as the new analytics options within SeeSaw Plus (a subscription service).

One of the best features of SeeSaw's free service is the classroom blogging component. SeeSaw added the blogging feature in January in response to requests from users. SeeSaw's blogging feature allows you to select artifacts from your students' digital portfolios to feature on your classroom's blog. You can also have students submit written blog posts that you approve before they go live on the blog. The video in this post shows you how to create a blog within SeeSaw.

Applications for Education
Connecting with other classroom blogs is a great way to build an authentic audience for your students' work. SeeSaw put together a spreadsheet of public classroom blogs to help teachers connect their classroom blogs. The spreadsheet includes the Twitter and or Google+ ID of the teacher in charge of each listed blog.

SeeSaw's blog feature includes a "following" option that makes it easy to quickly see when a blog your class is following publishes a new post. The video embedded below demonstrates how to connect and follow a SeeSaw blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Evernote Shrinks Free Plan - Here's What I'm Using Now

For a long time I have used Evernote as my primary tool for personal bookmarks. That's about to change because today Evernote announced that their free plan will soon only allow you to use Evernote on two devices. As I use three devices or more in the course of a typical week, the new Evernote free plan won't work for me. So instead of using Evernote I'm going to start using Google Keep for bookmarking.

Google Keep can be used on any device on which I sign into my Google Account. As you can see in the video embedded below, you can add labels to your Google Keep notes. Those labels can also be applied to bookmarks. All Google Keep notes and bookmarks can be shared with others.

Apps Made by Students - And a Challenge for Your Students

For the last few years Verizon has hosted the Innovative App Challenge for students. Verizon recently published the list of the best apps developed in the 2015-16 Innovative App Challenge. The top app was created by middle school students in Michigan. Their app provides a way for the public to alert local government to safety concerns in public parks. The whole list of top student-created apps can be seen in this PDF.

The next Verizon Innovative App Challenge begins in August. Students must make a video to explain the concept of their apps and write a short essay about their apps. Complete entry rules are available here.

If your students do want to build an app either for this contest or for their own enjoyment, the MIT App Inventor offers a great way to do that. Students can build working apps in their web browsers before using them on their Android devices. Click here to read more about the MIT App Inventor.

Digital Storytelling With the Latest Version of Buncee Edu Mobile

Buncee is a nice tool that makes it easy for young students to craft digital stories. Recently, Buncee updated their iOS app to optimize for iPad and iPhone displays. The latest version of Buncee's iOS app brings the best content creation tools of the Buncee Edu web app to the iOS environment.

Buncee Edu provides students with a wide variety of multimedia elements to their presentations. To add multimedia content to their Buncee slides students simply tap the "add" button then they can choose from videos (available from Vimeo and YouTube), animated characters, animated text, animated stickers, static stickers, audio from SoundCloud, images from Pixabay (filtered public domain images), and upload their own content from their iPad camera rolls. Students also have the option to draw directly on their slides.

Applications for Education
Buncee's free iPad app provides students with a great way to tell fiction and non-fiction stories. Students can create visual and audio stories about field trips, summer adventures, or a favorite personal story. Buncee's iPad app could also be used by students to create an alternative to the traditional written book report. They could use images and sounds to summarize the highlights of a favorite book.

Disclosure: Buncee is a client of MindRocket Media Group. I am a partner in MindRocket Media Group.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Google Forms Can Now Automatically Grade Quizzes Without an Add-on

For a long time Flubaroo has been one of my go-to recommendations for easy scoring of quizzes created in Google Forms. Today, Google made it easier than ever to have quizzes scored for you and to show students their scores. Now when you create a Google Form you can go into the Form settings and choose the quiz option. Within the quiz option you can choose to have your questions scored as students answer them. You can also choose to show students their scores as well as correct answers. See my screenshot below to learn where you can find the new quiz scoring options.


Applications for Education
The new automatic quiz scoring feature will make it easier to quickly deliver feedback to your students when they take multiple choice or true/false quizzes.

The automatic quiz scoring feature only supports multiple choice and true/false questions at this time. If you want to have short answer or fill-in-the-blank questions scored for you, you will need to use Flubaroo in Google Sheets.

Google Cast for Education Gets Your Students on the Same Page

This morning at the ISTE 2016 conference Google announced some great new features for teachers. One feature that immediately jumped out at me is the new Google Cast for Education Chrome app. The Google Cast for Education Chrome app enables teachers and students share their screens over wireless networks. The app integrates with Google Classroom to make it easy for you to quickly share your screen to your students' Chromebooks or laptops and for them to share with you. See the Google Cast for Education Chrome app in action in the video embedded below.



Applications for Education
The Google Cast for Education Chrome app will solve a problem that has plagued teachers for years. That problem is getting all of your students to look at the same webpage or app at the same time without having to rely on them to accurately enter a web address or click the correct link.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Classroom Bookshelf - A Blog of Literature Lesson Ideas

This afternoon at ISTE 2016 I met with Kathy Ishizuka who is the editor of School Library Journal. Kathy shared with me her excitement about School Library Journal welcoming The Classroom Bookshelf as a new member of their blog network.

The Classroom Bookshelf is a blog that many teachers have enjoyed in the past. The content and mission of the blog is the same always. That is to share short book reviews along with detailed suggestions for teaching lessons based on the book. Each post also includes a lengthy list of links to additional supporting resources.

If you visit The Classroom Bookshelf today you may notice the formatting is a little off right now. I'm sure that's just a product of the content recently being imported into a new blog platform. I'm sure that will be corrected soon.

Applications for Education
Like any lesson plan resource, you should be careful to avoid the copycat trap when reading The Classroom Bookshelf. Each book should be evaluated on its own for its suitability for your classroom.

The Best Ways to Use Padlet - Examples from Teachers

This afternoon at the ISTE 2016 conference I had a nice meeting with Melanie Broder from Padlet. She told me about some of the things that Padlet is working on developing during the rest of the year. One of things is a community for educators. That community should help teachers find creative uses of Padlet as well as sharing lesson activities in general. Until that community gets going, take a look at Padlet's Best of Education wall.

Padlet's Best of Education wall features twenty-seven Padlet walls created by teachers. One of my favorites in that collection is 100 Picture Books to Read and Share. All of the books in that Padlet wall are linked to Goodreads pages. Another good wall in Padlet's Best of Education is a collection of student blogging prompts.

Watch my video embedded below to learn how to use the latest version of Padlet's website.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Not at ISTE 2016 Survey

The last two posts that I've written have referenced the ISTE conference. I realize that I am fortunate to be able to attend to the conference. The first time that I went to the ISTE conference (then known as NECC) it was only because of the generosity of Beth Still's "NECC Newbie" project and the many people who donated to that. Therefore, today I feel that I should do my best to share the ISTE learning experiences with as many people as possible. To that end, I want to know what you would want to learn more about if you were at the ISTE conference too. Please take a minute to complete the one question survey below. I'll do my best to share what I learn about the most popular topics selected in the survey.

Where I'll Be During #ISTE2016

The annual ISTE conference is less than 24 hours away now. One of the best parts of the conference is getting to meet new people and reconnect with those I've met before. This year I'm on a couple of panel discussions and I'll also be visiting with a couple of companies with whom I have worked. In addition to the Blogger Cafe (despite the tone of this post, it's a friendly place)  you can find me at these places during ISTE 2016:
  •  Virtual Reality - Blend This Into Your Learning - Monday at 2:30pm in room CCC 401
  •  Free Digital Flexbooks - Why Is It Worth It ? - Wednesday at 8:30am in room CCC 706
  •  Buncee booth - Tuesday at 10am at booth #3324
  •  Otus booth - Monday at 10am at booth #3731

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from an airplane somewhere over the North Carolina/ Tennessee border. I'm headed out to Denver for the ISTE 2016 conference. As I boarded the flight I ran into my friend Kelly Hines from Discovery Education. I'm sure there are plenty of other excited educators on the flight too. If you are going to ISTE, please say hello if you see me. I look just like I do in the picture in my blog's header.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Reasons to Have a Classroom Blog
2. 7 Tools for Creating Classroom Blogs
3. My Three Favorite Video Creation iPad Apps for Elementary School
4. Three Geography Games Based on Google Maps and Google Earth
5. 5 Ways to Quickly Get Your Students On the Same Webpage
6. A Good Example of a Student & Teacher Blog - And How to Make Your Own
7. Beware of the Copycat Trap!

Bring Me To Your School or Conference
Click here to learn about my professional development services. 

Online  PD Opportunities With Me
Take a look at the online workshops I'm hosting throughout the spring and summer.
 
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, June 24, 2016

Handy, Overlooked YouTube Features

YouTube offers a bunch of handy editing tools that often go overlooked by users. One of those is the option to rotate videos that have been shot in vertical mode when they should have been shot horizontally. Another great feature is the face blurring tool built into the video editor. You can learn about those features and more in my video embedded below.

Ed Tech Start-ups, Please Don't Do This At #ISTE2016

Dear Ed Tech Start-up Marketing Directors:

ISTE 2016 is just a couple of days away. Everyone who is going  is excited about it. Teachers and school administrators are excited to learn new things in workshops, see great presenters, learn about new tech, and connect with friends they've met online and or at previous conferences. ISTE's Blogger Cafe and Social Media lounge is one of the places that conference attendees love to connect and share the exciting new things that they've learned during the conference. Unfortunately, over the last few years there has been a trend of ed tech start-ups who aren't paying for booth space to use the Blogger Cafe and Social Media lounge to fling around flyers, stickers, and other marketing trinkets.

Littering a lounge with marketing trinkets is annoying, but it's not nearly as annoying as the other trend I've noticed over the last few years. That trend is to send low level employees to the lounges to "pick the brains" of conference attendees who are just trying to connect with fellow educators in a relaxed environment. In other words, these ed tech start-ups are trying to conduct market research for free by taking advantage of the polite nature of most educators. Nothing will make a company representative seem more disingenuous than starting up a conversation with me and then when I ask "what do you do?" or "why are you at ISTE?" being given a sales pitch for a start-up. By the way, if you are going to give a pitch, please make sure you're not making this mistake too.

Go ahead and wear your company's tee shirts, sit in on presentations, and have pre-arranged meetings with bloggers and press members (Even the lowest level of ISTE vendor space/ sponsorship will give you access to the contact info for bloggers and press members with a reach of more than 100,000 readers, each). Just be respectful of why so many educators are in those lounges, it's to connect with each other not to hear your sales pitch or have you "pick their brains" for your market research.

If you're now wondering, "how do we connect with people at ISTE 2016 if we can't bug them in the lounges?" here are a couple of low budget marketing strategies that I've seen work well. 1. Tweet a link to a very simple landing page that gives visitors a code for free coffee when they enter an email address. 2. Partnering with another small start-up or two to sponsor a fun evening activity that doesn't involve drinking at a bar.

I hope my advice doesn't foil your plans for ISTE 2016. If it does, I'll make it up to you by letting you pick my brain during a pre-arranged fifteen minute meeting during the conference. Email me at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to arrange that meeting.

Three Good Apps for Creating Videos on Android Devices

Creating videos is one of my favorite activities to do with students. I never get tired of seeing what students create and I never tire of their enthusiasm for the creative process. I'm a big fan of letting students choose the video creation tool that they like best rather than prescribing that they all have to use the same app. By letting them choose the app they like the best, they have more flexibility in the format of their final products. That said, some students will look for recommendations from you. These are the Android apps that typically recommend for creating videos on Android devices.

Clarisketch is a free Android app that has great potential for classroom use. The app allows you to take a picture or pull one from your device’s camera roll and then add your voice to it. While you are talking about your picture you can draw on it to highlight sections of it. Completed projects are shared as links to the video file hosted on Clarisketch. You can share the link to your Clarisketch video and have it play on nearly any device that has a web browser.

WeVideo’s Android app allows you to create and edit videos on your tablet or phone. WeVideo offers the most features of the three apps in this list. Those features come with the trade-off that it takes a while to understand all of the intricacies of the app. The baseline use of the app allows you to record live video and edit it by trimming or clipping sections, adding or deleting audio, and by adjusting color saturation. You can also use WeVideo to create a video in a slide-by-slide format to which you add your voice or other audio recording.

Magisto is a free video creation and editing application for Android and iOS. Using Magisto you can mix together raw video clips, pictures, and sounds on your phone or tablet to create a video. The Android version allows you to draw on frames in your video clips and add borders to your frames. Magisto can be integrated with your Google Drive account allowing you to add video clips stored in your Google Drive account to your Magisto projects. All of the processing and editing of Magisto videos happens in the cloud so you will need an internet connection to use the app.

Stop Motion Studio Offers a Great Way to Make Videos

Stop Motion Studio is a great app for creating stop motion videos. The app is available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac operating systems. The basic (free) version of Stop Motion Studio lets you take as many pictures as you like and string them together in a sequence that plays back at a frame-per-second rate of your choosing. Each frame can be edited individually before you produce the final video. You can also add narration to your video in the basic version of the app. Completed projects can be saved to your device and from there you can share them on YouTube or on your favorite social network.


The Stop Motion Studio editor does offer upgrades that can be purchased in the app. Those upgrades include various background themes, templates, and audio track options.

Applications for Education
Creating stopmotion and timelapse videos can be a good way for students to tell a story that they have developed. Stopmtion and timelapse videos can also be helpful when teachers are trying to help students see how a lengthy process like osmosis works. While good stopmotion and timelapse videos can take a long time to create, tools like Stop Motion Studio make that process a bit easier.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Beware of the Copycat Trap!

On Tuesday afternoon in Dickson, Tennessee I delivered a new version of my popular talk Ten Common Challenges Facing Educators (learn how to bring me to your conference). In my new version of the talk I include the warning to "beware of the copycat trap."

The "copycat trap" refers to the scenario in which you find a neat lesson plan or other classroom activity on Pinterest, on Twitter, on a Facebook page, on a blog, or even Teachers Pay Teachers and think that it will automatically work well for your students if you simply copy the same steps that someone else used.

I first started to become aware of this trap after I published Life on Minimum Wage in a blog post many years ago. That was an activity that I created specifically for my students, but shared as a model that other teachers could use if they modified it to meet the needs of their students. There were some items in the activity that were specific to the students I had in my classroom that year. Shortly after publishing Life on Minimum Wage and for years since I have received emails from people who tried it and said that their students didn't get engaged in the activity. That's understandable if you used the activity exactly as I used it because my students live in rural communities so their frame of reference for many things and their favorite hobbies are, in many cases, quite different from those of kids in cities and suburbs.

The Internet is a great place to find lesson plan ideas and other resources to use in your classroom. Just beware of the copycat trap when you go to implement those ideas yourself.

My copycat trap idea is partially influenced by reading Paulo Blikstein's Digital Fabrication and ‘Making’ in Education:The Democratization of Invention in which he discusses the pitfalls of the "keychain syndrome" in maker spaces. 

My Three Favorite Video Creation iPad Apps for Elementary School

Over the last month I have spoken at conferences all over the United States. Creating videos with students is was the topic of one of my most popular break-out sessions during that time. In that session I try to offer resources and ideas for teachers of all grade levels. I also try to provide resources that work on iPads, Android devices, on Chromebooks, and on Mac & Windows computers. The following are three of my favorite apps for elementary school students to use to create content on their iPads.

ChatterPix Kids is a free iPad app that students can use to turn pictures into talking pictures. To create a talking picture just snap a picture with your iPad or import a picture from your iPad’s camera roll. After taking the picture just draw in a face and tap the record button to make your picture talk. Your recording can be up to thirty seconds in length. Before publishing your talking picture you can add fun stickers, text, and frames to your picture. Finished Chatter Pix projects are saved to your camera roll and from there you can export it to a number of services including YouTube. ChatterPix Kids doesn’t require students to create an account in order to use the service. Using the app can be a great way to get students to bring simple stories to life. Check out the video below that was made, in part, by using ChatterPix.




Tellagami is a free iPad that elementary school students enjoy using to create narrated animations. Tellagami allows your students to create customized animated scenes in a matter of minutes. To create a narrated, animated scene students simply open Tellagami and tap "create." After opening the create menu students will see a default character and background scene. The characters can be altered by selecting from a big menu of customization options. The background scenes can be changed by selecting from a menu or by inserting a picture from the iPad's camera roll. To add their voices to their animations students simply tap "record" and start talking. Completed animations are stored on the camera rolls of your students' iPads. Tellagami does not require students to create accounts or have an email address.

Shadow Puppet Edu is a free iPad app that students can use to create audio slideshow videos. The app offers an integrated search tool that students can use to find pictures from the Library of Congress, to search for images from NASA, and to find Creative Commons licensed images from Flickr. Students can also import pictures from the camera roll on their iPads. After selecting a set of images students can arrange them into any sequence by simply dragging and dropping them into order. Then to create a story students press the record button and talk while flipping through the images. Shadow Puppet Edu allows students to add text and stickers to each image too. When they're happy with their work students can share their Shadow Puppet Edu projects through a variety of methods including YouTube and email. Shadow Puppet Edu projects are automatically saved to the camera roll on a student's iPad. Students do not have to register for an account or have an email address to use Shadow Puppet Edu.

Khan Academy Announces a Talent Search

Do you enjoy making instructional videos for your students or the general public? Can you break complex topics into small, digestible chunks for others to understand? If so, you may be interested in entering the Khan Academy Talent Search contest. The contest runs now through August 1, 2016. Ten finalists will be chosen from all of the entries. Each of those finalists will win $300. The overall winner will receive $3000. All finalists will be considered for a contract to produce content for Khan Academy. Learn more about the Khan Academy Talent Search here or watch the video below.


Should you need ideas for an instructional video, check out the suggested topics list on Khan Academy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

7 Tools for Creating Classroom Blogs

After I published last night's post on reasons to have a classroom blog, a handful of people contacted me for recommendations on which blogging platform to use. The answer isn't always clear cut as every teacher has his or her unique classroom dynamics to account for in making a choice. That's why earlier this year I created the chart that you can see here on Google Docs or as embedded below. The chart evaluates key aspects of seven popular blogging tools. At the bottom of the chart I provide a summary and ranking of the tools.





Tuesday, June 21, 2016

5 Reasons to Have a Classroom Blog

Earlier today someone wrote the following in response to my post featuring a good example of a teacher and student blog,
"Franklly (sic) I don't want to blog with my students. I want to talk with them face to face in class."

While I appreciate that the person who wrote that comment on Facebook wants to emphasize the relationship she's trying to develop with her students, she's also overlooking the benefits of having a classroom blog. In short, it's not an "either or" proposition. You can have a classroom blog and develop face-to-face conversations with your students.

1. Being authors on a blog gives students the opportunity to share their thoughts with you, their classmates, and their parents on a longer timeline than is typically feasible during a school day. Not every student is going to be able to quickly articulate his or her thoughts during a face-to-face conversation with his or her teacher. Having a place to write down his or her expanded thoughts after a conversation is one of the best benefits of inviting students to be authors on a blog.

2. Parents are privy to the comments and question that their children raise in regards to school. Parents often complain that their kids come home from school and say,"nothing" in response to the question, "what did you do in school today?"

3. Authoring a classroom blog can be a great way to create a record of what you and your students do in your classroom. By the end of the school year it can be hard to recall what you did in which week earlier in the school year. The blog's archive makes it easy to look back at the year.

4. Authoring a classroom blog provides students with a real-world audience for their work. Connect with another classroom or two to become blogging buddies. Students in each class then have an audience for their work that extends beyond the typical confines of a paper-based writing assignment or face-to-face classroom conversation.

5. A classroom blog can provide parents and students with a calendar or upcoming events and assignments.

This summer I am teaching an online course about blogs and social media for teachers. The course begins in July. Learn more about it on this page

5 Ways to Quickly Get Your Students On the Same Webpage

Getting all of your students on the same webpage at once is one of the small and annoying challenges of using websites and web tools in your classroom. Fortunately, there are some simple solutions to this challenge. The solution that you pick will be partially based upon the type of devices that your students use in your classroom. Here are five ways that you can quickly get all of your students on the same webpage.

1. QR Codes: This is a good solution in a classroom in which all students have an iPad, an Android tablet, or are allowed to use their mobile phones. You can create QR codes for any webpage by using QR Droid's QR Code Generator. While the name implies that you need an Android device, QR Droid's QR Code Generator works in your web browser. Once your QR code is created you can project it for students to scan and or print it and post it in your classroom for students to scan. Learn how to use QR Droid's QR Code Generator by watching the video in this post.

2. Shortened & Customized URLs: For years creating shortened and customized URLs has been my go-to method for directly people to webpages in my workshops. I use Bitly.com to create customized shortened URLs. Rather than relying on the default shortened URL provided by Bitly, I customize it to something that is easy to spell and is in all lowercase letters.

3. Share to Classroom: Share to Classroom is a Google Chrome extension designed to make easy for teachers to direct students to specific webpages. With the Share to Classroom extension installed you will be able to push webpages to your students' devices by simply opening the extension and specifying which of your Google Classroom classes you want to receive the page. Students do not need to do anything because the page will automatically load in their web browsers. You can also have students push pages to you.

GAFE domain administrators can install the Share to Classroom extension for all users in their domains by following the directions outlined here.

4. Post on Classroom Blog, Website, or Google Classroom: Rather than feeding your students a different link everyday, just get them in the habit of visiting your classroom blog, website, or Google Classroom in order to find the links for each webpage or web tool that you want them to use. Once they're in that habit you can simply post links there for them to click and use.

5. Text / Push Notification: Use a tool like Remind or Cel.ly to send links directly to your students' mobile devices.

Monday, June 20, 2016

How to Create a Book Trailer Video

Creating a book trailer video can be a great alternative to writing a book report. To create a good book trailer video students will have to make a list of highlights of a book and arrange them into proper sequence. Students should also include commentary on why they liked a book and why someone else should read it. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create a book trailer video using a small collection of free web tools. Those tools are Stupeflix, Photos for Class, Bitly, and Vocaroo.



Saturday, June 18, 2016

Connected Mind - A Mind Mapping App in Chrome

Connected Mind is a free mind mapping tool that you can find in the Google Chrome Web Store. Using Connected Mind you can create free-form mind maps or use a template. A lot of mind mapping tools lock you into using straight lines between elements, but Connected Mind is not one of them. Connected Minds allows you to create mind maps in any configuration that you like. As it is a Chrome Web Store app, Connected Mind allows you to save your work online using your Google Account credentials. The video below offers a demonstration of Connected Minds (there is not any sound in the video).



Applications for Education
Connected Mind could be a good app for students to use to develop mind maps from scratch or from an existing image or file they upload. In general, I find mind mapping to be a great exercise for students to do while planning a video project. I also use mind mapping when planning a lesson unit for my courses.

Three Geography Games Based on Google Maps and Google Earth

One of the things that I emphasize to students before they embark on any kind of research or problem-solving task is to take a good long look at the information that they already have before them. To that end, I'll often request that they construct a list of what they know about a topic or problem before they begin to search. Playing one of the following three Google Maps-based games is a fun way to reinforce the concept of using prior knowledge and observations.

GeoGuessr is an addictive geography game that is based on the Google Maps Street View imagery. When you visit GeoGuessr you can choose to play as a single player or you can register to challenge another player. The game is played the same way whether you choose single player or challenge mode. To play you simply use the clues in a Street View image to formulate a guess on where in the world the imagery was captured. After making a guess GeoGuessr shows you the correct location and how far away from the correct location your guess was.

Place Spotting is a website of geographic riddles. Place Spotting is based on the Google Earth platform. Place Spotting users can create their own geographic riddles or try to solve riddles created by others. The search feature on Place Spotting lets users search for riddles based on level of difficulty, language, region, or creation date.

Where in the World? is a new-to-me game that I learned about from Maps Mania. On Where in the World? you can choose up to five categories of interest to you. Those categories are history, travel, royal attractions, nature & parks, and entertainment. Where in the World? will show you a Street View image and you have to choose the correct location from a list of three options. You have twelve seconds to make a selection. If you look at the picture and the answer choices carefully, you can quickly eliminate at least one of the answer choices.

The Week in Review - A Few Days at Home

Good morning from Maine where I have a few days at home with my dogs before going back on the road for the rest of month. Next week I'll be just outside of Nashville then I'll wrap-up the month at the ISTE conference in Denver. If you're going to ISTE too, please say hello. I'm not a big fan of the ISTE after-party scene, but I do enjoy talking with people during the conference. You can find me at ISTE by Tweeting me or by coming to one of the panel discussions in which I will be a participant. On Monday afternoon I will be on a panel about virtual reality. On Wednesday morning at ISTE I will be on a panel about open resources hosted by the CK-12 Foundation.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. How to Use the New Version of Padlet
2. Ten Good Video Channels for Science Students - Best of 2015-16 School Year
3. A Week of Presentations - A Slide of Slides
4. A TED-Ed Lesson on the Bill of Rights
5. Three Ways for Students to Compare the Sizes of Countries and States
6. Recording History With Students - Tools & Ideas
7. 300+ Ed Tech Tools Tutorials

Summer PD Opportunities With Me
Bring Me To 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, June 17, 2016

Three Ways for Students to Compare the Sizes of Countries and States

My students here in Maine always think of our state as being a big place and it is relative to the rest of New England. Compared to our friends in the west, Maine is a small place. Similarly, they sometimes have trouble understanding the size of the lower 48 states compared to Canada. The following three tools can help students understand the size of their countries in relation to the size of other countries.

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

Overlap Maps is a free service that can be used to quickly compare the size of countries, states, provinces, and some bodies of water. To create a visual comparison of two countries select one country from the "overlap this" menu and select one country from the "onto this" menu. The comparisons you make are displayed on a map. You can make comparisons from different categories. For example, you can overlap Lake Erie onto New Hampshire.

The True Size Of... is a free web tool that lets you quickly compare the size of two countries or two states within the United States. To compare two countries simply enter one into the search box then enter a second one into the search box. Both countries will be highlighted for you. You can then drag and drop one onto the other. The same can be done with states of the United States as is demonstrated in my screenshot below.

A Good Example of a Student & Teacher Blog - And How to Make Your Own

On Monday afternoon I had the pleasure of seeing Elisabeth Alkier give a presentation about the book review blog that she developed with her students and her school's librarian Dlo Duvall. The Bode Book Review is a blog authored by students in Elisabeth and Dlo's school. The purpose of the blog is to provide other students with short reviews to inspire them to read new books.

In Elisabeth's presentation she explained the ground rules that students had to follow in order to contribute to The Bode Book Review. Two ground rules that stood out to me were that students couldn't give spoilers in their reviews and that when it came to commenting students were not allowed to correct each other's grammar and spelling. Elisabeth also pointed out that she never corrects students grammar in comments. Instead she gives those corrections privately. Her explanation was that it can be discouraging for reluctant writers to see their work publicly corrected by the teacher. I thought that was an excellent point.

Take a look at The Bode Book Review as a good example of a student and teacher blog. If you want to learn to develop your own blog like it, grab a copy of my free guide to using Blogger in school (link opens a PDF).

This summer I am teaching a five week course all about using blogs and social media in school. There is an option for you to earn three graduate credits for completing the course. 

Qualities of an Epic Hero - A Visual Character Guide

Qualities of an Epic Hero is a free classroom poster available from Storyboard That. The poster outlines the seven traits that make a character in a story an epic hero. Those traits are being a cultural legend, being a vast traveler, battling supernatural foes, being of noble birth, showing humility, and having superhuman capabilities. The poster provides a bit more detail on each of those traits along with symbols or icons to represent the traits of an epic hero.

You can download a high resolution copy of the Epic Hero poster for free on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Homework Reminder Service What's Due is Closing Down, Slowly

What's Due is a free homework reminder service that I like a lot and have recommended a handful of times over the last couple of years. Unfortunately, What's Due sent me an email earlier this week that announced their pending closure. The email didn't say they were closing immediately rather it said that they wouldn't be supporting the apps any longer.

Some other ways that you can send assignment reminders to students and parents include using Remind, Cel.ly, or the Google Sheet's Add-on called Add Reminders which you can learn how to use in the video in this post.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A New Version of Google Sites is Coming

Google Sites is flexible tool for creating school websites, classroom blogs, wikis, and digital portfolios. For years it has remained unchanged except for the addition of page-level permissions a few years ago. Today, Google announced that a new version of Google Sites will be rolling out over the next year. The new version of Google Sites promises a new drag-and-drop editing platform, enhanced collaboration features, and new responsive design templates.

The new version will first be available to Google Apps for Business users, but should eventually appear in Google Apps for Edu too. I own a Google Apps for Business domain and I have applied for early adopter status to test the new Google Sites as soon as possible. When I have access I will be sure to post a video about the new version of Google Sites here.

Thanks to Beth Still for heads-up about the new Google Sites.

A TED-Ed Lesson on the Bill of Rights

The latest lesson published by TED-Ed explains to students why the Bill of Rights was added to the US Constitution. In the lesson students learn about the positions of Federalists and Anti-Federalists, which states pushed for a Bill of Rights, and why the Bill of Rights was added as a set of amendments to the Constitution rather than rewriting the Constitution.

Why Wasn't the Bill of Rights Originally in the Constitution? is concise and covers the basics of the arguments of Federalists and Anti-Federalists. The video is a good introduction to those arguments, but a little too basic for a high school classroom.

A Week of Presentations - A Slide of Slides

Over the last week I gave presentations and facilitated workshops Texas, Arizona, Kansas, and Missouri. Many people asked for copies of the slides that I used (slides were not used in every workshop). I put links to all of my slides on one slide that is embedded below.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Recording History With Students - Tools & Ideas

Over the weekend at the Native Innovation Education conference I facilitated a short workshop titled Recording History With Students. The focus of the workshop was on helping students record interviews with their elders.

We started out by looking at the great questions list offered by StoryCorps. We then moved on to using the StoryCorps.me app, MicNote, and or Vocaroo to record the interviews. After making the recordings we then used those audio tracks in Stupeflix where they were played in the background of a series of images to complete the stories. Finally, we put the Stupeflix video links into placemarks in Scribble Maps.

The slides that I used as an introduction to the workshop are embedded below.

300+ Ed Tech Tools Tutorials

Over the last couple of years I've made an effort to publish at least one new tutorial video every week. Most of those videos end up being featured in the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week, but they all end up on my YouTube channel. I now have more than 300 ed tech tools tutorial videos on my YouTube channel. More than 5,000 people have subscribed to my YouTube channel. Subscribe to it and you'll be notified when I publish a new tutorial.

To subscribe to my YouTube or any other YouTube channel simply sign into your Google account then click "subscribe" on the channel's homepage. The video below demonstrates how to do this.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

How to Upload a Video to YouTube from Your Android Device

Yesterday I had the privilege to speak at the Native Innovation Education conference in Flagstaff, Arizona. The conference offered Android tablets to attendees. Many people who came to my video workshop asked me how they could upload their videos to YouTube. I promised to create a video on the topic. That video is now ready and is embedded below.


I used the free AZ Screen Recorder app to create this screencast video. Learn more about AZ Screen Recorder in this blog post.

How to Use the New Version of Padlet

Last week Padlet introduced a revamped version of their online corkboard tool. The core functions of Padlet are still the same, but the user interface has changed a little bit. The primary changes are in the way that you customize your Padlet boards. In the video that is embedded below I provide an overview of the new version of Padlet.


Five ways to use Padlet with students:

Padlet as a simple blogging platform:
Padlet walls can be arranged in free-form, grid, or stream layouts. Creating a Padlet page in the stream format could be a good way to create a simple, collaborative blog for students. You could create the page, select "stream" format, and make the page accessible for students to write short posts on. Their posts could include images and videos. If you want to, you can password protect your Padlet pages and moderate messages before they appear on your Padlet page.

Padlet Mini as a bookmarking tool:
Padlet Mini is a Chrome extension that you can use to bookmark websites. When you click the Padlet Mini extension in your browser you will be presented with the option to save to one of your existing walls or create a new Padlet wall. Click here for a video on using Padlet Mini.

Padlet as a KWL chart:
Padlet can be used to create a KWL chart that students can contribute to anonymously (or not anonymously if you want them to sign-in). Create a wall, make it public, and ask students to share what they know and what they want to know about a topic. If you allow anonymous posting you might get contributions from shy students who might not otherwise speak-up in class. Of course, if you allow anonymous commenting you should have a conversation with your students about what an appropriate comment looks like. (You could also turn on moderation and approve all notes before they appear). Padlet works well when projected on an interactive whiteboard.

Padlet for group research and discussion:
A few years ago I showed my special education students a short (18 minutes) video about cultural changes that took place in the US during the 1920's. After the video we discussed what they saw. Then I had students search online for other examples of cultural change in the 1920's. When they found examples they put them onto a Wallwisher (Padlet's previous name) wall that I projected onto a wall in my classroom. The wall started with just text being added to the wall and quickly progressed to YouTube videos being added to the wall. Once every student had added a video to the wall we stopped, watched the videos, and discussed them.

Padlet as a showcase of your students’ work:
If your students are creating digital portfolios, creating slideshows, or producing videos you could use Padlet to display all of your students’ best work on one page. Create the wall, call it something like “my best work this year,” and have your students post links to their works.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Week in Review - On the Road

Sketch notes about my video workshop.
Good evening from Arizona where I'm relaxing after a great week of speaking at conferences in Texas, Kansas, and Arizona. Today, I had the honor of giving the closing keynote at the Native Innovation Education Conference in Flagstaff, Arizona. That conference was the second one this week that offered workshops on using technology to help teachers and students improve their physical fitness. It's great to see that trend.

I was on the road all week which is why I re-posted some of the most popular posts of the 2015-16 school year. New posts will resume on Sunday.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. An Illustrated Mathematics Glossary
2. 7 Blogging Platforms for Teachers Compared and Ranked
3. Good Tools for Learning to Type
4. 10 Good Video Sources for Social Studies Teachers and Students
5. 10 Resources for Teaching With Primary Sources
6. Great Google Drive Add-ons & Chrome Extensions for Teachers
7. 5 Things We Can Do to Help Students Learn & Work Independently

Summer PD Opportunities With Me
Bring Me To 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.