Google
 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

How to Move from Zaption to EDpuzzle In Three Steps (Zaption is closing)

A couple of weeks ago when I shared the news that Zaption is closing I also shared some suggestions for alternatives to using Zaption. One of those suggestions was to try EDpuzzle. The folks at EDpuzzle saw that post and created a video for followers of this blog who would like to switch from Zaption to EDpuzzle. In the video embedded below you can learn how to quickly import your Zaption tours into EDpuzzle.

Evernote's Free Plan Is Almost Worthless - Here Are Two Good Alternatives

At the end of June Evernote announced some significant changes to their subscription plans including the free service that they had offered for years. Last night I received a reminder email from Evernote prodding me to buy up to one of their premium plans. I deleted the email because I switched away from Evernote and started using Google Keep for all of my bookmarking and note-taking needs.

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.


Microsoft's OneNote is another alternative to Evernote that you might consider. It works on Windows, iOS, Mac, and Android devices. I don't use it simply because I have been a Google Apps user for so long. Jeff Bradbury offers a bunch of resources that can help you learn how to use OneNote. Microsoft has published an official tutorial on how to move your information from Evernote to OneNote.

To clarify, Evernote's free plan still exists but you're now limited to using it on just two devices. For folks who use multiple computers, tablets, and phones throughout the course of a normal school week, Evernote's free plan will be inadequate.

Owl Eyes Offers a Good Way to Guide Students Through Classic Literature

Owl Eyes is a relatively new tool that provides teachers with a good way to provide students with guidance while they are reading classic literature. Owl Eyes provides teachers with tools to insert annotations and questions into classic literature. Students can see the annotations and questions that their teachers add to the digital text. Teachers have the option to create online classrooms through which they can monitor their students' progress through a text and view their students' annotations and answers to questions. The texts available through Owl Eyes are mostly classic works that are in the public domain.

The short videos embedded below will help you get started with Owl Eyes. I highly recommend watching them in order to save yourself from some frustrating clicking without results.



Applications for Education
Owl Eyes could be a good tool for guiding students through some difficult classic literature. I would like to see its library expanded to include more texts that are accessible to younger students.

I couldn't find an option to upload my own texts on Owl Eyes. Until then, I will probably continue to use Google Docs to help students as they read difficult primary source documents. That process is outlined here.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good evening from Maine where I'm relaxing after a fun day of bicycle riding followed by a nice little concert in Freeport. This week I wrapped up my online course Teaching History With Technology. As always I enjoyed teaching the course and I learned a few things that I'll be implementing when I teach the course again this fall. Speaking of fall, the new school year isn't too far away. To help you get ready for the new school year, next week I'll be releasing an updated version of my Practical Ed Tech Handbook. In the last year it has been downloaded nearly 40,000 times.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. ScratchMath - Great Ideas for Using Scratch in Elementary Math
2. Handy, Overlooked YouTube Features
3. Vizia - Create Interactive Video Quizzes
4. A New Lesson Plan Tool for Google Docs
5. 5 Tips for New Chromebook Users
6. Create Animated Videos & More With Animatron
7. My SimpleShow Offers a Good Way to Create Explanatory Videos

I Will Come 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.

Stacked Ball Drop - A Physics Lesson

The Physics Girl is a great YouTube channel that recently appeared as a suggestion while I was browsing the ASAP Science channel. The Physics Girl is Dianna Cowern who produces short physics lessons for students of all ages. Stacked Ball Drop is one of the videos that caught my attention while I was browsing her channel.

In the Stacked Ball Drop Dianna shows viewers that when one ball is placed on top of another and then dropped the ball on top bounces higher than it would if it was dropped alone. Dianna then goes on to explain the physics that is involved in a single ball bouncing as well the physics of two or more balls stacked on top of each other being dropped and bounced. That explanation transitions to how the concepts in the stacked ball dropped are analogous to the formation of super novas.


Applications for Education
This video demonstrates an excellent science lesson for students. After watching the video or a portion of the video you could have students write predictions for what they think will happen if they stack more balls and or use balls of different sizes and densities. Then let them go out and conduct the experiment and record their results.

To create a flipped lesson based on this video try using Vizia, VideoNot.es, or EDPuzzle.

Three Good Ways to Use Word Clouds With Students

Last week's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week featured two good tools for creating custom word clouds. Throughout the week people have Tweeted suggestions about how to use word clouds with students. Here are three word cloud activities suggested by folks on Twitter.

1. SMS World Geography suggested the following:


2.Megan Hartigan shared that she used word clouds to show students how their understanding of mathematics vocabulary grew from September to June.


3. Jen Wagner chimed-in to remind me of her site Guess the Wordle. On Guess the Wordle Jen has posted a collection of word clouds that students look at and then guess what they are about. For example, on Guess the Wordle there is a set of word clouds featuring words that describe states in the United States. Based on the clues in the word cloud students have to guess which state the word cloud is about.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Why Are Olympic Records Always Broken? - And Other Olympics Resources

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games are just one week away now. From archery to rowing to track and field, over the course of the games many world and Olympic records will be broken. That raises the question, why are records almost always broken? ASAP Science tackled that question just before the 2014 Winter Olympics and the answers to the question also apply to summer events. The answers are explained in the video embedded below.


For more resources to help students learn about the Summer Olympic Games take a look at the CBC Kids Olympics page. There you will find games and word puzzles about a variety of sports including archery, soccer, swimming, and weight lifting.

Larry Ferlazzo has assembled a substantial list of resources for learning about the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Larry started that list nearly a year ago. His list includes resources for learning about the Paralympics.

How Does a Canyon Become Grand? - And Other Lessons on the Shaping of North America

Earlier this month TED-Ed published a new lesson about how the physical geography of North America has changed over time. The lesson, titled How North America Got Its Shape, includes brief explanations of the roles of shifting tectonic plates, erosion, and volcanic activity in shaping North America. The lesson includes the Grand Canyon as an example the shaping of North America.

The PBS Digital Studios channel, It's Okay To Be Smart, offers a more in-depth look at the shaping of the Grand Canyon. That video is embedded below.


Applications for Education
Both of these videos could be nice introductory lessons for middle school or high school students. You could use them in your classroom or use them as part of a flipped lesson by building questions into the videos through a tool like Vizia or EDpuzzle.

Some Google Docs Add-ons Now Work on Android Devices

Since their launch Add-ons have provided users with a variety of additional features in Google Documents. Until yesterday, those Add-ons only worked when you were using the browser version of Google Documents. Now there is a selection of Google Docs Add-ons that work in the Android version of Google Docs. Of that collection the ones that are of interest to teachers and students are Easy Bib, Teacher Aide, and Google Classroom.

Applications for Education
If you or your students regularly use Android devices to work on documents, the new selection of Add-ons for Android could be helpful to you. The selection of Android-ready Add-ons is limited at this time. Hopefully, in the near future we'll see more Add-ons available in the Android version of Google Documents.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

My SimpleShow Offers a Good Way to Create Explanatory Videos

My Simpleshow is a free tool for creating Common Craft style explanatory videos. The best aspect of My Simpleshow is the emphasis that the developers have placed on storyline planing and development.

My Simpleshow requires you to write a script for your video before you can start adding illustrations and sounds to it. In My Simpleshow you will find a wide variety of script templates that will help you plan your video. The script is written in chapters that become the outline for your video. After you have written your script My Simpleshow will take your chapters and give you suggested images and animations to use. The suggestions are based on the keywords in your script. You also have the option to upload your own visuals to use in your video.

Adding narration to your video is the last step in the My Simpleshow editor. There is an automated text-to-speech narration that you can use or you can record yourself reading your script. If you choose the automated text-to-speech narration there are two voice options that you can use. Completed videos can be downloaded and or directly uploaded to YouTube from My Simpleshow.

Applications for Education
There is not a shortage of online tools and mobile apps for creating explanatory videos. My Simpleshow stands out from the crowd because of the emphasis that is placed on storyline development. Making students write a script before they begin video production allows them and you to make sure that they have articulated their points well before they get caught up in trying to make the video look good.

Running Reality - Mapping the Rise and Fall of Nations

Running Reality is an ambitious project that is attempting to build an interactive map and timeline of the rise and fall of nations throughout history. Currently, you can visit Running Reality and choose a date or range of dates on the timeline to see a map of nations around the world at that time. Alternatively, you can click on the map and see a timeline of events contributing to the rise and fall of a nation. The details on each event are scarce at this point, but it is an open project so you can register and add details to events in Running Reality.

Applications for Education
Running Reality has a page for class project contributions. Instead of just being passive consumers of information from Running Reality, students can contribute to the growth of the project to help future students visiting the site.

H/T to Maps Mania

5 Tips for New Chromebook Users

The new school year isn't too far away now. For some teachers that could mean it's time to start getting accustomed to using a Chromebook for the first time. If your school has decided to start using Chromebooks and you're using one for the first time, check out my video embedded below to learn the answers to five questions that first-time Chromebook users frequently ask. Those questions are:

1. How do I change the background picture on my Chromebook?
2. Where do files go when I save them on my Chromebook?
3. How do I access files without an internet connection?
4. Where do I find the app for X on my Chromebook?
5. How do I add new apps to my Chromebook?


On a related note, I recorded this video on my Chromebook by using the CaptureCast Chrome extension.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Vizia - Create Interactive Video Quizzes

Vizia is a free tool for creating video-based quizzes. On Vizia you an import a video from YouTube or from Wistia and then add questions along the timeline of the video. You can ask multiple choice questions as well as short answer/ open-response questions. Adding a poll question into the video is also a possibility in Vizia. All of the responses to your questions are collected in a spreadsheet that you can download and or open in Google Sheets.

When you create a Vizia video quiz you have the option to require that viewers enter their names and email addresses before they begin. Alternatively, you could make the first question in the video a prompt to enter a name.


Applications for Education
Vizia could be a good tool to use to create short flipped video lessons in which you ask questions to check for understanding. One way that I might use it is to put a campaign commercial into the Vizia editor then create questions that ask students to identify the persuasion techniques that are used in the commercial.

Try my Vizia video quiz as embedded below to see how it works.

How Much Does It Cost to Run for President?

Now that the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign is in full swing it's a good time to take a look at how much it costs to run for President. In the video below the folks at Brain Stuff have done a nice job of explaining the cost of running a campaign.


More resources for teaching and learning about the 2016 U.S. Presidential election:

A large portion of the money that candidates raise will be spent on television advertising. The Living Room Candidate offers a history of campaign commercials dating back to the 1950's. Students can watch old commercials and read the transcripts of those commercials.

PBS Election Central is a collection of educational resources related to the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. The collection includes interactive maps, virtual field trips, and videos. Within the PBS Election Central collection there are resources appropriate for elementary school, middle school, and high students.

C-SPAN's 2016 Electoral College Map shows the number of Electoral votes each state has in 2016. The poster also includes the Electoral vote and popular vote tallies of the every election dating back to 1900. You can get a copy of the poster here. The poster on its own is nice, but students will need some guidance in understanding what all of the information really means. To that end C-SPAN Classroom offers a set of guiding questions to use with your students in conjunction with the 2016 Electoral College Map.

This TED-Ed lesson offers a short explanation of the Electoral College by answering the question, "does your vote count?" The video for the lesson is embedded below.


Common Craft offers The Electoral College in Plain English.



Create Animated Videos & More With Animatron

Animatron is a nice tool for creating animated videos and images. I learned about it from Larry Ferlazzo a couple of weeks ago and I finally got some time to try it this morning.

The concept behind Animatron is similar to that of Wideo and Powtoon. You drag and drop characters on a background scene and then choose how long each character will be displayed on the screen. You can also set the length of time for each character in a scene to be in motion. By using Animatron's timeline editor I was able to make objects appear and disappear from a scene. The best feature of Animatron is that I can record audio directly over the animation. The built-in recording tools lets you see the scene while you're recording so that you can precisely synchronize each scene with its audio track. Larry reported that the audio wasn't great, but I found it to be fine when I recorded with my Blue Snowball microphone.

Scenes created in Animatron can be downloaded as videos and or as GIFs. Animatron's free plan limits you to ten seconds of download time. The free plan will let you embed and or share longer scenes via social media. The other limitation of the free plan is that you can only create five projects before you'll have to delete one.

Applications for Education
Animatron could be a good tool for students to use to bring written stories to life in animated videos. The user interface on Animatron takes a while to understand and it could frustrate students younger than age 13.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Glossary of Blogging Terminology

The start of the new school year isn't far for many teachers now. It is at this time of year that I find myself helping teachers get classroom blogs started. Once you've chosen the best blogging tool for you and your students, sometimes the next challenge of running a blog is just knowing the terminology that is used when we talk about blogging. That's why I put together the following list of common blogging terms and their definitions. 

Post: “Post” can refer to an entry on your blog as in “a blog post.” “Post” can also be used as a verb as in “I am going to post a new entry on my blog.”

Page: A page on a blog is different than a post because a page is designed for static content. Pages are good for posting information that you want visitors to your blog to be able to quickly access. For example, my classroom blog had pages for curriculum outlines and review guides.

Theme: WordPress (Wordpress is open-source software that powers many blogging tools) and many other blogging platforms use “themes” to describe the look of a blog. The theme can include the color scheme and the placement of elements like calendars and margins on a blog. Changing the theme does not change the content of your blog posts.

Template: Blogger and some other blogging platforms use the term “template” to describe the look of a blog. The template can include the color scheme and the layout of elements on the blog. Changing your template does not change the content of your blog posts.

Tag: Tags are applied to WordPress (Kidblog, Edublogs) blog posts to identify the key ideas or purpose of a post. Tags make it easier for people to search and find older posts on your blog. For example, if you write a post about your Revolutionary War lesson, tag it with “revolution” or “revolutionary war” so that at the end of the school year when you have 150 posts on your blog your students can quickly click on the “revolution” tag and jump to the post that have that label. It’s a lot easier to locate older posts by tag than it is to click through archives by date.

Label: Labels are applied to Blogger blog posts to identify the key ideas or purpose of a post. For example, if you write a blog post about your Revolutionary War lesson plan, label it with “revolution” or “revolutionary war” so that at the end of the school year when you have 150 posts on your blog your students can quickly click on the “revolution” label and jump to the posts that have that label. It’s a lot easier to locate older posts by label than it is to click through archives by date.

Tag Cloud and Label Cloud: Tag and Label clouds can be added to your blog’s homepage to make it easy for visitors to see the tags or labels that you use, click on one of them, and jump to a list of all of the posts that have that particular label.

Categories: In WordPress-powered blogs you can use categories for broad descriptions of posts in addition to using tags. For example, on iPadApps4School.com I use the categories “pre-K,” “elementary school,” “middle school,” and “high school.” I assign each post to a category and use tags for describing the academic topic of the post. This way if someone visits my blog looking for math apps appropriate for elementary school he or she can click on the “math” tag then click on the “elementary school” category to find all of my posts meeting that search criteria.

Embed: To display a video, slideshow, audio recording, Google Calendar, Google Map, game, and many other multimedia elements in a blog post you will use an embed code provided by service hosting that media. Embedding media into a blog post does not make you the owner of it and as long as you follow the guidelines set forth by the hosting service you are not violating copyright by embedding something you didn’t create. For example, when you find a video on YouTube that you want your students to watch you can embed it into a blog post and ask students to comment on the blog post. If the owner of that video decides to take it offline the video will no longer play through your blog post.

Embed Codes: An embed code is a piece of code, often HTML, that media hosting services like YouTube provide so that you can easily display the media that they host in your own blog posts. On some services like SlideShare.net an embed code will be clearly labeled as such next to the media you’re viewing. On other services the embed code will be one of the options that appears when you click on the “share” option. YouTube, for example, currently requires you to open the “share” menu before you see the embed code option.

Widget: A widget is a small application that you can include in the posts and or pages of your blog. A widget could be a game, a display of Tweets, a display of RSS feeds, a tag cloud, a calendar, or any other application that offers an embed code.

Gadget: Gadget is the term that Blogger uses for a widget. A gadget and a widget do the same things. 

Plug-in: A plug-in (sometimes plugin) is a small application that you can add to the software that powers your blog. Unlike widgets and gadgets plug-ins operate in the background and visitors to your blog will not see them working. A plug-in can add functions to your blog such as suggesting related posts to your visitors or detecting the type of device a visitor is using to view your blog then automatically displaying the mobile or desktop version of your blog’s layout.

Permalink: Each blog post is assigned its own separate URL this is known as a permalink (permanent link). This URL is the one that you would share if you wanted someone to directly access a post rather than going to your blog’s homepage then searching for the post.

For a comparison of blogging tools, take a look at this chart

A Crowd-sourced List of Google Cardboard Apps & Videos

During the ISTE conference this year I met Jack Bosley who is an educational technology teacher in Kentucky. He introduced himself after the panel discussion, hosted by Samsung, about virtual reality in education. Jack shared with me a Google Form that he created to crowd-source a list of apps and videos to use in Google Cardboard viewers in classrooms. So far the form has gathered thirty entries. And you can contribute to the list here. If you make a submission through the form, you will have access to the list.

Jack has also put together a great introductory presentation about Google Cardboard. That presentation can be seen here.

People looking to learn more about virtual reality in education may be interested in the studies that I highlighted in this post that I published at the end of June.

ScratchMath - Great Ideas for Using Scratch in Elementary Math

Last month I received an email from Jeffery Gordon in which he shared with me an online binary calculator that he created for his students. When I asked him for more information about the calculator and what he was teaching in general, he shared another cool resource with me. That resource is ScratchMath.

ScratchMath, written by Jeffery Gordon, is a free ebook filled with examples of using Scratch in elementary school math classes. The examples are Scratch models through which students can learn concepts dealing with place values, multiplication, and division. Each example includes the steps that need to be completed in Scratch to create models like a multiplication array, a divisibility checker, and factoring game.

For folks who are not familiar with Scratch, it is a free programming tool designed for students between the ages of eight and sixteen although it has been successfully used by younger and older students. Scratch uses a visual interface that helps students see how the parts of a program fit together to create a final product. Students create programs by dragging and dropping commands into a sequence. Programs that students create can vary from simple animations to complex multiplayer games. Visit the Scratch Educators page to learn more about how to use it in your classroom.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Running Android Apps on Your Chromebook

Chromebooks and the Chrome OS are constantly improving and offering more features to more students and teachers. An example of this is found when you consider that earlier this summer Google started supporting the use of some Android apps on some Chromebooks. Initially, the list of supported Chromebooks was small. That list has steadily grown over the last few weeks. You can see the list on the Chromium Projects website. Likewise, the list of Android apps that can be used on a Chromebook as steadily expanded. That list can be seen on this Chrome Web Store page (note, the page only displays the apps if you are viewing it on a Chromebook).

Jim Mendenhall has created a great webpage for comparing the features of various Chromebooks to help you find the best one for you and your students. Jim also recently published a video about how to use Android apps on Chromebooks. That video is embedded below.

Google Apps Terminology - A Short Explanation of Common Terms

Earlier this week I received an email from someone who was looking for clarification on the differences between Google Apps for Education, Google Drive, and Google Docs. That request for clarification isn't uncommon. Here's how I typically try to explain the differences between Google Apps for Education, Google Drive,  and Google Docs.

Google Apps for Education:
Google Apps for Education (commonly referred to as GAFE) is a free service that Google provides to schools. Within Google Apps for Education students, teachers, administrators, and support staff can use Google Classroom, Google Drive, Google Sites, Google Calendar, Gmail, and many other Google products. Google Classroom is only available to GAFE users. It provides a mechanism for teachers to distribute to and collect assignments from students. GAFE operates through a school/ school district's registered domain which means that user account names are typically structured as "username@yourawesomeschool.org" instead of "username@gmail.com." A domain administrator can set permissions on each account within a GAFE domain.

Google Drive:
Google Drive is a cloud storage solution offered by Google. It is available to anyone who has a Google Account of any type. Within Google Drive you can store any kind of file. Through Google Drive you have access to Google Documents, Google Slides, Google Sheets, Google Drawings, and Google Forms. Think of Google Drive as a garage in which you can store things and in that garage you also have tools (Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, Drawings) for creating new things.

Google Documents:
Google Documents is a free tool for creating and editing documents. It is designed to be an alternative to Word and other word processing programs. Google Docs can be used online or offline (provided that you use the Chrome web browser). You can share and collaborate on the creation and editing of documents with other Google Documents users.

Check out my playlist of tutorials on Google Apps, Google Drive, Google Documents, and other Google services.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where I'm enjoying some coffee on my deck to start the day. This week I hosted the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp in Portland, Maine. 35 of use had a nice couple of days of learning from each other. Some people attended for the second and third time. I'm already starting to think about how to make next year's Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps better. Hopefully, you can join us next year.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. How to Create Custom Word Clouds
2. ABCD Wordie Analyzes Text and Creates Vocabulary Lists
3. Word Tamer Helps Students Write Stories
4. A New Lesson Plan Tool for Google Docs
5. A Compare & Contrast Essay Map for Young Students
6. A Tour of the Geology of U.S. National Parks
7. How to Track Changes to Google Sites

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, July 22, 2016

A New Lesson Plan Tool for Google Docs

OpenEd is a service that offers a huge catalog of standards-aligned lesson plans and other resources for teachers. Today, I received an email from OpenEd informing me of their new Google Docs Add-on called Lesson Plan Tool for Docs.

With Lesson Plan Tool for Docs enabled you can search for standards-aligned lesson plan resources within your Google Documents. To perform a search simply open the add-on then select a standard from the drop-down menu that appears on the right-hand side of your document. You can preview any of the resources that appear in the search by simply clicking on them and opening them in a new tab. When you find a resource that you like, you can click again to add it into your document.

Applications for Education
Lesson Plan Tool for Docs could be a handy Add-on to use when you're developing units of study for your classroom. You could share the document onto which you're adding resources so that your colleagues can help you create a unit of study.

Why the Metric System Matters - And How It Confounds Americans

Why the Metric System Matters is the title of the latest TED-Ed lesson. The lesson explains how measurement systems evolved through history including the historical event that hastened the adoption of the metric system throughout most of the world. The lesson also explains why the United States doesn't use the metric system.


As is noted in the video above, many Americans are not comfortable with the metric system despite the fact that it's the universal standard in mathematics and science. The Buzzfeed video embedded below captures the trouble that Americans have with the metric system.

How to Place an Image-based Quiz in Your Blog

A couple of weeks ago I published a tutorial on how to create an image-based quiz on Formative. The image-based quizzes that you create in Formative can be embedded into your classroom blog where your students can then answer the questions in the quiz. In my video embedded below I demonstrate how to create the quiz, how to embed it into your blog, and I show you a student's perspective of the quiz as embedded into a blog.


Applications for Education
I am a proponent of using classroom blogs as online hubs for digital activities like image-based quizzes. Putting the Formative quiz in your classroom blog means that you don't have to try to direct all of your students to a link or a classroom code. Instead, you can just direct them to your classroom blog where they can find all of the activities and resources that they need for your class.

A Convenient Update to Google Drive File Organization

The "make a copy" function in Google Drive is one of the features that I frequently use when teaching multiple sections of a course. Selecting "make a copy" from the "File" menu in Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets allows me to quickly duplicate an item to use in multiple courses. Until this week I always had to go back into My Drive to then place my duplicated files into the folders for each course. This week Google made that process easier. Now when I copy Documents, Sheets, or Slides I can immediately choose the folder into which the copy should should be placed.

Applications for Education
This update to Google Drive isn't going to change the way you teach or the way the that your students use Google Documents. This update is helpful for those of us who teach multiple sections of the same course and often re-use documents from one section to the next. I've already used the new folder choice option three times this week as I prepare materials for a class I'm teaching in the fall.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Tour of the Geology of U.S. National Parks

This evening while picking up pizza for dinner I ran into one of my old assistant principals who told me about the road trip that he just completed with his family. They went on a tour of national parks in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming, and Montana. Listening to him reminded me of a nice resource for learning about U.S. national parks.

From Yellowstone to Bryce Canyon to Acadia the United States is full of national parks that showcase wonderful geology. The National Park Service has organized all of the parks and their geological features on one Tour of Park Geology page. The Tour of Park Geology highlights fifteen geological features including fossils, caves, shorelines, and plate tectonics. Click on any feature on the Tour of Park Geology page to jump to more information about that feature and the park(s) that contain that feature.

Applications for Education
The Tour of Park Geology could be a good resource for finding photo albums and examples to use in your geology lessons. You could have students build a virtual national parks tour on Google Maps and have them include geology information in their tours.

My Favorite Search Strategies - Updated

This morning during the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp I shared some of my favorite strategies and ideas for helping students improve their online research skills. The slides that I used today were an updated version of slides that I have previously shared here on Free Technology for Teachers. The latest version is of the slides is embedded below.

ImageCodr Helps You Create Correct Image Citations

Creative Commons licensing makes many photos available for re-use that we otherwise could not use. The trouble is properly citing Creative Commons licensed works can sometimes be a confusing, multistep process. ImageCodr aims to make that process easier.

ImageCodr generates properly formatted Creative Commons attributions for images that you find on Flickr. Once you've found a Flickr image that you want to use just paste its URL into the ImageCodr code generator to get a properly formatted image code with Creative Commons attribution.


Applications for Education
ImageCodr could be a good tool for students to use when they're adding images to blog posts. ImageCodr gives students all of the code and attributions necessary for using a Creative Commons image found on Flickr in their blog posts.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Teach Your Monster to Read

Another question that appeared on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page over the weekend read,

Hello Richard, I love your blog and thanks for sharing . Do you know a good free site for preschoolers to practise phonics?

My suggestion for that reader was to take a look at Teach Your Monster to Read. Teach Your Monster to Read is a great series of online games designed to help students improve the speed and accuracy with which they recognize letters and sounds. The website gets its name from the friendly monster avatars that students help learn to read through the course of the games.

The Teach Your Monster to Read games are designed to help students improve the speed and accuracy with which they recognize letters, sounds, and word. The games have eight levels (or islands as they're called in the game) each containing four activities. Students play the game as a friendly monster avatar. On each island students can earn prizes for their monsters and customize the look of their monsters.

Getting Started With Kaizena - Voice Commenting on Google Docs

Over the weekend a reader posted the following message on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page,

Hey Richard, would you be able to recommend a free site for audio feedack to students? I want to record my feedback on essays and have kids listen. Don't know where to start. Is it an audio file that can be emailed? They have to log on somewhere and listen? Thoughts? Thanks for any help.

My suggestion was to try Kaizena for adding voice comments to students documents. Kaizena can be used in your web browser or as an iPad app. Kaizena's YouTube channel has some helpful tutorials including the three embedded in the playlist below.

How to Track Changes to Google Sites

This afternoon during the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp Beth Still and I shared some ways to use Google Sites with students. One of the features that I showed was using page level permissions (this video shows you how to enable those) to have students manage individual pages within a site. That raised the question of how to keep track of updates that students make to their pages. There is a simple way to do that by subscribing to page changes. Watch my video below to learn how to track changes to Google Sites.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Digital Dialects - Games for Learning a New Language

Digital Dialects offers a nice selection of educational games and activities for learning more than 50 different languages. Most of the games are designed to learn and practice the basics of each of the languages listed on the Digital Dialects homepage.

Another good website for learning and practicing language basics is Literacy Center.net. Literacy Center offers games for learning and practicing French, Spanish, German, and English. The Literacy Center is a 501c non-profit with a contract from the US Department of Education.

Applications for EducationThe educational games and activities found on Digital Dialects and Literacy Center are great for students just beginning to learn a new language. The games provide instant feedback to students and parents so that they can monitor progress and choose a skill or set of vocabulary terms to practice. 

Quick Current Events Activities from KQED Education

KQED Public Media's website has a small section of its Ed Space pages dedicated to short current events-based Do Now activities that teachers can use in their classrooms. These weekly Do Now activities present a current events topic, some background information (both text and video), and a couple of discussion prompts. New Do Now activities are posted on Fridays although it is currently on hiatus until August.

Applications of Education
KQED's Do Now activities aren't terribly in-depth, but they could be good lesson starters. For more in-depth lesson ideas you should explore KQED's curriculum bank where you can search for lessons by subject and grade level.

Word Tamer Helps Students Write Stories

Word Tamer is a neat site for learning the process of developing characters, settings, and plots in creative writing. Word Tamer is set up as an interactive journey through a carnival of literary devices. As students move through the carnival they develop characters, develop a setting, and develop a plot for their stories. At each stop in the Word Tamer carnival students can print out the words they have written. Along the way there are videos to help students understand the roles of characters, settings, and plot development in crafting a good story.

Applications for Education
I learned about Word Tamer from Kristen Swanson who noted that the narration and graphics make the site UDL-friendly. I think that Word Tamer has potential to get reluctant writers started on their way to crafting creative stories.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Compare & Contrast Essay Map for Young Students

Read Write Think's 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.

In the video below I provide an overview of RWT's Compare & Contrast Map.


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.

The Week in Review - Camp Week

Good morning from Maine where my friends Kris and Beth Still are visiting for the week. Beth, a Google Certified Teacher, will be helping me with the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp that starts on Monday. Yesterday, we went on an unsuccessful back roads drive to look for a moose. We'll try again this evening after a traditional Maine supper of lobsters prepared outdoors.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Character Scrapbook - A Template for Reflecting on Stories
2. Zaption is Closing - Try These Alternatives
3. Two Easy Ways to Add Accent Marks in Google Documents
4. 10 Ways to Use Adobe Spark in School
5. 7 Free Timeline Tools Compared In One Chart
6. Alphabetimals - A Dictionary of Animal Sounds
7. Sugar Scanner Shows You How Much Sugar You're Consuming

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.

ABCD Wordie Analyzes Text and Creates Vocabulary Lists

ABCD Wordie is a handy tool for evaluating the level of the vocabulary in a passage of text. To use ABCD Wordie you simply paste a chunk of text into the ABCD Wordie site and then choose one of nine levels that describe the reading skills of your students. Once that selection is made ABCD Wordie will create a list of vocabulary words pulled from the text provided. You can customize the list by selecting words to delete from the list. All vocabulary lists can be printed.

Applications for Education
ABCD Wordie could be a good tool for creating vocabulary study lists based on texts that your students will be reading in your classroom.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Three Good Options for Creating eBooks in Your Web Browser

Creating a multimedia ebook can be a great way for students to showcase examples of their best work. Writing a multimedia ebook can also be a nice way for students to illustrate and or further explain portions of fiction and non-fiction stories that they compose. The following three platforms make it possible for students to create and publish multimedia ebooks in their web browsers.

Widbook is a platform designed to help people collaboratively create multimedia books. The service is part multimedia book authoring tool and part social network. Mashable called it "the YouTube of books." On Widbook you can create a digital book that contains text, images, and videos. Widbook is collaborative because you can invite others to make contributions to your books. To use Widbook you have to create a profile on the service. The books that you create become a part of your profile. If you allow it, other Widbook users can add content and or comments to your books. Likewise, you can search for others' books and  make contributions to their books. Due to the public gallery of books I would only use Widbook with students of high school age or older.

Storybird provides templates and artwork for creating digital stories. To use Storybird you simply select a theme (layout) then drag and drop the drawings you like into your story. Once you've selected drawings for your story, you then write in the text of your story. Using Storybird, anyone can create great-looking digital picture book stories regardless of your drawing skills or lack there-of.

Little Bird Tales is a nice site intended for younger students to use to create digital stories. Little Bird Tales walks users through each step of creating a multimedia story. Users can upload images, draw images, or record from their webcams. Stories can be written with text or narrated by students using microphones connected to their computers

How to Create Custom Word Clouds

Word cloud generators provide students with a nice way to visualize the most frequently used words in a passage of text. There are plenty of word cloud creation tools on the web. There is even a Google Docs Add-on for making word clouds. One relatively newer tool for making word clouds is found at WordClouds.com. In my video embedded below I demonstrate the features of WordClouds.com


Watch my video embedded below to learn how to make word clouds in Google Documents.

Handy Web Tools That Solve Three Problems for Every Classroom

Whether we teach seven year old students or seventeen year old students there are some universal problems that we all have to handle in our classrooms. The following three handy tools can help you solve those problems.

Staying on Schedule
When I have long blocks of time with students I like to schedule short breaks and transition times between activities. That's done with students who are elementary school age as well as high school students. A timer helps me keep those breaks and transitions on schedule.

Simply type into Google search "set timer" followed by an amount of time and a countdown timer is displayed. An alarm beeps when time is up. You can make the timer appear full screen without advertisements by clicking a little box icon to the right of the timer.

Russel Tarr's Classtools Countdown Timer has two slick features. You can create and set multiple timers on the same page. This means that if you had students sharing in rapid succession you wouldn't have to reset the timer for each student, you simply move onto using the next timer on the page. The second feature of note in the Classtools Countdown Timer is the option to add music to your timers. You can have your countdown timers set to music. Mission Impossible, The Apprentice, and Countdown are the standard music options. You can add other music by using the YouTube search tool built into the timer.

Getting Everyone on the Same Page
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.

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.

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.

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.

Choosing Students at Random
Whether it is to call on a student to answer a question during a lesson or two choose a line leader for the day, we all have occasions for using a 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.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Two Easy Ways to Add Accent Marks in Google Documents

One of the things that I was asked about during the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp on Monday was, "how can students write in two languages in Google Docs?" The person asking wanted her students to be able to write a few lines in English and then a few lines in Spanish or French. There are two rather easy ways to do this in Google Documents. Both of those methods are demonstrated in my short video that is embedded below.