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Monday, October 31, 2016

The Month in Review - October's Most Popular Posts

Good evening from Maine where I'm getting ready to fly to the Georgia Educational Technology Conference tomorrow. I'll be speaking there on Wednesday and Thursday. If you're going too, please say hello. Next week I'll be speaking at an event near my hometown in Connecticut.

At the end of every month I post a list of the most frequently read posts of the previous 30 days. This gives me a chance to see what you're interested in and you a chance to see what's trending.

Here are this month's most popular posts:
1. Great Google Drive Add-ons for Teachers - An Updated Handout
2. 10 Important Google Search Strategies for Students - A PDF Handout
3. 10 Ideas for Using Comics In Your Classroom
4. Zing! - Thousands of Free eBooks for Students
5. How to Create Flashcards from a Google Spreadsheet
6. Goo.gl - Save Time, Shorten URLs, and Track Interactions
7. WriteReader - Collaborative Book Creation for Elementary School Classrooms
8. How JoeZoo Express Can Save You Tons of Time Grading in Google Documents
9. Click to Spin - A Fun and Free Random Name Picker
10. A Cute Video About Email Etiquette for Students

In November I'll be trying out a new way of offering professional development webinars. For the last few years I've offered them as three to five week courses. A lot of people have suggested offering each section of the courses as stand-alone webinars. So this month I'll be offering two one hour webinars. One on formative assessment and one on video creation. Registration will be available on Wednesday.

Need a keynote for your conference? 
Click here to learn about my keynotes and workshops.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
Pixton provides a great way to create comics. 
QuickKey saves teachers tons of time when scoring formative assessments.
SeeSaw is the best platform for creating digital portfolios with K-8 students. 
Math Playground offers hundreds of math games and tutorial videos. 
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.
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.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explainer videos.

How to Share Rubrics in JoeZoo

Earlier today I received an email from a reader who was following up on my recent post about JoeZoo Express. She was asking if it was possible to browse existing rubrics in JoeZoo. Unfortunately, you can only share rubrics in JoeZoo if your school has the JoeZoo app installed domain-wide (it's free to do, ask your G Suite for Education administrator to do it). Once JoeZoo is installed across your your G Suite for Education domain, you will be able to share rubrics with your colleagues. The following video from JoeZoo explains how that works.


If you simply want to find publicly shared rubrics that were written in Google Docs or Google Sheets, you can do a Google search and refine your search to show results only from the domain docs.google.com or sheets.google.com. Here's how I structured a search for science project rubrics: science project rubric site:docs.google.com

A Thorough Video Overview of the French Revolution

In my previous post I shared the new TED-Ed lesson about the French Revolution. That video lesson is fine as an introduction in a middle school classroom. For a much more in-depth video lesson on the French Revolution students should turn to Tom Richey. Tom offers a thirteen part series on the French Revolution. The series was designed for students reviewing for the AP European History exam.


If you are going to share these videos with your students, I recommend also introducing them to either VideoNotes or Vialogues. VideoNotes and Vialogues let students take notes while watching a video. VideoNotes will integrate with G Suite for Education and allow students to share their notes through Google Drive.

A Short Introduction to the French Revolution

What Caused the French Revolution? is the title and topic of a new TED-Ed lesson. Like most TED-Ed lessons, the video provides a brief overview of the key points you'd find in a typical middle school or high school history textbook. The lesson introduces students to the three Estates of pre-revolution France, the National Assembly, and the storming of the Bastille. And, of course, the lesson introduces Napoleon. The video is embedded below.


Try Vizia or EDpuzzle to build interactive questions into this video lesson.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Projeqt - Create Dynamic Presentations

Projeqt is a presentation tool in which you can mix content from the web with your own content to create visual stories about your favorite things. Using Projeqt you can create a visual story by linking together images, videos, and text. The content you link together can be material that you upload or material that you have found on the web. Learn more about Projeqt and how you can create visual stories in the video below.

projeqt \ how great stories are told from projeqt on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
The display format of Projeqt seems to be well suited to having students create timelines of events. Students could also use Projeqt to create visual biographies.

Literature Map Helps You Find Authors You'll Like

Finding books that kids will like can be a difficult task. Literature Map is a tool that might make that process easier. Literature Map provides a web of authors you might like based on authors that you already enjoy reading. To use Literature Map just type an author's name into the search box and webbed list of authors will be displayed. The authors' names closest to the author whose name you searched are the authors whose work you're most likely to enjoy.

Applications for Education
Literature Map could be useful for students who have read all their favorite author's books and are looking for other good books to read.

5 Tools Students Can Use to Create Music Online

Online music creation tools can be used by students to make music to use in projects like podcasts and videos. Students can also use online music creation tools to experiment with rhythms and sounds to learn how music is made. The following free tools can be used for either of those purposes.

Soundtrap is a fantastic tool for creating music online. The cool thing about Soundtrap is that students can use virtual instruments to create music or they can record themselves playing music on an instrument and then use that recording in conjunction with the virtual instruments in the Soundtrap environment. What makes Soundtrap stand-out from the crowd is its collaboration options. Click the "collaborate" tab in the Soundtrap editor to invite others to create music with you. Soundtrap will work in the Chrome web browser on a laptop, iPad, Chromebook, and Android tablet. In my workshops I often describe Soundtrap as Google Docs for music.

BandLab is a free service that enables you to create music in your web browser or through free Android and iOS apps. In BandLab's you can create soundtracks using any of the virtual instruments that are provided. You can also speak or sing to record a track. Within the BandLab editor you can mix your tracks together to create a song. If you have existing audio files on your computer, you can upload those to incorporate into your BandLab creations.

Soundation is a service that allows anyone to create and remix sound tracks online. If you have used Apple's Garage Band, Soundation will look familiar to you. Soundation provides tracks on which you can place music clips and sound effects to mix together. To create your original work you can select from Soundation's gallery of 400 free sounds, upload your own sounds, or record new sounds using the instruments and keyboard built into Soundation. When you've created a product you like, you can download it or share it in Soundation's gallery.

Beat Lab is a free service through which you can experiment with thousands of sound and rhythm combinations. Using Beat Lab is easy. Beat Lab provides a grid on which you select the sounds you want to have played. You can specify how often you want each sound played and how quickly you want the sounds played. There are twelve default sounds provided in the Beat Lab grid. You can add more sounds by selecting "add more sounds" and choosing from the huge catalog of sounds. If the sound you want isn't available in the Beat Lab catalog you can upload your own sounds.

Monkey Machine is a web-based program that allows students to experiment with drum set sounds and rhythms. Using Monkey Machine students can customize the selection of drums and cymbals in their virtual drum set. Monkey Machine also allows students to customize the tempo in their drum tracks and the frequency with which each drum or cymbal is played. All tracks created using Monkey Machine can be downloaded as MIDI files.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Canva Can Help You Increase Your School's Social Media Reach

One of the things that I always talk about in my workshop on Blog & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is using high resolution graphics to draw attention to your blog posts and social media posts. Canva is a free tool that can help you create high quality, high resolution graphics to make your posts stand-out in a crowded stream of social media posts. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Canva to create graphics for social media posts.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good evening from Maine where I spent most of the rainy day reading to my daughter and playing with my dogs. It was a great way to spend a day. Looking at my Facebook feed today I saw lots of parents preparing their kids for Halloween activities. We went to a little town celebration of Halloween yesterday afternoon. Whatever you did on this Saturday, I hope you had an enjoyable day.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Great Google Drive Add-ons for Teachers - An Updated Handout
2. How JoeZoo Express Can Save You Tons of Time Grading in Google Documents
3. 7 Halloween Lesson Activities for Elementary School Students
4. Three Good Tools for Collaboratively Creating Multimedia Books
5. My Three Favorite Video Creation iPad Apps for Elementary School
6. How to Add Sticky Notes To Webpages
7. OpenEd Helps You Find Resources to Share In Your LMS

Need a keynote for your conference? 
Click here to learn about my keynotes and workshops.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
Pixton provides a great way to create comics. 
QuickKey saves teachers tons of time when scoring formative assessments.
SeeSaw is the best platform for creating digital portfolios with K-8 students. 
Math Playground offers hundreds of math games and tutorial videos. 
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.
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.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explainer videos.

#TeacherDebate - A Live Lesson About the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Next week on Tuesday night Keith Hughes, Tom Richey, and Nicholas Ferroni will be conducting a mock Presidential debate on Google Hangouts. Keith will represent Clinton's positions. Tom will represent the positions of Trump. And Nicholas will be the moderator. The event will be streamed and recorded on Keith's Hip Hughes History channel. Learn more about this event by watching Keith's preview video below.


You might be wondering why they aren't having someone play the role of Gary Johnson. Keith answered that question a bunch of times on his YouTube channel. Here's the answer he's been giving:

"We were challenged to do it and we put together quite quickly. It's also much harder to handle five people in a Google Hangout in order to have any type of rational discussion. I know it's not the best answer but it's the only one I have."

Friday, October 28, 2016

How JoeZoo Express Can Save You Tons of Time Grading in Google Documents

JoeZoo Express is a Google Documents Add-on that I have been raving about since I first tried it earlier this year. The JoeZoo Express Add-on can save you a ton of time when you are grading or editing your students' writing in Google Documents. The way that JoeZoo Express does that is by providing you with the ability to store canned comments to insert directly in your students' work. Not only that, JoeZoo Express includes an option for linking to tutorials that can help your students improve their writing. Watch my short video embedded below to see how JoeZoo Express make your grading process much more efficient.

Three Good Tools for Collaboratively Creating Multimedia Books

Collaborating to create multimedia books can be a good way to get students excited about writing stories. Students can collaborate with each other and or with you. Through the process of sharing ideas and revisions students' work improves. 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.

For elementary school students:
WriteReader is a neat multimedia writing platform for elementary school teachers and students. The appeal of WriteReader is found in the collaboration between students and teachers. Students can create multimedia books that teachers log into to correct. As is seen the video below, each page of a book has a space for students to write in and a space for teachers to write in. Teachers use the space on the page to correct spelling errors and or make editing suggestions. WriteReader books can include text, pictures, and voice recordings. Completed WriteReader books can be shared online and can be downloaded as PDFs to print.

Tools for middle school/ high school students:
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.

I've often described Lucidpress as a mix of the best of Apple's Pages with the best of Google Docs. Through Lucidpress you and your students can collaboratively create documents that incorporate videos and images. Through Lucidpress you and your students can collaboratively create documents that incorporate videos and images. The process of creating a document on Lucidpress can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. To get started you might stick with the basics of moving text and pictures around on the document by just dragging and dropping. There are options for layering images with differing amounts of transparency, image cropping tools, and font customization options in each Lucidpress template. As mentioned above, you can also add videos into your projects (obviously they only play when viewed online).

Nearly 19,000 People Get Their Ed Tech Tips This Way

The reason that I read more often than any other for people unsubscribing from Free Technology for Teachers is "too many updates." That's why over the last two years I've offered two other ways to find my ed tech tips and news in a less frequently updated fashion. Those options are the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter and my YouTube channel.

The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter is sent out once a week on Sunday evening (Monday morning in some parts of the world). The newsletter includes my favorite tip of the week and a list of the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers. Nearly 12,000 people are subscribed to the newsletter, you can subscribe to the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter here.

On my YouTube channel I post a couple of new tutorial videos every week. My YouTube channel has more than 400 video tutorials on everything from G Suite for Education apps to video creation tools to fun and free formative assessment tools. Nearly 7,000 people are subscribed to my YouTube channel and you can subscribe here.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

How to Add Sticky Notes To Webpages

Note Anywhere is a Chrome extension that lets you add a sticky note to just about any webpage that you have open in your browser. With the extension installed you can simply click its icon in your browser and start writing notes on the page. As I demonstrate in the video embedded below, Note Anywhere could be a good tool to use to remind yourself of things that you want to say to students when you share a webpage with them.


H/T to Lifehacker.

OpenEd Helps You Find Resources to Share In Your LMS

OpenEd (formerly known as OpenEd.io) offers a huge index of educational games, videos, practice assessments, tutorials, and more. One of the strengths of OpenEd is that you can search for resources according to Common Core Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. Another of OpenEd's strengths is its integration with multiple learning management systems including Google Classroom, Otus, and Schoology.

Within the Otus learning management system you can use OpenEd to search for materials to share with students through your online bookshelf of resources.

From the OpenEd catalog you can share resources to your Google Classroom classrooms. Watch the short video embedded below to learn how to do that.


One More Halloween-themed Lesson - 4 Fun Facts About Ravens

A couple of weeks ago I shared four Halloween-themed video lessons from SciShow Kids. This morning I discovered another SciShow Kids video that falls into the same category. In 4 Things You Didn't Know About Ravens students can learn that crows and ravens are not the same bird and how to tell the difference. The video also teaches students about the different eating habits of ravens. Finally, students can learn about the signs of a raven's intelligence and how they mimic sounds. Students can get the details on all of these facts by watching the video as embedded below.


The beginning of the video covers all of the ways that you can tell the difference between a raven and a crow. A good follow-up lesson would be to display pictures of both to your students and ask them to identify each bird.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Choosito & Quick Key Partner to Provide Resource Suggestions Based on Assessment Results

Choosito is a neat search engine for students and teachers to use to find websites based on reading level. It also includes a number of filtering options that let teachers do things like eliminate search results from Wikipedia or message board communities. See how it works here.

Quick Key is a popular app that lets teachers quickly score formative assessments. Teachers using Quick Key grade paper-based quizzes by scanning the paper with the free Quick Key app. But teachers can also use Quick Key to create online assessments that are automatically scored too. Get more details here.

Earlier this week Choosito and Quick Key announced a partnership in which teachers who use Quick Key to score formative assessments will be able to quickly find educational resource suggestions based on assessment scores. The idea is that once Quick Key helps teachers identify a student's area of weakness, Choosito will use that data to make resource suggestions. In the announcement Quick Key and Choosito promised that student data is kept anonymous between the two services.

Quick Key and Choosito are not the first companies to do something like this. MasteryConnect and Otus offer somewhat similar services. In all cases, the final determination of whether or not the service is useful to teachers and students is made by the teachers and students who utilize the suggested resources.

Disclosure: Quick Key is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Try Flippity's Mix & Match Template to Generate Random Story Starters

Flippity is a great website that provides templates for creating games, quizzes, and flashcards in Google Sheets. Recently, Flippity published a new template that could be great for creating random story starters.

The latest Flippity template is called Mix & Match. Mix & Match lets you create an online grid that features random bits of information or random phrases that you write into your spreadsheet. You enter the information that students see into a spreadsheet arranged in columns with headings of your choosing. When students view your Mix & Match page they can then hide parts of the page's display to create sentences. See the demo here or look at the screenshot below for a visual.

Applications for Education
There are lots of ways that you could use Flippity's Mix & Match template in your classroom. These are some of the ways that immediately came to my mind when I tried it out:

  1. Create "Mad Libs" style story starters. 
  2. Create a matching activity in which students match event names to details. 
  3. Create a matching activity in which students match place names and locations. 
  4. Create a random story generator on which students select a topic, character, action, and first sentence of a story. 

7 Halloween Lesson Activities for Elementary School Students

Halloween is less than one week away. Some communities, like mine, are having Halloween festivities this weekend. If you're in need of some educational activities with a Halloween-theme, take a look at the resources summarized below. All of these resources have appeared in individual posts in the past.

On Storyboard That you can now turn your storyboards into Halloween cards. In the Storyboard That creator you can use the myths and mystical scenes and characters to create your Halloween story. Once your storyboard is saved you can choose to print it with Halloween borders. The print-out includes lines for cutting and folding your cards. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create Halloween cards on Storyboard That.



The Pit and the Pendulum is available as an interactive comic book created by Poe in the Pit. If you view the comic book online you can click symbols within it to open videos, additional images, and additional background and analysis of Poe's work. If you choose to print the comic book you can us the QR codes embedded within it to access the videos, images, and additional info on your mobile device.

Number Chase - Math vs. Zombies is a free iPad game with a Halloween theme. The game is has three virtual worlds each containing ten levels of basic math problems. The object of the game is to correctly solve as many math problems as possible before the zombies catch you. The math of the game is basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Scholastic offers a variety of Halloween-themed activities for elementary school students. The Halloween Tooth: Max's Math Adventure is a math activity for K-2 students. In the activity students read and listen to a poem about Halloween candy then complete a set of activities in which they make patterns and count candy. Halloween Web Hunt is a simple web quest for students in grades three through five. The activity has students visit a virtual museum and online libraries to answer questions about mummies, bats, and Halloween history. Writing Mysteries provides a template and walks elementary school students through the process of writing mystery stories.

Halloween Magazine offers a safety game for students. The game is designed to teach students to recognize safe and unsafe situations while they're out trick 'o treating.

Smarty Games offers Halloween Math. In Halloween Math students move a ghost to catch the answers to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems.

Kids love playing Kahoot quiz games. In Kahoot's gallery of publicly shared quiz games you will find lots of quizzes about Halloween and Halloween safety. Playing those quizzes could be a great way to review Halloween safety with kids before they head out to trick o' trick. To learn how to use publicly shared Kahoot quizzes watch the video that is embedded below.



Monday, October 24, 2016

Create Location-based Reminders in Google Keep Notes

Google Keep has been my favorite bookmarking and reminder tool ever since Evernote made their free plan worthless earlier this year. I use it on a daily basis to bookmark interesting links and to write notes to myself. One of the neat features of Google Keep is that you can set reminder alarms for your notes and bookmarks. Today, for the first time, I noticed that you can set those reminders based on location as well as time.

To set location-based reminders in Google Keep you will need to have location services enabled on your phone. With location services enabled you can choose to have a location-based reminder alarm added to any of your notes. To do this, just tap the reminder option on your note then choose "place" and type in the location you wish to associate with your reminder.

Applications for Education
Google Keep's location-based reminders could be great for reminding students of meetings that they have after school. I can also see teachers using the feature to remind themselves of things like morning bus duty or lunch duty.

Click here for ten other ways that students can use Google Keep.

Great Google Drive Add-ons for Teachers - An Updated Handout

Last year I published a free PDF handout that highlights great Add-ons for Google Docs, Forms, and Sheets. The handout also included a few of my favorite Chrome extensions. A year passed and it was time to update that handout for the 2016-17 school year. The updated version of that handout is now available to download here or view as embedded below.

The handout highlights my favorite Chrome extensions as well as my favorite Add-ons for Google Docs, Forms, and Sheets. Please feel free to email it or print it and share it with your colleagues.


Please note that the file is hosted on Box.com. If your school blocks Box.com you won't be able to see the document on your school's network.

Padlet for Halloween and Thanksgiving

Earlier today Jennifer Casa-Todd asked me if I had a video tutorial on how to use the new version of Padlet. I do have a tutorial about the new version of Padlet. You can see it on my YouTube channel or as embedded lower in this post.

Coincidentally, I received an email from Padlet today. In that email I was reminded of the idea to use Padlet to have students share thoughts about holidays. Halloween is just one week away. You could use Padlet to have students share trick o' treating safety tips.

Thanksgiving (the American version) is just a month away. You could use Padlet to have students share what they are thankful for or to share their favorite Thanksgiving traditions and recipes.

Learn how to use Padlet by watching the video embedded below.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Good Place to Find Free Sound Effects for Multimedia Projects

Whether it is for a podcast, a video, a slide presentation, or some other multimedia project, there will be times when your students need to download sound effects. SoundBible is a good place for students to find all kinds of free sound effects recordings. Students can download files as MP3 or WAV files. And best of all, students don't need to register on the site in order to download the files. But they do need to remember to cite the source of the sound effects as most are labeled with a Creative Commons license. Learn more about SoundBible in my short video embedded below.

Two Helpful Tips for Navigating PDFs

One of the search tips that I often remind students about is, "search within your search results." In other words, open up a webpage, a PDF, or a Word file and search within it before dismissing it as not relevant to your search. There are two simple ways that students can quickly search and navigate through PDFs. I demonstrate both of those methods in the video embedded below.


For more search tips, download this free hand-out that I made last year.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where the rain we didn't have all summer has arrived in force today.

I have to start this week's week-in-review on a somber note as this afternoon I am going to the memorial service for my friend and former colleague, Steve Ray. Steve and I team taught a couple of courses in the last two years before he retired. Steve was a master of the Socratic method and he truly seemed to enjoy reading and editing students' writing. Which is why when I introduced blogging to our class, he liked the concept despite the fact that he didn't personally want to use a classroom computer for much more than entering grades into our schools' LMS. We were a good match. He was a great man. Many in our community will miss his thoughtful leadership.

On a cheerier note, Isla, my daughter, is now two months old and growing like a weed. She's happy to bounce around in her carrier on hikes. If the weather improves, we'll get outside for a hike this weekend.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. How to Create Flashcards from a Google Spreadsheet
2. Math Playground - Hundreds of Math Games & Instructional Videos
3. Upload Files As Responses To Google Forms - Coming Soon
4. Name Picker Ninja - A Random Name Picker for Your Classroom
5. 10 Ideas for Using Comics In Your Classroom
6. ToonyTool - Quickly Create Single Frame Comics
7. A Good Site for Free ACT Prep

Need a keynote for your conference? 
Click here to learn about my keynotes and workshops.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
Pixton provides a great way to create comics. 
QuickKey saves teachers tons of time when scoring formative assessments.
SeeSaw is the best platform for creating digital portfolios with K-8 students. 
Math Playground offers hundreds of math games and tutorial videos. 
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.
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.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explainer videos.

Friday, October 21, 2016

WriteReader - Collaborative Book Creation for Elementary School Classrooms

WriteReader is a neat multimedia writing platform for elementary school teachers and students. The appeal of WriteReader is found in the collaboration between students and teachers. Students can create multimedia books that teachers log into to correct. As is seen the video below, each page of a book has a space for students to write in and a space for teachers to write in. Teachers use the space on the page to correct spelling errors and or make editing suggestions.


WriteReader books can include text, pictures, and voice recordings. Completed WriteReader books can be shared online and can be downloaded as PDFs to print.



Applications for Education
WriteReader's teacher edition lets you create online classrooms. You can manually create accounts for your students or you can have your students join your classroom by entering a class code. Either way, your students don't need to have email addresses to use the service.

Creating picture books in WriteReader could be a good way for students to develop their writing skills. You could insert an image into the pages of a book and then have students write a short description of what they see. The audio commentary option could be used by students to describe what they are seeing and trying to write.

5 Good Tools for Scheduling Follow-up Meetings After Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-teacher conference season will be upon us shortly. Most schools have a system in place for scheduling the conferences so that the burden of coordinating all of those meetings doesn't fall onto teachers. But when it comes to scheduling follow-up meetings with parents, that responsibility often falls to teachers. Here are some tools that can help you efficiently schedule follow-up meetings with parents.

Google Calendar Appointment Slots
G Suite for Education (formerly Google Apps for Education) users can use the appointment slots feature in Google Calendar to let people select a meeting time that is convenient for all parties. The appointment slots can be used to show people when you are available and allow them to sign-up to meet with you. Complete directions for creating appointment slots can be found here.

Doodle
Doodle is a free tool for scheduling group meetings with the input of all group members. Doodle is essentially a polling platform. To use Doodle you create a meeting title, select a series of dates and times for a possible meeting, then invite people to choose the dates and times that work best for them. As the administrator of a scheduling poll you can set the final meeting time based on the most commonly selected date and time. Watch the video below for complete directions on how to use Doodle.



ClassTag
To get started on ClassTag create an account and enter some basic information about your classroom or classes that you teach. To get the full benefit of ClassTag you will need to enter the email addresses of your students' parents. Once those steps are completed you can create a parent-teacher conference schedule. You can create time slots as short as 15 minutes or as long as an hour. Once a parent reserves a slot no one else can grab it.

Calendly
Calendly is a tool that integrates with your Google Calendar and makes it easy to create appointment slots with just a click or two. More importantly, people who want to schedule an appointment with you just have to click a time on your calendar and enter their names in order to reserve an appointment. Visitors do not have to have a Google Account to view or enter information into an appointment slot. Visitors who make appointments with you through Calendly can sync the appointment to their own Google Calendars, iCal, or Outlook calendars.

Choice Eliminator
Choice Eliminator is a Google Forms Add-on that lets you create a Form on which choices disappear after they have been used. For example, if I create a Google Form that has ten meeting times listed on it, once a meeting time has been selected it will disappear from the options available to subsequent visitors. Using Choice Eliminator is a good option for teachers who have personal Google Accounts, but don't have G Suite for Education accounts. Watch the following video to learn how to use Choice Eliminator.

10 Ideas for Using Comics In Your Classroom

Over the last couple of months I've shared a handful of tools that students can use to create comics. I even conducted a webinar on the topic last month (the recording is available here). There is no shortage of tools for creating comics available to students. Regardless of which comic creation tool you choose to have students use, the ideas for using comics in your classroom are the same. Here are ten ways that your students can use comics in your classroom.

1. A fun alternative to traditional book reports.
Rather than just writing about a book, have your students illustrate their favorite parts of a book. Let them create illustrations of characters as they pictured the characters while reading a book. The Giver is a perfect candidate for this kind of alternative book report.

Another way to use comics for a book report is to have students illustrate an alternate ending to a favorite book. Or have them illustrate an epilogue to a book.

2. Create biographies.
For a history lesson have students pick a famous person and illustrate significant moments in that person's life. The further back in history, the better because students will have to really start to use their imaginations to illustrate scenes of people for whom there are few portraits or photographs.

3. Create autobiographies.
Let students tell stories from their own lives in a comic setting.

A variation on this idea is to have students depict themselves as the star of a superhero story.

4. Create goal or vision boards.
Many comic creation tools let students use a mix of pictures and illustrations. Let your students use that combination to illustrate their goals for the school year, for an athletic season, or as a response to  "where do you see yourself in five years?"

5. Illustrate procedures.
In elementary school classrooms you could have students create comics about appropriate recess behavior or lunch room behavior. With older students you might have them create a comic or storyboard about science lab safety concepts. A simple, one-frame comic tool like ToonyTool could be used by older students to create lab safety reminder signs.

6. Summarize events.
Students of all ages can use comics to create summaries of an event like a political debate. Or you might have students create comics about historical events. Pixton offers some extensive lesson plans based on that idea.

7. Craft a visual timeline of events.
Creating timelines is a classic social studies lesson activity. Have students enhance their timelines by creating comic summaries of the events on their timelines. They could create the timeline entirely in a tool like Storyboard That or they could create their comics then print them to add to an existing timeline they created on paper.

8. Write and illustrate fun fiction stories.
A lot of student struggle to write fiction stories when they're just given a blank document to write on. Comic creation tools often include lots of visuals that can help spark ideas in students' minds. Make Beliefs Comix offers a lot of fiction writing prompts for students.

9. Illustrate concepts and or vocabulary terms. 
Creating comics to illustrate the meaning of a vocabulary word is a fun alternative to simply writing definitions and studying flashcards.

10. Model polite conversations. 
A lot of schools use the parent-teacher-student model for first quarter and first trimester conferences. Before your conferences have your students illustrate how they would like the conference to go and how to phrase the things that they would like to say during the conference.

5 Tools for Creating Comics
Storyboard That and Pixton both offer comprehensive lesson plans that incorporate the ideas listed above. Of course, you don't need to use those tools to create great comics. You could also use Google Slides to create comics as I demonstrated in this video. To create simple, single frame comics you could try a tool like ToonyTool. Or you might try Make Beliefs Comix for creating comics in multiple languages. Make Beliefs Comix also provides PDF comic templates that you can print for your students.

Disclosure: Storyboard That and Pixton are advertisers on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Thursday, October 20, 2016

NATO on the Map - An Interactive Overview of NATO

NATO on the Map is an interactive map of information about about NATO. The map, viewable in 2D and 3D, displays information about NATO member countries, partner countries, NATO actions, and NATO security challenges and responses.

When you visit NATO on the Map you can choose to display information from five categories. Selecting a category will highlight countries on the map and or display interactive map markers. Clicking on a highlighted country or a map marker will reveal a short, related passage of text. Many of those passages include links to additional sources of information.

Applications for Education
NATO on the Map could be a great resource for social studies teachers who want to provide their students with more than just a paper map of NATO member countries and their activities.

H/T to Maps Mania

Mentimeter Adds Options for Image-based Polling

Mentimeter is a convenient service that lets you create and distribute poll questions for an audience to answer during a presentation. Your audience can respond to your questions on their phones, tablets, or laptops. Earlier this year Mentimeter added a quiz option to their services. That option works much like Kahoot or Socrative. This week Mentimeter enhanced their services again by adding an image option.

Mentimeter now lets you create image-based polls and image-based quizzes for your students to respond to on their phones, tablets, or laptops. You can use the image-based quiz or poll option with multiple choice or open-response questions.

Applications for Education
One of the neat features of Mentimeter is found when you use the open-response question format. You can have all of your students' responses displayed in a word cloud. This lets you and your students quickly see the most frequently used words and phrases from all students' responses. Mentimeter includes a profanity filter to preserve a classroom-friendly environment.

Improved Voice Typing in Google Docs - A List of Commands

Yesterday, Google released a bunch of updates to G Suite for Education. One of those updates was an expansion of the voice typing commands available in Google Documents.

The voice typing commands in Google Documents now includes options for highlighting text, inserting links, adding comments, and creating and editing tables in your documents. Visit Google's complete list of commands to see everything that is possible with the voice typing feature in Google Documents. Watch the video below to learn how to access the voice typing option.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Name Picker Ninja - A Random Name Picker for Your Classroom

Name Picker Ninja is free tool for quickly choosing names at random. Using Name Picker Ninja is a simple matter of pasting or typing a list of names into the "add names" field in Name Picker Ninja and then clicking "go!" The names in your list will scroll and stop on a randomly selected name. Once a name has been selected you can remove it from the list or keep it in the rotation.

You do not need to register on the site in order to use Name Picker Ninja.

Applications for Education
"Random name selector" is one of the most frequently searched terms on this blog. That indicates to me, that many teachers agree with me that a random name picker like Name Picker Ninja is useful for choosing students for all kinds of classroom activities. In elementary school you might use it to pick your line leaders for the day. In middle school or high school you might use it to choose the order in which students make presentations to their classmates.

If you want to put a random name selector in your blog or website, watch the video here to learn how to do that.

Upload Files As Responses To Google Forms - Coming Soon

Earlier today Google announced a handful of new features that are coming soon to G Suite for Education (formerly called Google Apps for Education). The most exciting of those new features is found in Google Forms.

The latest update to Google Forms includes two new features. First, now when you begin to write quiz questions in Google Forms, Forms will attempt to predict the type of question that you are writing and it will suggest possible answer choices. Of course, it's not fool-proof and in my initial testing of the feature Forms was not able to predict the answer type or choices for my question, "what is the tallest mountain in the world?"

The second feature added to Google Forms is the option to have students respond by uploading a file. When students upload a file it will be stored in your Google Drive account for review. This feature will only work for Forms that are restricted to members of your G Suite for Education domain. The file upload feature could provide you with a great way to collect visual artifacts of your students' work. It could also provide you with a way to collect responses to longer open-response questions that have paragraph formatting unlike the present mess of paragraphs that you get when collecting long open-responses through Google Forms.
Image courtesy of Brooks Hocog,
Global Communications, Google Apps & G Suite.

When can I expect to see these features?
Google announced a release track for these new features. The suggested responses feature should begin to appear in the week of November 2nd. The file upload feature in should begin to appear in the week of November 9th.

Jellymetrics Readability Grader - Quickly Determine Readability

Jellymetrics is a company that primarily offers email marketing services. They do offer one service that teachers could find handy. That service is the free Jellymetrics Readability Grader.

The Jellymetrics Readability Grader lets you quickly determine the readability of an article. To use the Jellymetrics Readability Grader simply copy text and paste it into the Readability Grader. The free tool then quickly analyzes the text and gives you a listing of the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease and grade level according to a handful of scales.

Applications for Education
The Jellymetrics Readability Grader could be a convenient tool to use when you're selecting web articles to share with your students. The tool is good for typical web articles, but I think that it could be a bit cumbersome to try to copy and paste longer articles into the Jellymetrics Readability Grader.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

5 out of 5 of These Resources Can Help You Teach Fractions Lessons

In an earlier post I highlighted the Thinking Blocks tools included in Math Playground. Thinking Blocks offers a good way to introduce your students to fractions. Here are some other good resources for teaching fractions.

Who Wants Pizza? is a fun online activity for learning about fractions. Who Wants Pizza was developed by Cynthia Lanius at Rice University. The activity has five parts plus practice activities for students to explore. Teachers will find notes about using this activities in the classroom.

Visual Fractions has eight categories of visualizations, lessons, and games for students to explore and learn the functions of fractions.

Pizza Fractions 1 is a simple iPad game in which students are shown a pizza with slices missing. Students have to select the fraction that represents the number of slices left on the pizza plate. Students shake their iPads to generate new problems. Pizza Fractions 1 is the first of five apps in the Pizza Fractions series.

Zap Zap Fractions is a fun and free iPad app designed to help elementary school students learn about fractions. The app contains clear narrated visual lessons about the basics of fractions. After completing the lessons students can test their skills in recognizing fractions by playing the Zap Zap games. The games present students with a series of visuals that represent a fraction. Students have to select the correct fraction to “zap” the oncoming obstacles in the game.

Conceptua Math is a provider of interactive visual mathematics lessons. One of Conceptua Math's primary focuses is on the development of tools to aid teachers in the instruction of lessons on fractions. Conceptua Math's offerings are a mix of free and premium (paid) tools. There are a total of fifteen free interactive tools for teachers and students. Each of the free tools has an introductory video and a sample lesson plan.

Watch & Share Reactions to Presidential Debates Since 1960

Watch the Debates is a PBS NewsHour website that offers videos of the Presidential debate of 1960 and every debate from 1976 forward. The site also includes videos of some debates between candidates for Vice President including the 1988 debate in which Lloyd Bentson famously quipped to Dan Quayle, "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

Watch the Debates lets you find debate videos according to year and or issue. Once you have found a video you can register your reactions to the arguments candidates make in the videos. You register your reaction by using thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons. You can register a reaction as often as every five seconds in a video. When you register your reaction you will be shown graph of how other viewers responded at the same point in the video.

Applications for Education
Watch the Debates could be a great resource for high school and middle school social studies teachers. Through the issue filter on Watch the Debates students can see which issues were most pressing at various points in the last forty years. Students could also see how responses to those issues have changed over the years. Finally, students can see that there was a time when a debate between politicians was about the issues important to the people and didn't devolve into name-calling.

One way that you could use Watch the Debates in your classroom is to have students pick an issue then work in groups to trace when that issue first appeared in a debate and how candidates' responses to that issue vary over time. For example, I might have my students choose the issue of economy then break-up the class into small groups with each group watching and taking notes on a different debate. Then I'd bring the class back together to compare notes on what candidates have said about the economy through the years.

On a related note, check out The Living Room Candidate to see the evolution of Presidential campaign commercials since 1960.

H/T to Open Culture for the Watch the Debates link. 

How Sea Turtles Find Their Way Home

A few years ago I had the privilege to witness sea turtles nesting in Costa Rica. Since then I have been fascinated by how they are able to find their way back to their birthplaces years later. So when It's Okay To Be Smart published a video about sea turtles, I stopped what I was doing and watched it immediately.

In How Baby Turtles Find Their Way Home Joe Hanson, Ph.D. explains how sea turtles find their way home in a manner similar to that of salmon. Viewers also learn how the turtles' initial struggle to reach the ocean helps them return home years later. In the second half of the video we learn how Kemp's Ridley sea turtles were saved from extinction.


Your students can learn more about sea turtles in the free Disneynature Explore app.

Math Playground - Hundreds of Math Games & Instructional Videos

Math Playground is a great website containing hundreds of mathematics games appropriate for K-8 students. I first reviewed the site back in 2008. Whenever I have returned to it since then, more games and other helpful features have been added to it.

Math Playground offers a huge variety of math games for students. You can locate games according to suggested grade level, by topic, or by question type. Students who need a refresher on a skill, can probably find one in Math Playground's video library. Math Playground's video library offers more than 100 instructional videos organized according to topic. To the right side of each video students will see some suggested games aligned to the topic covered in the instructional video.

Thinking Blocks is one of the most popular features on Math Playground. Thinking Blocks provides interactive templates in which students use brightly colored blocks to model and solve problems. As students work through the problems they are provided with feedback as to whether or not they are using the correct sequence to solve each problem. Thinking Blocks contains templates and problems for addition, multiplication, fractions, and ratios. You can also develop your own problems using the Thinking Blocks modeling tool.

Applications for Education
Math Playground is the kind of site that is good to keep bookmarked on classroom computers for those times when you need some quick activities that your students can do independently. It's also a great site to share with parents when they ask for recommendations for educational websites they can use at home with their children.

Disclosure: Math Playground is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Monday, October 17, 2016

ToonyTool - Quickly Create Single Frame Comics

ToonyTool is a free website for quickly creating single frame comics. To get started with ToonyTool simply go to site and either upload a background picture or choose one of their background picture options. Then you can choose comic characters to appear in your comic. Once your characters are chosen, select speech bubbles and add some text. When you're satisfied with your comic you can download it, print it, and or share it on social networks.

Applications for Education
ToonyTool does not require an email address or any kind of site registration in order to create comics. In that regard it is a good option for students who don't have or don't want to share their email addresses with yet another service.

ToonyTool doesn't have nearly as many options as tools like Storyboard That and Pixton, but it is still a good tool for quickly creating comics to use in slide presentations or to attempt to summarize a concept in fun and simple graphic.

A Good Site for Free ACT Prep

On Saturday thousands of high school students will sit down to take the ACT exam. If your students are going to be taking the test, they could benefit from using PrepFactory to review before Saturday's exam.

PrepFactory offers free ACT and SAT review activities. When students sign into PrepFactory they are asked to identify which exam they are preparing to take. If students select ACT, they will be shown a screen that has four sections representing the topics students need to review for the ACT. Those four topics are English, math, reading, and science. Students can start their reviews within any of those four sections. Each section contains many sub-topics for students to review. The question formats within each review activity are fill-in-the-blank, sorting, multiple choice, and short response.

PrepFactory isn't just a set of practice problems. PrepFactory provides students with text-based and video tutorials before each set of practice activities. For the student who doesn't feel like he or she needs the tutorials, there is an option to skip the tutorials and go straight into the practice questions.

Besides ACT and SAT prep, PrepFactory offers skills development activities for middle school students. You can learn more about those activities in this post that was published in September.

Disclosure: PrepFactory is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com