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Friday, November 17, 2017

International Society for Technology in Education


The International Society for Technology in Education, most commonly referred to as ISTE, is a professional organization that plays a major role in technology integration around the world. While there is a fee for becoming a member of ISTE, their website is full of excellent free resources. There are also some ISTE affiliates that are free to join.

One of the most valuable resources that ISTE provides are technology standards that are designed to transform teaching and learning. There are standards for students, teachers, administrators, technology coaches, and computer science teachers. All of the different standards provide benchmarks for what each group should be able to know and be able to do.

The ISTE website also has different articles that you can access for free. There are also numerous news stories that are accessible to non-members.

If you are not familiar with this organization you might want to take a few minutes to check out all of the work they do to promote educational technology around the world.

Blogging with Students


Blogging is a great way to provide all students with the opportunity to have their voices heard. Blogging is also a convenient way to connect your students with students from around the world.

Seven Blogging Platforms for Teachers Compared and Ranked  Provides a snapshot of different popular blogging platforms so you can compare them quickly to see which one fits your particular needs.

Creating Blogs and Websites  A series of videos that show you the steps involved in setting up a blog on Blogger and Edublogs and how to add contributors to a Blogger blog.

Built to Last: Blogger and Edublogs Different ideas for what students can write about.

Three Thoughts About Making Time to Blog This post is geared more toward teacher blogs, but it is also good advice for students who manage their own blogs.

A Guide to Blogging and Examples of Classroom Blogs Five lessons learned about classroom blogging as well as a slide deck with 40+ examples of classroom blogs.

Quadblogging Will Help You Find an Audience for Your Students' Blog Posts Explains the idea of Quadblogging and how to get started with it to build an audience for your students.

Edublogs Class List Check out blogs written by teachers and students.

Now is as good a time as any to start blogging!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Document Studio Google Sheets Add-on

Document Studio is a new Google Sheets add-on that allows you to create certificates, personalized letters, purchase orders and other types of documents. This add-on allows you to take information from a spreadsheet and merge it into a template (Docs or Slides) that you have created. This is a fast and easy way to create customized and visually appealing documents without having to do much work.

The process is a little complicated because there are several steps involved, but the creator of the add-on made a wonderful video that walks you through the entire process.

Autocrat is another document merge tool. I would recommend giving both add-ons a try to see which one fits your particular needs.



Remind Introduces a New Way to Share Resources

Remind, the popular service for sending text messages to students and parents, has introduced a new feature for sharing resources with students and their parents. Remind has partnered with a dozen other popular educational content producers to offer "Share to Remind."

Share to Remind will let you quickly share resources from sites like PBS Learning, Front Row, and Newsela with your students and their parents. Share to Remind can also be used to share links to activities on popular services including FlipGrid, Quizlet, and Quizziz.

You will find the Share to Remind button on the sites that support it. It works just like the sharing buttons you might already be using to share resources to Google Classroom or to a social media website. Click here to read more about how it work.

Applications for Education
I can see the Share to Remind button being helpful in quickly directing students to activities that you want them to complete on Quizziz or FlipGrid. It will also be useful to share news articles and similar reference materials with students and their parents. Doing that will enable you to make sure that parents get a link to the same article that you want their children to read for your class.

Recording - 7 Ways to Help Kids Discover & Analyze New Information

Last month I hosted a free webinar titled 7 Ways to Help Kids Discover & Analyze New Information. The recording of the webinar, sponsored by Kids Discover Online, can now be viewed on my YouTube channel or as embedded below.


The seven points covered in the webinar:

  • Developing search terms and phrases.
  • Charting and tracking search patterns.
  • Reading & watching in multiple formats.
  • Planning for analysis.
  • Looking for keywords and reading for context.
  • Saving, Sharing, Revisiting
  • The importance of guiding feedback.

Intro to Teaching With Video

Last week Keith HughesTom Richey, and I hosted Introduction to Teaching With Video. If you missed it, you can now view it on my YouTube channel or as embedded below. In the video we share some of our favorite tips for teachers who are new to creating instructional videos. You'll also get hear us share our thoughts on the equipment that you do and don't need to get started.


11 days from now Keith, Tom, and I will be hosting a three night course titled How to Teach With Video. Register here to join on November 27th.

Update to Copy Options in Google Docs


Until recently, when you made a copy of a Google Doc, you could only make a copy of the document itself. If was not possible to move any comments over to a copy of the doc. Until now! Google just released an update that allows you to not only copy the document, but include the comments and suggestions as well. You will see this option when you go to file then make a copy. Just tick the box to include the comments on the copy of the document.

There are times when it will be most helpful for the comments to be copied with a document. Imagine this scenario. You have a document with several paragraphs of text that you want students to read. You have inserted a couple of questions for each paragraph using the comments feature. Now each student can get a copy of the doc with the comments and they can reply directly to the comments to answer the questions.

The ability to make a copy of the comments applies to Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Drawings might seems like a minor change, but it is going to provide us with some additional ways to interact on Google documents.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Editing Photos in Google Slides

It's possible to make basic edits to images using the tools that exist in Google Slides. Once you have uploaded an image, you can recolor it, adjust its brightness, contrast, and transparency. A recent update allows you to add drop shadows and reflections. You can also crop and mask pictures. Masking an image allows you to change it into a different shape which means you can be even more creative with your images. 

This video shows you how to make a few of these edits. Please note there is no sound on this video. 

Photo Editing Apps


There are so many photo editing apps available, but some are more robust than others. These are the ones that I find myself coming back to over and over again.

Snapseed This app has so many features it's hard to believe that it is free. There are 29 tools and filters including healing, brush, HDG, and perspective. It's easy to crop, tune, and edit your images so that they look like they were taken by a professional

Polarr Photo editing app with advanced auto-enhance tools and filters to meet all of your photo editing needs.

Adobe Photoshop Express Includes over 5 dozen free tools that allow you to make basic to advanced edits. Once you are finished editing you can share your creation directly on your favorite social networks.

PIP Camera-Photo Editor This is a fun app that allows you to get creative with your pictures. The filters allow you to turn average pictures into masterpieces! Choose from over 200 frames and more than 20 filters to create the perfect image.

Pixlr Use this editor to create collages, layer multiple photos, stylize your images and much more.

PicMonkey This app lets you make basic edits of your photos as well as draw on top of them. You can add stickers to your photos to create a customized, unique masterpiece.

Applications for Education
Instead of using pictures they find on the web for presentations, students could use their cell phones to take their own pictures. They could use one or more of these apps to edit their pictures, giving them more of a feeling of ownership of the content they are creating.


Thanksgiving Activities for Students

Thanksgiving is next week and if you are like me, this holiday has crept up on you and you might not be ready. If you are still trying to come up with some activities for your students, you might want to take a look at this post from last year. It is full of resources and ideas that can be modified for a variety of grade levels.

If none of those activities are exactly what you are looking for then here are some additional ideas.

Use Flipgrid to have students take a moment to reflect on the last year and share what they are most thankful for.

Pilgrims, the Mayflower Compact, and Thanksgiving- Three lessons for students in grades 6-10 that examine the voyage of the Mayflower, the Mayflower Compact, and Thanksgiving.

Black Friday Financial Literacy is a two-day lesson that helps students explore comparison shopping and using a credit card.

Thanksgiving: Census Facts is a website that is packed with a variety of facts about Thanksgiving.

Students can create a digital poster using Google Slides or Google Drawings where they share their pictures that represent Thanksgiving traditions in their homes. They can share pictures of foods they eat and activities that take place.

Students can compose a rap song using Incredibox.

Have students research Thanksgiving and come up with two truths and a lie. They can get creative and make a poster with their information. Once everyone is finished, go around the room and have students try to guess which information is factual and which information is a lie.




Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Whisper for Google Classroom

Whisper is a brand new Chrome extension that works within Google Classroom. Whisper allows you to quietly send a message to an individual student or your entire class. This is perfect for those times when students are completely focused on their assignment and you don't want to interrupt them by making a verbal announcement. When we stop students while they are working, it can be almost impossible to get them all back on track. Whisper solves this issue by allowing teachers to share important messages without disrupting the class by talking.

Click here to read the directions for how to get started with Whisper.

Google Tour Builder

Google Tour Builder allows users to tell stories using Google maps, images, videos, and text. It is a fantastic tool for students to use to show what they know about different topics. Maybe students are summarizing the chapters of a book and each placemark represents a different chapter. Or perhaps students create a tour to share summaries of current events happening around the world. There are many different ways to incorporate Google Tour Builder into the classroom. In this video, I will walk you through how to get started and show you some of the basic features of this tool.

Click here to read a recent post on Google Tour Builder.


In order to share your tour, click the Done Editing button. This will give you the option to change the privacy settings and grab a link to share.

Three Things That Can Help You Teach With Video

Whether you want to make your own instructional videos or you just want to make sure that your students are learning something from the videos that you share with them, there are a few basic things that you should know.

1. Short and sweet.
Two well-made videos that are each two minutes long are better than one video that is four minutes long. Check out the research the Wistia published last summer. Check out the research the Wistia published last summer. Based on data from more than 500,000 videos played more than one billion times, Wistia determined that there is a significant drop-off in viewer engagement after the two minute mark.

Not every concept or topic can be boiled down to two minutes, but the point is that brevity is best when it comes to videos. This is true whether you're having students make videos or watch videos.

2. Outline
Writing an outline for a video that you are going to make will save you time in the long run. Writing that outline will help you cut out tangents and filler material. (Save those tangents for subsequent videos).

3. Video as supplement, not replacement. 
Even the best videos can't entirely replace good classroom instruction and good books. Look at the videos you make and share with your students as supplements to your instruction and their reading, not complete replacements. When you look for a video to share with students, think about the gaps that it fills in your instruction or the gaps that you will have fill after students watch the video.

Learn more about teaching with video in the upcoming Practical Ed Tech course, How to Teach With Video

Google Arts and Culture:


Today we are going to continue exploring Google Arts and Culture. We have already looked at the history of the project as well as the art collection so today we are going to check out historical events and historical figures.

Historical events are a collection of hundreds of historic world events going all the way back to 3100BCE. When you open a collection you will find primary sources, usually in the form of photographs and video as well as background information about the event. Some of the collections include stories that include even more information and primary resources. These collections are a fantastic supplement to what students are learning about in history and government classes.

The historical figures collection is packed full of biographical information about hundreds of people going back over 5000 years! Each collection contains links to artifacts associated with each person. For example, if you select James Madison, you will be able to view a desert cooler from his personal collection, a letter that he wrote to Benjamin Harrison, and a letter he received from John Quincy Adams.

Applications for Education
Both of these collections provide teachers with new and exciting ways to teach students about historical events and the people associated with them. They can be used to introduce students to events or fill in the gaps that are so often present in textbooks.

Monday, November 13, 2017

YouTube Playlists: Why You Need Them and How to Make Them

YouTube can be one of our best tools to use in the classroom once we figure out how to harness its power. One of the simplest ways to tap into the power of YouTube is to organize content by placing videos onto playlists. Playlists can contain content that others create as well as videos that you create and upload. Adding videos to playlists saves you time and the stress of having to search for a video minutes before you need it. The video below will show you how to upload your own videos, how to create and add videos to a playlist, and how to share a playlist.

Applications for Education
How many times a day do you have to tell students what they missed when they were gone? One of the things  I did at the end of each day was record a short screencast where I would walk students through what they missed if they were absent and I showed them exactly what they needed to do to get caught up. I would upload those screencasts to YouTube and then add them to the playlist for that particular class. Students knew they could access the link to the playlist from our classroom website so it dramatically cut back on the number of students asking me what we did when they were gone.

I also created playlists for each unit that I taught. If I found a video that I thought might be useful I added it to a generic playlist for the class. Once I previewed the video,  I would either move it to a shorter and more specific playlist so I could find it very quickly when I needed it or I would delete it from the generic list.

This video walks you through the process of uploading a screencast to YouTube, adding it to a playlist, and then sharing that playlist with others.

Voice Recording Tools


Our voice is one of the most powerful tools we possess, but many times we default to writing instead of talking. There are definitely times when writing is the way to go, but there are other situations when spoken words can have a dramatic impact.

Here are some tools that work well to capture voice. Some of these work directly inside of Google Docs while others capture voice and can then be downloaded and shared.

Talk and Comment is a Chrome extension that allows users to provide voice comments. This is a great way to provide feedback students.

Vocaroo is a website that allows you to make a voice recording without creating an account. Simply make your recording then when you are satisfied with your recording you can save it. You must download the file if you wish for the recording to be available for longer than just a couple of months.

Twisted Wave Audio editor that allows users to capture their voice or upload files from their computer or Google Drive and edit them.

VoiceRecorder is a simple tool that allows users to create and trim audio files then save them to their computers.

Google Voice allows users to set up phone number. When people call this number they can leave a voice message which is also transcribed. This is a great option for teachers who need students to create a short recording because all of the recordings are captured in one location making it easier for teachers to access.

Here are some additional resources for making audio recordings on Chromebooks and recording tools that work in your web browser.

Applications for Education
Imagine how powerful it would be to capture the voice of a student who is just beginning to read then record them again reading the same material and hear how much they have grown as readers. Or what if you captured students reading a passage in the first year of a world language class then recorded their progress throughout all four years? It is incredible to document things like this using voice recordings. Recordings are also a powerful way for students to explain a process or reflect on their learning.




Google Arts and Culture: Art Collection

This is the second post in a series about Google Arts and Culture. In the first post, we took a look at the history of the project. Today we are going to explore some of the ways to access the artists and galleries. To access the menu of options you will need to click on the "hotdog" menu on the upper left corner of your screen once you open Google Arts and Culture.

Collections- This option lets you explore collections of art from hundreds of museums from around the world. When you open a collection from one of the museums you will see items in their collection that you can view by popularity, the year they were created, or color family. Information about the museum is available in this view as well including hours of operation and a link to the official website for the museum. In many instances when you open a collection you will see a little yellow Pegman icon. This indicates you can explore the collection by touring the museum using Street View. It is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the experience. The Musee d'Orsay is just one example of how this works. Click on Pegman to jump into the museum then navigate using the arrows, selecting an image from the tray, or by jumping around on the floorplan.

Artists- This is the best way to search the collection if you are searching for a particular artist. You will find biographical information as well as all of their items. Each of these collections can be shared directly to Google Classroom using the sharing button.

Mediums- If you are looking for a specific medium this is a great way to search the entire website for those pieces. There are well over 200 options which help narrow your search to very specific results. For example, there are numerous items for clothing including cotton, leather, gauze, nylon, wool, felt, satin, and velvet.

Art movements- This is one of my favorite ways to search Google Arts and Culture because I can rearrange the items by when they were created. It's fascinating to compare what artists were creating during different world events or to compare works from different artists during the same time period.

Applications for Education

Google Arts and Culture is such a versatile product and it can be enjoyed by people of all ages and used in many different subjects. Art can be used in math to teach about shapes and patterns. Social studies teachers can use art as a visual way to teach about what was happening around the world during different periods of time. It goes without saying this can be a very powerful way to get students interested in art.

This video demonstrates how to navigate using Pegman. There is no sound on this video.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

10 Good Resources for Geography Awareness Week

This week is Geography Awareness Week. As academically-themed weeks go, this ons is my favorite. For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed looking at maps and wondering about far-off places. I hope that I've be able to pass on that fascination to some of my students. If you're looking for some resources to use this week, take a look at my list below.

Geography Games
GameOn World is a multiplayer geography game developed by a high school teacher and his student in Portland, Maine. The game is similar in structure to that of Kahoot. In GameOn World the teacher selects a game category (cities, places, and timeline are three of the nine categories) and starts the game. The students join the game by going to GameOn.World and entering a game pin. In the location and timeline games, students answer the questions by moving a placemark on a map or selecting a date on a timeline. In some of the other games students answer by choosing a number on a sliding scale.



Spacehopper is a game based on Google Maps Street View imagery. Spacehopper shows you a Street View image and you have to guess where in the world the image was captured. You can click the clue button to have the country identified before making a guess. After three incorrect guesses the correct answer will be revealed to you. You can play Spacehopper on a global level or you can specify that you only want to see images from a particular continent.

Smarty Pins is a Google Maps game develop by Google. Smarty Pins presents players with a trivia question that they have to answer by placing a pin on a map. Players earn "miles" for correctly placing a pin on the map. Players can lose miles for answering incorrectly and or taking too long to answer. Games are available in five categories; arts & culture, science & geography, sports & games, entertainment, and history & current events.

Capital Toss is a free geography game from ABCya. The game has a state capitals mode and a country capitals mode. In both modes of the game works the same way. The name of a state or country appears at the bottom of the screen and three rows of capital names scroll across the top. When the correct capital name appears players virtually toss a ball at it. After ten correct answers players can choose a new ball. Three consecutive incorrect answers ends the game.

Where is...? is another good game geography game. This game uses a popular format for geography games; the name of a city is presented to the players and they have to click the map to guess where the city is located. Players are given immediate feedback on their accuracy in the form of a measurement, in kilometers, of the distance between their guesses and the correct answers.

Mission MapQuest is a great map game creation tool developed by friend Russel Tarr for his ClassTools.net website. The concept behind Mission Mapquest is rather straight-forward one. On Mission Mapquest you create a series of clues that your students need to follow to identify places around the world. You can add as few or as many clues to your MapQuest as you like. When you're ready to have students try your MapQuest just give them the web address assigned to it. Mission Mapquest games are created in HTML5 which means that they can be played on iPads and Android tablets as well as on laptops. Watch the video embedded below to learn how to create your own map-based quizzes on Mission MapQuest.


Instructional Resources
The USGS offers free topographic maps for most of the United States. The maps can be downloaded as PDFs through the USGS store. The maps can be used in the 27 suggested topographic maps lessons found in the USGS education site. All of the lessons are rated by grade level and time required for completing the activity. In the list of lesson ideas you will find suggestions for lessons about typical geography topics like coordinates, scale, and map projections as well as lesson suggestions for less common things like analysis of stereo aerial photographs and analysis of humans and hydrography.

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

As you would expect National Geographic has a lot of resources for teaching geography lessons. Head to National Geographic's activity catalog to search through hundreds of activities and lesson plans covering a wide range of human and physical geography topics. The catalog search can be refined by grade level, but unfortunately cannot be refined by topic so you'll have to browse to find the topic you want to cover in your classroom.

Google's My Maps tool makes it relatively easy to create mapped displays of data. Watch my video below to learn how to do that.


Learn more about Google Earth and Google Maps in my upcoming course, To Geography & Beyond With Google Earth & Maps

Google Arts and Culture


Google Arts and Culture launched in 2011 as result of a 20% time project from Googler Amit Sood. The idea was to make important cultural materials more available and accessible to people from around the world and to digitally preserve these materials to educate and inspire future generations.

Google originally partnered with 17 museums in 9 countries. Within a year the project expanded to include 150 museums in 40 countries. That number has risen to over 1000 partners!

The original name was the Google Art Project and the idea was pretty simple. Google Streetview technology would be used to capture images inside of museums to create virtual tours where people could walk through different galleries in museums from around the world. Visitors could zoom in on paintings and view a variety of facts about the different works. During the years since its inception, the project has expanded and evolved to include much more than art. During the next week, we will take a look at different aspects of this fantastic project and I will share some ideas for using it with students across grade levels.

Tools and Tips to Help Students With the Writing Process

There are so many tools that will help students with the writing process. Some of these tools help organize research while others help students organize their thoughts or locate grammatical errors.

Resouces and Tools
Grammarly- Detect spelling, context, and grammatical errors.

EasyBib- Generate citations and see the credibility of sites you are using.

Diigo- Collect, organize and annotate resouces. Create an outline using the resources you have gathered.

Cite This for Me- Automatically create citations in the most popular citation styles.

Highlight Tool- This is an add-on for Google Docs that can be used to organize essays, categorize facts, and emphasize different sections of a document.

Tips and Ideas

If your students are writing in Google Docs, why not have them engage in some peer revision? Students can either leave comments or make suggestions using features that already exist in Google Docs.

The comments feature is a great place for teachers to leave feedback for students as well. Instead of waiting until a student is finished with a long project like a research paper, you can begin leaving comments right away so students can fix errors before they submit their final draft.

Create voice comments for using the Talk and Comment extension. This is a great way for students to provide feedback to their peers as well as teachers to provide feedback to students.

Read previous posts about Diigo and other citation tools.

Creating Folders and Subfolders to Organize Chrome Bookmark Bar

The Chrome bookmark bar can be an incredibly useful tool to help you get organized, but it can be your worst enemy if you don't take steps to tame it. Just a couple of weeks ago, I shared some ideas for how to use favicons to reclaim space on your bookmark bar. The video below walks you through how to create folders and subfolders on your bookmark bar to reclaim even more space. I have found that by taking control of my bookmark bar and using it to help me get organized has saved my sanity! I no longer waste time searching for digital resources and documents because I have a system for how to organize them. I hope these tips will inspire you to develop your own system of organization.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Week's Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

This week was another busy week in the world of Free Technology for Teachers. At the beginning of the week I had the pleasure of working with teachers in Albemarle County schools in Virginia. Then on Wednesday evening I hosted Intro to Teaching With Video with Keith Hughes and Tom Richey. If you missed it, you can watch that presentation here on my YouTube channel.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Collection of Google Drive Templates
2. Science Journal App from Google
3. Using the About Tab in Google Classroom
4. AutoMastery Google Forms Add-on
5. Using Icons to Help Organize Google Drive Folders
6. Blended Play: New Website for Creating Online Games
7. Comparison of Screencasting Tools

Professional Development Opportunities
Three Practical Ed Tech professional development courses are starting in two weeks. How to Teach With Video starts on November 27th. To Geography and Beyond With Google Maps & Earth starts on November 30th as does Getting Going With G Suite.

Last week Teaching History With Technology rolled out to more people. You can still join and complete the course at your own pace. Learn more here.

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.
SeeSaw is my favorite digital portfolio tool.
Metaverse enables anyone to create amazing things.
Kids Discover provides fantastic tools for helping kids discover new information. 
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.
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.

Using Icons to Help Organize Google Drive Folders


Remember what your Google Drive looked like when you first started using it? It was neat, organized, and free of clutter. As you began to use Drive more frequently, you probably started creating folders and perhaps you are now looking for a way to organize them. In addition to color coding your files, you can add emojis and other symbols to your folders to help you identify them quickly and easily.

The first thing you need to do is open your Drive and identify a folder that you would like to add a symbol or emoji to. Make sure the symbol you select is something that helps you remember the contents of the folder. Maybe you use a snowflake for activities that pertain to winter or a test tube for chemistry lessons. All that matters is that your icon makes sense to you. Once you have selected your folder, navigate to one of the sites below, select the symbol you want to use, copy it, edit the name of the folder then paste the icon into the box where the folder name appears.

Symbol and emoji sites:

Math Games and Resources

There are so many fun and exciting resources available to help you engage students in your math classroom. These are some of the most popular math resource posts from Free Technology for Teachers from the last couple of years. 



Seven Tips for New Google Classroom Users


Google Classroom is a great way to organize your lessons and resources. However, for new users it can be a little overwhelming. Here are some practical tips to help you get going.

  • Use the Topics feature to help students find assignments and questions quickly and easily. Topics act like a filter and allow students to see only the assignments they are searching for and not the entire stream of assignments.
  • Post materials that students will need access to throughout the year on the About tab. Be careful not to overload this page with resources, but it is a good place to share links to resources students will need to use all of the time.
  • Create all of your discussion questions on individual Google Slides. When you need a question during a unit, just download the slide as a jpeg and post it as an image. This is an easy way to have a bank of questions ready to go that are visually appealing as well.
  • Email all or a few of your students at once using the email feature on the student tab.
  • Adopt a consistent naming convention for your classes. You can always rename classes if you change your mind. If the classes are not in the order that you want them to appear, simply drag them into the order that fits your needs.
  • Create a class in Classroom for your department or grade level. Use it for planning, meetings, and announcements to get a feel for what Google Classroom is like from the student perspective. 


Friday, November 10, 2017

Earth View from Google Earth


The Earth View from Google Earth Chrome extension allows you to view a different vibrant image from Google Earth each time you open a new tab. Each of the 1500 images in the gallery are unique and incredible. You have the option of sharing the image to Google+, Facebook, or Twitter or grabbing the link to share in an email. You can also view the last ten images in a tray at the bottom of your screen.

When you click on the globe feature in the lower right corner of your screen, the image will open to the location where it was taken in Google Earth. When you are in Google Earth you will be able to view the location in 2D or 3D and in some instances you can use Pegman to explore at streetview level.

Applications for Education
The Earth View extension is a great conversation starter. You could use an image from this extension as the basis for a descriptive writing assignment. It could also be used as a way to fill a few minutes here and there during the day. Students love the ability to explore different places and this extension allows you to visit beautiful places from around the world.

Seven Tips for Getting More Out of Google Slides

Google Slides are a great tool for creating presentations. They are simple to use, provide us with a way to collaborate, and are easy to share. I'd like to share a few tips and tricks I have learned over the years that might help you get even more out of Google Slides.
  • Start with a template- Google has provided us with dozens of templates to help us create beautiful presentations. Why not use them? There are templates for photo books, recipes, case studies, science project, lesson plans, and so much more!
  • Explore button- This button lives on the lower right corner of your slides. Really cool things happen when you click it! If you have added an image or two and some text, Google will automagically provide you with several suggestions for layouts that might look better than what you have created. This is super helpful for students who believe that neon yellow text looks awesome on a hot pink background.
  • Resize your slides- Sometimes the size of your slides isn't what you want. Maybe it would work better if they were taller or a specific size. What if you resized them to 8.5x11? When you resize to these dimensions (or to 11x8.5) your slides will be the same size as a sheet of paper. Think of the possibilities! Students could create posters and print them! To resize to to file, page setup, custom, then enter your desired dimensions.
  • Fun fonts- By default, there are only a dozen or so fonts that are available in Google Slides. Did you know there are hundreds of fonts that you can add with just a couple of clicks? When you click on the font menu in slides it will open a drop down menu where you can add as many additional fonts as you wish. When you add a new font in one type of Google Doc it will transfer to the others.
  • Edit photos- Slides has some really cool built in photo editing tools. You can adjust the transparency, brightness, and contrast of images as well as recolor them. Slides also has tools that allow you to create shadows and reflections.
  • Mask image- If you find the perfect image, but you wish to change the shape of it you can mask it. Perhaps you want to change a square picture into a circle or heart. It is easy to do inside of Google Slides with just a couple of clicks.
  • Duplicate slides- Perhaps you want students (or audience) to fill in specific information on a slide. All you need to do is create a single slide with the information you want then duplicate the slide so there is a slide for each person. If there are special instructions or links you want to share with your students then add them in the speaker notes before you create the duplicates. 
These tips and tricks should help save you time and get more out of Google Slides. Click the following links to learn more about Google Slides. 

Two Good Tools for Creating Interactive Timelines

Earlier this week I received an email from a reader named Ashley who wrote, "My classes have been reading Girl in Hyacinth Blue, a reverse chronology of the history of an art work. I would like them to do an interactive timeline to show their understanding of the text. I have never done something like this before. Any suggestions?"

I gave Ashley two suggestions that I will share with any high school teacher who is interested in doing something like what Ashley is going to have her students do. First, Timeline JS offers an excellent way to make multimedia timelines through Google Sheets. Students enter dates, event descriptions, links to images, and links to videos into a Google Sheets template provided by Timeline JS. The timeline is then displayed in full screen with a horizontal scroll. The videos that students link to in the template are played directly in the timeline. And as an added bonus, your students can even include links to Google Maps locations in their timelines.

The second suggestion that I gave to Ashley was to try Sutori.com. Sutori, formerly known as History.co, is a complete multimedia timeline creation service. Students can build timelines that include pictures, videos, and text. As a benefit for teachers, not only can you include media like pictures and videos, you can also include quiz questions in your timeline. So if you wanted to have students view a few events on a timeline and then answer a few comprehension questions, you can build those questions right into the timeline.

Timelines are a staple of the history teacher's playbook. In Teaching History With Technology I provide detailed tutorials on making multimedia timelines along with seven other lessons on using technology in your history lessons.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Using the About Tab in Google Classroom


Google Classroom is a popular tool that help teachers share resources with students. One of the biggest complaints is that items tend to get lost rather easily in the stream. One solution for this problem is to use the About tab. This page is static which means that anything you post to this page will not disappear. The purpose of this page is to act as a landing page where you can share resource for easy access all year. You can add links to items such as digital textbooks, classroom website or blog, classroom rules and procedures, and other documents that students will need access to throughout the entire year. You might also wish to include a link to your lesson plans, a collaborative folder, or your YouTube playlist for that particular class. 




Collection of Google Drive Templates

Google Drawings and Google Slides are two of the most underutilized of all of the tools in GSuite for Education. They can be quite powerful once you grasp how to use them. I'm not sure anyone has mastered Google Drawings quite like Darren Maltais, a Technology Integration Facilitator from Canada.

Darren has created an extensive collection of activities that take full advantage of the power of Google Drawings and Google Slides. Activities are organized by grade level. There are activities for Language Arts, math, social studies, and science. Even if you don't find exactly what you are looking for, this collection will certainly help you get some ideas for how Drawings and Slides can be used to their fullest potential.


Comparison of Screencasting Tools

Screencasting is a fast and easy way to capture what is happening on your screen along with your voice or video of you speaking. Teachers can use screencasts to create self-paced lessons for students, tutorials, and supplements to sub plans. Students can use screencasting to tell stories or demonstrate their understanding of a topic or concept. There really are no limitations on screencasting can be used in schools. 

The are quite a few screencasting apps available and sometimes it is difficult to figure out which one to use. My advice is to try out a couple of different ones to see which one you are most comfortable with. All of these are free and some allow you to access additional features for no additional cost by referring friends and colleagues. All of them work nearly the same way.

This chart compares Screencastify, Screencast-o-matic, Nimbus, Soapbox, and Loom

Click here to see a larger version of the chart.

















Want more information about screencasting? Check out this post that discusses some additional apps.


The StoryCorps Recording App Gets Updated Privacy Controls

StoryCorps offers a free app for recording interviews. I've used the app for a couple of years. In fact, I like it enough to include it in my Teaching History With Technology class. The one complaint that people have had about it is that your recorded interviews are automatically made public in the StoryCorps archives. That has recently changed.

In an email that I received this morning, StoryCorps announced that you can now use their free Android app or free iPhone app without having to publish your story publicly. You can now choose to make your recordings public or private.

Applications for Education
The best part of the StoryCorps recording app is that students can see questions while recording an interview at the same time. This can improve the flow of an interview to make it feel more like a conversation and less like a Q&A session. Speaking of interviews, StoryCorps is once again hosting The Great Thanksgiving Listen. The Great Thanksgiving Listen is an initiative to encourage people to record interviews with family members.

To Geography and Beyond With Google Maps & Earth

I loved Google Earth since the first time I used it. And I have enjoyed teaching it to many teachers over the last decade. That's why I'm excited to offer To Geography and Beyond With Google Maps & Earth. This course will meet on three Thursday afternoons starting on November 30th.

In addition to social studies Google Maps and Google Earth can be used in physical education, mathematics, science, and language arts lessons. Google Maps and Google Earth can be used to tell stories, to analyze data, and to discover new information. Of course, you can also use it find your way to that new coffee shop in town. You'll learn all of those things and more in this course beginning on November 30th. Register here. 

In addition to three live webinars, the course includes handouts containing detailed tutorials, a discussion forum, and professional development certificate for completion. Register here! The cost of this Practical Ed Tech course is $97.

Course highlights:
1. How to create multimedia maps.

2. How to build virtual tours.

3. How to collaboratively create multimedia maps.

4. How to map data and use maps to analyze data.

5. How mapping strengthens recall.

The cost of this course is $97.


Can't make it to the live webinars? Don't worry because the recording of each session will be emailed to you the next day and you can still participate in all of the Q&A in the discussion forum.

A note about fees for webinars:
Whenever I advertise a Practical Ed Tech webinar I am asked why they aren't free. There are two reasons. One, hosting professional development events is one of the ways that I am able to keep the lights on at Free Technology for Teachers. Two, while all of the tools featured in my webinars are free to use, my time for teaching about them is not free.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Get Creative With These Free Drawing Tools


Feeling the urge to paint or draw, but don't have access to pens, pencils, or paint at the moment? These free creativity apps can be used anywhere.

Infinite Painter Sketch, paint, and draw using over 80 brushes. You can also turn your photos into paintings. Liquify tool allows you to move, bloat, pinch, swirl, and ripple. Export your creations in several popular formats and share directly to Instagram.

Sketch Draw and Paint features a wide variety of brushes and tools. You can create a drawing or painting from scratch of upload a picture and enhance it with text or stickers. You can use the collaboration feature to create images with other people. You can crop, zoom, scale, rotate, flip, pan, and zoom with this app. Connect with other artists in the community.

Tayasui Sketches features a wide variety of tools including pencils, brush pen, oil pastel, and felt pens. These tools are realistic and the toolbar disappears while you draw. Zoom in on your drawing to see the smallest details.

PaperOne: Paint Draw Sketchbook is an app that allows you to paint and draw on your phone. Begin a drawing on a blank canvas or start with a photo.

ArtFlow: Paint Draw Sketchbook features over 80 brushes including the ability smudge and add a gradient fill. Pens are pressure sensitive and the app features a high resolution canvas. You can begin with a blank canvas or upload an image to draw on.






Thinglink Announces an Important Change to Education Plans

Thinglink is a service that I have used and introduced to teachers for years. It's a great tool for creating interactive images as I did here in a blog post about using interactive images to summarize field trip experiences.

Today, Thinglink sent an email to users of their free Thinglink EDU service to announce a major change to the free plan. Beginning on December 15th, the free Thinglink EDU plan will no longer support the option for teachers to create and manage their students' accounts. That feature will only be available to those who subscribe to the pro or premium accounts.

While we're on the topic of interactive images, you might want to consider trying Formative or Wizer for creating interactive images that include quiz questions.

Introduction to Teaching With Video

A couple of weeks ago I announced that Keith Hughes, Tom Richey, and I will be hosting an online course all about how to teach with video. That course will begin on November 27th. Since the course was announced I have fielded quite a few questions about it. To answer those questions and to share a few of our favorite tips, we're hosting a free event tonight at 7pm ET.

Click here to join me, Tom Richey, and Keith Hughes for Intro to Teaching With Video tonight at 7pm Eastern Time. If you can't make it to the live session, the recording will be posted here tomorrow morning.


Incredibox Music App

Incredibox has been around since 2009 which is a very long time in internet years! Incredibox can be used on your desktop or iOS device to create mixes of instruments, percussion, voices, and a variety of effects to create a unique mix.

This app is very easy to use. Select which version you wish to use then drag icons from the bar and drop them on top of the shirtless guy. You can add up to seven elements to your mix. There is an option to record your mix as well.

Applications for Education
This app can be used to introduce students to different rhythms. It can also be used by students to create raps that are based on different content areas. Imagine how much fun students would have writing a rap about the Constitution or some other topic. Students could even capture their rap and mix by using a screencasting app.

AutoMastery Google Forms Add-on

AutoMastery is a new Google Forms Add-on that was created by Mary Ellen West, a technology coordinator from Georgia. This add-on allows you to automatically differentiate assignments for students based on the score they receive on a Google Forms quiz.

As the teacher, you will set a mastery score and a beginner level score. Students who score at or above mastery will receive a link to an extension activity. Students who score at or below the beginner level will receive an assignment that is designed to fit their needs and help them build the necessary skills to move to the progression level. Students who score above beginner but below mastery will receive an assignment that is designed to bring them up to the mastery level. All assignments will be sent to the students through an automated email.

When you go to install the AutoMastery add-on, you will more than likely see a warning message that says the app has not been approved by Google and to only install it if you know and trust the developer. This is just a glitch that will be worked out soon!

Once installed, you will need to configure AutoMastery. During this step you will set the mastery and beginner scores and add the links to the three different assignments you have selected.

Applications for Education
Administering a quiz, sorting the scores, then trying to make sure students get the correct assignment takes a lot of time! This add-on automates all of those tasks so teachers can spend time facilitating and following up with students who need extra help. This add-on has the potential to be used by teachers across grade levels and subject areas.





5 Ways to Use Google Earth & Maps Outside of Social Studies Lessons

When most teachers hear "Google Earth" or "Google Maps" they immediately think of history and geography lessons. While Google Earth and Google Maps are great for history and geography lessons, Earth and Maps are also powerful tools in other areas. Here are some ways that you can use Google Earth and Maps outside of social studies.

Physical Education
Google's My Maps tool can be used to plan safe bicycling and running routes.

Mathematics
Take a look at Tom Barrett's Maths Maps project for lots of ideas on using Google Maps in elementary school math lessons.

Space Exploration
Take a look at the lunar field trip Google Earth file available through Real World Math.

Environmental Science
Juicy Geography offers this demonstration of using Google Earth to identify sites for windmills.

Literature
Google Lit Trips continues to be a tremendously popular source of Google Earth files and lesson plans for teaching literature through the use of Google Earth.

Learn more about how to use Google Earth and Google Maps by joining my upcoming course, To Geography & Beyond With Google Earth & Maps

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Blended Play: New Website for Creating Online Games

Blended Play is a free online portal where teachers of any subject and grade level can create games to review material. There are currently four games that teachers can select from including Mountain Climber, Viking Fleet, Sushi Takeover, and Space Sale. The games are played by teams of students and no devices are needed. The game is projected for all students to see and you can decide if you want the questions to be displayed along with the game or if you would prefer to read the questions out loud and only display the game.

Applications for Education
This would be a fun way for students to review material. Teachers could even have each student write questions then they could select the best questions to use as a review.


Autocrat Document Merge


Autocrat is a document merge tool that allows you to take data from a spreadsheet and use it to create a customized document or PDF. Autocrat can also be used to merge data from a spreadsheet into a single Google Slides presentation. All of this happens through the use of merge tags which match corresponding headers on a spreadsheet. The merge process can be done manually or it can be configured to happen automatically each time a new forms is submitted.

Applications for Education
Autocrat makes it easy to create customized certificates. It is also a fast and easy way for administrators to provide feedback to teachers after a walkthrough evaluation.

For additional information check out the Autocrat user guide.



Stupeflix is Closing - Try These Alternatives

Stupeflix, one of my go-to video creation tools for the last eight years, is shutting down in 2018. In a message posted on their website, the Stupeflix team explains that the service is now closed to new users. Current Stupeflix users who have created accounts on the site will have until August 2018 to use the service. I wouldn't wait that long to start looking at other options.

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



Adobe Spark's video creation tool seems to get more popular by the day. Some key features of Adobe Spark's web app include an integrated Creative Commons image search tool, the option to download images as JPEGs, and the option to download your videos as MP4 files. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create images, web pages, and videos with Adobe Spark in your web browser.




Animoto has stood the test of time and continues to be a fan favorite for making audio slideshow videos. Animoto offers a web app, an Android app, and an iOS app. All three apps let you quickly add music to a selection of your favorite pictures. You can upload pictures or import them from a number of social networks including Instagram.

Typito is a good tool for creating simple videos. Typito is designed for making audio slideshows like those you might have made in the old YouTube photo slideshow tool or with Animoto. Typito offers a bit more control over the editing process than Animoto does. Watch the video below to see a demonstration of Typito.

Teen Ink

Teen Ink is a platform that publishes the work of teens who are 13-19 years old. Since its inception 25 years ago over 55,000 teens have had their work published on this platform. There are no writers on staff at Teen Ink. All of the work shared on the site is created by teens from around the world.

There is a forum where teens can request help and feedback on their writing as well as provide feedback to their peers. Different categories on the site include poetry, fiction, nonfiction,  art, and photography. Teens also write reviews on television shows, music, movies, books, and games. Teen Ink also includes a section on colleges which features links to resources, reviews of schools, essays, and articles.

Applications for Education
Teachers could use work for this site as exemplars. It is also a great site for students to visit to see work from other students who are similar in age. There are also resources on the site that teachers can incorporate into lessons as well as numerous contests that students can enter.