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Friday, March 31, 2017

The Month in Review - Spring Is Here (Kind of)

The calendar tells me that it is spring here in Maine, but the weather tells me otherwise. We're expecting ten more inches of snow to fall overnight tonight. But that hasn't kept me from enjoying the outdoors as I did on Wednesday when I took a walk around Portland Head Light.

Portland Head Light is just one of the many lighthouses near the site of this year's Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps. Almost half of the seats have been already been reserved for the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp. Discounted early registration is available.

As I do at this time every month, I've compiled a list of the most popular posts of the previous 30 days.

Here are this month's most popular posts:
1. 22 Videos That Can Help Students Improve Their Writing
2. Zero Noise Classroom - A Timer and Noise Meter in One
3. 5 Ways to Show YouTube Videos Without Related Content
4. Google Team Drives Now Available
5. 12 Ways to Create Videos On Chromebooks
6. 7 Great Tools for Creating Flipped Lessons from Existing Videos
7. How to Use Zero Noise Classroom
8. Formatically Helps Students Properly Format Essays
9. Create Screencast Videos on Chromebooks - Three Good Options
10. How to Add Spoken Audio to Google Slides

Join me on Tuesday afternoons in April for a series of professional development webinars

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.
QuickKey saves teachers tons of time when scoring formative assessments.
WriteReader is a fantastic multimedia writing tool for elementary school students.
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.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explanatory videos.

How to Use SoundCloud to Record and Comment

During Thursday's Practical Ed Tech Live session I answered a question about recording and sharing audio. The person asking was looking for a way for students to record conversations in French and then share those recordings with their teachers. One of my recommendations was to try SoundCloud for recording and commenting on the recordings. In the following video I demonstrate how to record on SoundCloud and how to comment on the recordings that you listen to on SoundCloud.

5 Good Resources for National Poetry Month

April is Poetry Month. Whether you're trying to help students understand and interpret the meaning of poems or you're trying to help them write their own poems, the following five resources are worth exploring. (By the way, I always wonder who gets to declare the something is "national X month?" That might be a good, short research activity).

To start the month, you might consider using a relatively new TED-Ed lesson titled What Makes a Poem?


ReadWorks has a selection of famous poems available on their website. The selection is organized by grade level. As with every passage on ReadWorks, each poem is accompanied by a set of guided reading questions.

The Poetry Foundation offers some helpful resources for teachers and students. One of the resources that immediately jumped out at me when I visited the Poetry Foundation's Learning Lab was the glossary of poetry terms. Students can search the glossary alphabetically, by form & type of poem, by rhyme & meter, by schools & projects, by technique, and by theory or criticism. The Poetry Foundation offers a free mobile app for iOS and Android. The app allows users to search for poems, save poems, and share favorite poems with their friends. You can search for poems by poet, by title, or by entering a line or two of a favorite poem.

Word Mover is a free iPad app and web app from Read Write Think. The app is designed to help students develop poems and short stories. When students open the Word Mover app they are shown a selection of words that they can drag onto a canvas to construct a poem or story. Word Mover provides students with eight canvas backgrounds on which they can construct their poems. If the word bank provided by Word Mover doesn’t offer enough words they can add their own words to the word bank.

Scholastic has assembled a big list of lesson resources for teaching poetry this month. One of the resources that I really like is the Poetry Idea Engine. The Poetry Idea Engine is a simple, interactive tool that helps students create four types of poems; haiku, limerick, cinquain, and free verse. To create poem on Poetry Idea Engine students select one of the four formats. If they pick one of the first three format students will be given a short explanation of the pattern before completing the template to create their poems.

How to Create an Interactive Diagram-based Quiz on Formative

With the NCAA basketball tournament Final Four games happening this weekend I thought this would be a good time to share an easy way to create a diagram or chart-based quiz in Formative. As is illustrated in the video below, I used Google Drawings to create my diagram. I downloaded that diagram as a PNG file (JPG will work too). Then I uploaded the image to Formative where I was able to add interactive markers that contain questions for students. Watch the video below to see the whole process including the students' perspective.

Practical Ed Tech Live - Recording

Yesterday afternoon I hosted FB Live and YouTube Live sessions simultaneously. During those sessions I answered questions from readers and viewers. If you missed it, the recording is now embedded below. I'm planning to do another live Q&A session next Thursday at 4pm Eastern Time. Please send your questions to me.


The questions that I answered during the live session are copied below.

Question #1
I'm working on designing a major project for my French courses so they can work while I am in France and Spain with one of our travel groups.....
Here's what I am looking for: Along time ago, I used to use Roxer.com to create simple webpages...nothing fancy... choose a background color, choose a text font, upload a picture , embed an HTML widget and publish... It was easy. and then, Roxer disappeared... I began looking for other sites to create webpages, and I know there are the top 10 favorites out there...but here's my problem...most come with pre-made templates and are way too complicated to use out of the starting gate.

I just want a site (I'll even pay) where I can create something quickly, and easily online.

Question #2
Our french teachers would like to be able to give their students an assignment to their french class and share a copy to each student which can easily be done. Now here is the tricky part. They want the student to be able to record themselves speaking the paragraph and save it in that google doc and turn that into their teacher. Right now it always goes from voice to text. I have a bit of research and have not discovered an easy way of being able to do that?

Question #3
I teach 3rd grade. I was thinking about having my kids create videos to share new laser technology solutions they design. I have seen some that work like Common Craft videos. I'm sure there are others. The problem is my district blocks everything! Based on usage policies, so many are for 13 years and older. We can't even us Jigsaw Planet!

Can you suggest any technologies other that PowerPoint or Google Slides, (also not highly thought of by super.)

Question #4
I am trying to find a good resource for 3rd and 4th grade students to create book trailer videos. I know there is Animoto, but since teachers can only have 50 student accounts it is restricting if I want to do this for several years.

I was looking at Adobe Spark, but students need to be 13 years old. We have Chromeboxes and Chromebooks for student use

Question #5
What do you suggest as the best way to share resources such as documents and webpages for teachers? Google Docs? Padlet?

Question #6
My students have made a blog in order to use it as an Eportfolio. So, every student has got a blog. I would like to know if an app exists that makes it easier fot me to follow them. What do you think is the MOST practical tool to do it? I would like to have all of the blogs in the same window. My second question is about an app to make videos. Do you know of an app in which you can insert animated gifs?

Question #7
Can you recommend an LMS for K-8?

Question #8
What is the best green screen app for use on Chromebooks.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Google Calendar Now Optimized for iPads- Finally

My life seems to be run by Google Calendar and Google Keep these days. I use it to schedule and keep track of appointments, to keep track of how many hours the babysitter worked in a week, and to remind of the things I need to do everyday to reach my goals.

The one complaint that I and many others had about Google Calendar is that it never looked or acted right on an iPad. That complaint was eliminated yesterday when Google finally introduced a Google Calendar app optimized for iPad use.

Applications for Education
This new Google Calendar app for iPads isn't going to change the way you teach. What it does do is make using your Google Calendar a little more convenient for those who use iPads in their classrooms, but always had to run to a laptop to schedule meetings with students or colleagues.

Keeping Track With Google Calendar & Keep is the title of an upcoming webinar in the Practical Ed Tech Tuesday webinar series

Lighthouses and Designs for Democracy

Earlier this week the featured document from the U.S. National Archives was a drawing of the Matinicus Rock Lighthouse on the coast of Maine. The drawing is one of many in the Designs for Democracy series published by the National Archives.

Designs for Democracy is an online exhibit created by the National Archives and Records Administration. The exhibit features drawings, sketches, and pictures that demonstrate the creativity and ingenuity of Americans through history. The exhibit is divided into three sections tracing the development of the United States from its early beginnings through the 20th Century. Each of the three sections contains images in the categories of symbolism, improvements, science and technology, and artistic expression.

Applications for Education
Designs for Democracy is a good place to find images that can be used as the basis for classroom conversations about changes in technology and how they have influenced American life. For example, you could use the drawings of the Matinicus Rock Lighthouse to start a conversation about changes in navigation and travel.

Speaking of lighthouses, I was in Portland yesterday so I recorded a short video of two lighthouses that are found not far from the site of this year's Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps.

Share the Mess and Learn

Yesterday, on Anchor I shared the idea that there is value is sharing the messes and mistakes that we make. In that little podcast I mentioned that one of my most popular blog posts from seven years ago was one about how my Cold War lesson plan flopped and what I did to correct it. The original post can be found here. I've also copied part of it below the Anchor recording embedded below.


When I realized that my plan wasn't going as I hoped, I jumped on Twitter and asked,
"Doing an intro to Cold War w/ my class, can you help? Which event(s) of the Cold War were most significant/ memorable in your lifetime?"

My hope was that the responses would lead my students investigate some of the events mentioned in the responses, it did. But, I also got some unexpected responses of "read them the Butter Battle Book." I didn't have the book available, but I did have YouTube available. Sure enough I found a video of the Butter Battle Book on YouTube. So we stopped the KWL activity and watched the video. It turned out to be a great introduction to Cold War concepts.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Video Tips With Isla

Folks who follow my YouTube channel may have noticed that I've started using the live video option within YouTube's Android app. This morning I used YouTube live to record a little video tip with my daughter, Isla. The tip is to look at the camera instead of the screen when you're recording. In the video embedded below I show the difference it makes when you look at the camera instead of the screen.


Applications for Education
Recording and sharing short videos is one of the best ways to capture authentic feedback from students. Ask them to share something they learned in your classroom during the week or to share a tip for their friends (Next Vista for Learning has lots of examples of students helping students through video). A simple thing like remembering to look at the camera instead of the screen can improve the quality of those short videos.

I'll cover lots of video project tips in a webinar in April. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Draft - A Distraction-free Collaborative Writing Tool

Draft is a free, collaborative writing platform that provides a distraction-free environment. When you write in Draft you won't see anything but the text in front of you. Draft is stripped of options for messing about with font colors or inserting pictures.

Anyone who has an email address can participate in editing a document in Draft. Draft is a nice option for people who don't have access to Google Docs and or those who just want to focus on the text and not worry about playing around with font styling.

Practical Ed Tech Live!

The Practical Ed Tech Facebook page reached 3,000 likes yesterday. I promised to host a Facebook Live Q&A when the page reached 3,000 likes. I'm going to host that session on Thursday at 4pm Eastern Time. It will be an open Q&A session about all things related to educational technology. Join me! If you want to submit a question in advance, you can do so here.

Of course, if you want to work with me in person, come to one of the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps this July.

Teach Your Monster to Read Minigames Overview

Last month the folks behind the popular Teach Your Monster to Read virtual world for literacy development introduced a set of minigames. The minigames are short activities designed to help students improve the speed and accuracy with which they recognize letters. In the video embedded below I provide a short overview of the Teach Your Monster to Read minigames.



Monday, March 27, 2017

How to Add Spoken Audio to Google Slides

The Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week that I published yesterday was about adding music to Google Slides. In the twelve hours since that tip was published a bunch of people have asked about adding spoken words to slides. The process is a little more involved than just adding music, but it's the same basic process. In the following video I explain how I add spoken audio to Google Slides.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

How to Create Short Answer Activities in Socrative

Socrative is one of the original and best platforms for creating quiz games to be played in your classroom on Chromebooks, laptops, and mobile devices. One of the best aspects of Socrative is that unlike Kahoot, Socrative lets you create games in which students have to type answers instead of just picking a multiple choice response option. In the following video I demonstrate how to create short answer activities in Socrative. The video also shows a student's perspective of a short answer activity.



I be covering Socrative, Kahoot, and other neat formative assessment tools in next Tuesday's webinar, Fun With Formative Assessments

How Formatically Helps Students Format Essays in MLA Style

A couple of weeks ago I shared a new tool designed by college students to help other students properly format essays in MLA format. That tool is called Formatically. I've had a few people send me questions about how it works. It essentially gives students a template in Word format that they can then use to write their essays in. In the following short video I demonstrate how to use Formatically.

PD Webinar - Fun With Formative Assessments

As good teachers know, gauging your students' understanding of the topics you teach is a process that involves discussion, a bit of intuition, and some formative assessment activities. In this webinar you will learn how to use free tech tools to create and conduct fun, engaging, and informative formative assessments. Whether you teach elementary school, middle school, or high school, you will come away from this webinar with fun formative assessment activities that you can do tomorrow.

Fun Formative Assessments addresses the needs of teachers who don't have computers or tablets for every student. And teachers who do have laptops, Chromebooks, or tablets for every student will learn some new ways to have students use those too.

Fun Formative Assessments will be held live at 4pm Eastern Time on March 28th. Register today! A recording will be available if you cannot attend the live session. The cost for this webinar is $20 which includes the live webinar, a copy of the recording, and a PD certificate.

Five Things You Can Learn In This Webinar:
1. What makes a formative assessment valuable to you while also fun for students.
2. How to create fun formative assessments for classrooms that aren't 1:1.
3. Why you should leverage students' picture-taking habits for formative assessment.
4. Development of engaging formative assessment activities that use a variety of question formats.
5. How to include students in the creation of formative assessments.

Register Today!

This webinar will be held live on March 28th at 4pm EST.

Please check here other live webinars.

Richard, why isn't this webinar free? I explained the answer in this video

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it is a great day for a walk in the woods. On a walk earlier this week the signs of spring were all around us as we saw frozen streams starting to melt and more birds than we've seen in months including a Great Horned Owl. Here's a little video that I made on our walk. Of course, the next day we had two inches of fresh snow fall. That's life in Maine and I wouldn't have it any other way. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that it's a great one for you.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. How to Add Music to Google Slides
2. Hone Geography Skills With These Fun Games
3. Madmagz - Collaboratively Create Online Magazines
4. Yes, You Can Restrict Messages in G Suite
5. Use Socrative to Create Quiz Games That Accept Short Answers
6. YouTube Is Removing Annotations Option - Try This Instead
7. Three Audio Slideshow Projects for Teaching Basic Video Production

Join me this summer for the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp or the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp. Early registration and group discounts are available.


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.
QuickKey saves teachers tons of time when scoring formative assessments.
WriteReader is a fantastic multimedia writing tool for elementary school students.
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.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explanatory videos.

How to Add Interactive End Screens to YouTube Videos

Last week YouTube announced that the popular annotations option in the YouTube editor is going to be removed at the end of April. While annotations will be missed by many, it was a great tool for creating a "choose your own adventure" series, there is still a similar option available. End screens in the YouTube editor will let you link the end of one of your videos to the beginning of another video or playlist. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create interactive end screens in your YouTube videos.


Applications for Education
If you're making a bunch of tutorial videos for your students, using end screens can help you direct them to watch your series of videos in the proper sequence.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Kupiter - Asteroids Meets Review Game

Readers of a certain age may be reminded of the Atari game called Asteroids when they look at a new review game called Kupiter. Kupiter is a game in which students answer questions by moving and shooting a laser at letters in order to spell the correct answers to quiz questions. Points are awarded for speed and accuracy. Watch the short video below for a demonstration of how the game is played.


You can create your own game on Kupiter by writing questions from scratch or by importing them from Quizlet or an Excel spreadsheet. Game links can be shared via social media and Google Classroom.
Applications for Education
Playing Kupiter will appeal to some, but not all students. It's another option to add to your list of fun review activities for students. You could have students create their own Kupiter games to share with classmates.

Create and Track ACT & SAT Prep Activities in PrepFactory

PrepFactory offers students a great selection of free SAT and ACT preparation activities. PrepFactory focuses on helping students develop good test-taking strategies while also not boring them with dozens of continuous rote exercises. For example, the Pattern Matcher game in PrepFactory has students look at questions and choose the best answering strategy rather than just answering the question before them.

Recently, PrepFactory introduced some new features for teachers. Now when you register as a teacher and create your classroom you can also create specific assignments for your students on an individual or class-wide basis. Then once your students have started on their assignments you can track their progress, see where they need to improve, and suggest more appropriate review activities.


Learn more about PrepFactory in the following video.



Disclosure: PrepFactory is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

3 Online Alternatives to Audacity

Earlier today I received this question on Twitter:


My suggestions were to try SoundTrap, BandLab, or Soundation.

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.

Use Socrative to Create Quiz Games That Accept Short Answers

This morning I received an email from a reader who was looking for an alternative to Kahoot. He wrote, "I would love to have the same set up / timer / point distribution as Kahoot, but I'm now looking for something more challenging than clicking on an answer..."

Socrative was the first option that came to mind when I read the email. Socrative, one of the earliest companies to make a mobile-friendly quiz game platform for classroom use, offers teachers the option to create timed quiz game activities that accept typed responses as well as the classic true/false and multiple choice formats. When you create your quiz game activity you can set an answer key for typed responses as well as the multiple choice and true/false questions. This is a great option for a teacher who wants to create a quiz game in which students need to spell words or phrases correctly in order to get credit for being correct.

Socrative allows you to create quiz games to be played by students individually at their own pace, as a group at a pace that you set, or in teams at a pace that you set. One of my favorite things about Socrative is that every activity you create and activate in Socrative happens through the same room code. In other words, my students always use the same pin code to join one of my Socrative activities no matter how many activities I have stored in my account. From a classroom management perspective, this makes it easy to get all of my students into an activity quickly.

So if you're tired of Kahoot and looking for something a little more challenging than just clicking answer choices, take a look at Socrative. And if you haven't looked at Socrative in a while, look again, there's a slew of new features that have been added in the last couple of years.

I be covering Socrative, Kahoot, and other neat formative assessment tools in next Tuesday's webinar, Fun With Formative Assessments

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Free Through the Weekend - Teach Your Monster to Read Mobile Apps

Teach Your Monster to Read is one of my favorite online programs for helping children learn to recognize letters and sounds. The browser-based version of Teach Your Monster to Read is free and always has been free. The mobile apps for the program are usually not free. Through this coming Sunday (March 26th) the iPad and Android apps for Teach Your Monster to Read are completely free to download. The free download includes access to all aspects of Teach Your Monster to Read.

The Teach Your Monster to Read environment contains eight levels (or islands as they’re called in the game) each containing four activities. Students play the game as a friendly monster avatar. On each island students can earn prizes for their monsters and customize the look of their monsters

Students Evaluating Student Work

This is a guest post from my friend Rushton Hurley. Rushton is the founder of Next Vista for Learning and the author of Making Your School Something Special.

At the recent #CUE17 conference, I ran a workshop on getting a digital video project going. While a good chunk of the session was devoted to exploring several easy-to-learn tools, such as SpeakPipe Voice Recorder and Adobe Spark Video, we also took time to look at a variety of student videos.

Getting students to create videos explaining what they've learned can yield pretty disappointing results when students decide to record what they normally think of as teaching. One student might stand at a whiteboard to explain something, while another holds a phone (hopefully horizontally) and records it.

Giving students a variety of videos (narrated images or art, stop-motion, puppets, etc.) to consider can help them come up with much more interesting pieces.

For the workshop, I created a doc (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PEGpGrH2t-bJegz53FCrwul63iMa5DfkYsuL5U6c_fE/edit?usp=sharing) with sets of student-created videos that others could watch in order to identify strengths and weaknesses, and also brainstorm completely different approaches to exploring the video's topic.

The doc contains instructions on ways to use the many linked videos and sets, but I think it can be better, and would love your feedback.

How can I improve it so that it better fits what you ask students to create? Please let me know at videos@nextvista.org, and if I can create something good for you, I'm happy to do so!

Choice Eliminator Lite - Remove Choices from Google Forms as They're Used

Early last month I shared my most frequently recommended Google Forms Add-ons. Choice Eliminator was one of the Add-ons on that list. Unfortunately, official support for Choice Eliminator was eliminated at the end of February. Many people have since asked me for an alternative. The best alternative that I've found so far is Choice Eliminator Lite.

Choice Eliminator Lite will remove choices from a Google Form as they are used up. For example, if you were to create a Google Form for reserving computer lab space, the time slots would disappear from the form as they were selected.

The difference between Choice Eliminator and Choice Eliminator Lite is that the lite version is not intended to be used by large groups simultaneously.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Protecting Online Accounts With Strong Passwords - Video

Creating a strong password is a good first step to protecting your email and social media accounts from being hacked. But that's just the first step. To really protect your account there are some additional steps you should take like using two-factor authentication. In the following video Common Craft explains how to protect your online accounts. Click here to watch the video or you can view it embedded below.


Applications for Education
The tips in the video may be a old news to some of us, but to a lot of students and teachers those tips are new. It also never hurts to remind people of these tips.

For help in creating a strong password consider using a tool like Wolfram Alpha's password generator.

Common Craft videos can be reviewed online for evaluation purposes. To use embed them into a blog as I've done requires a membership (which are very reasonably priced).

Disclosure: I have an in-kind relationship with Common Craft.

Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp - Super Early Discounts End Soon

Every year for the last four years the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps have sold out. Compared to this time last year, there are more people registering early than ever before. The super-early discount on registration ends this Friday night. The super-early discount price is $100 less than the full price and $50 less than the early registration discount. Please see the Chromebook Camp and BYOD Camp pages for more details or just send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com

Chromebook Camp - July 20th & 21st

BYOD Camp - July 27th & 28th

Three Audio Slideshow Projects for Teaching Basic Video Production

Tools like StupeflixAnimoto, and Shadow Puppet Edu make it easy for students to quickly create videos. I often use these tools when introducing video production projects to teachers or students who have never attempted make videos in their classrooms. Here are three types of assignments that you can build around audio slideshow video tools.

Biographical/ Autobiographical Stories
Have students arrange a short audio slideshow about historical figures they're learning about in your classroom. Shadow Puppet Edu offers a built-in image search tool that makes it easy for students to find public domain pictures of historical figures.

Or have students tell short stories about themselves to introduce themselves to their classmates. Students can pull pictures from their personal cell phones or social media accounts to complete this project. (If social media is blocked in your school, ask students to download pictures at home and place them in a Google Drive or Dropbox folder to use in school).

Book Trailer Videos
In place of or in addition to a traditional book report have students create an audio slideshow video about books they've recently read. Students can use images they made or grab images from sites like Photos for Class to use in their videos. Check out Book Trailers for Readers for more ideas about book trailer projects.

Video Timeline
Whether they're studying current events or historical events students can create video timelines by arranging images into a sequence that demonstrates the development of a significant event. Ask students to layer text onto their images to include dates and descriptions.


The knock against tools like Stupeflix and Animoto is that they make it "too easy" for students to make a video and that they don't learn anything by making videos through these tools. As with most things in the world of ed tech it's not so much the complexity of the tool that matters, it's the assignment that you give to students that matters. At the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps we'll have time to work together to create powerful video projects. Join me!

Disclosure: Photos for Class is owned by a company that advertise on this blog. 

What Makes a Poem?

April is Poetry Month. As you start to plan poetry lessons, consider that many students will first wonder, "what makes a poem?" A new TED-Ed lesson addresses that question.

In watching What Makes a Poem? students can learn the origins of poetry, the characteristics traditionally associated with poems, and the format of a haiku. The video can be seen as embedded below.


Take a look at these 7 great tools for creating your own flipped lesson with this video.

Free Webinar - Storyboard That in Your Classroom

On April 4th Storyboard That is hosting two free webinars. Both webinars will cover what you need to know to create storyboards and have your students create storyboards in your classroom. Some of the many ways that you can use storyboards in your classroom include illustrating short stories, summarizing books, and illustrating procedures. Click here to register for the free Storyboard That webinars on April 4th.


Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Madmagz - Collaboratively Create Online Magazines

Madmagz is a neat platform for collaboratively creating online magazines. Madmagz provides you with a magazine template that lets you use images and text that you can edit alone or with invited collaborators. Unlike some other collaborative writing platforms, the original creator of the magazine has to approve or verify submissions from collaborators. When I was testing the platform I found the need to verify every change a little annoying, but I can see how many people would like to have that level of control over the editing process.

Publishing your Madmagz online is free. If you want to download your magazine as a PDF, you will have to pay for that option.

Applications for Education
Madmagz could be a good platform for creating an online school newspaper. Similarly, it would be good for creating a classroom newsletter in which students summarize the highlights of the month in your classroom.

Thanks to Alicia Roberts for the tip about Madmagz.

30Hands Has Removed Free App - Try These Alternatives

30Hands is an iPad app that I've used and shared in workshops quite a bit over the last few years. It's a nice app for creating flipped lessons or whiteboard-style instructional videos. Unfortunately, after years of offering a free version of the app, the developers have pulled the plug on the free version. The paid version still exists. If you're looking for some alternatives to 30Hands, take a look at the following options.

Shadow Puppet Edu is a free iPad app that you can use to create audio slideshow videos. The app offers an integrated search tool for finding pictures from the Library of Congress, to search for images from NASA, and to find Creative Commons licensed images from Flickr. You can also import pictures and videos from the camera roll on your iPad. After selecting a set of images students you can arrange them into any sequence by simply dragging and dropping them into order. Then to create a story press the record button and talk while flipping through your images. My sample story is embedded below.


You might have noticed that on the first slide I had a magic wand effect to highlight each dog. That is one of many effects that you can add to your images in Shadow Puppet Edu. You can also zoom and type over your pictures. Completed Shadow Puppet Edu projects are automatically saved to your iPad's camera roll. You can also export your projects directly to YouTube.

Know Recorder is a free iPad app and free Android app for creating whiteboard-style instructional videos. With Know Recorder installed on your iPad or Android device you can draw and talk while the app records everything that you do and say. Your video can have multiple pages which is a nice feature when you want to give a multiple step demonstration without having to erase anything. Know Recorder will let you import PDFs and pictures to display and annotate on screen in your instructional video. Completed videos can be saved to your device's camera roll, exported to YouTube, or shared to Know Lounge. Know Lounge is the community site for sharing lessons created with Know Recorder.

Hone Geography Skills With These Fun Games

Yesterday, I received an email from Kahoot that featured six games they are promoting along with National Geographic. The games are intended to help students brush-up on their knowledge of U.S. and world geography. You can find those games here in the public gallery in Kahoot. I played a couple of the games and found that they will be adequate as a start for a geography review activity. In short, I wasn't "wowed" by the games, but they did get me thinking about other geography games that I've reviewed over the years.

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.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Why You Should Use Videos In Your Blog

Using videos in blog posts helps to keep visitors on your blog longer. For teachers and school administrators, adding a videos to your blog is a good way to show students and parents who you are and what you sound like. And, of course, videos are helpful when you're explaining something that needs visuals in order to make sense.



I share many more strategies for improving your blog in Winning Blog Strategies.

A Couple of Short Lessons About Changing Seasons

Today is the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Although the five foot tall snowbanks around my house make that hard to believe. Why do we have seasons? What causes the changes in weather patterns throughout the seasons? The answers to those questions and more are found in the following SciShow Kids video and Crash Course Kids video.




Try one of these seven tools for creating flipped lessons out of these videos. 

How to Add Music to Google Slides

Last week a reader emailed me to ask if there is a way to add music to Google Slides. The answer is yes, but it's not as straight-forward as you would hope it would be. To add music to Google Slides you first need to find a YouTube video that contains music that is Creative Commons licensed. The best option, is to use a video that you own and that has music you have the rights to use. Once you've found a video then you can insert it into your Google Slides. Shrink the video to the smallest possible size so that it's hard for viewers to see. Finally, use the video options menu in Google Slides to have the music video automatically start playing when you advance the slide.

In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to add music to Google Slides.


This topic and many like it will be covered in depth at the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp on July 20th and 21st. Early registration discounts are still available.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good evening from Maine where today was a great day for a walk in the woods. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you also have time for fun and relaxation.



Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Ways to Show YouTube Videos Without Related Content
2. Google Team Drives Now Available
3. 7 Great Tools for Creating Flipped Lessons from Existing Videos
4. How to Use Zero Noise Classroom
5. Formatically Helps Students Properly Format Essays
6. Create Screencast Videos on Chromebooks - Three Good Options
7. Thunkable - Design and Publish Your Own Apps

Join me this summer for the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp or the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp. Early registration and group discounts are available.


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.
QuickKey saves teachers tons of time when scoring formative assessments.
WriteReader is a fantastic multimedia writing tool for elementary school students.
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 hosts workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explanatory videos.

YouTube Is Removing Annotations Option - Try This Instead

Earlier this week Google announced that the option to add annotations to your YouTube videos will be going away on May 2nd. This is sad news for many of us who used annotations to create interactive videos through the use of YouTube annotations.

Fortunately, the option to link your videos to other videos isn't completely disappearing from YouTube. You will still be able to use "end screens" to link to other videos and playlists within YouTube.

To use the end screen options in YouTube you must first select "end screen" on one your own YouTube uploads. Then you can choose "add element" followed by "video or playlist" to link your first video to a subsequent video. The steps for this process are outlined in my screenshots included below. (Click the images to view them in full size).

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 3:

Yes, You Can Restrict Messages in G Suite

Earlier this week I received an email from a reader who was wondering if it was possible to activate Gmail in G Suite for Education while also restricting who students can or cannot send messages to. The answer to that question was, "yes, you can." The G Suite Administrator help pages outline how a domain administrator can restrict outgoing email messages.


Applications for Education
As is outlined in the help page referenced above, it is possible to set different restrictions for each user group within a G Suite organization. In other words, you could allow school staff members to email anyone they want while restricting students to only sending email messages to other members of the school's domain.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Put a Planetarium In Your Web Browser

Planetarium by Neave Interactive is a website on which you can specify your current location and it will show you a map of the night sky based upon your location and the date. You can also use Planetarium without specifying your location and instead explore the night sky from any place on Earth. For Google Chrome users, Planetarium offers a Chrome Web App that you can add to your browser.

Applications for Education
Planetarium could be an excellent website and Chrome App to use in lessons about astronomy. Students can compare the constellations they see at home with those of people in other parts of the world at the same time.

Listen and Read - Nonfiction Read-along Activities

Listen and Read is a set of 15 nonfiction read-along stories. The stories feature pictures and short passages of text that students can read on their own or have read to them by each story's narrator. The collection of stories is divided into three categories: Community Club which would be better described as "careers," animals, and the President.

Applications for Education
Listen and Read looks to be a great resource for social studies lessons and reading practice in general. At the end of each book there is a short review of the new words that students were introduced to in the book. Students can hear these words pronounced as many times as they like.

Listen and Read books work on computers, tablets, and interactive whiteboards.

Piracy Online Explained by Common Craft

Piracy Online is the most recent addition to Common Craft's library of excellent explanatory videos. The video teaches viewers what online piracy is, how it violates copyright laws, and how online piracy impacts artists, software developers, and consumers.


Applications for Education
Understanding why using pirated music, videos, and software is illegal is part of helping students become responsible digital citizens. Piracy Online could help your students become aware of online piracy and why they should avoid using pirated materials.

Speaking of pirated materials, Common Craft videos can be viewed online for free for personal use. To embed them as I have done above or to show them in your classroom, you do need to have a subscription to the Common Craft library.

Disclosure: I have a long-standing in-kind business relationship with Common Craft. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Formatically Helps Students Properly Format Essays

Formatically is a free service that helps students properly format their papers in MLA style.

Students can use Formatically without creating an account on the site. To get started students simply need to fill in requested information on the Formatically MLA template. Once the template is completed students will have a new document that they can download.

At this point Formatically is still in beta. There are some features that are advertised, but are are not yet ready. Those features include importing citations from other services and uploading existing documents to a Formatically account.

Applications for Education
After spending hours writing a great essay the last thing that students want is to have the quirks of MLA formatting stress them out. That's why some college students created Formatically.

McCarthyism Explained In a New TED-Ed Video

Earlier this week TED-Ed published a new video lesson that explains McCarthyism. In What is McCarthyism? And How Did It Happen? students can learn the origins of McCarthyism and the actions of HUAC. Students can also learn how some people were ensnared in the actions of McCarthy and HUAC.


Take a look at this CommonLit McCarthyism guided reading document as a possible support for this TED-Ed lesson.

This Ed Tech Blogger's Dilemma

When I started this blog back in 2007 I didn't have the intention of it becoming anything more than a way to organize and share the neat Web 2.0 resources that I was trying. Somewhere along the way this blog morphed from a hobby into a full-time job. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunities that have been given to me thanks to so many of you who follow and share my work. That has led to incredible invitations to your schools and conferences. Which leads me to the dilemma that I have found myself facing more and more frequently in the last couple of years.

I've become known for reviews of tools and for providing solutions to ed tech problems. That's the reason that hundreds of people show up for my Best of the Web presentation at NCTIES every spring. The dilemma I face is that I want to do more than just rattle off tech tips and tools, but not doing that leaves people disappointed because they've come to expect rattling off tech tips and tools. Likewise, I enjoy doing in-depth of reviews of emerging technologies, but the traffic statistics show that what people prefer is a "ten ways to X" list post. Similarly, in looking at conference programs and watching where people go at conferences, the pattern seems to continue. Scott McLeod made a similar observation a few years ago.

In short, I find myself trying to balance "giving the people what they want" or "doing what I'm known for" with trying to branch out. If you have any advice, I'd be happy to hear it. Tweet it to me or email me at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How to Create a Webpage in Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark has received a lot of attention in the last year for the great video creation tool that it contains. But it also contains an excellent tool for creating simple webpages. Within Adobe Spark you can create webpages that contain images, text, and videos. Those pages can then be published as stand-alone sites or they can be embedded into a blog post as I have done below.

Watch the following short video to learn how to create a webpage in Adobe Spark.



Life With Dogs

How to Create Webpages In Canva

Canva is known for its great graphic design tools. You've always been able to download your Canva graphics and upload them to your website. A few months ago Canva introduced the option to publish your graphics as webpages and or embed them into existing webpages. As I wrote earlier this week, using the publishing option in Canva is a great way to create simple storytelling websites. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create and publish a simple webpage through Canva.


Life With Dogs by richardbyrne

How to Use Zero Noise Classroom

Last week I wrote a post about a neat timer and sound meter called Zero Noise Classroom. It's a free Chrome App that lets you simultaneously display a countdown timer and a noise meter to your students. The directions about how to use Zero Noise Classroom are kind of hidden in the app so I made the following short video to demonstrate how to adjust the settings in the app.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Thunkable - Design and Publish Your Own Apps

Thunkable is a free platform for designing, testing, and publishing your own Android apps (support for iOS apps is coming soon). Through Thunkable you can create your apps even if you don't know how to write code. That is possible because Thunkable uses a drag-and-drop design framework. That framework, based on the MIT App Inventor, shows you jigsaw-like pieces that have commands labeled on them. Your job is to put the pieces together to make your apps work.

Thunkable offers detailed written tutorials and video tutorials. A playlist of tutorials for beginning app designers is embedded below.


Applications for Education
A service like Thunkable and MIT App Inventor could help your students become the next great app inventor. Both services let students test, develop, and publish their own apps. Your students might make an app that helps them study better like George Burgess who developed Gojimo did.