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Monday, July 31, 2017

The Month in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on the month of July. Mason and I sat out on the deck enjoying the last rays of sunshine then came inside to write this review of the month. This was a busy month as I spoke at the Upstate Technology Conference in South Carolina then came home to run two Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps. Please get in touch with me to learn more about bringing me to your school or conference.

As I do at the end of every month, I have put together a list of the most popular posts of the previous 30 days.

Here are the most popular posts in July, 2017:
1. The Periodic Table in Pictures and Words
2. 5 New Google Forms Features
3. Students Can Now Guide Themselves In Google Expeditions
4. Try Book Creator In Chrome to Create Multimedia Books
5. Tutorials to Help You Get Started Creating Apps in Your Classroom
6. Tips for Accessing Sites Blocked by Your School
7. How to Create a Multiple Part Test in Google Forms
8. Save Time by Using JoeZoo Express to Give Feedback in Google Docs
9. A Good Tool for Quickly Creating Comics
10. How to Use Unio to Deliver Lessons to Students' Screens

I'm offering three online professional development courses in August. Join me for a few hours in August and you'll gain new skills and ideas to use in your classroom this fall.

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.
Beyond Tech Ed is hosting a great Chromebook training in Palm Springs. 
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.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explanatory videos.

Create Formative Labeling Activities

Back in June Formative released an overhauled user interface for creating digital formative assessments. One of the things that you can do in the updated interface is change the background on a "show your work" question. Changing the background lets you create a labeling activity for your students to complete. Watch my video embedded below to see learn how to create a labeling activity on GoFormative.com. The video also includes a view of the assessment from a student's perspective.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good evening from Maine where we enjoyed a beautiful summer day. These are the kind of summer days that you want to bottle and save to re-use on dreary day in January. We took advantage of the beautiful weather by going for a hike with our dogs. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you're enjoying it too.

This week I wrapped up the second of two Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps that I hosted this year. And now I'm turning my full attention to back-to-school activities. To that end, on Tuesday I'm hosting a webinar titled Search Strategies Students Need to Know.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Ignite Teaching is Shutting Down Next Week
2. Warning! The Default Order of Icons in G Suite Launcher is Changing
3. Historical Patterns Animated
4. A Virtual Amusement Park About Molecules
5. A TED-Ed Lesson on the Bill of Rights
6. View and Print in 3D More Than 200 Objects from The British Museum
7. The Half-life of Links and School Social Media Plans

I'm offering three online professional development courses in August. Join me for a few hours in August and you'll gain new skills and ideas to use in your classroom this fall.

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.
Beyond Tech Ed is hosting a great Chromebook training in Palm Springs. 
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.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explanatory videos.

Digital Storytelling With Comics - Free Ebook

Disclosure: Storyboard That is a long-running advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers. 

A few years ago I put together a PDF of five projects that your students can complete with Storyboard That. The projects outlined include creative storytelling, retelling of history, using comics in videos, crafting book reviews with comics, and creating multimedia ebooks. While the document focuses on using Storyboard That (they sponsored it) the concepts can be applied to many other other digital storytelling tool. The PDF is embedded below.



A Game for Learning About International Trade

This post contains content that I originally published a couple of years ago. An email from a reader who was looking for suggestions on activities for teaching global trade prompted me to pull these resources from my archive.

The multimedia library on The Economist contains a set of cartoon videos explaining some big concepts in economics. Of the six cartoons, the cartoon on international trade has the broadest appeal. The video is appropriate as an introduction to the topic for middle school and high school students.



After watching the video on international trade have your students put their new knowledge to use in Trading Around the World from the International Monetary Fund. The object of the game is to provide students with knowledge of the variables affecting international trade. Students experience the impact of each variable by playing the game as a representative of a country or region that is trying to buy or sell resources. The overall object of the game is to accumulate cash through buying and selling natural resources.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Tools to Show Your Students the Reach of Their Blogs

ClustrMaps is a free service that you can use to show students the global traffic sources of their blogs. ClustrMaps will display a real-time map of where in the world visitors are when they visit your blog. To get a ClustrMap for your blog just visit ClustrMaps.com, enter your blog's URL, and enter your email address. After your URL and email address are verified you will be able to get a ClustrMaps embed code to place anywhere on your blog.

Blogger users have a built-in set of visitor statistics that will show you where your visitors are coming from. To access these statistics select "Stats" from the drop-down menu next to the name of your blog when you sign-in at Blogger.com.

If you want to get really geeky with your blog statistics you can use Google Analytics to gather all kinds of information about visitors to your blog. To use Google Analytics you do have to add a bit of code to your site (Google Analytics offers good directions for doing this). Some of the statistics that Google Analytics will enable you discover are where visitors come from, which posts and pages are most visited, the top referrers to your blog, and how much time people spend on your blog.

Applications for Education
Depending upon which tracking method you use there is a lot that you and your students could do with blog visitor statistics. At the elementary school level looking at the geographic dispersal of visitors could lead into a geography lesson about countries and states. At the middle school and high school level you could have students investigate the visitor statistics to try to determine what keeps a visitor on a blog or why their blog posts are more popular in one location than another.

Down for Everyone? Or Just You?

Down For Everyone Or Just Me? will tell you if a site that you're trying to visit is down or not. To use the site just enter the name of a site into the search tool on Down For Everyone Or Just Me? and you will quickly get a yes or no answer.

Applications for Education
The next time you try a site in your classroom and the kids say to you, "it's not working" put the site's address into Down For Everyone Or Just Me? to see if the problem lies with the site or with your school's filters.

Practical Ed Tech Search Strategies Webinar

Next week I'm kicking-off a new series of Practical Ed Tech webinars. The first in the series is Search Strategies Students Need to Know. This webinar sold out every time it was offered in the 2016-17 school year.



Start the new school year on the right foot by helping your students conduct better web searches. 


Search Strategies Students Need to Know will be held on August 1st at 4pm Eastern Time. The cost for the webinar is just $20 including the live session, unlimited access to the recording, handouts, and the option for a PD certificate.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Virtual Amusement Park About Molecules

The NanoSpace Molecularium is a nice web resource produced by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The purpose of the site is to provide elementary school and middle school students with an introduction to the properties of atoms and molecules. The NanoSpace Molecularium is a virtual amusement park that students can click through to find videos, games, and other short lessons about atoms and molecules.

Students enter the NanoSpace Molecularium through the "Hall of Atoms & Molecules." From there students can choose which of the four parts of the amusement park they want to explore first. The four sections that students can explore are DNA Land, H20 Park, Sizes of Molecules, and Molecular Materials. One of the videos from the Materials section is embedded below.


Applications for Education
The NanoSpace Molecularium can be used by students with or without creating an account on the site. The benefit of creating an account is that students can keep track of where they left off during their previous visit.

Historical Patterns Animated

Some of my favorite social studies lesson plans included having students use maps to analyze data and identify patterns in history. Over the years I've done this with paper maps and digital maps. One neat digital map source is Mapping History which is produced by the University of Oregon that features animated maps illustrating problems, patterns, and events throughout history. Mapping History is essentially a digital atlas of American, European, Latin American, and African history. Each section is divided into modules based on historical themes and eras.

Applications for Education
Mapping History is a resource that I have bookmarked for reference the next time that I need a thematic map to illustrate a pattern in history. I found that some of the maps will also be useful as question prompts. For example, this map prompts students to evaluate the extent to which the expansion of slavery in the U.S. was connected to the demand for cotton.

Ignite Teaching is Shutting Down Next Week

Ignite Teaching is a free mobile app and web app that students can use to collaborate on the development of multimedia projects. It became fairly popular a couple of years ago, but apparently not popular enough as it is shutting down next week. In an email that the company sent out yesterday they announced that on August 1st the Ignite Teaching mobile apps and website will be taken down.

Some tools that provide services similar to Ignite Teaching include SeeSaw, Edmodo, Otus, and Google Classroom.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

View and Print in 3D More Than 200 Objects from The British Museum

The British Museum collection on Sketchfab contains 216 3D models of artifacts in The British Museum's collections. You can view these models in 3D in your web browser or in a virtual reality viewer. (To view the models in your browser your browser needs to support WebGL, you can test your browser here). If you have a 3D printer, you can print the models yourself by downloading the corresponding files from Sketchfab. You can also embed the models into a webpage as I have done below.


Applications for Education
A few years ago I spent nearly an entire day inside The British Museum. It was an experience that I wish every student of history could have. And although it doesn't replace the experience of being inside the museum, The British Museum's 3D objects collection does give students the chance to see some artifacts in more than a flat 2D view. Speaking of 2D views, the museum does offer more than one million images of their artifacts.

H/T to Open Culture

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Warning! The Default Order of Icons in G Suite Launcher is Changing

Today, Google announced an upcoming change to the default display of apps in the Google app launcher. That's the little menu that appears in the upper, right corner of your screen when you're logged into your G Suite account and using a G Suite product. Google stated that the change was made to improve the experience of users who never customize their launcher menus. The new default order will prominently feature Gmail, Docs, and Drive. The new default order will appear beginning on August 1st.

This is a minor change to G Suite and it will have no effect on how the G Suite apps work. I point it out only because some teachers may return to school in August and find that their launcher's app order has changed a bit.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Half-life of Links and School Social Media Plans

In Randy Krum’s book, Cool Infographics (disclosure, he gave me a copy) he shares that according to research done by Bitly, the half-life of a link on Twitter and Facebook is 2.8 and 3.2 hours respectively. The half-life of a link refers to the amount of time it takes for a link to reach one-half of the number of clicks it will ever receive. Krum notes that those half-life statistics were calculated in 2011. Six years later more people are active on Twitter and Facebook. In turn, the half-life of links posted today is likely shorter than it was six years ago.

Applications for Education
If your school has a Twitter account, Facebook page, and or Google+ and your school’s social media updates are only going out once per day, you’re probably not reaching as many students and parents as you could be reaching. Think of it this way, when was the last time you scrolled twelve hours back in your Facebook timeline or in your Twitter feed? A solution is to post to social networks through a free service like Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows you to publish updates on a schedule to multiple social media accounts.

Guy Kawasaki, former chief product evangelist at Apple, repeats posts on Twitter four times per day. Schools could adopt a similar schedule for distributing announcements and reminders through social media. A good schedule for schools to update their social media accounts would be to publish an hour before school starts (7-9am), shortly after dismissal (2-4pm), shortly after supper time (6-8pm), and late night (10pm-12am).

Learn About the Sounds of Nature on Wild Music

Wild Music is a fun and educational website on which students can learn about sounds commonly heard in nature. On Wild Music students can listen to the sounds of nature and explore what creates those sounds. Some of the activities students will find include a game of animal audio memory in which students hear sounds and have to match them to each other. Students can find activities such as The Mosquito in which they compare their hearing to the hearing of various animals.

Applications for Education
Wild Music is a resource that could be used by both science teachers and music teachers. Science teachers can use Wild Music as an exploration of the sounds animals make and why they make those sounds. Music teachers can use Wild Music to explore how the sounds of nature influence musicians.

Blocking and Filtering in Gmail

This afternoon a friend sent me a text message asking about methods for blocking and or filtering messages in Gmail. Like requests of this nature, it was easier to show the method than to explain it in writing. So I recorded the following video about how to block senders in Gmail.


The following video explains how to apply filters in Gmail.


Applications for Education
By using filters in Gmail, including the G Suite for Education version of Gmail, you can apply some automatic organization to your inbox.

Develop and Track ACT & SAT Prep Activities in PrepFactory

Disclosure: PrepFactory is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

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 questions shown to them.

This past spring PrepFactory introduced helpful features for teachers. 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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Week in Review - New Headquarters

Good evening from the new Free Technology for Teachers world headquarters in Paris, Maine. Today, we moved into a home in the Paris Hill historic district. It's most notable resident was Hannibal Hamlin who was Abraham Lincoln's first Vice-President. As a lover of history, I'm excited to dig into more of the local history in my new neighborhood. You can expect some new blog posts in which I share the research methods I use to learn about the history of the area.

In other news, this week I hosted the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp. A big thank you to everyone who came and participated. I truly enjoyed the contributions that everyone made to the conversations throughout both days.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Students Can Now Guide Themselves In Google Expeditions
2. Save Time by Using JoeZoo Express to Give Feedback in Google Docs
3. The Periodic Table in Pictures and Words
4. How to Use Google's My Maps in Your Classroom
5. My Favorite Internet Search Tips for Teachers & Students
6. Summarize the Day With Pic Collage
7. 9 Features of ClassDojo's Digital Portfolio Platform - Coming Soon

Individual and group registration is still open my BYOD Camp. Register with a group and get a great discount!

I'm offering three online professional development courses in August. Join me for a few hours in August and you'll gain new skills and ideas to use in your classroom this fall.

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.
Beyond Tech Ed is hosting a great Chromebook training in Palm Springs. 
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.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explanatory videos.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Five Ways to Create Screencast Videos on Chromebooks

Creating a screencast video is a good way to show your students or colleagues how to use a new web tool. When Chromebooks first hit the market, the options for creating screencast videos were few and were tricky to use. Over time better options emerged. The following five tools are all easy to use to create screencast videos on a Chromebook.

Soapbox is a free tool from Wistia that makes it easy to create great screencast videos on a Chromebook or any computer that is using the Chrome web browser. With Soapbox installed in the Chrome web browser you can quickly record your screen and your webcam at the same time. The most distinguishing feature of Soapbox is that you can have your video transition from your screen to your webcam to a combination of the two. Soapbox includes some simple editing tools for zooming in on an area of your screen and calling attention to specific parts of your screen.

ViewedIt is a free Chrome extension that makes it quick and easy to create and share screencast videos. With the extension installed you can record your entire screen or just one window tab. ViewedIt will let you record yourself with your webcam too. The best part of ViewedIt is that you can track who watches your video. To record on ViewedIt you simply have to click the extension icon then choose what you want to record. When you're done recording your video is automatically stored on ViewedIt. From ViewedIt you can share your video via email and social media. If you choose to share via email, you will be able to track who watched your video.

Nimbus Screenshot is my favorite tool on this list because of its ease of installation and it is the only tool on this list that provided a customizable countdown timer. I like the countdown timer because it gives me a few seconds to prepare to start talking over my screencast. The other tools just started recording the second that I hit the record button. Nimbus Screenshot was also the easiest to install and configure on my Chromebook. Screencasts recorded with Nimbus Screenshot can be saved to your local drive or to an online Nimbus account. I usually choose to save to my local drive then upload to my YouTube channel. You can also save to your local drive then send it to Google Drive or another online storage service.

CaptureCast lets you record your webcam while recording your screen which you cannot do with the Nimbus tool. You can choose to record your screen, your screen and your webcam, or just your screen or just your webcam. CaptureCast gives you three options for recording definition. So if you're on a slower network you can choose a lower resolution recording to save processing time. CaptureCast lets you save a recording locally or send it to YouTube or to Vimeo.

Screencastify might have the most name recognition in this list, but I don't like it as much as some other tech bloggers like it. In fact, it's usually the last one that I'd recommend to new Chromebook users. The set-up process asks a lot questions that could confuse new users. The free version limits recordings to ten minutes and puts a watermark on the recording.

Explore Street View Imagery With Your Voice

This afternoon at the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp we spent some time exploring and talking about ways that Google Maps, Street View, Google Earth, and virtual reality can be used in classrooms. One of the things that seemed to engage everyone was Speak To Go With Google. Speak to Go is a Google WebVR experiment. Speak into Speak to Go and you'll be shown Street View imagery of that place. You can use Speak to Go in a VR viewer or you can use it in the Chrome browser on your Chromebook, MacBook, or Windows laptop. Learn more in my video embedded below.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Try iMendi for Quick Language Review Activities

iMendi is a handy website for reviewing key vocabulary words and phrases in eight languages. iMendi is available in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, and Czech. If you want to focus on a specific set of vocabulary words, you can pick a specific lesson or word list from iMendi's menus that appear above every flashcard. Learn more by watching my video embedded below.

DIY VR Viewer

The post immediately preceding this one featured the new "solo" mode for Google Expeditions. Expeditions is the mobile app that allows users to experience virtual reality tours when they place their phones into virtual reality viewers like the Google Cardboard viewers. If you can't buy VR viewers for your classroom or you just like DIY projects, it is possible to make your own VR viewer with just a few common materials. YouTube "celebrity" Roman UrsuHack offers the following video that provides an overview of making your own VR viewer.


The template that Roman UrsuHack follows in the video can be found here (link opens a PDF).

By the way, folks coming to the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp next week will get a chance to create their own VR viewers. There is still time to register to join us

Students Can Now Guide Themselves In Google Expeditions

On Wednesday Google released an update to Google Expeditions that allows students and others to guide themselves on Google Expeditions. Expeditions are Google's Virtual Reality experiences that can be viewed through the Expeditions app on phones placed in Google Cardboard Viewers. The new "solo" mode in Expeditions (currently only for Android) lets students view Google's virtual reality Expeditions without guidance from a teacher. In the "solo" Expeditions students can choose "Explorer" mode and they will see highlighted information included about the places they're viewing in virtual reality.


Applications for Education
The critic in me wonders why it took so long for "solo" mode to be added to Google Expeditions. It will be great to let students choose what they see and experience in a virtual reality expedition rather than being guided along by someone else. That said, I still view virtual reality is a supplement to other instructional resources. Just dropping students into a virtual reality experience without having them first understand the context of the experience is a mistake.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Capture More Than Just a Visible Screen With Nimbus Screenshot

Recently, a reader asked me to suggest a tool for creating a screen capture image that would include more than just what was visible in the initial screen. In other words, the reader was looking for a way to capture both the top and bottom portions of a webpage that required scrolling. My suggestion was to try Nimbus Screenshot. Nimbus Screenshot will let you use a "select and scroll" function to capture as much or as little of a webpage as you need.

Applications for Education
Creating screenshots, particularly annotated screenshots, is a good way to create a set of directions to share with students and or colleagues when you are introducing them to a new web app.

Nimbus Screenshot also offers recording of screencast videos. It's a great option for people who want to make screencasts on Chromebooks.

9 Features of ClassDojo's Digital Portfolio Platform - Coming Soon

About this time last year ClassDojo introduced a digital portfolio platform that they call Student Stories. Since its initial launch ClassDojo has steadily added new features to Student Stories. Today, ClassDojo announced nine features that will be available for the start of the new school year.

1. User names and passwords are no longer required to join. You can have students can log-in instantly by scanning a secure class QR code. (There is still a user name and password option).

2. Video recording length is now up to eight minutes. You can also upload videos that are up to eight minutes long.

3. Students will soon be able to add voice notes to their portfolios in Student Stories.

4. New image filters, frames, and digital stickers are being added to Student Stories.

5. Improved drawing tools for students to use to create drawings and diagrams.

6. Post from connected apps and or your device's camera.

7. Speaking of devices, ClassDojo's Student Stories now works on iOS, Android, and in your web browser.

8. Students can now type journal entries in Student Stories.

9. Annotate images by using drawing tools in ClassDojo's Student Stories.

The Five Most Popular Ed Tech Tutorial Videos of 2017 So Far

Every week I publish a couple of tutorial videos on my YouTube channel. As we're now more than half way through the year, I thought it would be good to take a look back the the most viewed ed tech tutorial videos that I have produced this year.

1. A Tour of the New Google Earth


2. How to Add Music to Google Slides


3. How to Use Toontastic 3D on Chromebooks


4. How to Use Flippity's Google Sheets Add-on


5. How to Use Google Drive Videos in Google Slides

Monday, July 17, 2017

In Case You Missed It - The Periodic Table in Pictures and Words

One of the most popular posts of the month so far featured The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words. In case you missed it, here's a video I made to provide an overview of the site.


Applications for Education
As I mentioned last week, The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words could be a great resource for middle school science classrooms. It also provides a nice model for an assignment in which you have your students pick an element and then try to identify as many products as possible that contain that chosen element.

Save Time by Using JoeZoo Express to Give Feedback in Google Docs

JoeZoo Express is a Google Documents Add-on that can save you a ton of time when you are grading or editing your students' writing in Google Documents. The way that JoeZoo Express saves you times is by providing you with the ability to store canned comments to insert directly in your students' work. You can use standard comments provided by JoeZoo Express or you can create, store, and use your own comments. Additionally, JoeZoo Express offers an option to include links to tutorials and help pages in your comments.

In June JoeZoo Express published a new set of tutorials for teachers and students. The playlist of tutorials is embedded below.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

View and Print 3D Models of Smithsonian Artifacts

Smithsonian X 3D (SIx3D) offers a neat way for students to learn about artifacts from the Smithsonian museums. The site is the result of a collaboration between Autodesk and the Smithsonian Institution. More than artifacts are currently featured on Smithsonian X 3D. The artifacts can be viewed as 3D models that you can virtually manipulate. Many of the artifacts have accompanying fact sheets through which you can learn about the artifact's history and significance. A screenshot of the fact sheet accompanying the model of the Philadelphia (a gunboat) is included below.


If you have access to a 3D printer you can print models of many of the artifacts featured on Smithsonian X 3D.

Applications for Education
The Smithsonian video embedded below provides an overview of how the Smithsonian envisions teachers using Smithsonian X 3D with students.

Math Shorts - 21 Math Lessons from Planet Nutshell

I became a big fan of Planet Nutshell the first time that I saw their series of videos on Internet Safety. Math Shorts is another great series offered by Planet Nutshell.

Math Shorts is a series of 21 animated math video lessons. The majority of the videos are designed for third through eighth grade. Each of the videos has a Common Core standard aligned to it. All of the videos have supporting materials from PBS Learning Media attached to them. The first video in the series is embedded below.


In addition to the math videos and Internet safety videos, Planet Nutshell has also produced great videos on Financial Aid and Climate Science.

The Week in Review - Fun and Learning at UTC

Good evening from Maine where I'm wrapping up a busy week that included hosting four webinars and two days of presenting at the Upstate Technology Conference in Greenville, South Carolina. UTC was a great event. It was a pleasure to meet so many new people including YouTube sensation Tom Richey and to reconnect with old friends. If you're in the Greenville area, make sure you put UTC on your calendar for next year. And if you're interested in having me speak at your conference, please get in touch.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 5 New Google Forms Features
2. The Periodic Table in Pictures and Words
3. Try Book Creator In Chrome to Create Multimedia Books
4. Tutorials to Help You Get Started Creating Apps in Your Classroom
5. More Than 40 Examples of Classroom & School Blogs
6. Workbench Offers Good Hands-on STEM Activities
7. Anchor Offers the Easiest Way to Publish Podcasts

Individual and group registration is still open for the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp and the BYOD Camp. Register with a group and get a great discount!

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.
Beyond Tech Ed is hosting a great Chromebook training in Palm Springs. 
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.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explanatory videos.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Periodic Table in Pictures and Words

The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words is an interactive site that shows students how each element is used or is present in familiar products. When students click on an element in the interactive display an image of a familiar product or object appears along with a description of the element and its characteristics. For example, if you click on aluminum an image of airplane appears along with a description of aluminum, its uses, and its characteristics.

The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words was created by Keith Enevoldsen. He also offers free PDFs of The Periodic Table, in Pictures and Words. Should you choose, you can support Keith by purchasing a poster of the table.

Applications for Education
The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words could be a great resource for middle school science classrooms. It also provides a nice model for an assignment in which you have your students pick an element and then try to identify as many products as possible that contain that chosen element.

H/T to Lifehacker

Metaverse - Program Your Own Augmented Reality Apps

Metaverse is a free platform that lets anyone create an augmented reality app. I had the opportunity to have a guided tutorial through the Metaverse platform last week and I was so impressed that I'm now planning to include it along with the MIT App Inventor during the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp at the end of the month.

Metaverse's programming platform is based on the premise of using a storyboard to outline the actions that you want your app to perform. You then connect each frame of the storyboard with action commands that you pick from a menu of action commands. The more scenes you add to your storyboard, the more options you can add to your app. Essentially, creating an augmented reality app through Metaverse is the same process as designed a good choose-your-own-adventure story. The video embedded below provides an overview of the Metaverse design tool.


Applications for Education
Metaverse could be used by students to bring the characters from a favorite story to life in augmented reality like in this example. Or you could create an educational augmented reality scavenger hunt as this person shared.

Hyperdocs, Chromebooks, and Customized PD

A couple of weeks ago I featured two Chromebook training opportunities. One of those I'm hosting next week in Portland, Maine. The other is being hosted by my friends Ernie Delgado and Malia Hoffmann in Palm Springs, CA on August 2nd and 3rd. Yesterday, Ernie and Malia joined me on Zoom to talk about hyperdocs, Chromebooks, and how they customize their Chromebook trainings for each participant. The video of our interview is embedded below.


As mentioned in the video, readers of FreeTech4Teachers.com can receive a by using the code "Family25" when registering for Malia and Ernie's Beyond Tech Ed professional development course.

Disclosure: Beyond Tech Ed is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Thursday, July 13, 2017

More Than 40 Examples of Classroom & School Blogs

Earlier this week at the Upstate Technology Conference in South Carolina I gave a couple of presentations about using blogs and social media in school. One of the best ways to learn about using blogs in school is to see how others are doing it. That's why a few years ago I put together a survey and asked for teachers to share examples from their own blogs. The slides below feature more than 40 examples of classroom blogs.


Try Book Creator In Chrome to Create Multimedia Books

Book Creator is a one of the most popular iPad apps in schools. It's a fantastic app for creating multimedia stories. Now that platform is available in a web version too.

The Book Creator web version is currently in beta and open for teachers to use. Book Creator's web version supports creating multimedia books containing videos, images, drawings, and text. To create a book on Book Creator's web app just sign and choose a layout for your book. There are comic book layouts as well as traditional book layouts. After you have selected a layout for your book's pages you can add pictures and videos by either uploading them or by using your webcam. You can add text and drawings by using the drawing and typing tools built into Book Creator. Your completed book can be saved as a ePub or published online with a private Book Creator link.

Learn more about Book Creator's web app in the video below.



Applications for Education
Students can use Book Creator to create multimedia fiction stories, to publish non-fiction stories, or to create digital portfolios of their best work.

Anchor Offers the Easiest Way to Publish Podcasts

Anchor is a free audio publishing service that I started using last winter. I was drawn to Anchor by its ease of use. Recording on Anchor is simple of matter of just holding down the record button on your phone then releasing it when you're done talking.

When I started using Anchor it only let you record and publish in two minute increments. That changed in March when Anchor added the option for uploading audio to your Anchor channel. In March Anchor also added the option to have your spoken words automatically transcribed and displayed in a video suitable for sharing on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

This month Anchor moved into direct competition with other full-fledged podcasting platforms by automating the process of submission and distribution to Apple Podcasts and Google Play. Watch the short video below to see how easy it can be to publish a podcast through Anchor.


Applications for Education
In December and March I wrote that Anchor could be a good option for teachers who want to publish their own short episodes on the Anchor network. However, at that time I didn't recommend it for students because Anchor itself didn't have comment moderation. Now with the option to publish straight to Apple Podcasts or Google Play effectively bypassing the comments of Anchor I think it could be a good option for students to publish podcasts.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Workbench Offers Good Hands-on STEM Activities

Workbench is a service that offers a huge catalog of hands-on learning activities for students. Last month at the ISTE conference I got to see one of the activities in action. That was a project in which students create and program their own controllers for a Sphero ball. You can see the results of the project in this short Instagram video.

The project that is shown in my video is just one of dozens of hands-on STEM projects for students. Some require electronics and others can be completed with nothing more than soda bottles, paper, or Legos. For example, one of the currently featured projects is this composting activity.

All Workbench projects include a list of required materials and the sequence of steps to guide your students through to completion of the project. Of course, you could also let students figure out the steps they need to take and let them learn a bit more by trial and error.

Try YouTube Live To Reach More Students

Back in May I shared how Tom Richey was using YouTube Live to host AP World History review sessions for students. That's one way to use YouTube Live to help your students. Another way to use YouTube Live is to broadcast and record lessons from your classroom.

As I explained and demonstrated yesterday at the Upstate Technology Conference in South Carolina, you can rather easily broadcast yourself teaching a lesson. Get a cheap tripod for your phone and point it in the direction of where you're standing to give a short lesson. Turn on the YouTube Live broadcast from the YouTube app for iPhone or Android and it starts broadcasting and recording. The recording can then be embedded into your blog or shared in your Google Classroom.


Applications for Education
Broadcasting your lesson can help you reach students who are absent from your class. They can either watch live and ask questions via the Q&A feature of YouTube Live or they can watch the recording later.

Monday, July 10, 2017

5 New Google Forms Features

Earlier today Google announced the release of five new features for Google Forms users. Four of the five new features are significant for most users. 

The first update to Google Forms to note is a new response format option. A new "checkbox grid" response format lets you create questions that require multiple responses. For example, you can ask people to pick a day from a list of choices then choose a time from a list of choices. 

The second update that stood out to me is an improved file upload option. Google Forms can now accept file uploads as responses from respondents outside of your domain. For a while now you have been able to create questions to which respondents upload a file as a response. That option was previously limited to only accepting files from people who had a G Suite account in the same domain as you. (The caveat to this being that your domain and the respondent's domain both allow cross-domain sharing). 

The third update of note is a new option to choose your own default settings for new Forms that you create. This means that you could set default point values for quiz questions on every Form that you create. 

A new response validation option is the fourth update that some teachers will appreciate. Google is calling this feature "intelligent response validation." This means that if you ask a question like "what is your email address?" and the response isn't a properly formatted email address, the Form will prompt respondents to correct the submission. 

Finally, there is a new option to move entire sections of a Form through a simple drag-and-drop. This works the same way as reordering individual questions. 

It's important to note that it could take a few weeks for all of these new features to appear in your G Suite for Education domain. 


TagCrowd Offers Three Ways to Create Word Clouds

TagCrowd offers three ways to create word clouds. You can create a word cloud by copying and pasting text into TagCrowd, you can upload a plain text file, or you can copy and paste a web address into TagCrowd. After using one of those three methods you can specify how many words you want to display, you can select to show the word count in your word cloud, and you specify words to exclude (common words like "the" are automatically ignored). TagCrowd supports fifteen languages.

Applications for Education
TagCrowd, like other word cloud generators, can be useful in helping students identify the words that are emphasized in a written article or a speech. After creating their word clouds ask your students to think about why the author or speaker used some words so frequently.

Word clouds can also be used to help students see which words that they have frequently used in their own works. Have your students create word clouds of their work during the revision process of writing a story or essay. The word cloud will quickly show students which words they have used a lot. Then ask them to think about synonyms for the words that they have used most often in their writings. 

Join Me Tomorrow Night for a Practical Ed Tech Jumpstart

The landscape of educational technology is constantly changing and it's easy to feel like you don't know where to start. That's why I created the Practical Ed Tech Jumpstart for you. This three week online course will walk you through a simple yet powerful framework for using technology in your classroom. You'll come away from this course with a playbook of activities that you can adapt to use in almost any classroom setting from elementary school through high school.

In the first week we'll take a look at a handful of tools and strategies for helping students conduct better online research. Then we'll look at methods and tools for improving communication between you, your students, and your students' parents.

The second week of the course has us looking at methods for conducting fun and powerful formative assessments through the use of laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, and mobile phones. We'll then dive into ways that students can help each other learn through the use of technology. The second week wraps up with a look at some simple podcasting activities that you can do with your students.

Finally, in week three we'll help students show what they know through videos that they create. Those videos will ultimately become a part of the digital portfolios that we will learn how to create before the course ends.

July 11, 18, and 25 at 7pm EDT - Register Here

All live webinars are recorded so that you can go back and watch them at your leisure if you have to miss a meeting.  

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Guide to Creating Explanatory Animated GIFs

In yesterday's episode of Practical Ed Tech Live I answered this question:

Is there anything that pieces the snapshots back together in a single frame? So you see the same object in one picture at different positions?

My suggestion was to create an animated GIF by following the guide that Common Craft published a couple of years ago. In Common Craft's How to Create ExplainerGIFs you will learn how to create animated GIFs using software that you probably have already. Through the guide you'll learn how to publish and share your explanatory GIFs. If you need images to use in your GIFs, How to Create ExplainerGIFs has a section devoted to finding images appropriate for crafting explanations.

Applications for Education
Having students create an animated GIF to explain a concept could be a good way to get them to think about how the individual parts of a concept come together to form one cohesive process.

The examples section of How to Create ExplainerGIFs are a good source of ideas for using animated GIFs in school. In the examples you will see animated GIFs used to bring graphs to life, a GIF used to explain how a sewing machine works, and a GIF to illustrate a soccer rule.

The Week In Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where the sun is shining and I'm ready for a bike ride with some old friends that I haven't seen in about twelve years. Even if I wasn't riding with friends, it would still be a great day to get outside for fun exercise. In my life there is an amazing correlation between the amount of time I spend exercising and my mood and general productivity. In short, when I exercise I feel better and I teach better.

Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you get some time to do something fun outside too.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. A Calendar of G Suite Updates
2. A Good Tool for Quickly Creating Comics
3. An Interactive Display of the Declaration of Independence
4. How to Use Unio to Deliver Lessons to Students' Screens
5. A Random Name Picker for Your Classroom
6. How to Add Images to Google Slides
7. How to Find Google Docs Published by Others

Individual and group registration is still open for the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp and the BYOD Camp. Register with a group and get a great discount!

Two online courses starting next week:
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.
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.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explanatory videos.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Practical Ed Tech Live - Episode #11

This afternoon my daughter and I recorded the eleventh episode of my almost weekly series, Practical Ed Tech Live. In every episode I answer a handful of the questions that I've received from readers. The recording of the episode is embedded below.


The list of questions and my recommended resources can be found in this Google Document.

More Than 8,500 People Get Their Ed Tech Tips This Way

My virtual mentor, Chris Brogan, says that watching and listening is the new reading. He's been saying this for a while which is why I've made an effort to publish a few new videos every week. Chris appears to be right because every week more people subscribe to my YouTube channel. As of Wednesday, more than 8,500 people have subscribed to my YouTube channel for tips, tutorials, and live Q&A sessions. Check it out.

Here's one of my recent tutorials published on YouTube.

Five Uses of Comics In Your Classroom

On Thursday afternoon I hosted a webinar about using comics in the classroom. The recording of the webinar is only available to those who registered, but the slides that I used can be seen as embedded below.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Students Can Discover Careers Through Next Vista for Learning

As many readers of this blog already know, Next Vista for Learning is one of my favorite video sharing sites for students and teachers. Videos hosted on Next Vista are created by teachers and students for the purpose of sharing good news and good lessons with other teachers and students.

The careers section of Next Vista is one that guidance counselors and anyone else helping students learn about careers should bookmark. The careers section of Next Vista contains 110 videos about a wide variety of career fields. Some of the videos are available in Spanish and most of the videos include interviews with people talking about their jobs. Two of the videos are embedded below.


Live Nature Webcams In Google Earth

When the new version of Google Earth was released in April, it signaled the beginning of more things to come for Google Earth on Chromebooks. Since then Google has steadily added new features to Google Earth for Chromebook users. The latest update brings a new Voyage that features live nature webcams from Explore.org.

 The Explore.org Voyage features webcams from Katmai National Park. The Voyage includes five live webcam feeds including one underwater webcam which captures images of salmon and bears fishing for salmon.

Watch my video below to learn more about the browser-based version of Google Earth.


Applications for Education
Depending upon the time or year, the new Explore.org Voyage could provide a nice way for students to see brown bears in their natural element. More importantly, it's a demonstration of what you and your students could create by inserting live webcam feeds into your own Google Earth tours.