Tuesday, August 22, 2017

5 Topics to Cover Early This Year On Your Classroom Blog

The new school year is here and you might be trying to get a new classroom blog rolling or get your old one going again. Either way, one of the best ways to get parents to read your classroom blog early and often is to give them the information they need at the beginning of the school year. I'm not talking about things like "who do I call for early dismissal?" but the kind of information they might not even know they want. Here are five topics that fit that description.

1. How to supervise your child's web use at home.

2. Privacy settings on school-provided laptops/ Chromebooks/ iPads/ tablets. Consider adding screenshots or a screencast video illustrating those settings. and Nimbus Screenshot are great tools for making screencast videos.

3. Tasty and healthy snacks to send to school with your child (Pinterest is a great source for ideas, just make sure you give proper attribution).

4. How to talk to kids about bullying. You might consider linking to some of these resources from Common Sense Media.

5. A glossary of Tween/ teen slang vocabulary. Consider posting this as a Google Doc that automatically updates as you update it throughout the school year (we all know how quickly Tween/teen slang evolves).

Need help developing more blog post topics? Take a look at my secret method for developing blog post topics. 

Making Connections - Free Webinar Next Monday

Too often our students look at the subjects they study in school as isolated sets of facts to be learned. This is due in part to the traditional formatting of textbooks. It's partly due to the nature of all print resources. That's why tools like Kids Discover Online's Discover Maps were created.

Next Monday at 4pm EST I am hosting a free webinar during which we will look at using Kids Discover Online and sound research strategies to help students see the connections between topics across multiple subject areas. The webinar is designed with elementary and middle school students in mind.

Register for the webinar here

The webinar will be recorded for those who cannot attend the live session. 

Free Webinar - Telling Stories & Illustrating Concepts With Storyboards

This Thursday afternoon at 4pm EST I am hosting a free webinar all about using storyboards to tell stories and illustrate concepts. In this webinar sponsored by Storyboard That you will learn how students can use storyboards to:
  1. Create comic strips. 
  2. Design presentations. 
  3. Illustrate processes and concepts. 
  4. Analyze literature. 
  5. Tell their personal stories in a safe environment.

The webinar will be recorded for those who cannot attend the live session.

You can familiarize yourself with some of what Storyboard That offers by watching my tutorial videos that are available here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Reminder - Real World Problems = Problems That Matter to Students

As the new school year gets rolling many of us will be considering using problem-based learning to engage our students in learning experiences. Some of us will try to incorporate "real world problems." When we do so we have to remember that what we think of as "real world problems" are always "real world problems" to our students. I was reminded of this as I went through my notes from a workshop that I ran earlier this year. In that workshop we brainstormed some of the problems that matter to our students. Here are five of the problems that were mentioned during that workshop (I wrote these notes in the voice of a student):

  • Make/ save money for tuition. 
  • How can I get more people to notice my YouTube channel?
  • Keep toes warm while waiting for the school bus. 
  • What's for lunch (and healthy)?
  • Review apps or site that makes sense to me. 

5 Things You Can Learn in Tomorrow's Practical Ed Tech Webinar

Last week on Practical Ed Tech I hosted Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners. The webinar sold out and many people have since asked if I was going to host it again. So by popular demand I'm hosting it again tomorrow at 4pm EST. There are five main items that will be addressed during the webinar.
  • Two ways to create self-grading quizzes. 
  • How to create self-paced guided video review activities. 
  • Simple methods to streamline emailing personalized updates to parents and students. 
  • How to easily keep track of classroom materials through the use of Forms and Sheets. 
  • Methods for creating and managing activity registration forms.

Yes, this will be recorded and distributed to those who register but cannot attend during the live session.

TimelinesTV - Good, Short History Lessons

I was recently looking through some of my older posts about timelines when I was reminded of TimelinesTV. TimelinesTV was originally built as a site that featured video lessons displayed on a timeline. Today, the timelines don't function well (the site hasn't been updated in a few years), but the videos are still available through the TimelinesTV YouTube channel.

Videos on TimelinesTV are arranged into eight playlists. Those playlists are:
  • Nations & Empire (British Imperial History 1290-1948)
  • Changing Lives (British Social History 1066-1984)
  • History File: Nazi Germany 
  • Seven Journeys in the American West 
  • Rulers & Ruled (British Political History 1066-1919) 
  • American Voices (The USA 1917-1941)
  • Edwardian Britain: A History in Photographs
  • Smallpox: The Story of a Killer Disease. 

10 Good Options for Creating Digital Portfolios

Yesterday's Practical Ed Tech weekly newsletter featured ten tools that your students can use this year to create digital portfolios. A copy of the handout that was included in the newsletter is embedded below.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Resources for Teaching Digital Citizenship - A PDF Handout

The new school year is when we think about all of the new apps and sites we want to use with students. As we do that it's also important to think about teaching digital citizenship. Whether our students are in Kindergarten or are in high school, before we send them out on the web we should be teaching them digital citizenship. The PDF embedded below, click here if you cannot see it, features my favorite digital citizenship resources for elementary, middle, and high school students.

What Was There? - An Augmented Reality Activity

My bicycling club has a route that goes past some neat local history landmarks. One of those landmarks that most people miss is the site of the old cattle pound. Historically, most small towns in New England had cattle pounds or livestock pounds where wayward animals were held until their rightful owners claimed their animals and took them home. Going past the cattle pound this week made think about creating an augmented reality app in which students can learn about the hidden historical landmarks in their communities.

This morning I began working on an augmented reality app that will let people learn about the hidden historical landmarks in my community. I am using Metaverse Studio to make the app. In the video embedded below I demonstrate the basic process that I am using.

If you have an idea for an app, consider getting involved with the Metaverse Teachers Hackathon that is starting later today. You could win $200 in classroom supplies while also creating a great app for your students.

Disclosure: Metaverse is an advertiser on

The Week in Review - Back to School Webinars

Good morning from Maine where we're waiting for the sun to poke through the clouds so that we go enjoy a nice walk in the woods. But until that happens I'm going to work on some blog posts and work on some webinar materials. This week I hosted Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners. The webinar sold out and at least a dozen people asked if I could host it again. Therefore, on this coming Tuesday at 4pm EST I am once again hosting Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners. On a related note, if you're looking for online or in-person training for your staff, please take a look at what I offer.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 18 Updates to Google Tools That You Might Have Missed This Summer
2. Tools for Creating Stop Motion Movies
3. 5 Updates to Google Docs to Note
4. 8 Free Timers to Help You Keep Activities on Schedule
5. More Than 100 Sets of Primary Source Documents for Students
6. Stockio - Free Images, Icons, Fonts, and Videos
7. DIY Augmented Reality - 3 Ways To Use It In School

Are you looking for keynote speaker or workshop facilitator? If so, click here to learn more about my services. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
SeeSaw is my favorite digital portfolio tool.
Metaverse enables anyone to create amazing things.
Kids Discover provides fantastic tools for helping kids discover new information. 
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explanatory videos.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Crowdsourcing Advice for New Teachers

Every year new teachers join our profession not knowing what they don't know. To help new teachers, five years ago I crowdsourced advice for new teachers. It's time to update that list of tips for new teachers. I put together this simple form for veteran teachers to submit their best advice for new teachers. If you have been teaching for five or more years, please take a moment to complete the form. Next week I'll publish the advice in a slideshow format with credit to each contributor. There is a place in the form to include a link to your Twitter profile and or blog.

Practical Ed Tech Live - Episode 15

On Thursday morning I hosted another episode of my fairly regular Practical Ed Tech Live series. In each episode, hosted on YouTube and on Facebook, I answer a handful of questions that I have received from readers during the previous week. The questions that I answered in yesterday's episode can be seen here. The video is embedded below.

One More Round-up of Solar Eclipse Resources

Throughout the last month I have shared some resources for teaching and learning about the solar eclipse that is passing over the United States this coming Monday. Here's one last round-up of resources related to the solar eclipse.

The Solar Eclipse Computer is a free tool from the Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory. The Solar Eclipse Computer lets you enter a city and state to determine the time the eclipse will start and end in that location. It will also provide you with the level of obscurity at a chosen location. For example, Portland, Maine will only experience 58.8% obscurity.

Earlier this week Steve Spangler went on a rant about schools that are keeping kids indoors during the eclipse. Thankfully he didn't just rant, he offered some suggestions on safe ways to experience the eclipse. Steve Spangler's video is embedded below.

In his video above Steve mentioned making eclipse viewers. Here's an article from Time about how schools made viewers in the 1960's. The same process still works. (Thanks to Bethany Virginia Norris Smith for sharing the article on Facebook).

This video from Physics Girl explains the difference between a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse.

Star Net, a production of Space Science Institute's National Center for Interactive Learning, has partnered with American Library Association, the Lunar and Planetary Institute, and the Afterschool Alliance to provide more than 2 million free eclipse glasses to public libraries across the country. You can use this Star Net interactive map to find a library near you that is hosting an eclipse viewing event and is offering free eclipse viewing glasses.

On Thursday SciShow kids released a new video about making eclipse viewers (AKA pinhole projectors).

If you're not in the "path of totality," you may want to check out Exploratorium's live stream of the eclipse. Exploratorium has additional resources on their streaming page.

Finally, National Geographic offers Solar Eclipse 101.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

8 Free Timers to Help You Keep Activities on Schedule

One of the challenges of teaching in a block schedule is that some high school and many middle school students struggle to focus for 80 minute, 90 minute, or longer blocks of time. I always try to break up blocks like this into shorter segments with breaks. To prevent breaks from running too long, I always use a timer. I also use timers to time break-out activities. Whenever it is possible to do so, I like to display the timer countdown on a projector or whiteboard so that all of the students can see it. Here are five free timers that you can use for these purposes.

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

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

3. Zero Noise Classroom is 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.

4. Timer Pop allows you to create and save multiple timer settings. For example, if I want to have a count down that lasts for five minutes, a count down of fifteen minutes, and a count down of three minutes I can save them all. Then when I need one of them I'll just click on it to start the count down.

5. Online Stopwatch is a free website that gives you the choice of a stopwatch function or a countdown function. You can set the countdown timer for any length of time and an alarm sounds when time is up.

6. Online Egg Timer is a simple website offering three countdown timers on one screen. You can set just one timer or run all three at the same time with different settings. Registration is not required in order to use Online Egg Timer. Just go to the site, set the countdown timer(s) using the up and down arrows, then click "start timers."

7. Timer Tab is a free application offered through the Chrome Web Store and as a stand-alone website at As a Chrome app Timer Tab can be used online or offline. The website version of Timer Tab can only be used online. Both versions of Timer Tab offer a count-down timer, an alarm clock, and a stopwatch. For the count-down timer and the alarm clock you can select a video to play when time expires or when you've reached your specified alarm time. You do this by pasting the URL of a YouTube video into the "alarm" field below the timer. Also in both versions of Timer Tab you can customize the background by specifying an image URL.

8. offers two versions of their free countdown service. The regular Timerrr displays a dial like my grandmother used to have on top of her stove. The "egg timer" version displays an egg timer as the countdown device. Both can be used to set a countdown of up to sixty minutes.

5 Updates to Google Docs to Note

Throughout the summer Google added many new features to Google Forms and Google Classroom. Now it's time for Google Docs to get some updates.

Yesterday, Google announced some updates to Google Documents. Those updates mostly center around how keeping track of revisions to documents. One update was made to the Google Docs Templates Gallery.

1. Revision History is now called Version History. 
This isn't a huge change. It just reflects that you can now name the different revisions or versions of your Documents, Slides, and Sheets.

2. A new "clean" preview. 
This lets you see preview your document without the comments or edit suggestions made by your collaborators being displayed.

3. Make suggestions from Android or iOS devices. 
The menu in the bottom right corner of the document that you're viewing includes a new "suggest changes" option.

4. Accept or reject all changes in one fell swoop. 
Rather than manually rejecting or approving every suggested change individually, you can approve or reject them all as one group.

5. Add-ons included in new Google Docs templates. 
Not all of the templates in the Google Docs templates gallery include Add-ons, but some of them now do include pre-installed Add-ons. For example, the "reports" template now includes the EasyBib Add-on already installed.

How to Use Google Sheets to Create & Print Word Searches

Flippity is a service that I have been writing about for a few years now because they provide teachers with easy-to-use Google Sheets templates. The latest template released by Flippity enables you to quickly create a word search activity in Google Sheets. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Google Sheets to create and print a word search.

Learn more about Google Sheets in next week's Practical Ed Tech webinar, Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

How to Use SeeSaw's New Messaging Option

SeeSaw is a great digital portfolio tool that works on Chromebooks, iPads, Android tablets, and any computer with a modern web browser. Earlier this year at the ISTE conference SeeSaw announced some new features including a new messaging option. The new messaging option is now available to all teachers. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use the new SeeSaw messaging option.

It is important to note that while students and parents can receive announcements via SMS and push notifications only parents can reply to a teacher's announcement.

Disclosure: SeeSaw is currently an advertiser on

An Augmented Reality Hackathon for Teachers

Earlier this week I shared some ideas for creating and using your own augmented reality experiences in school. Metaverse is the free platform that makes it possible for teachers and students to create their own augmented reality experiences. If you haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend taking a crack at making your own augmented reality experience. As some participants in my workshops this summer demonstrated, you really can create your own augmented reality experiences in as little as ten minutes. Of course, the more time you spend using Metaverse, the more complex and robust you can make your augmented reality applications.

This weekend Metaverse is kicking-off a hackathon for teachers. The Metaverse Hackathon starts on Saturday, August 19th and runs through Saturday, August 26th.  The purpose of the hackathon is to showcase the creative augmented reality experiences that teachers make for educational uses. The winner of the Metaverse Hackathon will receive $200 in classroom supplies. You can get all of the details and register for the Metaverse Hackathon here. I can't wait to see what everyone creates.

Disclosure: Metaverse is an advertiser on

Book Creator is Now Live for All Chromebook Users

Earlier this summer Book Creator, a massively popular iPad app, was made available in a beta version for teachers to try on Chromebooks. As of this week the Chrome version of Book Creator is available to all teachers and students. You can access the new Chrome version of Book Creator at

Book Creator's Chrome 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, by using your webcam, or by using a new integrated image search tool. 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.

More features are promised to be added by the Book Creator team. Among those features are a Google Classroom integration and improved printing options.

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.

The History Project Has a New Name

The History Project is a great tool for creating multimedia timelines. This morning I went to use the service and noticed that it's name has changed to Enwoven. I can still log-in using my credentials for The History Project. All of the tools for making and publishing multimedia timelines that were found in The History Project are still there in Enwoven. So it seems that nothing has changed except the name. My video embedded below provides a short overview of how to use the tools within Enwoven (formerly known as The History Project).

Applications for Education
Enwoven is completely free for teachers and students to use to create multimedia timelines. It is a collaborative tool which allows your students to work together remotely to create and publish a timeline.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tools for Creating Stop Motion Movies

Kevin Hodgson recently updated his excellent Making Stop Motion Movies website on which he features examples of student projects and provides good information about the process of making stop motion movies. I particularly like the page about claymation movies. Looking at Kevin's site got me to revisit some of my own posts about tools for creating stop motion movies. Here are four that I have used at various times over the years.

Stop Motion Animator is a free Chrome app for creating stop motion videos. The app is free and easy to use. It does not even require students to create accounts in order to use it.

JellyCam is a free program for creating stop motion movies. Using JellyCam you can create stop motion movies using images from your computer or images that you capture via your webcam. Once you've selected images you can quickly arrange them into a sequence. After the sequence is set you can specify how many images you want per frame. A soundtrack can be uploaded to your video. JellyCam uses the Adobe Air platform. If you don't have Adobe Air it takes just a couple of minutes to install it on your computer. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use JellyCam.

Parapara Animation is a free animation creation tool developed and hosted by Mozilla. The tool is easy to use and it does not require registration in order to use it. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create an animation with ParaPara Animation.

Stop Motion Studio is a great app for creating stop motion videos. The app is available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac operating systems. The basic (free) version of Stop Motion Studio lets you take as many pictures as you like and string them together in a sequence that plays back at a frame-per-second rate of your choosing. Each frame can be edited individually before you produce the final video. You can also add narration to your video in the basic version of the app. Completed projects can be saved to your device and from there you can share them on YouTube or on your favorite social network.

Three Good Resources for Learning About Careers

One of my favorite things about working and living in a small community is that I get to see what many of my former students are doing after high school and college. Some of my former students have joined the teaching profession themselves. Some of always knew that they wanted to become teachers and others came to the profession after leaving a couple of other career paths. The point being that often we don't understand what a particular profession is really like unless we hear from people who are in it themselves. That's why resources like iCould, Next Vista, and What People Don't Get About My Job are excellent to share and discuss with students.

iCould is a UK-based website that features videos of people sharing their career stories. The stories cover people in all types of careers and at all phases of their working careers. One of the the main purposes of iCould is to expose viewers to what different types of jobs really entail. Visitors to iCould can search for stories by job type, life theme, or keyword tags. The teaching resources section of iCould includes some classroom activities that your students can complete to help them learn more about a particular career path, discover their own interests, and learn about what makes people successful in their careers.

What People Don't Get About My Job is an older piece from The Atlantic, but is still worth sharing and discussing with your students. The article is comprised of 26 contributions from readers explaining what most people don't understand about their jobs. There is one job for every letter of the alphabet. In the article you will find jobs like Kindergarten Teacher, IRS employee, zookeeper, and even unemployed.

Next Vista for Learning offers more than one hundred short videos of people talking about their careers. Some of the careers in the video library include librarian, nurse, engineer, musician, and chemist.

Writing Sparks - Writing Prompts for Students

Writing Sparks is a new writing platform developed by the same folks that created the popular Night Zookeeper platform. Writing Sparks provides you with timed writing prompts to share with your students. As a teacher you simply go to the Writing Sparks website then choose an age range and a type of writing prompt to give to your students.
After choosing a writing prompt category on Writing Sparks you should choose the length of time that you want your students to spend writing in response to the prompt. Once those three steps are complete you can project the prompt onto your whiteboard or just read the prompt aloud to your students. Writing Sparks times the activity. Time segments for discussion and brainstorming are included in the Writing Sparks timing.

Students can complete the Writing Sparks activities by writing on paper, in a Word or Google Doc, or on the Writing Sparks website. I like the option of having them write on the Writing Sparks website because it will provide students with a template that they can use while writing. For example, if students are responding to a "story" prompt they will complete a template that asks them to include the nouns, verbs, and adjectives they will use in their stories.

Writing Sparks does not require you or your students to register in order to use the site. If your students use the Writing Sparks writing tool, they will have to download their work as PDFs in order to save it and share it.

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo and David Kapuler for the tip about Writing Sparks. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

DIY Augmented Reality - 3 Ways To Use It In School

Disclosure: Metaverse is a new advertiser on 

Metaverse is an amazing platform that brings that for the first time enables anyone to create rich augmented reality experiences. In many ways the capabilities within Metaverse remind me of the early days of Minecraft (before it was sold to Microsoft) except that instead of creating games and experiences that only exist on your computer's screen Metaverse lets you create experiences that exist in augmented reality. What does that mean? It means that can create games, quests, and other activities that are completed by locating digital artifacts in a physical world. In other words, you could create your own educational version of Pokemon Go.

Here are three ways you can use Metaverse in your school:

  1. Create augmented reality scavenger hunts for historical landmarks in your community. You can make this as simple or as complex an activity as you want it to be. Start by giving players a clue to the first landmark then when they arrive at the landmark they can use the Metaverse app to see if they're in the right place, to learn more about landmark (you can make videos and animations play when people get to the right place), and answer questions to get a clue for the location of the next landmark.
  2. Have students develop augmented reality choose-your-own adventure stories. Have students first write their stories and the possible paths that readers can take in the story. Then have students use Metaverse Studio to put the story into an interactive format that readers can follow on their phones. In the process of using Metaverse Studio students will have to verify that the logic blocks that they use will correctly lead followers from one scenario to the next. Students' stories can be location based or be location-independent.
  3. This last idea is a fun one for the first day or school or any other time that you need an ice-breaker activity. Google Vision is one of the logic blocks within the Metaverse Studio. With Google Vision in Metaverse Studio you can create an app that detects if someone is smiling or not. See this logic block illustrated in the video below then read on for my idea on how to use this as an ice-breaker.

  • I think it would be fun to create an ice-breaker activity that has people snap a picture of a person's face either smiling or not smiling. Then have the app prompt the user to ask, "why are you smiling on the first day of school?" or "why are you frowning? Can I do something to make you smile?"  
Still not sure how Metaverse works? Check out this playlist of videos or check out one of the free webinars for teachers that are offered through the Metaverse Teachers group on Facebook

Disclosure: I tried Metaverse earlier this summer on my own, loved it, and brought it to a couple of workshops. Since then Metaverse approached me about advertising on and I was excited to help them reach more teachers. Everything you read here is my writing

Three Countdown Calendars For Your Classroom Blog

In my workshops about developing blogs and websites for classrooms I always make the point that you should add some content that will appeal to all students and parents when they visit the homepage. This content can include links to handouts, a calendar of due dates, and current announcements. Another item that you can add without taking up too much space is a countdown timer to an important date like the start of a vacation. Here are three countdown calendars that you can add to your blog or website (note, none of these work in the new version of Google Sites).

It's Almost is the simplest of the countdown calendars in this list. To create a countdown calendar just go to the site and complete the phrase, "It's Almost..." and then select a date. You can get the embed code for your calendar by clicking "share this" below the running countdown that is displayed immediately after you choose the countdown target name and date. It is important to note that when you embed it into your blog, you must display it at a size of at least 275px wide or it will not work.

TickCounter is another simple countdown calendar service. It offers a little more customization than It's Almost offers. You can customize the colors for the display title and the numerical display in the countdown. When you embed a TickCounter countdown calendar into your blog, it is automatically resized to fit in the space allotted by your blog's template.

CountingDownTo offers the most customization options of the three countdown calendars in this list. You can customize the layout design and the color scheme for your countdown calendar's display. And the display is mobile-friendly. The downside to CountingDownTo is that it does add a watermark to your embedded calendar unless you subscribe to a CountingDownTo paid plan.

Applications for Education
When I was in the third grade my teacher, Mrs. Turkington, had two countdown calendars on the wall near the chalkboard. One calendar represented the number of days left in the school year and the other represented the number of days until our next "special event" (those events were birthdays, field trips, or school assemblies). Today, Mrs. Turkington could put those calendars on a classroom blog's homepage.

(Side note, Mrs. Turkington is now retired and living in Florida. We became Facebook friends 30 years after she was my teacher).

If I Don't Like It, I Don't Write About It

Every morning I receive at least ten pitches from PR agents promising that a company offers something that is new, unique, revolutionary, or better than some other service that I have reviewed. 90% of these emails don't get more than twenty seconds of my attention. Of the ten percent that I do consider, perhaps half lead to me writing a blog post. This is why you don't see me writing negative reviews of a service or product.

Writing a negative review of a service or product isn't a great use of my time or your time. I focus my effort on bringing you the services and products that can help you and your students. So if I don't write about something, I probably didn't like. The exception to that being that there are some products I really like and actually pay for, but don't fit the editorial guidelines of Free Technology for Teachers.

Reminder - These Are Attachments You Should Never Open

This morning as I sifted through the mountain of spammy PR emails that greet me every morning, I noticed one email that had the subject line "Secure Document from X." (X = person whose name I didn't recognize). I recently bought a new home so I have had a lot of secure attachments from my realtor, the bank, and insurance company lately. But this secure attachment didn't seem right. See my screenshot and explanation below.

Clues that the attachment is a phishing attempt/ scam:
1. The body of the email just said "see attachment." I, of course, didn't open the attachment. I am not inclined to open random attachments from people I don't know.
2. I was BCC'd on the email. No one sending me a legitimate attachment isn't going to BCC it to me.

Obviously, I reported this email at a spam/ phishing attempt and then I promptly deleted it.

On a related note, Common Craft offers a great video that explains phishing scams and how to recognize them.

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

Sunday, August 13, 2017

18 Updates to Google Tools That You Might Have Missed This Summer

The middle of August is almost here which means that many have returned for the start of the new school year. And those who haven't started will be starting soon. During the summer Google added bunch of new features to Google Classroom, Google Forms, and other tools that teachers and students use throughout the year. I counted eighteen updates. Here they are:

New in Google Forms since June 1st:

  • Add written feedback on every question on a quiz made in Google Forms.
  • A new checkbox grid response format. This allows students to choose multiple responses to a question.
  • You can now ask people to upload a file as a response to a question in a Google Form even if they are not a member of your school’s G Suite domain.
  • When you are creating a quiz in Google Forms you can now set a default point value for your questions rather than having to specify the value of each question individually.
  • Intelligent response validation is a new feature that will attempt to verify that the type of response submitted is what you requested. For example, if you ask for an email address and the respondent doesn’t include a complete email address, the response won’t be accepted.
  • You can now rearrange the order of sections of your Forms by just dragging and dropping the entire section into a new place in your Form.
  • Batch grading of questions on quizzes created in Google Forms will let you grade on a question-by-question basis. In other words, you can grade all responses to question #1 on a quiz rather than having to grade one student's complete set of responses before moving on to the next student's set of responses.
  • Coming soon! - Import grades from Google Forms quiz responses into your Google Classroom gradebook.

New in Google Classroom since June 1st:

  • You can now view all of a student’s work in one stream. Simply click on a student’s name in your Google Classroom roster to view all of that student’s work in one place.
  • A minor update to the gradebook in Google Classroom lets you use decimal points in your grading.
  • You can now display your Google Classroom join codes in full screen. This should make it a bit easier to get all of your students to join your Classroom quickly.
  • More 3rd party services have been made available for seamless integration into Google Classroom. Those new services are Kami, Quizizz, and Edcite.
  • It is now possible to transfer ownership of Google Classroom classes from one teacher to another.
  • Administrators can now sync rosters from student management systems to Google Classroom rosters.

Other updates:
  • Google Earth (the web version) can now be added to your G Suite for Education domain.

Stockio - Free Images, Icons, Fonts, and Videos

Atlantic Puffin Pair -
Ray Hennessey via Stockio
Stockio is a website that offers free images, icons, fonts, and videos to download and re-use in your own projects. According to the notices that accompany each file on Stockio, attribution is not required but is appreciated.

To download an image, an icon, or a font set from Stockio you do not have to register on the site. Simply browse or search then hit the download button when you find something that you like. You have to be a registered user (registration is free) in order to download videos from Stockio.

Applications for Education
I always recommend that students use their own pictures, sounds, and videos whenever possible. However, it is not always possible for students to use their own creations in multimedia projects. That's when I will have them turn their attention to a site like Stockio to search for images and video clips that they can download and use for free.

Every Kid in a Park - Free Admission to National Parks

In yesterday's week-in-review post I mentioned that I hope my daughter grows up to enjoy the great outdoors as much as I do. Then almost as if she was reading my mind, my sister tipped me off to a U.S. National Parks program called Every Kid in a Park. The program offers free admission to students in fourth grade. But not only does the fourth grader get in for free, his or her family does as well (provided the fourth grader is present at time of visit).

f there aren't any national parks near you, you can still explore them through some nice online resources. National Parks virtual tours are available in the Google Arts & Culture apps for Android and iOS. If you have VR headsets available to you, take a look at Google Expeditions virtual tours of the "hidden treasures" of National Parks. 

Over the years PBS has produced many videos about the National Parks. You can view some of those videos in their entirety on the PBS video website. Search on the site for "national parks" and you'll have a big list of videos to view. Here's a list to get you started.

Web Rangers offers seven categories of games about different subjects related to the National Parks. The game categories are people, animals, parks, science, history, nature, and puzzles. Each category contains games of varying difficulty rated from easy to difficult. Some of the game topics include dendrochronology, animal tracking, animal identification, fire fighting, and map reading. Students can play Web Rangers games as visitors or as registered users. Registered users can track their progress and earn virtual rewards. Registered users can also create their own customized virtual ranger stations

The National Parks Service's Digital Image Archive is an excellent place to find images of U.S. National Parks. You can search the archive by park and or subject. All of the images are free to download as they are in the public domain. The National Parks Service also offers a b-roll video gallery. The videos in the galleries are in the public domain. The b-roll video gallery can be searched by park, monument, building, or person. All of the videos can be downloaded. Some files are quite large so keep that in mind if your school has bandwidth limits and you have all of your students searching for videos at the same time.

Google Earth offers a great way for students to view national parks in the United States and beyond. Your students can explore imagery in Google Earth to learn about the topography of a national park. In a lot of cases there is Street View imagery available within national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Your students might also benefit from viewing tours within Google Earth.To locate a tour you can refine a Google search by file type to .KMZ and then launch the tours that appear in your search results.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Week in Review - Soaking Up Summer

Good morning from Maine where despite seeing a few maple leaves already turning from green to red, we're still soaking up summer. Last weekend Isla and I hiked a local mountain and enjoyed the views from the top. This weekend, we're doing the same. I hope as she gets older she enjoys the outdoors as much as I do.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Ten Things You Can Do With Google Forms
2. My Go-to Google Tools for Social Studies Classrooms
3. Flip Anim - Quickly Create Animated GIFs
4. Three Google Classroom Updates That You Will Appreciate
5. Alternatives to YouTube's Video Editor - It's Going Away
6. Free Solar Eclipse Glasses in Your Community
7. Ten Things Students Can Do With Google Keep

Are you looking for keynote speaker or workshop facilitator? If so, click here to learn more about my services. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
SeeSaw is my favorite digital portfolio tool.  
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.

417 History and Civics Lessons In One Place

On Friday I featured Tom Richey's YouTube channel which is full of great content for Advanced Placement U.S. and European History students. Today, I want to point out or remind you about the excellent videos that Keith Hughes produces.

Keith has at least 417 video lessons about a wide range of topics in U.S. and world history. Some of the lessons that I've enjoyed over the years include his series on every presidential election in U.S. history and his lessons on The Federalist Papers. All of Keith's history lesson videos are listed alphabetically in this document. Don't forget to use "CTRL + F" to search through the document.

In addition to his history lesson videos, Keith offers some tremendous videos for teachers new to the profession. The latest video in that series is Don't Assume: 5 Assumptions to Avoid as a Teacher.

Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners - A Practical Ed Tech Webinar

Throughout the year I host many professional development webinars at The next one in my Tech Tuesday series is Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners. In this webinar on August 15th you will everything you need to know to get started using Google Forms and Google Sheets to streamline your workflow in grading quizzes, emailing parents and students, and keeping track of classroom materials. You will also learn how to build self-guided video review activities for your students. Finally, we'll tackle any questions that you have about Google Forms and Google Sheets.

This webinar will be held live at 4pm Eastern Time on August 15th. Register here. A recording will be available to those who register, but cannot attend the live session. The cost for this webinar is $20. Your registration includes access to the live webinar, live Q&A, unlimited access to the recording of the webinar, and a PD certificate.

In this webinar you will learn:

  • Two ways to create self-grading quizzes.
  • How to create self-paced guided video review activities.
  • How to develop Jeopardy-style games and flashcards in Google Sheets. 
  • A great method sending personalized emails to parents and students from one spreadsheet.
  • How to easily keep track of classroom materials through the use of Forms and Sheets.

Register Today!

This live webinar will held on August 15th at 4pm Eastern Time.

The cost for this webinar is $20. Your registration includes access to the live webinar, live Q&A, unlimited access to the recording of the webinar, and a PD certificate.

Friday, August 11, 2017

10 Things You Can Do With Google Sheets

As I mentioned yesterday in my run-down of ten ways to use Google Forms, Google Forms and Google Sheets is the part of G Suite for Education that I get most excited about teaching to others. My excitement comes from seeing how many applications for Google Forms and Google Sheets teachers develop once they understand the basics of how Forms and Sheets work. Here are ten ways that you can use Google Sheets once you understand the basics of how to use Sheets.

1. Send personalized emails to everyone in a group. Rather than sending a generic, "hi everyone" greeting you can address each person by name.

2. Create and display progress trackers. This is ideal for things like reading logs or fundraisers.

3. Create flashcards. You can make them or have your students make flashcards from the information in a Google Sheet.

4. Schedule room use. Keep track of who is using a meeting room and when.

5. Develop and publish multimedia timelines. Include pictures, videos, and maps in your timeline.

6. Keep track of iPad/ Chromebook carts in your school. The same logic can be applied to keeping track of anything commonly borrowed in your school.

7. Create maps of data sets. If your spreadsheet contains location data, you can map it from a Google Sheet.

8. Create rubrics and email grades from a spreadsheet. Email scores and feedback from the same place that you recorded scores and feedback.

9. Develop and manage a gradebook. If your school doesn't have a system-wide gradebook system in place, you can create your own in Google Sheets.

10. Create Jeopardy-style games. This staple of review games can be developed and played from a Google Sheet.

Register for Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners to get started on using Google Forms for any or all of these purposes. 

This Is Augmented Reality, This Is Virtual Reality

The difference between augmented reality and virtual reality is one of the things that I get asked to clarify on a fairly regular basis. This post has an example of each.

Earlier this year I featured a fun app from PBS Kids called Plum's Creaturizer. It's a free augmented reality app that lets students create fun cartoon creatures then place them into outdoor settings through the use of augmented reality. The purpose of the app is to have students learn and show how the characteristics of an animal help it thrive in its environment. A video demonstration of the app can be seen here.

Plum's Creaturizer and other augmented reality apps like it, are dependent upon location services in order to provide your on-screen experience. Virtual Reality apps, however, are not dependent upon location services to provide you with an immersive on-screen experience. Google Expeditions is an example of a virtual reality app. In my video embedded below I provide a short overview of how to use the "explorer mode" in Google Expeditions to view Mount Everest in virtual reality.

You can create your own basic virtual reality experiences by using the Cardboard Camera app from Google.

The Imperial Presidents - And Other New Lessons from Tom Richey

After a little bit of a summer break it looks like Tom Richey is back to publishing some great videos for history students. His latest videos focus on the topic of American Imperialism. In particular, the most recent video is about the policies of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson.

Tom's videos for AP U.S. History and A.P. European History have become quite popular with students and teachers. That popularity is due in part to Tom's relaxed manner of presentation which is a nice contrast to the sometimes harried style of Crash Course videos.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Student Stories Drawings in ClassDojo

Student Stories is ClassDojo's student portfolio tool that they launched around this time last year. A few weeks ago I gave a run-down of new features that are going to be added to ClassDojo's Student Stories tool for the new school year. One of those features is an option for students to draw or annotate images in their portfolios. That feature is now live and ready for your students to use.

Applications for Education
Drawing on an image in a portfolio can be a good way for students to highlight the most important parts of an picture or of a diagram. In an art history lesson you could have students take a picture of a famous work and then use the drawing tool in Student Stories to highlight the techniques used by the artist.

Ten Things You Can Do With Google Forms

Google Forms and Google Sheets is the part of G Suite for Education that I get most excited about teaching to others. That is largely because once a person understands the basics of how Google Forms and Google Sheets work, the potential applications for school use are almost limitless. Here are ten ways that I often use Google Forms.

1. Manage classroom lending libraries. In other words, keep track of the stuff students and colleagues borrow from me.

2. Create self-grading quizzes. This can save a ton time grading formative assessments.

3. Create self-paced review activities. I often include videos within the review activities.

4. Make digital Break-out games. The data validation and go-to-section-based-on-answer logic makes this possible.

5. Collect contact information for participants in club activities. Likewise, collect and share (with permission) contact information for parents of students in club activities.

6. Create and manage sign-up sheets. You can set time limits and response quantity limits for your sign-up sheets.

7. Manage student blog entries.

8. Conduct surveys. I've conducted surveys to use as exit tickets from class and to get feedback from students at the end of a semester.

9. Organize group research projects. Google Forms can help your students keep track of who is doing which task(s) and who has done which task(s).

10. Manage donations of classroom supplies. Google Forms can help you keep track of donations and donation requests so that you don't end up with 98 glue sticks but nothing to actually glue.

Register for Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners to get started on using Google Forms for any or all of these purposes. 

25,000 78 RPM Records for Your Listening Pleasure

A few years ago I spent time preparing my grandparents' home to be sold. In the process my uncles and I came across many artifacts of a bygone era in American culture. Included in those artifacts were some 78RPM records. Unfortunately, lacking a record player we weren't able to play the records. But today there is a good chance that the music on those records can be heard through the Internet Archive.

Today, through Open Culture, I learned that the Internet Archive hosts a collection of digitized recordings from more than 25,000 78 RPM records. You can search, browse, and listen to everything in the collection made possible through The Great 78 Project. The recordings can be downloaded, streamed, and embedded into blog posts as I have done below.

Applications for Education
This collection could be a great resource for music teachers who are looking for samples to use in music appreciation lessons or courses like the History of Jazz course that I enjoyed as an undergrad.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How to Print a Guest List From a Google Calendar Event

Google Calendar, like most products in G Suite, has lots of little features that are often overlooked. Just because those features are overlooked doesn't mean that they're not useful. For example, you can print a guest list from an event on any of your Google Calendars. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to do that.

Applications for Education
As I mentioned in the video, having a printed guest list could be convenient for things like taking attendance at a meeting of an extracurricular club.

Practical Ed Tech Live - Episode #14

This morning I recorded a new episode of Practical Ed Tech Live. As always, I streamed the episode simultaneously on Facebook and YouTube. If you missed it, you can now watch the recording as embedded below. The list of questions that I answered is available in this Google Doc.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Student Use of Adobe Spark - Your Questions Answered

My post about alternatives to YouTube's video editor has sparked a lot of questions from readers in the last 24 hours. No question has been asked more than, "can my students who are under 13 use it?" Adobe addressed this question in their free Adobe Spark Edu Guide. You can get the guide here.

Here's how the question of use by students under age 13 is answered on page 7 of the Adobe Spark Edu Guide:

Adobe Spark requires an account and login. Logins are used to sync content across devices as well as to backup content to our cloud storage. Children under the age of 13 are not allowed to create their own Adobe ID and so they will need to sign in with an account created by and supervised by a teacher or parent. Sign in with social media accounts is also supported.

How to Create Virtual Reality Panoramas

A couple of years ago Google launched the Cardboard Camera app for capturing your own virtual reality panoramas. At the time that it was launched it was only available on the Android platform and it didn't include a mechanism for sharing your panoramas with others. Both of those things have since changed. You can now use the Cardboard Camera app on iPhones and on Android phones. You can now share your virtual reality panoramas with others through email and social media. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use the Cardboard Camera to capture and share virtual reality panoramas.

You can get the Cardboard Camera app for Android here and the iPhone version here.

Applications for Education
The Cardboard Camera app isn't as robust as some other virtual reality creation tools, but it is more than adequate for capturing a simple panorama of a local landmark. I've seen a few teachers and their students use the Cardboard Camera app to create virtual reality imagery of local landmarks including interesting geological features near them.

How to Create Animated GIFs

Last week I wrote about a free animation tool called Flip Anim. In that post I mentioned using animated GIFs of math problems or to animate simple scenes from a story. A reader sent me a follow-up question asking about how to keep track of each part of the animation. So to answer that question, I created the following short video about how to create animated GIFs by using Flip Anim.