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Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Month in Review - A New Englander's Favorite Season

The end of August is here and that means that this New Englander's favorite season is just around the corner. From leaves starting to change color to Dunkin Donuts advertising pumpkin coffee to back-to-school pictures on Facebook, the signs of Fall are all around us.

As I do at this time every month, I have compiled a list of the most popular posts of the last month. Doing this gives me the opportunity to determine what you like to read and it gives you the opportunity to catch up on anything that you might have missed.

Here are the most popular posts from August 2017:
1. Three Google Classroom Updates That You Will Appreciate
2. 18 Updates to Google Tools That You Might Have Missed This Summer
3. Ten Things You Can Do With Google Forms
4. A New Google Forms Feedback Feature You and Your Students Will Like
5. Resources for Teaching Digital Citizenship - A PDF Handout
6. 9 Alternatives to Google Image Search - PDF Handout
7. How to Collect Files Through Google Forms
8. Use a Screen Reader With Google Classroom
9. My Go-to Google Tools for Social Studies Classrooms
10. 10 Things You Can Do With Google Sheets


I'm filling in my 2018 workshop calendar. I would love to add your school to my calendar. Click here to learn more about my keynote and workshop offerings. 


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.

Membit - Augmented Reality Photo Maps

Membit is a neat augmented reality app for use on iPhones. The app lets you place view images superimposed over the current backdrop that you see through your phone's camera. For example, you could open the app, point your camera at a building, and then see an image of what the building used to look like. Watch the fifteen second video below to see Membit in action.


Membit offers more than just viewing of imagery. You can create your own simple augmented reality experiences. To do this you need to open the app and take a picture then place it on the map so that others may view it. You can share your Membit images through Twitter and Facebook.

Applications for Education
Membit has potential to be neat app for use in history classes. Students could use the app to place historical imagery on top of current views of a location. For example, I might have students use the app to place historical imagery of Portland, Maine's working waterfront on top of the current view of Portland's waterfront.

I didn't see a way for Membit to be used without an iPhone. So until then I'll give the nod to Metaverse when I want students to create their own augmented reality experiences.

Disclosure: Metaverse is a client. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How to Use Canva to Create Certificates

Canva is a great service for creating all kinds of graphics including collages, posters, greeting cards, and even certificates to print and give to students. In the following video I provide a demonstration of how to create a certificate by using Canva.


Applications for Education
Whether it is to recognize that students reached a goal or just to recognize that they participated in a special event, we all need to create a certificates at one time or another. Canva makes it quick and easy to create certificates that look great and students will be proud to show to their parents.

Getting Started With Weebly for Education

There are three services that I recommend more than any others when I am asked for a recommendation for a classroom blog or website tool. Those are Blogger, EduBlogs, and Weebly for Education. In the video that is embedded below I provide a short overview of how to get started using Weebly for Education.

Why Americans and Canadians Celebrate Labor Day

Next Monday is Labor Day. For most of us in the U.S. and Canada this marks the unofficial end of summer. If your students are wondering why they don't have school on Monday, consider having them complete the TED-Ed lesson Why do Americans and Canadians Celebrate Labor Day? Through this lesson students can learn about the origin of Labor Day as well as learn a bit about changes in labor regulations over time.

The video from the lesson is embedded below.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Create Random Seating Assignments With Mega Seating Plan

On Sunday evening I shared the Mega Report Writer for streamlining the process of writing narrative reports. The same teacher who developed that tool also developed Mega Seating Plan. Mega Seating Plan is a free tool designed to help you create seating charts from a spreadsheet of names or from an imported Google Classroom roster.

To create a seating chart in Mega Seating Plan simply import a spreadsheet of names or import a Google Classroom roster, indicate where seats will be placed in your classroom, and then let Mega Seating Plan randomly assign students to seats. You can quickly alter the seating chart by dragging and dropping names on the chart.

Mega Seating Plan also has a random name selector tool built into it. To use that tool just pick a class list then click the center of your browser window to have a name randomly selected from the list.

Applications for Education
Mega Seating Plan could provide you with a quick way to shuffle the seating plans in your classroom. You might also use it to randomly create working groups in your classroom. To do that just arrange seats in groups then use the random assignment function to put students into working groups.

5 Tips for New Google Calendar Users

On Monday morning I shared a few tips for new Google Docs users. This morning I have tips for those who are new to using Google Calendar. If your school has made the switch to G Suite for Education, these tips are for you.


In the above video you will learn:
  • How to create an event.
  • How to set calendar reminders.
  • How to color code icons/events.
  • How to use the agenda view.
  • How to print your calendar. 

The Library of Congress Puts Hamilton's Papers Online

The Library of Congress has put their collection of Alexander Hamilton's papers online for the public. The collection of papers includes some of Hamilton's letters to family and friends, a draft of Washington's farewell address, and documents from Hamilton's law practice. Additionally, the Library of Congress has put together a simple timeline of Hamilton's life. These papers are available to view online and or download as PDFs to print and read offline.

Applications for Education
The Library of Congress has included some of Hamilton's papers in their primary sources sets for teaching about the Constitution. Included in those sets you will find analysis guides for students.

I am inclined to use Docs Teach to create analysis activities based on Hamilton's papers. In particular, I would use some of his papers on the creation of a mint and a national bank as part of lessons about the formation of early economic policies of the United States. Docs Teach lets you upload files to use in an interactive analysis activity that your students complete online.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Front Row Offers New Science Units for the New School Year

Earlier this summer I featured Front Row's updated social studies units that complemented their existing language arts units. Over the summer Front Row expanded their offerings to include ten science units. Like all Front Row offerings within the new science units you will find multiple versions of the same article to distribute to your students. You can give the same version of an article to all students or give different versions to individual students in your classroom.

Front Row's ten new science units are designed for elementary school and middle school students. The ten new Front Row science units are:
  • Weather and Climate (K-2)
  • Ecosystems (K-2)
  • Forces and Motion (2-5)
  • Energy (3-5)
  • Space (3-5)
  • Structure and Properties of Matter (3-5)
  • Chemical Reactions (6-8)
  • Earth Systems (6-8)
  • Evolution (6-8)
  • Structure and Functions of Cells (6-8)
Applications for Education
Within each of the new science units you will find detailed lesson plans that include materials lists when necessary, videos, and articles to distribute to your students. 

Front Row has a short diagnostic test for your students to take when they join your Front Row classroom. The results of that diagnostic test can help you identify which version of each article to give to your students.

Three Google Docs Features New Users Often Ask About

If your school is making the switch to G Suite for Education this year, you probably have a question or two about how Google Docs works. In the short video that is embedded below I cover three features that new Google Docs users often ask me about.

Reminder - Searching is a Thinking Skill

Have you ever had a conversation with a student that went like this?

Student: “Mr. Byrne, Google has nothing on my topic.”

Mr. Byrne: “What is your topic?”

Student: “The Civil War.”

Mr. Byrne: “Are you sure that Google has nothing about the Civil War?”

Student: “Well I looked at a bunch of links, but they didn’t say anything about what I was looking for.”

If you have had a conversation like the one above then you have experienced one of the flaws of the digital native concept. Yes, most students today do know how to navigate to Google.com and enter a search term. But that just proves that they can remember a web address and use a keyboard. Increasingly, due to the proliferation of voice commands on mobile phones, it doesn’t even mean that they can use keyboards. Typing or speaking a query into a search engine isn’t difficult. Knowing which terms to type, which type of resources to search for, and how to discern the good from the bad are the skills that search requires.

Those of us who grew up without ubiquitous access to the Internet remember searching through libraries to find one good book on the topic we were researching. Then diving into the bibliography to hopefully find more resources that we could track down through an interlibrary loan or by making phone calls and driving to libraries far away to find a good reference. The process was long in part because of the time it took to locate resources. And it was long due to the fact that when we did find good resources, we pored over them to squeeze everything we could from them. Whether we knew it or not, the length of the process was good for us as it provided more time for thinking, asking more questions, and analyzing what we did know. Unfortunately, all three of those things are often shortcutted by students when they rely on just typing things into Google.

Researching is a thinking skill. It requires that the student first state what it is he or she is trying to determine. Without a clear purpose for the research, students will simply click around the web hoping to find “something useful.” That’s why years ago I developed a pre-search checklist for students to complete before embarking on a research project. A copy of that pre-search checklist is available for free at http://bit.ly/presearch17.

Note: This was an excerpt from the draft of a book that I am writing. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Email Etiquette Reminders for Students

The start of the new school year is a great time to review email etiquette with students. Doing some basic things like adding a proper opening and using spell check can improve the emails that students send and improve how you feel when you're responding to a students' emails.

Emailing Your Teacher, With Captain Communicator is one of my favorite videos about email etiquette. The short video features two students demonstrating how to write an email to a teacher. It's cute and well worth 90 seconds of your time.


The following video was made by a teacher for the purpose of sharing email etiquette tips with students. It's a bit more serious that the Captain Communicator video.

Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads? Why Do They Pant?

My old dog Morrison used to tilt is head to his right whenever I would ask him if he wanted to play stick. He wasn't the only dog to do this. Perhaps you or one of your students have a dog that does the same. If you've ever wondered why dogs tilt their heads in response to a question or other prompt, SciShow has some answers for you in the video embedded below.


Why dogs pant is another question your dog-owning students may wonder about. SciShow Kids has that answered in the following video released last week.


Try one of these seven tools to make a flipped lesson from these dog videos. 

Mega Report Writer - Streamline Narrative Report Writing

Mega Report Writer is a free tool designed by a teacher for the purpose of helping other teachers more efficiently write narrative reports. To get started with Mega Report Writer you import a class roster from either an Excel sheet or from Google Classroom. Once your roster is imported you can start writing comments and phrases that you frequently use in your narrative reports. You can then inset those saved comments and phrases into each report that you write. Mega Report Writer can automatically select gender-specific pronouns for each report that you write.

Applications for Education
Mega Report Writer could help you save time when you write narrative reports about your students. It's not a perfect tool because you do have to copy and paste your report into a Word or Google Doc in order to print it. That said, I can still see myself using it to save time when writing reports.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Week in Review - Isla Turns 1!

Good morning from Maine where we're getting ready for friends and family to come celebrate Isla's first birthday. We had a little cake on her actual birthday earlier this week. Today's the big day for more cake and celebration. Many people have told me that the first birthday is more for the parents to recognize that they survived the first year than it is for the baby who won't remember the party. I'm not saying I "survived" the year, rather I learned a lot more than I ever thought I would in the past year.

Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you have time for fun with friends and family too.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Resources for Teaching Digital Citizenship - A PDF Handout
2. How to Collect Files Through Google Forms
3. Six Types of Classroom Video Projects - And 18 Video Creation Tools
4. How to Create a Book Trailer Video
5. 5 Topics to Cover Early This Year On Your Classroom Blog
6. Share Your Sutori Timelines in Google Classroom
7. 10 Good Options for Creating Digital Portfolios

I'm filling in my 2018 speaking calendar. I would love to add your conference to my calendar. Click here to learn more about my speaking and workshop offerings. 


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.

Ask for Fascinating

This is a guest post from Rushton Hurley. Rushton is the founder of my favorite educational video site, Next Vista for Learning.

If your term is kicking into gear, then it's likely that batches of assignments will soon be a part of your time. One way to quickly decide you need to thrust something sharp into your skull is to see in students' work largely the same thing, again and again. Easy recipe for misery, that.

Many students will give you something interesting and even novel, though, if you go to the trouble of asking for it.

The screenshot image below is from Found Sounds, a video about a man that makes musical instruments from all sorts of things people have thrown away. (The folks at Great Big Story put out lots of really cool videos, I should note).

Getting anything interesting from a student shouldn't be a function of hoping that one or two students provides a gem. It can also be about asking them to step up and give you something different.

"Everyone, you know your assignment. I also hope you know I'll be reading a bunch of these papers, so I'd love for as many of you as are willing to make what you write fun and interesting."

Not all will, of course, but if even a few do, you'll end up with a better experience when you grade them.

Find a collection of cool and moving videos at the Next Vista for Learning Sources of Inspiration page, and more advice like the focus of this post in Making Your Teaching Something Special: 50 Simple Ways to Become a Better Teacher.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Kids Discover Online Offers Great Concept Maps

Kids Discover Online offers excellent reference articles for elementary school and middle school students. All of the articles are offered in multiple versions to match a range of Lexile scores. But that is not all that Kids Discover Online offers. My favorite feature of Kids Discover Online is the concept maps that students can explore. These concept maps, called Discover Maps, allow students to see the connections between topics in social studies, science, and mathematics. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of the Discover Maps in Kids Discover Online.


Next Monday at 4pm EST I am hosting a free webinar about the value of cross-curricular teaching and how the resources in Kids Discover Online can help you create cross-curricular lesson plans. Register for the webinar here.

Disclosure: Kids Discover is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

9 Alternatives to Google Image Search - PDF Handout

Google Images is the default search tool for many students when they need an image for a project. But Google Image search does have some problems associated with its use in classrooms. Google's image search engine does include some filters for safe searching of images, but it doesn't catch everything. Furthermore, Google Image search doesn't always do great job of returning the results that students actually need.

I made the following chart to give students some options besides Google Images for finding images that are either in the Public Domain or are labeled with a Creative Commons license. The chart is embedded below as a PDF. You can also get a Google Docs copy here.

Telling Stories and Illustrating Concepts With Storyboards

Storyboard That is a great tool for creating storyboards, cartoons, and graphic organizers. Yesterday afternoon I hosted a webinar all about using Storyboard That in your classroom. If you couldn't make it to the live webinar, the recording is now available to watch as embedded below. The slides from the webinar are available to view here.


Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Practical Ed Tech Live - Episode #16

Yesterday afternoon I hosted another episode of my weekly series called Practical Ed Tech Live. During each episode I answer a handful of questions that I have received during the week. I also answer any questions that appear in the YouTube and Facebook livestreams. The recording of yesterday's episode is embedded below. The questions that I answered are listed in this Google Doc.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Share Your Sutori Timelines in Google Classroom

Sutori, formerly known as HSTRY, is a great tool for creating multimedia timelines. One of its best features is the option to include quiz questions within a timeline that you share with your students.

For the new school year Sutori has added a Google Classroom integration. You can now import your Google Classroom rosters into Sutori. This will make it easier to get all of your students using Sutori to create multimedia timelines and stories. This also means that it will be easier to share Sutori timelines to your Google Classroom stream. Watch the short video that is embedded below to learn more about Sutori's Google Classroom integration.


The following playlist of videos will walk you through the basics of using Sutori.

The Berlin Job - And the Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall

The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall is a TED-Ed lesson that was released last week. It's a fine primer on the basics of the Berlin Wall, but it is not anything that on its own is going to wow a history teacher. After watching the TED-Ed video I went back into my archives to find a couple of resources about the Berlin Wall that I find interesting and that some of my students did too.

The Berlin Job, hosted on the Google Cultural Institute, is a photo essay by Peter Millar. Millar was a a British journalist who lived in East Germany from 1981 to 1990. Millar's essay blends images and stories about the political aspect of life in East Berlin with stories and images of daily life in East Berlin. The essay concludes with stories of the lead-up and eventual fall of the Berlin Wall. The photo essay does a great job of helping readers understand East Berlin and the eventual fall of the Berlin Wall from a more human perspective and less of a "history lesson" perspective.

The Wilson Center's Digital Archive is a resource that I have used many times when I need primary source documents to use in lesson plans related to the Cold War. Within the Wilson Center's Digital Archive there is a collection of documents organized around the topic of the Berlin Wall. The documents in the collection are arranged chronologically as it relates to the building, maintenance, and eventual dismantling of the Berlin Wall.

And now back to the TED-Ed lesson that started this post. The video from the lesson is embedded below.

TinyTap Introduces a New "Houdini" Mode for Educational Games

TinyTap is a great tool for creating your own educational games for students to play on their iPads or on their Android tablets. Earlier this year they added an option to create games that have voice response features. For the new school year TinyTap has added another new feature. The new feature is called Houdini mode and it lets you create games in which students can make an image or part of an image appear or disappear based on how they answer a quiz question.

See TinyTap's Houdini mode in action in the video embedded below.


Watch the videos in the TinyTap handbook to learn how to start creating your own iPad and Android games.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Phrasal Verbs Friends - Fun Phrasal Verb Videos

One of the challenges that ELL students face is understanding the meanings of phrasal verbs. In the past I have featured a couple of apps that are designed to help students understand phrasal verbs. A newer resource worth bookmarking is the YouTube channel Phrasal Verbs Friends.

Phrasal Verbs Friends videos are cartoons featuring cats explaining the various meanings of common phrasal verbs.

How to Add a QR Code to a Google Document

Earlier this morning someone sent me a direct message on Twitter to ask me how to add a QR code to a Google Document. This is a process that is easier to understand if you see it in action. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to insert a QR code into a Google Document. In my example the QR code contains contact information.

How to Collect Files Through Google Forms

One of the many updates that was made to Google Forms this summer was the option to accept file uploads from people who are not a part of your G Suite for Education domain. This means that you can now create a Google Form through which parents can submit files like a signed copy of a permission slip. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to collect files through Google Forms.

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. Screencast-o-matic.com 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 FreeTech4Teachers.com

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 timer-tab.com. 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. Timerrr.com 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 FreeTech4Teachers.com

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 FreeTech4Teachers.com

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 app.bookcreator.com.

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 FreeTech4Teachers.com 

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 FreeTech4Teachers.com and I was excited to help them reach more teachers. Everything you read here is my writing