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Saturday, September 23, 2017

How to Create a Simple Timeline-based Game

ClassTools.net has many great online game templates for history teachers to use. Play Your Dates Right is one of the templates that I like to use to create a game that is focused on helping students recall the sequence of historical events. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create a simple timeline-based game with the Play Your Dates Right template from ClassTools.net.

Copyright, AR, and Geography - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it is a perfect first Saturday of the fall. Friends are visiting from out of state and we're going to take advantage of the nice weather by spending the day outside on mountain bikes and then perhaps some time on the river.

This week I hosted a Practical Ed Tech webinar about blogging strategies for teachers. If you missed it, the webinar will be available on-demand here later this month. Hosting webinars, running workshops, and speaking at conferences is how I manage to keep Free Technology for Teachers going. Click here to learn how to book me to speak at your school or conference.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Kahoot Launches a New Mobile App - Play Games in Classroom or at Home
2. Copyright Lessons for Students and Teachers
3. A Fun Geography Game for All
4. Ten Great Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures - A PDF Handout
5. Beyond Words - A Library of Congress Lab Experiment
6. Using Augmented Reality to Learn Nouns and Verbs
7. Borrow, Read, and Listen - The Open Library

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.

Friday, September 22, 2017

5 Free Resources for Math Teachers Using Chromebooks

One of the many questions that I received in my email this week came from a reader who wanted to know what some of my favorite resources for teaching math are. She added the stipulation that they needed to work on Chromebooks because her district just replaced old Windows computers in a lab with a Chromebook cart arrangement. Here are the suggestions that I shared.

Desmos is a free graphing calculator that you can use in your web browser on a Chromebook or any other computer using the Chrome browser. It is also available for mobile phones. Desmos has a robust website full of activities and lessons to use in your classroom.


Graph.tk is a free online graphing utility that allows you to plot multiple functions through its dynamically re-sizing grid. To graph an equation on Graph.tk just click the "+" symbol to enter a new equation. One thing that isn't clear the first time you use Graph.tk is that you need to delete the existing default equations before you start.

GeoGebra Classic is the browser-based version of the popular GeoGebra software. For more than ten years teachers have used GeoGebra to teach graphing functions, probability, data analysis, and much more.

Math Vocabulary Cards is a free Chrome app designed for elementary school students. The app offers exactly what its name implies, a series of flashcards of mathematics vocabulary terms. Each card contains a term, a diagram, and a definition. By default the term is hidden and students have to guess the term based on the definition and diagram. Students can also use the cards with the definitions hidden and the terms revealed.

Geoboard is a free app on which students stretch virtual rubber bands over pegboards to create lines and shapes to learn about perimeter, area, and angles. The app is available as a Chrome app. It can also be used directly in any modern web browser. The browser-based version can be found here.

ClassTag Helps You Streamline Communication and Reach More Parents

From SMS to email to old fashioned paper notes there are plenty of ways to send classroom updates to parents. There is one service that covers all three options in a streamlined manner for you. That service is ClassTag. ClassTag lets you send on-demand (anytime you choose) and weekly summaries to parents. Weekly summaries can include notes from you, pictures, event dates, and any other information that you want to share with parents.

The neat thing about ClassTag is that it automatically records for you who hasn't read your updates. With that information you can resend a weekly summary or print a copy of the summary to send home with your students.

Earlier this month ClassTag published a video featuring a first-grade teacher who is using ClassTag. Take a few minutes to watch the video and learn how ClassTag could help you reach more parents this year.

Advertising and What YouTube Knows About You

We've all had the annoying experience of going to show a YouTube video in a classroom or to a friend only to have an advertisement play for five, ten, or thirty seconds before you can actually watch the video. How does YouTube know which ads to show to you? That's partly based on your viewing habits and the channels to which you subscribe. It's also partly based on what advertisers are willing to pay to appear on a video. That process happens in less than a second. Learn more about YouTube advertising and how much a video earns by watching the following CGP Grey video.


Applications for Education
Many students happily click from one video to the next (YouTube says that average user watches 40 minutes of video per day on a mobile phone) without thinking about the digital footprint that is left behind. Ask your students to think about the advertisements they see and how they get there. Then show them CGP Grey's video. They might be surprised by what YouTube knows about them.

You can avoid much of the video viewing habits tracking by watching YouTube without signing into your Google account and by using an incognito browser window.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

XtraMath Now With Google Sign-on and Support for Another Language

XtraMath is a free service designed to help you help your students master the building blocks of solving mathematics problems. I've reviewed the service before and every time I do someone replies with a positive note about the service. One of the things that makes XtraMath popular is its support for multiple languages. Recently, XtraMath added support for another language. This time they added Korean. That brings the total of supported languages up to eight. Those eight languages are Korean, English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and American Sign Language.

This week XtraMath added the option for teachers and students to sign-on by using their Google Accounts.

XtraMath Quick Guide: Student sign-in with Google from XtraMath on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
XtraMath does not remove the need for students to learn directly from teachers and parents. The service provides an online environment in which students complete practice activities that are recorded and shared with teachers and parents. The purpose of XtraMath is to help teachers and parents monitor the progress that their students are making and prepare lessons that meet students where they are.

WebRoom - Free Online Conferencing With Virtual Whiteboard

WebRoom is a free service for hosting online meetings. WebRoom doesn't require you to download any software and you don't need to register in order to use it. To launch a meeting on WebRoom you simply enter your name and email address. Your meeting room launches as soon as you finish entering your email address. Once your room is open you can invite people to join by sending them emails from within WebRoom.

WebRoom lets you use your webcam if you want people to see your face during the meeting. A whiteboard space is provided. You can draw on the whiteboard or upload a file to share and discuss on the whiteboard. A text chat space is provided in each WebRoom meeting. It is possible to share your screen with other meeting participants. However, to share your screen you will need to install the WebRoom Chrome extension.

Applications for Education
WebRoom has the potential to be an excellent tool for hosting online help sessions for your students. The whiteboard makes WebRoom a fantastic choice for helping students with math problems because you can use it to show steps in solving a problem while talking to your students at the same time.

Stitcht - Make Videos With Friends

Stitcht is a free iOS app that lets you create a video from a combination of video clips captured by your friends. To make a video on Stitcht you simply start a project then invite others to add their video clips to the project. Stitcht will then combine the shared clips into one video that you can play back and publish.

Applications for Education
Stitcht could be a good app to use to have students create a highlight reel of a shared event like a field trip or a pep rally. It could also be a good app for parents who want to collaborate to make a highlight reel of a shared event. I could see my local athletics booster club using the app to make a video of the highlights from a football game.

Unfortunately, Stitcht is only available for iOS at this time. Hopefully, an Android app will be added soon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Beyond Words - A Library of Congress Lab Experiment

The Library of Congress Labs is a website that hosts online experiments based on collections of digital artifacts housed by the Library of Congress. One of the experiments that should be of interest to US History teachers is the Beyond Words project.

Beyond Words is an online project designed to identify illustrations in WWI-era newspapers. The project also seeks to create captions for illustrations identified in the newspapers. The project is open to anyone who would like to contribute by using the marking and transcribing tools provided by the Library of Congress. To get started you just need to go to the Beyond Words website then choose a collection of scanned newspapers to look through.

Applications for Education
Contributing to the Beyond Words project could be a great way to get students interested in newspaper archives. Browsing through the newspapers to find illustrations doesn't feel as intimidating to some students as a task in which they have to read through dozens of pages of 100+ year old newspapers.

Create Interactive Diagrams on Quizlet

Earlier this month Quizlet, a popular flashcard service, added a new interactive diagram feature. This new feature can be used by students and teachers to create review activities that are based upon pictures and charts. Clicking on a point on an interactive Quizlet image will reveal the name or term clicked. You can then "flip" the flashcard just as you would with any other Quizlet flashcard. Multiple interactive elements can be added to each picture or diagram that you upload to your Quizlet account. This interactive map of Europe is a great demonstration of what can be done with the new interactive diagram feature in Quizlet.


Applications for Education
The option to review their Quizlet flashcards in the context of a larger diagram is a nice improvement. Learning about the parts of a cell or reviewing the locations of cities and states are perfect uses for the new interactive diagram feature in Quizlet.

There are a couple of other services on the market that also provide tools for creating quiz questions in the form of an interactive diagram. Those services are GoFormative and TinyTap.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Science of Autumn

This Friday is the Autumnal Equinox in the northern hemisphere. The changing leaves, the cooler air, and the earlier sunsets are just part of science of autumn. Here are some resources for teaching and learning about the sights and sounds of autumn.

To help students understand why the leaves change colors in the fall, the Maine Forest Service has an animated video explaining why leaves change colors. The video is titled Maine's Autumn Magic and you can watch it here.

Although they're not as informative as the resource above, National Geographic has a couple of nice photo galleries of fall foliage. Click here for a small gallery of images from Acadia National Park. Click here for a gallery of images from the Adirondack Park.

Untamed Science offers a good, partially animated, explanation of why leaves change colors, what produces the colors, and why bright and sunny days are best for viewing red leaves. The video is embedded below.


Autumnal Colors is a short video produced by Thomas Rasel. The two minute video highlights the sights and sounds of autumn. A bugling elk and a squirrel preparing for winter are a couple of the sights and sounds included in the video.


Autumn from Thomas Rasel on Vimeo.


Autumn Stars and Planets is a short PBS video that explains why the stars and planets that we see from Earth change with the seasons. The video is embedded below.


Reactions, a great YouTube channel from the American Chemical Society, offers a nice video about the chemistry involved in the process of leaves changing color. The videos explains how chlorophyll and the glucose stored inside trees help reveal the reds, yellows and, browns of fall foliage.



SciShow Kids offers the following video about the science of changing leaves.

ClassClimate Updated to Remove Need for Student Email Addresses

Last week I reviewed a new service called ClassClimate that lets your students record and share with your how they feel in your classroom. My one criticism of the service was that it required students to have email addresses. ClassClimate responded to me on Monday with an update that they have removed the requirement for students to have email addresses.

ClassClimate now lets your students record how they feel by just going to a unique URL assigned to your teacher account. This new option is called "Speed Read." Just share your unique URL and then your students can take enter their feelings without any registration necessary.

How to Launch Kahoot Challenges

Challenge mode is one of the key features of the new Kahoot mobile app. Challenge mode lets students play your Kahoot quiz games even when they aren't in your classroom. When Challenge mode is used students see your quiz questions and the answer choices on the same screen on their mobile phones.

In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Kahoot's new Challenge mode.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Reminder - YouTube Is Removing Its Photo Slideshow Tool

In June it was announced that YouTube was going to remove its Photo Slideshow tool in September. It's now September and on Wednesday the Photo Slideshow tool will disappear. Additionally, some of the editing tools for cutting and splicing videos are being removed from the YouTube editor. Here are some alternative tools to consider using in place of the tools that are being removed from YouTube.

YouTube Photo Slideshow Alternatives:
StupeflixSharalike, and Animoto all let you import a batch of pictures and add music to quickly create an audio slideshow. Animoto and Stupeflix both let you add text over your images while Sharalike does not. Sharalike, however, allows for much longer videos than Animoto and Stupeflix will create. Sharalike and Animoto offer iOS and Android apps while Stupeflix does not. Finally, Animoto and Stupeflix offer free education versions for teachers.

Basic Video Editing:
iOS and MacOS users have access to iMovie for free now. If you're looking for a video editor for your students to use on iPads or Macs, iMovie is more than adequate for the vast majority of classroom projects.

Windows users can still use Windows Movie Maker. Microsoft is not officially supporting it on Windows 10, but you can still download it and use it on Windows 10 computers. But later this year Microsoft will be releasing Story Remix which is essentially the replacement for Movie Maker. This video provides a preview of Story Remix.

Chromebook users and those who cannot install software should look into Adobe Spark and WeVideo. Adobe Spark is free to use. You can upload images and videos to use in your final product. Adobe Spark will let you record narration on a scene-by-scene basis by simply holding a record button while you talk. I have some tutorials on Adobe Spark that you can watch here and here.

WeVideo offers a robust web-based video editing tool that rivals the features you can find in iMovie. The limitation of WeVideo is that in order to access its best features like voiceover, green screen, and high resolution production you will have to purchase a subscription. School pricing starts at $199/ year for 30 seats.

Using Augmented Reality to Learn Nouns and Verbs

Metaverse is a great platform for creating your own augmented reality games and activities. Through the Metaverse Studio anyone can program an augmented reality experience without having any prior coding or programming knowledge. With Metaverse Studio you can build and publish an augmented reality game to accomplish many learning objectives. A great example of this is the Nouns and Verbs game that Marty Cryer published in the Metaverse Teachers Facebook group.

Marty's Nouns and Verbs game starts with an introduction in which students choose to learn more about either nouns or verbs. After making a selection students are prompted to watch a short video that refreshes their memories about nouns and verbs. If students try to fast-forward through the video, they are prompted to go back and watch it before they can proceed in the game. After watching the video students use their phones to take pictures that represent either a verb or a noun. The game will tell students if their pictures are representative of nouns or verbs.

You can try Marty Cryer's Nouns and Verbs game by clicking here. If you're reading this on a laptop computer, you will be prompted to use your mobile device to view the game. You can choose to have the link sent to you in a text message. You will also need to have the Metaverse app installed on either your Android phone or iPhone.

Disclosure: Metaverse is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Play Your Dates Right - A Fun History Game

Play Your Dates Right is another great game template developed by Russel Tarr at ClassTools.net. The concept of Play Your Dates Right is that students have to pick the correct sequence of three historical events. The event in the middle of the game template is always the event that actually did come second. Students have to guess if the first and third events are in the proper sequence. See the screen image below for an illustration.

You can create and publish your own version of Play Your Dates Right by using the free template provided through ClassTools. To get the template all that you need to do is click the "edit" link that appears in the lower, right corner of Play Your Dates Right. Then you can enter a list of events with their corresponding dates. When you publish your game ClassTools will randomly select from your list to be displayed.

Applications for Education
I've always stressed to my history students the importance of sequence. Play Your Dates Right could be a fun way for students to review the sequence of events in a unit of study. An obvious case use is in reviewing the causes of the outbreak of a war.

Built to Last - Bubbl.us Mind Mapping

Bubbl.us is the third entry into my Built to Last series. This is a weekly series featuring the educational technology products and concepts that have lasted as long as I have been writing Free Technology for Teachers which will be ten years in November. See the first two entries in the series here and here.

Bubbl.us is an online tool that students can use to create mind maps for any concepts that they are studying. For years I have had students create mind maps to illustrate the many factors that contributed to a major historical event like the American Revolution. Creating mind maps on Bubbl.us is an easy process of simply clicking on the center of your screen then entering the central topic of your mind map. The next step is to add "child" topics or bubbles that are connected to the central topic. Those are added by clicking the "+" that appears while holding your cursor over an existing bubble.

All bubbles on a Bubbl.us mind map can be color coded, hyperlinked, and re-arranged through a simple drag and drop process. It is also easy to change the layout of your entire mind map by simply selecting a different layout from the Bubbl.us editing menu (see the screenshot above). Completed Bubbl.us mind maps can be downloaded as images or printed. Of course, you can also share a link to your live Bubbl.us mind map. It is also possible to embed your mind map into a blog post or other webpage.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Cooking In a Solar Oven - A Hands-on Science Project

I have been watching a lot of Top Chef re-runs on Hulu lately. In one of the episodes that I watched last week all of the chefs had to cook with a solar oven or a solar stove. Watching that episode reminded me of the solar oven project plan available on Climate.gov. Making a solar oven (link opens a PDF) includes directions for building your solar oven and tips for cooking in it. You and your students can build a solar oven using materials that are commonly found in schools, homes, and grocery stores.

Applications for Education
Making a solar oven and baking some cookies in it could be a great way to get students excited to learn about solar energy. At the middle school and high school levels you could have students experiment with modifications of the original design to see if they can increase or decrease temperatures and cooking times in their solar ovens.

Borrow, Read, and Listen - The Open Library

The Open Library is a part of the Internet Archive. The Open Library is a collection of more than one million free ebook titles. The collection is cataloged by a community of volunteer online librarians. The ebooks in the Open Library can be read online, downloaded to your computer, read on Kindle and other ereader devices, and embedded into other sites. Some of the ebooks, like Treasure Island, can also be listened to through the Open Library.



Applications for Education
Much like Google Books, the Open Library can be a great place to find free copies of classic literature that you want to use in your classroom. The Open Library could also be a good place for students to find books that they want to read on their own. The audio option, while very electronic sounding, could be helpful if you cannot locate any other audio copies of the book you desire.

Winning Blogging Strategies for Teachers

This is the time of year that many teachers start a new blog to communicate with students and their parents. Unfortunately, many of those blogs will fall to wayside before the end of the semester. This coming Tuesday I will host a webinar that can help you not only avoid having your blog fall to the wayside, you can make your blog thrive.

Based on ten years of blogging professionally and personally, Winning Blog Strategies for Teachers is an interactive webinar in which we will look at the reasons why so many blogs don’t last long and what you can do to make yours work better than ever. Whether blogging is a classroom activity that you do with students or a personal activity that you’re doing to enhance your professional life, you’ll learn strategies to make your blog a winner.

In this webinar you will learn:
1. How to choose the best blog platform for you.
2. How to avoid running out of blog post topics.
3. The biggest mistakes people make when starting a blog.
4. Easy blogging activities you can do with your students.
5. Techniques to encourage people to interact with you and your blog.

This webinar will be held live at 4pm EST on Tuesday, September 19th. The cost for the webinar is $20. Registration includes access to the live webinar, live Q&A, handouts, and unlimited access to the recording of the webinar.


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

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Kahoot, Fractions, Copyright - The Week in Review

Good afternoon from Maine where it is a gorgeous late summer day. I started the day with a fun hike with my daughter and dogs. These days my hikes are little slower than they used to be, a 30lb child on your back will do that, but they are sweeter because I enjoy them with my daughter.

This week was a stressful week here at the Byrne Instructional Media, LLC office (AKA a room in my barn). It was stressful because I spent nearly 20 hours trying to get one website to stop republishing all of my blog posts without permission. And as soon as I thought that issue was resolved, another website doing the same thing popped-up. Dealing with these issues costs me lots of time that could be used for better things like producing better and new content for this blog, for teaching, or for finally finishing that book I've been working on. Furthermore, it's just discouraging to see so many people in education who don't understand copyright basics. If you know someone who needs a refresher, please have him or her read this.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Kahoot Launches a New Mobile App - Play Games in Classroom or at Home
2. Constitution Day Virtual Field Trip to the U.S. Senate
3. Fraction Math - A Neat App for Elementary School Math Lessons
4. How to Create a QR Code for a Google Form
5. Citations for Beginners
6. Six Ways to Create Screencasts on Chromebooks
7. ClassClimate - Know How Your Students Feel During the Day

My calendar for 2017 is almost full and 2018 is starting to fill in. I'd love to add your school to my schedule. Send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com and let's talk about how we can work together.

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.

Copyright Lessons for Students and Teachers

As many of you know, I spent much of my week dealing with a copyright infringement issue. As a result of that I have been doing more reading about DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) than ever before. One piece that I read was this article from attorney Sarah F. Hawkins. The article didn't have much that was new to me, but I am bringing it up because one of the comments posted under the article points to the larger problem of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of copyright as it pertains to the Internet.

Here's the beginning of the comment:
I run my own travel consulting page on a large social media platform, I recently used a google image of a hotel. This morning I received an invoice for $3500 because I used this image, I did not know about copyright infringements as it was just an image on google.

That comment reflects the way that a lot of people misinterpret Google Image search. Unless you use the advanced search filter to find only Creative Commons licensed images, most of what you find through Google Images is copyrighted. Google doesn't host the images or license the images. Google Images is simply a search engine. Giving an image credit to Google Images is not citing the source and even if Google was the source, unless it is labeled as Creative Commons or Public Domain, you can't use the image without permission. The exception being in the case of fair use. But even then just because you're using it for an educational setting doesn't mean it automatically qualifies your use as fair use. I explained this scenario in more detail in this post in 2014.

On a similar note to the Google Images scenario citing Facebook as the source of an image does not mean that you can use the image without permission. I explained this in more detail in this post.


Resources for teaching Copyright, Creative Commons, and Fair Use.

The following two videos from Common Craft provide excellent overviews of these topics.




For a more in-depth look at copyright for educators, watch Dr. Wesley Fryer's Slideshare on the topic. Eight years after he released it, it's still one of the best resources on the topic.




Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright is a resource for kids produced by the Library of Congress. Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright is intended to help elementary school students understand the purposes and functions of copyright. There are four sections to Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright. The first section, Copyright Exposed, features a short cartoon that explains how copyright protects artists. Files on Record, the second section, chronicles important historical developments in copyright law. The third section, Reading the Fine Print, answers common questions and addresses common myths about copyright laws. The last section, Steps to Copyright, instructs students on registering their own works for copyright protection.

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

A Fun Geography Game for All

Earlier this week Maps Mania published a list of ten geography games that are based on Google Street View imagery. Looking through the list reminded me of a geography game that is fun although it is not based on Street View imagery. That game is GameOn World.

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

Autumn Timelapse - Updated for 2017

At about this time a few years ago I was walking in the woods with my dogs when I got the idea for a timelapse of autumn video project. The idea was to take one picture every day to document the changes in the foliage as we progress through autumn from the first few orange leaves to full-blown New England fall foliage colors to the drab brown we see after all of the tourists leave.

Here's how your students could create their own autumn foliage timelapse videos.

1. Take one picture per day of the same view or of one singular tree. 
Using a cell phone is probably the best tool for this because students rarely go anywhere without one.

2. Upload the pictures to a Google Drive folder. 
It only takes one tap to move photos from a phone phone to a Google Drive folder labeled "Fall foliage." If This Then That has a recipe for doing this automatically from Android phones and from iPhones.

3. After four to six weeks, upload photos to JellyCam or Stop Motion Animator and create your timelapse. 
JellyCam is a free video editing program for Windows and Mac users. You can easily adjust the duration of each frame and easily add a soundtrack to your video. Click here for a video about using JellyCam. Stop Motion Animator is a free tool for creating stop motion movies on Chromebooks.

5 Tutorials on Mapping Stories

In Wednesday's broadcast of Practical Ed Tech Live I answered a question from a reader who was looking for advice on how to have students create maps based on stories that students read. The person had seen it done at a Google Apps Summit but couldn't remember the name of the tool(s) that was used. My hunch is that the person saw a demonstration of Google Lit Trips which is a collection of lessons and Google Earth files that are based on stories. My second guess is that this person a demonstration of Timeline JS. And my third guess is that she saw a demonstration of Google Earth Tour Builder. Google Earth, Timeline JS, and Google Earth Tour Builder could all be used by students to create maps with date-stamped events on them. Tutorials for all three tools are embedded below.

Google Earth Tour Builder Tutorial. Note that this will only work on a Windows, Mac, or Linux computer.


Timeline JS tutorial. This will work on any computer provided that you have a Google Account.


Tutorial for creating tours on the desktop version of Google Earth.


Tutorial for creating placemarks in the new web-based version of Google Earth.


You can also create collections of placemarks by using Google's My Maps tool.


Finally, to create maps without the need for a Google Account or any email address at all, you can use Scribble Maps.

51 Resources for Constitution Day

This coming Sunday is Constitution Day in the United States. That means that schools have to include some type of lesson related to the Constitution either today or Monday. Last week I shared a few resources for Constitution Day lessons. If you're still looking for some Constitution Day resources, take a look at the collection of resources available on DocsTeach.

DocsTeach has sixteen pre-made Constitution Day activities that you can use today. An additional 35 documents and artifacts about the Constitution can be found through a quick search on DocsTeach.

About DocsTeach
DocsTeach provides you with tools to create online history lessons that are based on primary source documents, images, and videos. There are thirteen templates that you can use to create lessons on the DocsTeach platform. My favorite template is the analysis template that you can use to create lessons that help students learn to analyze documents and images.

The lessons that you create on DocsTeach can be shared with your students through the DocsTeach online environment. You can also share your lessons with colleagues by publishing your lesson to the DocsTeach library.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Citations for Beginners

EasyBib, the popular citation creation and management tool for students, recently published a new video that could help some students understand why they need to cite the sources of their information. The short video seems to be designed for an elementary school audience although some of the points in the video will require you to clarify and deepen the explanations. Overall, it is a pretty good video even if there is a clear promotional aspect of it.

How to Create a QR Code for a Google Form

This afternoon I received an email from a reader who wanted to know how to make a QR code for quiz that she had made in Google Forms. The process is rather straight-forward as it requires just one simple tool outside of Google Forms. To create a QR code for a Google Form simply click the "send" button in the upper-right corner of your Form, highlight the link and copy it. Then paste that link into the QR code generator on QR Droid. The video embedded below illustrates this process.


By the way, this process works for any URL not just those provided by Google Forms.

Kahoot Launches a New Mobile App - Play Games in Classroom or at Home

Kahoot released a new mobile app this morning. The new app, available for Android and iOS, contains all of the features that were promised back in June at the ISTE Conference. The new mobile app will let students participate in Kahoot games both in the classroom and at home.

The Kahoot mobile app offers a "single player mode" which will let students see questions and answer choices on the same screen. This removes the need to have a second screen in order to participate in a Kahoot game. The single player mode is the mode that students will want to choose when they are playing Kahoot games outside of your classroom. Being able to play games outside of your classroom is another new feature of the Kahoot mobile app.

You can now send "challenges" to students to complete in Kahoot. Challenges are quizzes that you assign to students to complete outside of your classroom. You can give challenges to students by sharing a link via email, sharing in Google Classroom, or by just sharing a game PIN assigned to the challenge.


You can download the new Kahoot Android and iPhone apps today. If you previously installed the apps, you should see the new features when you update the app.

ClassClimate - Know How Your Students Feel During the Day

ClassClimate is a new service that is designed to help teachers keep track of how their students are feeling during the day, week, and month. The service is rather simple and easy to use. Students simply sign into ClassClimate and click the word(s) that describe how they are feeling.

You can create a class or classes in your ClassClimate dashboard. Each class has its own join code that you give to your students to register as members of your class. Unfortunately, ClassClimate asks for students to have an email address to register.

Applications for Education
If ClassClimate had an option for students to join your class without using email, it would be a great tool use to survey how your students are feeling at the beginning and end of each day or each lesson. As it is now, middle school and high school students could use it. However, it seems that ClassClimate is intended for an elementary school audience.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Practical Ed Tech Live - Featuring Schrute Farms

Earlier today I hosted the latest installment of Practical Ed Tech Live. I started the broadcast by talking about the changes that I have had to make to the RSS feed and daily email from Free Technology for Teachers. After that I answered a handful of questions from readers. Those questions can be read in this Google Document. The video from the episode is embedded below.


Yes, I am wearing a Schrute Farms tee shirt. It was a Father's Day gift.

Important Changes to RSS and Email Feeds

As some of you know, I have been fighting with an exceptionally slimy, dirty, spammy website that has been stealing all of my blog posts, pictures (including those of my daughter) then placing disgusting advertisements next to them. Therefore, for the first time ever I am forced to truncate the RSS feed for Free Technology for Teachers. The daily email is based on the RSS feed so that too will truncated.

Truncating the RSS feed means that you will only see the headline and the beginning of each blog post. You will have to click on the headline to read the full blog post and to watch any videos that are contained within it.

Truncating the RSS feed will, hopefully, make it more difficult for the offending party to steal my work.

I do plan to return to publishing the full RSS feed as soon as I am successful in getting the offending website to stop stealing from me.

YouTube Management Options for Schools

YouTube can be a great source of educational videos to share with your students. I recently read a blog post in which Chris Brogan claimed that his kids go to YouTube to search before they go to Google. The chances are good that you have students who do the same. But for all of the good that can be found on YouTube there is an equal amount of distracting and or inappropriate content that schools want to filter out of search results. One solution is to block YouTube entirely. A better solution is to manage YouTube settings on your network.

G Suite administrators can apply the following settings for signed-in users.

  • Strict Restricted YouTube access. 
  • Moderate Restricted YouTube access. 
  • Unrestricted YouTube access.
Administrators can also apply filtering settings for users who aren't signed into G Suite. This can be done on your network and or on managed devices. More information is available here

Once you have found a video that you want to show in your classroom, consider using one of these five methods to avoid showing "related" content next to the video. 

XtraMath Helps Teachers Help Students Learn Math in Multiple Languages

XtraMath is a free service designed to help teachers and parents help their students learn basic mathematics. The service provides an online environment in which students complete practice activities that are recorded and shared with teachers and parents. Teachers can create classroom accounts in which each child has his or her own log-in credentials. Parents can also be given log-in credentials to see how their children are progressing.

XtraMath offers materials seven languages. Those are languages are English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and American Sign Language.

From your teacher account you can now sort reports according to mastery scores in XtraMath. The following new video provides an overview of how to set-up your XtraMath classroom.

XtraMath Quick Guide: Setting up your class from XtraMath on Vimeo.

Applications for Education 
XtraMath does not remove the need for students to learn directly from teachers and parents. It's not trying to be like Khan Academy. The purpose of XtraMath is to help teachers and parents monitor the progress that their students are making and prepare lessons that meet students where they are.

Fraction Math - A Neat App for Elementary School Math Lessons

Fraction Mash is a free iPad app that provides a fun way for students to learn about fractions. The app lets students insert two pictures then divide those pictures into grids, columns, pie slices, triangles, or rows. Once their pictures have been divided students select the portions of one picture that they want to combine with the other picture. Students' selections of image portions must equal 1 when the two images are combined. Fraction Mash lets students choose how many pieces each picture is divided into.

When students have completed their image-based fractions problems they can save them to the camera rolls on their iPads. From there they can share them with you in a variety of ways including through Google Classroom. But there is more that your students can do with the fractions mash-ups they make in Fraction Mash. Fraction Mash includes an option for students to write reports about their fraction mashes. The reports templates let students insert the images and the fraction problems they created into their reports. They can then write about the fractions problems that they created and solved. Those reports can be saved and shared with you.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Join Me Tomorrow Afternoon for Practical Ed Tech Live

Tomorrow afternoon at 3pm EST I will be hosting episode 19 of Practical Ed Tech Live. During the broadcast I will answer the questions that were sent to me during the last week. I will also answer any questions that are submitted during the live broadcast. You can join the live broadcast on either the Practical Ed Tech Facebook page or on my YouTube channel. Make sure you subscribe to one or both to get the notification when I start the live broadcast.

You can submit questions for Practical Ed Tech Live in advance by emailing them to me or by sending a message on Facebook.


What To Do When Your Pictures, Text, and Videos are Stolen Online

For years I've written and ranted about websites committing blatant copyright violations. Some of you have been supportive of my rants, thank you. This morning I am madder than ever about a website stealing blog posts. That's because this morning I found a website that was not only stealing my writing, it was stealing my pictures too. Including a picture of my daughter. The worst part is that the offending website is placing R-rated to X-rated advertisements next to the stolen pictures and posts.

Rather than just making this into another "Richard is ranting about copyright" post, I would like to share what you can do if you find yourself in a similar position. I made a video to illustrate the process the that I use to deal with blatant copyright violations by spammy websites. The process is outlined in written form here

How to Block an Instagram Account

Tweens and teens love Instagram. Common Sense Media recommends that teens and tweens use the privacy setting to restrict who can follow them on Instagram. I agree with that recommendation. But if you have teens who doesn't listen to you (who hasn't?) and lets anyone follow them, make sure that they and you know how to block unwanted followers. The following short video shows you how to block an Instagram account.

This Little Change Can Save Your Laptop's Battery

Earlier this morning in my post about customizing your Chrome settings I included the screenshot that you see in this post. That screenshot illustrates an advanced setting that you can use in Chrome if you are using a Windows or Linux computer. The setting stops Chrome apps/ extensions from running in the background when you are not using Chrome. Mac users simply need to completely quit Chrome to accomplish the same goal.

I made a video to explain the option to disable the "continue running background apps when Chrome is closed" setting.

Customize Your Google Chrome Settings

Google Chrome has many excellent features, provided you know where to find them. If your school has made you switch to a Chromebook, you may find yourself having to use Chrome exclusively now. I made the following video to help new Chrome users locate and customize their Chrome settings.


Chrome, particularly when you have many extensions installed, is notorious for draining laptop batteries. You can preserve some of your battery by opening the advanced settings menu in Chrome and choosing to disable the option to "continue running background apps when Chrome is closed."

Monday, September 11, 2017

Benefits of Cross-curricular Learning

This post was commissioned by Kids Discover Online.

In the course of a typical day you probably find yourself using knowledge and skills from a wide variety of areas. Figuring out how to pay your bills? Math. Taking the shortcut to avoid traffic? Geography. Writing an email to your boss to explain why the shortcut didn’t work and you were late to work? Creative writing. The point is that we apply diverse knowledge and skills to problems in our lives on a daily basis. Yet too often we teach skills in narrowly defined subject areas. That’s why cross-curricular lessons should be a part of our teaching practice.

When I was a first-year teacher I was fortunate to be placed on a team with teachers who were experienced though not so experienced that they didn’t want to try new things. One of the things that we tried that year was to collaborate to create projects in which our students had to draw on the knowledge learned and skills developed in math, science, social studies, and language arts. Thirteen years later I still have former students (now in their late 20’s) comment to me about the project in which they had to make proposals to either increase or decrease spending for Mars exploration. This project was the final one of the year. As the final project it required that students draw on the knowledge and skills they had developed throughout the year. I’d love to say that all of the groups made awesome proposals, but they didn’t. However, it did help many students see that even though they weren’t “math people” or “weren’t science” people, they could use math and science concepts in a way that wasn’t just “solving a problem.” (Bonus fun fact: to celebrate the conclusion of that project we all watched the horribly cheesy Capricorn One in which OJ Simpson played an astronaut).

So why don’t we see more cross-curricular lessons in schools? “Lack of planning time” is a common answer. It often takes more time and, in the case of cross-curricular teams, more coordination to plan a cross-curricular lesson than say a lesson on the Pythagorean theorem. Fortunately, a resource like Kids Discover Online can help you put together a cross-curricular lesson. Kids Discover Online offers units of articles aligned to standards in multiple subject areas. Every article is offered in three versions to accommodate differing reading abilities.

Not every cross-curricular learning activity needs to fall into the category of multiple week projects in order to be effective. In fact, much can be gained from including short cross-curricular lessons on a regular basis. In 2010 National Teacher Research Panel, UK published a paper that included the points that cross-curricular learning can improve students’ comprehension of problems. It can also improves students’ recognition of “thinking skills” tasks. And cross-curricular learning can improve students’ ability to pose multiple responses to problem stimuli.

In reading Cross-Curricular Learning 3-14 written by Jonathan Barnes I learned that cross-curricular learning can can strengthen “left brain - right brain” connections through cross-curricular learning leads to enhanced problem solving abilities. In turn strengthening the sense of achievement that students feel at the completion of a learning activity. In other words, it can help remove the feeling of “I’m not a math person” or “I’m not a history person.” While reading that section of Barnes’s book I was reminded of a video clip that Dr. Gary Stager showed during a presentation about Dr. Seymour Papert’s work. In the clip, available here, Papert suggests that if we all learned mathematics in “Mathland” we would all learn mathematics perfectly well. Papert also thought that teaching the “the three Rs” was an outdated methodology.

Seymour Papert on "Mathland" excerpted from the Squeakers DVD from Gary Stager on Vimeo.


To help students to see topics and problems as more than just a “history lesson” or a “math problem” Kids Discover Online offers a feature called Discover Maps. Discover maps can help students see the connections between social studies topics, math topics, and science topics. It is one of the tools that exists today that I wish had existed when my students undertook the Mars project years ago. Discover Maps are essentially interactive webs of discovery. Students can select any topic in a web and instantly see a new web of more related topics. The webs display related topics from the fields of science, social studies, and math. Each time a student clicks on a topic a new web is generated. Of course, each web also contains links to multimedia articles for students to read.


If you have been thinking about developing cross-curricular lessons, consider availing yourself of the resources provided by Kids Discover Online. It’s not as hard as you might think and it can provide excellent benefits to your students.

Constitution Day Virtual Field Trip to the U.S. Senate

Constitution Day in the United States is this coming Sunday. On Friday, Discovery Education is hosting a virtual field trip to the U.S. Senate. The half hour event features a "behind the scenes" look at how the Senate works. The virtual event will include appearances from Senate Historian Dr. Betty Koed, U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Chairman, Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

The virtual field trip is happening this Friday. You can register your class here. Visit the field trip webpage to find classroom activities to use in conjunction with Friday's virtual field trip.

Disclosure: Discovery Education is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Built to Last - Scratch

This fall will mark the tenth anniversary of Free Technology for Teachers. Over those ten years I have reviewed thousands of free resources for teachers and students. Some of those free resources have come and gone in a blaze of glory (remember when Second Life and Nings were the cat's meow?) while others have stood the test of time. Over the next couple of months I am going to revisit some of the free resources that have endured over the majority of the last ten years. With a nod to the Grateful Dead song of the same name, I'm calling this series Built to Last.

Scratch is the second entry in my Built to Last series. Scratch is a free program designed to introduce students to programming concepts. Through Scratch students can create animations, games, and videos. Students program in Scratch through a process of dragging and dropping blocks into sequences. Each block represents a command.

When I first wrote about scratch almost ten years ago, it had to be downloaded and installed on your computer. Today, you can still do that or you can use Scratch's online version. ScratchJr, a program based on Scratch, is designed for students under the age of eight to learn programming basics on an iPad, an Android tablet, or on a Chromebook.

Plenty of tutorials abound for getting started using Scratch. The best place for teachers to start is on the Scratch for Educators site. There you will find many tutorials, activity guides, and a curriculum guide. The ScratchEd community is the place to go for inspiration from other teachers who are using Scratch in their classrooms. For example, in ScratchEd you might find something like this Google Doc filled with ideas for using Scratch in elementary school mathematics lessons.

Scratch Overview from ScratchEd on Vimeo.


Why did Scratch make it into this series? Because not only has it endured through the years, it has spawned other tools for teaching programming. Google's Blocky, Snap, and many others have been built from the basis of Scratch. Finally, Scratch 3.0 is now available for testing and is scheduled for a full release in 2018 so Scratch is here to stay.