Friday, October 20, 2017

Molecularium: Molecule Building Game

My Molecularium is a new free game app that challenges players to build a wide variety of molecules. It is available at the Apple App Store and Google Play.

This app is part of the Molecularium Project, which is the outreach and education effort of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Nanotechnology Center. The mission of the Molecularium Project is to expand science literacy and get people of all ages excited about science.

Applications for Education
This is a fun and engaging way for students to learn about molecules and the world around them. Games are a great way to introduce and reinforce ideas.

Stelum: Things Made Simple

Stelum is a new collaborative platform to find and share simple explanations for complex ideas and topics. The purpose is to provide people with simple and easy to understand explanations of a wide variety of categories including science, technology, history, famous people, society, ideas, beliefs, and culture.

These ideas are explained on cards called Simplexes which anyone can write, but only the best are featured and promoted. Simplexes are a new way to work with information.

Applications for Education
Teachers could use Simplexes to introduce ideas to students. Students could use the site to learn about any number of topics.

5-Day Teacher Challenge

The 5-Day Teacher Challenge from Rushton Hurley, founder of Next Vista for Learning, is just wrapping up. The idea behind this challenge is to help teachers improve what they do with simple ideas, all while having some fun in the process. While this is the last day of the official challenge, there is no reason you can't work one or more of these challenges into your weekly routine.

Here are examples of some of the challenges:

  • Select one of your challenging students and make a call to their home to report something good they have done. Keep it 100% positive. 
  • Select an activity you are planning and give students the option to propose an alternative approach for them to demonstrate their mastery of the content. 
  • Go for an entire day without raising your voice to improve how you communicate to optimize learning conditions in your classroom. 
  • Find a teacher in your school and plan a team-teaching activity. 
  • Find someone who helps make the school work well like a secretary, custodian, bus driver, or cafeteria worker and find a way to celebrate them. 

Students Evaluating Student WorkShowing Learning at a Higher Level Through Vocabulary, Collecting Students' Insights, and a Student with Autism Explains Autism are some Rushton's guest posts.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mercury Reader Chrome Extension

Mercury Reader is a Chrome extension that makes websites and articles easier for students to read. This extension strips away ads which can be distraction and it pulls the information from an article into one simple and easy to read document. Images will still appear in the new version and hyperlinks will still work just as they did in the original article. Mercury Reader allows the user to change the size of the text, adjust the font, and select either a light or dark theme. There is also an option to send the text to a Kindle.

Applications for Education 
This app is very useful for students (or anyone) who is easily distracted, need to enlarge text, or who might have a preference for light or dark backgrounds.

New Features in SeeSaw

SeeSaw released some great new features at ISTE back in June and they are at it again! SeeSaw is a digital portfolio which provides students with a platform to share their work. Over the last year, there was an increase in the number of teachers using SeeSaw to distribute assignments to students and then collect those assignments from students. To help make this process easier, SeeSaw has launched several new and exciting features.

  • Activities- Teachers can create their own activities or select grade-level specific assignments from the SeeSaw library. Teachers also have the option of sharing their activities to a school-specific library so other teachers in their school can have access to them.
  • Simplify workflow- Differentiate lessons by sharing lessons with the entire class or with just a few students. Students can select from a number of tools to show what they know and all responses will appear on a single page.
  • Save time- It is possible to share activities between classes and reuse activities from one year to the next. 

Disclosure: SeeSaw is an advertiser on

CheckMark Extension for Providing Feedback on Google Docs

CheckMark is a brand new an extension that was developed to help make it easier for teachers to provide feedback to students in Google Docs. Once you add the extension, all you do is highlight where there is an issue and select one of the nearly three dozen canned comments. These comments include the most common mistakes such as capitalization, tense, rephrase, and subject/verb agreement. 

Applications for Education
This extension will save teachers lots of time. Students could also use this extension to provide feedback to their peers or teachers could provide students with a Doc that has mistakes in it and have students use this extension to locate all of the mistakes.

Click here to see a demo of how CheckMark works.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Navigating Google Maps Using Pegman

Recently,  I introduced you to Pegman, the little icon who lives in Google Maps and Google Earth and helps us explore imagery of places all over the world at street view level. The video below shows you how to use Pegman to navigate in Google Maps, including how to use it to visit museums from around the world. 

Another way to view street view imagery is to use Instant Street View. This project is not associated with Google, but it does provide a quick and easy way to explore Google Maps. 

The Past, Present, and Future of AR in Classrooms

Nearly two hundred of you have registered for my free webinar titled The Past, Present, and Future of Augmented Reality in Classrooms. The webinar was originally scheduled for tomorrow. I have had to reschedule the webinar for next Thursday (October 26th) instead of tomorrow. The reason is that we're having a baby (about a week early). Sorry for the inconvenience to those who had planned to attend the webinar tomorrow.

You can register for the webinar here. If you were already registered for tomorrow's webinar, you don't need to register again. The webinar will be recorded for those who cannot attend the live session. 

In the meantime, take a look at Metaverse and how your students can use it to create their own augmented reality applications. 

Common Craft: Dress Your Pet for Halloween

Moose, Winston, and Tank
are ready for Halloween
CommonCraft has a free collection of Halloween cut-outs you can use to dress your pets up for Halloween. All you need to do to get started is add a picture of your pet to your presentation software such as Keynote, PowerPoint, Photoshop, Google Slides, or Google Drawings and download the file that contains over 120 Creature cut-outs. The step-by-step directions are located on the CommonCraft website.

If you dress up your pet for Halloween, please share a picture on Twitter with the hashtag #HalloweenCreaturePets. Share your picture with the hashtag by November 1 to have your name entered in a drawing to win a FreeTech4Teachers mug.

Applications for Education
While this activity is mostly just for fun, it can be used as a way to introduce students to basic photo editing and manipulation.

Implied Powers - American Government Review

Keith Hughes recently published a new video for students of U.S. History and U.S. Government. The video is titled What Are Implied Powers? The video features an overview of the debate between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson over the interpretation of the Elastic Clause and General Welfare Clause. Check out the video as embedded below. It could make a great introduction to the topic or a review after a few of your own lessons about implied powers.

If you like this video and would like to make your own, Keith will teach you how to do it in our upcoming course How to Teach With Video.

Copyright for Teachers - Webinar Recording

Last night Beth Holland and I hosted a free webinar in which we talked about copyright concerns that frequently appear in schools. As you can see the video of the webinar (embedded below) it was a casual conversation during which we shared some stories, fielded some questions, and shed some light on common misconceptions about copyright.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Six Resume Tools for Teens

One of the important skills that students need to have prior to graduating from high school is the ability to create a resume. Ideally, they will create a resume in high school and continue to update it beyond graduation. Creating a resume from scratch can be overwhelming, but these resources will help students understand what elements need to be included.

  • Career Kids- This site does not require an account. Students simply input their information, and click a few boxes to generate a resume. The resume that is created is basic, but this site is very easy to use. 
  • Google Docs resume templates- This is an easy and straightforward way to create a resume directly inside of Google Drive. Just select one of the resume templates to get started.
  • Resume Generator- Designed to be used by high school students. It contains written and audio tips to help students through the process.
  • MyFuture Resume Builder- In addition to a resume builder, this site has examples of resumes, checklists, and articles and advice about careers.
  • While this is not a traditional resume, it is a good place for students to create a positive digital footprint. This site does collect personal information and is not intended to be used by students who are younger than 13.
  • VisualCV for Students- This site allows students to create a digital resume to share online. This site has lots of examples and ideas that students will find useful.
Applications for Education
Students can use these sites to create a solid resume. These sites can also be used to create fictitious resumes of characters from books or of historical figures.  

Experience Performing Arts in 360 Degrees

Performing Arts, part of the Google Cultural Institute, is a website that allows you to experience music, opera, theater, and dance in in 360 degree images and videos. Imagine being able to listen to the Philadelphia Orchestra perform at Carnegie Hall or step on the stage at the Royal Shakespeare Company and listen to an actor deliver a powerful monologue. This incredible website includes behind the scenes tours, videos, stories of dozens of performances.

Applications for Education
Performing Arts allows students to experience world class music, acting, and dance performances regardless of where they live in the world. Teachers could use this site to introduce students to a specific performance or they could allow students to explore on their own.

Five Gmail Extensions to Increase Productivity

Gmail is a robust tool on its own, but it's even more more powerful when used with extensions. These extensions will allow you to up your Gmail game and possibly even save some time!

  • Boomerang for Gmail- Write an email now and schedule it to be sent at a later time. You can also use this extension to to remind you to follow up within a specific time frame and schedule emails to return to your inbox when you are ready to read them.
  • Sortd-  Turn your inbox into a flexible set of lists that allow you to drag and drop your messages into lists. It is a great way to handle emails that you aren't quite sure what to do with.
  • Gmail Notes- Add digital sticky notes on your emails to help you remember something. You can keep the notes for yourself or email them to someone else.
  • Email Templates for Gmail- Choose from a gallery of email templates for business, personal use, or just for fun. Create announcements, invitations, and newsletters.
  • WiseStamp- Create a custom stamp to add to your email signature that includes your social media profiles, blog, and company logo. 

How to Avoid a Common Google Calendar Mistake

Google Calendar has many fantastic features for keeping track of appointments, to-do lists, and for scheduling meetings. Using the event invitation feature is Google Calendar is a great way to schedule meetings and phone calls. However, there is one element of Google Calendar invitations that can cause some confusion. That is the automatic addition of Google Hangout links to your invitations. If you don't intend to use Hangouts, having that link included in your invitation can be confusing to the recipient. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to avoid this confusion by removing the Google Hangout link from Calendar invitations.

Learn more about Google Calendar and all of its features in my online course, Getting Going With G Suite.

What Parents Like About Digital Portfolios

Last week I had the opportunity to talk with the founder of SeeSaw, Carl Sjogreen, about digital portfolios. In our conversation, recorded in the video below, we talk about what parents like about digital portfolios, what to include in a portfolio, and the differences between a blog and a portfolio.

Disclosure: SeeSaw is an advertiser on

Monday, October 16, 2017

Virtual and Interactive Resources for Science Teachers

Virtual labs have come a long way in recent years. While nothing compares to completing a hands-on lab in an actual science classroom, sometimes it isn't possible. Cost and access to equipment are possible obstacles. Other barriers include location. As more classes are being offered online, it necessary for students to complete activities in virtual environments.

  • PhET- This website, from the University of Colorado,  has been around for over 15 years. It offers free interactive math and science simulations in game-like environment. Students can learn concepts in biology, chemistry, earth science, math, and physics through exploration and discovery. Here are tips and resources for teaching with this website. There is a PhET app available for both iOS and Android devices.
  • MERLOT II- MERLOT is an acronym for Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching and it is a program out of the California State University System. Their database of peer-reviewed resources is searchable by keyword, level, and platform.
  • UCAR- The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research is based in Boulder, Colorado and is a consortium of universities and colleges offering degrees in the atmospheric sciences. Their mission is to develop state-of-the-art educational experiences that help create a scientifically literate society.
  • Human Origins- This resource is from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. This institute is committed to expanding the public understanding of human evolution. Be sure to check out their 3D collection of artifacts and fossils.
  • AACT- Each issue of Chemistry Solutions, the periodical from the American Association of Chemistry Teachers, features a simulation. This website houses over a dozen simulations.

How to Teach With Video - Live Event With Tom Richey, Keith Hughes, and Me

In case you missed my excited post on Twitter last week, last week two of my favorite YouTube video producers, Tom Richey and Keith Hughes, agreed to help me host a live three night event all about teaching with video. Between us we have more than 250,000 YouTube followers. All three of us share a common background as social studies teachers and lovers of great videos. So on November 27th, 28th, and 29th we're hosting How to Teach With Video.

In this three night event you'll learn skills and gain confidence to produce educational videos in multiple formats. You'll learn how to incorporate video into your assessment process. And you'll gain an understanding of copyright as it pertains to classroom settings.

Course highlights:

  • Video editing on Mac, Windows, and Chromebooks.
  • Green screen video production.
  • What you do and don't need to create great videos.
  • Publishing on YouTube and how to handle YouTube comments.
  • How to maximize live video use.
  • Video-based assessment.
  • Copyright in the classroom and on the Web.
  • Live Q&A with Tom, Keith, and Richard

Every webinar will be recorded for those who register but cannot attend the live sessions.

The cost of this course is $97. Your registration includes three live webinars, copies of the recording of each webinar, handouts, and a PD certificate.

A note about fees for webinars:
Whenever I advertise a Practical Ed Tech webinar I am asked why they aren't free. There are two reasons. One, hosting professional development events is one of the ways that I am able to keep the lights on at Free Technology for Teachers. Two, while all of the tools featured in my webinars are free to use, my time for teaching about them is not free.

Harnessing Technology to Unleash Student Creativity

This is a guest post from Beth Holland, Doctoral Candidate at Johns Hopkins School of Education and educational advisor at Book Creator

Over the past several years, the idea of using technology to unleash student creativity has appeared in blog posts and conference sessions more times than I can count. For this reason, imagine my surprise when I discovered that the term Unleashing Creativity can actually be traced back to psychologist Ulrich Kraft! In a 2005 Scientific American article, he wrote that new ideas and creative solutions come as a result of “disassembling and reassembling the building blocks [of knowledge] in an infinite number of ways.” Following this logic, creativity can then be defined as the process of taking pre-existing knowledge and applying it in new and unique ways.

Sometimes, teachers and administrators worry that too much focus on creativity detracts from the content and information that students need to learn. Kraft argues that to be able to manipulate these “blocks” of knowledge, the student must first have a thorough understanding of the blocks themselves. In other words, you cannot have creativity without first having content.

Eight years after Kraft’s initial article, a group of Johns Hopkins University neuroscientists and educators extended these ideas about creativity. They argued that creativity could be considered a formula. First, students need to learn a domain of knowledge. Then, they learn how to apply that knowledge to solve specific problems or to complete specific tasks. Finally, once they have acquired this routine expertise, then they can exercise their creativity and apply what they have learned in infinite and flexible ways.

Some skeptics may wonder why we should even bother focusing on student creativity given the limited amount of time that teachers have to work through the required curriculum and prepare students for their assessments. However, I believe that the goal of teaching is not to just prepare students for the next assessment but to help them develop deep understanding of content and ideas. Once students develop this knowledge of the “blocks,” they need the opportunity to embark on new explorations and find solutions to new problems.

From a neuroscience perspective, only focusing on that routine expertise of applying learning to procedural tasks actually reduces creativity. In a book chapter, Kraft explains that repetition and a constant focus on searching for the “right answer” actually reinforces neural pathways and ultimately thwarts a student’s ability to think creatively. Consider this scenario: every day, you take the same route to get to school. One morning, you decide to change your route and go get donuts; and yet, despite your best intentions, you suddenly find yourself on the wrong street because of mental autopilot! It is the exact same idea with students.

Technology helps to break this habit of convergent thinking and provides students with the opportunity to unleash their creativity. Take an app like Book Creator as an example. It removes the barriers between students and their capacity to actively express their understanding. Once they have identified the building blocks of content - whether it be a scientific concept, a mathematical formula, a historical event, or a fairytale - students can take the knowledge that they have learned through classroom experience and then extend their learning through multimedia creation.

Digital tools afford students the opportunity to express their understanding through a variety of media. However, though the technology provides an unlimited outlet for expressing creativity, the opportunity lies in how we - as educators - encourage our students to apply their thinking in those infinite and flexible ways.

Tomorrow, Beth and I are hosting a free webinar titled Copyright for TeachersJoin us!

Library of Congress: Papers of Ulysses S. Grant Now Online

The Library of Congress has just put the papers of Ulysses S. Grant online for the first time in their original format. The collection of over 50,000 items that date back to 1819, was digitized from microfilm scans.

The papers from the 18th president of the United States, include family correspondence, reports, military records, scrapbooks, and other papers. These items provide a comprehensive picture of this popular Civil War general, family man, and world traveler.

The Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, began their efforts to assemble the Grant Papers over 100 years ago. In addition to making the Grant Papers accessible online, other newly available collections from Alexander Hamilton, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, William Henry Harrison, James K. Polk, and Sigmund Freud are also available.

Applications for Education
These papers are great primary sourced that will help engage students, build critical thinking skills, and construct knowledge.

QR Code Generators and Readers for Chromebooks

Last week a teacher contacted me to see if it was possible to read QR codes with a Chromebook. I had never tried this myself, but I figured it was possible so I did some digging and found some reader apps for Chromebooks.

After I tried these out I can say it is definitely easier to read QR codes with tablets or phones. I found it a little awkward to line up the QR code sometimes, but these readers still worked on my Chromebook.

  • Web QR- The website allows you to both create QR codes and scan them. 
  • QR Code Generator- This website allows you to create and scan QR codes as well as create videos using your webcam, screencast, and merge PDF files. 
  • Scan QR app- Simple app that will scan a QR code. 
  • QuickQR Code- Create and scan QR codes.

If you are looking for additional ways to create QR codes, check out Five Ways to Create and Use QR Codes in Your Classroom.

Applications for Education
QR codes can be used to distribute information to students or direct them all to the same page. They can be used for fun activities like scavenger hunts as well.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Meet Pegman

Google Maps and Google Earth have a very special feature and his name is Pegman. This little guy allows us explore places around the world at Street View level. You can find him near the bottom right corner of Google Maps or in Google Earth once you select a location to explore.

Pegman is yellow in Google Maps and white in Google Earth. Regardless of which application you are using, Pegman functions the same. When you pick him up and drag him to the map, you will notice areas that light up with either blue lines, blue dots, and possibly pale orange dots. The blue lines indicate areas that have been captured by the Google Street View car. If an area has been captured more than once,  a clock icon will appear and you will be able to open it to see how the location has changed over time. The blue dots indicate photosphere images that have been uploaded by people like us using our phones or special cameras to take 360 degree pictures. The orange dots indicate images that are taken on the inside of structures. All of these types of imagery allow you to explore places around the world at ground level which is pretty amazing.

Applications for Education
There are as many ways to use Pegman to explore the world as there are classrooms in the world! Students can use him to explore almost any location on the globe. Street View provides students a way an interactive way to visit places which is more meaningful than simply viewing static pictures in a textbook.

Upload Drive Files to the Google Template Gallery

You probably already know that Google Drive has a template gallery, but did you know that you each school domain has their own template gallery where staff can upload files that are used over and over again? Perhaps it is a report that must be submitted weekly or maybe it is a template for lesson plans. 

Instead of keeping a blank copy of the document in your drive and creating a new copy each time you need it, why not upload it to the template gallery for your organization? There are some instances when it makes more sense to store a document in the template gallery rather than in a shared folder. Adding a document to the template gallery accomplishes two important things. First, it allows everyone in an organization to access the same version of a document. Second, whenever any changes are made to a document in the template gallery, everyone has immediate access to the most up to date version of that document. 

Applications for Education 
The ways that template galleries can be used in schools is unlimited. I know of schools that add documents for lesson planning, bussing, and meetings to their template galleries. 

Big History Project

The Big History Project is a free, online social studies course for middle and high school students. It can be taught over the course of a semester or an entire year. Teachers can use the teacher-generated lessons, which are aligned with the Common Core, or they can create their own using the content library.

The Big History Project was co-founded by Bill Gates and David Christian and it has grown to include teachers and scholars. It takes a multi-disciplinary approach to answer the big questions about the history of our universe and the origin of our species. The goal is to help students see the big picture and how all of the parts fit together.

To use this course, teachers need to create an account then add students by providing them with a join code or emailing them an invitation to join the class. Some examples of units for this course include The Big Bang, Stars & Elements, Early Humans, Agriculture & Civilization, and Expansion & Interconnection.

Applications for Education
Teachers can use all of this course or pull bits and pieces from it. While it is classified as a social studies course, many of the units could be used in science classes. Advanced students who need challenging work would appreciate this course.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Crayola for Educators

Crayola for Educators is a website that contains all sorts of resources for teachers. There is an online store that has every Crayola product you can imagine. The store is searchable by product, type, age, and price. The site contains links to free printable coloring pages as well as videos that show different techniques.

The Educators menu has links to research that demonstrates the compelling need for art-infused education. It also has information about grants, professional development, and lesson plans. There are lesson plans for Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies and Visual Arts which can be filtered by categories and grade level.

Crayola is offering a new professional development called createED for teacher leaders and coaches. The program can provide onsite training, implementation resources, and remote coaching to provide teachers with art-infused teaching strategies.

Applications for Education
These resources help teachers in all subjects and across all grades incorporate art into their classrooms.

iSLCollective Video Quiz Creator

iSLCollective is an interactive video quiz creator that allows students to interact with videos while they watch them.

Once you create an account you can upload a video from either YouTube or Vimeo. Once your video has uploaded you can begin adding any number of question types such as including fill in the gap, matching, multiple choice, and open ended.  You can add as many questions as you wish. Once you are finished and you have published your video lesson you can select several different play modes to share with students. If you would rather use a video lesson that has already been created then you might be able to find what you are looking for in the video library.

Applications for Education
There are numerous ways to use this tool in the classroom. Teachers could create video lessons for students to watch at their own pace. Teachers could take it another step and make their own instructional videos, upload them to YouTube or Vimeo, then create a video lesson with them. Since the teacher is controlling the content, this service can be used with students in all grade levels and subjects.

Google Classroom, Grants, and Feedback - The Week in Review

Good evening from Maine where it was a perfect autumn day for apple picking. Isla thoroughly enjoyed her first trip to the orchard. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you had time for outdoor fun too.

This week I hosted a webinar on how to create a great classroom blog. If you missed it, it is now available to stream on-demand. Click here to access How to Create a Great Classroom Blog. Next week I am hosting three free webinars. You can find those webinars listed here.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Enhance Your Google Classroom Experience
2. Grants for Teachers
3. How to Force Copy of Drive File and Shorten URL for Easy Sharing
4. How to Include Video Feedback in Google Forms
5. Current Events Sites for Students
6. Five Great Add-ons for Google Forms
7. Read&Write Assistive Technology App

Throughout the school year I am fortunate to work with many schools on their technology integration needs. I would love to help your school too. Click here to learn about my professional development 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.

Top 6 Resources to Teach About Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park made headlines recently after a meeting the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry where researches from Arizona State University presented evidence that geologic changes in the park might actually occur much faster than previously thought. However, it is still very unlikely that Yellowstone will have a major eruption in our lifetime.

Yellowstone National Park is a symbol of the American West and it continues to be a favorite place for students to research. Let's take a look at some of the best resources you can use to teach about the park.

How to Create a Video on Typito

Typito is a new-to-me video creation tool about which I wrote a short review last weekend. Typito sits comfortably between the simplicity of tools like Animoto and the complexity of tools like WeVideo. I received a few questions about Typito during the week so I made the following video to demonstrate how it works.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Five Great Add-ons for Google Forms

Google Forms are one of the most flexible of all of the tools in G Suite for Education. There are countless ways Forms can be used by teachers and students. There are a number of add-ons that can be used with Google Forms which can make them even better.

Before we begin exploring a variety of add-ons, let's take a look at where you can find add-ons. When you are in Forms, click the hamburger menu which is the three vertical dots on the upper right side of the screen. Select Add-ons from the menu. A selection of add-ons will open up. Once you install an add-on you will be able to access it by clicking the puzzle piece icon on the toolbar in Forms.

  • Simply Send- Easily send the results of a Form to a list of people that you specify.
  • formRecycler- Reuse questions from other Google Forms.
  • formRanger- Allows you to populate multiple choice, list, checkbox, and grid options from columns in any Sheet or Doctopus roster.
  • Advanced Summary- Generate charts and filters based on a Google Form response.
  • Form Values- Store and use selections for multiple choice, list, and checkbox questions that you find yourself using over and over again. 

Read about more popular Forms add-ons.

Next Week is Free Webinar Week!

Next week I am hosting three free professional development webinars. I hope that you can join me for one, two, or all three of them.

Help Kids Discover New Information
On Tuesday at 4pm ET I am hosting 7 Ways to Help Kids Discover and Analyze New Information. In the webinar you will learn how to help students form better search phrases, how to help kids analyze the resources they find, and how to collaborate on research. You'll also discover how online resources like webs and mind maps can lead students to information that they might not otherwise connect to their original search queries. Register here. (This webinar is sponsored by Kids Discover).

Understanding Copyright
On Tuesday evening at 7pm ET Beth Holland and I are presenting Copyright for Teachers. Some of what we'll cover in this webinar includes why teachers should care about copyright, common misconceptions about Fair Use, and how to find copyright-friendly media. Please join us to learn about this important topic that anyone re-using media from the Internet should understand. (This webinar isn't sponsored by anyone other than me and Beth and our passion for the topic).

Augmented Reality in Education
On Thursday afternoon at 4pm ET I will be hosting The Past, Present, and Future of Augmented Reality in Education. In this webinar you can learn what AR (augmented reality) is and how it is different from VR (virtual reality) and how AR has been and is being used in classrooms. Finally, we'll look at how you and your students can create augmented reality apps even if you have never coded before. Click here to register. (This webinar is sponsored by Metaverse). 

Each webinar will be recorded. If you cannot attend the live session, you will be able to see the recording posted on my YouTube channel the next day.

Turquoise Mountain: Preserving Traditional Afghan Crafts

Turquoise Mountain is a non-profit organization that was founded by the Prince of Wales and the former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai. The Turquoise Mountain Institute, located in Kabul, Afghanistan, has helped transform this war-ravaged city and preserve its rich cultural heritage. Artisans learn a variety of crafts including woodworking, carpet making, ceramics, calligraphy, and jewelry making. The teaching staff at Turquoise Mountain employs some of the most skilled artisans in Afghanistan who pass along their skills to the next generation. This method of learning was nearly lost due to decades of civil war. The Turquoise Mountain Institute has played a critical role in making sure skills and knowledge of these crafts are not lost forever.

In addition to working with artisans in Afghanistan, Turquoise Mountain also helps works with Myanmar and Saudi Arabia. This organization also helps rebuild and preserve historic structures and they provide educational and health care services.

Applications for Education
Teachers can use this site to help students understand Afghan culture. The short videos produced by Turquoise Mountain illustrate the importance of passing on traditions from one generation to generation. This website can also be used by teachers looking for an example of the power of community.

This video will give you a better idea about what happens at the Turquoise Mountain Institute.

Turquoise Mountain Institute from Turquoise Mountain on Vimeo.

Enhance Your Google Classroom Experience

Google Classroom is a blended learning solution that was introduced by Google in 2012 and it is one of only two products that Google has created specifically for education. It's purpose is to provide teachers with a simple way to collect,distribute, and grade assignments. Like all Google products, Classroom is constantly evolving and improving.

Let's take a look at some apps and extensions that make Google Classroom even better.
  • Share to Classroom- This extension allows teachers to push any website to their students and have it open for them in a new tab. This would be useful if you want to get all of the students to the same place quickly. 
  • Classroom Split- This extension makes Google Classroom easier for students to use. It will split their screen even so they can have their directions on one side of the screen and their work on the other side. It is similar to Tab Scissors, but it works inside of Classroom. 
  • Google Classroom App- This app allows you to have instant access to Google Classroom from your phone making it easy to do things like post assignments, ask questions, and interact with students. 
  • Whisper- This app works within Google Classroom. It allows you to quietly send messages to the entire class or to just one student. This is perfect for those times when you need to send make an announcement to the class, but everyone is working quietly and you don't want to disturb them. 

Anchor - A Good Alternative to AudioBoom is a free podcasting service that I started using about ten months ago. It has steadily added features throughout the year. If you find yourself looking for a replacement for AudioBoom which this week announced the removal of all free accounts, is a service that you should try.

Here are some highlights of

  • Record by simply holding down the record button the Android or iOS app. 
  • Publish recordings to your Anchor channel or publish directly to iTunes or Google Play. Learn how in this video
  • Have your spoken words automatically transcribed and displayed in a video suitable for posting on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter. See a demonstration in this video
  • Import audio from other sources to use as bumper music. 
  • A "call in" feature lets users speak responses to your podcast (if it is published on an Anchor channel). 
You can find some other alternatives to AudioBoom in this post that I published on Monday. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tabs Scissors & Tab Glue

Tab Scissors and Tab Glue are two Chrome extensions that will make your life a lot easier when you find are toggling between two different tabs. Tab Scissors works by splitting your Chrome browser into two perfectly sized windows at the selected tab. Tab glue will join the tabs together again. You can do the same thing by dragging tabs apart and resizing them, but this method is tedious and can be frustrating. Tab Scissors and Tab Glue make this task so much easier.

Applications for Education
Tab Scissors is useful when grading assignments. You can have the assignment open in one window and your grade book open in another. Students will find it useful when they are doing things like reading and answering questions or researching and taking notes. Tab Scissors and Tab Glue are almost as good as having dual monitors.

Halloween Resources for Students of All Ages

Teachers probably don't need a reminder, but Halloween is just around the corner. Today I'm going to share some resources that are Halloween-themed and can be used with students across grade levels.

Current Events Sites for Students

CNN Student News, now called CNN 10, is one of the most popular sites for student news and current events, but there are many other sites out there that are worth taking a look at. Here are some of the ones that I have used over the last couple of years.

  • KidsPost- This is associated with the Washington Post. This site focuses on important events, but has plenty of fun and entertaining articles as well. 
  • PBS NewsHour Extra- News site for students in grades 7-12. This site also includes a searchable database of articles based on topic as well as lesson plans for teachers. 
  • National Geographic News- This site is not designed specifically for students, but it is packed with interesting articles that focus on current events around the world. 
  • TweenTribune- This site is associated with the Smithsonian and has articles that are lexile leveled for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. 
  • CBBC Newsround- This is a good site for news and fun facts for students. It includes stories, pictures, and videos.
Applications for Education
Instead of having all students read and summarize the same current event, why not provide students with a list of places to find current events and have them select articles that interest them? You could link these sites on your classroom website or in Google Classroom to make it easy for students to access them. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

October: Dyslexia Awareness Month

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. Perhaps you have a student with dyslexia and want to find out more about it. This post contains informational articles as well as links to different apps that have helped students with dyslexia.

Differentiated Professional Development with BloomBoard

BloomBoard was founded in 2010 as a teacher coaching platform that would serve as a way to provide teachers with differentiated instruction. BloomBoards are curated by content area experts and cover a variety of topics from using Twitter for Professional Development to ways to teach math through music and everything in between. Each board has a manageable number of quality resources including blog posts, video, podcast, and websites. Each resource includes an explanation from the curator about why they included it on the board.

If you want to go beyond casually exploring the boards, you can earn micro-credentials for completing a series of activities. In some instances, you can even earn graduate credit.

Applications for Education
Teachers are constantly seeking out new ways to learn. BloomBoard provides a way for teachers to find resources that fit their interest and skill level. Bloomboard was designed to be used by teachers and what teachers learn from these resources will have a direct impact on the classroom.

Create Free Logos with DesignEvo

DesignEvo, from PearlMountain, is a free online logo maker. PearlMountain has been designing software for over a decade and is working to make professional photo editing and graphic design tools accessible to everyone.

The DesignEvo library has one million icons to choose from as well as hundreds of text fonts and shapes. This product features powerful editing tools which allow you to change the layout of a design with one click, stretch text, and easily drag elements of the design around until you are satisfied with your design. There is also a preview button which allows you to see your design on business cards, letterhead, teeshirts, and other spaces where you might use your design.

All you have to do to use your design for free is give credit to DesignEvo by sharing your logo on your blog, website, or posting about it on one of your social media channels.

Other tools that students can use to create logos are Canva and Crello.

Applications for Education
Students could use this site to design logos for different class projects like creating a family crest in social studies or designing a logo with specific geometric details for math class. Students could also design images for infographics.

Teaching History With Technology - On-demand PD

Teaching History With Technology is my most popular Practical Ed Tech course after Getting Going With G Suite. In the last year more than 100 people participated in the course. Previously, I have only offered it as a live course that required participants to join weekly webinars. This fall I’m going to offer it in an on-demand format that is delivered to your inbox every week. Each week you'll get a video tutorial, a handout, and a "do now" activity that you can use in your classroom.

You can start at any point after November 1st.

Join the early bird mailing list and you'll get a $30 discount on the course as well as a free pre-course handout.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How to Force Copy of Drive File and Shorten URL for Easy Sharing

 Did you know there is a quick and easy way to force someone to make a copy of a Google Drive including Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings? When you are editing one of these types of documents, you will notice the word "edit" appears at or near the end of the URL. If you delete the word "edit" (and any text following it) and replace it with the word "copy", then share the new URL with someone, it will force them to create their own copy.

The new hyperlink is still too long to type out so unless you have a place to post the link, you will need to use a URL shortener to create a link that you can share either verbally or writing on a board.

Applications for Education
There are times when we need to share documents with colleagues or students and we don't have time to share it in and email or push it out through a service like Google Classroom. If someone is new to Google, they might not know how to create a copy of a doc and this trick saves them from having to complete that step.

Here is an example of what this process looks like:

Read&Write Assistive Technology App

Read and Write is an extension from texthelp that is designed to help students feel more confident with reading and writing. Teachers can get free access by installing the extension then filling out a request on this page. Once you complete this step, your trial account will be converted to a premium account for one full year.

This assistive technology app makes text more accessible for students. One of the features of this app is that it include the both text and picture dictionaries. Students highlight a word and then they can either view the definition of the word or view an image that represents the word. Students can also use the FactFinder button to access a Google search that contains a highlighted word. There is another feature that allows students to highlight text and collect it in a new Google Doc or opt to have the words turned into a vocabulary list. If they choose the vocabulary option, a Google Doc is automatically generated which contains a table and has a column for the word, its meaning, a symbol for the word, and a blank column where students can write notes or use the word in a sentence.

One of the most useful aspects of Read&Write is the read back feature. This feature allows the students to select text on a Google Docs, website and common file types to be selected and read back to them.

Applications for Education
Students of all ages could benefit from some or all of the features found in this app. Students who are learning how to read or who struggle with reading can use Read&Write to have text read to them at their own pace. Students could use this app to create their own customized vocabulary lists.

G Suite Training App

The GSuite Training is a Chrome extension that provides interactive tutorials on a variety of Google Apps including Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Sites, Classroom, and Slides. The extension exists within each app and the tutorials change depending on which app is open.

When you open the extension you will see a searchable list of tutorials. When you open a tutorial, an audio clip begins to play and the extension takes over your screen. You are prompted to complete a series of tasks. It is almost like having a Google coach sitting right next to you. You can play the tutorial over and over again until you are confident that you have mastered the task.

Applications for Education
Schools can install this extension for all of the users in a domain. Students could be directed to use the extension to find answers to their questions about how to use a certain tool before asking for help.

10 Uses for a Classroom Blog

Regardless of the blogging service that you choose to use, here are ten things you can do with a class blog:

1. Posting assignments and reminders.
2. Posting enrichment activities.
3. Continuing discussions beyond the classroom walls.
4. Creating a central location for links to student resources.
5. Posting videos to supplement and complement class content.
6. Posting audio to supplement and complement class content.
7. Keeping parents informed of what their child is studying.
8. Providing a place for students to turn in assignments.
9. Giving students a wider audience for their work.
10. Insert your idea here...

Need help getting your blog started? Register for How to Create a Great Classroom Blog.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Every Teacher Should Have a Blog - Still True

Almost ten years ago I published a little cartoon to illustrate one of the reasons that every teacher should have a blog. It's still as true today as it was nearly ten years ago. Take a look...

Want help getting your blog started? Join me tomorrow for How to Create a Great Classroom Blog.

Search Safely on Pixabay

Pixabay is a site that houses over one million free images and videos that have been uploaded by users around the world. All content found on the site is licensed under a Creative Commons CC0 license which means that you can use any of the content in any way you wish, even for commercial purposes. 

Each image and video uploaded to the site is manually approved to ensure it does not violate Pixabay's guidelines. Content that is adult-themed or depicts strong violence is not accepted, however sometimes images that might be offensive to some do not violate the guidelines and therefore are found on the site. 

Pixabay offers several ways to deal with images that are not appropriate in schools. They offer a safe search option, which allows a user to turn on safe search on a browser level. Pixabay also offers an option that allows teachers to share a URL with their students which will prevent them from turning the safe search option off. Another option is for the IT department to enforce SafeSearch on the entire network by updating the current DNS configuration. 

Applications for Education
It's important for students to have places where they can find content and use it legally. Pixabay offers districts a way to make this popular resource safe for students to use. 

AudioBoom is Eliminating Free Plans - Try These Alternatives

AudioBoom sent an email to their users this morning to inform them that the free AudioBoom plan is being eliminated. Moving forward the cheapest plan will cost users $10 per month. If this news leaves you looking for an alternative to AudioBoom, try one of the following options.

Through TwistedWave you can create and edit spoken audio recordings from scratch. Your completed tracks can be exported to Google Drive and SoundCloud. If you have existing audio tracks in your SoundCloud or Google Drive account you can also import it into TwistedWave to edit those audio tracks. TwistedWave's audio editing tools include options for fade-in, fade-out, looping, sound normalization, and pitch adjustments. The editor also includes the typical track clipping tools that you would expect to see in an audio editing tool.

Mic Note is a free Chrome app that allows you to create voice recordings, text notes, and image-based notes on one concise notebook page. The notes that you record with your voice can be time-stamped by clicking on your Mic Note note page while you're recording. You can also take notes without recording any audio. All notes support inclusion of images and links. The best part of Mic Note is that you can sync all of your notes to your Google Drive or Dropbox account.

Vocaroo is a free service that you can use to create short audio recordings. Creating a recording on Vocaroo is a simple process that does not require you to create an account or have any special browser plugins. Just go to the site and click record to get started.

SoundCloud's Android and iOS apps no longer have the recording features that they used to have, but the browser based version still offers a recording tool. After recording in your SoundCloud account you can grab the embed code for any of your recordings.

AudioPal is a free service that anyone can use to create short audio messages to embed into blog posts. AudioPal offers three way to create messages. You can record using the microphone connected to your computer. You can record by calling AudioPal's phone system. Or you can create a message by using AudioPal's text-to-speech function.