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Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Month's Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Good evening from Maine where the month of November is coming to a close with a few snow flurries in the air. I have to close this month by once again thanking Beth Still for doing an outstanding job of keeping the blog running for half of the month while I was taking some paternity leave. The second half of the month has been busy as I prepared new materials for the webinars that I hosted this week and those that are starting in the new year (more on that in a post tomorrow).

As I do at the end of every month, I have compiled a list of the most popular posts of the month. This list is based on clicks, views, and shares.

These were the most popular posts in November:
1. Whisper for Google Classroom
2. Using Icons to Help Organize Google Drive Folders
3. Collection of Google Drive Templates
4. Document Studio - The Google Sheets Add-on You've Been Waiting For
5. Improvements in Google Classroom
6. EquatIO is Now Free for Teachers
7. Seven Tips for New Google Classroom Users
8. Science Journal App from Google
9. Using the About Tab in Google Classroom
10. AutoMastery Google Forms Add-on

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

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

View the Evolution of Digital Technology

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo's recent Ed Tech Digest post I just took a little trip down memory lane. In his post Larry mentioned the Washington Post's What Tech World Did You Grow Up In? timeline. Enter your birth year at the top of the timeline and it will display to you how digital technology has changed over the course of your life.

What Tech World Did You Grow Up In? uses graphs to show viewers when things like cassettes were replaced by CDs, when cell phones started to appear in the hands of American consumers, and when Internet access became prevalent in homes.

Applications for Education
What Tech World Did You Grow Up In? has a few neat interactive displays that will show students how much digital technology has improved in the last 20 years. There is a side-by-side animation that shows how long it takes an image to download on dial-up and an broadband. There's a running animation in which students can see how long they could run if they had to use a Walkman or Discman. And there is an animation that replicates rewinding a VHS tape of the movie Say Anything (persona note, my high school girlfriend and I watched that about 100 times on VHS).

As a follow-up to showing this timeline to your students, have them think about the technology that they currently use and how it might become obsolete in twenty years. Then ask them to predict what will replace the digital technologies that they currently enjoy.

Distraction-free YouTube Viewing

On Monday night, during How to Teach With Video, someone asked, "what do you do about all the yucky ads on YouTube?" A couple of members of the class suggested ad blocker extensions. I suggested trying Quietube.

Quietube is a convenient tool that you can add to your browser's bookmarks bar. Quietube will remove all the clutter from YouTube allowing you to view only your selected video. Quietube removes all advertising, sidebar content, comments, and ratings. Installing Quietube requires nothing more than dragging the Quietube button to your toolbar. Then anytime that you're on YouTube click the Quietube button to remove all of the clutter and just watch your selected video.

Other methods for watching videos without sidebar content.
View Pure is a useful site that strips way all of the distractions of related videos, comments, and promoted videos. To use View Pure just copy the link of a video into the "purifier" on the View Pure website and then click purify. Your "purified" video will be displayed on a blank white background. You can also install the View Pure bookmarklet to accomplish the same goal. 

Watchkin is a service that allows you to watch and project YouTube videos without seeing the related sidebar content typically seen on YouTube.com. Watchkin can be used in a few ways. You can enter the direct URL of a video into Watchkin to have the sidebar content removed. You can search for videos through Watchkin and have family-friendly results displayed (if a video appears that is not family-friendly Watchkin has a mechanism for flagging it as inappropriate). Watchkin also offers a browser bookmarklet tool that you can click while on YouTube.com to have the related content disappear from the page.

Practical Ed Tech Live - Episode 22 - Recording

Yesterday afternoon I hosted another episode of Practical Ed Tech Live on Facebook. If you missed it, you can now watch the recording on Facebook or as embedded below. The questions that I answered in the broadcast can be read here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

WriteReader - Honoring the Emergent Writing of Young Learners

This is a guest post provided and sponsored by WriteReader.

Last spring, I discovered WriteReader. Sign-up was easy and free, and the site is very user-friendly. I was pleased to find that it didn’t take hours of my time to figure it out before using it with my students.

Most importantly, it’s “kid-friendly.” It’s designed with K-5 students in mind. They can log-in easily and the simple format allows young learners to manage the site independently. There are embedded supports for students, such as large buttons and an accessible picture bank or a safe search for photos. It’s appealing, engaging, and fun!

Emergent and Conventional Writing
Our elementary school was so impressed with WriteReader that we quickly bought subscriptions for the upgraded version. The students, parents, and teachers all love it! One thing that we really love about it is that it honors the "emergent" writing of young learners. Audio support can give either the letter name or sound to the students to encourage independent work. Also, there are two spaces for writing on the screen – one for emergent writing (child) and one for conventional writing (adult). The adult does not edit or delete the child’s work. The space below is for the parent or teacher to offer feedback or encouragement, or to transcribe the child's writing into "adult" writing (using language conventions, such as correct spelling, grammar, sentence structure, sequence, and punctuation).

Another feature that we love about this app is that it encourages fluent reading. Once students have finished writing and an adult has added conventional writing underneath, the child uses his or her own writing for reading practice. Since the writing is about the child's own experiences and knowledge, it makes word prediction much easier; not all words need to be "sounded out" because the child already knows how the story unfolds. This is known as the reading-writing connection, which is deeply grounded in educational research and is widely recognized as a necessary component of effective literacy instruction.

Cross-Curricular Tech Tool
WriteReader is a cross-curricular tech tool. Other than story books, you could also use it for math/science journals, lift-the-tab books, dual language texts, makerspace logs, cards, song booklets, poetry collections, or self-assessment statements. Check out their website for lesson plans; their blog and monthly newsletter offer lots of innovative teaching ideas too.

You’ll be amazed at how engaged the children are when using this app. They are proud of their creations and are excited to read their stories aloud. Young writers and readers deserve no less.

Vicki Den Ouden (M.Ed.) is a Reading Intervention Teacher in Kelowna, BC, Canada. She has been a sessional instructor at several Canadian universities and is the TV host of “Learning Lab.” Her blog is www.tinkerwithtext.com and you can find her on Twitter at @vicki_den .

Why You Should Get a Flu Shot Every Year

I was at my local pharmacy yesterday and they had a sign encouraging people to get a flu shot. The small print on the sign pointed that you should get a flu shot every year. Your students might be wondering, "why do I have to get a flu vaccine shot again this year?" If that's the case, have them watch the new TED-Ed lesson titled Why Do You Need To Get A Flu Shot Every Year? The lesson does a nice job of explaining why influenza changes and why a new vaccine is developed.

The Top Ten of the Last Ten

My little blog is now ten years old. Yesterday, I shared a list of the things that I've seen change over those ten years. One thing that hasn't changed is that I like to share what you're reading most. Here are the ten most read posts of the last ten years.

1. Google Forms Can Now Automatically Grade Quizzes Without an Add-on
2. Click to Spin - A Fun and Free Random Name Selector
3. Vanilla Forums - Open Source Forum Software
4. 5 Handy Chrome Extensions for Teachers
5. Two Ways to Visually Show Classroom Noise
6. How to Create a Jeopardy-style Game in Google Spreadsheets
7. How to Enable Automatic Grading in Google Forms
8. Six Tools for Creating Classroom Quiz Games - A Comparison Chart
9. A New Lesson Plan Tool for Google Docs
10. Whisper for Google Classroom


Online Basics - Three New Videos from Common Craft

For those of us who use social media on a daily basis and who do most of our shopping online, it can be easy to falsely assume that everyone else is equally comfortable online. That's why I was happy to see Common Craft's new videos about online basics.

Common Craft's new online basics series contains three videos that are designed to help those new to social media, online shopping, and other elements of a digital lifestyle learn the basics.

Digital Lifestyle explains what "digital lifestyle" means and some of the benefits of social media.


Online Identity explains why a person would create an online identity.


Online Accounts explains how to create a secure username and password on a website. This is a good review for anyone, not just those who are new to using the web.


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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

EquatIO is Now Free for Teachers

EquatIO is a popular tool that math and science teachers like to use for using handwriting, equation and formula prediction, and graphing in Google Forms, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings. The service is provided by TextHelp who also makes the popular Read & Write add-on for Google Docs.

This afternoon TextHelp announced that EquatIO is now free for teachers to use. To get a free teacher account just create an account on TextHelp then complete this form. Upon approval, you will be granted access to all of the premium features that EquatIO offers.

Learn more about EquatIO in the video that is embedded below.

Practical Ed Tech Live - You Have Questions, I have Answers

On a fairly regular basis I host live broadcasts on the Practical Ed Tech Facebook page. During those broadcasts I answer some of the many questions that I get asked about educational technology. You can email your questions to me or submit them live during the session and I'll answer them on air. The next Practical Ed Tech Live broadcast will be tomorrow at 3pm EST. Join me!

And if you missed the last broadcast, you can watch the replay here.

Apply for a C-SPAN Fellowship

Next summer might feel like it is a long way away, but it's not too early to start thinking about how you'll spend your next summer break. Social Studies teachers in the United States might want to consider spending part of the 2018 summer as a C-SPAN fellow in Washington, D.C.

The C-SPAN Teacher Fellowship Program brings together teachers and media specialists to work together for four weeks in Washington, D.C. The fellows work together to develop new teaching materials. Teachers selected for the program will receive an award valued at $7,000 (including lodging and travel costs). You can learn more and find the application here. Applications are due by March 2, 2018.

Ten Years of Free Technology for Teachers

Ten years ago I hit "publish" and sent the first Free Technology for Teachers blog post into the wild. 12,593 posts and 72,056,319 pageviews later, I'm still here. I never had plans to publish that many posts, review that many resources, or to be doing this for ten years. But, as it turns out, if you show up and write everyday, people keep coming back for more. So thank you all for coming back to my little blog for all these years.

In many ways a lot has changed in ten years and in other ways not much has changed. Here are some quick thoughts about what has and hasn't changed.

What's changed:

  • Windows netbooks are a thing of the past. Although you could argue that a Chromebook is really just a netbook. 
  • Windows and Mac operating systems have changed. 
  • Android phones and tablets are plentiful and affordable. 
  • Mobile phones are much more capable than they were ten years ago. 
  • We consume more information through social media than we do through newspapers and traditional television programming. 
  • More schools have 1:1 programs than ten years ago. 
  • Cloud computing is more prevalent than ever.


What's still the same:

  • We still debate the merits of Windows vs. Mac. 
  • Apple products are still expensive (and Apple likes it that way).
  • Too many schools still won't provide computers for every student. But at least the football team looks good in those new uniforms.
  • Good teachers make a bigger difference in students' lives than any hardware or software you can buy. 
  • I still look up to many people who were making a difference and sharing online before me. In no particular order those folks are:


    • Dr. Wesley Fryer
    • Vicki Davis
    • Kathy Schrock
    • Dr. Gary Stager
    • Larry Ferlazzo
    • Dr. Scott McLeod
    • Tony Vincent
    • Alan Levine
    • David Warlick
And a special note to remember Allen Stern who ran Center Networks when I started blogging. Allen inspired and influenced much of my early blogging. We had great conversations on Twitter and in email in the early years. Sadly, Allen passed away way too soon in 2013. 

Mega Feedback - A Good Way to Organize Feedback

Mega Feedback is a new tool from the same person that developed Mega Seating Plan and Mega Name Picker. Both of those tools have been popular with readers of this blog and I think that Mega Feedback will become popular too.

Mega Feedback is designed to help you quickly record, save, and distribute short bits of feedback for your students. To use Mega Feedback you log into the site, choose or create a class list, choose a student, and then start writing feedback. Mega Feedback is currently limits you to three positive feedback notes and three notes about areas for improvement. When you're done recording the feedback you can move on to the next student in your list or you can print the feedback that you have recorded.

Currently, Mega Feedback only lets you print the feedback that you record. In the near future you will be able to share feedback through email or Google Classroom.

Applications for Education
In its current form, Mega Feedback could be a good tool for recording feedback about presentations that students give in your classroom. The feedback template is easy enough and flexible enough to use when recording feedback on almost any student's presentation.

MindCipher - Find Your Next Brain Teaser

Solving riddles and other brain teasers can be a fun way to "warm-up" the brain before a brainstorming session or before a lesson on Monday morning. If you use this method, take a look at MindCipher for some new-to-you riddles and brain teasers. Mind Cipher is a collection of brain teasers, logic puzzles, and riddles submitted by members of the MindCipher community. All submissions placed into one of ten categories. The categories include mathematics, logic, lateral thinking, and physics. All submissions are ranked one a difficulty scale of 1-10.

Applications for Education
MindCipher could be a great resource to consult during those times when you have a few minutes of "down-time" with your students. Bring up one of the Mind Cipher puzzles to keep them engaged in thinking even if they're not thinking specifically about your content area.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Teaching With Crossword Puzzles from Read Write Think

My grandmother taught Language Arts for decades and she loved crossword puzzles. I know that many other teachers still like to use them in one way or another too. If you would like to create your own crossword puzzles for your students or you want them to create crossword puzzles, take a look at Read Write Think's Crossword Puzzle Tool.

Read Write Think's Crossword Puzzle Generator makes it easy to create your own crossword puzzles. To create your puzzle simply enter a list of words, a set of clues for your words, and then let the generator make a puzzle for you. You can test the puzzle before printing it. You can print blank puzzles and answer sheets from the puzzle generator.

Applications for Education
Read Write Think offers a bunch of free lesson plans that incorporate crossword puzzles. Some of the lesson plans are designed for learning synonyms. Other lesson plans teach students the vocabulary space travel.

Three Puzzle Templates That Help Students See Content Connections

Russel Tarr publishes a lot of great educational games and instructional templates on ClassTools.net. Among those templates are three activities designed to help students see the connections between events, people, places, and ideas within a subject.

The Class Tools Hexagons Generator lets you create an online hexagonal learning activity to share with your students. To use the template just enter a topic then a minimum of five terms related to that topic. For example, I entered the topic of "American Revolution" then entered the terms "Stamp Act," "Sugar Act," "Boston Tea Party," "Intolerable Acts," and "Olive Branch Petition." The generator then created five hexagons that my students can arrange online to show the connections between the topics. Students can also edit the hexagons to add explanations to the connections.


The Diamond 9 template has students write text into nine boxes that form a diamond shape. Students have to sort the boxes into order of importance and connection to ideas in other boxes. A space is provided for students to write a justification for placement of each box.

The Jigsaw template has students write keywords or phrases into jigsaw pieces. Students then arrange the pieces to show the connections between the keywords in the those pieces. Students can color code each piece in their puzzles.

Create Great Video Lessons on iSL Collective

iSL Collective offers a huge gallery of video-based lessons designed to help students learn English. It also offers a fantastic tool for teachers to use to create their own video-based lessons.

iSL Collective's video lesson creator lets you build questions into videos found on YouTube and on Vimeo. The lesson creator allows you to add multiple choice, short answer, fill-in-the-blank, matching, and sorting questions to a video. If you find a video that is a little longer than you need, iSL Collective's lesson creator will let you trim the video.

iSL Collective doesn't just let you build questions into your video-based lesson. It provides a full lesson planning tool that can include vocabulary lists for students, discussion questions, and an outline of objectives for your lesson.

Applications for Education
iSL Collective was designed to help students learn English, but the video lesson creator could be used to make lessons for any subject area. As you can see in my screenshot above, I made a short lesson about the Battle of Gettysburg.

GradeProof Helps Students Improve Their Papers

GradeProof is a service designed to help students improve their writing. GradeProof lets students either import documents or write documents within the GradeProof editor. Either way that the students use, the next step is the same. GradeProof identifies spelling, grammar, and phrasing errors within a student's writing. GradeProof highlights and color codes the errors that it identifies for students. Students can then click on each highlighted error to see a suggested change. Students can click on each suggested change to immediately implement the change.


GradeProof lets students import documents from Google Docs and Dropbox. Students can also upload Word files. A third option is to just write a document from scratch in the GradeProof editor.

GradeProof operates on a freemium model. With a free account students can use GradeProof to identify spelling, grammar, and phrasing mistakes. A paid account will evaluate those things as well as suggest changes to improve the eloquence of statements. Paid accounts also identify phrases that might have been plagiarized intentionally or unintentionally.

Applications for Education
GradeProof could be a good service for students to use before submitting their papers to you for a grade or to their peers for review. Unlike traditional spelling and grammar checkers, GradeProof will identify typos like writing the same word twice in a row.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Week in Review - Running With Christmas Trees

Good evening from Maine where we're happy to be home after a great couple of days visiting family for Thanksgiving. For 30+ years on Thanksgiving I've gone to watch the road race in my hometown of Manchester, Connecticut. This year was no exception. The race is one of the only ones in the world where you'll find Olympians running in the same event as folks dressed as Christmas trees. It's a great event! Wherever you were this weekend, I hope that you had a good time too.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 7 Good Tools for Surveying Your Audience
2. Three Ways to Broadcast Review Sessions for Students
3. Outline Maps - Simple Geography Games for All
4. Four Tools for Recording Time-stamped Notes While Watching Videos
5. How to Copy Comments in Google Docs
6. This Chrome Extension Helps You Find Books to Borrow
7. ReClipped - Take Notes and Share Notes on Educational Videos

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

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

Three PD Courses Starting This Week

This week will kick-off a fun final month of 2017 for me and, I hope, for you too. This week I am starting three Practical Ed Tech courses.

Tomorrow night at 7pm ET How to Teach With Video begins. This three night event is being taught by Keith Hughes, Tom Richey, and me. We'll cover everything you need to know to feel confident creating and publishing instructional videos in a variety of styles. Learn more and register here.

To Geography and Beyond With Google Earth & Maps begins at 4pm ET on Thursday. In this three week course you'll learn how to use Google Earth and Google Maps in multiple subject areas including language arts, science, math, physical education, and social studies. Learn more and register here.

On Thursday evening at 7pm ET Getting Going With G Suite begins. This five week course is designed for those who are new to using G Suite for Education. This course will cover everything you need to know to integrate Google Drive, Google Classroom, Google Calendar, and Google Sites into your practice. Learn more and register here.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Fun Game About Ecosystems

Feed the Dingo is a fun game that teaches students about the importance of maintaining balanced ecosystems. In the game students have to build and maintain a desert ecosystem. The game begins with a blank slate to which students have to add plants and animals. The game plays out over twelve virtual days. Each day students have to add more elements in order to maintain balance in the ecosystem. At the end of each day students are given feedback as to which plants and animals are healthy, which are in danger, and which have died.

Applications for Education
Feed the Dingo is a PBS Learning Media game. To support teachers' use of the game PBS offers some suggested activities including building a small terrarium and playing a series of food web games. PBS Learning Media lists the national science standards this game addresses on the same page that you find the game and teaching suggestions.

Go To Sleep or Cram? - The Benefits of a Good Night's Sleep

With two children under 16 months old, in my house we're well aware of the value of a good night's sleep. That's why I favor getting up early before the kids to work on projects than to try work late after they go to bed. As this TED-Ed lesson explains, students could benefit from adopting the same pattern of getting up early instead of cramming. In The Benefits of a Good Night's Sleep embedded below, students can learn how sleep "resets" the brain. The video also explains how memories are formed and retained by our brains.

A Health and Science Lesson - What Is Fat?

Now that we're into the holiday season, many of us may be concerned about our intake of fats through our favorite holiday treats. But, as students can learn in What is Fat? not all fats are the same. What is Fat? is a TED-Ed lesson that explores the differences between the types of fats that we find in food. The video lesson goes on to explain how hydrogenated fats are created, what the term "partially hydrogenated" means when it is on a nutrition label, and how different fats affect our health. Overall, it's a nice little lesson to use as a flipped lesson in a health class.

5 FAQs About How to Teach With Video

This coming Monday night is the first night of How To Teach With Video hosted by me with special guests Tom Richey and Keith Hughes. I've answered a lot of emails about the course. Here are the most frequently asked questions and their answers.

1. What is the format of the course?
This is a live course delivered through GoToWebinar. Each webinar will run from 7pm to 8pm Eastern Time (or later if there are a lot of questions). The webinars will be recorded for folks who cannot attend all of the live sessions. You'll have unlimited access to the recordings. You can ask questions throughout the live webinars, via email, and through a Facebook group.

2. Do I need prior experience or special equipment?
No, you do not need to have any prior experience making videos. Likewise, you don't need any special equipment in order to participate.

3. Can I earn graduate credits?
Unfortunately, I can’t grant graduate credits for this course. However, I will give you a certificate for three hours of professional development time.

4. Who is Tom Richey? Who is Keith Hughes?
Tom and Keith are teachers who have created massively popular YouTube channels that teach all kinds of history and government lessons. Through their respective channels they have helped hundreds of thousands of students and teachers. See Keith here and Tom here.

5. What does it cost?
The price for this course is $97. That includes the live sessions, unlimited access to recordings, and a professional development certificate.

Register here for How to Teach With Video. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Four Tools for Recording Time-stamped Notes While Watching Videos

There are many tools for creating video-based lessons and quizzes in which students answer the questions that you create for them. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. I've done that myself. However, there are times when I want students to watch an educational video and record notes of their own. Those notes could be questions that they want to ask me or they could be simple notes about an important point made in a video. The following four tools enable students to record time-stamped notes while watching educational videos on YouTube, Vimeo, and other video hosting services.

Vialogues is a website that is designed to enable users to host conversations around a video. Users can upload videos to Vialogues or use YouTube videos as the centerpieces of their conversations. After you have selected a video from YouTube or uploaded a video of your own, you can post poll questions and add comments that are tied to points in the video. Your Vialogue can be made public or private. Public Vialogue's can be embedded into your blog or website. Watch the video below to learn how to use Vialogues.



With the TurboNote Chrome extension installed your students can take notes while watching any video. To take notes students just need to click the TurboNote extension icon in their browsers and start writing notes in the menu that appears on the right side of the screen. Any notes that studetns type are automatically time-stamped. Notes can be edited while the video is playing or while the video is stopped. All notes can be shared via social media and email.



VideoNot.es is a great tool to connect to your Google Drive account. With VideoNot.es you can take notes on one side of your screen while watching a video on the other side. Your notes are automatically synchronized with the timestamps in the video. You can share your notes just like you share any other file within Google Drive. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how VideoNot.es works.



ReClipped is a neat tool that lets you take notes, share notes, and share clips from educational videos. With a ReClipped account you can clip sections of videos that you find on YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, Coursera, and TED. In addition to clipping you can create time-stamped notes about the videos that you clip. A Pinterest-like aspect of ReClipped appears if you choose to share your clips and notes on a board. ReClipped boards can be shared publicly or kept private.

Three Ways to Broadcast Review Sessions for Students

Today, instead of having to stay after school or come back to school for an extra review session, students can tune-in to a broadcast that you host. Of course, you can still have students come to you after school for a review session, but you can help even more students if you broadcast that review session. Here are three ways that you can broadcast a review session for your students.

YouTube Live
YouTube Live makes it possible to broadcast from your computer's webcam or from your phone (you'll need the YouTube app for Android or iOS). Students can type questions while watching your broadcast and you'll see those questions appear on your screen. YouTube Live broadcasts are automatically recorded and added to your YouTube channel for students who missed the live broadcast to view later. Click here to read about how Tom Richey used YouTube live to help more than 2,500 students prepare for the AP European History exam. Directions for how to create a YouTube Live broadcast can be found here.

Know Lounge
Know Lounge is a free service that I started using about ten months ago. It will let you create a live broadcast from your laptop. Know Lounge includes a whiteboard that you can draw on and share with your audience. Students can ask you question by writing them into a chat box. Additionally, you can allow students to use their webcams to ask you questions during your broadcast. Directions for using Know Lounge can be watched here.

Facebook Live
If you have a Facebook page for your class or for your school, you can use it to host a Facebook Live broadcast. Students can ask questions by typing them into the comments below or next to your video (placement depends upon how they view the broadcast). The questions are time-stamped which is helpful to students who watch the recording of the broadcast. You could also put your own notes into the comments to have them time-stamped for viewers.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating the holiday today or this weekend.  I hope that it is the best Thanksgiving ever! I'll be celebrating with my family in Connecticut. One of our traditions that goes back for 30+ years is watching the Manchester Road Race. Another tradition is listening to Alice's Restaurant Masacree. And here it is for your listening pleasure...


Regular blog posts will resume tomorrow.

Mapping the Thanksgiving Harvest

Where Does Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? is the title of an Esri Storymap. The storymap displays where eight popular Thanksgiving foods are grown and harvested in the United States. The storymap includes a map for each ingredient. Each map shows the locations of commercial producers. Fun facts are included in the storymap too. For example, did you know that Illinois has at least twice as many acres of pumpkins as any state?


Applications for Education
It is too late to use this storymap in this year's Thanksgiving lesson plans, but bookmark it for next year. You could use the storymap to spark students' curiosity to investigate questions like "why does Illinois grow so many pumpkins?" or "why don't we harvest any pecans in New England?"

You can learn how to make maps similar to this one in my upcoming course, To Geography & Beyond With Google Earth & Maps.

H/T to Maps Mania for the Thanksgiving storymap.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

7 Good Tools for Surveying Your Audience

Games like those you can make on Kahoot and Socrative are great for review activities. However, you don't always need to play a full game to gauge your students' understanding of a topic. And other times you just need a quick way to anonymously survey your class. Here are some tools that you can use to poll your students or any other audience.

PingPong is a free online polling system that lets you collect feedback in the form of multiple choice, text, or image-based responses. In the short video embedded below I demonstrate the teacher and student views of the free PingPong response system.



Acquainted is a free tool for conducting online polls. Unlike other online polling tools, Acquainted is a conversational polling tool. What that means is that people who take your poll can get an instant response from your regarding their selections of poll options. Your responses are written into Acquainted and programmed to appear to poll respondents as they make answer choices.


Swift is a polling service that lets you collect responses through text messages or through a simple webpage. The free version of the service allows you to collect responses from up to 50 people per poll. That limit is adequate for most classroom settings. Swift could be a good little service to use to gather anonymous feedback from your students. The option to use text messaging, web responses, or both makes Swift a versatile tool for schools. The option to send students to a new page after submitting a text response could help you keep your students on task. The option to instantly show poll results could be helpful in starting discussions in your classroom.

Poll Everywhere is the standard in this market. It has been around for a long time and doesn't show signs of fading. It's a service that allows you to collect responses from an audience via text messaging. The free plan for K-12 educators provides selection of features and quantity of responses that is adequate for almost any classroom. One of the neat ways to display feedback gathered through Poll Everywhere is in word clouds. The word cloud feature integrates with Wordle, Tagxedo, and Tagul.


Add Poll Questions to Your Slides
The Q&A feature in Google Slides lets your audience submit questions to you. They can view all of the questions submitted and vote for the ones they want you to answer. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how this feature works.



Mentimeter lets you add questions to your slides. You can create slides in Mentimeter or import slides from your desktop. You can create poll questions that your audience responds to in a multiple choice format or they can respond by using emojis. Like a lot of audience polling tools, your audience responds to your questions by going to a specific URL then entering a code to access your questions.

Microsoft Office users can take advantage of the OfficeMix plug-in for PowerPoint to add quizzes and polls into their slides. Watch the tutorial below to learn how to use the features of OfficeMix.



ReClipped - Take Notes and Share Notes on Educational Videos

ReClipped is a neat tool that lets you take notes, share notes, and share clips from educational videos. ReClipped blends the best aspects of TurboNote, VideoNot.es, and Pinterest into one slick system.

With a ReClipped account you can clip sections of videos that you find on YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, Coursera, and TED. In addition to clipping you can create time-stamped notes about the videos that you clip. The Pinterest-like aspect of ReClipped appears if you choose to share your clips and notes on a board. ReClipped boards can be shared publicly or kept private.


Applications for Education
ReClipped has the potential to be a good place for high school and college students to discover and share notes about educational videos. Because of the public search for ReClipped boards I would be cautious about letting middle school students use it.

Black Friday Sale on 5 Practical Ed Tech Webinars

Throughout the year I host professional development webinars and courses on Practical Ed Tech. Usually, the webinars are $20 each. But for the next five days you can get five of my most popular webinars in one bundle for just $25. Click here to take advantage of this offer.

The 5 webinars in the Black Friday bundle are:

Individually these webinars are $20. Purchase the Black Friday bundle and you'll get all five for $25. 

Click here to get five PD webinars for $25!

Three Thanksgiving Activities You Can Do Today!

It's Thanksgiving Eve here in the U.S. If you have school today and you're still looking for some Thanksgiving-themed activities to do today, I have three suggestions for you.

1. Build a thankfulness Padlet wall with your students. 
Create a Padlet wall and have students share text and picture notes in which they share the things that they are thankful for this year. If you're not familiar with Padlet, I have some tutorial videos here.

2. Create a Thanksgiving traditions Flipgrid. 
Flipgrid makes it easy to have students record and share quick video responses to a teacher's prompts. Create a Flipgrid and ask your students to share their favorite Thanksgiving traditions. If you have time, consider posting your Flipgrid on Twitter and asking other teachers to have their students respond too.

3. Contribute to The Great Thanksgiving Listen 2017.
StoryCorps is once again hosting The Great Thanksgiving Listen. This is an initiative designed to get people to talk with family members and record stories about Thanksgiving. Learn more here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Intro to U.S. Involvement in WWI - And What Kids Say About Tom Richey's Videos

Tom Richey recently released a new video for students in U.S. history courses. The United States in World War I is a video in which Tom provides students with an overview of why the United States got involved in the war, why U.S. involvement was significant, and Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points. It's hard to provide depth in a ten minute, but Tom does a great job of providing students with an overview of U.S. involvement in WWI. Watch the video as embedded below.


Tom has more than 87,000 followers on YouTube. Most of them are students. Here are some recent comments from students:

"I already passed AP US History last year, but I still watch your videos."

"I love your videos, always helping me out before a quiz!"

"Thank you! I have a APUSH DBQ tomorrow and this video definitely helped me get an idea of what a good dbq should be."

"I’m not even in AP EURO anymore but I love these videos so much!"

How does Tom make videos that get comments like these? Find out next week in How To Teach With Video.

Practical Ed Tech Live - Episode #20

Yesterday, I hosted the twentieth episode of Practical Ed Tech Live. If you missed it, you can now watch the recording as embedded below. The questions that I answered in the video can be seen here.


Information about the webinars that I mentioned in the video can be found here.

Use Google Earth & Maps for More Than Social Studies

Last week was Geography Awareness Week. All across social media there were lots of references made to ways to use Google Earth and Google Maps to teach geography. That makes perfect sense. But Google Earth and Google Maps can be used for much more than just geography lessons. That's a large part of what I will cover in my upcoming Practical Ed Tech course To Geography and Beyond With Google Earth & Maps.

In addition to social studies Google Maps and Google Earth can be used in physical education, mathematics, science, and language arts lessons. Google Maps and Google Earth can be used to tell stories, to analyze data, and to discover new information. Of course, you can also use it find your way to that new coffee shop in town. You'll learn all of those things and more in this course beginning on November 30th. Register here. 

In addition to three live webinars, the course includes handouts containing detailed tutorials, a discussion forum, and professional development certificate for completion. Register here! The cost of this Practical Ed Tech course is $97.

Course highlights:
1. How to create multimedia maps.

2. How to build virtual tours.

3. How to collaboratively create multimedia maps.

4. How to map data and use maps to analyze data.

5. How mapping strengthens recall.

The cost of this course is $97.


Can't make it to the live webinars? Don't worry because the recording of each session will be emailed to you the next day and you can still participate in all of the Q&A in the discussion forum.

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.

93 Years of Parades

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade turns 93 this year. For many Americans watching the parade is as much of Thanksgiving tradition as eating Turkey is. The parade has change quite a bit over the years. You can view those changes through Macy's Parade History which offers an interactive timeline of the parade's history. You can select any decade on the timeline to view 360 interactive images of the parade. Each decade on the timeline also includes some video clips. Scroll through the decades and you'll see that the parade reflects the popular culture of each decade.

History offers the following short video about the history of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Looking for some last-minute ideas for Thanksgiving lessons? Take a look at the suggestions shared here.

6,500 Vintage Travel Photos - Free To Use

The Library of Congress website is a great place to find historic images to use in presentations. The free images housed by the Library of Congress are organized into many collections. One of those collections, Photochrom Prints, was recently featured in a LOC blog post.

The Photochrom Prints collection offers 6,500 vintage travel photographs of places in Europe, North America, and the Middle East. The collection is organized according to location. Click a location name in the list and you will be taken to a collection of photographs of that location. Every image is available to download and re-use for free.

Applications for Education
The images in the PhotoChrom Prints collection could be used in placemarks on Google Maps or Google Earth to show a comparison of the current view and past view of landmarks. In fact, we'll be doing that in To Geography & Beyond With Google Earth & Maps.

The LOC blog post about PhotoChrom included a couple of comments from readers who had suggestions about using the images in their classrooms. Bridget Morton wrote, "These would be great for Creative Writing classes in developing setting for pieces of fiction." And Catherine Horan wrote, "Will be posting these on a bulletin board in the library to expose my students to the amazing places captured in the photos and to show them the great things available from the Library of Congress."

Outline Maps - Simple Geography Games for All

Outline Maps offers a free set of geography games. The site contains games about Africa, South America, Europe, the United States, and the world. There are two basic types of games on the site. The first type, "find by name," displays a state, country, or city name and you have to click the map to identify that place. The second type of game, "find by feature," highlights a location and you have to type the name of the highlighted location.

Applications for Education
Outline Maps is simple set of games that you could use in an elementary school or middle school setting to help students learn the names and locations of countries and states. The site is a little short on decorative graphics that you will find on other game sites, but I kind of like the minimalist style of Outline Maps.

H/T to Maps Mania

Monday, November 20, 2017

How to Copy Comments in Google Docs

Earlier this month Google added a new option for copying comments in Google Documents. The new option lets you include comment and suggestions when you make a copy of an existing Google Document. I've had a few questions about how the new feature works so I made the following video to show how copying comments works in Google Documents.


Learn more about how to use Google Docs in your classroom in Getting Going With G Suite.

This Chrome Extension Helps You Find Books to Borrow

Library Extension is a free Chrome extension that will show you local library listings for the books that you viewing on Amazon, Google Books, Barnes & Noble, and other popular book retailer websites.

Library Extension currently shows listings from more than 4,000 public library databases in the United States, Canada, UK, New Zealand and Australia.


Applications for Education
Library Extension could be a useful extension for students who are using Google Books as a part of their research processes. The extension will quickly let students know if a book that they have found in Google Books is available to borrow at a local library.

One drawback to the extension is that you can only view results from one local library at a time.

To learn more about using Google Books, check out Search Strategies Students Need to Know

Swift - Poll Your Audience Via SMS or Web

Swift is a new polling service that lets you collect responses through text messages or through a simple webpage. The free version of the service allows you to collect responses from up to 50 people per poll. That limit is adequate for most classroom settings.

To get started on Swift you need to create an account. Your students do not need to create an account in order to respond to your poll questions. When you create an account you will be assigned a phone number that your audience can use to respond to your poll. Alternatively, your students can go to the web address assigned to your poll to submit responses. Your poll questions must be written in multiple choice format.

Swift allows you to program an automated text message response to your poll respondents. So if you choose this option, you could include a link for students to follow to the next activity that you want them to do in your classroom that day. You can also choose to have students instantly view the results of the poll.

Applications for Education
Swift could be a good little service to use to gather anonymous feedback from your students. The option to use text messaging, web responses, or both makes Swift a versatile tool for schools. The option to send students to a new page after submitting a text response could help you keep your students on task. The option to instantly show poll results could be helpful in starting discussions in your classroom.

How to Teach With Video

According to YouTube the average teenager spends more than 45 minutes per day watching videos. That presents a great opportunity to teach them valuable lessons from your curriculum, if you know how to do it right. In How to Teach With Video Keith Hughes, Tom Richey, and I will teach you how to create engaging educational videos. Together we have more than 250,000 YouTube subscribers! Join us next Monday for the first night of this three night event.

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.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

5 FAQs About Whisper for Google Classroom

Whisper is a free Chrome extension that was featured in last week's most popular post of the week. During the week I received a bunch of emails about the extension. Here's a short run-down of the questions most frequently asked about Whisper.

1. What is Whisper?
It is a free Chrome extension that lets you send pop-up notifications to the students listed in your Google Classroom rosters.

2. How is this different than sending emails?
When Whisper is correctly installed and enabled, your students will not need to check their inboxes to see the notes that you send to them. This makes it great for sending quick notes like, "keep up the great work today" or "please get back on task."

3. Nothing is happening/ why don't my students see my notes?
The number one cause of this is having pop-ups disabled. Make sure that pop-up notifications are enabled both in the Chrome browser and on your Mac or Windows computer itself.

4. Can my students see the notes that I send to their classmates?
No. The only way that they see the notes that you send to their classmates is if you use the "entire class" notification option.

5. My IT department is blocking Whisper. 
Okay, so this isn't a question so much as it is a complaint about your school's filtering policies. If you want to see if your school is blocking access to Whisper, go here. That page will also give your IT department information about how to open access to Whisper.

Want to learn more about workflow in Google Classroom? Join my upcoming course, Getting Going With G Suite