Google
 

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. That webinar will be included in my Black Friday bundle of professional development webinars

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

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good evening from Maine where the first snowflakes of the 2017-18 winter have started to fly. Whether they love the snow or they hate the snow, everyone around here has a comment about it. I'm in the "love snow" camp and I'm excited that the local ski resort opened this week. The snow reminds me that we're entering the middle of the school year. Should you need a little mid-year professional development, take a look at some of the webinars that I'm offering right after Thanksgiving.

Here are the most popular posts of the week:
1. Whisper for Google Classroom
2. Using Icons to Help Organize Google Drive Folders
3. Collection of Google Drive Templates
4. Seven Tips for New Google Classroom Users
5. Using the About Tab in Google Classroom
6. Voice Recording Tools
7. Math Games and Resources

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

Online PD opportunities:
Next week I'll have 5 webinars available in one package for just $25. Click here to learn more.

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

International Society for Technology in Education


The International Society for Technology in Education, most commonly referred to as ISTE, is a professional organization that plays a major role in technology integration around the world. While there is a fee for becoming a member of ISTE, their website is full of excellent free resources. There are also some ISTE affiliates that are free to join.

One of the most valuable resources that ISTE provides are technology standards that are designed to transform teaching and learning. There are standards for students, teachers, administrators, technology coaches, and computer science teachers. All of the different standards provide benchmarks for what each group should be able to know and be able to do.

The ISTE website also has different articles that you can access for free. There are also numerous news stories that are accessible to non-members.

If you are not familiar with this organization you might want to take a few minutes to check out all of the work they do to promote educational technology around the world.

Blogging with Students


Blogging is a great way to provide all students with the opportunity to have their voices heard. Blogging is also a convenient way to connect your students with students from around the world.

Seven Blogging Platforms for Teachers Compared and Ranked  Provides a snapshot of different popular blogging platforms so you can compare them quickly to see which one fits your particular needs.

Creating Blogs and Websites  A series of videos that show you the steps involved in setting up a blog on Blogger and Edublogs and how to add contributors to a Blogger blog.

Built to Last: Blogger and Edublogs Different ideas for what students can write about.

Three Thoughts About Making Time to Blog This post is geared more toward teacher blogs, but it is also good advice for students who manage their own blogs.

A Guide to Blogging and Examples of Classroom Blogs Five lessons learned about classroom blogging as well as a slide deck with 40+ examples of classroom blogs.

Quadblogging Will Help You Find an Audience for Your Students' Blog Posts Explains the idea of Quadblogging and how to get started with it to build an audience for your students.

Edublogs Class List Check out blogs written by teachers and students.

Now is as good a time as any to start blogging!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Document Studio Google Sheets Add-on

Document Studio is a new Google Sheets add-on that allows you to create certificates, personalized letters, purchase orders and other types of documents. This add-on allows you to take information from a spreadsheet and merge it into a template (Docs or Slides) that you have created. This is a fast and easy way to create customized and visually appealing documents without having to do much work.

The process is a little complicated because there are several steps involved, but the creator of the add-on made a wonderful video that walks you through the entire process.

Autocrat is another document merge tool. I would recommend giving both add-ons a try to see which one fits your particular needs.



Remind Introduces a New Way to Share Resources

Remind, the popular service for sending text messages to students and parents, has introduced a new feature for sharing resources with students and their parents. Remind has partnered with a dozen other popular educational content producers to offer "Share to Remind."

Share to Remind will let you quickly share resources from sites like PBS Learning, Front Row, and Newsela with your students and their parents. Share to Remind can also be used to share links to activities on popular services including FlipGrid, Quizlet, and Quizziz.

You will find the Share to Remind button on the sites that support it. It works just like the sharing buttons you might already be using to share resources to Google Classroom or to a social media website. Click here to read more about how it work.

Applications for Education
I can see the Share to Remind button being helpful in quickly directing students to activities that you want them to complete on Quizziz or FlipGrid. It will also be useful to share news articles and similar reference materials with students and their parents. Doing that will enable you to make sure that parents get a link to the same article that you want their children to read for your class.

Recording - 7 Ways to Help Kids Discover & Analyze New Information

Last month I hosted a free webinar titled 7 Ways to Help Kids Discover & Analyze New Information. The recording of the webinar, sponsored by Kids Discover Online, can now be viewed on my YouTube channel or as embedded below.


The seven points covered in the webinar:

  • Developing search terms and phrases.
  • Charting and tracking search patterns.
  • Reading & watching in multiple formats.
  • Planning for analysis.
  • Looking for keywords and reading for context.
  • Saving, Sharing, Revisiting
  • The importance of guiding feedback.

Intro to Teaching With Video

Last week Keith HughesTom Richey, and I hosted Introduction to Teaching With Video. If you missed it, you can now view it on my YouTube channel or as embedded below. In the video we share some of our favorite tips for teachers who are new to creating instructional videos. You'll also get hear us share our thoughts on the equipment that you do and don't need to get started.


11 days from now Keith, Tom, and I will be hosting a three night course titled How to Teach With Video. Register here to join on November 27th.

Update to Copy Options in Google Docs


Until recently, when you made a copy of a Google Doc, you could only make a copy of the document itself. If was not possible to move any comments over to a copy of the doc. Until now! Google just released an update that allows you to not only copy the document, but include the comments and suggestions as well. You will see this option when you go to file then make a copy. Just tick the box to include the comments on the copy of the document.

There are times when it will be most helpful for the comments to be copied with a document. Imagine this scenario. You have a document with several paragraphs of text that you want students to read. You have inserted a couple of questions for each paragraph using the comments feature. Now each student can get a copy of the doc with the comments and they can reply directly to the comments to answer the questions.

The ability to make a copy of the comments applies to Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Drawings might seems like a minor change, but it is going to provide us with some additional ways to interact on Google documents.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Editing Photos in Google Slides

It's possible to make basic edits to images using the tools that exist in Google Slides. Once you have uploaded an image, you can recolor it, adjust its brightness, contrast, and transparency. A recent update allows you to add drop shadows and reflections. You can also crop and mask pictures. Masking an image allows you to change it into a different shape which means you can be even more creative with your images. 

This video shows you how to make a few of these edits. Please note there is no sound on this video. 

Photo Editing Apps


There are so many photo editing apps available, but some are more robust than others. These are the ones that I find myself coming back to over and over again.

Snapseed This app has so many features it's hard to believe that it is free. There are 29 tools and filters including healing, brush, HDG, and perspective. It's easy to crop, tune, and edit your images so that they look like they were taken by a professional

Polarr Photo editing app with advanced auto-enhance tools and filters to meet all of your photo editing needs.

Adobe Photoshop Express Includes over 5 dozen free tools that allow you to make basic to advanced edits. Once you are finished editing you can share your creation directly on your favorite social networks.

PIP Camera-Photo Editor This is a fun app that allows you to get creative with your pictures. The filters allow you to turn average pictures into masterpieces! Choose from over 200 frames and more than 20 filters to create the perfect image.

Pixlr Use this editor to create collages, layer multiple photos, stylize your images and much more.

PicMonkey This app lets you make basic edits of your photos as well as draw on top of them. You can add stickers to your photos to create a customized, unique masterpiece.

Applications for Education
Instead of using pictures they find on the web for presentations, students could use their cell phones to take their own pictures. They could use one or more of these apps to edit their pictures, giving them more of a feeling of ownership of the content they are creating.


Thanksgiving Activities for Students

Thanksgiving is next week and if you are like me, this holiday has crept up on you and you might not be ready. If you are still trying to come up with some activities for your students, you might want to take a look at this post from last year. It is full of resources and ideas that can be modified for a variety of grade levels.

If none of those activities are exactly what you are looking for then here are some additional ideas.

Use Flipgrid to have students take a moment to reflect on the last year and share what they are most thankful for.

Pilgrims, the Mayflower Compact, and Thanksgiving- Three lessons for students in grades 6-10 that examine the voyage of the Mayflower, the Mayflower Compact, and Thanksgiving.

Black Friday Financial Literacy is a two-day lesson that helps students explore comparison shopping and using a credit card.

Thanksgiving: Census Facts is a website that is packed with a variety of facts about Thanksgiving.

Students can create a digital poster using Google Slides or Google Drawings where they share their pictures that represent Thanksgiving traditions in their homes. They can share pictures of foods they eat and activities that take place.

Students can compose a rap song using Incredibox.

Have students research Thanksgiving and come up with two truths and a lie. They can get creative and make a poster with their information. Once everyone is finished, go around the room and have students try to guess which information is factual and which information is a lie.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Whisper for Google Classroom

Whisper is a brand new Chrome extension that works within Google Classroom. Whisper allows you to quietly send a message to an individual student or your entire class. This is perfect for those times when students are completely focused on their assignment and you don't want to interrupt them by making a verbal announcement. When we stop students while they are working, it can be almost impossible to get them all back on track. Whisper solves this issue by allowing teachers to share important messages without disrupting the class by talking.

Click here to read the directions for how to get started with Whisper.

Google Tour Builder

Google Tour Builder allows users to tell stories using Google maps, images, videos, and text. It is a fantastic tool for students to use to show what they know about different topics. Maybe students are summarizing the chapters of a book and each placemark represents a different chapter. Or perhaps students create a tour to share summaries of current events happening around the world. There are many different ways to incorporate Google Tour Builder into the classroom. In this video, I will walk you through how to get started and show you some of the basic features of this tool.

Click here to read a recent post on Google Tour Builder.


In order to share your tour, click the Done Editing button. This will give you the option to change the privacy settings and grab a link to share.

Three Things That Can Help You Teach With Video

Whether you want to make your own instructional videos or you just want to make sure that your students are learning something from the videos that you share with them, there are a few basic things that you should know.

1. Short and sweet.
Two well-made videos that are each two minutes long are better than one video that is four minutes long. Check out the research the Wistia published last summer. Check out the research the Wistia published last summer. Based on data from more than 500,000 videos played more than one billion times, Wistia determined that there is a significant drop-off in viewer engagement after the two minute mark.

Not every concept or topic can be boiled down to two minutes, but the point is that brevity is best when it comes to videos. This is true whether you're having students make videos or watch videos.

2. Outline
Writing an outline for a video that you are going to make will save you time in the long run. Writing that outline will help you cut out tangents and filler material. (Save those tangents for subsequent videos).

3. Video as supplement, not replacement. 
Even the best videos can't entirely replace good classroom instruction and good books. Look at the videos you make and share with your students as supplements to your instruction and their reading, not complete replacements. When you look for a video to share with students, think about the gaps that it fills in your instruction or the gaps that you will have fill after students watch the video.

Learn more about teaching with video in the upcoming Practical Ed Tech course, How to Teach With Video

Google Arts and Culture:


Today we are going to continue exploring Google Arts and Culture. We have already looked at the history of the project as well as the art collection so today we are going to check out historical events and historical figures.

Historical events are a collection of hundreds of historic world events going all the way back to 3100BCE. When you open a collection you will find primary sources, usually in the form of photographs and video as well as background information about the event. Some of the collections include stories that include even more information and primary resources. These collections are a fantastic supplement to what students are learning about in history and government classes.

The historical figures collection is packed full of biographical information about hundreds of people going back over 5000 years! Each collection contains links to artifacts associated with each person. For example, if you select James Madison, you will be able to view a desert cooler from his personal collection, a letter that he wrote to Benjamin Harrison, and a letter he received from John Quincy Adams.

Applications for Education
Both of these collections provide teachers with new and exciting ways to teach students about historical events and the people associated with them. They can be used to introduce students to events or fill in the gaps that are so often present in textbooks.

Monday, November 13, 2017

YouTube Playlists: Why You Need Them and How to Make Them

YouTube can be one of our best tools to use in the classroom once we figure out how to harness its power. One of the simplest ways to tap into the power of YouTube is to organize content by placing videos onto playlists. Playlists can contain content that others create as well as videos that you create and upload. Adding videos to playlists saves you time and the stress of having to search for a video minutes before you need it. The video below will show you how to upload your own videos, how to create and add videos to a playlist, and how to share a playlist.

Applications for Education
How many times a day do you have to tell students what they missed when they were gone? One of the things  I did at the end of each day was record a short screencast where I would walk students through what they missed if they were absent and I showed them exactly what they needed to do to get caught up. I would upload those screencasts to YouTube and then add them to the playlist for that particular class. Students knew they could access the link to the playlist from our classroom website so it dramatically cut back on the number of students asking me what we did when they were gone.

I also created playlists for each unit that I taught. If I found a video that I thought might be useful I added it to a generic playlist for the class. Once I previewed the video,  I would either move it to a shorter and more specific playlist so I could find it very quickly when I needed it or I would delete it from the generic list.

This video walks you through the process of uploading a screencast to YouTube, adding it to a playlist, and then sharing that playlist with others.

Voice Recording Tools


Our voice is one of the most powerful tools we possess, but many times we default to writing instead of talking. There are definitely times when writing is the way to go, but there are other situations when spoken words can have a dramatic impact.

Here are some tools that work well to capture voice. Some of these work directly inside of Google Docs while others capture voice and can then be downloaded and shared.

Talk and Comment is a Chrome extension that allows users to provide voice comments. This is a great way to provide feedback students.

Vocaroo is a website that allows you to make a voice recording without creating an account. Simply make your recording then when you are satisfied with your recording you can save it. You must download the file if you wish for the recording to be available for longer than just a couple of months.

Twisted Wave Audio editor that allows users to capture their voice or upload files from their computer or Google Drive and edit them.

VoiceRecorder is a simple tool that allows users to create and trim audio files then save them to their computers.

Google Voice allows users to set up phone number. When people call this number they can leave a voice message which is also transcribed. This is a great option for teachers who need students to create a short recording because all of the recordings are captured in one location making it easier for teachers to access.

Here are some additional resources for making audio recordings on Chromebooks and recording tools that work in your web browser.

Applications for Education
Imagine how powerful it would be to capture the voice of a student who is just beginning to read then record them again reading the same material and hear how much they have grown as readers. Or what if you captured students reading a passage in the first year of a world language class then recorded their progress throughout all four years? It is incredible to document things like this using voice recordings. Recordings are also a powerful way for students to explain a process or reflect on their learning.




Google Arts and Culture: Art Collection

This is the second post in a series about Google Arts and Culture. In the first post, we took a look at the history of the project. Today we are going to explore some of the ways to access the artists and galleries. To access the menu of options you will need to click on the "hotdog" menu on the upper left corner of your screen once you open Google Arts and Culture.

Collections- This option lets you explore collections of art from hundreds of museums from around the world. When you open a collection from one of the museums you will see items in their collection that you can view by popularity, the year they were created, or color family. Information about the museum is available in this view as well including hours of operation and a link to the official website for the museum. In many instances when you open a collection you will see a little yellow Pegman icon. This indicates you can explore the collection by touring the museum using Street View. It is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the experience. The Musee d'Orsay is just one example of how this works. Click on Pegman to jump into the museum then navigate using the arrows, selecting an image from the tray, or by jumping around on the floorplan.

Artists- This is the best way to search the collection if you are searching for a particular artist. You will find biographical information as well as all of their items. Each of these collections can be shared directly to Google Classroom using the sharing button.

Mediums- If you are looking for a specific medium this is a great way to search the entire website for those pieces. There are well over 200 options which help narrow your search to very specific results. For example, there are numerous items for clothing including cotton, leather, gauze, nylon, wool, felt, satin, and velvet.

Art movements- This is one of my favorite ways to search Google Arts and Culture because I can rearrange the items by when they were created. It's fascinating to compare what artists were creating during different world events or to compare works from different artists during the same time period.

Applications for Education

Google Arts and Culture is such a versatile product and it can be enjoyed by people of all ages and used in many different subjects. Art can be used in math to teach about shapes and patterns. Social studies teachers can use art as a visual way to teach about what was happening around the world during different periods of time. It goes without saying this can be a very powerful way to get students interested in art.

This video demonstrates how to navigate using Pegman. There is no sound on this video.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

10 Good Resources for Geography Awareness Week

This week is Geography Awareness Week. As academically-themed weeks go, this ons is my favorite. For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed looking at maps and wondering about far-off places. I hope that I've be able to pass on that fascination to some of my students. If you're looking for some resources to use this week, take a look at my list below.

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



Spacehopper is a game based on Google Maps Street View imagery. Spacehopper shows you a Street View image and you have to guess where in the world the image was captured. You can click the clue button to have the country identified before making a guess. After three incorrect guesses the correct answer will be revealed to you. You can play Spacehopper on a global level or you can specify that you only want to see images from a particular continent.

Smarty Pins is a Google Maps game develop by Google. Smarty Pins presents players with a trivia question that they have to answer by placing a pin on a map. Players earn "miles" for correctly placing a pin on the map. Players can lose miles for answering incorrectly and or taking too long to answer. Games are available in five categories; arts & culture, science & geography, sports & games, entertainment, and history & current events.

Capital Toss is a free geography game from ABCya. The game has a state capitals mode and a country capitals mode. In both modes of the game works the same way. The name of a state or country appears at the bottom of the screen and three rows of capital names scroll across the top. When the correct capital name appears players virtually toss a ball at it. After ten correct answers players can choose a new ball. Three consecutive incorrect answers ends the game.

Where is...? is another good game geography game. This game uses a popular format for geography games; the name of a city is presented to the players and they have to click the map to guess where the city is located. Players are given immediate feedback on their accuracy in the form of a measurement, in kilometers, of the distance between their guesses and the correct answers.

Mission MapQuest is a great map game creation tool developed by friend Russel Tarr for his ClassTools.net website. The concept behind Mission Mapquest is rather straight-forward one. On Mission Mapquest you create a series of clues that your students need to follow to identify places around the world. You can add as few or as many clues to your MapQuest as you like. When you're ready to have students try your MapQuest just give them the web address assigned to it. Mission Mapquest games are created in HTML5 which means that they can be played on iPads and Android tablets as well as on laptops. Watch the video embedded below to learn how to create your own map-based quizzes on Mission MapQuest.


Instructional Resources
The USGS offers free topographic maps for most of the United States. The maps can be downloaded as PDFs through the USGS store. The maps can be used in the 27 suggested topographic maps lessons found in the USGS education site. All of the lessons are rated by grade level and time required for completing the activity. In the list of lesson ideas you will find suggestions for lessons about typical geography topics like coordinates, scale, and map projections as well as lesson suggestions for less common things like analysis of stereo aerial photographs and analysis of humans and hydrography.

Overlap Maps is a free service that can be used to quickly compare the size of countries, states, provinces, and some bodies of water. To create a visual comparison of two countries select one country from the "overlap this" menu and select one country from the "onto this" menu. The comparisons you make are displayed on a map. You can make comparisons from different categories. For example, you can overlap Lake Erie onto New Hampshire.

As you would expect National Geographic has a lot of resources for teaching geography lessons. Head to National Geographic's activity catalog to search through hundreds of activities and lesson plans covering a wide range of human and physical geography topics. The catalog search can be refined by grade level, but unfortunately cannot be refined by topic so you'll have to browse to find the topic you want to cover in your classroom.

Google's My Maps tool makes it relatively easy to create mapped displays of data. Watch my video below to learn how to do that.


Learn more about Google Earth and Google Maps in my upcoming course, To Geography & Beyond With Google Earth & Maps

Google Arts and Culture


Google Arts and Culture launched in 2011 as result of a 20% time project from Googler Amit Sood. The idea was to make important cultural materials more available and accessible to people from around the world and to digitally preserve these materials to educate and inspire future generations.

Google originally partnered with 17 museums in 9 countries. Within a year the project expanded to include 150 museums in 40 countries. That number has risen to over 1000 partners!

The original name was the Google Art Project and the idea was pretty simple. Google Streetview technology would be used to capture images inside of museums to create virtual tours where people could walk through different galleries in museums from around the world. Visitors could zoom in on paintings and view a variety of facts about the different works. During the years since its inception, the project has expanded and evolved to include much more than art. During the next week, we will take a look at different aspects of this fantastic project and I will share some ideas for using it with students across grade levels.

Tools and Tips to Help Students With the Writing Process

There are so many tools that will help students with the writing process. Some of these tools help organize research while others help students organize their thoughts or locate grammatical errors.

Resouces and Tools
Grammarly- Detect spelling, context, and grammatical errors.

EasyBib- Generate citations and see the credibility of sites you are using.

Diigo- Collect, organize and annotate resouces. Create an outline using the resources you have gathered.

Cite This for Me- Automatically create citations in the most popular citation styles.

Highlight Tool- This is an add-on for Google Docs that can be used to organize essays, categorize facts, and emphasize different sections of a document.

Tips and Ideas

If your students are writing in Google Docs, why not have them engage in some peer revision? Students can either leave comments or make suggestions using features that already exist in Google Docs.

The comments feature is a great place for teachers to leave feedback for students as well. Instead of waiting until a student is finished with a long project like a research paper, you can begin leaving comments right away so students can fix errors before they submit their final draft.

Create voice comments for using the Talk and Comment extension. This is a great way for students to provide feedback to their peers as well as teachers to provide feedback to students.

Read previous posts about Diigo and other citation tools.

Creating Folders and Subfolders to Organize Chrome Bookmark Bar

The Chrome bookmark bar can be an incredibly useful tool to help you get organized, but it can be your worst enemy if you don't take steps to tame it. Just a couple of weeks ago, I shared some ideas for how to use favicons to reclaim space on your bookmark bar. The video below walks you through how to create folders and subfolders on your bookmark bar to reclaim even more space. I have found that by taking control of my bookmark bar and using it to help me get organized has saved my sanity! I no longer waste time searching for digital resources and documents because I have a system for how to organize them. I hope these tips will inspire you to develop your own system of organization.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

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

This week was another busy week in the world of Free Technology for Teachers. At the beginning of the week I had the pleasure of working with teachers in Albemarle County schools in Virginia. Then on Wednesday evening I hosted Intro to Teaching With Video with Keith Hughes and Tom Richey. If you missed it, you can watch that presentation here on my YouTube channel.


Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Collection of Google Drive Templates
2. Science Journal App from Google
3. Using the About Tab in Google Classroom
4. AutoMastery Google Forms Add-on
5. Using Icons to Help Organize Google Drive Folders
6. Blended Play: New Website for Creating Online Games
7. Comparison of Screencasting Tools

Professional Development Opportunities
Three Practical Ed Tech professional development courses are starting in two weeks. How to Teach With Video starts on November 27th. To Geography and Beyond With Google Maps & Earth starts on November 30th as does Getting Going With G Suite.

Last week Teaching History With Technology rolled out to more people. You can still join and complete the course at your own pace. Learn more here.

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.

Using Icons to Help Organize Google Drive Folders


Remember what your Google Drive looked like when you first started using it? It was neat, organized, and free of clutter. As you began to use Drive more frequently, you probably started creating folders and perhaps you are now looking for a way to organize them. In addition to color coding your files, you can add emojis and other symbols to your folders to help you identify them quickly and easily.

The first thing you need to do is open your Drive and identify a folder that you would like to add a symbol or emoji to. Make sure the symbol you select is something that helps you remember the contents of the folder. Maybe you use a snowflake for activities that pertain to winter or a test tube for chemistry lessons. All that matters is that your icon makes sense to you. Once you have selected your folder, navigate to one of the sites below, select the symbol you want to use, copy it, edit the name of the folder then paste the icon into the box where the folder name appears.

Symbol and emoji sites:

Math Games and Resources

There are so many fun and exciting resources available to help you engage students in your math classroom. These are some of the most popular math resource posts from Free Technology for Teachers from the last couple of years.



Seven Tips for New Google Classroom Users


Google Classroom is a great way to organize your lessons and resources. However, for new users it can be a little overwhelming. Here are some practical tips to help you get going.

  • Use the Topics feature to help students find assignments and questions quickly and easily. Topics act like a filter and allow students to see only the assignments they are searching for and not the entire stream of assignments.
  • Post materials that students will need access to throughout the year on the About tab. Be careful not to overload this page with resources, but it is a good place to share links to resources students will need to use all of the time.
  • Create all of your discussion questions on individual Google Slides. When you need a question during a unit, just download the slide as a jpeg and post it as an image. This is an easy way to have a bank of questions ready to go that are visually appealing as well.
  • Email all or a few of your students at once using the email feature on the student tab.
  • Adopt a consistent naming convention for your classes. You can always rename classes if you change your mind. If the classes are not in the order that you want them to appear, simply drag them into the order that fits your needs.
  • Create a class in Classroom for your department or grade level. Use it for planning, meetings, and announcements to get a feel for what Google Classroom is like from the student perspective.