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Friday, December 15, 2017

VR Hangar - A VR App from the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

VR Hangar is a new virtual reality app produced by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. This free virtual reality app is available to use on Android phones and on iPhones.

VR Hangar contains three virtual reality tours that feature landmark moments in aviation history. Those moments are the Wright Brothers' first flight, Chuck Yeager's record-breaking flight in the Bell X-1, and the Apollo 11 mission. Each of these tours incorporates artifacts from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

I tried all three of the virtual tours in VR Hangar and was most impressed by the Apollo 11 tour. It felt like the most immersive of the three tours and it appeared to feature more archival imagery than the other two tours (that is probably to be expected as there is less available imagery of the other two events).

There is one quirk of the VR Hangar app that you should tell your students about before they use it. That quirk is that what appears to be "back" arrow is actually the arrow for moving forward in the tours. I discovered this because I initially used the "home" function in the app thinking that I had to go back to the beginning to start each part of each tour. In fact, I just needed to use the arrow that appeared to indicate moving backwards, but actually indicates moving forward.

How to Use Flipgrid - A Guide for Getting Started

Flipgrid is a fantastic service for collecting video responses to prompts that you pose to your students. It has been a hit whenever I have demonstrated it in a workshop or conference presentation during the last year. The basic idea behind Flipgrid is that it enables you to post a video prompt and then have your students respond through video by using the webcams in their laptops or through the cameras on their smartphones or tablets. All responses are collected and displayed in a grid format. Watch the following video that I created and learn how to start using Flipgrid today.



You can contribute to the grid featured in my video by clicking here.

Back in November Caroline Schaab was kind enough to author a guest post in which she shared four ways to use Flipgrid in fourth grade.

A Handful of Apps for Exploring the Potential of AR in Education

Earlier this week I shared a neat augmented reality app called SkyView that helps users identify constellations, planets, and satellites in the night sky. SkyView could be helpful in sparking students' curiosity about space. SkyView shows some of the potential for augmented reality in education. There are other apps that I often share with people who are just beginning to explore how AR works and its potential in education. Those apps are featured below.

Plum's Creaturizer from PBS Kids is a free iOS and Android app that lets students create fun cartoon creatures then place them into outdoor settings through the use of augmented reality. The purpose of the app is to have students learn and show how the characteristics of an animal help it thrive in its environment. In the following video I demonstrate how the app works (apologies for the background noise, I recorded this video outside to show how the AR feature works in real settings).



Spacecraft 3D is a free iPad app produced by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Spacecraft 3D uses augmented reality technology to bring NASA spacecraft to life on your iPad. To get started using the app you first need to print out the spacecraft target codes. Then your students can scan those target codes with their iPads. The spacecraft then becomes a 3D model that your students can explore.

The Walking With Dinosaurs app uses a bit of augmented reality to take students on a virtual walk with dinosaurs. To use the apps you have to print out the "targets" that when scanned reveal a dinosaur's story. The apps also allow your students to include pictures of themselves in settings with the dinosaurs that they learn about through the app.

Disneynature Explore is a free iPad app designed to help children learn about bears, butterflies, lions, chimpanzees, and sea turtles. The activities for learning about each animal include augmented reality components. Students can use their iPads to take pictures to put animals into settings that they photograph. The app encourages students to go on nature walks with their parents. On the nature walks students can take pictures and record observations in their digital field journals.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will be two of the topics covered in January in the Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group

Upcoming Professional Development Opportunities With Me

As you may know, part of the funding to keep Free Technology for Teachers running comes from speaking fees and registration fees for my online courses. For 2018 I have some new online course offerings, new on-site workshops, and new keynotes. You can learn more about these offerings through the links and descriptions below.

2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group

For 2018 I'm organizing a year-long professional development cohort that I'm calling the Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group. Membership in the group includes biweekly webinars (live, but recordings will be available too), online discussion forums, and monthly Q&A sessions only available to members of the group. Click here to get more information and or enroll today!

Teaching History With Technology

My popular Teaching History With Technology course is now available in an on-demand format. There are eight modules in the course. You can start the course at any time and work at your own pace. For the rest of December you can join this course for 30% off the regular price. Register here.

G Suite for Teachers

This is an on-demand version of my very popular Getting Going With G Suite course. G Suite for Teachers features ten self-paced lessons designed to teach you everything you need to know to feel comfortable using all aspects of G Suite for Education in your classroom. This course goes beyond just the "how to" and delves into some activities that you can adapt to for use in almost any classroom. Register in December and you'll get 30% off the regular registration price. Register here.

I'll Come To Your School

Do you need help implementing a new technology initiative in your school? For more than a decade I've been helping teachers learn to love using technology in their classrooms. Let's talk about how I can help you too.

One OneNote Feature I Wish Google Keep Had

As many readers know, I'm a long-time user of all things Google. That includes Google Keep which I have been using for all of my bookmarking and note-taking since Evernote gutted its free plan about two years ago. Recently, I've embarked on a quest to give other bookmarking and note-taking tools an honest try. So for the month of December I'm using OneNote, Zoho Notebook, and Google Keep in a side-by-side-by-side comparison of sorts. I'll share my full report on these comparisons in January.

There is one feature that I have already identified in OneNote that I wish Google Keep had. The OneNote Chrome extension allows me to clip full pages into my notebook. In Google Keep I can only save a link and any text that I copy and paste into a note. Having the full page clipped into my notebook helps me remember why I saved a particular link without having to open the link in a new tab or window. It's a small thing, but it is one thing that I can say I prefer about OneNote compared to Google Keep.

Applications for Education
Just as it helps me recall why I saved a webpage, clipping a full page can help students more quickly recall why they saved a particular webpage compared to if they just bookmarked a link.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Polar Training Scholarship

This post is a little bit out of the norm for this blog, but I'm sharing it because one of you might, like me, have dreams of adventures in very cold climates. World-renowned adventurer Eric Larsen is offering a "polar training scholarship." This scholarship will be awarded to one aspiring polar explorer who would like to learn from Eric during a week-long training camp on Lake Winnipeg.

Applications for Eric Larsen's Polar Training Scholarship are open now. The chosen recipient will spend one week in January on Lake Winnipeg with Larsen and his team. All expenses including travel, equipment, and food are included in the scholarship.

Applications for Education
Part of the application for this scholarship includes requests for social media profiles and "how/ why is this experience going to change your life." I would think that an adventurous teacher could use the angle that it will not only change his/her life, but that it could also have a positive impact on his/her students' lives.

H/T to The Adventure Blog

PikWizard - Another Place to Find Free Images

PikWizard is a free site that offers thousands of high quality images that you can download and re-use for free. PikWizard provides clear guidance on how you can use each picture that you find on the site. You will find that guidance posted to the right of any picture that you select from search results. PikWizard also provides clear directions on how to give credit to the photographers whose pictures you use.

Applications for Education
PikWizard could be a good site to bookmark for the next time that your students need to find copyright-free images to use in slideshows, videos, or other multimedia projects.

On a related note, if you're a Google Slides user, the Unsplash Add-on provides the easiest way to add copyright-free images to your presentations. Click here to learn how to use the Unsplash Add-on.

Updated Menus and Toolbars Coming to Google Docs and Slides

If you take a break from using Google Docs and Google Slides during the upcoming holiday break, you might notice some changes when you open Docs after your vacation. That's because on Wednesday Google announced some upcoming changes to the menus and toolbars in Docs and Slides.

Starting in January (possibly sooner for some users) the "lists" function will be renamed "bullets and numbering." That change is long overdue.

"Show spelling suggestions" is going to be shortened to just "Spelling." The "Spelling" function will now be in the "tools" menu instead of the "view" menu. That change makes sense.

The "document outline" function in Docs is moving from the "tools" menu to the "view" menu. That change makes sense.

One change that doesn't seem necessary and is potentially confusing is the removal of "Import slides" from the "Insert" menu in Google Slides. You'll still be able to import slides, you'll just do it from the "File" menu.

Learn more about Google Docs and Slides in my G Suite for Teachers on-demand course.

The National Archives and the Yeti

The U.S. National Archives has a great feature called Today's Document. Today's Document features one historical document (almost always a primary source) per day. Sometimes the documents are serious while other times the documents are not so serious.

Sunday's featured document was a perfect example of a not-so-serious document. On Sunday Today's Document was Regulations Governing Mountain Climbing Expeditions in Nepal - Relating to Yeti. The document came from the Agency for International Development at the American Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Applications for Education
There is usually a good lesson plan connected to the documents featured in Today's Document. That wasn't the case with the Yeti document. But you could certainly create one using the document analysis tools of DocsTeach. One prompt that I would give to my students concerning this document is, "why would a government agency need to draft a formal policy about searching for the Yeti?"

Kiddom Introduces an Android App

Kiddom is one of the learning management systems that I occasionally recommend to folks who are looking for an alternative to Google Classroom. One of the helpful features that Kiddom offers is an integrated search for assignment materials. For example, fourth grade teachers can search for mathematics assignments that are aligned to standards of their choosing. When a material is found teachers can then assign it to their students as a homework assignment, as a quiz, or as a long-term assignment.

This week Kiddom introduced a free Android app. The app provides teachers with the same tools for creating assignments and giving feedback that are found in the browser-based version of Kiddom.

Applications for Education
Kiddom can be a good choice for teachers who are not currently using a learning management system and want to start using an LMS to organize and distribute assignments. It can also be a good choice for schools who are not married to the Google or Microsoft ecosystems.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Tip for Unorganized Google Drive Users Like Me

There are some people who use folders with a strict system and order. This blog post is not for them. Then there are those of us who know we should use folders, use them when remember to use them, and then forget what went in the folders during our moments of "getting organized." If that describes your folder use in Google Drive, you're like me and you need to use this Google Drive search tip. Watch my video embedded below and gain a little sanity for your next search through your Google Drive folders.


Learn more than just handy tips in my on-demand course G Suite for Teachers starting in January. 

Three Good Ways to Create Instructional Animations

Earlier this week I shared five ways to create animated movies on Chromebooks. Creating animated movies can be a lot of fun for you and your students. But sometimes you just need a short animation to get your point across or to remind students about an important point. That's when the following three tools are handy.

Flip Anim provides possibly the easiest way draw and create an animated GIF. In the following short video I demonstrate how to create animated GIFs by using Flip Anim.



Loopy is a free tool for creating your own animated simulations or illustrations of a concept. This free animation tool is designed to showing relationships between two or more parts of a system. It's perfect for showing cause and effect or for showing a workflow system. To create an animation on Loopy you simply have to click on the blank canvas to place a circle that represents the start of a system. Then click on the canvas again to add another element to your system animation. To connect the two (or more) pieces you use a drawing tool to connect them. Once you've drawn the connections you can add cause and effect commands by selecting them from the Loopy editor.

Parapara Animation is a free animation creation tool developed and hosted by Mozilla. The tool is easy to use and it does not require registration in order to use it. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create an animation with ParaPara Animation.



Storyboard - Create Cartoons from Your Videos

Storyboard is a new Android app produced by Google. The app will let you select a video that you have recorded on your phone and then have a cartoon storyboard of the video automatically created for you. I tried Storyboard yesterday and found it easy to use. That ease of use is partly due to the lack of customization options found in the app. All you can do in the app is select a video and then swipe through layouts until you find one that you like. You can't customize the layouts. Customizing the cartoon effects is also not an option.

Applications for Education
I think there is some use for the Storyboard app in school settings. The app could be useful for generating cover images for digital portfolios that include videos recorded by students.

The app might also be useful for extracting pictures from a video. Students could then caption those images to practice writing stories or writing directions for a process.

Fun & Educational Activities In the Snow

We have just had our second snowstorm of the year here in Maine. It is around this time every year that I share some educational activities that you and your students can do in the snow. Some of these activities have connections with math and physics concepts.

NOVA, as a part of their program on Denali, has directions for building a snow cave and directions for building an Igloo.

Boys' Life offers a list of outdoor winter games as well as directions for building igloos and snow shelters.

Making your own snowshoes is an activity that can be done indoors with the final product enjoyed outdoors. Mother Earth News offers directions for making your own snowshoes. How Cast has video directions for making an emergency pair of snowshoes.

In the video below BBC Survival Expert Ray Mears teaches viewers how to make an igloo and what igloos were traditionally used for.


When I was about seven or eight I was given a copy of The American Boy's Handy Book. The book is filled with fun hands-on indoor and outdoor activities including an entire section devoted to snow forts and other snow-related activities. When my daughters are a little older, we'll use my copy of the book to find snow day activities.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Group Discounts on Practical Ed Tech Courses

Learning a new skill is often better when you do it with a friend. That's why we recruit our friends to try yoga with us or go to that new rock climbing gym for the first time. And that's why for the rest of the year I am offering group discounts on three of my Practical Ed Tech courses.

Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group
Everyday since I announced it, someone has registered to join the 2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group. To encourage you to encourage your colleagues to join with you, I am offering a "buy two, get two" promotion. Register with a colleague from your school district and you’ll each get to invite another colleague to register for free (must have same school district email domain to be eligible). Click here to learn more about group membership.

G Suite for Teachers
This is the on-demand version of my popular Getting Going With G Suite course. This is a new offering for 2018. T In this course you’ll learn everything you need to know to feel comfortable using all of the core G Suite tools with your students. This course is more than just a series of “how to” videos. You’ll be provided with concrete examples of activities that you can use and adapt to use in your classroom.

Register five people from the same school district and you can register five more for FREE! Groups can register with purchase orders. Click here to register today.

Teaching History With Technology
This on-demand course will help you develop engaging and challenging learning activities through the use of tools like Google Earth and Maps, video production tools, and virtual reality. You will also learn how to help your students become better researchers.

Register five people from the same school district and you can register five more for FREE! Groups can register with purchase orders. Click here to register today.

The Differences Between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

This morning I received an email from a reader who was wondering what the terms AR and VR mean. I get that question on a fairly regular basis these days. That's why earlier this year I recorded a video and posted a short slideshow that outlines the differences between augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality. The video and the slides are embedded below.





As I mentioned last week, one of the first webinars for members of the 2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group will cover using AR and VR in classrooms. Enrollment in the Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group is open now.

The Physics of Skiing

It's a snow day here in western Maine. For a skier like me, that means it's time to enjoy the snow with some time on the slopes. If you live in an area that has skiing, you might have some students that feel the same way that I do about snow. New snow equals a great reason to get outside. The next time your students talk about the fun of skiing, try to tie in this lesson plan from the University of Utah's math department.

The lesson plan could be used in conjunction with the National Science Foundation's video titled Science of the Olympic Winter Games - Downhill Science.

BandBlast - A Fun App for Learning to Play Music

BandBlast is a free app designed to help students learn to play music. There are many ways that students can use the BandBlast app. Whichever way that students end up using the app, they all have to start by selecting an instrument that they wish to play either virtually or physically. Students who want to play more than one instrument can create additional profiles within the app.

After creating a profile and choosing the instruments that they want to play, students can then play a game, record themselves playing an instrument along with a virtual band, watch videos about their chosen instruments, or embark on a music "mission."

BandBlast games are intended to help students develop rhythm and pitch skills. Rhythm games are played within the app by tapping on a tablet's screen. Pitch games are played by students playing physical instruments in response to the prompts in the app.

The recording section in BandBlast is where students can play their instruments along with the virtual band that plays on their iPads or Android tablets. There are about two dozen songs that students can choose from in BandBlast.

The "missions" in BandBlast are essentially small units of study for students to complete. Within each mission students will find two or three instructional videos, a couple of games, and recording activities.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Science of Snowflakes

Here in western Maine we're expecting our second real snowstorm of the winter to arrive tonight. This has reminded me of a couple of educational videos that explain the science of snowflakes.

The Science of Snowflakes is a TED-Ed video lesson that explains how snowflakes are formed, why they're all different, and why seem to be "wetter" than others. The video also explains why all skiing is water skiing.


ByteSize Science also offers a good video about how snowflakes are formed.

Three Sites That Help Students Compare the Size of Countries and States

Over the weekend Open Culture featured one of my favorite websites to use in geography classes. That website is called The True Size Of... and it lets you quickly compare the size of two countries or two states within the United States. To compare two countries simply enter one into the search box then enter a second one into the search box. Both countries will be highlighted for you. You can then drag and drop one onto the other to see a size comparison. The same process can be done with U.S. states.

If It Were My Home is a neat site that provides comparisons of countries. If It Were My Home will show you a comparison of geographic size of your country with that of another of your choosing. Beyond the size comparison, If It Were My Home shows you comparisons of twelve health and economics statistics about life in different countries. To view the comparisons just select two countries from the lists and click compare.

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.

How to Create a Distraction-free Video Playlist

A couple of weeks ago I shared a few ways to display videos without the distraction of sidebar content on YouTube and Vimeo. Another way to display videos without the sidebar distractions is to play them through Padlet. In Padlet you can use the "playlist" template to make a list of videos and then display each of them without the sidebar content that appears on YouTube or Vimeo. You can make the playlist yourself or you can invite others to collaborate with you just like you would with any other Padlet wall. Watch my video to learn how to make a distraction-free video playlist on a Padlet wall.

SkyView - An Augmented Reality App to Help Students Find Constellations

SkyView is a free augmented reality app (an Android version and an iOS version is available) that helps students identify stars and constellations. With the free app installed students can point their phones at the sky and see constellations identified on their screens. In addition to constellations the app will identify planets, satellites, and some individual stars.

There are other apps that do similar things to the SkyView app. One thing that makes SkyView different from some similar apps is that it has a "time travel" function. The time travel function will show users what the sky above them looked like on past nights and what constellations and other objects will appear in future nights.

Applications for Education
You could spark your students' interest in using the app by first teaching a lesson about constellations and the myths associated with some of them. Then have students use the app with their parents to try to identify some of the constellations that they have learned about in your classroom.

Five Tools for Creating Animations on Chromebooks

Yesterday's post about the PuppetMaster app prompted a couple of people to ask me if there is anything similar available for Chromebook use. While I can't think of anything that is free and exactly like PuppetMaster, here are some options for creating animated videos on Chromebooks.

Animatron is a nice tool for creating animated videos and images. To create a video on Animatron you start by dragging and dropping characters on a background scene and then choosing how long each character will be displayed in a scene. You can also set the length of time for each character in a scene to be in motion. By using Animatron's timeline editor you can make objects appear and disappear from a scene. The best feature of Animatron is that you can record audio directly over the animation. The built-in recording tools lets you see the scene while you're recording so that you can precisely synchronize each scene with its audio track.

PowToon is a popular platform for creating animated videos. In PowToon students create animated videos on a scene-by-scene basis through a series of slides. Students can choose background scenes, characters, and scene objects from a huge media gallery. After configuring the scenes of their stories, students can record voiceovers or play music in the background.

Toontastic 3D is available to use on Chromebooks that support the use of Android apps. Check this list to see if your Chromebook supports the use of Android apps. On Toontastic 3D students can pick from a variety of story setting templates or they can create their own. Once they have established a background setting students then select cartoon characters to use in their stories. Students can choose from a wide array of customizable cartoon characters or they can create their own from scratch. Once characters are placed into the story scenes students can begin recording themselves talking while moving the characters around in each scene. Students can swap characters between scenes, change the appearance of characters between scenes, and move characters from one scene to the next.



MySimpleshow is a free tool for creating Common Craft-style explanatory videos. MySimpleshow requires you to write a script for your video before you can start adding illustrations and sounds to it. In MySimpleshow you will find a wide variety of script templates that will help you plan your video. The script is written in chapters that become the outline for your video. After you have written your script MySimpleshow will take your chapters and give you suggested images and animations to use. The suggestions are based on the keywords in your script. You also have the option to upload your own visuals to use in your video. Adding narration to your video is the last step in the MySimpleshow editor. There is an automated text-to-speech narration that will read your script as narration for your video. Completed videos can be downloaded and or directly uploaded to YouTube from MySimpleshow.

Scratch is designed for introducing students to programming. Creating animations is part of the programming that students can learn through using Scratch. ScratchJR, available for some Chromebooks, is the version of Scratch designed for students in K-2. Plenty of tutorials abound for getting started using Scratch. The best place for teachers to start is on the Scratch for Educators site. There you will find many tutorials, activity guides, and a curriculum guide. The ScratchEd community is the place to go for inspiration from other teachers who are using Scratch in their classrooms. For example, in ScratchEd you might find something like this Google Doc filled with ideas for using Scratch in elementary school mathematics lessons.


  Scratch Overview from ScratchEd on Vimeo.

Disclosure: MySimpleshow is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Chemistry in Slow Motion

The Periodic Table of Videos produced by The University of Nottingham features a video demonstration of the characteristics of each element in the Periodic Table of Elements. Each element in the Periodic Table displayed on the home page is linked to a corresponding YouTube video.

The Periodic Table of Videos YouTube channel contains some additional features that teachers and students may find worth watching and bookmarking. One example of that is a playlist titled Slow Motion Chemistry. Slow Motion Chemistry contains nineteen videos that capture chemical reactions in slow motion. Some of the things that students can see in the Slow Motion Chemistry videos are a hydrogen explosions, muskets firing, and copper sulfate interacting with ammonia.


Applications for Education
As you can see in the video above the Slow Motion Chemistry videos offer more than just slow motion footage of chemical reactions. A short explanation of what is happening is included in each video. That could make Slow Motion Chemistry a good resource to bookmark and share with your students as part of a flipped lesson or to post on a course website as review material.

A Multimedia Timeline of WWII in Europe

Last week I shared National Geographic's excellent multimedia timeline of the Pacific Theater of WWII. National Geographic offers a similar timeline of the European Theater. While the title of the timeline is World War II in Europe, it does include include events that happened in Africa and some events in the United States. The timeline World War II in Europe includes pictures, text, video, and maps of events beginning with Hitler's first violation of the Treaty of Versailles through the end of the war in Europe.

The timeline is layered in such a way that students can see the overlapping timelines of some events that were happening in various parts of Europe, Africa, and the United States at the same time. The layering of the timeline could help students see how many events of the war didn't happen in isolation from each other.

This timeline was created by using Timeline JS. Timeline JS is one of the tools featured in my Teaching History With Technology course that is on sale through the end of the month. 

Music Crab - A Cute App for Learning to Read Music

Music Crab is simple and free iPad designed to help students learn to read music. The app features a little crab that students move by playing virtual piano keys in the app. To move the crab students have to play the correct notes. If they play too many incorrect notes in a row, the game is over and they have to start again.


Applications for Education
Music Crab features ten levels that students can progress through. Each level is a bit more difficult than the last. In each level the speed of the game increases and students have to improve their sight-reading skills in order to advance through each level.

PuppetMaster - A Great App for Creating Animated Movies

PuppetMaster is a free iPad app that kids can use to create animated movies. The app is designed for elementary school students and therefore doesn't require students to create accounts in order to use it. All movies made with the PuppetMaster app are saved to the camera roll on a student's iPad.

To create an animated movie with PuppetMaster students simply open the app, select a character, and the select a background scene for their movies. PuppetMaster has pre-made characters and background scenes. Students can also add their own background scenes by taking a picture to use as the background. For example, I made a movie with a robot character attempting to reach under the Christmas tree in my living room (you can view that movie here).


Students can record themselves talking or singing in the background of their movies in order to tell their stories. Or in the case of one video that I made with PuppetMaster, you can record a baby crying in your video.


Applications for Education
PuppetMaster could be a great app for students to use to animate stories that they write. You could have students use the app to create an animation of a favorite story that they've recently read. Or you might consider using the app to get students to tell a personal story through the use animated characters.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Geography, eBooks, and Nature - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we're anticipating our first significant snowstorm of the year. As a skier, I cannot wait for the fresh snow. As a Dad, I'm excited to show my older daughter the joy of making snow angels. But as the owner of a long driveway, I'm not so excited about the snow.

This week the most popular posts of the week including two resources that are perfect for social studies classes, five resources for making ebooks with kids, and a site that lets you hear the sounds of nature around the world.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 51 World Geography Games for Kids
2. Free Wall Maps for Your Classroom
3. 5 Ways for Students to Create Multimedia eBooks
4. The Sounds of Nature Around the World
5. Zoho Notebook - Your Evernote and Google Keep Alternative
6. RWT Flip Book - Free Flip Book Creator for Kids
7. Promoting School Events Through Social Media

Professional development opportunities
This week ten people joined the Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group. I hope that you will join them in receiving 24+ hours of professional development in 2018. The cost is less than $10 per hour.

I am currently filling my calendar for workshop and keynote engagements. Click here to learn what I can do for you.

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.

An Inexpensive Source of Earbuds and Microphones

Yesterday afternoon I went live on the Practical Ed Tech Facebook page to share a couple of tips about sourcing cheap earbuds and microphones for your classroom. You can watch the video as embedded below.


If you can't see the video, here's the main point:
  • Check eBay for vendors who sell earbuds in bulk. Many have microphone capabilities built into them. eBay even has a search filter that lets you specify that you only want earbuds that have microphones built into them. I did this search and found a handful of vendors who were selling earbuds priced between $0.77 and $1.99. 
So it's not free, but it is cheap and thought that folks would appreciate the tip. Happy shopping. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

How to Quickly Create a Virtual Conference Room

Whether it is to host an online tutoring session or to connect with colleagues to plan a school event, from time to time we all can use a free and easy way to create online conference rooms. You could use Google Hangouts, but more times than not at least one person has trouble signing into the Hangout (BTW, the cause is usually found in having multiple Google Accounts open at the same time). Other virtual conference room platforms are expensive, you should see my bill for GoToWebinar as the first example of that. This fall I found a solution to both of those problems in WebRoom.

In the following video I demonstrate how quick and easy it is to create a virtual conference room on WebRoom.



My Favorite Resources In One Place

Last week during Practical Ed Tech Live I was asked if I had one place that people could go to see an organized collection of my favorite resources. I was happy to answer that I do have just such a collection. It's found in my Practical Ed Tech Handbook. You can find it on my Practical Ed Tech website or you can see it as embedded below through Box.com.


If your school blocks access to Box.com, you won't be able to access this document. Please send me an email to request a PDF copy.

Smithsonian Learning Lab Announces Most Popular Resources of 2017

The Smithsonian Learning Lab is a great tool for organizing collections of resources available through the Smithsonian. Through the Learning Lab you can search for and then gather together documents, images, videos, interactive animations, and lesson plans. This playlist of videos will show you everything that you need to know in order to use the Smithsonian Learning Lab.

This week the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access released a list of the twelve most popular resources of the year. This list was based on the number of times a resource was favorited by users. Within the list you will find the Apollo 11 Buzz Aldrin Mobility Experiment and the Wright Brothers First Flight at Kitty Hawk.

Zapier - Connect Your Favorite Tools

Zapier is a fantastic tool for improving your workflow between the services that you use the most. For example, let's say that you're a devoted Evernote user and a devoted Dropbox user. Zapier will let you connect the two so that you can send your Dropbox files to Evernote. Or maybe you use Twitter all the time and you want to save some Tweets in an Evernote notebook, Zapier can help you do that too.

I recently used Zapier to create an automation between Google Forms and Google Calendar. By using Zapier I was able to automatically add Google Forms submissions to events on Google Calendar. I did this so that I can create a Form that people use to register for an event and then have their email addresses added to the event on my Google Calendar. That way I can send a quick reminder to everyone who signs up for my event.

Applications for Education
Zapier supports more than 750 tools that you can connect through "zaps" in Zapier. With support for that many tools, there is probably a "zap" that can help you improve your workflow. Perhaps you use Office 365 and you need a way to quickly add parents' and students' email addresses to your contacts, Zapier offers a zap that will automatically add submissions to Google Forms to your 365 contacts. That zap might be helpful for managing things like extracurricular club rosters.

How to connect the disconnected pieces of G Suite for Education is one of the modules in my G Suite for Teachers course. Detailed directions on using Zapier are included in that module. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Promoting School Events Through Social Media

My personal Facebook and Instagram feeds are starting to be filled up with pictures from holiday concerts that my friends' kids are performing in. Seeing those pictures reminded me of a blog post that I wrote a couple of years ago in which I outlined strategies for promoting and sharing school events through social media. What follows here is an update of that post.

In Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick's book The Art of Social Media there is a chapter all about incorporating social media into physical events like conferences. When I read it I thought, "this could apply to school events."

Here's the general outline of how this could work:
1. Let's say your school's music program is having a fundraiser event like an auction or a costume contest.

2. Pick a hashtag for the event and let people know about it. Print it out and plaster it on posters with prompts like, "remember to tag your pictures, #myschoolrocks."

3.  Use a tool like TweetDeck or Hootsuite to monitor the hashtag and to reTweet, Pin, reGram, tag, and otherwise help the event's hashtag grow.

4. After the event is over go through and choose a bunch of pictures and or Tweets to create a collage of highlights of the events. Tools like Pic-Collage and Canva make it easy to build collages. (Remember to ask for permission to re-use another person's pictures). Post the collages on your school's Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts. Of course, you'll also want to use the collages in your school newsletter too.

Why do this?
1. Your students and their parents are already likely to be using social media during after-school events.

2. By encouraging the use of and tracking a hashtag you can have a better sense of what is being said about the event.

3. People love to see pictures of themselves (the selfie stick is the new symbol of narcissism) so by including their pictures in news about the event they're more likely to share news about the event.

4. If the event went well, people had fun, and money was raised (or whatever the event's goal was), you now have a small army of people who have positive feelings about the school that they are sharing throughout their communities. Sharing good feelings and comments about your school is always a good thing.

FAQs About the 2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group

Last weekend I announced the launch of the 2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group. The first members have already registered. Many of you who have emailed me for more information about membership in the group. Yesterday afternoon I went live on my YouTube channel to answer those questions. If you missed the live broadcast, you can now watch it here.


The most frequently asked question has been, "what are the topics for the first webinars?" Here they are along with the days they will be held.
  • Building Digital Portfolios - January 9th
  • AR & VR in the Classroom - January 23rd
  • Social Media for Teachers & Principals - February 6th
  • Video Creation as Assessment - February 20th
  • Copyright for Teachers - March 6th
  • Programming Simple Apps - March 20th
Live Q&A/ discussion sessions open only to group members will be held on the last Tuesday evening of each month.

Click here to join the Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group today!

An unplanned bonus of membership in the Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group is that you will get to see the slow transformation of my office from disheveled space in my barn into a proper office. 

Canva for Education

Earlier this week I mentioned having students use Canva to create holiday greeting cards. I've since had some folks ask about how students can use it if they don't have email accounts. The short answer is that Canva supports using G Suite single sign-on which means that students can use their school-issued Google accounts to use Canva even if they don't have active email addresses. The other option is to use a temporary email address service like those listed by Larry Ferlazzo to create accounts.

A couple of years ago I was involved in helping Canva develop the education section of their service. Out of that came a collection of lesson plans developed by leading educators like Terri Eichholz and Bill Ferriter. The collection of lesson plans cover topics in U.S. and World History, poetry, mathematics, science, and graphic design. The majority of the lesson plans are suitable for use in fourth through tenth grade.

Here's a video that I made about how to create image collages in Canva.


This video that I made will show you how to use Canva's webpage design and publishing tool.

425 Ed Tech Tutorial Videos

A few years ago I started to make an effort to create more tutorial videos to include in blog posts here and to include in the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. Yesterday's video about making video playlists on Padlet was the 425th video added to my Practical Ed Tech playlist.



Subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified when I publish a new video. Here's how to subscribe to my YouTube channel or any other YouTube channel.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Take a Look at the Remodeled Padlet Apps

Padlet has long been one of the staples in my cabinet of ed tech tools. One of the reasons for that distinction is that the Padlet team is constantly working to keep their products updated and useful to as many teachers as possible. To that end, Padlet recently revamped their web tools and their mobile apps.

The updated version of the Padlet website and the Padlet mobile apps provides a cleaner, more streamlined user interface. Now when you sign into your Padlet account either on their website or on their mobile apps you will see your existing Padlet walls displayed in a tile format. Above those tiles you'll see three clean icons to make a new Padlet wall, to join a wall, or to browse a gallery of public Padlet walls.

Applications for Education
The updated Padlet mobile apps should make it easier for you to get all of your students on to the same Padlet wall at the same time. The "join" icon is more prominent than before. When students tap that icon they'll see an option to scan a QR code or to enter a URL. The easiest option is to scan a QR code (just make sure that you have printed and displayed the right QR code for them).

About six weeks ago Padlet added a new option to let students vote on notes on Padlet walls. Watch my video to learn how to use that new feature.

Google Sites Now Supports HTML & Javascript Embed Codes

One my biggest complaints about Google Sites has always been that it doesn't accept third party embed codes. This means that you couldn't embed videos from great websites like Next Vista for Learning, embed Tweets, or embed any interactive elements like a Padlet wall. That will soon change. Google has announced that beginning in January all users should be able to embed HTML and Javascript from third parties into your Google Sites. Some domains may already see the feature.

Applications for Education
In many of my workshops about G Suite for Education I talk about the possibility of using Google Sites as a digital portfolio platform. The one drawback to that has always been that you could only link to a student's projects, you couldn't embed them. Starting in January Google Sites will become a better tool for creating digital portfolios.

Speaking of digital portfolios, that will be one of the first topics covered in the 2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group. Learn more about group membership here.

FAQs About Copyright and Blogging

My post on Monday about plagiarism kicked off a wave of comments and questions. To address some of those questions I published this list of resources for teaching and learning about copyright. Then yesterday afternoon I went live on my YouTube channel to address some questions too. That video is embedded below. An unplanned bonus in the video is my dog, Mason, voicing his opinion about plagiarism.



5 Ways for Students to Create Multimedia eBooks

Writing a multimedia ebook or magazine can be a good way for students to illustrate and or further explain portions of fiction and non-fiction stories that they develop. Multimedia publishing tools that include a collaboration component can further help students as they work together with each other or with you to improve their work.

The following five platforms make it possible for students to create and publish multimedia ebooks in their web browsers.

For elementary school students:
WriteReader is a neat multimedia writing platform for elementary school teachers and students. The appeal of WriteReader is found in the collaboration between students and teachers. Students can create multimedia books that teachers log into to correct. As is seen the video below, each page of a book has a space for students to write in and a space for teachers to write in. Teachers use the space on the page to correct spelling errors and or make editing suggestions. WriteReader books can include text, pictures, and voice recordings. Completed WriteReader books can be shared online and can be downloaded as PDFs to print.


Book Creator originally launched as an iPad-only product. It was tremendously popular as an iPad app. It is not available to use in your Chrome web browser too. Book Creator's Chrome version supports creating multimedia books containing videos, images, drawings, and text. To create a book on Book Creator's web app just sign and choose a layout for your book. There are comic book layouts as well as traditional book layouts. After you have selected a layout for your book's pages you can add pictures and videos by either uploading them, by using your webcam, or by using a new integrated image search tool. You can add text and drawings by using the drawing and typing tools built into Book Creator. Your completed book can be saved as a ePub or published online with a private Book Creator link.


Tools for middle school/ high school students:
Widbook is a platform designed to help people collaboratively create multimedia books. The service is part multimedia book authoring tool and part social network. Mashable called it "the YouTube of books." On Widbook you can create a digital book that contains text, images, and videos. Widbook is collaborative because you can invite others to make contributions to your books. To use Widbook you have to create a profile on the service. The books that you create become a part of your profile. If you allow it, other Widbook users can add content and or comments to your books. Likewise, you can search for others' books and  make contributions to their books. Due to the public gallery of books I would only use Widbook with students of high school age or older.

I have often described Lucidpress as a mix of the best of Apple's Pages with the best of Google Docs. Through Lucidpress you and your students can collaboratively create documents that incorporate videos and images. Through Lucidpress you and your students can collaboratively create documents that incorporate videos and images. The process of creating a document on Lucidpress can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. To get started you might stick with the basics of moving text and pictures around on the document by just dragging and dropping. There are options for layering images with differing amounts of transparency, image cropping tools, and font customization options in each Lucidpress template.

Madmagz is a neat platform for collaboratively creating online magazines. Madmagz provides you with a magazine template that lets you use images and text that you can edit alone or with invited collaborators. Unlike some other collaborative writing platforms, the original creator of the magazine has to approve or verify submissions from collaborators. When I was testing the platform I found the need to verify every change a little annoying, but I can see how many people would like to have that level of control over the editing process. Publishing your Madmagz online is free. If you want to download your magazine as a PDF, you will have to pay for that option.

Disclosure: WriteReader is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

8 Good Resources for Learning About Pearl Harbor

Tomorrow is the 76th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course, that wasn't the first military action of the Japanese during WWII. It's just the event that finally got the U.S. to declare war.

The 1941 Project is an interactive map of Pearl Harbor. The map features the stories of survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Click on a person on the map to read his or her story and see accompanying photographs. You can customize the map to display the positions of ships on December 7, 1941. There is also an option to see the map as the Japanese had drawn it prior to the attack. The 1941 Project map does take a long time to load all of features. Remind your students to be patient while the map loads all available features.

Five Things You Don't Know About Pearl Harbor, produced by Military.com, offers five interesting facts about and related to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.



The National Parks Service offers lesson plans about Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona.

History Animated has a number of animations of military movements in the Pacific during WWII.

My Story: Pearl Harbor is an hour-by-hour account of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The account is told from the perspective of Dale and Johnie Gano who were stationed at Pearl Harbor.

Remembering Pearl Harbor is a CBS Sunday Morning segment that features interviews with Pearl Harbor attack survivors.


The Smithsonian Channel offers audio of the only live news report from Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Images have been added to the audio to create the following video.


One of my favorite online history teachers, Keith Hughes, offers this seven minute lesson about Pearl Harbor.



And as always, Larry Ferlazzo has a list of Pearl Harbor resources that I recommend reviewing.

A Multimedia Timeline of WWII in the Pacific

As any good student of history can tell you, the Pacific theater of World War II was just as complicated as the European theater. National Geographic has a multimedia timeline that can help students understand the sequence and significance of events in the Pacific theater.

World War II in the Pacific is a timeline that features dozens of events in text, image, and video form. Maps are included in many of the events to provide students with a better context in which to understand the events. The timeline begins in 1931 with Japan's occupation of Manchuria and moves through the bombing of Pearl Harbor and eventually to surrender in 1945.
This timeline was created by using Timeline JS. Timeline JS is one of the tools featured in my professional development course, Teaching History With Technology