Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Join Me Tomorrow for 5 Ways to Blend Tech Into Outdoor Lessons

As the winter fades and spring begins to bloom here in New England, kids and adults are itching to get outside more often. This is a great time to take your students outside for some lessons. In a live webinar tomorrow afternoon at 4pm Eastern Time we’ll explore five ways that you can incorporate technology into outdoor lessons.

Join me on April 26th at 4pm Eastern Time to learn how you can incorporate technology into outdoor learning experiences.

In this webinar we’ll explore:
  • Augmented Reality 
  • Digital mapping 
  • Geocaching 
  • Activity tracking 
  • Observing and collecting scientific data

Click here to register!

When you register you will get:
  • Access to the live webinar on April 26th at 4pm Eastern Time 
  • Unlimited access to the recording after the webinar. 
  • Digital handouts 
  • PD certificate
The recording will be available to anyone who registers but cannot attend the live session.

Click here to register!

About this post: The sale of my professional development online courses and my on-site professional development services provides the funding to keep Free Technology for Teachers running. The resources that I feature in my online courses and webinars are free. However, there is a significant cost associated with creating, hosting, and managing the courses and webinars which is why I am not able to provide them for free.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

WikiWhere - A Challenging Map Game

WikiWhere is a neat map-based trivia game. The goal of the game is to identify cities based on their descriptions. The descriptions come from Wikipedia entries. You can get up to three clues before you have to answer by clicking on the map to identify the city that you think is described by the excerpts. When you click on the map you'll be shown the correct answer and how far away you were from the correct answer.

Applications for Education
WikiWhere could be a fun and challenging way for students to test their knowledge of world geography. One way to extend the use of the game would be to set a rule for students that if they were off by more than 50 or 100 miles that they then have to do some light research about the city.

H/T to Maps Mania.

Hurricane Webinar 2018!

Thanks to a teacher at Sigsbee Charter School in Key West I learned about a free webinar for fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students. The webinar is the 2018 Hurricane Webinar hosted by Hurricanes: Science and Society team in partnership with the NOAA National Hurricane Center and the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center.

The goal of the 2018 Hurricane Webinar is to teach students about hurricane hazards, hurricane forecasting, observing hurricanes with airplanes, and hurricane preparedness.

This free webinar is scheduled for May 9, 2018 at 10:00 Central Time. Click here to learn more about the webinar and click here to register.

On a related note, Hurricanes: Engines of Destruction is a good video that explains how the Coriolis Effect influences the direction in which hurricanes rotate, the role of heat in hurricane formation, and the origin of the word hurricane. The video is embedded below, but you should also take a look at the video on YouTube to access the reference materials used in the creation of the video.

Inspiration From an App That Didn't Work as Expected

In preparation for a webinar that I am hosting on Thursday I tested a new app that is supposed to help users identify trees. The app is called FindATree. The concept behind the app is solid, but the execution is lacking. The app has you answer a few questions about the characteristics of the tree that you see in front of you. Based on those responses the app tells you what you're seeing. Except in my case it didn't identify the correct tree. The app repeatedly told me that I was looking at a red cedar tree when I knew I was looking at an eastern hemlock.

The FindATree app lacked a few components that could make it better. First, more detailed questions should be asked before stating a result. Second, a bigger database of images of trees is needed for users to compare what to what they're seeing in real life. And third, an augmented reality component would make it possible to capture a picture of a tree to compare to a database. While it would take a long time build an app that includes every possible tree and variation of tree, students could build their own regionally-based app through the services of either the MIT App Inventor or Metaverse.

To be clear, I didn't write this post to bash FindATree. I wrote it to share the idea that I got from testing an app that didn't work as I thought it would.

New Scenes and Characters Added to Storyboard That

Storyboard That has been one of my favorite digital storytelling tools since I first tried it many years ago. Many readers of this blog have come to love it too. Three of the things that make Storyboard That popular are its ease of use, the free lesson plans, and a commitment to continuous development. That continuous development includes enlarging the collection of original artwork that you can grab from the Storyboard That library to use in your stories.

This morning Storyboard That released new artwork that includes eleven new characters, four new background scenes, and dozens of new scene items like kitchen utensils and character enhancements like Roman helmets. Some of the new characters are generic while others are designed to look like famous people. Those people are Sally Ride, Sandra Day O'Connor, Amelia Earhart, and Mother Teresa.

Check out this post for five ways to use comics in elementary school and this one for using comics in social studies classrooms.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on

Monday, April 23, 2018

Record and Share Observations of Nature on iNaturalist

iNaturalist is a community website for sharing pictures and observations of plants and animals. To enable easy sharing of observations, iNaturalist offers a free Android app and a free iOS app. Using the apps you can take a picture, geo-locate it, write your observations, and upload to the iNaturalist community. If your observation is incomplete, for example if you're not sure of a scientific name, you can ask the community to add comments to improve the recording of your observation. If you don't want to join the iNaturalist community, you can simply explore members' observations through the iNaturalist Google Map.

iNaturalist is one of the apps that I'll be featuring this Thursday in my Practical Ed Tech webinar titled 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons

Register for the webinar right here

Dig Into Mining - Virtual Field Labs and Field Trips About Copper Mining

Dig Into Mining is a free resource from Discovery Education and Freeport-McMoran (the world's largest copper mining company). The purpose of Dig Into Mining is to help students understand how copper is mined and processed for use in products like pipes and wires. Dig Into Mining offers seven virtual labs and virtual tours that Discovery calls "digital explorations."

Through the Dig Into Mining digital explorations students learn how copper is mined, how copper is found, how land is reclaimed after a mining operation is completed, and where copper and gold are used in our daily lives. The digital explorations are self-paced. Students are given a user code when they start one of the explorations. Students use their individual user codes to save their places as they work through a digital exploration.

Dig Into Mining has a series of videos that correspond with some of the digital explorations. For example the following video is about metals in everyday life.

Dig into Mining - Full Virtual Field Trip from Discovery Education on Vimeo.

PhET PowerPoint Add-in - Add Science & Math Simulations to Slides

PhET is a free resource that has been popular with science and math teachers for many years. PhET provides free interactive math and science simulations covering topics in physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, and mathematics. In the PhET library you'll find simulations appropriate for elementary, middle, high school, and university students. PhET even offers a search tool that will help you find lesson ideas built upon the free simulations.

56 of the PhET simulations are available to insert into PowerPoint presentations through the use of PhET's free PowerPoint Add-in. With the Add-in installed you can browse the available simulations and insert them into your slides. The simulations work in your slide just as they do on the PhET website.

Applications for Education
The PhET PowerPoint Add-in could be time-saver if you are planning to use more than one simulation during a lesson. Rather than clicking through menus or clicking through bookmarks to bring-up the right simulation, you could just create a slideshow that has your PhET simulations arranged in the sequence you plan to use them during your lesson.

Storyline JS - Turn Your Spreadsheets Into Stories

In yesterday's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week I featured the storytelling tools produced by Knight Lab at Northwestern University. One of those tools is called Storyline JS. Storyline JS lets you create an interactive, annotated line chart. The purpose of Storyline JS is to enable you to add detailed annotations to the data points displayed on your line charts. Watch my video below to see how to create an annotated line chart with Storyline JS.

Applications for Education
Storyline JS could be a great tool for students to use to demonstrate their understanding of what the data in a line chart actually means. Similarly, using Storyline JS could be a good way for students to explain the causes for changes in the data displayed in their line charts.

5 PowerPoint Features Often Overlooked by Students and Teachers

About ten years ago I started to notice a lot of alternatives to PowerPoint popping-up on the web. Some of those presentation tools like Google Slides and Prezi are still going strong while others have faded away. Through it all, PowerPoint kept chugging along even though it wasn't a darling of Web 2.0 users. Today, PowerPoint has all of the features students and teachers need, including collaboration, but often those features are overlooked. If you haven't taken a look at PowerPoint in a while, here are five PowerPoint features that you should try.

Screen Recording
Making a presentation about your favorite software or websites? Try using the screen recorder that is built into PowerPoint. Your recorded video is automatically inserted into the slide that you have open at the time you make your recording. Of course, you can use that video in other slides too. Find the screen recorder in the "Insert" menu in PowerPoint.

Sound Recording/ Sound Upload
Add your voice to your slides through the audio recorder built into PowerPoint. This is particularly useful if your slides will mostly be viewed independent of your presence.

Have music or sound effects that you want to add to your slides? In PowerPoint you can upload those recordings directly to your presentation and play them on the slides of your choice.

The sound recording and sound upload options are found in the "Insert" menu in PowerPoint.

Google Slides has Add-ons, PowerPoint has Add-ins. Add-ins offered by third parties can provide additional functions in PowerPoint. In my video embedded below I demonstrate how to find and install PowerPoint Add-ins. The video features the Pixabay Add-in that provides access to thousands of images that are in the public domain.

Word Art
Tired of the same old Times New Roman, Georgia, or Comic Sans (gasp!), use Word Art to create custom fonts. You'll find Word Art in the "Insert" menu in PowerPoint.

Morph is a PowerPoint feature available to Microsoft 365 subscribers. Morph allows you to create animations by combining two similar slides into one display.

Coming In May - The Complete Guide to Classroom Video Projects

Back in March more than 100 people participated in my one hour webinar titled 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom. If you missed it, you can access the recording here. That webinar was designed to provide an overview of some of the tools that you can use to make videos with your students and for your students. In one hour it isn't possible to go into depth on each of the tools. That's why I'm building a new online course that goes into depth on how to use video creation tools in your classroom.

In The Complete Guide to Classroom Video Projects you will be able to learn how to complete five classroom video projects from start to finish. You'll see how each project is completed on Chromebooks, iPads, Android tablets, Macs, and Windows computers. You'll also learn the best ways to save and share videos while protecting student privacy.

The Complete Guide to Classroom Video Projects will be available on May 7th. Register your interest below to be notified when the course goes on sale.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Slides, Forms, and Novels - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where this morning it actually feels like spring! It's a nice contrast to the snowy mornings that we had twice this week. I'm hoping that the weather stays nice through the weekend because we have a couple of fun outdoor activities planned including a Tinkergarten class tomorrow. Speaking of outdoor activities, next week I'm hosting a webinar about blending technology into outdoor learning experiences.

Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you have some time to relax and recharge too.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Now You Can Include Google Slides In a Google Document
2. Tube - A Distraction-free Way to Search and Watch YouTube
3. Novels on Location - A Map of Novels
4. Podcast Recording and Editing Tips
5. Google Adds New Security Features to G Suite for Education
6. How to Create a Custom Google Forms Theme
7. My Go-to Tool for Making Stop Motion Movies

New Online PD Opportunities
On I have two new professional development offerings. First, on April 26th I am hosting 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons. Second, on May 7th I'm launching a self-paced course about classroom video projects.

And for the rest of the month, group packages for my G Suite for Teachers online course are on sale. Two schools jumped on the sale this week. If you have five or more teachers register from your school, you get 40% off. Have more than 20 and you can get an even better deal.

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.
MySimpleShow offers a great way to create animated videos for free.
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.
QuickKey provides an efficient way to conduct online and in-person formative assessments.

Friday, April 20, 2018

A Fun App That Helps Kids Learn How Animals Adapt to Their Environments

As the weather warms students start asking, "can we have class outside today?" If you're an elementary school teacher who has heard this recently and you're ready to get your kids outside for a lesson, take a look at Plum's Creaturizer.

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).

Join me next Thursday for a Practical Ed Tech webinar in which we'll look at five ways you can incorporate technology into outdoor learning experiences. Click here to register for 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons.

Grasshopper - Learn to Code on Your Phone

Grasshopper is a free app that teaches you to Javascript coding through a series of easy-to-follow tutorials. The free app, available for iOS and Android, starts off with an introduction to the basic vocabulary of coding before moving into the coding lessons. You have to pass the vocabulary quiz before your can jump into the lessons. Each lesson has a tutorial, a practice activity, and a quiz. You have to successfully complete each lesson before progressing to the next one. If you need to stop a lesson, Grasshopper saves your place until you can resume. Grasshopper offers an optional reminder service that will encourage you to practice on a daily schedule.

Applications for Education
I tried the Grasshopper app this afternoon and found it intuitive and easy to use. I can see middle school and high school students following the tutorials with little or no intervention from their teachers. The instant feedback in each lesson makes it possible for students to quickly see their mistakes and try again.

Open Explorer - Follow Along on National Geographic Expeditions

Open Explorer is a new offering from National Geographic that is designed to let anyone follow along on exploration expeditions around the world. When you visit the site you will see a big "get started" button on the homepage. Scroll down past that to see an interactive map representing the locations of more than 400 expeditions. Down below the map you'll find a list of the expeditions that you can follow.

Each expedition included in Open Explorer is displayed with a summary statements, a multimedia timeline, and a map. The timeline is where you will find updates from the expedition. Some of the expeditions have many updates while others only have a couple of updates at this time.

Applications for Education
Open Explorer could be a good site for students to use to learn interesting facts about interesting places around the world. While it's fun to learn about far away places, I might have students look for expeditions that are near them. For example, there is a neat New England Explorers expedition that kids in New England can follow as the expedition searches for lost historic locations buried in the forests and waters of New England.

H/T to The Adventure Blog.

5 Ways to Improve Your Next Video

Today we have more tools to record, edit, and share videos than ever before. With the tap of an app or the click of a link, you and your students can be making videos to tell stories, to teach lessons, or to share news. That's why more than 300 hours of video gets added to YouTube every minute of the day. Some of those videos are very good, some are very bad, and some are in the middle. Before before your students publish their next videos, have them review these five simple things that they can do to make their videos better.

The bullet point version of the video:

  • Make it short and sweet! 
  • Landscape, Landscape, Landscape!
  • Pay attention to your background.
  • Show your eyes not your nostrils!
  • Filter your audio.
Learn more about classroom video projects in my upcoming course, The Complete Guide to Classroom Video Projects

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Origins of the London Underground

Fun fact: I once got terribly lost in London when the Tube line that I was on unexpectedly (to me, anyway) went out of service and I had to find an alternate route back to my hotel. I'm telling you that only as a way to introduce a new TED-Ed lesson about the world's first subway system. How the World's First Subway System Was Built is a new TED-Ed lesson that teaches viewers how and why the London subway system was first developed. The lesson also dives into a little bit of the unintended outcomes of the development of the subway subway system.

Applications for Education
I can see myself incorporating this video lesson into a larger social studies unit about crowding, urban planning, and transportation.

Guides and Rulers for Google Slides

If you're like me, you might need a little help making things line up the way they should in your presentations. If you're a Google Slides user, one of the things that can help you with that is using the guides and rulers. This week Google updated the guides option so that you can add your own guidelines for placement of objects in your slides. The rulers tool was updated with finer controls and indentations.

You will find guides and rulers in Google Slides in the "view" drop-down menu in Google Slides. Select "show ruler" to display the updated ruler on your slide editor. Select "guides" to view the pre-defined guidelines and or add your own guidelines.

Applications for Education
Whether we're teachers, administrators, or students we all want to make our presentations look good. The updated guides and rulers options in Google Slides can help everyone make their presentations a little bit better.

Learn more about Google Slides in my online course, G Suite for Teachers. The course is on sale now through Monday. 

Now You Can Include Google Slides In a Google Document

Inserting charts from Google Sheets has been an option in Google Documents for quite a while. This week Google added the option to add a slide from Google Slides into a document. Your chosen slide essentially appears as an image within your document. Once it is inserted into your document you can resize your slide and text wrap just as you would an image.

To insert a slide from Google Slides into your Google Documents select the "copy" option on the slide that you want to insert and then use the "paste" option in your document.

As with almost all new features, Google is rolling this one out over the course of a couple of weeks. If you don't see the new option today or it doesn't work as you expected, give it a day or two and then try again.

Applications for Education
I can see this new option being useful to students who have used Google Slides to create charts and diagrams for a presentation. Those charts and diagrams from the presentation could also be useful in writing a corresponding paper.

Animated Map of First Foliage Appearances

Last Friday I was in Greenwich, Connecticut to give a presentation. Greenwich is roughly 300 miles south of my home in Maine. Greenwich was in full spring bloom with green grass and foliage starting to bud on the trees. Meanwhile back home in Maine my yard was covered in snow. In making that drive I saw what The New York Times has illustrated in a new animated map of spring foliage. The map, put together by Henry Fountain and Jeremy White, is a time-lapse map that shows when, on average, the "first leaf" appears in each state. The data represented in the map comes from the USA National Phenology Network. The animation moves quickly, but you can pause it by clicking on it.

Applications for Education
Autumn is when most of us in New England think of and take notice of the changes in foliage. But the spring has just as many changes in foliage even if those changes are quite as colorful. None-the-less, the changes throughout the season are the perfect subject for a timelapse video project. You could have students take one picture per day of their backyards or your school yard for a month. Then at the end of the month stitch those pictures together to create a timelapse video by using a tool like Jellycam or Stop Motion Animator.

H/T to Cool Infographics for the map. 

Enable These Google Forms Settings to Save Time When Making Quizzes

Making quizzes and giving quizzes is a common use of Google Forms. If you have ever built a quiz and given it to your students only to notice after the fact that you forgot to assign a point value to a question, then you need to watch my video about setting Forms preferences. If you've ever forgotten to make a question required, you need to watch my video about setting Forms preferences. In the following video I demonstrate how to set your Forms preferences so that you always have a point value assigned to your questions and made every question required.

Learn more about Google Forms in my on-demand webinar, Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners. Or get a complete training on all things G Suite in my ten module G Suite for Teachers online course

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

5 Good Resources for Teaching & Learning About Mount Everest

April and May is considered to be the peak climbing season in the Himalaya Mountains. Of course, the most famous of those mountains is Everest. As long-time readers of this blog may recall, one of my bucket list items is seeing Mount Everest in person. Until then I have to entertain myself with books, videos, and imagery of the mountain. Here are some of the resources that I like to consult when teaching students about Mount Everest and the area surrounding it.

Why is Mount Everest so Tall? is a TED-Ed lesson in which students learn why the peak of Everest is so high, why other mountains are longer from base to summit, and how mountains in general are formed. Through the lesson students can also learn why the heights of mountains change and why Everest may not be the tallest mountain forever.

Through Google's Street View imagery of Mount Everest Basecamp (south side) students can zoom and pan around the foothills of Mount Everest. Students viewing that imagery for the first time might be surprised at how different the view is compared the to the typical pictures of Everest. After viewing the imagery students can click forward to see Street View imagery of other places in the region.

Scaling Everest is an infographic that goes beyond the usual scale of Everest comparisons to buildings and jet flight paths. In the infographic you will find audio of three Everest climbers talking about the approach to Everest basecamp and the nuances of the climb itself. The infographic also provides some interesting facts about plants and animals in the region.

Snow in the Kingdom: My Storm Years on Everest by Ed Webster (a fellow Mainer) is one of the best books ever written about Mount Everest. If you enjoy good adventure stories and or stories about overcoming personal struggles, I think you will enjoy Webster's book. For my money, and I own two copies of it, it does a far better job of explaining how it feels to be on Mount Everest than any of the two dozen or so books that I've read about Mount Everest and the Himalaya.

The Rest of Everest video podcast provides more than 100 hours of video and commentary from expeditions to the Himalayas. If you're looking for a way to show students what life on a mountain climbing trip is really like from start to finish, the Rest of Everest is the place to go.

See What's New in Microsoft EDU

About a month ago I shared the news of the addition of a picture library to Microsoft's Immersive Reader add-in for Word, OneNote, Outlook, and Edge. That's not the only thing that Microsoft has recently added to their list of education products. As I learned by reading and watching the latest edition of What's New in EDU, Teams now has a "guest" member option and Sway has a new collaboration feature. Read the details of the features here or watch the following video to learn more.

What's New In EDU also mentioned a new response type for Microsoft Forms, but as far as I can tell that option was introduced back in February.

If you've never seen or tried Immersive Reader, watch my video to see it in action. Immersive Reader might be my favorite Microsoft EDU product.

Google Adds New Security Features to G Suite for Education

This morning Google made a couple of significant announcements regards G Suite for Education. First, there is a new G Suite Enterprise for Education which is designed for college and university deployment although K-12 schools can also get it. Second, new security features have been added to all versions of G Suite for Education.

Four security features have been added to the free version of G Suite for Education. Those new features are:

  • Gmail and Drive Data Loss Prevention. 
    • This allows administrators to prevent sharing of certain types of information including student information or anything else that administrators identify as sensitive information. 
  • Security Key Management and Enforcement.
    • This will enable administrators to force users to two-step authentication with physical keys. 
  • Session Length Controls.
    • Administrators can now set limits on how long users can be logged-in for a session before they have to sign-in again. 
  • Hosted Gmail S/MIME.
    • This is a tool for digitally signing and encrypting emails. This is designed to protect against email spoofing. 

G Suite Enterprise for Education vs. G Suite for Education
The new enterprise edition comes at a minimum cost of $2/month per faculty/staff member. The current edition of G Suite for Education (not the new enterprise version) is still completely free for schools. A comparison of features is available here.

G Suite Training for Individuals and Groups - On Sale Now!

As you start to plan for your summer professional development needs, think about the benefits of self-paced, online courses. You can start and finish the course on your schedule from wherever you have Internet access. If you're like me, in the summer that schedule and setting includes sipping coffee while sitting on your deck or patio. It's a nice alternative to having to sit in a conference room on a summer day.

My G Suite for Teachers online course is on sale now through Monday. Register at the sale price and you can start the course today or whenever it is convenient for you. Your access to the course never expires so that you can go back and review any of the ten modules whenever you need to. And any future updates that I make to the course will available to you too.

Train Your Whole School for Less Than Sending Three People to a Google Summit!
When your school is making the transition to G Suite for Education you need structured training for every teacher. With my group rates you get structured training for your whole school for less than the cost of sending a few people to a Google Summit. Everyone learns at a different pace so my self-paced online course is the perfect alternative to putting your whole staff in a room for a day or two of training during the summer.

Register with five or more people and you'll get 40% off the regular price. Register 15 or more people to save even more with these group packages. Email me at to get a group registration started today.

About this post: The sale of my professional development online courses and my on-site professional development services provides the funding to keep Free Technology for Teachers running. The resources that I feature in my online courses and webinars are free. However, there is a significant cost associated with creating, hosting, and managing the courses and webinars which is why I am not able to provide them for free.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Value of Paper In a Digital World

One of the things that I mention in my keynote Leading Students In a Hyper-connected World is the need to teach students the value of occasionally disconnecting from the web to focus on the completion of a task. A few years ago I heard Chris Brogan sum this up nicely by saying "paper doesn't have a new browser window." In other words, doing something on paper creates a good obstacle to distracting yourself by checking Facebook, email, or doing some other non-essential task.

Chris made his comment in the context of planning and task management. I apply that comment to the process of brainstorming and or reflecting. Taking the time to read a book, to write some ideas on paper, or to simply go for a walk give out brains time to wonder and develop new-to-us ideas without the distraction of digital input. My best stretches of blogging always come after I have taken a couple of hours to brainstorm a week or more worth of blog post topics.

Don't get me wrong, I love some of the digital brainstorming and project management tools that we have available to us. There is a time for using those, but there is also a time for not using digital tools too. As our students grow up in a hyper-connected world, it is will be increasingly important to take the time to teach them when being connected might not be the best choice.

Novels on Location - A Map of Novels

Novels on Location is a neat of use Google Maps. The idea behind Novels on Location is to help readers find novels according to the story's geographical settings. When you visit Novels on Location you can find novels by clicking on the placemarks that you see on the Google Map. An alternative way to search is by using the location search bar in the upper, right corner of the site. If you want to contribute to Novels on Location you can do so very quickly by simply entering a location then entering the title and author of your favorite book set in that location.

Applications for Education
You could use Google Maps Engine Lite to create your own classroom version of Novels on Location. Ask your students to write short short book reviews in the placemarks that they add to a shared Google Map. If you have students creating video book trailers, those videos could be added to their placemarks too. If could be a fun challenge for your call to try to collectively "read around the world" by locating stories set on each of the seven continents.

Hacking a "Hacking STEM" Project

In Sunday's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week email I featured Microsoft's Hacking STEM project library. The idea behind Hacking STEM is to make low-cost or no-cost hands-on STEM projects accessible to as many people as possible. You can follow Microsoft's directions as written or modify the projects to use other materials to build the projects. In the following video I explain how I modified one of the Hacking STEM projects. So you might say that I hacked a Hacking STEM project.

A Replacement for the Deprecated "Announcements" Element in Google Sites

Google's replacement of the classic version of Google Sites with a new version has left some people wishing that Google had left Sites well enough alone. The new version doesn't, yet, have all of the features of the classic version and it may never get all of them. For example, the "announcements" feature of the classic version of Google Sites is not a part of the new version. There is a possible solution to this problem. The solution is to use Blogger for your announcements and then display those blog posts in a page in your Google Site. In the following video I demonstrate how to import Blogger posts into Google Sites.

Learn more about Google Sites in my online course, G Suite for Teachers. Save 20% when you register for the course this week. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Podcast Recording and Editing Tips

Podcasting has made a resurgence in recent years. Many teachers are now including podcasting projects in their classrooms. Edublogs recently published a great guide to help you get your classroom podcast started. Editing a podcast before publication can often be the most tedious part of the podcasting process. Dennis Grice has a tip that can make editing a little bit a easier. In his video published on Next Vista for Learning Dennis shares two easy-to-follow tips to make your recording sound better and make your editing a little easier.

In his video Dennis mentions using Audacity to edit the podcast. If you have never tried Audacity, Mike Russell has a great set of tutorial videos right here.

How to Create a Custom Google Forms Theme

A couple of years ago I published a video tutorial on how to create a custom Google Forms theme. More than 10,000 people have since used that video tutorial to customize the appearance of their Google Forms. One of the criticisms of that video that I have heard from some viewers is that it goes too quickly so they have to rewind it a few times. To remedy that problem I put together a set of annotated screenshots that illustrate each of the main steps in the process. Those screenshots can be seen in the slideshow that is embedded below.

And here's the video for those that prefer a video explanation.

Learn everything you need to know to feel comfortable using G Suite for Education by completing my self-paced G Suite for Teachers course. The course is on sale all week.

Find the Features of Digital Vaults in DocsTeach

The U.S. National Archives used to have a great feature called the National Archives Digital Vaults. The Digital Vaults site offered great tools for teaching with primary sources from the National Archives. One of the aspects that I particularly liked was called "pathways challenges" which allowed students to see the connections between events and primary sources.

Unfortunately, the National Archives discontinued the Digital Vaults service within the last year and let the domain fall into the control of someone who now uses it to sell a "stop snoring" product. The good news is that offers many of the features that Digital Vaults used to offer.

Applications for Education
If you previously used the "pathways challenges" in the Digital Vaults, the following two activity templates on can be used for similar purposes.

Making Connections is a template that you can use to create an activity in which your students analyze two or more primary source artifacts to find the connections between them. Students also have to identify the connection between the the primary sources and an event or theme.

Seeing the Big Picture is a template that you can follow to create an activity in which your students will match excerpts from primary source documents to events, people, or themes.

Both templates are accompanied by detailed directions. And if you want to see examples of the templates in action, you will find these templates used in the activities published by DocsTeach staff and other teachers who use DocsTeach.

DocsTeach is one of the many resources that I feature in my Teaching History With Technology course that is on sale today and tomorrow

2000+ Recordings of Poets and Fiction Writers Reading and Discussing Their Work

A few years ago the Library of Congress published an online collection of audio recordings of poets and fiction writers reading and discussing their works. At the time of its launch the collection contain 124 recordings. Since then the collection has grown to include more than 2,000 recordings.

The Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature contains recordings of writers reading some of their poems and other works. Many of the recordings are long interviews with the writers during which they read some of their works. The audio can be heard on the LOC website and or embedded into blog posts as I've done here. Below you will find the recordings of Ray Bradbury and Robert Frost.

Applications for Education
The Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature could be a good resource to use during National Poetry Month. You could have students search for and listen to recordings of the authors of a favorite poem. Or you could select a recording yourself for your students to listen to a writer's explanation of his or her thoughts on what makes a good poem.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

DIY Solar Updraft Tower - A Hands-on Elementary Science Lesson

SciShow Kids has a playlist of videos titled Super Simple Machines. The videos in that playlist feature explanations and demonstrations of simple machines that students could make in your classroom. One of those videos is Spin a Wheel With Sunlight.

By watching Spin a Wheel With Sunlight students can learn how solar energy can be transferred through a solar updraft tower. The video provides clear directions on how students can make their own solar updraft towers with materials commonly found in classrooms or homes. In the example in the video, the solar updraft tower makes a pinwheel spin.

By Request - Life on Minimum Wage Simulation

Last week I received a handful of requests for the Google Docs version of my Life on Minimum Wage economics game. While I no longer grant print or edit access to my public Google Docs, I do make PDFs of my documents available to download through

The purpose of Life on Minimum Wage is for students to recognize how difficult it is to save money when your only job(s) pay minimum wage without benefits. To win at Life on Minimum Wage the students have to reach five financial goals that they select. To earn money the students have to complete the tasks of their assigned jobs. The students then have to pay required bills before using money for their selected financial goals. As the game progresses students will be issued "surprise" cards which require them to spend money on things like speeding tickets, trips to a health clinic, and increases in rent.

All of the jobs in Life on Minimum Wage are connected so that if one "business" slows production or closes, the workers of another business are also effected. The goal here is to demonstrate the effects of a business closing on a small town's economy.

The PDF is embedded below. You can also access it here on

(Note, before you email me about the Browning rifle goal card in Life on Minimum Wage, please understand that these were goals chosen by my students in a rural community in which hunting is a way of life for many students. You're welcome to change that card for use in your own classroom).

Saturday, April 14, 2018

My Go-to Tool for Making Stop Motion Movies

This evening I received an email from a reader who was looking for a free tool to use to have his students make stop-motion videos. (By the way, I get emails from readers every day and I try to answer all of them). JellyCam is the free tool that have recommended for years and still recommend for making stop-motion videos on Mac and Windows computers.

JellyCam is free software for creating stop motion movies. Using JellyCam you can create stop motion movies using images from your computer or images that you capture via your webcam. Once you've selected images you can quickly arrange them into a sequence. After the sequence is set you can specify how many images you want per frame. A soundtrack can be uploaded to your video.

In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use JellyCam.

Spark, Parks, and Jeopardy - The Week in Review

Good evening from Maine where it is snowing, again. This week was a classic spring week in Maine in which we had both sunshine and snow. We're still weeks away from seeing green grass like I saw yesterday when I was in Greenwich, Connecticut where I facilitated a professional development workshop.

Speaking of professional development, I only have a handful of days left in my summer calendar for school and conference workshops. If you're interested in having me lead a professional development workshop at your school, please get in touch by sending an email to richardbyrne (at) or by using the contact form here.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Adobe Launches Spark for Education
2. Jungle Jeopardy - A Game About Ecosystems
3. NASA's Interactive Guide to the Solar System
4. Sympathy for Padlet
5. An Animated Map of the Rise and Fall of Communism
6. National Geographic Publishes Fun Facts About All National Parks
7. 5 Alternatives to Padlet

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Click here to book me today.

Online Professional Development
On I offer on-demand professional development webinars and courses. There are significant discounts for groups who enroll in G Suite for Teachers or Teaching History With Technology.

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.
MySimpleShow offers a great way to create animated videos for free.
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.
QuickKey provides an efficient way to conduct online and in-person formative assessments.

Tube - A Distraction-free Way to Search and Watch YouTube

Tube is a new tool providing a minimalist view of YouTube. When you go to Tube all you will see is "Tube," a disclaimer, a link to the developer's Twitter account, and a search box. Enter your search terms into the Tube search box and a list of results appears below it without showing any advertising or other sidebar content. When you click one of the videos in the search results it is displayed nearly full-screen on a plain white background.

Applications for Education
If you have ever wanted to show a YouTube video in your classroom but got discouraged by "related" videos or advertisements in the sidebar, Tube is a tool that you should try. Tube won't remove advertisements that are played within the video itself, but it does hide everything else.

A few similar tools that I also like are Quietube, ViewPure, and Watchkin.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

National Geographic Publishes Fun Facts About All National Parks

As the weather warms in North America more visitors arrive in the 59 U.S. National Parks. Acadia National Park here in Maine is crowded in the summer so come visit in the winter to see another side of the first national park created from land donated to the federal government. That fun fact is one of 59 fun facts in a new National Geographic article listing a fun fact for every national park.

I read through National Geographic's list of fun facts about national parks and I wouldn't call all of them "fun" facts, but it was interesting to read through anyway. Did you know that North Cascades National Park has more glaciers than Glacier National Park? Me neither until I read the article.

Applications for Education
Beyond the fun facts, the article is peppered with beautiful images of the national parks. As I read through the article and looked at the pictures my thoughts turned to having students create short videos that include some of the fun facts found in National Geographic's article. While they cannot use the copyrighted images from the article, they could use a site like Pixabay, Unsplash, or Flickr that has lots of public domain images of the national parks. Adobe Spark Video is an ideal tool to use for creating that kind of highlights video.

H/T to The Adventure Blog

A Crash Course in Taxes

The deadline to file income tax returns here in the U.S. is less than one week away. If you have high school students, some of them may be filing taxes (or having parents do it on their behalf) for the first time. That may lead to all kinds of questions about why we have taxes, the way taxes are calculated, and types of taxes. Crash Course has a twelve and a half minute video in which those questions are addressed.

At over twelve minutes long this is one of those videos that despite being full of good information, students will tune out unless given some specific things to watch for in the video. EDpuzzle and TES Teach are good tools that you could use to build some questions into the video before you share it with your students.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

5 Good Resources for Teaching and Learning About the American Revolution

This coming Monday is Patriots' Day. It is an official state holiday here in Maine, in Massachusetts, and in Wisconsin. The day commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord. As a New Englander this is a good day to review some good resources for teaching and learning about the American Revolution.

History Animated has an entire section called Revolutionary War Animated. That is a great place to find nice animated maps of troop movements throughout the Revolutionary War. Despite looking rather web 1.0, this resource is one that I continue to return to because it does a great job of illustrating the movement of battles.

America, A Narrative History is a text published by Norton. As a free supplement to the book, Norton offers ten Google Earth tours. These tours include major themes and events in US History. The American Revolution is one of the Google Earth tours included in the list of tours.

Teaching American History has a series of interactive lessons about the American Revolution that are suitable for middle school and elementary school use. The lessons are divided into three chronological sections; 1775-1778, 1778-1781, and Treaty of Paris 1783. All of the lessons in the first two sections ask students to locate a place on a map. Students then answer a question about that place. After answering the question students are given a short text lesson. The lessons appear in chronological order. In the section on the Treaty of Paris students move through a series of placemarks on a map to learn about the terms of the Treaty of Paris.

Pictures of the Revolutionary War is a compilation of images about the Revolutionary War. The images in the collection chronicle the stirrings of rebellion in the pre-revolution years, the war from both American and British perspectives, and events following the Revolutionary War.

Crash Course has a ten part series on U.S. History. Included in that series is Taxes & Smuggling - Prelude to Revolution.

From now until April 17th my Teaching History With Technology course is 20% off the regular price. Click here to get the discounted price. 

Now You Can Add Custom Links to Google Sites Navigation Bar

At first I wasn't thrilled with the switch from the old version of Google Sites to the new one. That was largely due to the absence of many useful features in the new version that had existed in the old version. Slowly Google has added those features back into the new (current) version of Sites. In December Google added support for third-party embed codes, in January they added new sharing options, in March custom favicons became an option, and today Google announced the option to put custom links into the navigation bar in your Google Sites.

As with most updates to Google Sites, this new feature will be rolled-out over the course of a few weeks. If you don't see the new feature today, it's coming soon.

Applications for Education
Adding custom links to the navigation bar in Google Sites means that your site's header navigation could include links to things like your social media profiles, your school district's website, or to any reference sites that you frequently direct your students to visit.

High school students who are using Google Sites to build digital portfolios that may seen as part of an application to college or internship program, may want to consider using custom navigation links to their social media accounts. Doing so could show awareness of their digital footprints.