Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Polar Bear "Street" View Lesson Plans

Polar Bears International offers a set of extensive lesson plans designed to help students learn about polar bears and their habitat. One of those lesson plans is called Street View and Polar Bears. In Street View and Polar Bears students use Google Maps to explore the geography, geology, and ecosystem of the tundra around Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. At the end of the lesson students should be able to answer questions like "what are the characteristics of the subarctic tundra?" and "what would be some of the considerations for the construction of buildings, schools, houses, etc. in the subarctic?"

Bear Tracker is another feature of the Polar Bears International website. The Bear Tracker plots the travels of collared polar bears in Hudson Bay and the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. You can view the travel paths of one or all of the bears on each map. The map also offers play the travel paths recorded over time.

Mentimeter Adds a New Q&A Feature

Mentimeter, one of the tools that I often mention for conducting formative assessments, has just released a new Q&A feature. The new feature will let your audience submit questions that they want you to answer. Additionally, members of the audience can vote for the questions that they want you to answer.

The new Mentimeter Q&A feature is in addition to all of the other polling options that are built into the platform. Those include open responses displayed as word clouds, multiple choice questions, scales, and matrix responses. Watch the following video to learn how to use the new Q&A feature in Mentimeter.

Applications for Education
Mentimeter's new Q&A function could be useful in helping you identify and prioritize the questions that your students want you to answer. I also think that it could provide a good way to have students submit question that they think should or will appear on an upcoming assessment.

How to Add Voice Comments to Google Docs

Last night I shared the news of Kaizena's updated Google Docs Add-on that streamlines the process of adding voice comments to Google Documents. If you haven't tried it, watch the video that I just made about how to add voice comments to Google Documents.

Applications for Education
As I wrote last night, the combination of voice comments with direct links to a lesson could be very helpful to students who might otherwise be confused by the voice comment alone or the lesson alone. And, as Louis Odendaal pointed out on Twitter, the voice commenting feature can be helpful to ELL students and teachers.

Are you new to using Google Docs? Learn everything you need to know in my online course, G Suite for Teachers

An Updated Version of Google Earth Released

Thanks to the Google Earth Blog I just learned about the release of an updated version of Google Earth Pro. Google Earth Pro (it's free despite the "pro" designation) is the desktop version or "classic" version of Google Earth. The latest version includes thirteen improvements to Google Earth Pro. You can see the full list of improvements here, but I'm going to highlight the ones that will probably matter the most to teachers and students.

The first notable updated is support for Windows 64-bit. This matters if your school's computers operate on the 64-bit versions of Windows.

The latest update to Google Earth Pro provides improved handling of large KML files. If you have previously had Google Earth slow or freeze when launching large KML (AKA Google Earth files), you should experience that less often now. Speaking from experience, there's nothing more frustrating than trying to get all of your students to launch a KML file only to hear half of them say, "Mr. Byrne, it's not doing anything, it's frozen."

Finally, the latest version of Google Earth Pro has resolved the inconsistency issues associated with the elevation measuring tool.

Ten Ideas for Using Google Earth in Your Classroom
One of the most popular posts that I published last year was this one in which I highlighted ten ways that you can use Google Earth. The list is not limited to just social studies lessons. In the list you will also find some tutorials.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Desmos Classroom Activities - Lessons With Online Graphing Calculators

This post originally appeared a few years ago. I'm sharing it again because Desmos was just added as an option in OneNote

Desmos is a free graphing calculator that is available to use in your web browser and as an Android and iPad app. The Desmos calculator performs all of the functions you would expect to see in a graphing calculator with a couple of extras that you don't find in typical graphing calculators. Desmos allows you to share your equations and graphs. Desmos graphs your equations as you type them and redraws them as you alter your equations.

Applications for Education
Desmos offers a good collection of resources for teachers. The teacher resources page features a dozen pre-made activities that you can distribute to students. The activities take advantage of the functions in Desmos while helping your students learn about graphing, problem modeling, algebra, and geometry. Once you've reviewed some of the pre-made activities in Desmos you can use the Desmos activity builder to create your own lessons and distribute them to your students.

Microsoft Introduces Page Locking for OneNote Class Notebooks

Today, Microsoft announced a slew of new features for teachers and students who use Office 365 Education. Among those new features is an option that anyone using OneNote Class Notebooks is sure to appreciate. That is the new option to lock pages as "read only" for students.

A couple of other new OneNote features to note (see what I did there?) are the integration of Desmos and new digital stickers to use when giving feedback on a OneNote page. Desmos is a free graphing calculator. I've covered Desmos extensively in the past. In addition to the calculator itself, Desmos has a large collection of free math lesson plans.

Ten Overlooked Google Slides Features

Like any robust presentation tool, Google Slides has many features that often go overlooked by new users. Some of these features will let you accomplish the things that you used to do in PowerPoint or Keynote while others will just save you a bit of time. Either way, here are ten features of Google Slides that you should know how to use. 

1. Word Art
Word Art is different than just changing your font size or style. Inserting word art lets you apply custom borders, colors, and shading to your font. It also lets you dynamically resize font to fit almost anywhere in a slide. 

2. Live Q&A
Launch a live Q&A channel forum for your audience directly from the Presenter View menu. Your audience can submit questions by going to the Q&A link that is automatically displayed across the top of your slides when you have Q&A activated. You can also disable this feature at any time. 

3. Import Google Keep Note
Open the "tools" menu while editing your slides and you can choose to open a Keep Notepad. That will display all of the notes that you have saved in Google Keep including pictures and links. 

4. Integrated Unsplash Image Search
You can use the "insert image" menu to launch a Google Images search, but that's not the best option for an integrated image search. Unsplash Photos has a free Google Slides Add-on that provides access to hundreds of thousands of images that are in the public domain. 

5. Add Audio to Your Slides
There are two ways that you can do this. You could place a YouTube music video in your slide and then shrink it down and hide it in the corner of your slide. Or you could use the AudioPlayer for Slides Add-on which makes it quite easy to play music behind your entire presentation. 

6. Play videos without using YouTube. 
Last year Google finally added the option to include videos in your slides without those videos having to be on YouTube. Upload any video to your Google Drive account and then you can import it directly into any slide. 

7. Make Interactive Diagrams
I made a video about this last week and featured it in the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week. By using the hyperlinking tools in Google Slides you can link multiple parts of one slide to other slides within the same presentation. Take the model to its fullest extent and your students can begin to build choose-your-own-adventure stories in Google Slides. 

8. Voice Typing Speaker Notes
In the "tools" menu in Google Slides you will find an option for speech-to-text. This function only works for the speaker notes and not for the body of slides. 

9. Chart, Diagram, and Timeline Templates.
Within the "insert" menu in Google Slides you will find a handful of chart, diagram, and timeline templates that you can customize. 

10. Import your old PPT slides
If your school recently made the switch from a Windows-based environment to Chromebooks or just to G Suite for Education, you might be worried about having to recreate some of your favorite presentations. You don't have to do that. You can import your old PPT files into Google Slides right from the "file" drop-down menu in Google Slides. 

If you're new to using G Suite for Education, check-out the online course that I built just for folks like you. Use the code "construction" this week to get a discount on enrollment. 

Kaizena - Streamlined Voice Commenting in Google Docs

Kaizena is a free Google Docs Add-on that makes it easy to add voice comments to your documents and to the documents that students share with you. Today, the Kaizena team announced a new streamlined version of their Google Docs Add-on. The new version lets you record your voice comments without having to ever leave the document.

Once you have the Kaizena Add-on installed and open, you can simply highlight any piece of text in a document and then click the record icon to record a voice comment. Kaizena also supports writing comments.

One other awesome aspect of Kaizena is the option to link your comments to a lesson that you have stored in your Kaizena account. For example, you could highlight a misuse of "their" or "there" in a student's document and then link that highlight to a lesson about homonyms.

Applications for Education
Kaizena provides a great way to efficiently deliver feedback to your students about their documents. The combination of voice comments with direct links to a lesson could be very helpful to students who might otherwise be confused by the voice comment alone or the lesson alone.

You can learn more about Google Docs Add-ons in my on-demand course, G Suite for Teachers

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Geometry at Mount Rushmore - A Math Lesson

CyArk is an organization building an online library of 3D models of the world's cultural heritage sites. Mount Rushmore is one of the places that CyArk features in their galleries of 3D models. You can find the entire collection of places here.

Applications for Education
In the CyArk lesson plan collection you will find a handful of lesson plans about the mathematics connected to Mount Rushmore. Scroll down to items 17 through 26 to find the lesson plans about Mount Rushmore. In these lesson plans you will find activities for teaching measurement, geometry, and algebra. There are lesson plans available for K-12. Some lessons are as simple as identifying shapes while others are as complex as predicting when two cracks on the surface of Mount Rushmore would intersect over time.

Math, Social Studies, and Diagrams - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where a cold bug has hit our house. I tried to fight it, but this morning I have to admit that I've caught it too. This might put me a little behind on my plan to have Practical Ed Tech completely remodeled by kick-off off the Patriots' game on Sunday afternoon. So while I'm tending to sick babies and trying to get some rest myself, I hope that you all have good weekends.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 10 Free Apps for Elementary School Math Lessons
2. How to Create an Interactive Diagram in Google Slides
3. 5 Ways to Use Comics in Social Studies Lessons
4. Virtual Tours of Ancient and Modern Greece
5. 300+ Free Economics Lessons, Videos, and Educational Games
6. Loom 2.0 - Create and Edit Screencasts
7. Eight Lessons in Teaching History With Technology

Online Professional Development
There only three days left to join the 2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group. After Monday the group will be closed to new members.

You can join Teaching History With Technology or G Suite for Teachers at any time. Use the code "construction" this weekend to get a discount on registration.

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.

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.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Create Animations With ABCya Animate

ABCya Animate is a fun tool from ABCya that enables students to create animated GIFs containing up to 100 frames. On ABCya Animate students build their animation creations by drawing, typing, and inserting images. Students can change the background of each frame, include new pictures in each frame, and change the text in each frame of their animations.

The feature that I like best about ABCya Animate is that students can see the previous frames of their animations while working on a current frame. This helps students know where to position items in each frame in order to make their animations as smooth as possible. Students do not need to register on ABCya Animate in order to use the tool or to save their animations. When students click "save" on ABCya Animate their creations are downloaded as GIFs.

Applications for Education
ABCya Animate could be a great tool for elementary school and middle school students to use to create animations to use to tell a short story. For example, the animation that I started in the picture above could be the beginning of a short story about flying to visit grandparents. To complete the story I would add some drawings to represent my family and perhaps some text for clarification. Your students might also use short animations as part of larger multimedia project.

If you want to create instructional animations of your own, try one of the options highlighted in last week's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week.

My Unprofessional Videos

If you follow my YouTube channel or even if you just watch the videos that I put into blog posts here, you'll notice a significant lack of editing. In the last couple of weeks I've had a few people ask me why I don't make my videos look more professional. So this morning I went live on YouTube and Facebook to explain why my videos don't have much in the way of post-production editing. If you missed it, you can view the video here.

Like you, I only have 24 hours in a day and I don't have an assistant. I'm faced with the choice of spending time making post-production edits or moving on to review more tools, learn more, and manage the other responsibilities in my day. If a rough cut or one-take video can convey the information that I need to share, that's fine with me.

Unless you're making videos in which you are the focal point of the video, I don't think that there is a lot to be gained by spending time scrutinizing and editing every aspect of the video. This is especially true if, like me, you're just making three to five minute screencast videos. That said, if you're trying to become the next Keith Hughes, Tom Richey, or John Green then it does make sense to carefully edit every part of your video.

Sometimes teachers don't make videos or don't have students make videos because they think that a video needs to go through a lot of editing in order to be useful. A simple screencast in which you record yourself talking over some slides for a few minutes can be as effective as a three minute video that went through hours of editing. Now that doesn't mean that students shouldn't try to put in their best efforts, but we also need to bear in mind that unless the class is about video production, there are bigger things to worry about than whether or not a video has perfect edits. In fact, one my favorite videos produced by my own students had many flubs in it.

How to Make an Interactive Diagram in PowerPoint

A couple of days ago I published a video that demonstrated how to create an interactive diagram in Google Slides. This morning I received an email from a reader who wanted to know if the same thing can be done in PowerPoint. Yes, you can use PowerPoint to create interactive diagrams. I made the following video to show you how to make interactive diagrams in PowerPoint.

How to Create & Send Screencasts from Your Inbox

On Thursday morning I featured Loom 2.0 which offers a convenient way to create screencasts on a Chromebook, Mac, or Windows computer. One of the "hidden" features of Loom is that once you have connected it to your email account, you can launch Loom's screen recorder directly from your inbox. Not only can you launch it from your inbox you can also add your recording into any email that you are sending. As I explain and demonstrate in this video, Loom makes it easy to quickly send a screencast to a colleague who emails you to ask for tech help.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sundials and Snowflakes - How to Make Your Own

SciShow Kids recently published a new video that explains to students how a sundial works and how they can make their own sundials. The video could be the basis for a fun, hands-on lesson about learning to tell time.

For those in cold, northern climates creating and taking sundials outside with your students might not be practical in the snow. So SciShow Kids has a video that is a little more appropriate for winter. That video is How to Make a Paper Snowflake. The video gives directions at a nice pace that students can follow. The video also introduces some science vocabulary that might be new to elementary school students.

Remodeling Practical Ed Tech

As you may know, I addition to this blog I maintain where I host professional development courses for teachers. That site had tremendous growth in 2017 so I have had to make some changes to the back end in order to make sure that it can be helpful to as many visitors as possible.

Better email management
Last fall I made a switch to a better email management service. That change happened rather seamlessly for those who subscribe to the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter.

Better on-demand offerings
For years I offered courses that consisted of a series of live webinars. Those were great for the folks who could attend. But I had many people who would have rather done the courses at different times. That's why made my most popular courses, Teaching History With Technology and G Suite for Teachers available in on-demand, self-paced formats.

New design
The third update to Practical Ed Tech is underway. It's a change to the design to make it faster and more responsive. This change is a work in progress. It will hopefully be done by the time the Patriots kick-off on Sunday afternoon. In the meantime if you visit the site you may notice some design elements are a bit out of whack. All of the content is there and working, it's just the color schemes and layouts that are bit whacky right now.

Construction sale
While Practical Ed Tech is being remodeled, I'm offering a discount on my on-demand courses Teaching History With Technology and G Suite for Teachers. Use the code "construction" during registration to get either course for $75 instead of the regular $97. This code will be good until Sunday night (January 21st). Register and you can start your first lesson today!

Citations and Citing Your Work - New Common Craft Video

What needs to be cited and what doesn't need to be cited in a paper is a question that has confounded many students over the years. Common Craft has a new video that addresses that question and more. Citations and Citing Your Work teaches students about the differences between in-text and full citations and how they work together.

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

Loom 2.0 - Create and Edit Screencasts

Loom is a free screencasting tool that works in the Chrome web browser. In addition to using it on a Chromebook, you can use Loom on a Mac or Windows computer as long as use the Chrome browser. Loom will let you create a recording of anything on your computer's screen. There's also an option to use your webcam while recording.

This week Loom announced the launch of version 2.0. Loom 2.0 includes the option to trim sections out of your videos. Initially, Loom limited recordings to ten minutes. That restriction has been removed in the latest version of Loom. Learn more about Loom 2.0 by watching the video that is embedded below. Watch for the bit about how you can use emoji reactions with your videos.

Applications for Education
If you're the person at your school who everyone emails when they have questions about how to do something on their Chromebooks, Loom has a handy feature for you. With Loom activated you will see a "send with Loom" option in your email composition window. Use that to quickly record and send screencasts to colleagues and students.

If Loom isn't for you, here are six other ways that you can create screencast videos.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Simple Tips for Learning From PD Webinars

I love webinars. They're a convenient way to learn from experts that I otherwise wouldn't get to interact with. But not everyone enjoys them like I do. In fact, I didn't always find them enjoyable. Then a handful of years ago I made some simple, almost "duh," discoveries that helped me get more out of each webinar that I joined. I shared those tips in this video on my YouTube channel. Below the embedded video I have written the tips.

1. Participate in live webinars, don't just watch them.
Every webinar platform has some kind of chat or Q&A feature. Use it! Use it to ask the presenter questions. An experienced webinar presenter will be able to handle questions in realtime. Don't be afraid to ask clarifying questions. Even when I'm attending webinars about things with which I'm already familiar, I make an effort to think of questions to ask. This forces me to tune-in and listen with more focus than if I was just listening in the hopes that something said by the presenter will jump out at me.

2. Close Facebook and take notes.
If I cannot attend the live version of a webinar, I still find great value in recorded webinars. When I watch recorded webinar I focus on it the same way I would during a live session. That means closing Facebook and taking notes in my notebook. In that notebook I write the questions that I want to send to the presenter via email.

3. Act on webinar ideas quickly.
When I participate in a webinar my participation isn’t over until I actually act on what I was just taught. Just like in a traditional classroom setting, it’s important to try for yourself what was just demonstrated for you. Do this as quickly as you can.

The next webinar that I am hosting is next week for the Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group. There is still time to join for 2018. After next week, membership will be closed to new members.

Science Friday - Audio Science Lessons

Science Friday is a weekly podcast (hosted on Sound Cloud) that features science stories spanning a wide array of topics, but most topics that are related to current news stories. As the name implies, new episodes appear on Fridays. You can listen to each episode in its entirety or you can choose to listen to the individual segments as featured on the Science Friday homepage. Here's a segment from last Friday's show.

Applications for Education
Science Friday has an education section that offers many free lesson plans. The lesson plans are generally connected to one of the Science Friday segments. You can search for lesson plans in the Science Friday education pages according to grade, topic, and the length of activity that you would like to do.

How to Create an Interactive Diagram in Google Slides

Google Slides has a lot of capabilities that often go overlooked. One of those capabilities is the option to link slides so that viewers don't have to necessarily see them in a chronological sequence. By linking slides you can create an interactive diagram in Google Slides. In this video I demonstrate how to create an interactive diagram in Google Slides. You can try my diagram yourself by viewing the slides here.

Are you new to using G Suite for Education? My Practical Ed Tech online class will help you get started.

Taking Notes on a Touchscreen - Three Options Compared

iPads, Android tablets, and touchscreen laptops that fold flat make it easy for those who prefer to handwrite their notes to preserve those notes in a digital format. I've used Google Keep for this purpose for a number of years, but as a part of my on-going effort to feature more non-Google tools I spent last week trying out some other options. Here's what I determined about OneNote, Zoho Notebook, and Google Keep. (Evernote fans, I left it out because the free version limits how many devices you can use it on).

OneNote is the obvious choice for anyone who is using a Microsoft Surface or other Windows-based tablet. It is also available to use on iPads and on Android tablets. The option to have handwriting converted to text is an outstanding feature. Note that those of us with exceptionally sloppy handwriting don't always get accurate conversions from handwriting to text. Like all other notes in OneNote, your handwritten notes can be added into any of your notebooks.

Google Keep
If you're a G Suite for Education user, Google Keep is probably already on your radar. It has a handwriting input option that often is overlooked by new users. Just tap the pen icon to launch a handwriting screen. This option is now available in all versions of Google Keep. It doesn't have the handwriting-to-text function that OneNote offers. Keep is a solid choice for G Suite for Education users even without the handwriting-to-text function and fewer notebook organization options. If you're not married to G Suite for Education, OneNote has more options for you.

Zoho Notebook
Zoho Notebook doesn't have the name recognition of OneNote or Keep, but it is backed by a solid company with a reputation for developing excellent and reliable products. Of the three options featured here, Zoho Notebook has the most intuitive design or organization options of the three digital notebooks featured here. The downside to Zoho Notebook is that the handwriting option only appears on the Android and iOS platforms. If the handwriting option worked in the Chrome or Edge web browsers, I'd probably put it at the top of this list.

Applications for Education
When it comes to jotting down notes or sketching out my ideas, I prefer to do it by hand. I'm sure that you have students that feel the same way. For me it's partly because I started taking notes long before I could even dream about using a laptop, let alone a phone, to write notes. The other reason I like to use handwriting for notes and idea sketches is that many of the mind mapping programs I've tried are fine for displaying flowcharts, but they feel a little restrictive when I'm in the early phases of sketching out my ideas.

Of course, the obvious downside to taking notes on paper is that you then have to keep track of the physical notes and notebooks. That's not much of a problem for adults, but it is certainly a challenge for many students (have you looked inside a middle school student's backpack?). That is why the rise of touchscreen tablets and laptops is a boon to so many.

10 Free Apps for Elementary School Math Lessons

Math Learning Center offers ten free apps that are designed for teaching elementary school mathematics lessons. All of the apps are available in versions as free iPad apps, as Chrome apps, and for use in the web browser of any computer. With the exception of the flashcards app, all of the Math Learning Center's free apps are designed to provide you and your students with virtual manipulatives. By the way, the flashcard app is available in English and Spanish.

Last week I included Math Learning Center's Geoboard in my round-up of math resources. Geoboard is a good example of how all of the apps are intended to be used. Geoboard is a free app on which students stretch virtual rubber bands over pegboards to create lines and shapes to learn about perimeter, area, and angles. Another app features US currency to help students learn to add and subtract money. The Pattern Shapes app is designed to help students recognize and develop patterns by moving colorful shapes into place.

Applications for Education
It is important to note that except for the flashcard app all of the Math Learning Center apps are really just virtual manipulatives designed to be used as a part of lesson plan not as stand-alone practice apps. You will need to provide your students with feedback when they are using these apps.

MySimpleShow Offers a New Service for Classrooms

MySimpleShow is a great tool for creating explanatory videos. The service features artwork to drag and drop in individual story frames, background music, and automated narration in a variety of voices. But the best part of MySimpleShow is the storyboard editor. Students have to write the script for their videos before they can begin to adjust the visuals in their videos. In fact, when students write their scripts MySimpleShow uses the keywords in the script to suggest artwork to use in each frame of the video.

This week MySimpleShow launched a new classroom account option. A free classroom account will let you have up to 50 students in your account. Students who create videos in a classroom account have access to collaboration features. Additionally, classroom accounts have more music options and image options than free commercial accounts have. You can learn more about MySimpleShow's classroom accounts by watching this video that is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Using MySimpleShow can be a good way to create a Common Craft-style video in which students use simple drawings and words to explain complex topics. A few topics that are suited to explanation through this style of video are bitcoin, mobile phone networks, and compound interest.

Disclosure: MySimpleShow is an advertiser on

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

300+ Free Economics Lessons, Videos, and Educational Games

Econ Ed Link hosts hundreds of lesson plans and interactive games for teaching students about a wide range of topics in economics. Teachers can search the lesson plan index by grade level, concept, standard, or length of lesson (one class period vs. multiple class periods). Most of the lessons attempt to provide "real world" context.

The interactive section of Econ Ed Link many pages of videos and games. The videos and games can be used as stand-alone activities or as part of lesson plan. For example, Developing Good Credit Habits is a game appropriate for middle school and high school students. Students earn money by correctly answering questions about credit scores, interest rates, and spending practices. The purpose of the game is to purchase items and pay expenses without damaging your credit score.

Here's a relatively recent addition to Econ Ed Link's library of educational videos.

Applications for Education
Econ Ed Link offers lesson plans appropriate for all K-12 students. Many of the lessons are designed for use not only in the classroom but in the home as well. The parent section of Econ Ed Link offers good material that you can send home with your students to get parents involved in students' learning about personal economics.

Project Feeder Watch - Contribute to Tracking Bird Migrations

Project Feeder Watch is a public project administered by the Cornell Ornithology Lab and Bird Studies Canada. Project Feeder Watch collects data from backyard bird observers across the United States and Canada. Data is collected from November through April. The data collected is used for a variety of purposes including providing the public with information about the birds that can be found in their areas at various times during the year. The Project Feeder Watch map room allows you to select a species and see its migration pattern mapped over the course of a year.

Applications for EducationProject Feeder Watch is a public project. You and your students can contribute to the project by counting birds at a site near your school or even in your school yard.

Teachers could use the migration information available from Project Feeder Watch to develop a simple lesson in statistical analysis and predictions. You could have students look at the migration data for a bird that appears in their area and try to predict when the first one of those birds will be spotted outside of your classroom windows.

USGS Multimedia Gallery - Excellent Public Domain Images and Videos

Today, I want to make sure that you're aware of some other great materials available through the USGS Multimedia Gallery. The USGS Multimedia Gallery contains large collections of educational videos, animations, podcasts, and image galleries. You can search each collection by topic, keyword tag, or year of creation. RSS feeds are available for each gallery. In addition to the videos in the USGS Multimedia Gallery you can find many videos on the official USGS YouTube channel.

Applications for Education
If you need images or videos to help you deliver a lesson to your Earth Science students, the USGS Multimedia Gallery should be one of the first places you visit. Likewise students developing multimedia presentations for their Earth Science classes would be well-served to visit the USGS Multimedia Gallery.

5 Ways to Use Comics in Social Studies Lessons

Creating cartoons and comic strips can be a fun way for students to show their understanding of events and concepts. For the student who is intimidated (or bored) by the idea of writing yet another essay or making another PowerPoint presentation, creating a comic strip is a welcome change. Here are five ideas for using comics in social studies lessons. 

1. Create short biographies of historical figures. Have students select a key moment from a person’s life. Then ask your students to illustrate that moment. For example, students studying John F. Kennedy could use Make Beliefs Comix to illustrate a conversation between JFK and Bobby Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If you want students to illustrate conversations in languages other than English, Make Beliefs Comix is a great choice as it supports six languages in addition to English.

2. Illustrate a timeline of an event or series of events. Rather than simply writing summaries of key events have students create illustrations of the events. ToonyTool is a good tool for making single frame comics that your students could save and then add to a timeline.

3. How might history have been different if the communication technology we have today was available 200, 300, or 500 years ago? Ask your students to think about that question and then illustrate the outcome. Students can use some of the wireframes available in Storyboard That or the SMS Generator from to simulate text message and or email exchanges between historical characters like George Washington and Ben Franklin.

4. Diagram and explain branches of government. Creating this storyboard is a good way for students to show what they know about all of the powers and responsibilities of each branch of government. You could have students do this in Google Slides by following this model or by using one of the branching templates in Storyboard That.

5. Create political cartoons. This is the obvious use for cartoons in social studies classes. Cartoons for the Classroom offers excellent, free lesson plans for using political cartoons. Single frame comic creation tools like ToonyTool are adequate for making political cartoons.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on

Monday, January 15, 2018

X Degrees of Separation - The Connections Between Artworks

The big news over the last few days about Google's Arts & Culture app has focused on people using the app to find their doppelgangers in the museum collections digitized by Google. While it is a neat feature, there are other Google Arts & Culture experiments worth trying. One of those is called X Degrees of Separation.

X Degrees of Separation lets you select two works of art in the Google Arts & Culture collection and then see works that can connect them. The purpose of X Degrees of Separation appears to be to show viewers how cultures can be connected through art. Each image that appears in the connections is linked to an individual page that will include a bit of information about the work. Depending upon the work that you've selected you may not get much more information than the artist's name and the museum in which the work is displayed. None-the-less, X Degrees of Separation is an interesting project.

Applications for Education
X Degrees of Separation could be a good jumping-off point for an art history lesson. Have students pick two artworks and see the connections. Since the connections are displayed as just images with minimal background information, have students research the connecting works and then create explanations of how the works are connected.

Virtual Tours of Ancient and Modern Greece

Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Expeditions all provide good ways for students to see the sites of Greece. But if you would like your students to find a bit more detail about those sites, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens has an excellent resource for you.

The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens has produced a website called You Go Culture where you can find virtual tours of ancient Greek sites. Select one of the nine tours to view videos, immersive photospheres, and to read about the sites within each tour. After watching a video overview of each site choose either "myth" or "experience" on the left side of the screen to select links to specific sites within the tour. Each of those links will lead you to text, photographs, and videos about the history of the site as well as information about the site today.

Applications for Education
The virtual tours produced by You Go Culture don't have the "wow" factor of a Google Expedition, but they are more accessible and more detailed than what you'll find through Google Expeditions. History teachers who are building reference pages in their classroom blog/ website would do well to include links to the virtual tours offered on You Go Culture.

H/T to Maps Mania

Midterm Elections - 5 Things You Should Know

2018 is a midterm election year in the United States. What's that mean? In short, it is the Congressional elections that happen in the middle of a president's term in office. But to find out what midterm elections really mean, students should watch 5 Things You Should Know About Midterm Elections. In this video produced by Keith Hughes students will learn why the party in the White House usually comes out behind in midterms, why voter turnout is low, what gerrymandering is, and the influence of independents in midterm elections.

Applications for Education
Keith did a great job with 5 Things You Should Know About Midterm Elections. It's the perfect length and pacing to use as an introduction to the topic. Six minutes is just long enough to cover the five distinct parts without being so detailed that it loses students who may not have much interest in the topic. Keith's use of graphs and charts is helpful too. Overall, I think the video is a great candidate for inclusion in a Civics course.

Use 5 Things You Should Know About Midterm Elections in a tool like EDpuzzle or TES Teach to build some questions of your own into the video.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

W3Schools - Your HTML Reference

W3Schools is my go-to reference for all questions regarding how to write any aspect of HTML code. In fact, when I was recently asked a question about writing HTML that I couldn't immediately answer, I turned to W3Schools.

W3Schools offers complete tutorials for learning to write HTML, CSS, Javascript, and PHP. If you're just getting started, work through the tutorials in sequences. Each tutorial has a little interactive section where you can test your new knowledge. If you're experienced and just need a quick reminder or clarification, W3Schools has that too.

Applications for Education
W3Schools is a great resource for the student who is capable of directing himself or herself through a sequence of tutorials. W3Schools is not great for a student who needs a clearly defined "do this now," "do this next" type of lesson. For that type of student, I would recommend trying Thimble by Mozilla.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Music, Doodles, and Forms - The Week in Review

January, 2015 Patriots v. Ravens 
Good evening from Maine where I am getting ready to watch the Patriots play their first playoff game on their way to the Super Bowl. Before I enjoy the game and some delicious chili, I have this week's post popular posts to share with you. This week's list features some Google Slides and Forms tricks, some math resources, and Microsoft Forms.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Free Music to Use In Google Slides Presentations
2. Doodle 4 Google is Back for 2018
3. 25 G Suite Add-ons & Chrome Extensions for Teachers & Students
4. How to Quickly Copy Questions from One Google Form to Another
5. g(Math) Has Been Deleted - Try These Three Alternatives
6. 10 Good Resources for Math Teachers and Students
7. Three Things I Like About Microsoft Forms

Online Professional Development
The 2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group will had its first webinar on Tuesday afternoon, but you can still join until the end of the month.  And you can start Teaching History With Technology or G Suite for Teachers at any time.

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.

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.
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.

Eight Lessons in Teaching History With Technology

A couple of month ago I launched an on-demand version of my popular Teaching History With Technology course. So far more than 50 people have completed the course. The question that almost everyone asks before they enroll in the course is, "what's covered in the course?" That's a fair question to ask so I published the following outline of the eight lessons in the course.

  • Lesson 1 - Search Strategies for History Students
    • Lesson 1b - saving and sharing search results.

  • Lesson 2 - Using technology to help students analyze historical/ primary source documents.
    • Lesson 2b - Making artifacts interactive.

  • Lesson 3 - Hosting online history discussions
    • The importance of structure and expectations.

  • Lesson 4 - Using audio in history lessons.
    • Recording history with students
    • Hearing history

  • Lesson 5 - Creating multimedia timelines with students.
    • Simple to complex options for every grade level.

  • Lesson 6 - Creating multimedia maps
    • Google Maps and Earth are not your only options.

  • Lesson 7 - Creating videos and teaching with video.
    • Student creations and teacher creations.

  • Lesson 8 - Making and using virtual tours.
    • Virtual Reality tours, Augmented Reality tours, and online virtual tours.
The eight lessons in Teaching History With Technology are delivered via email. Each lesson contains at least one how-to video (20-30 minutes) and a suggested activity to use in your classroom. Click here to get started today!

5 Add-ons I'm Utilizing More Often in 2018

Add-ons can provide a lot of additional functionality to Google Forms, Sheets, Slides, and Docs. In some cases using the right Add-on can save you a lot of time on completing routine tasks. Other times they make Forms, Sheets, Slides, and Docs do things that they could not otherwise do for you. Here are five Add-ons that I'm going to be utilizing more often in 2018.

Certify'em makes it possible to not only give students their grades right away, it also issues them a certificate for passing a quiz created in Google Forms. To use Certify'em properly you should install it and enable it before creating your quiz in Google Forms. When you enable Certify'em on a Form it will populate a couple of required fields in your Form and ask you to specify a minimum passing score. Complete those fields then write your quiz and set an answer key just as you would for any other quiz that you build in Google Forms. When students complete the quiz they will automatically receive PDF certificate in their email inboxes if they have passed the quiz.

Certify'em was developed by the same person who developed the extremely popular Flubaroo Add-on for Google Sheets.

The selection of Google Slides Add-ons is fairly limited at this point, but there are some good ones for teachers and students within that small collection. One of those is the Unsplash Photos Add-on. This Add-on gives you instant access to Unsplash's collection of free, royalty-free photographs. In the following video I demonstrate how to add the Add-on to your Google Slides, how to use Unsplash Photos, and I explain the licensing of Unsplash Photos.

Audio Player for Google Slides
Audio Player for Google Slides is a free Add-on that will enable you to play music in the background of your Google Slides presentation. It will work with any audio file that you have stored in your Google Drive account. To use Audio Player for Google Slides simply activate the Add-on then choose that audio file that you want to have played in the background of your presentation. You can specify an start and end time for your file. It is also possible to have your audio file loop continuously throughout your presentation.

Form Recycler
formRecycler is a free Google Forms Add-on that makes it easy to reuse questions from one Google Form into another form. When you have the formRecycler Add-on installed you can access all of your existing Google Forms and then pick questions from one of those existing Forms to use in a new form. You can use formRecycler multiple times on the same form and thereby include questions from multiple existing forms in your new form.

Photo Slideshow
Photo Slideshow is a free Add-on that makes it quick and easy to import an entire Google Photos or Google Drive folder into Google Slides. Once you have installed the Add-on just select either Google Photos or Google Drive and then choose the folder of images that you want to have displayed in a slideshow. Each image in the folder will automatically be placed on a slide.

Learn more about Add-ons for G Suite products in my on-demand course, G Suite for Teachers

Twitter Moments - One Storify Alternative

Earlier this week someone emailed me looking for an alternative to Storify which is shutting down and no longer accepting submissions.  Moving forward, one way to create collections of Tweets about a topic is to use Twitter's Moments feature. I have a video about how to create Twitter Moments.

In May Storify will be removing all content. You can download your content as HTML until then.  Alan Levine has developed a tool for extracting embedded Storify links. He's also published an extensive blog post on what to do with your Storify content (warning, there is a lot of coding talk in the post). 

Applications for Education
Creating Twitter Moments could be a good way to organize a collection of Tweets about an event at your school. Another way to use Twitter Moments is to create a collection of Tweets about a current events topic that your students are studying.

Friday, January 12, 2018

10 Good Resources for Math Teachers and Students

One of the things that I wish that I had done when started this blog was to build pages like Larry Ferlazzo's "Best Resources for X" lists. Instead, I have relied on people using the search box on this blog to find the resources that they need. That's why from time to time I will publish a list like this one to organize some of my current favorite resources for a particular subject area. Here are ten good resources for math teachers and their students.

Math Challenges
Expii Solve is a series of more than fifty sets of mathematics word problems. Within each set there are five problems aligned to a theme. For example, there was recently a set of Thanksgiving themed problems. The problems within each set on Expii Solve vary in difficulty so that you can pick the one(s) that best suit your students. Or you can let your students register on the site and self-select the problems that they want to tackle. In fact, that is how the site is intended to be used. Students can get instant feedback on their answers to the problems that they try to solve. Students who need a bit of help solving a problem can avail themselves of tutorials linked at the bottom of each problem page.

Would You Rather? is a website maintained by John Stevens for the purpose of sharing quick and fun math challenges for students.  Would You Rather? presents a picture with a mathematics problem that asks "would you rather?" Most of the questions have a financial aspect to them. One of my favorite examples is this challenge that asks "would you rather go on a 5 minute shopping spree in the store of your choice or get a $2,000 gift card to the store of your choice?" Would You Rather? offers a simple worksheet that your students can use to analyze the choices presented to them in the challenges.

Math Pickle is a free site that offers dozens of fun and challenging math puzzles for students of all ages. The puzzles are designed to foster collaborative problem solving over the course of 45 to 60 minutes. Almost all of the puzzles are presented as a series of small, connected problems that students need to solve to complete the puzzle presented to them. The puzzles can be viewed as slides and or downloaded as PDFs.

eTexts, Models, and Interactive Tools
XtraMath is a free service designed to help teachers and parents help their students learn basic mathematics. The service provides an online environment in which students complete practice activities that are recorded and shared with teachers and parents. Teachers can create classroom accounts in which each child has his or her own log-in credentials. Parents can also be given log-in credentials to see how their children are progressing. XtraMath offers materials seven languages. Those are languages are English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and American Sign Language.

ADA Project is a great resource being developed by a mathematics teacher named Sam Powell. The ADA Project is an open multimedia mathematics textbook that covers everything from basic arithmetic through calculus. When you visit the ADA Project's home screen you can choose a category then choose a topic. Within each topic you will find a set of sample problems. Each sample problem is accompanied by a link to reveal the answer, the solution, a video about the solution, and a link to a discussion forum. Take a look at this set of long division problems to get a sense of how the ADA Project works. Teachers are invited to contribute to the ADA Project's development by submitting problems, solutions, videos, and discussions. The submission form is found here.

I cannot publish a list like this one without including GeoGebra. GeoGebra is a free program that math teachers and students can use to build interactive models of problems and concepts. Over the years I have had friends and colleagues who teach mathematics rave about the capabilities of GeoGebra for modeling functions and graphing equations. GeoGebra has a huge community of users who share ideas and tutorials for using GeoGebra in a wide variety of settings. You can join that community here. The GeoGebra YouTube channel is probably the best place to find tutorials to help you get started using GeoGebra on your laptop, tablet, or Chromebook.

Geoboard is a free app on which students stretch virtual rubber bands over pegboards to create lines and shapes to learn about perimeter, area, and angles. The app is available as a Chrome app, as an iPad app, and it can be used directly in any modern web browser.

Calculators, Graphs, and Homework Checkers
Desmos is a free graphing calculator that you can use in your web browser on a Chromebook or any other computer using the Chrome browser. It is also available for mobile phones. Desmos has a robust website full of activities and lessons to use in your classroom.

EquatIO is a popular tool that math and science teachers like to use for using handwriting, equation and formula prediction, and graphing in Google Forms, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings. The service is provided by TextHelp who also makes the popular Read & Write add-on for Google Docs. A couple of months ago TextHelp announced that EquatIO is free for teachers to use. To get a free teacher account just create an account on TextHelp then complete this form. Upon approval, you will be granted access to all of the premium features that EquatIO offers.

Photomath was the first app that I remember having the capability to let students snap a picture to get the answer to a math problem. It will not only show students the answer it also shows the the steps required to solve a math problem. Photomath is available for Android and iOS.

What a Lobster Can Teach You About Fake News

Some of you may recall that just before Christmas an ESPN radio show fell for a fake news story about a high school basketball game in Maine being cancelled when the ball got stuck behind the wood stove in the gym. That story came from a website called New Maine News. It's not just big media outlets that fall for the fake news stories on New Maine News. It seems that almost every story posted on the site or corresponding Facebook page has at least one comment from someone who thinks that the satirical site is a real news website. That is probably what motivated this ridiculous story about a talking lobster complaining about the blurring of lines between real and fake news.

In the story Line Between Real and Fake Maine News Increasingly Blurred Says Magic 8-foot Tall Talking Lobster a talking lobster named Ol' Nick points out a couple of the reasons why fake news stories spread so quickly on social media. Ol' Nick tells us,
"People see a headline, or a link, and it confirms something they want to believe is true, so they share it as fact." 
Ol' Nick also shares this bit of advice,
“Is it too good to be true? Does it instantly appeal to something you believe in an extreme way? Click on the link. Check out the source. It might be a joke site and the first story you find is something absolutely absurd.”
Applications for Education
Read the entire story on New Maine News and you'll find a couple of other pieces that serve as reminders to fact-check the headlines and stories that we see shared online.

Before sharing the lobster story, have your students read the story that fooled ESPN and see if they can identify whether or not the story is true. Then follow-up with the story featuring the 8 Foot Tall Talking Lobster.