Google
 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

ClassPulse - Gather Feedback from Students

ClassPulse is a new entry into the crowded market of polling and messaging apps for schools. I learned about the app through Audrey Watters' weekly round-up of education news and then I gave the app a try on my Android phone.

Audrey described the ClassPulse as "another classroom feedback tool" and that's exactly what it is. It has the core features found in every other app like it. You can create classrooms that your students join through an assigned join code. Once students have joined your classroom you can start posting messages for them to read and you can post poll questions for them to vote on. Like most other classroom feedback tools, ClassPulse gives you the option to let students post anonymous feedback.

In my testing of ClassPulse I found it easy to set-up a classroom and to post messages for students to reply to. However, when it came to setting-up polls I ran into a little snag that was only resolved by quitting the app and trying again. That snag was that when I tapped on the "poll" option ClassPulse didn't recognize my classroom as being created and instead prompted me to create another classroom. That little annoyance was resolved by quitting the app.

Applications for Education
Feedback tools like ClassPulse have been around for years. They're useful for getting some feedback from your students about how a lesson is going for them, they're understanding of a topic, or just what they would like you to review with them.

If you haven't tried a classroom feedback/ polling tool or you're looking to try a new one, ClassPulse could be for you. That said, there are other tools like it that are bit more developed. Poll Everywhere, Remind, and even Google Classroom have similar capabilities.

Science, Wikispaces, and Timelines - The Week in Review

Good morning from the almost completely renovated Free Technology for Teachers World Headquarters in Paris, Maine. If you have followed my week-in-review posts since last fall you know that I have been converting some space in a barn into office space. I'm in the home stretch now as I just have bit more painting to finish up. In fact, I'll be doing that right after I finish writing this post.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. If You Teach Science, You Need Science Netlinks
2. Wikispaces is Closing - Here Are Some Alternatives
3. 10 Good Resources for Math Teachers and Students
4. How to Use Flipgrid - A Guide for Getting Started
5. Pixabay Now Has an Office Plug-in
6. Three Tools for Combining Maps With Timelines
7. The Built-in Google Docs Features Starter Pack

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.

On-demand Professional Development
PracticalEdTech.com is where I offer on-demand professional development courses and webinars. The sale of those courses and webinars helps to keep Free Technology for Teachers running. Click here to see all of the on-demand offerings. 


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, February 23, 2018

How to Find and Install PowerPoint Add-ins

In the last couple of months I've featured a handful of Google Slides Add-ons that provide additional features for your Google Slides account. PowerPoint users have a similar option to add features through the use of PowerPoint Add-ins. In my video embedded below I demonstrate how to find and install PowerPoint Add-ins. In this video I feature the Pixabay Add-in that provides access to thousands of images that are in the public domain.

ClassTag Adds New Ways to Communicate With Parents

ClassTag is a free service for communicating with parents about what's going on in your classroom. ClassTag lets you send email, push, and SMS/text announcements to parents from one streamlined dashboard on your computer. ClassTag also provides teachers with free tools for scheduling conferences, events, and for coordinating parent volunteers. You can take a tour of the service in my video here.

Recently, ClassTag added two new features to its free service. First, there's a new feature called Child Stories. In Child Story you can post updates about individual students that only their parents can see. Second, videos that you post now appear inline as opposed to as attached files. Inline display is much like what you see in Facebook or Twitter.

Common Craft Explains Flipped Classrooms

The flipped classroom concept, in the right setting, can be an effective way to maximize classroom time. Perhaps you've tried it yourself and have been looking for a way to explain it to parents or colleagues. Common Craft recently released a good video that could help you do just that.

Flipped Classroom Explained by Common Craft teaches the fundamental ideas behind the flipped classroom model. Thankfully, the video also addresses why the flipped classroom model is not appropriate for all students.


Tools for Creating Flipped Classroom Lessons
If you're ready to try your hand at making flipped lessons, here are a few tools to get you started.

TESTeach (formerly known as Blendspace) makes it easy for teachers to organize and share educational materials in a visually pleasing format. On TESTeach you arrange videos, links, images, and files around any topic of your choosing. TESTeach has built-in search tools so that you do not have to leave your TESTeach account in order to locate resources. When you share a set of TESTeach materials with your students they can give you feedback to show that they understand the materials or they can ask questions about the materials. You can also see if your students actually looked at all of the materials that you have shared with them. Using TESTeach can be a good way to create and deliver flipped lessons.

EDPuzzle is a popular tool for adding your voice and text questions to educational videos. On EDpuzzle you can search for educational videos and or upload your own videos to use as the basis of your lesson. EDpuzzle has an online classroom component that you can use to assign videos to students and track their progress through your video lessons. Within EDPuzzle's editor you can select portions of videos for students to watch. EDPuzzle offers the option to share your videos to Google Classroom.

MoocNote is a free tool for adding timestamped comments, questions, and links to videos. To do this on MoocNote you simply paste a link to a YouTube video into the MoocNote editor. Once the video is imported you can start to add your comments, questions, and links. The link features is particularly useful for providing students with additional resources for learning about the topics covered in your shared videos. MoocNote allows you to organize playlists (MoocNote calls them courses) of videos according to topics that you identify. MoocNote could be a good tool for high school teachers who want to organize playlists of videos for their students and add some clarifying information to those videos. You could also have students use MoocNote to annotate videos to demonstrate an understanding of the topic at hand.

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

The Chemistry of Contrails

Earlier this week I was ice fishing on a lake in northern Maine that just happens to be under the flight path of many airplanes going to and returning from Europe. Being a bit of an aviation geek, I enjoyed guessing at the model of the planes overhead. I could quickly identify 747s, A380s, and A340s because they leave behind four contrails while twin engine jets leave behind only two contrails. I share that story because Reactions has a new video that explains how jet contrails are created.


Front Row Introduces New ELA Practice Activities

Front Row is an excellent service that provides differentiated reading materials and practice exercises in K-12 classrooms. Front Row offers articles and exercises on topics in math, science, social studies, and language arts. The latest update to Front Row features new ELA skills practice activities.

The new ELA skills practice activities on Front Row are designed to help students in third through eighth grade develop skills in six areas. Those areas are making connections, inferences, main ideas, word choice, text structure, and point of view. The activities feature short, nonfiction passages that students need to read and then answer questions about. The questions appear side-by-side with the text passage so that students can quickly refer to the passage for context. Just like other Front Row activities, the difficulty of the ELA passages and questions adjust depending upon how students answer the questions.



Thursday, February 22, 2018

Anchor 3.0 Provides an Easy Way to Create Podcasts

Anchor is a free service for creating podcasts on your phone or on your laptop. When the service started it was just a simple app that let you record short (two minutes or less) episodes to publish on the Anchor network. Over the last couple of years the service has steadily added more features leading up to Anchor 3.0 that launched today.

The latest version of Anchor is packed with features that make it easy to record, edit, and publish podcasts. Perhaps the best feature of Anchor is the ease with which you can publish to all major podcast networks including iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and Pocket Casts. To publish to those platforms all you have to do is select them when you tap or click publish on your Anchor podcast.


Anchor previously only let you record through your phone. The new version of Anchor includes a browser-based recording. The browser-based recording tool also includes free transition music that you can use within your recording. For those who prefer to record with another tool, can still use Anchor to publish their podcasts. The browser-based version of Anchor has an option to upload audio files for publication.

Applications for Education
If you have ever wanted to start a podcast with your students, but got deterred by the complexity of publishing, Anchor could be the solution that you need.

How to Schedule Blog Posts

Posting on a consistent schedule is one of the keys to maintaining interest in any blog. One of the best ways to maintain a consistent schedule is to use the scheduling tools that are built into most blogging services. By using the scheduling tools you can write a bunch of posts at once and have them appear at a later time. In the following video I demonstrate how to schedule blog posts on Edublogs, on Blogger, and on WordPress.



How to Use Google Sheets to Create a Bingo Board With Pictures

A couple of weeks ago I shared the news that Flippity's Bingo board template now lets you include pictures in your boards. I've had a few people ask for clarification on how to include image links in the template that generates the game board. In the following video I demonstrate how to create a Bingo board through Google Sheets.


The Built-in Google Docs Features Starter Pack

I test and write about a lot of Google Docs Add-ons and built-in features. But you certainly don't need to use all of them. In fact, I'm often asked for a list of the "must-know" features instead of all of the "could use" features. Here are ten features that new users can benefit from learning early on.

1. Font options
Besides the default options in the font drop-down menu there are hundreds of other options available when you choose "more fonts" at the top of that menu. And while we're on the topic of fonts, it is possible to change the default font.

2. Page formatting
In the "File" drop-down menu you'll find a "page setup" option that allows you to change page orientation, set margins, and even change the page background color.

3. Find and Replace (Ctrl + H)
The next time you find yourself sitting down to start writing summative reports before parent-teacher conferences, create a template that you can quickly modify for each student. Then you can use the find and replace function to quickly change names, adjectives, and even entire sentences without having to create each report from scratch.

4. Personal dictionary 
In the "tools" menu select "personal dictionary" to teach the spell check to ignore the spelling of names or other words that are often marked incorrect by spell check despite being spelled correctly. For example, the last name of a friend of mine is Wankowicz, that name is never recognized by spell check unless the spell check is customized through the "personal dictionary" function.

5. Custom spacing
The default line spacing in Google Docs is 1.15. You can change that to anything you like, if you know where the line spacing settings are found. You can find the settings in the "format" menu. You can also find it in the toolbar. See the screenshot below for direction on finding the line spacing settings in the toolbar.
Click image to enlarge.

6. Version history
This feature was formerly called "revision history." Select "version history" to find the various iterations of your document. You can set different names for each version. This is a great feature for seeing the evolution of a student's document.

7. Adding collaborators
Click the "share" button in the upper, right corner of your document to invite people to become collaborators on your document. You can give people full access to edit your document or you can restrict them to only being able to make suggestions and comments on your document.

8. Lock shared documents
Google Docs includes the option to make your document available for anyone to view even if they don't have Google accounts. But just because people can view your document it doesn't mean that they have to be able to make copies of or print your document. Use the "advanced" option on the sharing menu to disable the option to print or copy your public documents.
Click image to enlarge.


9. Insert drawings
Need to insert a signature? Want to quickly add a flow chart to a document? Use Google Drawings within your document. You'll find that option in the "insert" drop-down menu.

10. Export your document.
Prefer to print a PDF? Have someone who insists that you send him or her a Word file attached to an email instead of using Google Docs? You can do both of those things by selecting "download as" in the File menu.

Are you new to use Google Docs or G Suite for Education? Take my G Suite for Teachers course to learn everything you need to know to feel comfortable using it in your classroom. 

How Birds Learn to Sing

Spring isn't too far away and soon we'll start to see and hear the songs of more birds around my home here in Maine. If you also live in a cold, northern climate the sounds of the birds is a welcome sign of spring. Why do birds sing? And how do they learn the songs that they sing? The answers to those questions and more are revealed in a new TED-Ed Lesson titled How Do Birds Learn to Sing?


After learning how birds learn to sing, have your students explore The Wall of Birds interactive mural produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The mural features a variety of birds that when clicked on reveal information about that bird, audio of that bird's call, and a map of that bird's natural range.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Three Tools for Combining Maps With Timelines

Creating timelines whose events are directly connected to a map display is a good way for students to see correlations between locations and events. Here are three tools that students can use to create mapped timeline stories.

StoryMap JS comes from the same people that offer Timeline JS. On StoryMap JS you can create mapped stories. On StoryMap JS you create slides that are matched to locations on your map. Each slide in your story can include images or videos along with text. As you scroll through your story there are simple transitions between each slide. StoryMap JS integrates with your Google Drive account. To get started with StoryMap JS you have to grant it access to your Google Drive account. StoryMap JS will create a folder in your Google Drive account where all of your storymap projects will be saved. With StoryMap JS connected to your Google Drive account you will be able to pull images from your Google Drive account to use in your StoryMap JS projects.

MapStory is a free tool for creating mapped displays of data sets. Data sets that are time based, the travels of Genghis Khan for example, can be set to play out in a timeline style on your map. Creating a MapStory might look complicated at first glance, but it's actually quite easy to create a map. To get started select a data set or sets that you want to display on your map. You can choose data sets from the MapStory gallery or upload your own. After choosing your data set(s) select a base map. After that you can customize the look of the data points on your map and or manually add more data points to your map. The notes option in MapStory lets you create individual events to add to your map and timeline. Lines and polygons can also be added to your projects through the notes feature in MapStory.

The Google Earth Tour Builder allows students to create Google Earth tours in their web browsers. The Tour Builder uses a slide-like format for creating tours. Each slide or stop in the tour can have a date or range of dates attached to it. The tour places in the sequence that students build the stops in the tour. Have students create the stops in the tour chronologically to tell a timeline story.

Loom Adds Options for Grouping and Sharing Videos

Loom is a free tool for creating screencast videos in your web browser. Loom even has an option to create screencasts directly from your inbox to use as responses to emails. Today, Loom announced two beta features.

The first new feature allows you to organize your Loom screencast videos into groups. The second new feature will let you share an entire folder of videos with the person or people you want to watch the videos. These new features are in beta and are gradually rolling out to current Loom users.

If you haven't seen Loom in action, watch the following video to see how easy it is to create a screencast with Loom.

ChronoZoom is Closing Soon

ChronoZoom, a good tool for creating multilayer timelines, is shutting down on March 15th. Roland Saekow, ChronoZoom's co-founder, announced the closure through an email sent to ChronoZoom users. In the email Seakow announced that public projects will be archived and made available for download. Directions for making your projects public can be found in this Google Document.

ChronoZoom was a great tool for making timelines that displayed multiple layers so that viewers can see how events and eras overlap. If you're looking for another tool that can be used in that way, try Timeline JS.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Free Icons & Images for Google Docs and Slides

The Noun Project is a popular source of free icons and images. The Noun Project collections include thousands of public domain, Creative Commons, and royalty-free icons. Learn more about the Noun Project in the short video below.


The Noun Project now offers Add-ons for Google Docs and for Google Slides. Like other image search Add-ons, the Noun Project's Google Docs and Google Slides Add-ons let you search for images and insert them into your projects without having to open a new tab or browser window.

Applications for Education
If your students need simple images for illustrations, diagrams, or multimedia projects, the Noun Project is a good resource for them to browse through.

Wikispaces is Closing - Here Are Some Alternatives

Last week the team at Wikispaces announced that the service will be shutting down later this year. Part of that announcement included a link to directions for downloading your content from the service. Of course, if you want to build a new wiki moving forward, you'll need to explore other options. 

Google Sites is the first option that comes to my mind when thinking of an alternative to Wikispaces. G Suite for Education users can create websites on Google Sites. Whoever creates the site can invite other G Suite users to add content to the site. 

Weebly for Education is another option for collaboratively building a website. A free Weebly for Education account enables you to include up to 40 students in your account. You could have all students contribute to one site. 

One more option to consider is using Edublogs with a template that is designed to feature static content more than blog posts. Then you can invite your students to contribute to the site. The nice thing about Edublogs, like Weebly for Education, is that you can administer your students' accounts. 


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Pixabay Now Has an Office Plug-in

Pixabay is one of my go-to sites for public domain images. If you need a picture to use in your slideshow, document, or other multimedia project, Pixabay is a great site to search. Recently, Pixabay started promoting a new Word and PowerPoint plug-in.

The new Pixabay Word and PowerPoint plug-in lets you search for public domain images without having to exit the document or slideshow that you are working on. Once you find an image through the plug-in you can add it to your doc or slideshow with just one click. Resizing, repositioning, and cropping images is done the same way it is with any other image that you upload to your document or presentation.

Applications for Education
The Pixabay plug-in for Word and PowerPoint could be a great resource for students and teachers in Microsoft-based environments. Being able to search for an image without having to open a new window could help keep students focused on the task of creating a presentation without getting distracted by a full web search. And since Pixabay images are in the public domain, you and your students don't have to worry about copyright infringement issues.

If You Teach Science, You Need Science Netlinks

Science Netlinks offers dozens of lesson plans and online learning activities. The lessons and activities are cover a wide variety of science topics. All of the lesson plans are sorted by grade level, but you can also sort the lesson plans by science benchmark standards. A series of icons also indicates if each lesson plan has a printable worksheet, e-worksheet, or is an interactive experience.

Applications for Education
Science Netlinks provides science teachers with a good collection of lesson plans aligned to the benchmarks for Science Literacy. In addition to lesson plans, Science Netlinks offers a selection of reviewed resource websites for K-12 science teachers.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Math, NASA, and Bingo - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where by the time most of you read this I will be on my way further north to Moosehead Lake. As long time readers of this blog know, President's Day weekend is the weekend that I always go to Moosehead to ice fish with about two dozen other teachers and principals. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you are doing something fun too.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 79 Math In "Real Life" Lessons
2. Free Math - A Free System for Grading Large Batches of Math Assignments
3. NASA Kids' Club - Fun Games for Learning About Space
4. Nine Ways to Add Notes to Padlet Walls
5. Use Google Sheets to Create Online Bingo Boards With Pictures
6. 16 Videos About the Science of Winter Olympics Sports
7. PrepFactory Introduces New PARCC and SBAC Review Content

President's Day Sale!
This weekend three of my Practical Ed Tech courses are on sale. Use the code "presidents" to save 20% on Teaching History With Technology, G Suite for Teachers, and the Ed Tech Starter Kit

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.
QuickKey provides an efficient way to conduct online and in-person formative assessments.

Comparison and Explanation of Classroom Blog Services

On Friday I shared ideas for managing academic blogs. If you haven't started a blog yet, choosing the right blogging platform can help you manage your classroom blog in the long run.

Before we answer the question of which blog platform to use we need to understand some terminology commonly used when talking about blogs. Understanding the terminology will help you make an informed decision about which platform is best for your situation. I wish I had known some of this when I started blogging.

Hosted Blog: A hosted blog is one whose software is maintained by a company for its users. Services like Blogger, WordPress.com, and Tumblr are examples of services on which you can create hosted blogs. The advantage of using a hosted service is that you don’t have to worry about installing software, software updates, server maintenance, or bandwidth capacity. The disadvantage of using a hosted service is that you don’t have access to the servers hosting your blog, the service may limit some customization options (WordPress.com in particular does this), and if the service closes you will be looking for a new place to blog.

Self-hosted Blog: A self-hosted blog is one for which you own the blogging software, you install it on a server or shared server, and you are responsible for all technical maintenance and updates. The advantage of having a self-hosted blog is that you can customize it to your heart’s content, you have access to the server(s) hosting your blog, and you can move your content from one hosting service to another if you choose. The disadvantage of a self-hosted blog is that you do have to feel somewhat comfortable installing the software on a server. Fortunately, most hosting companies have good tutorials on installing popular blogging software. Another disadvantage of self-hosting is that you are responsible for performing all updates and other maintenance tasks. This can be time consuming for new bloggers. Finally, to have a self-hosted blog you will have to buy a domain and pay a monthly or annual hosting fee for your blog. I pay roughly $200 annually to MediaTemple.com for hosting and I have eight domains on my plan. If you decided to go the self-hosted route, Media Temple is my recommendation for a hosting service. They offer excellent 24/7 customer service and I’ve never experienced any downtime since I started using them in April of 2012.

The best blog platforms for teachers.
Blogger: This is Google’s free blogging service. It takes just a minute to start a blog through Blogger. Blogger offers a nice selection of colorful themes and templates to choose from. Customizing the layout of your blog is as easy as dragging and dropping elements into place. You can add additional authors to your blogs. If you have a Gmail account you already have a Blogger account. Just sign into your Gmail account and in the top menu select Blogger from the “more” drop-down menu. G Suite for Education users can have Blogger added to their domains too. The drawback to Blogger is that the only customer support that you’ll find for it comes in the form of Blogger product discussion boards and some YouTube videos.

Edublogs: Edublogs has been around for quite a while and is well known in the educational technology community for offering good customer support. The free version of Edublogs got a huge upgrade last year and it's now my preferred choice for student blogs. Edublogs lets you create and manage your students' accounts, moderate all of their postings, and generally be an "eye in the sky" over your students' blogging activity. But perhaps the best feature of Edublogs is the customer support that they offer even to users of their free plans.

Self-hosting a blog with WordPress:
WordPress is free blogging software that you can install on a server. You can get the software at WordPress.org. As mentioned in the “self-hosted” section above, you will have to purchase a domain and a hosting plan to create and maintain your blog. Once you have your blog set-up you can do whatever you like with it including creating and administering accounts for your students to use to write blog entries and comments on your blog.

Just as a point of clarification, people sometimes confuse the WordPress software available to download at WordPress.org with WordPress.com. WordPress.com is a hosted blogging service that uses the WordPress software, but it does limit some of your customization options because you don’t actually control the software. WordPress.com will also insert advertising on your blog unless you upgrade to a paid account.

Comparing other options:
Here's my chart comparing seven popular blogging tools for teachers and students. You can view the chart here as a Google Doc or as embedded below through Box.com



Friday, February 16, 2018

Managing Classroom and Student Blogs

One of the questions that I am frequently asked about blogging and have included in my webinar on the topic is “do you recommend that I have just one blog or should all of my students have their own blogs?” There is not a clear cut answer to this question because the answer depends upon how you envision using blogs in your teaching practice.

If your use of blogging is going to be limited to just distributing information about your class(es) to students and their parents, one blog is all that you need. Even if you teach multiple courses, one blog is sufficient if you’re only using it to distribute information. Simply label each new blog post with the name or section of the course for whom the information is intended. From a management standpoint it is far easier to label each blog post on one blog than it is to maintain a different blog for each course that you teach. That is a lesson that took me one semester to learn.

In the fall of 2005 I was teaching five sections of the same ninth grade social studies course and even though the content was the same each class always seemed to be in a different place than the others so I tried to maintain five different blogs. Before long I found myself either posting to the wrong blog or my students were going to the wrong blog because they had forgotten the blog’s URL and asked a classmate from a different section of the course for the blog’s URL. After that semester I decided to create one blog to use as the central online hub for all of my students. All students who took a course with me would have the URL for my blog and go there whenever they needed an update about their courses. I found it very easy to say to students, “go to my blog and click on the label for your class.” Even when I started to have students contribute to group blogs they started out by going to my blog and clicking the link to their group blogs.

If you envision having all of your students write blog posts, proper planning of the blogging process is critical to being able to keep track of your students’ work. Teachers who have twenty-five or fewer students might be able to have each student maintain his or her own blog and keep track of all of them, but even twenty-five blogs is a lot to keep track of. The solution that I recommend is to create a group blog for each class that you teach. Create the blog using whichever platform you like then make each student an author on the blog. To track who wrote what on the blog make sure that the author’s name (first names only or use pen names with young students). Alternatively, you can have students label or tag posts with their names or pen names to sort out who wrote what. As the creator and owner of the group blog you will be able to see who wrote what from your administrative panel, but that doesn’t help parents who want to check the blog to see what their children have been sharing.

Keeping track of individual student blogs
Teachers who want students to use blogs to experiment with web design and coding will have to allow each student to maintain his or her own blog. Likewise, if the goal is to have each student showcase work for college or internship applications then each student will need to be the sole author on that blog. Keeping track of all of those blogs is a challenge, but a manageable challenge. One quick management method is to create a spreadsheet of all of your students’ blogs. Another quick management strategy is to create a list of links to the blogs then post that list in a side column on your own blog so that you or anyone else visiting your blog can quickly jump to a student’s blog. Finally, you can use a service like Feedly to subscribe to all of your students' blogs.

On a related note, if you're trying to convince a teacher to start a blog, this slideshow that I made ten years ago still illustrates one reason to have a blog that every teacher can relate to.


How Computers Work

We use computers every day. But how many of us actually know how they work? Sure we know how to use the software, but I'm thinking about the hardware. How does that aspect of your computer work? Code.org has a new video series that addresses that question and more.

Through watching the videos in How Computers Work you can learn about memory, logic, circuits, binary, and the interaction between hardware and software. Get started by watching Bill Gates introduce the series.


Applications for Education
If you're planning to do any classroom projects with Raspberry Pi or Arduino, this series of videos could provide a nice primer for students. Similarly, the videos might help students complete the picture of how computers work after completing a hands-on Raspberry Pi or Arduino activity.

H/T to Open Culture

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Immersive Reader on iPads

When I was at the BETT Show last month I learned about the planned expansion of Microsoft's Learning Tools including Immersive Reader. Part of that expansion rolled out yesterday with the addition of Learning Tools for Word on iPads.



You and your students can now use Immersive Reader on their iPads in the Word app. Immersive Reader will allow your students to change the spacing of words, change column size, and change page colors. But most significant is the read aloud function of Immersive Reader for Word. If you're not familiar with how Immersive Reader works, take a look at the video here.

Don't Make This Blogging Mistake

I spent about six hours on Monday and Tuesday trying to fix a formatting problem on PracticalEdTech.com. It was an infuriating little problem that was driving me batty. I Googled solutions, I tinkered with the CSS, I uninstalled plug-ins that I thought were conflicting, and I was about to give up when I diagnosed the problem. It was a two second fix once I realized my mistake. Watch the following video for the explanation of the mistake that I made and how to avoid making the same mistake that I made.

Love Your Presidents Sale!

It's Valentine's Day today and President's Day is coming up so I'm having a sale on three Practical Ed Tech courses. I'm calling it a "love your presidents sale."

During this sale you can save 20% on my Teaching History With Technology and G Suite for Teachers courses. You can take 20% off when you purchase the Ed Tech Starter Kit. Just use the code "presidents" during registration to get the discount.

Use code "presidents" to save 20%

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


G Suite for Teachers is an on-demand course that was designed for teachers who are new to using the powerful the tools within G Suite for Education. In this course you’ll learn everything you need to know to feel comfortable using all of the core G Suite tools with your students. This course is more than just a series of “how to” videos. You’ll be provided with concrete examples of activities that you can use and adapt to use in your classroom.


The Ed Tech Starter Kit provides you with four hours of professional development in the form of four on-demand webinar recordings. The webinars included are Search Strategies Students Need to Know, Fun With Formative Assessments, Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners, and How to Build a Classroom Blog. All webinars are accompanied by printable handouts for your reference.

5 Ways to Record Notes With OneNote for Android

Back in December I decided that I needed to spend some time giving some of Microsoft's products a good, honest try. I did this to be able to give a more balanced comparison to rival Google products. Some of the Microsoft products I don't like as much as Google's offerings, I still prefer Google Forms. And some of Microsoft's products I like better than the Google equivalent. For example, I now like OneNote more than Google Keep.

Much to the surprise of many, I have recently switched to using OneNote for most of my bookmarking, note writing, and to-do lists. Before I started using it I knew that OneNote on a laptop was more robust that Google Keep. But it wasn't until I started using the Android version of OneNote that I was sold on it. Here are five ways to take notes with OneNote for Android.

1. Bookmarking
I love being able to quickly choose to save either a link or a whole page. Sometimes I save whole pages because that helps me remember why I bookmarked a link in the first place.

2. Picture notes
I use a physical whiteboard in my office to make lists, write reminders to myself, and to brainstorm. Before I erase anything I take a picture that I crop and save in OneNote.

3. Voice Notes
I don't use this option that often, but I like knowing that I can add a recording as a stand-alone note or add it to another note including a to-do list.

4. Checklist
Whenever I'm starting to feel like there is too much on my plate, I make a list of tasks and attack them one-by-one.

5. Scribble Notes
Math is hard to type. OneNote's drawing tools are easy to use to handwrite anything including math problems.

Nine Ways to Add Notes to Padlet Walls

A few weeks ago Padlet added the option to record audio directly in a note. By my count, that marked the ninth way that students can added notes to a Padlet. I made the following video to explain and demonstrate all of the types of notes that can be added to a Padlet wall.


Nine types of notes that can be added to Padlet.
  • Text
  • Hyperlinks
  • File upload
  • Video recorded with webcam/ mobile phone camera.
  • Audio recorded directly on Padlet.
  • Scribble/ free hand drawing on Padlet.
  • Pictures taken with webcam/ mobile phone camera.
  • Google Search to add image, video, GIF, or link. 
  • Google Map.
Bonus Items:
If you enable these options, you can comment and or vote on the notes added to a Padlet wall. 

Blue Whales in Virtual Reality

Blue Whale VR is a free virtual reality app that provides a 360 tour of a blue whale's anatomy. The app isn't terribly interactive. The only interactive element is that students can move around the whale during the tour. If you don't have VR viewers, you can access the tour through this YouTube video.


The app could be a good to pair with this TED-Ed lesson titled Why Are Blue Whales So Enormous? The video that the lesson is based on uses some neat animations to explain how much blue whales eat, how the eat, and why they need to eat so much.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What is Hotlinking?

This morning I received an email from a reader who had a question about my article on making bingo game boards in Google Sheets. Her question was essentially, "why won't Pixabay images show up on the board?" The answer is that Pixabay doesn't allow hotlinking its images.

The following is from an article about image reuse that I published a few years ago

What is hotlinking?
In a nutshell, hotlinking is inserting a picture into a blog post through a URL rather than uploading the image file itself to your blog. You can read more about hotlinking on the Simple English Wikipedia or on Host Gator's page about preventing hotlinking to your own work.

Why you and your students should avoid hotlinking.
Hotlinking itself isn't bad if you're only linking to images that you own and control online. For example, let's say that you have a Flickr account to which you upload dozens of pictures that you took. You could use the embed code or the link that Flickr provides to post your images in your blog post.

When hotlinking causes trouble is when you link to another person's image hosted in their account or on their servers. Even if the image is in the public domain you probably don't want to hotlink to it. In fact some services, like Pixabay which hosts public domain images, block attempts at hotlinking. They block hotlinking because when you hotlink you're using more of their bandwidth than if you simply downloaded the image to your computer then uploaded it to your blog.

The biggest concern about hotlinking is not knowing exactly who or what you're linking to. As Sue implied in her Tweet this morning, it is possible that the image you linked to and the image displayed could be changed without warning. It's also possible that the link a student inserts to hotlink links back to site or host laden with malware that could then rain down havoc on your blog.

Two Simple Timeline Creation Tools That Are Frequently Overlooked

This morning I answered an email from a reader who was looking for a suggestion for a timeline creation tool. My recommendation was to try Timeline JS which is my favorite tool and is featured in my Teaching History With Technology course. But there are many other ways to create timelines. Two of those ways are hidden in the tools that many of us use on a regular basis. Google Slides and PowerPoint have templates for making timelines.

Browse through Microsoft's templates gallery and you will find an entire section devoted to making timelines in PowerPoint and in Word. I really like this circle accent timeline template.

Google Slides also has timeline templates that your students can use. In the following video I demonstrate how to access and use the timeline option in Google Slides.

ReClipped Adds New Features for Recording & Sharing Video Notes

ReClipped is a video annotation tool that I first tried back in November. I was impressed by how ReClipped lets you not only clip or highlight sections of videos, but also lets you write time-stamped notes about those clipped sections. Watch the video here to see ReClipped in action.

Recently, ReClipped added some new features that teachers and students will like. ReClipped has always allowed you to create private boards (a place to share your video notes) but there was a limitation of 20 members per board. That limit has been raised to 25 members. Another improvement is the option to download your notes as a PDF. That could be helpful if you want your students to share their notes with you via Google Classroom or another LMS. Finally, there is now control over the auto-play function in ReClipped.


Applications for Education
There is still one option that I wish ReClipped would add. That option would be to remove the public board display when students log-in. The public board display is like looking at a random collection of YouTube videos. That said, if you have high school or college students, ReClipped could be useful for them to use to record notes on video lessons and lectures.

Last-minute Collection of Valentine's Day Resources

Valentine's Day is tomorrow. If you're looking for some last minute activities to do in your classroom, take a look at these resources that I featured earlier in the month.

Storyboard That offers templates for designing and printing Valentine's Day cards. To do this your students will first have to create a simple three-frame storyboard. Then they can print the story in a foldable card format. In my video embedded below I demonstrate how to create a Valentine's Day card on Storyboard That.



Canva offers design templates for almost every card-giving occasion. That includes offering Valentine's Day card designs. In the video below I demonstrate how to use Canva to design cards.



If you're wondering if you can use Canva with students under the age of 13, please read this statement from Canva's CEO Cliff Obrecht.

Science & Math Connections
The following video from It's Okay To Be Smart (produced by PBS Digital Studios) explains why humans kiss, the history of symbols associated with kissing, and some cultural views of kissing. When I saw this video I immediately thought of my friends who teach middle school and high school health classes.


The following fun video, also from It's Okay to Smart, attempts to use math to determine the odds of a 25 year old woman finding love in New York. (Remember, the video is just for fun).


Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Webinar Recording - Inquiry and the Fire Lab

On Monday I hosted a free webinar sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories Xplorlabs. The webinar focused on the ideas of inquiry-based learning and how they are applied to Xplorlabs's Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence online learning experience. If you missed the webinar, you can view the recording as embedded below.

Inquiry-based Learning and the Fire Lab from Richard Byrne on Vimeo.

The slides from the webinar can be viewed here.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Pixorize - Free Image Annotation Tool

Pixorize is a free tool for adding interactive annotations to your images. Using Pixorize is a fairly straight-forward process. To get started just upload any picture that you have saved on your computer. (After your image is uploaded you may need to resize it to make it fit into your browser). Once the image is uploaded you can add points, circles, squares, and stars as annotation markers on your image. After adding an annotation marker you can write text to explain the element of the image to which you are calling attention.

To save and or share your work on Pixorize you must create an account. However, creating an account didn't require validating your email address (I created an account with a fake email address that I have for one of my dogs). After saving your image on Pixorize you can share a link to it or embed it in a blog post as I have done below.


Applications for Education
Pixorize is still a new product, but it has great potential as an alternative to Thinglink. You could have students use Pixorize to annotate diagrams, maps, or images like the one in my example featured above.

Free Math - A Free System for Grading Large Batches of Math Assignments

Free Math is an interesting new service that students can use to complete math problems and then submit to their teachers their solutions along with steps taken to arrive at the solution. Teachers can use the service to grade large batches of their students' work.

It took me a few tries to wrap my head around how Free Math works, but I settled on the idea that it's basically a digital notebook that students submit to you for grading. Students complete math problems on Free Math and then send a file to you. You can assign problems to them from any source because they have to write them into Free Math. Once you have received the file you can upload it to Free Math where the program will grade your students' work. Free math can handle more than 100 assignments at a time. Watch the following video to see how the program works.

Advanced Similarity Checker Add-on for Google Docs by Unicheck

Disclosure: This is a sponsored blog post written by the staff of Unicheck.

Lately, the educational community has been buzzing with stunning news, reporting that Unicheck plagiarism checker created integration with Google Classroom, which still remains the only plagiarism detection solution for Google Classroom.

Keeping in mind such criteria as accuracy, convenience and productivity, Unicheck has prepared another release, this time providing a solution for students, teachers, and everyone interested in quality plagiarism checks and more.

The new add-on from Unicheck is the fully integrated plagiarism checker that works smoothly and swiftly in Google docs, lets users view matched sources and similarities, review, exclude and include citations, all without leaving Google Docs.

Click here if you cannot see the embedded video.

Unicheck Add-on in action
The process of Add-on workflow may be described in just 3 steps: install, sigh in, get check report. But modesty of actions is underpinned with serious background such as full featured functionality and comprehensive check results.

Unicheck add-on boasts high quality of search, which provides only the relevant links to the found matches, and uses live web index. Unicheck also supports almost all alphabet languages and automatically saves the reports of all checked Google Docs in the user’s personal library.

Unicheck add-on is easy to install and has a very simple and intuitive interface. To use it, though, the system will ask to sign in to the user’s Unicheck account. This, however, can be done within the Google doc, and takes just a few seconds. This step is very important, as Add-on is directly bound to user’s Unicheck account.

Installation of the add-on is free of charge, and all new users receive 5 free pages for their checks.

Clicking “Start check” lets the system count the amount of pages in a document, and it takes just few seconds to get a report. The report will display general similarity score in percents, list of similarity sources, citations, and references in the document. The full report uses color mask which is fully interactive.

About
Unicheck is a plagiarism detection system widely used in more than 600 educational institutions in more than 30 countries of the world. Unicheck integrates with the most popular LMSs, including Google Classroom, Canvas, Blackboard and Moodle, can be applied to most systems via API, or used for independent checks as a standalone tool. Unicheck is a highly secure system, providing users with 128 bit encryption and applying high safety standards in its work.

18 Sets of Free to Use and Reuse Pictures and Videos

The Library of Congress is a great place to find a lot of media that is in the public domain. The only problem with finding material on the LOC's website is just that, it's often hard to find. In an attempt to begin to remedy that situation the Library of Congress has started to publish collections of free to use and reuse media.

The Library of Congress has eighteen sets of free to use and reuse images and videos. The sets are arranged thematically except for the public domain films set which seems to be just a random sampling of what is available from the National Film Registry. Each set has about twenty items. The header description above each set will lead you to a larger collection of images and videos.

Applications for Education
These sets of images and videos from the Library of Congress could be great for history students who are creating videos or other multimedia presentations. It's important to note that the images can be downloaded in a variety of sizes. Students will want to download the largest size possible for use in videos or slideshows.

Create Custom Typing Tests With This Google Sheets Template

There are many things that can be done with Google Sheets besides just sorting and analyzing data. One of those things is creating games like word searches and Bingo or creating typing tests. The Google Sheets Add-on called Flippity includes a template that makes it easy to create your own custom typing tests. In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to create a custom typing test in Google Sheets.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

79 Math In "Real Life" Lessons

Math in Real Life is a series of 79 TED-Ed lessons and TED Talks. The "real life" context in these lessons isn't things like "how calculating percentages helps you be a frugal shopper." The "real life" context found in the videos in the Math in Real Life series is broad in nature. For example, you will find lessons about how math is used to guide ships and calculating rates of travel in space.




Applications for Education
The Math in Real Life series of TED-Ed videos, like most TED-Ed videos, could make nice extensions to your classroom instruction.

NASA Kids' Club - Fun Games for Learning About Space

NASA Kids' Club is a collection games, interactive activities, and images for students in Kindergarten through fourth grade. At the center of the NASA Kids' Club is a set of games and interactive activities arranged on five skill levels. The activities range from simple things like guessing numbers in "Airplane High Low" to more difficult tasks like identifying planets based on some clues provided in prompts in "Go to the Head of the Solar System."

Applications for Education
NASA Kids' Club offers a teachers' section in which each of the Kids' Club activities is outlined with alignment to NCTM and Common Core standards.

Youngzine - Great Current Events Resource

Youngzine is an excellent resource for anyone who needs ideas for current events lessons in an elementary school or middle school classroom.

Youngzine articles feature a mix of news, sports, and entertainment stories for elementary school students. A new edition is published weekly. Most articles on Youngzine are accompanied by a supporting video. Articles that reference locations include a map so that students can quickly identify the setting for a story. All articles are accompanied by critical thinking prompts for students. Those prompts can be used in Youngzine online classrooms created by teachers.

In Youngzine online classrooms you can assign articles for your students to read, ask them to respond to articles and discussion prompts, and view their scores on the Youngzine weekly quiz.

Applications for Education
Elementary school and middle school teachers looking for current events materials that will suit their students' reading abilities will find Youngzine to be a great resource. In addition to the classroom blog option featured above, Youngzine also offers students the option to contribute their own reporting to the site through the U-Write section of the site. Students can sign-up individually to contribute to Youngzine's U-Write section or a teacher can register his or her entire class.