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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Science and Games - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on the month of February. As I do at the end of every month I've compiled a list of the most popular posts of the month. This month the bulk of the most popular posts were related to science and or games. Take a look at the list below and see if your favorite resource topped the list. Or take a look at the list to discover something new to you.

Here are February's most popular posts:
1. Ptable - Interactive Periodic Table of Elements
2. If You Teach Science, You Need Science Netlinks
3. 16 Videos About the Science of Winter Olympics Sports
4. Newspaper Templates for Google Docs & Word
5. Use Google Sheets to Create Online Bingo Boards With Pictures
6. A Large Collection of Virtual Chemistry Labs and Lessons
7. Free Hands-on STEM Lesson Plans and Projects
8. My Favorite Screencasting Tool Now Works on Chromebooks
9. 10 Good Resources for Math Teachers and Students
10. 5 Observations Students Can Record With Google's Science Journal App

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences and worked with schools from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 20 to 2,000+. My keynotes and workshops focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. 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.

Ten Ideas for Classroom Podcasts

On Sunday I published a video that shows how quickly and easily you can create a podcast on Anchor.fm. If you watched the video and you're ready to get started, your next step is probably to generate ideas for your classroom podcast. Here are ten ideas that I brainstormed to help you and your students get your classroom podcast rolling.

1. Get to know the people who keep your school running.
Every school has staff members that students see but don't know who they are. This could be members of the maintenance staff, secretaries, tech staff, or cafeteria staff. All of those people have important roles in your school and often have interesting stories to share, if they're asked. Have students record short interviews with those people. (By the way, the Great Questions Generator from StoryCorps is good place to find some interview questions).

2. Meteorology podcast
Creating and recording weather forecasts could be a good activity for a science class or as an extension of a science lesson. Depending upon where you live, you might have students make predictions on weather-related school closings or delays.

3. Local news reports and commentary
Record podcasts about local news. Students can share some headlines then share their thoughts about the news. This is could be a good alternative to the classic "current events Fridays" that happen in many social studies classrooms.

4. School news
Publish a weekly podcast about what's happening in your school. You might have students interview some other students for their commentary on things happening around your school.

5. Interviews with parents
Make your own classroom version of StoryCorps by having students interview their parents. StoryCorps has great suggestions for questions to ask parents.

6. Book reviews
Have students record their thoughts about a favorite book or about a book that they read but didn't love.

7. Sports statistics debates
Don't just let students debate who the best athletes or teams are, have them incorporate some statistical analysis.

8. Old time radio show
Let students practice their creative writing skills by scripting and then recording an old time radio show like those their great-grandparents might have listened to. The Internet Archive has a nice collection of those old shows that could serve as a model for your students' productions.

9. "Car Talk"
Speaking of radio shows, one of my all-time favorites is NPR's Car Talk. I'm not suggesting that students give out car repair advice, although some vocational schools might consider that possibility, but they could use the concept of a call-in show to answer questions about topics that they're passionate about. I can envision some students using this concept to make a podcast about Minecraft or other favorite games.

10. Weekly update/ reflections.
Are your students working on a long-term research project? Have them document that process through a weekly podcast about what they've learned.

If you're looking for a microphone to use to record your podcasts, it is hard to beat the Snowball iCE  (affiliate link). I have two of them that I've used for years on Mac, Windows, and Chromebooks without fail. They're easy to set-up, just plug them into your computer with the provided USB cord and you're good to go. 

Aquation - A Game for Learning About Global Access to Clean Water

Aquation is a free game offered by the the Smithsonian Science Education Center. The game, designed for students in upper elementary school or middle school, teaches students about the distribution of clean water and what can be done to balance global water resources. In the game students select a region to explore its current water supplies. Based on the information provided students take action in the form of building desalination plants, conducting further research, reacting to natural events, and attempting to move water between regions.

Aquation is available to play on Android devices, on iOS devices, and in your web browser (web browser requires Unity plugin).

Applications for Education
Aquation isn't a fast-paced game so it probably won't grab your students' attention when they open it. But if you can push through the initial "blah" reaction from your students, the game contains some valuable lessons about the global distribution of freshwater resources and the challenges that face the regions that have less than others.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Why February is Shorter Than Every Other Month

Tomorrow is the last day of February. Some students may wonder why February is only 28 days while all other months are 30 or 31 days. It's Okay To Be Smart has the answer to that question in the following video.


Of course, every four years February has 29 days. The following videos can help students understand why we have a leap year every four years.


Reshot - A New Source of Free Images for Multimedia Projects

Reshot is a new site that offers free "handpicked" images that you can download to reuse in multimedia projects. The site, like many like it, lets you download images for free. According to Reshot's licensing statement, image attribution isn't required, but it is appreciated. To that end Reshot makes it easy to find and copy the correct image attribution information. Watch my video to see how easy it is to use Reshot.


Applications for Education
I always encourage students and teachers to use their own pictures in their multimedia projects. Doing that is the sure way to avoid any doubt about usage rights. When it isn't possible for students to use their own pictures, sites like Reshot provide a good way for students to find images that they can use. Here's a list of some of my favorite places to find public domain media.

How to Create a Podcast

Last week Anchor.fm launched a new and improved site that makes it easy for anyone to create and publish a podcast. I liked the redesigned site so much that I featured it as my tip of the week in the Practical Ed Tech newsletter. If you're not subscribed to that newsletter or you are and you haven't seen it yet, here's the video that was featured in the newsletter. In this video I demonstrate how anyone can create and publish podcast in six minutes or less.


Applications for Education
As I mentioned in the video, not only can you record directly on Anchor.fm you can also upload MP3 recordings that you have made in other programs like Garage Band, Audacity, or even Vocaroo. Using the upload option could be a great choice for classroom podcasts in which students record episodes and then you upload them to one account that you manage on behalf of the whole class.

Solve Me Puzzles - Play or Create Math Puzzles

Solve Me Puzzles is a free site provided by the nonprofit Education Development Center. The site offers free math puzzles for students to play and templates for teachers to use to create math puzzles.

Solve Me Puzzles features three basic puzzle types. The Who Am I? puzzles feature a little robot character that students identify by correctly solving word problems like "my value is even, my value is greater than six, my value is less than ten." The Mystery Grid puzzles have students slide numbers into a grid to correctly complete the patterns that are started in the grid presented to them. The Mobiles puzzles ask students to enter the correct values to balance a virtual mobile.

Applications for Education
All of the Solve Me Puzzles can be used as templates for creating your own puzzles. To create a puzzle simply choose "build" instead of "play" after you select a puzzle on the Solve Me Puzzles home screen. You will need to create an account on the site in order to save your work.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Truss Me - Design and Test Weight-bearing Structures

Truss Me is an app that students can use to design and test simple weight-bearing structures. Truss Me can be used in “challenge” mode or in “free play” mode. The challenge mode contains fifteen activities in which students are awarded points for strength and efficiency of their structures. For example, if a structure holds the weight but uses too many parts it doesn’t receive as many points as a structure using fewer parts while supporting the same weight. Structures that won’t work at all fall apart.


Applications for Education
Truss Me is a nice app that could be used as part of a simple physics lesson. I would like to see the app offer more instruction to students in terms of why a particular structure design is better or worse than another.

Truss Me is free on Android devices, but is $1.99 on iPads.

Rocket Science 101 - Build and Launch Virtual Rockets

Rocket Science 101 is a free app offered by NASA that helps students understand how rockets work. The app also helps students understand the differences between the four types of rockets most frequently used by NASA. In Rocket Science 101 students can build all four rockets in a jigsaw-like activity then virtually launch their rockets. When the rockets are launched students see the timing of each stage of the launch from surface to orbit.

After playing with the four types of rockets students can try their hands at matching rockets to real NASA missions. In the challenges students read about a NASA mission then have to select the rocket that can carry the payload and travel the distance required to complete the mission.

Rocket Science 101 is available as a free Android app and as a free iPad app

Applications for Education
Rocket Science 101 could be a good app for students in grades five through eight to use to begin to understand some basic physics concepts associated with space exploration.

Everything I've Learned About Making Money Through Blogging Is In This Course

Over the years Free Technology for Teachers, Practical Ed Tech, and my other websites morphed from a hobby to a full-time job. Along the way I made plenty of mistakes and I have had some great successes. But one thing that I always say when people ask me for advice about how to make money through blogging is that just like trying to improve your fitness, you have to make time to work on it consistently. Once you have that habit mastered, the rest starts to fall into place. If you're interested in learning how to earn some income from your blog and you're ready to consistently work on it, my From Blog to Job course is for you.

This course is on sale only until Wednesday!

In this on-demand course I’ll help you develop a plan for building an online presence through which you can earn money.
  • You’ll learn how to avoid “running out of ideas” for blog posts, podcasts, and videos. 
  • You’ll see how to create engaging content. 
  • You’ll learn why social media is important, but I’d still rather have 1,000 email subscribers than 10,000 Twitter followers.
  • You'll learn how I narrowly avoided a $500,000 mistake.
Any questions that you’ve ever wanted to ask about making money through blogs and social media will be answered for you in this course.
  • Where should I host my blog/ my podcast/ my videos? 
  • How much should I charge for advertising, for speaking, for consultation? 
  • How do people know I’m available? 
  • Should I create an LLC? 

Ancient Rome 101 and Life as a Roman Teenager

National Geographic has a great series of YouTube videos called National Geographic 101. The most recent addition to that series is Ancient Rome 101. The video provides an excellent introduction to the origin, rise, and fall of the Roman Empire. The length and substance of the video makes it an ideal candidate for inclusion in an EDpuzzle lesson.


TED-Ed has a good lesson that you can use as a follow-up to Ancient Rome 101. A Glimpse of Teenage Life in Ancient Rome is a TED-Ed lesson developed by Ray Laurence from the University of Kent. The video and its associated questions feature the story of seventeen year old Lucius Popidius Secundus.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Ptable - Interactive Periodic Table of Elements

There are lots of websites offering interactive or dynamic periodic tables. One that has been around for many years now is Ptable. Ptable is an interactive display of the Periodic Table of Elements. Place your mouse pointer over an element to access the basic information about it. Click on an element to open a Wikipedia article about that element. The article opens within a dialogue box within Ptable so that you don't have to leave the site and then come back to use the table again.

Applications for Education
Ptable is not going to revolutionize the way that students learn the Periodic Table, but it is another example of making academic information more accessible than in the past. Students don't need to lug around a big chemistry text when they can simply access resources like Ptable to get much of the same information from their Internet-connected devices.

My Top Six Sources of Public Domain Media

One of the questions that readers ask me on regular basis is, "where can I find images that my students can use in their projects?" Less frequently, but still fairly often I'm asked the same question about audio and video clips. In fact, I just answered those questions again on Friday. Therefore, I've made an updated list of my top sources of public domain media.

Public Domain Images
For years Pixabay has been my go-to source of public domain images. But lately I've started to shift toward Unsplash as my first place to search for public domain images. Unsplash offers a huge library of images that are either in the public domain or have a Creative Common license. Unsplash's layout is a little less confusing for new users than Pixabay's layout is. That combined with Unsplash's Google Slides Add-on is why I've been using it more than Pixabay lately.

Pixabay is still a great place to find and download quality public domain images. You can search on Pixabay by using keywords or you can simply browse through the library of images. When you find an image you can download it in the size that suits your needs. Registered users do not have to enter a captcha code to download images. Users who do not register can download images, but they do have to enter a captcha code before downloading each picture. There is a safe search mode in Pixabay that you should use in classroom settings.



Public Domain Videos
The Internet Archive is the first place that comes to mind when I am asked for a source of Public Domain media. The Moving Image Archive within the Internet Archive is an index of more than 1.7 million video clips. Most of what you will find in the Moving Image Archive can be downloaded in a variety of file formats. You can search the archive by keyword or browse through the many categories and thematic collections in the archive. One important thing to note about the Internet Archive is that you probably don't want students to search it without supervision. In fact, I'd probably just create a folder of footage from archive that I share with my students.

The Public Domain Review is a website that features collections of images, books, essays, audio recordings, and films that are in the public domain. Choose any of the collections to search for materials according to date, style, genre, and rights. Directions for downloading and saving media is included along with each collection of media.

Public Domain Audio
The Free Music Archive provides free, high-quality, music in a wide range of genres. The content on Free Music Archive is used under various creative commons licenses and some public domain licensing. FMA seeks to maintain a high-quality resource through the use of selected curators who approve or deny all submissions to the collection. Anyone can download music from FMA for use in podcasts, videos, and other digital presentation formats. The music collections can be searched by genre or by curator.

Sound Bible is a resource for finding and downloading free sound clips, sound effects, and sound bites. All of the sounds on Sound Bible are either public domain or labeled with a Creative Commons license. You can find sounds for use in podcasts, videos, slideshows, or other multimedia creations.

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.