Google
 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Goo.gl Is Being Shut Down - 5 Alternatives

Thanks to a Tweet from Tony Vincent I learned that Google announced the impending closure of the Goo.gl URL shortening service. It has been a good URL shortening tool for years, but not the most popular service because you couldn't customize your shortened URL. That's why I've always preferred to use Bitly.com to shorten URLs. If you find yourself looking for a new URL shortener, take a look at these options.

As mentioned above, Bitly.com is my preferred URL shortening tool. With a free Bitly account you can customize your shortened URLs into things that is easy to remember and type rather than just using the randomly-generated default URL. With a free account you can also track the number of clicks that your link receives.

TinyURL might be the most recognized name among URL shortening services. It has been around since 2002 and is used by millions of people. It's a simple and reliable service. Like Bitly, TinyURL lets you customize your shortened URL.

Many of my Tweets contain links shortened by Ow.ly. That's because I use Hootsuite for a lot of my Twitter activity. Ow.ly used to be a stand-alone service. It is now included within free Hootsuite accounts. If you're primary use for shortened URLs is sharing on social media, then Ow.ly via Hootsuite is a good option. Otherwise, Bitly and TinyURL are quicker and easier to use.

Share bundles of links in one shortened URL.
LinkBunch is a free service that you can use to quickly send a group of links to your friends, colleagues, and students. To use the service just visit LinkBunch, enter the links that you want to share, and click "Bunch." When you click on "Bunch" you will be given a URL to share with anyone you want to see the links in your bunch. When someone clicks on the URL for your Bunch he or she will be able to open the links you bunched together.

FatURL is a handy little tool to use when you need to share a group of links to someone. To share a group of links through FatURL just copy and paste or type URLs into the bundle box. You can add comments to each link. After creating your bundle hit the share button to send it.

Quickly Summarize Long Articles With SummarizeThis

SummarizeThis is a free tool that will quickly create a summary of long passages of text. To use SummarizeThis you just copy and paste text into the summary box and click "summarize." A summary of the text then appears above the original text that you copied.

Applications for Education
I included SummarizeThis in my recent search strategies webinar. There are often times when students won't look at a PDF or Word document that pops-up in search results because they think that the article will take too long to read or because they don't see a particular keyword in the beginning of the article. By using SummarizeThis students can save time by getting a sense of what a long article is about before reading the whole thing in detail.

How to Generate Random Story Starters In Google Sheets

Flippity offers great Google Sheets templates that can be used for all kinds of things from random name selection to progress tracking to generating random story starters. Flippity's Mix & Match template can be used to create image-based and text-based random story starters. Watch my video that is embedded below to learn how to use Flippity's Mix & Match template.


Applications for Education
One of the things that I like about the Mix & Match template compared to other story starter templates is that you can give students as much or as little prompting as you like. For example, you can create a story starter that has an image prompt for just the introduction and conclusion thereby leaving students to come up with their own ideas for the body of the story. Or you could give them just a conclusion prompt in text form which would then make them responsible for generating their own ideas for the rest of the story. The story starter options are almost limitless when you use Flippity's Mix & Match template.

Learn more ways to use Google Sheets in my online course, G Suite for Teachers.

Food, Timers, and Search - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine from where the wind is howling and the sun has not yet risen. Why am I up so early on a weekend? Because I have two little kids and this is the quietest time of the day. It's perfect for drinking coffee and writing things like this week's week-in-review post.

This week I hosted a Practical Ed Tech webinar all about search strategies for students. 60 of you attended and a few more have watched the recording that is now available here. This week Apple hosted a big event in Chicago to reveal some of their updated and new products. All of those announcements are summarized here. Take a look at the following list to see what else was popular on Free Technology for Teachers this week.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 5 TED-Ed Lessons About How the Food We Eat Affects Our Bodies
2. Free Timer Templates for PowerPoint Presentations
3. Seven Good Resources to Help Students Learn the Periodic Table
4. Three Mistakes Students Make In Online Research
5. Everything That Apple Announced Yesterday - In Under Three Minutes
6. 5 Good Story Starters for Students
7. The Basics of Creating a Quiz in Google Forms

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

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

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
MySimpleShow offers a great way to create animated videos for free.
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
QuickKey provides an efficient way to conduct online and in-person formative assessments.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Vintage Travel Posters, Advertisements, and Films

In my post about Seward's Folly I included the image of a vintage advertisement for an Alaskan cruise on Canadian Pacific. That poster came from the Boston Public Library's Flickr collection of vintage travel posters. Most of the images in that collection are either in the public domain or have a Creative Commons license allowing for re-use with attribution.

Viintage (yes, two "i"s) is another source of vintage travel advertisements, posters, and postcards. Viintage features collections of vintage posters, postcards, and various printed advertisements that have been released into the public domain. Viintage hosts thousands images organized into dozens of categories like vintage travel postersclassic alphabet learning books, and vintage nursery rhymes images.

The Travel Film Archive is a collection of hundreds of travel films recorded between 1900 and 1970. The films were originally recorded to promote various places around the world as tourist destinations. In the archives you will find films about US National Parks, cities across the globe, and cultural events from around the world. The videos are available on The Travel Film Archive website and on YouTube.

Applications for Education
Some of theses travel posters and films could be good for students to use in presentations about the history and or appeal of various places around the world. Many of the posters could be used as part of a lesson on advertising methods (endorsement, appeal to emotions, etc) as well as lessons on the evolution of graphic designs.

Seward's Folly Lesson Plan


Thanks to this Tweet from the Library of Congress I was reminded that today in 1867 was the day that the United States purchased Alaska from Russia. At the time it was referred to as Seward's Folly. The discovery of gold thirty years later changed that perception.

The Library of Congress offers a free lesson plan that asks high school students to evaluate primary sources from the American and Russian perspectives in 1867. The lesson plan includes links to suggested primary sources. Students who need some guidance evaluating the primary sources included in the lesson plan will be aided by the LOC's Primary Source Analysis template. After they evaluate the primary sources, students have to use evidence to make an argument for or against the purchase.

Applications for Education
To extend the lesson plan offered by the Library of Congress, ask your students to evaluate whether or not a transaction like Seward's Folly would be possible today.

Image credit: Alaska via Canadian Pacific. Taku Glacier. Boston Public Library, Print Department.

This Periodic Table Shows Elements By Country and Date of Discovery

On Tuesday morning I shared a collection of seven good resources to help students learn the Periodic Table of Elements. The next day Open Culture shared this periodic table visualization that shows the country and year in which each element was discovered.

The Periodic Table by country and date of discovery

(If you cannot see the image it is because your network is blocking imgur which hosts the image).

The visualization is based on this Wikipedia hosted Timeline of Chemical Element Discoveries. You want to double-check the accuracy or have students look for points of contention surrounding some of the claims.

In Case You Missed It - Ten Search Strategies Students Need To Know

Yesterday 60 people joined my live presentation of my Practical Ed Tech webinar titled Ten Search Strategies Students Need To Know. More than a few of you have inquired about accessing the recording. It is now possible to access the recordings and handouts through this registration page.

Some of the highlights of the webinar include:

  • The types of searches that give students the most trouble and why they are so difficult.
  • How to get students beyond the first pages of Google results.
  • The search tools students often overlook.
  • Why search isn’t just typing or speaking into a search engine.
  • How to plan a search lesson for students of all ages.
Access the webinar recording and handouts through this registration page

If you're wondering why I charge for the Practical Ed Tech webinars, please watch this short video

Thursday, March 29, 2018

5 Good Story Starters for Students

On Tuesday morning I shared the idea of using the Story Dice apps (available for iOS and Android) as writing prompts or story starters for students. A few of you wrote to me and asked about similar options that will work on Chromebooks. Here is a handful of story starter options that will work in your web browser on a Chromebook or any other laptop.

StoryToolz offer a nice collection of useful tools for writers. Writers who are struggling to come up with ideas for fiction stories will like the story starters featured on StoryToolz. StoryToolz has three tools that you can use to get story ideas; Random Conflicts, Half Title Generator, and Story Idea Generator. To use any of these three tools just select the tool from the main menu then look at the randomly generated idea. If you don't like the options, run the tool again until you get options that you like.

Make Beliefs Comix is an excellent service that offers comic strip templates and writing prompts in seven languages. The templates and prompts can be completed online or you can print them out to give to your students. One of the great offerings from Make Beliefs Comix is a free ebook called Something to Write About (link opens a PDF). The free ebook contains dozens of writing prompts. Students can write in the ebook online and print their work. Alternatively, you can print all or part of the book to give to students.

Scholastic Story Starters is a great tool that students will enjoy using to create short, creative fiction stories. Scholastic Story Starters offers four story themes; fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, and scrambler. To create a story on Story Starters a students picks a theme, enter his or her name, chooses his or her grade, and spins the big wheels of prompts. The student can spin the wheels until he or she finds a prompt he or she likes. After the prompt is selected the student can write his or her story using the letter, postcard, notebook, or newspaper format provided by Scholastic Story Starters.

Flippity offers a template called Mix & Match. Mix & Match lets you create an online grid featuring random bits of information or random phrases that you write into your spreadsheet. You enter the information that students see into a spreadsheet arranged in columns with headings of your choosing. When students view your Mix & Match page they can then hide parts of the page's display to create sentences. See the demo here or look at the screenshot below for a visual.

Speaking of Flippity, they also offer a Mad Libs template that you can use in Google Sheets. Watch the following video to see how to create Mad Libs activities through Google Sheets.

NoteStreaming 101 - What You Need To Know To Get Started

Earlier today on Twitter I posted a question about notebooks. Specifically, I wanted to know who still uses physical notebooks and, if so, if there is a preference for lined or unlined paper. By the way, I use a notebook with unlined paper and I draw with a Uniball Signo 207.


One of the many responses to my Tweet came from Dr. Tom Grissom. I've followed Tom's work for almost as long as I've been writing this blog. He replied with a link to his video in which he introduces viewers to the concepts of notestreaming. In the video he demonstrates how he uses OneNote, Microsoft Forms, and OBS Recorder to create notestreams. It's a great concept that, when applied correctly, could be very helpful in providing students with video content to supplement course instruction. Watch Tom's video as embedded below or jump to his OneNote notebook of resources which includes this introductory video.

Free Webinar - Behind the Scenes at Common Craft

When it comes to producing clear explanations of tricky topics, no one is better than Lee and Sachi LeFever at Common Craft. Their videos, featuring paper cutouts and flat white backgrounds, have helped millions of people understand topics like RSS, copyright, cyberbullying, and much more. In fact, their style has come to be known as "the Common Craft style" and has been used by teachers and students to create videos of their own.

On April 11th Lee and Sachi are hosting a free webinar titled How We Produce Common Craft Videos. In the webinar you'll see how they make videos from start to finish. There will be opportunity for Q&A with Lee too. They hosted a similar webinar last summer and it was excellent. I'll be joining this webinar and you should too. Click here to register for How We Produce Common Craft Videos.

If you're not sure what a Common Craft video looks like, watch this one embedded below.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Basics of Creating a Quiz in Google Forms

Years ago I published a slideshow that demonstrated how to create a quiz in Google Forms. Even though that slideshow is now outdated, I still get requests for copies of it. To replace that slideshow I made the following video that demonstrates how to create a quiz in the current version of Google Forms.


Take my online course to learn everything you need to know to feel comfortable using Google Forms and all parts of G Suite for Education in your classroom.

Pixabay Videos - How Have I Been Overlooking This?

Thanks to Anthony St. Jean last night I learned that Pixabay hosts public domain videos that you can download for free. It's an option that is right on the front page of Pixabay and I've just overlooked it. To find public domain videos on Pixabay just select the "video" option from the menu on the homepage. The videos that you find through Pixabay can be downloaded as MP4 files in standard or high resolution.


On a related note, visit Dig CC Mixter if you need music for a video project. And take a look at these options for free images to use in your multimedia projects.

Everything That Apple Announced Yesterday - In Under Three Minutes

In case you missed it yesterday, Apple had a big marketing education event in Chicago. MacRumors made this video to summarize all of the things that Apple announced during the event.


As with any shiny new hardware or new software, I always ask:

  • How can it be used?
  • Does it enable students to do things they couldn't do before?
  • Is this the best option for my students?
I'm thinking about those questions today and I'll publish my thoughts a bit later. 

Three Search Tools Students Often Overlook

Google is the default search engine for many students. In fact, if your students have Chromebooks and the school has set Google as the default search engine, they may not even realize that there are search engines other than Google. Here are three search tools that students often overlook.

Bing
Sure this seems obvious and possibly redundant to Google, it's not. Search the same terms on both Bing and Google and you'll find some overlap, particularly on the first page of results, but as you dive deeper you'll find different results. You can compare Bing and Google results on the same page right here.

Google Scholar
Google Scholar serves results that are quite different than what you'll find on Google.com or Bing.com. Google Scholar is focused on academic articles rather than commercial results. Many of the results will lead to databases that require a subscription for access. The good news is that your school library or community library may have a subscription that will grant you access to those databases.

Subscription Databases
As mentioned above, your school library or community library probably has a subscription to one or more databases that you couldn't otherwise access. Talk your librarian about which databases are available to you and your students.

Learn more about search strategies students need to know in tomorrow's Practical Ed Tech webinar Ten Search Strategies Students Need To Know

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

How to Create Animations With ABCya Animate

ABCya Animate is a free tool that students can use to create animations. It can be a great tool for elementary school and middle school students to use to create animations to use to tell a short story. For example, in my demonstration video the animation I started to make could be used as part of a larger story about marine life or ocean ecosystems. To complete the story I would need to add some more drawings and perhaps some text for clarification. Your students might also use short animations as part of larger multimedia project. Watch my demonstration video embedded below to learn more about how to use ABCya Animate.


Three more free animation tools were featured in this Practical Ed Tech post.

Story Dice - Roll the Dice to Get a Story Starter

Story Dice is the name of two different, but similar apps that can be used to generate creative writing prompts.

Story Dice for iOS is a free app that lets you select up to ten dice from four story categories. The dice feature pictures that are intended to prompt you to write about them or include them in a story. You can roll the dice by shaking your iPad or by just tapping the roll icon. Want to write your own Star Wars fan fiction? Story Dice has a Star Wars category.

Story Dice for Android is made by a different developer than the app with the same name for iPads. Story Dice for Android displays nine dice in a grid. Tap the dice to roll them and get a set of pictures to use as story prompts.

Applications for Education
The thing that I like about both of these apps is that you can use them in almost any classroom in which students need a little inspiration for writing a fiction story. Because the prompts are image-based, you don't have to worry about students not knowing the definition of a word and therefore not getting the benefit of the story prompt.

Seven Good Resources to Help Students Learn the Periodic Table

Learning the periodic table of the elements is not one of my fondest memories of high school, but it was a necessary experience to get through chemistry. My classmates and I memorized  all of the elements, at least temporarily, by using flashcards to drill each other. Today, students have more options at their disposal. Here are seven good resources to help students learn the periodic table of elements.

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.

The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words is an interactive site that shows students how each element is used or is present in familiar products. When students click on an element in the interactive display an image of a familiar product or object appears along with a description of the element and its characteristics. For example, if you click on aluminum an image of airplane appears along with a description of aluminum, its uses, and its characteristics.


The Periodic Table of Comic Books is a project of the chemistry department at the University of Kentucky. The idea is that for every element in the Periodic Table of Elements there is a comic book reference. Clicking on an element in the periodic table displayed on the homepage will take visitors to a list and images of comic book references to that particular element. After looking at the comic book reference if visitors want more information about a particular element they can find it by using the provided link to Web Elements.

The Periodic Table of Videos is produced by The University of Nottingham. The table features a video demonstration of the characteristics of each element in the table. Each element in the Periodic Table displayed on the home page is linked to a video. The videos are hosted on YouTube, but don't worry The University of Nottingham provides an alternative server through which you should be able to view the videos.

The Elements is an interactive periodic table on which students can click an element and learn about that element. Clicking on an element describes all of the element's properties and the common uses of that element. If students just need a snap shot of information, simply placing their cursor on an element reveals a snap shot of information at the top of the page.

ABPI Schools offers an online game in which students have to use their knowledge of the elements in order to correctly place them into a blank table. Students are scored according to time and accuracy. A penalty time is added for each incorrect attempt. The game is available in three difficulty levels. 

Finally, AsapScience has released an updated version of the Periodic Table Song. Watch the music video here

Three Mistakes Students Make In Online Research

Whether it's a simple question or a complex research task, the first thing students do is turn to Google for help. They might type a query into a Google search or, increasingly, they'll speak their query into Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri. That practice in itself can be a mistake. Here are three other mistakes that students often make when conducting research online.

1. Not asking the most qualified person for help!
Your school probably employs a teacher-librarian. He or she is there to help students utilize many different research techniques and many different databases. In many cases your school has access to materials and databases that cannot be accessed through just a generic Google search. So encourage your students to ask the teacher-librarian for help.

2. Not thinking about how other people think.
It is easy for students to fall into the trap of thinking about a topic in only the way that they describe it or how you've described it to them. Students should take some time to think about the similar words and phrases that other people might use to describe a topic.

3. Only looking on web pages or not opening files.
Google, Bing, and other commercial search engines tend to serve up HTML webpages as the first results. Occasionally, you'll find a PDF or Word document mixed in there too. If they never search for specific file types, students are potentially missing out on some great information. For example, if the topic is related to geography or geology, they might find a lot of value in refining the search to return only KML and KMZ files.

To learn more about search strategies that students should employ, join me on Thursday for a Practical Ed Tech webinar called Ten Search Strategies Students Need To Know.

Monday, March 26, 2018

5 Brainstorming Warm-up Activities

Ethos3 is a presentation design company that has worked with some of the biggest name brands in the world. The Ethos3 Slideshare channel is a good place to get some inspiration and tips for designing your own slideshows. One of those slideshows is Wake Up Brain! In the slideshow you'll find five warm-up activities that can be done at the start of almost any brainstorming session.



Applications for Education
Whether you're brainstorming with colleagues to craft a new mission statement for your school or you're brainstorming creative story ideas with your middle school students, the warm-up activities in this slideshow can help you get the ball rolling.

Chrome Tablets And Cheaper iPads Are Worthless!

Now that I have your attention with that clickbait headline, I have some thoughts to share about the new Chrome OS tablet that Google announced today and some thoughts about Apple's "education event" that is happening tomorrow. Watch my video to hear my thoughts about both of these topics.


Can't see the video or don't want to watch it?
Here's the one sentence summary, Chrome OS tablets and cheaper iPads are worthless unless your school invests time and money in professional development.

This TED-Ed Lesson Is Full of ...!

Why Isn't the World Covered In Poop? is the latest video lesson published by TED-Ed. With a title like that, how could you not be curious enough to spend five minutes watching the video? And that's exactly what I just did.

Why Isn't the World Covered In Poop? is really a lesson about dung beetles and the role that they play in the ecosystem. In the lesson students learn how many types of dung beetles exist in the world, where they exist, and how dung beetles help reduce greenhouse gasses. And as a bonus, you can pick up a cheesy middle school-appropriate joke from watching the video.



This TED-Ed lesson reminded me of one the most-pinned resources ever featured on FreeTech4Teachers.com. Who Pooped? is an interactive site in which students learn about various animals by guessing which animal created which pile of poop. Believe it or not, there is actually some good information about the animals that follows each round of guessing who created which poop. Cows are one of the that animals you can learn about on Who Pooped? (give the site some time to load in order to view all features).

One of the Biggest Violators of YouTube's TOS Changes Its Tune

As I shared in a post earlier this month, downloading videos from YouTube via a third party tool is a violation of YouTube's terms of service (TOS). Despite that fact there are many teachers who do attempt to use third party tools to download YouTube videos. One of the most popular of those tools, KeepVid recently changed its tune. KeepVid no longer supports downloading videos from YouTube, Vimeo or other video sharing sites where the terms of service don't allow it. A visit to KeepVid today will just give you a bunch of information about why you shouldn't download videos illegally.

The new information on the KeepVid homepage strikes me as being hastily thrown together to comply with a legal request. But that's purely my speculation based on many years of filing DMCA take-down notices and dealing with the legalese of an online business.

If you'd like to learn more about copyright issues as they relate to classrooms, watch this free webinar that Beth Holland and I hosted late last year.



H/T to Make Use Of for the update on KeepVid. 

This Looks Like a Great Hands-on PD Experience

FireWorks is an educational program, sponsored in part by the U.S. Forest Service, designed to teach students about the science of wildfires. This morning I received an email about a free two day professional development workshop centered around the FireWorks educational curriculum. The hands-on workshop is in Missoula, Montana this June. It appears to be open to anyone who is interested in using the FireWorks curriculum.

You should note that the FireWorks curriculum is region-specific. The material is focused on on the Northern Rocky, Northern Cascades, and Sierra Nevada regions.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Making and Understanding Paper Airplanes

Making and Understanding Paper Planes is a short video that was produced by students for Next Vista's Creative Flight video contest. Like a lot of the videos hosted on Next Vista, this video is a good example of students producing a video to teach a short lesson. In the video the students demonstrate how to make a good paper airplane. They also explain the basic physics of paper airplane flight.


Next Vista is one of the places that I recommend publishing videos that students make in your classroom.

If you're interested in learning more about classroom video projects, check out 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom

Saturday, March 24, 2018

5 TED-Ed Lessons About How the Food We Eat Affects Our Bodies

This morning while my daughter was napping I went down the rabbit hole of YouTube related videos. It started out as a simple search for some new cycling workout videos and ended up with this TED-Ed lesson about carbohydrates. That lesson goes nicely with some other TED-Ed lessons that I have bookmarked about how the foods we eat affect our bodies.

How Sugar Affects the Brain is a TED-Ed lesson through which students learn why sugary foods and beverages can become addictive and how the human body processes sugar. The video is embedded below.


How Do Carbohydrates Impact Your Health? teaches students the basics of what carbohydrates are, the types of foods that are rich in carbohydrates, and how the human body processes carbohydrates.


What's the Big Deal With Gluten? is a lesson that teaches students what gluten is and where it is found. The lesson also addresses why some people are allergic to gluten and why some people just think they're allergic to gluten.


How the Food You Eat Affects Your Gut is a TED-Ed lesson through which students can learn about the gut microbiome that helps your body maintain its immune system and the best foods to maintain a healthy gut microbiome.


How the Food You Eat Affects Your Brain takes a look at the composition of the human brain and the foods that have an impact on how the brain functions. Like the lesson about gut health, this lesson includes a list of the foods that can have a positive impact on your brain's function.

Zanifesto - Nice Infographic Design Templates

A couple of weeks ago I shared the Cool Infographics list of tools for making infographics. In that list of tools I found a new-to-me tool called Zanifesto.

Zanifesto is a free infographic creation tool. I tried it out this week to see if I could make a good looking infographic. I almost successful in that endeavor. Zanifesto has excellent templates for making infographics. The shortcoming of the service is that it wasn't all that easy to edit the templates. For example, in the template that I selected there was one element that I wanted to resize and slightly shift its position. That seems like it should be easy, but after many tries I got frustrated and just deleted it altogether. Changing fonts was almost as frustrating.

If you're looking for inspiration for an infographic, Zanifesto is useful for that purpose. I would look at the templates for inspiration and then use something else like Canva or even Google Drawings to make my infographic.

STEM, Music, and Spring - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where spring is in the air and lots of snow is still on the ground. Some of my favorite days of the year happen now when there's still snow on the ground but it's warm enough during the day to have fun in the sun. In fact, that's what I did yesterday afternoon when I snapped this picture at Sunday River and tagged it #happyplacefound. And when my youngest daughter wakes up from her nap we'll go for a walk to see how the woods are starting to come alive with signs of spring. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you get some refreshing time outside too.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Free Hands-on STEM Lesson Plans and Projects
2. How to Find Free Music for Classroom Projects
3. Scratchwork.io - A Video Whiteboard for Math Students
4. Create Your Own Typing Games
5. Now You Can Add a Custom Favicon to Your Google Site
6. Take a Look at This Year's Explore.org Wildlife Cams
7. ZapSplat - Thousands of Free Sound Effects

Help Your Students Conduct Better Web Searches!
Next week I'm hosting a Practical Ed Tech webinar titled 10 Search Strategies Students Need To Know. I offered this webinar three times last year and it sold out every time. Click here to learn more and register today.

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.

Teaching History With Technology
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. My popular Teaching History With Technology Course is on sale right now!


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, March 23, 2018

Stop Making Videos While Driving

YouTube and Facebook are filled with people publishing selfie videos that were recorded while driving. I don't know why this type of video is popular. I do know that every time I see one I think about how dangerous that is. Tom Scott visited the University of Iowa's National Advanced Driving Simulator to find out how dangerous it is to talk to a camera while driving. Watch his video to find out what happens when you record a selfie video while driving.


Applications for Education
Please share this video with the teenage drivers in your life. If nothing else, show them the last minute of the video.

On a related note, Gauging Your Distraction is an excellent online game that show students how difficult it is to navigate traffic while reading and replying to text messages.

Video - An Overview of How to Find & Keep Track of Free Audio Files

Over the last couple weeks I've published a series of posts featuring free sources of audio files that you can download for re-use in your multimedia projects. In the following video I provide an overview of three places to find free audio files. In the video I show how to find files on each of the services. I also included a demonstration on how to keep track of the attribution information that you need to publish when you re-use the files.


How to Share Kahoot Challenges Through Remind

This week Kahoot announced an integration with the Remind messaging service. This integration lets you send your Kahoot Challenges (games for students to play at home) to your students and their parents through the Remind messaging service. In the following video I demonstrate how to send your Kahoot Challenges through the Remind messaging service.

Use a Whiteboard in Skype Interviews

Skype Interviews is a free Microsoft service that was developed for employers to use to interview potential employees. It was specifically designed with coders and programmers in mind as there is a code editor component that lets candidates display their skills in realtime. Yesterday, Microsoft added a whiteboard to Skype Interviews.

The whiteboard in Skype Interviews allows you to draw on and share a virtual whiteboard while in your call. You can also type on the whiteboard. A few pre-made shapes are also available to add to your whiteboard to create a flowchart.

Applications for Education
Skype Interviews was obviously designed for use in a business setting, but it is open to anyone who wants to use it (you do need a Skype account). I could see it being a great option for remote tutoring.

To clarify, Skype Interviews is a different product than the Skype you may be familiar with. Skype Interviews launches in your Chrome or Edge web browser. You have to give people a link to join your call as opposed to calling you directly via Skype contacts. The other person or people joining your Skype Interview call don't need to have Skype accounts because they can just click the link that you send to them and then sign-in as a guest.

Longer and Better Searches - Strategies Students Need to Know

Too often our students don’t get beyond the first few pages of search results before declaring, “Google has nothing about this!” Why? Because the average time spent on a search is just 1 minute! And the average search term only has three words!*

Next week I am hosting a Practical Ed Tech webinar that will help you help your students become better web researchers. In Ten Search Strategies Students Need To Know you will learn why informational searches are the hardest types of Internet searches for students to conduct. You will learn how to help students break-down complex search topics into manageable pieces and then put the whole picture together. You’ll learn how to help your students save students tons of time by thinking before searching. And you’ll learn how to develop instructional search challenge activities to use with students of any age.

When?
Thursday, March 29th at 4pm Eastern Time. The webinar will be recorded for those who register but cannot attend the live session. Your $20 registration includes the live webinar, unlimited access to the recording, handouts, and a PD certificate.

This webinar sold out every time it was offered last year!

Click here to register today!


*Source: Moz – The State of Searcher Behavior.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

5 Online Collaborative Whiteboard Services

An online, collaborative, whiteboard can be a great tool for hosting a quick review session for your students. Your students can also use these tools to conduct online study sessions with each other. Yes,  this could be done with something like Skype, but having a built-in whiteboard is particularly useful when having a review session on a topic in math or science. Here are five free online whiteboard tools to try.

WebRoom is a free service for hosting online meetings. WebRoom doesn't require you to download any software and you don't need to register in order to use it. WebRoom lets you use your webcam if you want people to see your face during the meeting. A whiteboard space is provided. You can draw on the whiteboard or upload a file to share and discuss on the whiteboard. A text chat space is provided in each WebRoom meeting. It is possible to share your screen with other meeting participants. However, to share your screen you will need to install the WebRoom Chrome extension.


Know Lounge is a free platform that will let you create a live broadcast from your laptop. Know Lounge includes a whiteboard that you can draw on and share with your audience. Students can ask you question by writing them into a chat box. Additionally, you can allow students to use their webcams to ask you questions during your broadcast.



Stoodle is a free online collaborative whiteboard tool hosted by CK12. On Stoodle you can create a whiteboard space and invite others to use it with you. Registration is not required in order to use Stoodle. Stoodle has voice and text chat options, but it does not have a video chat option. In the video embedded below I demonstrate the features of Stoodle.



Draw Chat is a free service that allows anyone to create a video chat over a whiteboard, PDF, image, or map. To use Draw Chat you just have to visit the site and click "Start New Whiteboard." Once your whiteboard launches you will have the option to enable access to your webcam and microphone. You can have people join your whiteboard video conference by sending them the link assigned to your whiteboard.Draw Chat allows you to draw or type on a shared whiteboard. Additionally, you can upload a PDF or an image to annotate on the whiteboard. A fourth option for drawing on Draw Chat is to import the URL for a Google Map and draw on that map.

Scratchwork is an online whiteboard and video conferencing tool designed with math students in mind. The platform works like many similar services as it provides you with a whiteboard on which you can draw, type, and import images to annotate. Scratchwork is a little different than other services because it includes a Latex editor for writing equations. Scratchwork also offers an option to draw on a tablet and import those drawings. The collaboration aspect of Scratchwork comes into the picture when you activate the video conferencing component built into Scratchwork. Scratchwork's free plan has a limit of four boards and three collaborators.

Kahoot Now Lets You Share Games Through Remind

Last fall Kahoot released a new feature called "Challenges" that are review games your students can play at home or anytime they are outside of your classroom. That feature has proven to be popular. Today, Kahoot announced a new integration with Remind that will make it easier than ever to send Kahoot Challenges to your students and their parents.

Now when you create Kahoot Challenge you can distribute it through Remind. The Remind option is in addition to the existing Google Classroom distribution option. Watch the following video to learn how to distribute a Kahoot Challenge through Remind.

Quizalize Announces a Game Design Competition for Students

Quizalize is one of my favorite services for creating and running review games for your students to play in your classroom or at home. Now they want students to get in on the game design fun. For the next five weeks Quizalize is accepting submissions to their Design-A-Game competition.

The Design-A-Game competition asks students to draw and write a description of a team review game to play on the Quizalize platform. Students don't have to actually build the game, they just need to create a drawing and write a description of how they envision the game to be played. Winners will be chosen from states and countries around the world. Winners will receive $200 cash for themselves and $250 for their schools. Winners of the first round move on to the final judging round where an overall winner will be selected. The overall winner will have his or her design turned into an actual game on the Quizalize platform. View the complete entry requirements here.

If you have never tried Quizalize, watch my video to see how it works.

Picture Dictionary and Custom Colors Added to Immersive Reader

Microsoft's Immersive Reader just might be my favorite accessibility tool. This free add-in for Word, OneNote, Outlook, and Edge enables students to have articles read aloud to them at pace that meets their needs. Additionally, Immersive Reader will identify individual syllables, highlight each word as it is read, and identify parts of speech for students.

Yesterday, Microsoft announced the addition of two great updates to Immersive Reader. First, Immersive Reader now includes a picture dictionary. Second, Immersive Reader now lets you customize the colors that are used to highlight the parts of speech in a document.

The new picture dictionary in Immersive Reader enables students to click on a word in a document and have a picture appear. Furthermore, students can click on a single word and have it read aloud while viewing the related picture.

Students and teachers can now apply custom colors to the parts of speech highlighted by Immersive Reader. This means that one student could have nouns highlighted in blue while another student has nouns highlighted in green. The benefit of custom colors is that students and teachers pick the color schemes that work best for them.

These updates to Immersive Reader are rolling out now. Click here to read Microsoft's full support details regarding Immersive Reader.

In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate Microsoft's Immersive Reader in action.

Click here if you cannot see the video.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Notion - A Project Management and Reference Wiki

Notion is an interesting service that combines elements of project management with elements of a wiki service. At its core Notion is designed for teams to work on projects together. You can create sections for each of your projects. Within each section you can create a list of tasks. Notion also lets you add sections that include links, videos, images, and documents that you have written outside of the service. Of course, you can write directly on a page in your Notion account too.

You can register for Notion with a Google account or you can create an account by using any email address and password of your choosing. Notion works in your web browser as well as in dedicated desktop apps for Windows and Mac. An iOS app is available too. Once you've created an account you can invite people to join your Notion page(s).

Notion's free plan limits you to 600 "blocks." A block is defined as a piece of content that you add to your account.

Applications for Education
Notion could be a good tool for high school or college students who are working together on long-term projects. Students could build reference pages together that they then consult in writing a paper or preparing a presentation. The task lists component of Notion could help divided and keep track of the responsibilities of each group member.

Scratchwork.io - A Video Whiteboard for Math Students

Scratchwork is a new online whiteboard and video conferencing tool designed with math students in mind. The platform works like many similar services as it provides you with a whiteboard on which you can draw, type, and import images to annotate. Scratchwork is a little different than other services because it includes a Latex editor for writing equations. Scratchwork also offers an option to draw on a tablet and import those drawings. The collaboration aspect of Scratchwork comes into the picture when you activate the video conferencing component built into Scratchwork.

Scratchwork's free plan has a limit of four boards and three collaborators.

Applications for Education
Scratchwork is advertised as a tool for math students and teachers. It could be used for science or any other subject in which drawing a diagram is an important part of instruction.

Draw Chat - Free Video Conferencing With a Whiteboard

Draw Chat is a free service that allows anyone to create a video chat over a whiteboard, PDF, image, or map. To use Draw Chat you just have to visit the site and click "Start New Whiteboard." Once your whiteboard launches you will have the option to enable access to your webcam and microphone. You can have people join your whiteboard video conference by sending them the link assigned to your whiteboard.

Draw Chat allows you to draw or type on a shared whiteboard. Additionally, you can upload a PDF or an image to annotate on the whiteboard. A fourth option for drawing on Draw Chat is to import the URL for a Google Map and draw on that map.

Applications for Education
Draw Chat could be a good service for students to use for remote tutoring. It could also be useful to students to have remote meetings to plan a presentation or edit a project outline.

One of the odd things about Draw Chat is that you're randomly assigned a username in the video and text chat rather than getting to choose something obvious like "Richard." Those randomly assigned usernames could be a source of confusion unless you use the video conferencing aspect of Draw Chat.

ZapSplat - Thousands of Free Sound Effects

ZapSplat is a website that offers more than 20,000 sound effects and songs that you can download and re-use for free. The licensing that ZapSplat uses is quite clear. As long as you cite ZapSplat, you can use the sound effects and music in your videos, podcasts, and other multimedia projects.

ZapSplat does require you to create an account in order to download the MP3 and WAV files that it hosts. Once you have created an account you can download as many files as you like. ZapSplat does offer a "Gold" account. The benefit of a Gold account is that you don't have to cite ZapSplat and access to an expanded library of sounds.

Applications for Education
ZapSplat could be a good resource to bookmark for the next time your students need a sound effect to use in a video or podcast. On ZapSplat they'll find typical sounds like a doorbell ringing and a dog barking. ZapSplat also provides some unique sound effects and recordings like a pilot speaking to passengers and alien creatures eating.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

ABCya! Offers 24 Tutorials for Fun Hands-on Projects

ABCya! is best known for its huge collection of educational games like these typing games. This evening I went directly to ABCya's homepage where I noticed that they now offer a collection of how-to videos.

ABCya's video page includes twenty-four instructional videos that teach you how to complete fun craft projects like making slime, creating origami unicorns, and making finger puppets. The videos are only available on the ABCya! website and not available to embed into other sites or blogs.

Applications for Education
I'd consider using the finger puppets how-to video to help students make puppets to use in puppet show about a topic in social studies lesson. For example, years ago I had some students make a puppet show about the concept of puppet governments.

ABCya's craft how-to videos could be useful to teachers of after-school programs who are looking for some hands-on projects to do with elementary school students.

ICYMI - 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom

Last week over on PracticalEdTech.com I hosted a webinar titled 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom. Nearly 100 teachers joined that live webinar. If you missed it, the recording of the webinar and all of the associated handouts are now available on-demand. Register to access the recording today and your access to the recording never expires so that you can go back and review it whenever you like as often as you like.

Teaching History With Technology
For the rest of this week my popular Teaching History With Technology course is on sale for $20 off. I recently redesigned the format of the course to make it possible for you to complete the course as quickly or slowly as you like. Each lesson includes tutorial videos, handouts, and suggested classroom activities. A professional development certificate is available to those who complete the course. Click here to get started.

A Hands-on Science Lesson for the Spring

When I was in Kindergarten we grew marigolds in Styrofoam cups and took them home in spring (probably for Mother's Day, but my mother will have to confirm that detail). I was reminded of that little project when I watched a new SciShow Kids video. Earlier today SciShow Kids published a video titled Grow Your Own Potatoes. The video explains what potatoes are and how they grow. And, as the title implies, the video provides directions for growing potatoes in a classroom or at home.

How to Find Free Music for Classroom Projects

Dig CC Mixter is a good place to find music for use in classroom projects like videos and podcasts. The music that you will find on Dig CC Mixter is Creative Commons licensed. And, as I demonstrate in the following video, Dig CC Mixter makes it very easy to give proper attribution to the artists whose music you use.


Dig CC Mixter is one of the resources that I recommend in my on-demand webinar 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom.