Saturday, April 21, 2018

Slides, Forms, and Novels - The Week in Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

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

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

Plum's Creaturizer from PBS Kids is a free iOS and Android app that lets students create fun cartoon creatures then place them into outdoor settings through the use of augmented reality. The purpose of the app is to have students learn and show how the characteristics of an animal help it thrive in its environment. In the following video I demonstrate how the app works (apologies for the background noise, I recorded this video outside to show how the AR feature works in real settings).

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

Grasshopper - Learn to Code on Your Phone

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

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

Open Explorer - Follow Along on National Geographic Expeditions

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

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

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

H/T to The Adventure Blog.

5 Ways to Improve Your Next Video

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

The bullet point version of the video:

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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Origins of the London Underground

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

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

Guides and Rulers for Google Slides

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

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

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

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

Now You Can Include Google Slides In a Google Document

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

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

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

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

Animated Map of First Foliage Appearances

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

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

H/T to Cool Infographics for the map. 

Enable These Google Forms Settings to Save Time When Making Quizzes

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

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

5 Good Resources for Teaching & Learning About Mount Everest

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

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

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

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

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

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

See What's New in Microsoft EDU

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

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

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

Google Adds New Security Features to G Suite for Education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Value of Paper In a Digital World

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

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

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

Novels on Location - A Map of Novels

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

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

Hacking a "Hacking STEM" Project

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 16, 2018

Podcast Recording and Editing Tips

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

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

How to Create a Custom Google Forms Theme

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

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

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

Find the Features of Digital Vaults in DocsTeach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

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

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

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

By Request - Life on Minimum Wage Simulation

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 14, 2018

My Go-to Tool for Making Stop Motion Movies

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

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

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

Spark, Parks, and Jeopardy - The Week in Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

National Geographic Publishes Fun Facts About All National Parks

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

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

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

H/T to The Adventure Blog

A Crash Course in Taxes

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

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

5 Good Resources for Teaching and Learning About the American Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now You Can Add Custom Links to Google Sites Navigation Bar

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

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

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

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

Jungle Jeopardy - A Game About Ecosystems

Jungle Jeopardy is an online game produced by PBS Kids for students in first through fourth grade. In the game students have to construct a small ecosystem and keep it healthy for twelve days (a day refers to one round of the game).

In Jungle Jeopardy students keep their ecosystems healthy by adding plants and animals to it to maintain a balance. Students earn points based on how healthy their ecosystems are at the end of each day. At the end of each day students receive a report on the health of their ecosystems. Based on those reports students then have to add more or less of a plant or animal for the next day. For example, in one of the rounds that I played I didn't have enough insects in my ecosystem to support the lizards that I had added into the ecosystem. In the next round I made sure to add more ants to keep my ecosystem balanced.

Applications for Education
Just playing Jungle Jeopardy could help students understand how an ecosystem needs to stay balanced. The game can also be used as part of a larger lesson plan from PBS Learning Media called Ecosystem Challenge. The free lesson plan incorporates Jungle Jeopardy and three other similar games in which students try to maintain balanced ecosystems.

5 Features of OneNote That You Won't Find in Google Keep

Earlier this year I shared that I have moved almost all of my online bookmarking and note-taking to OneNote. That's not to say that don't like Google Keep anymore, in fact, I still like and even have a whole lesson about it in my G Suite training course. In a side-by-side comparison for bookmarking and simple note-taking both tools are about the same in my eyes. But when you go beyond those basic tasks OneNote outshines Google Keep. For example, here are five things that OneNote can do that Google Keep can't.

OneNote offers pre-made templates that students can use to follow a lesson and take notes. You can also create your own templates for your students to use.  Watch my video to learn how to find templates and or create your own templates in OneNote.

Immersive Reader
Immersive Reader is a free tool that will read aloud the articles that students have in their OneNote notebooks. Immersive Reader does more than just read articles aloud. It will identify to students the nouns, verbs, and adjectives within an article. Students can also choose to have every syllable of word identified for them.

Ink to Text
OneNote has a great feature for those who like to take notes by using a stylus on a tablet. That feature is the option to have handwriting converted into text.

Video Recording
OneNote has a built-in option for recording a video with your webcam and have it saved directly in your notebook.

Screen Capture
Need to capture all or part of screen? OneNote has a built-in option for taking a screenshot and saving it directly into your notebook. Of course, you can annotate the screen capture image in OneNote by using the integrated drawing tools.

Reminder - Free Common Craft Webinar Today

Today, at 2pm Eastern Time, Lee LeFever from Common Craft is hosting a free webinar about how they make their popular explanatory videos. During the webinar Lee will show how their process from start to finish. Register here to join the free webinar.

In other Common Craft news, they released a new video this week. The new video provides an explanation of Fair Use.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

JuxtaposeJS - Create Side-by-Side Comparison Frames

JuxtaposeJS is a free tool for making and hosting side-by-side comparisons of images. The tool was designed to help people see before and after views of a location, a building, a person, or anything else that changes appearance over time. JuxtaposeJS will let you put the images into a slider frame that you can embed into a webpage where viewers can use the slider to reveal more or less of one of the images.

JuxtaposeJS is relatively easy to use. You don't need to register on the site in order to use the tool. Go to the site and click "Make a Juxtapose." That link will direct you to fill in the template with links to the two images that you want to compare (the images must be hosted online and publicly viewable). After adding your images you can add labels and credits where necessary. Click the publish button to get the embed code for your JuxtaposeJS interactive frame.

Applications for Education
JuxtaposeJS could be a great little tool for students to use to create comparisons of a place before and after a weather event. For example, a comparison of a beach before and after a major storm. Or students could use it to make comparisons of how a building like Fenway Park (my image above) has been remodeled.

An Animated Map of the Rise and Fall of Communism

The Spread of Communism is an animated map that shows the rise and fall of communism from 1917 through 2017. When you visit the map you can press the play button in the lower, right corner to play the animation. When it plays the animation highlights each country according to the year in which a communist government came to power. Play the animation long enough and you will start to see the highlights disappear as the communist governments fail.

Applications for Education
The Spread of Communism animated map a simple resource that could make a good addition to the reference sources that you share with students regarding the Cold War. The map also provides inspiration for a making a multimedia timeline on that contains maps and videos. Timeline JS is an excellent tool for that purpose. With Timeline JS students can could create a multimedia timeline to show the rise and fall of communism around the world.

H/T to Maps Mania for the animated map.

Todost - A Simple Task Management Tool

Todost is a free and simple tool for keeping track of items on your to-do list. To make a list just go to the website on your laptop or on your phone. Once at the site you can start entering your list of tasks for the day. Click the check box next to each task as you complete them and it will be crossed out. You can also completely delete an item from your list.

Todost doesn't ask for an email address, a username, or any other kind of log-in. It remembers your tasks only in your browser through the use of cookies. That means that you cannot sync your lists across multiple devices. If you want that capability, take a look at one of these five options.

Applications for Education
While Todost could be a good little tool to help kids keep track of tasks throughout the day, the real reason that I'm sharing it is found in the footer below the Todost task lists. It is in that footer that you will find a link to the code that was used in developing Todost. Click the Code Pen link in the footer to find that code. Students who are interested in learning to code could use the Todost code as the basis for making their own browser-based task management tools.

I Don't Hate TPT

Last Friday on Practical Ed Tech I published an announcement of my new webinar How to Ditch TPT & Sell Your Digital Products. Over the weekend I fielded emails from a handful of people who were defending Teachers Pay Teachers. I want to clarify that I don't hate Teachers Pay Teachers. I'm all for the idea of teachers being able to put a little more money in their pockets. Believe me, I know all too well how bringing in just another $50 can make huge difference in how you feel at the end of the month.

My concern about TPT, and the reason for the webinar, is that TPT takes too big of a cut of the revenue for themselves. I think that a lot of people don't realize that there are other easy-to-use platforms for selling your digital products that don't take a 20-45% cut of your sales revenue. That's why I'm hosting How to Ditch TPT & Sell Your Digital Products this Thursday at 4pm ET.

In the webinar I'll introduce you to three platforms that you can use to sell your digital products, five methods for marketing your products without buying advertising, and how to protect your products from piracy. I'll also answer your questions during the live webinar. Join me!

The webinar will be recorded for those who cannot attend the live session. Access to the recording will also be available to those who attend but want to be able to go back and watch it again.  

Monday, April 9, 2018

PrepFactory Offers Individualized SAT, ACT, PARCC, and SBAC Prep

Disclosure: PrepFactory is a long-time advertiser and supporter of

PrepFactory began as a free service providing SAT and ACT review videos. In 2017 they switched from video-based to interactive question-based instruction. At about the same time, they expanded their offerings to include middle school subjects. Recently, they expanded again to offer study guides for PARCC and SBAC test prep for students in grades six through ten.

What differentiates PrepFactory from run-of-the-mill test prep websites is a focus on individual student diagnostics. In the PrepFactory programs, each student is continually evaluated across all topics applicable to his or her test. The program then allows the student to skip over the content they’ve shown mastery of and it encourages students to spend extra time improving in areas they have not yet mastered.

Another nice aspect of PrepFactory is that its various interactive questions formats are  similar to the style of questions on the computer-based versions of PARCC and SBAC assessments. This familiarity in question look and feel can go a long way toward helping students relax and perform their best on test day.

Students can work through PrepFactory independently or join a virtual classroom under a teacher's account. Teacher accounts have additional features including creating assignments and monitoring student progress. Fully-featured student and teacher accounts can be created for free.

The folks at PrepFactory are always developing new features for teachers and more content for students. Look for more of both to be rolled-out later this year.

5 Ways to Use YouTube Live in School

Last week I shared how to create a live broadcast from your laptop by using YouTube's new live broadcasting option in the Chrome web browser. This afternoon I used that feature to make a live broadcast of five ideas for using YouTube live in school settings. The recording of that broadcast is available here and as embedded below.

Can't see the video or just want the talking points? Here they are:

  • Streaming morning announcements so that parents get them as well as students. 
  • Hosting live review sessions for AP and other exams. 
  • Video blogging of weekly reflections.
  • Streaming school sporting events and other live events. 
  • Streaming and recording classroom lessons. 

Publishing an Example of Copyright Infringement

Update: after filing a DMCA takedown notice, this copyright infringement issue was resolved.

Thanks to a friendly reader, I was tipped-off to the latest case of an educational technology "expert" committing an egregious copyright violation. It has been a few months since a good example like this has come across my desk. In this latest instance a gentleman named Ric Robinson running a consulting business called Tri Learning has decided to republish every blog post, including one about copyright, on his site without my permission. In this particular case the offending party hasn't responded to email, Twitter DM, or a phone call about the matter. So I'm making the most of it by publishing some reminders about copyright and blogging. (And this post will probably end up getting republished without permission by the same person).

FAQs About Copyright and Blogging

A webinar about copyright.
Beth Holland and I hosted a free webinar in which we talked about copyright concerns that frequently appear in schools. As you can see the video of the webinar (embedded below) it was a casual conversation during which we shared some stories, fielded some questions, and shed some light on common misconceptions about copyright.

Short overviews of copyright from Common Craft.
The following two videos from Common Craft provide excellent overviews of these topics.

What to do if someone steals your blog posts or pictures.

If you cannot see the videos, click here for part 1 and here for part 2.

Adobe Launches Spark for Education

Earlier this year at the BETT Show Adobe announced that they would launching a new version of Adobe Spark designed specifically for school use. That new version is finally here. Earlier today Adobe launched Spark for Education.

Spark for Education is a free service that Adobe has launched to address the concerns that schools have had about Spark since it's launch a few years ago. The biggest of those concerns being use by students under the age of 13. Spark for Education is designed for school-wide deployment (much like G Suite for Education) in a manner that is COPPA compliant. The school will be able to manage student and teacher use of Spark including access to the service itself. Additionally, Spark for Education will provide students and teachers with free access to all of premium features of Adobe Spark.

Applications for Education
From a previous post that I published about Adobe Spark, here are ten ways to use Adobe Spark.

Post is the part of the Adobe Spark that lets you create graphics like posters, announcements, and Internet memes.
  • Students and teachers can create simple posters to print and post in their schools to announce club meetings, campaigns for class elections, or to post encouraging messages to students.
  • To help students understand and show that they understand what propaganda messages look like, I have had them create simple early 20th Century-style propaganda posters of their own. Adobe Spark has built-in Creative Commons search that can help students find pictures to use for those posters. Students can also upload pictures they've found in the public domain.
  • Create a meme-style graphic to share on your classroom, library, or school website. The graphic could be intended to encourage students and parents to remind each other of an upcoming school event. You could also create a meme to encourage students to continue reading over the summer. 
As the name implies, this is the Adobe Spark tool for creating videos. Videos are created by adding text and images to slides. You can record yourself talking over each slide. A library of free music is available to layer under your narration or you can use that music in lieu of narration.

  • Create a short flipped-lesson with Adobe Spark. The recording tool makes it easy to precisely record your narration over the slides in your lesson. 
  • Have your students create video lessons. The slide aspect of Adobe Spark's video tool lends itself to students creating short Ken Burns-style documentary videos. Have them use Spark's search tool to find images to use in their videos or have them use a place Flickr's The Commons to find historical images. I've had students make this style of video to tell the stories of people moving west across the United States in the 19th Century. 
  • This is the time of year for end-of-school assemblies and celebrations. Use Adobe Spark's video creation tool to make a video of highlights of the school year. Rather than narrating the video you can use music from Adobe Spark's library. 
Page is the tool for creating simple web pages to showcase pictures, posters, videos, text, and links. 
  • Create an event invitation page. Create a page that outlines the highlights of an upcoming school event like a fundraiser or open house night. Include images of past events, images of prizes, or include a video about the event. Should you need people to register for your event, include a link to a Google Form. (Learn how to use Google Forms).
  • Create a digital portfolio. Spark pages provide a great format for digital portfolios. Students can organize their pages into sections to showcase videos they've made, documents they've written, and their reflections on what they've learned. 
  • Make a multimedia timeline. While it wasn't designed specifically for making timelines, Spark Page's formatting does lend itself to timelines. Ask your students to research a series of events, find media representative of those events, caption the events and media with dates, and then place them into the proper order.
  • Write an image-based story. Students can write a story about themselves by using pictures they've taken placed into a Spark Page. Another way to think about image-based stories is to have students search for images and use them as writing prompts. Ask them to choose five pictures and write a story that connects the images. 

Adobe Spark works in your web browser including on Chromebooks. Adobe Spark is also available as a series of iPad apps for Page, Video, and Post.