Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where I'm still groggy from all of the turkey I ate on Thursday. It's either that or my coffee hasn't kicked in this morning. Like many parents of young children I try get up an hour before my kids do in order to get a quiet moment for coffee and writing a blog post or two. I hope that all of you also get a quiet moment for coffee or other beverage this weekend. 

Every Saturday I take a look at the analytics for Free Technology for Teachers and put together a list of the most read posts of the last week. Take a look and see if there's anything interesting that you missed during the week. 

Professional Development Opportunities 
Through Practical Ed Tech I'm currently offering two on-demand learning opportunities: 
Thank you for your support! 
  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course or webinar this year. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • Pixton EDU is a great tool for creating comics and storyboards. 
  • Wakelet is a great tool for making collections of resources, recording video, and more!
  • GAT Labs offers a great, free guide to using Google Workspaces in online classrooms.  
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 31,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of edtech tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for thirteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • And if you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.

Inexpensive Equipment to Improve Online Meetings

I usually don't write about hardware because it doesn't fall under the banner of "free." However, I've been asked about this topic a lot this year so I thought I'd cover it. 

The last nine months have put most of us in front of a webcam more than ever before. Which is why I've had more questions about webcams and microphones in this year than in the previous twelve years combined. One of the things that I've been telling people when they ask about webcams is to first make sure you have good lighting around you. Good lighting can make you look good on even an average webcam. Likewise, a good microphone can make a world a difference in the quality of your online meeting hosting experience and your students' viewing experience. 

The lighting set-up that I use in my home office consists of three inexpensive gardening lights positioned over head and one small ring light positioned in front of me just above my webcam. The ring that I've been using is fine, but lately I've noticed that it's not quite as bright as it was when I got it a few years ago. Therefore, I jumped on a "Black Friday" deal and ordered this 10" ring light with a tripod from Amazon. 

The microphones that I've used and recommended for years are Blue Snowball microphones. I own two of them and have lugged them all around the globe to use in workshops. Unfortunately, they've become so popular that they are hardly ever in stock these days. My school tried to buy some at the start of the year and couldn't. Instead, we ended up getting these Fifine microphones and they've been fine but I still like my Blue Snowball better. Either one is a great improvement over using the built-in microphone on a laptop. Speaking of built-in microphones, when you show videos in Zoom be sure to change the sound input settings to pick up the computer sounds instead of just the microphone sounds. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

How to Create Online Word Games to Share With Your Students

On Wednesday morning I looked out my window and watched the snow start to cover the rock wall in my backyard. Doing that made me think about my kids making snowmen which in turn reminded me of the snowman word game template offered by Flippity

Flippity's Snowman word game is a game in students have to correctly guess the letters of a word in order to prevent their snowmen from melting. The template lets you make your own variation on the game with words and hints of your choosing. Your game can be shared with students via its assigned URL. Students don't need accounts in order to play the games that you create. 

Here's an overview of how to create your own online word games by using Flippity's Snowman template

An Easy Way to Find 360 Videos to Use VR Headsets

Last week Google announced that June 2021 would be the end of the Google Expeditions app. I published a short list of alternatives to Google Expeditions. One of those alternatives was to simply use YouTube's search refinement tool to find 360 videos to view in your Google Cardboard or other virtual reality headsets. If you're not sure how that works, watch my short video on how to find 360 videos on YouTube

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Join Us Next Week - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff

Usually, at this time on Thursday afternoon I join Rushton Hurley for our live webinar series titled Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. But since today's a holiday we're taking the week off from the webinar. We'll be back next week at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT and we'd love to have you join us. It's a fun and free half-hour webinar in which we answer all kinds of questions and share some neat things that we've found on the web.