Friday, November 30, 2012

Cargo Bot - An iPad Game About Logic

Cargo Bot is a fun and challenging game that students can play to learn some principles of logic and programming. The object of the game is to program a robot to complete increasingly complex sequences of tasks. Students start out by programming the robot to move one box from point A to point B. After successfully programming the robot students are advanced to programming more complex tasks like a repeating loop of movements and staggered movements.
A program gone wrong!

Applications for Education 
Cargo Bot is a free iPad game that could be used by students in elementary school and middle school. Playing Cargo Bot could be a good way for students to develop their skills in logical thinking. Students who get stuck on a level can click the "hints" button to get a little bit of help programming the robot.


November's Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Morrison and his toy duck.
Good evening from the Free Technology for Teachers world headquarters in Greenwood, Maine. The days are shorter and colder, but the blog posts just keep on coming. Typing keeps me warm. It's the end of November and as I do every month I have put together a list of the most frequently read posts of the month.

Here are this month's most popular posts:
1. Google+ Added to Google Apps for Education
2. Handy New Ways to Organize Files in Google Drive
3. Teenage Life in Ancient Rome
4. Google Documents and Common Core Standards
5. 10 Google Search Tips All Students Can Use
6. 26 iBooks Author How-to Videos
7. Create Your iPad Games on Tiny Tap
8. Discover Great Apps on Apps Gone Free
9. Read & Write - An Accessibility App for Google Docs
10. 6 Apps Students Can Use to Quickly Create Audio Recordings

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
Send Hub offers an excellent service for sending group text messages to parents.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
If you aren't subscribed you can join more than 52,000 others who do subscribe via these links.
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter, on Google+, or on Pinterest.

Are you looking for a keynote speaker or workshop facilitator?
Click here for information on what I can do for you.

Take a Narrated Tour of the Solar System

3D Solar System Web is a neat website that I discovered through the Chrome web store. 3D Solar System Web features a narrated tour of the solar system beginning at the sun and working out through all of the planets. The tour explains the classifications of each planet, how long it takes each planet to orbit the sun, and each planet's unique features.

Applications for Education
In addition to the narrated tour of the solar system 3D Solar System Web gives visitors the option to manually zoom through the solar system. Clicking on a planet's name in the menu will reveal some basic information about it. 3D Solar System Web could be a good place for students to find some introductory or review information about the solar system.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

NASA Kids' Club - Games and More for K-4

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

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

VoiceThread - One of My All-Time Favorite Tools

This afternoon after my Best of the Web presentation at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference I had a nice conversation with a a teacher who was looking for a way to have her students collaboratively create a presentation about their favorite apps. My suggestion was to try VoiceThread. On VoiceThread her students could upload a screenshot of their favorite apps, explain what the apps do, why they like the apps, and ask each other questions about their favorite apps. My suggestion was just one of dozens of ways that VoiceThread can be used in classrooms.

VoiceThread has been around for over five years now and it is still one of my favorite tools. If you've never tried it, watch the VoiceThread below to learn how it works and what you can do with it.

VoiceThread's free option limits you to having three projects in your account at a time. The education version gives you much more space and the option to manage student accounts requires a subscription plan at $79/year. I've always just deleted projects when I'm done with them in order to stay under the free account cap.

60 of the Best Websites and Apps for Teachers

Today, at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference in Manchester, New Hampshire I gave my Best of the Web presentation to a packed room. This is my most requested presentation wherever I go. Today, I rolled out my latest updates to the presentation. With the exception of seven or eight items everything shared in the slides is something that I used for the first time in 2012. The slides are embedded below.

How to Search Gmail by Attachment Size and Date

Yesterday, I shared the Gmail+1 "hack." Today, I have another handy Gmail trick for you. In Gmail you can search for attachments by date and by file size. So if you can't remember who sent you an attachment try these tips demonstrated in the Tekzilla video embedded below.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Differences Between Projects and Project Based Learning

Amy Mayer recently published a nice chart that breaks down the differences between "doing projects" and "project based learning." The chart, which you can get in its entirety from Amy's blog, does a nice job of breaking down the differences between these two commonly and incorrectly interchanged terms. Amy published the chart using Google Drive and you can get a copy to save in your Google Drive account if you visit Amy's blog.
This is a cropped image of the chart. The actual chart is much longer. 

5 Years and 52,000 Subscribers Later...

Image Source
This post is straight out of the navel gazing department.

Five years ago today Free Technology for Teachers got started with this post. When I started I didn't really know what I was doing, I was just trying to write about neat things that I was finding and trying out. Five years and nearly 7,000 posts later I know a little more about blogging and I'm still having fun finding and trying neat things that can be used in classrooms.

When I started this blog on November 28, 2007 I had no idea or vision that someday more than 52,000 people would be subscribed to my blog. For the first few months it was only family (thanks Mom) and some colleagues that were reading my blog (thanks Walter). Slowly more people started reading in the early days and I'm still connected with and appreciate those early supporters like Harold Shaw, Skip Z, Jeff & Dan at Wicked Decent Learning, and Jim & Jim & Jim at MLTI (only one of the Jims is still with MLTI fulltime). Slowly the blog grew from that early group to what it is now. Every person that has subscribed to the blog, shared posts, connected with me on Twitter, and said hello at conferences has made writing this blog a truly awesome experience. Thank you!

And I just renewed the domain (and a bunch of associated domains) yesterday so I'm going to keep writing for another year. I hope that you'll keep learning with me.

Image Credit: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Will Clayton:

How to Create PDFs in Google Drive in Three Steps

This morning I received a question from a reader who wanted to know if it is possible to create PDFs in Google Documents and if so how can it be done. I figured that if one person is asking there are probably others who would also like to know the answer to that question. The answer is yes, you can create PDFs in Google Documents and the directions for doing it are provided in the screenshots below.

Shameless promotion: I'll be covering a lot of these kind of questions and more in my new webinar series Google Drive and the Common Core.

Step 1:
Click image to enlarge.

Step 2:
Click image to enlarge.

Step 3:
Click image to enlarge.

Gmail+1 = Student Email Addresses to Register for Online Services

The Gmail+1"hack" isn't a new trick and I can't remember when I first tried it, but it still works and it still provides a solution to a problem that a lot of teachers run into when they want their students to use a new web tool. Let's say there's a new service that I want my students to use but my students don't have email addresses that they can use to register for that service. In that case I can quickly generate Gmail addresses for my students by using the Gmail+1 hack.

Here's how the Gmail+1 hack works:
1. Create a new Gmail account just for your class. Example
2. Issue email addresses to students as follows,
3. Gmail overrides the "1" and "2" at the end of the mrbyrnesclass and sends all emails to the inbox at however almost all other services that require an email for registration will recognize as distinct from
4. Students can use the "+1" emails to register for services, but I get to see all of the emails coming and going.
5. Because of #4 above I may have to confirm all of my students' registrations on a new service.

1. I don't believe that this hack is endorsed by Google. I have been corrected on that.
2. This hack doesn't work on every service so your mileage may vary.
3. Don't give students the password to the class email address (in the example above I would not give students the password to because if they have it they could all send and receive email from the account. The passwords that they choose on  the services that they register for should all be unique and they should not share them with each other.

Collaboratively Comment on PDFs with Marqueed

Back in July I tried out a service called Marqueed that allows users to create and discuss collections of images. This morning I gave the service another look and discovered that you can also use it to share an comment on PDF files. Using Marqueed you can highlight and draw on images as well as PDFs.

Applications for Education
Marqueed could be used to have your students read and comment on a primary source document that you have in PDF form. You could also use Marqueed to upload an image of a diagram and ask your students to label it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Insert Google Drive Files Into Your Gmail Messages

If you're a person who like me uses Gmail for the bulk of your email, Google has just made an announcement that you're sure to like. Now you can add a Google Drive file to your Gmail messages without leaving the Gmail message composer. Now next to the attachment icon you will see a Google Drive icon. Click that icon to add a Google Drive file to your email message. Files added to messages can be up to 10MB 10GB (thank you Harry and others for correcting my mistake) in size.

This new feature only works with the latest version of the Gmail message composer so you will have to accept the update if you haven't already done so.  According to Google's announcement this feature is being rolled out over a few days. And in my quick test this afternoon, this feature hasn't been enabled for Google Apps for Domains yet.

On a shameless promotion note, you can learn about many more Google Drive features in my new online course Google Drive and the Common Core.

Create Trading Cards for Historical and Fictional Characters - The Web Version

Yesterday, I wrote a post about Read Write Think's Trading Cards iPad App. That post got reTweeted like crazy and this morning I had a couple of people ask if there is a version of the app that can be used on a computer. The answer to that question is yes.

Read Write Think's Trading Card Creator on the web offers the same creation features that are found in the iPad app. This morning I used the web version of the Trading Card Creator to create an Abraham Lincoln trading card. To create the card I found a public domain image of Lincoln, uploaded it to the template provided by RWT, and completed the fields that asked for information about Lincoln's life. When my card was completed I was able to download it to my computer. I could have also emailed it to myself or to a friend.

Applications for Education
Just like with the iPad app students can use the RWT Trading Card Creator on the Web to create a set of trading cards about characters in a novel, to create a set of cards about people of historical significance, or to create cards about places that they're studying in their geography lessons. If your classroom has a mix of iPads and computers all students can complete the same assignment because the app and the web version offer the same creation features.

Muzy Offers a Neat Way to Blog With Pictures

Muzy is a neat blogging service that offers a neat way to blog with pictures and text. Muzy offers more than two dozen apps for manipulating and displaying your pictures. If you don't have pictures that you want to share you can use the integrated image search to find images to write about and share. Beyond the picture apps Muzy offers text apps that you can use for writing short blog entries. Everything that you create becomes a part of your Muzy blog. Additionally, you can share all of your Muzy creations on Twitter and Facebook.

When you first visit the Muzy website you'll see a pop-up box asking you to sign-in with a Facebook account. If you close that box you can register for the service without using your Facebook account. You can create new posts on the Muzy website, with the Muzy iOS app, and with the Muzy Android app.

Applications for Education
Muzy's integrated image search could be used by students to create a collage of images about a place, person, or event that they're studying. Students could also use the Muzy "thoughts" app to write short blog entries.

Muzy's T.O.S. requires users to be 13 or older. There is a public gallery of posts and while I didn't see anything in appropriate when I browsed through it, I suppose that there is potential for things that you wouldn't want elementary school students to browse through.

Thanks to Jim George for sharing Muzy on Twitter.

myHomework Helps Students Keep Track of Assignments

myHomework is a free app that students can use on the web on iPads, on  iPhones, on Android devices, and on Windows 8 devices to keep track of their school schedules and assignment due dates. myHomework syncs students' schedules and assignments across all of the devices that they use.

On myHomework students can enter their course schedules in day and time format (example: History meets at 10am Monday) or in a block schedule format (example: History meets during block 1 every other day).  Assignments that students enter into myHomework can be assigned a level of priority in addition to the due date and the assignment description.

I tried myHomework on my iPad and one of my older Android tablets that is running Honeycomb (Android 3.0) and it worked fine. That said there are some comments in the Google Play store suggesting that myHomework may not be fully updated for Jellybean (Android 4.0+).

Applications for Education
If you're looking for one schedule and homework reminder service that you can recommend to all of your students regardless of which mobile operating system they use, myHomework is worth trying out.

Woven Together - An Interactive Story About Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest

Woven Together is an interactive story that students can work through to learn about the history and culture of the Nuu-chah-nulth people of the Pacific Northwest. As students move through the story they can click on the Nuu-chah-nulth words to hear them pronounced and to read their definitions. The story is arranged in seven parts based on images associated with the history and culture of the Nuu-chah-nulth people. After finishing the story students can find directions for trying their hands at weaving (with supervision of course).

Applications for Education
Woven Together could be a good interactive resource to use in elementary school or middle school lessons about the traditions and history of various groups of Native Americans. Woven History's inclusion of audio files that play the words makes it useful for introducing students to some new words. 

I learned about Woven Together in Larry Ferlazzo's list of sites for International Day of the Indigenous People.

The U.S. Electoral Compass

The U.S. Electoral Compass is an interactive infographic from The Guardian. The infographic breaks down which political policy issues are most important to the people of each state. Select a state from the list and the compass will show you a list of which issues are discussed most frequently in news articles and in social media in that state. You can get data for every week from July 2 through November 12, 2012.

Applications for Education
The U.S. Electoral Compass could be a good source of conversation and research starters in a social studies class. You could have students discuss and research why some issues are more important in their state than they are in another.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Aesop's Fables on the Web, iPad, and Android

One of the neat resources that I just plucked from Open Culture's new collection of K-12 resources is the Aesop's Fables interactive book from the Library of Congress. The book is available to read on the Web, on an iPad, and on an Android device. The book contains more than 140 of Aesop's Fables for children. The level of interactivity varies widely depending upon which story you're reading. Some of the stories have truly interactive animations while other simply have a small moving picture accompanying the fable.

Applications for Education
Installing the iPad app or Android app could be great ways to put these classic tales on your students' mobile devices. The iPad app installs quickly just like any other iPad app does. The Android app does not install from the Google Play store. Instead of downloading it from Google Play you have to install it directly from the Library of Congress website.

200+ Free Video Lessons, Apps, and eBooks for K-12

One of my favorite blogs, Open Culture, has long cataloged free and open resources for post-secondary education. Today, they launched a new collection of more than 200 free video lessons, apps, ebooks, and websites for K-12 students and teachers. The collection includes some of the usual suspects like Khan Academy, the Library of Congress, and NASA. The collection also includes some items that were new to me like this Shakespeare app and this Google Earth for science teachers resource.

Applications for Education
Open Culture's collection of K-12 resources is sure to continue to grow. The collection is arranged according to content area which should make it easy to find something that is new and applicable to your classroom.

Create Trading Cards for Historical and Fictional People, Places, and Events

Through one of Tony Vincent's Tweets I learned about a wonderful free iPad app from Read Write Think. Read Write Think Trading Cards allows students to create trading cards about people, places, and events both real and fictional. I used the app to create a trading card about Winston Churchill. To create my Winston Churchill trading card I simply selected "real person" from the list of trading card options, uploaded a picture of Winston Churchill that I found on the web, and then filled in the details that the trading card template asked for. My completed trading card can be shared via email, printed, or saved to my iPad's camera roll.

Applications for Education
Some of the ways that the Read Write Think Trading Card app could be used by students is to create a set of trading cards about characters in a novel, to create a set of cards about people of historical significance, or to create cards about places that they're studying in their geography lessons. 

Wunderlist - To-do Lists Synced Across All Devices

Wunderlist is a free task management service that syncs across all of the devices that you use. If you're like me and you use an iPad, an Android phone, and the web throughout your day you'll appreciate that Wunderlist works the same way on all platforms.

Creating task lists in Wunderlist is an intuitive process. Just click the "new list" button and start typing out your list of things to do. You can create as many lists as you like within your account. You could create a list of things to do at home and things to do at school. Or you could create lists for the week, the month, and the year. You can set a due date for each task in all of your lists. All lists can be shared if you would like others to access them.

Applications for Education
As I've said in the past about task management tools, they're only good if you actually use them. Wunderlist has a clean, intuitive interface that makes it easy to use. If it's easy to use students could be more likely to make a habit of using Wunderlist to keep track of their assignments.

Khan Academy iOS App Updated for iPhone

Earlier this year Khan Academy released an iPad app that allows students to download videos to watch offline as well as sign into their accounts to track their progress on practice activities.

On Friday Khan Academy updated their iOS app to include support for accessing the Khan Academy catalog and watching the videos on your iPhone. The difference between the iPad app and the iPhone app is that on the iPhone you can only watch videos when you have an internet connection whereas the iPad app allows you to download the videos.

Applications for Education
The updated Khan Academy iOS app could be useful for students who have iPhones and need to access some videos to review a concept before a test.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

New Course - Google Drive and the Common Core

Over the last few months I have had the good fortune to introduce many educators to using Google Drive to help their students meet Common Core Standards in English Language Arts. All of those introductions have come in the form of in-person workshops. After many requests for this and after much planning I am now offering Google Drive and the Common Core as a three hour webinar series. While the webinar series is not free it is significantly less than cost of flying me to your school for the day.
Course Highlights
Creating and sharing documents, presentations, and spreadsheets.
Using Google Documents and Presentations for collaborative writing and reading exercises.
Using Google Forms and Spreadsheets for collecting and analyzing data.
Using Google Documents as a publishing platform.
Managing the flow of files in your Google Drive.
Registration is limited to 25 students per course.

This course is designed for educators who:
*Are new to using Google Drive/ Documents.
*Have previously used Google Drive/ Documents but would like a refresher course.
*Would like to learn how Google Drive/ Documents can be used to help their students meet ELA Common Core Standards.

Course Schedule
Google Drive and the Common Core is a three hour webinar series.
The December course will be taught in two 1.5 hour sessions beginning on December 6.
The January course will be taught in three 1 hour sessions beginning on January 9.
The original offerings have sold out. There is a third section now available starting on January 10. There are 5 seats available as of December 24, 2012

All students will be able to download PDFs of how-to guides, access the previous week's recorded webinar, and participate in a course discussion forum.
Registration is limited to 25 students per course.

The cost to register for either the December or January course is $87 USD per student.
Click here to register for the December course.
Click here to register for the January course. 
The original offerings have sold out. There is a third section now available starting on January 10. There are 5 seats available as of December 24, 2012

Payments can be made with a personal credit card, with a school district credit card, or with PayPal. Checks and purchase orders can be accepted however the cost of registration is $15 higher to cover additional processing associated with those payments.
Please contact me directly at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers (dot) com with questions about course registration and or payment processing.

Google Drive and Common Core Flyer

Manifest Destiny in 141 Interactive Maps

Manifest Destiny - The Story of The U.S. Told in 141 Maps is a fantastic website developed by Michael Porath. As the title implies the site features 141 interactive maps chronicling the expansion of the United States from March 1789 to August 1959. When you click on any of the maps you will see the new territories acquired in that year and month. Each map is accompanied by a brief description of how the new territories were acquired.

Applications for Education
If you're creating a wiki, a website, or an interactive ebook to supplement or replace the textbooks in your U.S. History curriculum, Manifest Destiny - The Story of The U.S. Told in 141 Maps is a resource that I highly recommend including. 

Turn Pictures Into Stories With Fotobabble

This morning I shared an old post about Fotobabble on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page. In response to that post Stewart Whitney shared his experience of using the Fotobabble iPhone app. Stewart's comment got me to try the Fotobabble iOS app.

Fotobabble is a free service that allows you to quickly turn a picture into an audio picture story. Using Fotoabble is easy, just upload an image to Fotobabble, allow Fotobabble to access your computer's microphone, and start recording your voice. You can comment on your photo, explain what's happening your photo, or tell a story related to your photo. The Fotobabble iOS app is just as easy to use as the web version of the service but with an added bonus of visual effects editing.

Applications for Education
The Fotobable iOS app could be a great app for students to use to quickly create short audio stories about pictures that they take with their iPhones and or iPads (the app isn't optimized for iPad, but it works on it). The app could be used by students to do some "on the spot" reporting during a field trip.

Over time your class could build a collection of audio captioned news images by embedding each of their Fotobabble creations on a class blog or wiki.