Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Most Popular Posts of the Month on Free Technology for Teachers

Good evening from sunny Maine. As I write this I'm enjoying a perfect summer evening sitting on my back deck and watching my dogs enjoy being dogs. Wherever you are I hope that you're having a great evening/night/day/morning too.

This month I had opportunities to speak to and work with teachers at Discovery's Summer Institute, at Pearson's Authentic Learning Workshop, and at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Thank you to everyone who came to one of these events. Getting to meet so many of you is the best part of traveling to conferences and schools. Thank you to everyone who has helped to make those opportunities possible, they wouldn't happen without you.

Here are this month's most popular posts:
1. MindMup - A Mind Mapping Tool That Saves to Google Drive
2. 30 Ideas for Using Chromebooks In Education
3. Six Free Alternatives to PowerPoint and Keynote
4. Free Digital Citizenship Lesson Plans for Middle School Students
5. Studies of iPad Use in Education
6. Picture Manhattan Inside the Grand Canyon
7. 11 Resume & Interview Tips for New Graduates
8. 5 Services for Creating and Sharing Audio Recordings Online
9. 500+ Political Cartoons & 100+ Editorial Cartoon Lesson Plans
10. You Shouldn't Be an Instructional Technology Coordinator If You Don't Understand This

Would you like to have me visit your school? 
Click here for information about my professional development services.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Remind 101 offers a free tool for sending text message reminders to students.
WidBook is a great platform for writing multimedia books.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
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.
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
Join more than 57,000 others who 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.

Lessons in Computational Thinking

Google offers dozens of lessons for exploring computational thinking through the use of Python programming. Now if you're wondering, "what the heck is Python programming?" don't worry, I wondered the same thing. Part of the Computational Thinking resources provided by Google are lessons for teachers who don't have any programming experience and or don't teach in a 1:1 setting.

Google's Computational Thinking Lessons place a heavy emphasis on math and science, but there lessons appropriate for use in the humanities too. This lesson on Finding Patterns in Spelling Errors and History is designed for use with middle school and high school students and is aligned to Common Core Standards.

Applications for Education
As Google states in their Teacher's Guide Introduction to Python, the reason for using Python programming in these lessons is, "A computer program gives students the opportunity to directly apply the algorithms they learn in class and provides them with a tangible reason for using variables rather than specific numbers in math."

A Short Explanation of the European Union

If you teach global studies, current events, geography, or anything along those lines, you've probably found yourself explaining the European Union to your students. There many many nuances to it, but if a quick primer on it is all that your students need then you might consider sharing CGP Grey's  video The European Union Explained. As is typical of CGP Grey's videos this is a fast-paced video that you'll probably need to watch a couple of times in order to catch everything that he says.

While we're in the neighborhood it might not be a bad idea to revisit The Difference Between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England.

North Korea Explained in Four Minutes

This afternoon I spent some time jumping from one interesting and educational YouTube video to the next. Many of those videos will be appearing in blog posts here on Free Technology for Teachers. The first one that I want to share is North Korea: Explained. This four minute video from the Vlog Brothers answers the following questions: Is North Korea going to bomb us? Is North Korea a Threat? Is North Korea Communist? Why does North Korea Hate us?

For more background on North Korea, I also recommend The Korean "War" for Dummies produced by Keith Hughes.

Wibki - Quickly Create Personalized Start Pages

Wibki is a free service for creating personalized start pages. It's service that I think people that like iGoogle will like. (Remember, iGoogle is closing on November 1st). To create your start page with Wibki register with an email address or Facebook account. Wibki's three step tutorial will quickly guide you through the process of add your email service and social media profiles to your Wibki start page. After adding your email and social media profiles to your Wibki page you can add sections of recommended content to your page. Wibki offers a browser bookmarklet that you can also use to add any website to your Wibki page.

Applications for Education
Wibki could be a good service to use as a start page for classroom resources. I can also see students over the age of 13 using Wibki as a visual bookmarking tool.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Is Your Message Clear? Have Someone Else Animate or Illustrate It

This is a problem we all face at times; we think that we've created a great presentation or developed a great story yet it just doesn't resonate with our audience. This happens to our students too. One way to avoid this situation is to have someone else illustrate or animate what they think are the important aspects of your presentation. Think about having your students do this as an extension of a peer review activity. Here are a few tools that your students can use to create animations and illustrations:

Wideo is a service that allows anyone to create animated videos and Common Craft-style videos online. You can create an animated video on Wideo by dragging and dropping elements into place in the Wideo editor then setting the sequence of animations. Each element can be re-used as many times as you like and the timing of the animation of each image can individually adjusted. Wideo's stock elements include text, cartoons, and drawings. You can also upload your own images and audio files to use in your videos.

PowToon is a nice service for creating explanatory videos through a drag and drop process. The videos that you create feature digital paper cut-outs on a colorful background. Think of PowToon as an online tool for creating videos in the style made popular by Common Craft. PowToon provides drawings of people and objects that you can arrange on blank canvas. After adding your narration to the arrangement you can publish your video. PowToon's free version limits your videos to 45 seconds. 

Animation Desk is an iPad app (free and premium versions available) for creating short, animated videos. The app allows you to create drawings using just your finger on your iPad's screen. In the free version of the app (the version that I tried) you can create up to 50 scenes in each of your projects. In each scene you can include as little or as much as you want to draw on the canvas. There are a few different brush and pencil effects that you can use in your drawings. The opacity of the colors you choose can be altered too. When you have completed drawing all of your scenes hit the play button to watch your animation unfold. If you're happy with your animation you can export it to YouTube.

ABCya Animate is a fun new tool from ABCya (disclosure, an advertiser here). ABCya Animate allows students to create animated GIFs containing up to 100 frames. On ABCya Animate students build their animation creations by drawing, typing, and inserting images. Students can change the background of each frame, include new pictures in each frame, and change the text in each frame of their animations.

Narrable Launches New Education Plans - Create Unlimited Audio Slideshows

I have just received an exciting email from the folks at Narrable. They have launched a new plan for educators. The new plan includes free unlimited Narrables. Now to be clear, I'm not sure if this has been rolled-out to everyone yet, their email message didn't specify.

Narrable is a neat service for creating short narrated slideshows. Narrable is kind of like VoiceThread mashed with Animoto. To create an audio slideshow on Narrable start by uploading some pictures that you either want to talk about or have music played behind. After the pictures are uploaded you can record a narration for each picture through your computer's microphone or by calling into your Narrable's access phone number. You can also upload an audio recording that is stored on your computer.

Applications for Education
Narrable could be a good service for students to use to tell a short story by adding narration to pictures that they have taken or found online. Have students search for some Creative Commons licensed images arranged around topics that they're studying then record a short slideshow about them.  

Here are the details of the email I received from Narrable regarding their new education plan. 
You talked, and we listened. We’ve been hard at work implementing your suggestions and we are excited to introduce the Narrable Teacher Account!
How To Upgrade your account for FREE:
  1. Since you're logged in, click on your name in the upper right-hand corner to reveal an account overview window.
  2. Click on the blue "Upgrade" button to see the Plans and Pricing page.
  3. Find the "Teacher" account and click on the associated blue "Select Plan" button.
  4. Please enter the name of your school, the subject(s) you teach, and the grade(s) that you teach and click on the blue "Submit" button.
  5. Congratulations! Your plan is successfully changed. Click on the "Okay" button and know how grateful we are to have you as a part of the Narrable EDU Community.
You now have FREE UNLIMITED narrables!
If you have any trouble along the way, simple click on the "Support" tab on the left side of your browser window and let us know how we can help. Don't worry - you're a part of the Narrable community now. We won't leave you stranded.

Exploring Flipboard Magazines On the Web

Since June Flipboard has made it possible for people to collaboratively create digital magazines on their iPads, Android tablets, and in their web browsers. But to read those magazines you still had to use the Flipboard iPad or Android app. Last week that changed when Flipboard announced that you can now read Flipboard magazines in your web browser. I gave it a try this morning.

Flipboard magazines in a web browser look and act much like they do on an iPad or Android tablet. In fact, if you have a touch screen laptop you probably won't notice a difference at all. In your web browser you can flip pages, expand articles, bookmark articles, and share articles to your favorite social networks. You can browse for new magazines by visiting the Flipboard community page. I recommend that teachers follow the Flipboard magazine created and curated by Vicki Davis.

Applications for Education
Collaboratively creating Flipboard magazines could be a great activity for students studying current events. Your students could share the articles that they're reading and put them into one magazine for the whole class to read.

As a professional development activity collaboratively creating Flipboard magazines could be a great way for teachers to share articles with each other. Use a few of those shared articles as the starting point for discussion during your next department meeting.

DictaNote - Speak to Create Documents

A couple of years ago I tried out a Chrome extension called Speech Recognizer. Speech Recognizer allowed users to speak to create text. Speech Recognizer has been updated and is now called DictaNote. Along with the new name came a some new features of note.

DictaNote can be used as a Chrome extension or as a stand-alone tool in your Chrome browser. As a stand-alone service DictaNote allows you to create new documents by speaking into your computer's microphone. You can edit your DictaNote documents much like you would edit them in any other word processing program. DictaNote allows you to insert images and hyperlinks too.

Applications for Education
DictaNote could be great for students who need a speech-to-text to help them create documents.

Three Responses to "But I Don't Have Time to Blog"

Earlier this month at the Authentic Learning Workshop I was asked, "what do you say to teachers who say I don't have time for a blog?" I offered a few responses and here they are:

First, don't think of blogging as something you have to do on a daily basis. Some of my favorite bloggers only publish once or twice a week. Set a goal of writing one post per week to start. Think of the activity as simply a way to document your reflections on what you tried in your classroom that week or what you're thinking about trying next week. Reflecting on what we're doing should be a part of our lives anyway. (On a personal note, I set aside uninterrupted three hours every week just for thinking and reflecting).

Second, think about a blog as a living document. You don't have to publish complete thoughts in every post. Start a thought and ask readers to join in a conversation. Spelling and grammar don't count as much as think they do. The goal is to publish not practice proof-reading. Of course, if you do see a glaring mistake you can go back and fix it.

Third, think about all of the time that you spend on activities that don't benefit you or anyone else. In a typical one hour television program you will see twelve minutes of commercials. How many television shows are in your weekly "must watch" list? Use those commercial breaks to tap away at a blog post. How much time do you spend waiting in traffic? Use an app like SoundCloud to create a mini-podcast that you later post on your blog. Or use Evernote's speech to text function to dictate part of a blog post.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lucid Chart Now Works Offline - Create Mind Maps Offline

Lucidchart is a nice tool for creating flowcharts, mindmaps, and graphic organizers. Lucidchart offers a simple drag and drop interface for creating flow charts, organizational charts, mind maps, and other types of diagrams. Google Chrome users can now use Lucidchart offline through the Lucidchart Chrome app.

Applications for Education
Lucidchart charges business customers, but makes all of their tools free for teachers and students. Watch the video below for an example of Lucidchart educational templates.

Create a Custom Start Page With OneFeed for Chrome

Google is closing iGoogle on November 1st. Some readers have already migrated to Symbaloo or MyLinkCloud as their new browser start pages. OneFeed is a new option for filling the void that will be left by the closure of iGoogle. OneFeed is a Chrome extension that uses Chrome's "new tab" page as your start page. With OneFeed installed when you open a new tab you will see a page of feeds from your favorite blogs and social networks. You can also have your Gmail inbox displayed on the start page. Learn more in the video below.

Applications for Education
OneFeed could be a good extension for students in a current events course to use to keep up with news from reliable news outlets that you and they have selected together.

H/T to Life Hacker.  

The Old Reader Announces Shut Down for All Except a Select Few

The Old Reader was one of the many Google Reader alternatives that I tested earlier this year. I liked it enough to name it one of my five favorite Google Reader alternatives. I was prompted to try it after meeting a few readers at a conference this past spring so I know that at least a few of you out there like The Old Reader too. Unfortunately, today the creators of The Old Reader announced that they are closing the service next month. They have stopped taking new registrations and next month with close the service to all except for a select group of private users (they'll notify you if you're selected). In the announcement they stated that they'd rather provide "an awesome service for 10,000 than a crappy one for 420,000."

Current users of The Old Reader can export their subscriptions as an OPML file to import and use in another RSS reader service. According to the announcement on The Old Reader blog, you will have two weeks to export your OPML file. The OPML export link is located at the bottom of the Settings page — use the top-right menu to get there.

If the closure of The Old Reader leaves you looking for a new RSS reader, take a look at this list of alternatives

H/T to The Next Web

engVid - 500+ Free English Video Lessons

engVid is a free service that has produced more than 500 video lessons to help viewers learn to speak and write English. Eight instructors are featured on engVid. The instructors use a whiteboard to explain things like when to use "everyday" or "every day" and when to use "good" or "well." Students learning to speak English can benefit from lessons on pronunciation, English slang, and common English expressions.

engVid videos are hosted on YouTube. Visit the engVid site to search for videos by topic. A sample engVid video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
My initial thought about engVid was that it would be a good resource for ELL students. As I sampled more of engVid's videos I realized that it could be a good reference site for anyone in need of a little clarity on some of the trickier aspects of writing English (myself included at times).

The Difficulty With "Best" and "Must Use" in Professional Development

We've all been in a professional development workshop in which we had to learn to use a specific instructional method or a specific website/ app/ software. The trouble with this is that despite what some education reformer activists and politicians tell us, teaching and learning can't be put into a one-size-fits-all program. This is why I enjoy trying to see as many presentations as possible when I go to a conference. When I'm at a conference I want see how other people teach the things that I sometimes teach.

If you're planning PD workshops try to include a couple of alternative tools for each activity. The tool that you love may not be loved by everyone in your workshop. The reason the tool you love may not be loved by others could be as simple as visual appeal. For example, last week at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp we spent 30-40 minutes on EduClipper. Many people liked it and ran with it quickly. There were also a few people who didn't care for EduClipper because the interface was too busy for them. So instead of trying to persist in getting those people to use EduClipper, I showed them Diigo. Diigo offered the same kind of social bookmarking experience as EduClipper, but in a format that was more visually pleasing to those who were turned off by EduClipper's layout. The "best" bookmarking service for one group of my students wasn't the same as the "best" bookmarking service for the other group.

Every week a new round of blog posts appears on the web with titles like "The Best Apps for X in School" or "10 Sites Every Teacher Must See." The problem with those posts is the same problem as trying to force everyone to use the exact same tool and method when there are other options that work just as well. It's because of that that I try to avoid using titles like that in my posts. I am guilty of writing list posts, but I do try to keep "best" and "must" out of my posts because what's best for me is not necessarily best for you. That said, a topical list can be good for discovering the best app/ site/ tool for you and your students.

Of course, there are occasions when the "everyone has to do this" PD session cannot be avoided. If you have to lead a refresher on first aid you probably don't want people improvising. Or if your school has just spent thousands of dollars for a new student data management system, you probably cannot say, "this doesn't work for me, can I use something else?"

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Week In Review - Camp Week!

Good morning from Maine where it's almost starting to feel like fall. This week I held the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp at Sunday River resort. A huge thank you to everyone who came, you made the event a success. Hopefully, I can host another Practical Ed Tech Camp again.

Of course, I continued to blog throughout the week even when camp was in session.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Picture Manhattan Inside the Grand Canyon
2. 5 Services for Creating and Sharing Audio Recordings
3. You Shouldn't Be an Instructional Technology Coordinator If You Don't Understand This...
4. Three Ways to Make Useful QR Codes for Your Students
5. How To Create Your Own Custom Search Engine
6. RADCAB - A Website Evaluation Framework for Students
7. 5 Handy Google Drive Shortcuts

Would you like to have me visit your school? 
Click here for information about my professional development services.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Remind 101 offers a free tool for sending text message reminders to students.
WidBook is a great platform for writing multimedia books.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
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.
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
Join more than 57,000 others who 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.

Geology Hikes - A Model for Blogging and Mapping

John Haley is one of my former colleagues that I keep in touch with through Facebook. John is a fantastic, enthusiastic Earth Science teacher. One of the projects that he's been working on this summer is Maine Geology Hikes. On Maine Geology Hikes John has been sharing more than just stories about hiking. He's been sharing lessons worthy of inclusion in books on the topic of Maine geology.

I'm pointing out John's work not because I think everyone should visit Maine and explore the places John's featured (although if you're for a vacation, Maine is beautiful this time of year), but because he blog provides a nice model to follow.

Here's what makes John's blog a good model to follow:
1. The purpose of the blog is clear. I know what to expect when I go there.
2. When it is appropriate John is using links to other resources. When links aren't available he's including citations to print media.
3. He's not writing every day (roughly one post per week), but the posts are longer than what you would find on a blog that is publishing new content on a daily basis.
4. The pictures are used as instructional aids.

To complement Maine Geology Hikes John has create a Maine Geology Hikes Google Map. The map uses placemarks to provide a bit of information about the geological features discovered on each of the hikes. And because it is a Google Map you can quickly click to find directions to the hike.

Wildfires and Climate Change - Video

Earlier this week while exploring Climate Central I found a good video about wildfires in the western United States. The video (available through Vimeo) explains why rising temperatures are not the only contributor to an increasing rate of wildfires in the west. Watch the video (embedded below) and you might be surprised by some of the factors that Climate Central believes are contributing to the increased rate of wildfires.

Wildfires Out West from Climate Central on Vimeo.

Friday, July 26, 2013

When Teaching Web Safety Don't Forget to Teach Common Sense

Earlier this week I shared the RADCAB framework for teaching students how to evaluate websites. In the past I've shared other resources for teaching students how to recognize unsafe situations online (Planet Nutshell has a great set of videos on the topic). While these online evaluation resources are useful, don't forget to teach students (children and adults) to use common sense before clicking on a link. I found two good examples of this this morning. Take a look at the screenshots below for explanations. (Feel free to download and use these screenshots in your classroom).

Click to view full size.
The picture above is a screenshot of the landing page for "business" that claims to provide website development. The page looks like it's straight out of 1999. That look combined with the fact that I don't know what will happen when I click the picture as the page wants me to, tells me that I probably shouldn't click the picture. If it doesn't look right, don't click it.

Click to view full size. 

The picture above is a screenshot of my direct message inbox on Twitter. You'll notice the first three messages are short messages with links. I'm not going to click those links because I don't have any context for them. I hadn't had conversations with any of those three people prior to them sending me those vaguely worded messages with links. On a similar note, if those messages said, "someone is saying nasty things about you" followed by a link, I'm not clicking that link. You can read more about that specific situation here.

Below are two helpful reminder videos from Common Craft about this topic.

7 Ways to Create and Deliver Online Quizzes

Creating and delivering quizzes and tests online offers a number of advantages over paper-based quizzes and tests. Many online quiz services allow you to create quizzes that give your students instant feedback. Some of the services provide the option to include picture and video prompts in your quizzes. And all of these services save you the hassle of printing your quizzes. Here are seven ways that you can create and deliver quizzes online.

Blubbr is a neat quiz creation service that you can use to create video-based quizzes. Using Blubbr you can create interactive quizzes that are based on YouTube clips. Your quizzes can be about anything of your choosing. The structure of the quizzes has a viewer watch a short clip then answer a multiple choice question about the clip. Viewers know right away if they chose the correct answer or not. To create a quiz on Blubbr start by entering a topic for your quiz. After entering your topic enter a search for a video about that topic. Blubbr will generate a list of videos that you can select from to use in your quiz. When you find a video that works for you, trim the clip to a length that you like then write out your question and answer choices. Repeat the process for as many video clips as you like. Click here to try a short Blubbr quiz about the human heart.

Zoho Survey is a feature-packed tool for creating online quizzes and surveys. Zoho Survey allows you to mix and match 21 response formats while you're creating your surveys. Within those response formats there are additional features you may find useful. For example, you can specify a maximum number of characters entered in an open-ended response field. You will also find that you can apply "if then" logic to any response field. This means that you can ask a short answer question and send respondents to a new question based upon their responses. For example, I could ask students to enter which class they're in and send them to a set of questions just for their class. (This can also be done in Google Forms but only if you use multiple choice responses). When you're ready to publish your Zoho Survey you can embed it into a blog post or webpage. You can also send out a link to your survey. One of the options that you can choose for your published survey is to limit responses to one per computer. Another useful option is to set a date to automatically stop allowing responses.

Quizdini is a free tool for creating online quizzes. The best feature of Quizdini is that you can create explanations of the correct answer for your students to view immediately after trying each question in your quiz. Your explanation can include text and or links to online resources like videos and images. Quizdini quizzes can be created in a traditional linear format or in a matching format that asks students to pair answers to terms.

ImageQuiz is a free service that allows you to create quizzes based on any images that you own or find online. When people take your quizzes on ImageQuiz they answer your questions by clicking on the part of the picture that answers each question. For example, if you uploaded a picture of a map you could write questions that ask users to click on states, cities, or countries. Creating a quiz on ImageQuiz is an easy process. First, give your quiz a title and then upload a picture or copy and paste the URL of an online image into ImageQuiz. Then draw outlines around the parts of the picture that will be the answers to your questions. Finally, write your questions and try your quiz. To share your quiz just give people the URL of your quiz. You can try my sample quiz here

Socrative is a free quiz/ survey tool that I've been using a lot over the last couple of years. Socrative replaces the need for expensive proprietary clicker systems in a classroom. Socrative allows me to create single question and multiple question quizzes with multiple choice and or open-ended responses. My students take the quiz on their iPads, Android tablets, or laptops by signing into my Socrative room number and completing the activity that I have cued-up in the Socrative virtual room. Socrative allows you to collect responses anonymously or with the requirement that students enter their names. Students don't have to create an account to participate in any of your activities. To participate they simply need to enter your Socrative room number when they visit on their laptops, iPads, Android tablets, or any other device that has a web browser.

Infuse Learning is similar in concept to Socrative with a couple of differences worth noting. First, Infuse Learning allows you to create multiple rooms within your account. That means you can create a different Infuse Learning room for each of your classes rather than re-using the same room for all of your classes. Second, Infuse Learning allows you create questions that your students draw responses to. This can be particularly useful in a math classroom because your students can simply use a Stylus to hand-write their solutions to problems rather than trying to figure out how to type and format all of the symbols used in a math problem.

I couldn't create a list like this without including Google Forms. Using Google Forms you can create multiple choice, true/false, and free response questions quizzes. The latest version of Google Forms allows you to include videos and pictures in your quizzes. If you use the multiple page option in Google Forms you can send students to a new section of your quiz based on their answers to a previous question. Finally, by using a script like Flubaroo your quizzes can be graded for you and the grades can be emailed directly to your students.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Collaboratively Create Music In a Google+ Hangout

One of Kevin Hodgson's posts last week prompted me to revisit Soundation. Soundation is an online music creation tool that I tried a few years ago. Soundation provides five tracks on which you can place music clips and sound effects to mix together. To create your original work you can select from Soundation's gallery of free sounds, upload your own sounds, or record new sounds using the instruments and keyboard built into Soundation. When you've created something that you like, you can download it or share it in Soundation's gallery.

Soundation has a beta Google+ Hangout app. The Soundation Google+ Hangout app allows you to collaboratively create sound loops with your friends. The difference between using the Soundation Google+ Hangout app and using the Soundation website is that you cannot upload your own sounds to Soundation through Google+ Hangouts, you'll have to work with the sounds available through Soundation.

Applications for Education
One of the best ways to avoid any confusion or worry regarding copyright when your students create multimedia projects, is to have them create their own original works. Soundation could be a great tool for students to use to create sounds for podcasts, videos, and other multimedia works.

5 Handy Google Drive Shortcuts

This evening when I attempted to access my Google Drive dashboard the way that I have been doing it for years by typing "" a brand new Google Document instead. This caused me to try "" to see if a new presentation would open, it did. Apparently, these shortcuts have worked for some people for a while. The shortcuts just started working with my Google Drive account this evening. Altogether I found five shortcuts that will allow you to skip the step of opening your Google Drive dashboard before creating a new document, slideshow, form, spreadsheet, or drawing.

These are the five shortcuts to note. 

1. To create a new Google Document: 
2. To create a new Google Slides Presentation:
3. To create a new Google Form:
4. To create a new Google Spreadsheet:
5. To create a new Google Drawing:

How to Disable Tabs in the New Gmail Layout

One of the constants of using free services like Gmail is that changes to the service can occur whether you like them or not. One of the recent changes to Gmail is the new tabs layout. Some people like this layout and others do not. If you fall into the camp of people who don't like, here's a quick video about how to disable it.

If you're subscribed to this blog or others via email and haven't received an email in a while, you may find that the emails are being filtered into the "social" or "promotions" tab in the new Gmail layout.

H/T to Chris Brogan

How to Quickly Create Simple Online Quizzes

QuizPoo is a free online quiz creation tool. Quizzes created on QuizPoo have a simple format based on an "either or framework." When you create a QuizPoo quiz all of your questions have only two answer choices. For example, I created a four question quiz about my dogs. Each of the questions only had Max and Morrison as answer choices. See my sample quiz here. I did not include pictures in my quiz, but that is an option.

Applications for Education
I almost didn't write about QuizPoo because I thought that it was too basic. But then I realized that the QuizPoo format could be good for creating quizzes about characters or story lines in a book. For example, if I could create a quiz about two characters from The Odyssey and have the questions be about a particular characteristic or action of the characters.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How to Create Your Own Custom Search Engine

I've posted directions for creating your own Google Custom Search Engine in the past. Since the last time I published those directions Google changed some of the settings so this morning I made a new slideshow of directions for making your own search engine. Those directions are posted below (use the full screen mode to see the details).

Cooking With Solar Energy - A Hands-on Project for Students is a good place for teachers to find videos, interactive activities, and lesson plans for teaching about climates and climate change. One of the teaching activities that I found on I think elementary, middle, and high school students could enjoy is making a solar oven (link opens a PDF). The Making a Solar Oven PDF includes directions for building your solar oven and tips for cooking in it. You and your students can build a solar oven using materials that are commonly found in schools, homes, and grocery stores.

Applications for Education
Making a solar oven and baking some cookies in it could be a great way to get students excited to learn about solar energy. At the middle school and high school levels you could have students experiment with modifications of the original design to see if they can increase or decrease temperatures and cooking times in their solar ovens.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Adam Savage Shares Lessons from Failure, like TED, features videos of talks and presentations from intelligent and notable people from a variety of fields. One of the talks that I like and showed parts of to my students a couple of years ago is this talk given by Adam Savage at MAKER Faire 2009. Adam Savage is one of the hosts of the popular Discovery series Mythbusters. In this talk he discusses the lessons learned from being a freelancer and the lessons learned from producing Mythbusters. A preview of the talk is embedded below.

MythBuster Adam Savage's Colossal Failures from Maker Faire on
Applications for Education
This is a long talk with many segments in it that may be worth showing to high school students. If you watch the video on you can view it broken into segments which makes it easier to narrow in on the specific parts you want to show to students.

Two Video Guides to Website Evaluation

Writing the previous post about RADCAB reminded me of a Common Craft video about website evaluation. That video is embedded below.

Common Craft videos are free to watch for evaluation purposes, but to share them you do have to be a subscriber to their service (I am). I realize that not everyone can or wants to convince their schools to pay for a Common Craft subscription so I went to YouTube to look for some free videos about website evaluation. Sadly, many of the videos that I found on YouTube either promoted .org domains as being automatically more valid than .com domains. Other videos on the topic were so dry that a student would never watch them all the way through. Eventually, I did find one that I think students would watch and is accurate. That video is embedded below.

RADCAB - A Website Evaluation Framework for Students

Thanks to Patty Eyer today I learned about a great mnemonic acronym to help students remember a process for website evaluation. RADCAB, which you can learn about at, stands for relevancy, appropriateness, detail, currency, authority, and bias. The RADCAB website provides a short explanation of each of the aspects of evaluation and why they are significant.

Applications for Education
Teaching students about RADCAB could be a great way to help them remember what to look for when they are evaluating websites. The RADCAB website provides an information assessment rubric that you can download for free.

How to Use B-Roll Footage In Videos

Earlier today at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp I talked about the idea of creating a gallery of b-roll media that your students can use in their slideshows and videos. That suggestion was part of a larger conversation about helping students avoid using another person's work and accidentally violating that person's copyright rights. One way to avoid any worry about copyright is by having students use media that they have created from scratch. Building up a gallery of media that is large enough for all of your students to use takes time. One way to build up the gallery is to create shared Box, Dropbox, or Google Drive folders that students put b-roll submissions into.

As the folks at Wistia explain and demonstrate in the video below, using b-roll footage can be a good way to improve your videos. Watch the video below to learn how they do it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Two Minute Geology Lessons

Two Minute Geology is a newish series of videos from The Two Minute Geology videos provide short lessons on things like Ice Age floods geology, erratic boulders, and petrified wood. I've embedded the video about erratic boulders below.

Applications for Education
Two Minute Geology videos on their own certainly aren't going to replace your own lessons about geology, but they could certainly be part of flipped classroom lesson. 

Three Ways to Make Useful QR Codes for Your Students

This morning I did a very simple QR code activity at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. QR codes were distributed on the tables in the room and two codes linked to prizes while the others linked to my blog. Creating that activity reminded me of Terri Eichholz's guest post from last year about creating interactive bulletin boards through the use of QR codes.

Here's a snippet from Terri's post mentioned above, First, I mixed up the artwork and poetry on the board so that they weren’t matched with each other.  Then I placed QR codes on the artwork that led the reader to an audio file in which the artist/poet read his or her poem.  I also placed QR codes that led the reader to Google Forms online that allowed the viewer to vote on their favorite pieces of art and poetry

Here are three tools that you can use to create QR codes to use in an activity like Terri's: is Google's URL shortening tool. When you shorten a link with a QR code is created for it too. To find the QR code, click the "details" link after your shortened URL has been made. The details page also shows you how many times your link has been used. This is useful to me if I want to make sure that all of my students have used the link. If I see that the link or QR code has been used 17 times, but I have 25 students, I immediately seek out the students who haven't followed the link.

QR Droid's QR Code Generator allows you to create QR codes that link to websites, chunks of text, phone numbers, email addresses, contact information, calendar events, and location coordinates. To create your QR code simply complete the information fields that you want to link to then select the display size for your QR code.

Russel Tarr developed the QR Treasure Hunt Generator. The QR Treasure Hunt Generator provides you with all of the things you need to get started creating your own QR codes and using them in your classroom. To use the QR Treasure Hunt Generator type out a series of questions and answers, generate the QR codes using the tool Russel Tarr provides, then print and display the codes around your classroom or school. Click here to view a sample QR Treasure Hunt.

You Shouldn't Be an Instructional Technology Coordinator If You Don't Understand This...

I realize that this post comes from the pages of, I'm tired of writing about this and you are probably tired of it too, but I have to talk about copyright, creative commons, and plagiarism again. Today, I discovered yet another blog that is copying and pasting posts from my blogs and those of many other edubloggers without permission. Unfortunately, the person behind the blog that is carrying out the practice of copying and pasting the posts did not lift  the post I wrote last month about why you can't just copy and paste posts from another person's blog without their permission. Even worse, according to his Google Profile the person running the offending blog ( is a School Technology Integration Coordinator. So I have to ask, how can you be in a technology leadership position and think that it is okay to copy and paste the work of others without their permission?

After asking the person running the offending blog to take down all of the content that he has used without permission I sent him some links to some of my blog posts about plagiarism and copyright. These are the links that I included:
1. How to Share the Blog Posts You Like
2. Fair Use, Copyright, and Educational Blogging

And some more related resources:
What To Do When Your Work Is Plagiarized
5 Good Lesson Plans for Teaching Copyright
Copyright On Campus - A Six Minute Exploration of the Nuances of Copyright

Geodia - A Timeline and Map of Mediterranean Archeology and Culture

Geodia is a free history resource hosted by the University of Texas. Geodia uses a combination of a timeline and Google Map to outline the history of Mediterranean archeology and culture. You browse the site by clicking items on the timeline to have them appear on the map. You can also browse and click through regions and cultures on the right side of the Geodia map to be taken to corresponding sections in the timeline and map.

Applications for Education
Geodia could be a good resource for students in a history course to explore to see the places and cultures they're studying in their correct geographic context. In that regard Geodia could be good to add to a reference page for history students.

H/T to Google Maps Mania.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

5 Services for Creating & Sharing Audio Recordings Online

Adding an audio message to your classroom blog or website can be a good way to help deliver important messages to your students and their parents. Posting an audio message, even if it covers the same content as a written message, can increase the chances that a visitor to your blog will take notice of something important. Adding an audio message to your blog or website is not difficult to do. Here are five free services that you can use to add an audio message to your blog or website.

Vocaroo is a free service that allows users to create audio recordings without the need to install any software. You don't even have to create an account to use Vocaroo. All you need to provide is a microphone. I used the microphone built into my MacBook to make the recording below. To create a recording just go to, click record, grant Vocaroo access to your mic, and start talking. After completing your recording, Vocaroo gives you the choice to publish it or to scrap it and try again. Vocaroo provides the option to embed the recording anywhere. Vocaroo provides the embed code for you. You can also download your recording, just look for the download link at the bottom of the page (it's small and easily overlooked).

SoundCloud is an online service for recording, hosting, and sharing audio tracks. You can use SoundCloud to upload and share audio recordings that you have stored on your computer. SoundCloud can also be used for directly recording a spoken track. One of the really neat features of SoundCloud is the option to comment on tracks as they are playing. To make a comment just play the track, click on it, then type your comment in the comment box. Your comment(s) will be attached to the spot in the track that you clicked on while listening. June 2020 update: SoundCloud no longer offers a built-in recording option.

Audioboo is a free tool for creating audio messages to share on the web. Using Audioboo you can record messages on your mobile device using Audioboo's free Android or iPhone apps. You can also record messages directly on the Audioboo website. Messages that you create can be shared by embedding your recording into a blog or website. You can also share messages by posting them to Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Update June 2020: I no longer recommend this service.

Audio Pal is a free service that allows you to quickly and easily record audio messages to post your blog or website. You can record your Audio Pal message by phone, through your computer's microphone, or by uploading a recording. Messages are limited to sixty seconds so you must be succinct. After you've recorded your message, Audio Pal will play it back to you. If you like the recording, keep it. If you don't like your recording, click re-record. When you have a recording with which you're happy, enter your email address and an embed code will be sent to you almost immediately.

Record MP3 is another free tool for recording audio messages. To record a message using Record MP3 just grant the Flash recorder access to your computer, click record, and start talking. When your recording is complete you will get a link that you can post online or email to anyone you want to hear your recording. Update June 2020: I no longer recommend Record MP3.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Picture Manhattan Inside the Grand Canyon

Gus Petro is a Swiss photographer that recently published a neat visualization of the size of the Grand Canyon. He took his pictures of buildings and the Manhattan skyline and used Photoshop to drop them into his pictures of the Grand Canyon. You can see the pictures on Gus Petro's website and in this Atlantic article which is where I found them.

Applications for Education
Gus Petro's photographs could be helpful in getting students to comprehend the depth of the Grand Canyon. Combine your use of his photographs with a Street View tour of the Grand Canyon or this virtual paddling trip through the Grand Canyon.

The Week in Review - The Desert Edition

Good morning from Maine where I am home after spending a few days in Scottsdale, Arizona for the Pearson OLE Authentic Learning conference and one day in Vermont for Discovery's Summer Institute. Thank you to everyone who came out to those events and said hello. And as always, thanks to all of you who continue to share things you find here and tell your colleagues about Free Technology for Teachers. I couldn't do this without your support.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 500+ Political Cartoons & 100+ Editorial Cartoon Lesson Plans
2. How to Create Flipped Classroom Assignments & Videos With Knowmia
3. 30 Ideas for Using Chromebooks in Education
4. Explore the Eiffel Tower With Google Street View
5. 5 Resources to Help Students Make Healthy Food Choices
6. iStoryBooks - Narrated Children's Stories on Windows 8
7. 7 Ways to Use Video In Your Classroom

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Science Millionaire and Other Fun Science Games for Kids

Jefferson Lab is a good place to find educational science and math games. I discovered this resource a few years ago because one of my 9th grade students was hooked on playing "Who Wants to Win $1,000,000?". The games and puzzles that you'll find are focused on math and science although one word game is thrown in for good measure.

Applications for Education
The games from Jefferson Lab could provide good practice in applying science and math knowledge to problem solving. Jefferson Lab also has a great Teacher Resources page full of lesson plans for hands-on activities, study pages, and reference materials.

Chem Collective - Resources to Teach and Learn Chemistry

Chem Collective is a project designed and maintained by Carnegie Mellon University's chemistry department and the National Science Digital Library. On Chem Collective you will find virtual labs for chemistry experiments, simulations, visualizations, tutorials, and auto-graded problems. Students and teachers can search the site by resource type or by chemistry topic.

Applications for Education
Chem Collective offers teachers the option to create their own Chem Collective pages containing resources and activities that they have selected from the Chem Collective library for their students.