Saturday, August 31, 2013

Week in Review - The Knuckle Hopping Edition

Good morning from the Toronto International Airport where I am waiting for my flight home to Portland, Maine. This week I had the privilege of presenting in Paramus, New Jersey and Grande Prairie, Alberta. I always learn something new when I travel. In Paramus I learned about Blue Laws and in Grande Prairie I learned about knuckle hopping. In Grande Prairie I knuckle hopped for the first time in my life. You can see the video of it below (click here if the video is not visible to you). Thanks to Lorne Toews for the video.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Free iPad Apps Students Can Use to Take Notes
2. Rewordify Helps Students Read Complex Passages
3. Lingualy Helps You Learn a Language While Browsing the Web
4. How to Create a Website With Weebly
5. Fun DIY Projects for Kids
6. How to Enable Offline Use of Google Documents
7. How Google+ Has Brought Meaning Back To My PLN Experience

Would you like to have me visit your school this year?
Click here to learn more 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.
Storyboard That offers a great tool for planning stories.
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.

What Is Money? - A Short Economics Lesson

The Atlantic's new series Economics In Plain English is a good resource for social studies teachers to bookmark and share with their students. One of the new additions to the series is What Is Money? What Is Money? uses the fun scenario of trying to deposit a banana into a bank to explain the basic purpose and function of money. The video is embedded below.

Updated - A Search Engine for Videos Not On YouTube

A few weeks ago I created a Google Custom Search Engine for videos that are not hosted on YouTube. You can find the search engine on this page. This evening I updated that search engine to include four more resources. The alternatives to YouTube that I added to the search engine were the National Film Board of Canada, the Economist videos, The Atlantic videos, and National Geographic Kids videos.

You can test the updated search engine below. It is permanently hosted here.

Web Rangers Offers a Fun Way to Learn About U.S. National Parks

Web Rangers offers seven categories of games about different subjects related to the National Parks. The game categories are people, animals, parks, science, history, nature, and puzzles. Each category contains games of varying difficulty rated from easy to difficult. Some of the game topics include dendrochronology, animal tracking, animal identification, fire fighting, and map reading.

Students can play Web Rangers games as visitors or as registered users. Registered users can track their progress and earn virtual rewards. Registered users can also create their own customized virtual ranger stations.

Applications for Education
Web Rangers could be a great way for students to learn about all of the things that National Parks contain. The games also introduce players to the job functions of Park Rangers. In that regard, the game could be a "career exploration" activity of sorts. You might also use the games in conjunction with some of the National Parks system's lesson plans.

How to Create Image-Based Quizzes in Google Forms

Today, in Grande Prairie, Alberta I wrapped-up the second day of a Google Apps workshop. Creating image-based quizzes in Google Forms was one of the things that was a hit with a good portion of the participants. Earlier this year I created a short tutorial on the process. That tutorial is embedded below.

Friday, August 30, 2013

40+ Examples of Classroom & School Blogs

Last Friday I set up a Google Form to collect examples of classroom and school blogs. This evening I put together a Google Slides presentation from those submissions. As of right now there are 75 submissions. In some cases there were duplicate submissions, a few spam submissions, and some submissions that were very similar to each (for example, I didn't include every blog that was only updated by the teacher). That said, the presentation is public and you can make your own additions to it. You can also click here to see a summary of all of the responses.

How to Develop Web Search Challenges for Students

I spent the last two days working with teachers in Grande Prairie, Alberta. One of the activities that we did yesterday was develop our own Google Search challenge activities. We used the basic model of the Google a Day Challenges combined with some of the obfuscation methods that Daniel Russell uses in his weekly search challenges. I've outlined the basic process below.

1. Locate three public domain or Creative Commons licensed pictures to use as search prompts. If you have pictures of your own that you want to use, that’s okay too.
2. In Google Slides create a list of questions that your students might ask about the image. Put one question on each slide.
3. Arrange the slides in order of difficulty. On each slide give a search hint in the speaker notes.
4. Publish your search challenge activity and share the link in this form.

I explained the rationale for using images as prompts in this post back in June. The short version is that putting an interesting picture in front of kids prompts them to ask a lot of interesting questions that often force them to use a variety of search strategies and tools including Google Earth, Google Books, Google Images, and Google Scholar.

If you want to try this for yourself feel free to use the picture in this post or the picture in this post (please link to  if you post it online) as a search prompt in your classroom. There is a big clue at the beginning of this post as to what is featured in the picture and what it does. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dispelling Myths About Web Filtering Requirements

There are very few things as frustrating as excessive Internet filtering when you're trying to integrate technology into classroom. Some filtering can be good and is actually required, but I have visited a lot of schools in which the filtering goes way beyond what is actually needed. Sometimes the reason for the excessive filtering is based on misunderstanding of requirements. In this KQED interview in 2011 Karen Cantor dispelled some of the myths about Internet filtering requirements. If you're working in a school that is blocking a lot more than you think it should be, read the article and interview transcript then pass it along.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Huzzaz - Create and Discuss Collections of Educational Videos

Huzzaz is a new site (still in private beta although you can request an invitation) for organizing and sharing collections of educational videos. It's a bit like EduClipper or Pinterest, but it has some unique features that could make it a fantastic discussion tool too.

The basic purpose of Huzzaz is to help you create and organize collections of videos. In your account you can make as many thematic collections as you like. To add a video from YouTube or Vimeo to your collections you can search within Huzzaz, use the Huzzaz browser bookmarklet, or copy and paste video URLs into your collections. Once you have some videos in a collection you can organize them by simply dragging and dropping them into a sequence. Your collections can be shared with others. Likewise, you can share individual videos.

When you share an individual video from a Huzzaz collection you can host real-time discussions about it. To do this simply click the "comments" icon while the video is playing to open a live chat box.

Applications for Education
Teachers that are using the flipped classroom model could find Huzzaz to be an excellent tool for organizing the videos that they plan to share with students.

Students may find Huzzaz's real-time chat feature to be useful for holding online review sessions that are based around the videos their teachers have shared with them.

C-SPAN Classroom Releases an Improved Lesson Plan Collection

C-SPAN Classroom offers a lot of excellent resources for U.S. Government and History teachers. In the past I've featured their interactive timeline of Supreme Court rulings and their classroom deliberations lessons.

C-SPAN Classroom Lesson Plans section has been re-organized and new materials have been added for the new school year. When you log into the new section (C-SPAN Classroom accounts are required for access, they're free) you will notice that the lesson plans are organized into sixteen thematic sections. Some of the thematic sections are Constitution, Political Parties, Comparative Government, and Economics. Within each section you will find detailed lesson plan frameworks that include video clips, vocabulary lists, and assignment suggestions. Each section also includes PDFs to print and distribute to students.

If you're looking for some new lessons on government and history to try this year, you'll be pleased with the updated C-SPAN Classroom Lesson Plans.

A Street View Corn Maze

There are lots of great places that students can explore in Google Maps, the new Google Maps Views is a great place to find things like virtual tours of zoos around the world. One of the fun Street View uses that I discovered yesterday on the Google Earth Blog is a virtual corn maze in Edmonton. While there isn't a ton of educational value to going through the Edmonton Corn Maze, going through the virtual corn maze could be a fun way for students to learn how to navigate Google Maps.

View Larger Map

Live Lessons from Epic Failures

This afternoon at 1pm ET National Geographic is hosting a Google+ Hangout On Air with three adventurers and scientists who will share their stories of epic failures and what they learned from those failures. This could be a great opportunity for your students to learn about the value of taking risks as well as how to learn from failure. You can learn more about this Hangout and join the Hangout here. If you cannot attend the live Hangout, you should be able to watch the recording later.

Search 80,000 Media History Digital Library Artifacts

The Media History Digital Library is a massive archive of documents about the history film, television, and radio. The library can now be searched and the documents viewed online through MHDL's new site called the Lantern. On Lantern you will find reviews and critiques of movies, books and playbills, many periodicals about the movie, television, and radio industries. Your search can be refined according to date, language, and publication type. You can also browse through collections curated by MHDL.

Applications for Education
Two thoughts came to mind as I browsed through MHDL's Lantern. First, it's obviously an excellent resource for students studying the history and development of media. Second, through MHDL's Lantern you could find some good examples of how to write a critique. Your students could use those as models for writing their own critiques of movies or even of books.

H/T to Open Culture

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Updated - 86 Page Guide to Using Blogger in School

Last week I published a free PDF, A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School. Today, I added a new section to the end of it. The new section includes directions for using the Blogger iPad app. You can download the new version in its entirety here. You can download just the section about the Blogger iPad app here.

How to Enable Offline Use of Google Documents

Just a few minutes after I published my post about writing blog posts while offline I received an email from someone needing assistance using Google Drive offline. Below you will find written directions along with screenshots for enabling offline use of Google Documents on your laptop.

To enable Google Docs for offline use, sign into your account and click the sprocket icon in the upper-right corner. Then select "set up docs offline." Google Docs will then launch a dialogue box asking you to confirm that you want to enable docs offline. If already have Google Drive installed, you're finished with the set up. If you don't have Google Drive installed, you will be prompted to do so. If you need help setting up Google Drive on your Mac or on your PC, please see the directions that I have included in my guide to Google Drive and Docs for Teachers (page 7 has directions for Mac users, page 14 has directions for Windows users). 

Step 1: In your Google Drive account open the "more" menu.
Click for full size image.
Step 2: Select "enable offline docs." If you don't have the Google Drive Chrome app already installed, you'll be prompted to do that too. Installing the Chrome app takes just one click.
Click for full size image.

A Note for Google Apps for Education Users
If you are using Google Docs within a Google Apps for Education domain your domain administrator will have to enable the option for users to use Google Docs offline. Google's directions for domain administrators can be found here. A screen capture of the Apps Domain settings is included below.
Click for full size image.

A Tip About Drafting Posts Outside of Your Blog Post Editor

I create nearly all of my blog posts within the Blogger (for or WordPress (for and post editors. Occasionally, I'll create some posts when I don't have an Internet connection. For example, this post was started while I was on a plane that didn't offer wi-fi. At some point in the school year you may find yourself or your students having to craft blog posts when you don't have access to the Internet either. One solution to this problem is to write your posts in Word, Pages, or Google Drive offline. But if you choose to do that there are a couple of things to consider before you push "publish" on that copied and pasted text. 

If you write a blog post in Word or Pages, when you go to copy it into Blogger or WordPress (including Edublogs and Kid Blog) don't copy it into the "Compose" editor (Blogger) or "Visual" editor (WordPress). If you copy it from Word or Pages and paste it into "Compose" or "Visual" you could be bringing along some background code that will alter the way that your post's text and other visual elements appear on the blog. What you should do instead is paste the content into the "HTML" editor (Blogger and WordPress use the same terminology here) which will reveal any strange code that shouldn't be in the post. What you should see is just the text of your post and possibly any embed code for a video or HTML for an image. If you see anything else around your text and especially between pieces of text, delete it. To preserve paragraph spacing simply insert <br /> between paragraphs while you're in the HTML editor. Before you hit "publish" on the post you can switch back to "Compose" or "Visual" to make sure your spacing is correct and or to style your font. This might sound like a lot of extra work, but it really isn't and in the long run it will save you the frustration of trying to sort out formatting issues with your blog posts. 

If you have Google Drive enabled for offline composition of documents, write your blog posts in it when you're offline. I've always been successful in simply copying and pasting text from Google Documents into the Compose editor on Blogger and Visual editor on WordPress without any formatting issues. 

How Google+ Has Brought Meaning Back to My PLN Experience

Twitter is great for link sharing, but I've always felt like any conversation that I was having on Twitter was a race to get a word in rather than being a reflective conversation. That's probably why I never got too excited about #edchat or any of hundreds of other Twitter chats. I do appreciate that some people really enjoy the Twitter ed chats and I'll use the hashtag to see what folks are saying, but participating in them never has been my thing. 

As I've mentioned many times over the last six to twelve months, Google+ has really become where I have my most meaningful interactions with others. On Google+ I find it much easier to follow conversations. I also find that because folks aren't forced to express themselves in rapid-fire 140 character messages, the conversations are more robust even if they take longer to develop. For me, Google+ conversations have more depth that Twitter interactions.

For now, Google+ is where I'm going when I want to have robust conversations and Twitter is where I'm going to share links and see the links others are sharing. You can join me here on Google+.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Two Easy Tools Teachers Can Use to Coordinate Parent Volunteers

The beginning of the new school year is a time when some parents like to get involved and volunteer their time in schools. This is great, but it does require some scheduling. I was recently asked for some recommendations for services that teachers can use to coordinate sign-up lists for parent volunteers. Here are two tools that are easy to use.

SignUp Genius is a free and easy way to create and organize online sign-up forms for all kinds of group activities. SignUp Genius creates a simple webpage on which people can sign-up for activities that you've specified. You can make your sign-up sheet public or private. Once you've created your sign-up list visitors to your list can sign-up for the activities you've specified. You can monitor the sign-up list as it is filled and visitors can quickly see which slots are already taken. SignUp Genius provides a myriad of themes and styles for your sign-up sheets.

Volunteer Spot is a scheduling service that teachers, coaches, and others and use to coordinate volunteers. Volunteer Spot gives you the ability to post calendars and sign-up sheets online. When potential volunteers visitor your calendar they can see the days and times at which volunteers are needed. When the quota for volunteers for a particular time or day is reached, Volunteer Spot won't allow any more sign-ups.

ExamTime Adds Groups for Resource Sharing

ExamTime is a service that middle school, high school, and college students can use to prepare for tests. When I tried the service earlier this year it offered users options to create flashcards, mind maps, and practice quizzes to help them study. Today, ExamTime added the option to create online groups to share study materials. Groups allow teachers and students to share learning resources to group members and to host discussions.

Applications for Education
One of the aspects of ExamTime that can benefit students is the option to create mind maps to map out the concepts that they are studying. There are a lot of services that offer mind mapping but many allow students to create mind maps and practice quizzes in the same place. With the new group discussion option in ExamTime students can share mind maps and discuss them as a review activity.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lingualy Helps You Learn a Language While Browsing the Web

Lingualy is a free Google Chrome extension designed to help you learn a new language while browsing the web. With Lingualy installed anytime that you come across a new word you can double-click on it to hear it pronounced, read a translation, and read a definition. The words that you double-click are added to your Lingualy account where you can review them in a quiz format. Watch a short overview of Lingualy in the video below.

Applications for Education
Lingualy supports English, Spanish, French, Hebrew, and Arabic. You could have students use Lingualy while reading news articles in the language that they're trying to learn. That would provide some current context for language lessons.

Rewordify Helps Students Read Complex Passages

Rewordify is a free site that was developed by a special education teacher and former computer programmer for the purpose of helping students read complex passages. At its most basic level Rewordify takes a complex passage and rephrases it in simpler terms. Students can adjust Rewordify's settings to match their needs. For example, students can add words to a "skip list" and those words will not be changed when they appear in a passage. Students can also use Rewordify to simply highlight difficult words instead of having them replaced. Watch the video below for a complete overview of how Rewordify works.

Applications for Education
Rewordify could be helpful to students when they are challenged to read a book or article that is a step or two above their current reading levels. After trying to read through a tricky passage students can use Rewordify to help the check their comprehension of that passage.

How to Create a Website With Weebly

This morning on Google+ Larry Ferlazzo shared a TechCrunch story about Weebly expanding. As I wrote in response to Larry's post, it is good to see Weebly is growing. I've introduced it to a lot of teachers over the years so it's nice to see that it doesn't appear to be going anywhere for a while. If you're looking for a good way to build a website to use with your students, Weebly is an excellent option.

The video below is an excellent tutorial to follow to create your own website with Weebly.

Applications for Education
Weebly for Education includes all of the intuitive website-building and blogging tools found on Weebly plus features built specifically for education. Weebly for Education offers bulk creation of student accounts which teachers can manage and moderate. Students can create their own websites and blogs using the accounts that you create for them.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers This Week

Good morning from sunny Greenwood, Maine. I know that for a lot of you this may be the last weekend of the summer before school starts. I hope that wherever you are the weather is nice and you can get outside to take advantage of it. My dogs and I have already walked a few miles and soon I'm going mountain biking. But before I get out on my bike (yes, Mom, I will wear my helmet), I have this week's list of the most popular posts of the week.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School
2. How to Introduce Educlipper to Students and Teachers
3. Active Textbook - Turn PDFs Into Multimedia Documents
4. 15 Things You Can Do With Edmodo and How to Get Started
5. A Lesson In Overcoming Obstacles
6. Unsplash - Another Good Source of Free Images
7. Submrge - Ideas for Teaching With Games

Would you like to have me visit your school this year?
Click here to learn more 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.
Storyboard That offers a great tool for planning stories.
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.

5 Free iPad Apps Students Can Use to Take Notes

Cross-posted from

One of the things that I love about the start of the new school year is that so many students have goals for making “this year the year they…” For many students that blank is filled in with “stay organized” or “take better notes.” If your students are going to be using iPads in your classroom this year, here are five free iPad apps they can try for taking notes and keeping those notes organized.

Penultimate provides a place for you to hand-write notes on your iPad. The app allows you to create multiple notebooks with multiple pages in each. You can change the color and size of the pen strokes that are created when you write in your notebooks. Each page in your notebook can include pictures that you have stored on your iPad or pictures that you take through the Penultimate app. The app provides the option to change the look of the virtual paper on which you write. You can copy and paste content from one page to another and from one notebook to another. This is my go-to app for writing notes. 

inClass is a fantastic free iPad app that students can use to take and keep track of the notes they record in all of their courses. inClass allows students to organize notebooks for each of their courses. Within each notebook students can include typed notes, audio notes, video notes, and pictures. The ability to store those four types of notes makes inClass a great app for students to use in a science lab where they might want to have a little video clip of an experiment along with their own typed notes about the lab experiment.

Evernote is the Swiss Army knife of iPad apps. Students can use Evernote for a little bit of everything from bookmarking websites to dictating notes to themselves. The app will automatically sync with students online Evernote accounts so that they can access my notes, bookmarks, and saved files from any computer or device that is connected to the web.

Fetchnotes is a service for creating and organizing notes for yourself. Organizing your notes on Fetchnotes is quite simple. When you write a note, just use a hashtag to label your note. Then whenever you want to search for a note just enter a hashtag. For example, if I was a student taking notes in a history course I might use the hashtag “#revolution” for all notes related to revolutions. Then I could go back and read all of my notes about revolution by just searching for that hashtag. Fetchnotes lets you create groups of people with whom you share notes. When you want to share a note with someone else in your group just add @ before that person’s name to have the task appear on your list and his or her list. In addition to being available through the free iPad app, Fetchnotes can be used in your web browser. Fetchnotes also offers a free Android app.

Last but not least is Google Drive for iPad. While not nearly as robust as the browser-based version of Google Drive, Google Drive for iPad can be used by students to create notes documents. If your school is using Google Apps for Education, your students are probably already familiar with how to use Google Drive. Of course, their notes will sync to their Google Drive accounts so that they can access their notes through any Internet-connected device. Click here for a short (13 page PDF) guide to using Google Drive for iPad.

Fun DIY Projects for Kids

Thanks to Patty Eyer for reminding me about this great resource. is a neat website on which kids can find dozens of DIY projects that they can do on their own or with their parents. provides videos and instructions on how to do the projects. After going through the directions kids then try to complete the project. When they've completed the project they can take a picture and upload it to their portfolios. Kids can share examples of their projects through

Kids cannot register on without a parent's permission. Parents have their own dashboards that they can use to track the activities of their children. Children registered on have aliases and cartoon avatar pictures.

Applications for Education could be a great source of project ideas for parents and their children to work on together. Through the project challenges students can learn about biology, electricity, music, computer science, physics, geography, and more. 

The Science of Macaroni Salad

The Science of Macaroni Salad is a fun two-part TED-Ed lesson through which students can learn about chemical mixtures, solutions, and bonds The videos use macaroni salad as the context for the lessons, but the lessons could certainly be applied to many other substances. Both videos are embedded below.

Applications for Education 
Videos like The Science of Macaroni Salad interest me as introductory lessons. Videos like these put chemistry into a context that a lot of students can relate to. Start with these videos before diving deeper into the concepts that the videos introduce. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Collecting & Sharing Examples of Classroom Blogs

In just two days A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School has been downloaded nearly 3600 times. In those two days I've had quite a few requests for more examples of classroom / school blogs. I have a few examples, but I know that many of you have excellent examples of your own to share. If you're willing to share your examples with others, please consider completing the short Google Form that is embedded below. I have enabled the form to show a link to the submissions. Next Friday, I'll publish the complete list too.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Lesson In Overcoming Obstacles

There's No Dishonor In Having a Disability is a new TED-Ed lesson that offers a great message to share with students as the new school year begins. With a bit of humor in his delivery the speaker, Steven Claunch, tells his story of overcoming obstacles on his way to making his high school's basketball team. He also tells the story of Jim Abbott and his success on the baseball field. This is now my favorite TED-Ed lesson.

On a personal note, one of my former students Josh Kennison recently won a bronze medal in the 100 meter dash at the International Paralympic World Championships. Other than taking him to a few indoor track meets in high school, I can't claim any credit for his success. That's all Josh. Read his story here.

Why I Occasionally Use Box Instead of Google Drive

Yesterday, after posting A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School I received a couple of questions about why I am hosting it on instead of Google Drive or Scribd as I have done with some guides in the past.

There are a couple of reasons why I'm not hosting it on Google Drive. First, the document viewer looks and functions much better than Google Drive does when it comes to large PDFs. In fact, A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School is a such a large file that Google Drive won't display a preview of it, it just displays a download link. The other reason that I chose to use Box is that Box will email me a weekly update about the usage of my shared files. I can also log-in whenever I want to see the current usage statistics about my shared files.

I'm not hosting A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School on Scribd because I've learned that a lot of schools block Scribd.

Visit Zoos and Animal Parks Through Google Street View

Google Maps Street View imagery just keeps getting better. Recently, Google introduced Google Maps Views which is a collection of the galleries of the best Street View imagery. One the galleries featured this week is Zoos and Animal Parks. In Zoos and Animal Parks you'll find imagery from places like the San Diego Zoo and the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Pan and zoom through the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in the imagery below.

Applications for Education
From the first day that Street View was available I have thought that using Google Maps and Google Earth is an awesome way for students to explore the world in ways that they never could with paper maps. Much like reading travel stories could inspire a student to see the world, exploring Street View imagery through Google Maps Views could inspire a student to travel too.

Keeping with the travel theme, one of the ways that I used Google Maps a few years ago was to have students create their own fictional travel narratives based on places that they explored in Google Maps. They wrote their stories in placemarks on Google Maps. Each placemark in their stories had to include a piece of factual information about the location and then they had the flexibility to write about what they did in their "dream trips" to those places.

Shirts and Ties and the New School Year

(This post is mostly just for fun). 

If it's not here yet, the new school year will be here soon for most of us. And for many of us that means new school clothes. If you're a tie-wearing member of the faculty here's a fun and helpful infographic on how to match your tie to your shirt. I know that there have been times when I could have definitely used this instead just getting the matched set that I see at the store or relying on one of my friendly colleagues to say, "that tie does not go with that shirt."

H/T to Cool Infographics.

Helpful New Poll Everywhere Features

Poll Everywhere is one of the services that I often recommend to use to gather feedback from students. This week some helpful new features were added to Poll Everywhere.

The new Poll Everywhere features that teachers will find useful are a countdown timer, live updating word clouds, participant grouping, and integration with the Canvas LMS.

Applications for Education
Poll Everywhere is an excellent tool for gathering feedback from students through their mobile devices. The countdown timer could be great for keeping kids on task. The live updating word clouds could be a fun way for students to see the most popular responses to a prompt.

Participant grouping could be useful when you have students working in groups on jigsaw activities. Distribute three or four different articles for your students to read. Then have students submit keywords or short summaries through the Poll Everywhere open-response that displays a live-updating word cloud.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

15 Things You Can Do With Edmodo & How To Get Started

This morning on Twitter Steven Anderson shared a link to Edmodo's getting started guide. That guide provides a short run-down of the steps to creating your Edmodo account with your students. Included in the guide are links to additional resources like Edmodo's archived instructional webinars.

Shortly after ReTweeting Steven's link I received a text message from a friend who was wondering what she can do with Edmodo and why she might want to try it this year. That request got me to pull up the following list of things that teachers and students can do with Edmodo.

Here are fifteen things teachers and students can do with Edmodo.
1. Post assignments for students. Edmodo allows teachers to attach files to assignment announcements. If there is a file your students need in order to complete an assignment, they can access it at the same place they view the announcement. Less clicking is good.

2. Create digital libraries. Students and teachers can create digital libraries for housing their important files. No need to keep track of USB drives because you can access your files from any Internet-connected computer.

3. Post messages on the "wall." This allows students to ask questions of each other and their teacher. Teachers, of course, can post messages for all students to read.

4. Create learning groups. Teachers can create groups of their students according to the courses they teach or create groups of students who are supposed to be working together.

5.  Post polls for students. Use the polls to gather informal feedback on a question like, "do you feel prepared for next week's quiz?"

6. Post a quiz for students to take. You can attach links and files to each question and answer choice. This allows you to post a document and ask students to read and respond to it. Quizzes can be in multiple choice, true/ false, fill in the blank, or short answer form. You can allow students to see their scores immediately or you can disable that option.

7. Connect with other teachers. Join discussion groups to share ideas about lesson plans, teaching strategies, and project development. Discuss tools and content that you use. In some cases you can find webinars like this one from Buck Institute for Education about project based learning.

8. Create a calendar of events and assignments.

9. Access Edmodo through the free Android and iPhone apps.

10. Turn in assignments. Students can upload assignments for their teachers to view and grade. Teachers can annotate the assignments directly in Edmodo.

11. Create parent accounts. Teachers can create parent accounts. Parent accounts allow parents to see their children's assignments and grades. Teachers can also send alerts to parents about school events, missed assignments, and other important messages through Edmodo.

12. Generate printable class rosters. If you're going to have a substitute teacher in your classroom who needs a printed roster, you can print one from your Edmodo account.

13. Embed Wallwisher into your Edmodo wall to host a brainstorming session.

14. Embed videos, images, and audio clips into your wall to spark a class discussion online.

15. Use the Google Chrome extension or browser bookmarklet to quickly add content to your Edmodo library. Anytime you find something on the web, click the Edmodo extension or bookmarklet to save it in your Edmodo library.

Russell Stannard offers a 45 minute complete overview of how to use Edmodo. That video is embedded below.

Inspire Students to Read and Travel With The Global Bookshelf

The Global Bookshelf is a book search and recommendation engine that was started by my friend Gillian Duffy. The purpose of The Global Bookshelf is to help people find travel stories. The books you'll find aren't travel guides, they're travel stories that could inspire you to visit a new place and experience a new culture. You can browse The Global Bookshelf by region, genre, and book format (Kindle, PDF, physical book).

Applications for Education
Gillian is very keen to have others add their book reviews to The Global Bookshelf. If you have high school students who have read some travel narratives, consider having them write a review to share on The Global Bookshelf. This is a great way to provide an authentic audience for your students' work.

Of course, The Global Bookshelf is good place for your students to find books that they may enjoy reading. Maybe they'll read a story that sets them off to explore the world.

By Request - A Primer on Creative Commons

This morning on Twitter I was asked for a suggestion for a primer on Creative Commons. My first thought was this resource from Common Craft that I shared last year. Then I went to to see what they had for materials to use to introduce people to the concepts of Creative Commons.

On there is a gallery of sixteen videos and slideshows that explain what Creative Commons licensing is, how to use it, and practical examples of Creative Commons licensing in use. I've embedded one of the videos below.

A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School - 81 Page Free PDF

Since 2006 I have used Blogger for many blogging projects including this blog and many classroom blogs. Over the years I've introduced many teachers to blogging through Blogger. Blogger is easy to use and flexible enough to support you when you're ready to start using some advanced blogging strategies. I've covered the basics of Blogger and blogging in various blog posts over the years. This week I finally put all of those posts together with a series of annotated screenshots in one cohesive package, A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School.

A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School covers everything from blogging terminology to blogging activities to the nuts and bolts of using Blogger. You'll learn where to find media to use in blog posts, how to use media in blog posts, and get ideas for media-based blog posts. You'll also learn how to set-up your blog for multiple authors and how to manage comments.

A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School is embedded below. (The file is hosted on, if you cannot see the document embedded below make sure that your filter isn't blocking You may also need to be using Chrome or a recent version of Firefox, Safari, or IE as outdated browsers may not support the Box viewer).

I'm going to allow downloading the guide for the rest of the month. Downloads should be for personal, non-commercial use. Please do not redistribute it, including for workshops / faculty training, without my permission. I've used to host the file (81 page pdf). Box does not put advertising on the page while still allowing me to track downloads.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How to Introduce EduClipper to Teachers and Students

Since eduClipper launched back in May I have shared it in many of my workshops and presentations. I know that some people will be introducing it to their colleagues and students for the new school year too. If you plan to introduce eduClipper to your students or colleagues, Adam Bellow (founder of eduClipper) has put together a helpful set of slides for you to use. The slidedeck includes step-by-step directions for using eduClipper. The presentation also includes a slide to help you transition from "showing" to "coaching."

Thanks to Lee Kolbert for sharing this on Facebook.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Active Textbook - Turn PDFs Into Multimedia Documents

Active Textbook is an interesting service that you can use to turn your PDFs into multimedia documents. The basic idea behind the service is that you can upload PDFs and add pictures, links, and videos that are displayed when students read your PDF through the Active Textbook viewer. While reading your PDF through Active Textbook students can highlight, draw, and add comments to the document.

The downside to Active Textbook is that you have to create your PDF outside of Active Textbook. You have to have the layout of your PDF set before uploading it because you can't actually change the content of the PDF, you're simply adding links to it through the Active Textbook service.

Applications for Education
Active Textbook could provide a good way to create your own short multimedia texts for students. The most compelling feature is the option for students to highlight and take notes on the document while they're reading it through Active Textbook. Active Textbook also adds a dictionary tool to your document which could be handy for some students. Active Textbook is free to use for up to 500 pages of material.

Unsplash - Another Good Source of Free Images

Earlier this month I shared five good places to find public domain images. Today, I found another good source of free images. Unsplash is a Tumblr-hosted site that adds ten new, free, high-resolution images every ten days. I scrolled through the site for quite a while today and found a lot of nice images. The downside to Unsplash is that the site does not have a search function.
A free image found on Unsplash.

Applications for Education
Whenever I lead a workshop on video production in the classroom I recommend that students use their own images whenever possible. When using their own images is not an option then I recommend using public domain images. Unsplash could be one of the places that you and your students use to locate high-resolution free images.

Submrge - Ideas for Teaching With Games

Submrge is a new site created for the purpose of promoting the use of games in education. On Submrge you will find short reviews of a wide variety of games including games designed specifically for education and popular commercial games. Along with the description of the games you will find links to examples of how teachers have used the games in their classrooms.

Applications for Education
Teachers who have wondered about how to use popular video games in their classrooms could find Submrge to be a good place to find engaging lesson ideas. Some of the games that are included in Submrge are games that your students are probably already familiar with. That could be a good hook to engage students who otherwise don't get excited about school.

How to Identify Individual Elephants - An Activity In Observing Differences

A couple of months ago I shared some information about Elephant Voices. I revisited Elephant Voices this morning after the Google Science Fair Google+ feed shared a link to a good story from National Geographic and Elephant Voices about how researchers identify individual elephants.

In Mara Elephants: Who's Who & Whereabouts offers eight educational modules in which you can learn how researchers identify elephants. In each of the modules you learn about a specific characteristic of elephants that can be used to distinguish them from each other. A series of pictures accompanies each module.

Applications for Education
Mara Elephants: Who's Who & Whereabouts could be the basis for a fun lesson in observation of details. Of course, your students will be learning about elephants along the way too.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Create Citizen Scientists With NOVA Labs

NOVA Labs is a community site for students and other aspiring citizen scientists. On NOVA Labs students can participate in three ongoing projects. The three projects are Sun Lab, Energy Lab, and Cloud Lab. Each lab includes materials for learning about the respective science in order to make observations and predictions.

Watch Anatomy of the Sun on PBS. See more from NOVA.

Applications for Education
NOVA Labs provides a fairly extensive set of materials for teachers that want to use the labs in their classrooms. These materials include lesson structures, videos, and related online articles for teaching about the sun, clouds, and energy. You can also skip the educators section and go directly to the set of 23 videos from NOVA Labs.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Vimeo's Video School Teaches Us About Movie Sets

Vimeo's Video School is an excellent source of advice on video production. The Vimeo Video School covers everything from lighting to acting to editing and just about everything in between.

The latest video added to the Vimeo Video School is a fun video about the people present on a movie set. If you've ever wondered why there are so many assistant directors or what an assistant director does, Who's Who on a Movie Crew will tell you.

Who's Who on a Movie Crew from Vimeo Video School on Vimeo.

H/T to Open Culture.

The Whiz Times - News Stories & Quizzes for Kids

The Whiz Times is a news site designed for kids. The site features a wide array of news stories covering everything from serious stories about things like Edward Snowden seeking asylum in Russia to lighter stories about things like panda bears and kittens. Students and teachers can browse through The Whiz Times by selecting a news category and or an age level.

In addition to the articles, The Whiz Times has a fairly sizable collection of educational videos (most hosted on YouTube). I've embedded one of the videos from the Money Smart Whiz Kids video section.

Applications for Education
The Whiz Times offers a news quizzes to go along with many of the articles on the site. Students do have to be registered to use the quizzes and registration requires confirmation of email addresses.

Even if you don't have students register on The Whiz Times, the site could still be a nice with elementary school students to talk about the news. I could see The Whiz Times being used once a week, on Fridays perhaps, to have students explore the news of the week. 

The Week In Review - Go Do Epic Stuff

Good morning from sunny Greenwood, Maine. I hope that all of you had a great week and have fun things planned for the weekend. Earlier this week I was feeling stuck in a rut, as we all do at times, when a friend reminded me to "go do epic stuff!" This is something we say to each other when it's time to get outside and go hiking, biking, or paddling. We could say "go do something fun" but "epic fun" sounds infinitely more fun to us. Doing fun things can break you out of a rut and get you moving again. So as the new school year starts if you feel yourself stressed out or stuck in a rut, go do epic stuff!

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 100+ Tips for New Teachers and Good Reminders for Veteran Teachers
2. 43+ Alternatives to YouTube
3. A YouTube-free Video Search Engine
4. 21 ClassDojo Tutorial Videos
5. A Quick Tip About Editing in Apple's Pages
6. September Webinar Series - How To Use Google Drive In School
7. Going Beyond Google With the Help of Friends

Would you like to have me visit your school this year?
Click here to learn more 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.
Storyboard That offers a great tool for planning stories.
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.

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