Monday, March 31, 2014

This Month's Ten Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

The old weather lore of "March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb" has not held true here in Maine this year. We're still waiting for the lambs to arrive. What is consistent though is that the school year marches along. Many of you, like my friends at MSAD 17, are starting the last quarter of the school year. I hope that the it is a great quarter for everyone.

As I do at the end of every month, I've created a list of the most popular posts of the month. This list is based on the number of direct visits a post received during the last 30 days.

Here are the most popular posts from March, 2014:
1. Seven Good Student Response Systems That Work On All Devices
2. By Request - Five Ways to Create and Use QR Codes In Your Classroom
3. How to Create a Bibliography in Google Documents
4. Reading Bear Offers Fun Online Reading Lessons for Kids
5. Ten Good Online Tools for Creating Mind Maps
6. Best of the Web 2014
7. Almost Everything Students Need to Know About the United Nations
8. Seven Registration-Free Drawing Tools for Students
9. A Handful of Google Calendar Tutorials for Teachers
10. 5 Good Options for Creating Digital Portfolios

Would you like to come learn with me this summer?
Click here to learn more about the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Class Charts provides a great way to record and analyze student behavior information.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
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.
EdTechTeacher is offers professional development workshops in Boston and Chicago.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.
Fresno Pacific University offers a wide variety of technology courses for teachers.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
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Access and Use More Than 20,000 Historical Maps from the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library recently released more than 20,000 historical maps through NYPL Digital Collections. These maps can be downloaded in high resolution to re-use in your own projects. Highlights of the collection includes maps of Mid-Atlantic North America from the 16th through 19th centuries, maps of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and more than 1,000 historical maps of New York City.

The NYPL's Map Division offers a new tool called the Map Warper for overlaying historical maps on top of current maps. The Map Warper is similar in concept to using historical images as overlays on Google Earth. The difference is that Map Warper doesn't require you to install software on your computer. Learn more about the Map Warper in the video below.

Applications for Education
One of the ways that I've used historical maps in my classroom in the past is to have students evaluate the role of physical geography in the development of cities. I've also had students use historical maps to compare our current understanding of the world with that of cartographers of the 15th and 16th centuries.

H/T to Open Culture

Learn With Coursera on Your iPad or Android Tablet

Coursera is a great place to find free online open courses for personal and professional learning. Coursera currently has more than 600 courses available through its catalog. Most courses include short video lectures, interactive quizzes, and peer graded assessments.

This month Coursera released an updated iPad app and a new Android app. Both apps allow students to browse for courses, register for courses, and participate in courses. The apps also allow students to download course videos to view offline.

Applications for Education
The boom in MOOCs and other online course offerings means that students don't have to go far to find courses to meet their intellectual needs. If you have a high school student with an interest in a subject that your school doesn't offer, Coursera is a good place for that student to turn to for self-guided study.

H/T to The Next Web

Browse Data Sets and Data Visualizations on is a community site for sharing data visualizations. Anyone can upload their data visualizations to the public gallery. The public gallery is divided into sixteen categories covering topics in health, science, government, economics, and education. Visualizations in the gallery can be downloaded, printed, and or embedded into your blog or website. Some of the visualizations in the gallery, such as this one embedded below, are interactive.

In addition to the galleries of data visualizations, offers data sets that you can download to use in the creation of your own data visualizations. There are data sets available on topics in economics, environment, health, energy, society, and demographics.

Applications for Education could be a good place to find infographics to use at the start of a research activity. For example, take the infographic embedded above and ask students to research the causes of and impact of high obesity rates on communities.

Sports and Data Visualizations

The World Series champion Boston Red Sox begin a new season today. Baseball players and their fans are fanatical about statistics. The same is true for many other sports. Tableau Public is currently featuring a graphic listing dozens of places to find sports data online. The list includes data for baseball, football, soccer, basketball, hockey, tennis, horse racing, rugby, and cricket.

Applications for Education
Tableau Public offers free software (Windows only) for creating data visualizations. Students could use the software to create visual data comparisons as an exercise in developing their analysis skills. Creating the visualizations could also be used as part of an exercise in developing design skills. Randy Krum's book Cool Infographics outlines seven key concepts of good data visualizations. His key concepts are outlined here.

If you are not a Windows user, take a look at these ten options for creating data visualizations.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ten Seats Left at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp

Last summer I hosted the first Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp at Sunday River Resort and Conference Center in beautiful Newry, Maine. The response was great and many people have emailed me this winter asking if I was going to host it again. I am happy to announce that I will be hosting the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp on July 14th and 15th, 2014. Early Camper registration is still available. 

Come to the beautiful Sunday River resort in Maine to spend two days learning with me, Richard Byrne. The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp on July 14-15, 2014 is a hands-on exploration of how to use free technology tools in your classroom. This two day workshop is based on my framework for using technology to help students discover new information, discuss their ideas, and demonstrate their knowledge. Registration is limited to 25 participants to ensure that every participant gets the attention he or she deserves. Register today or read on for more information.

Highlights of the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp
  • Practical ideas for using technology in your classroom. 
  • A small, collaborative, hands-on learning environment. Bring your laptop because you'll be doing, not listening.
  • Twelve+ hours of learning in a relaxed and picturesque setting.
  • Develop a repertoire of new tools and ideas to effectively integrate technology into your lessons.
Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 10.57.43 AM

This is an educational retreat!
Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is held at the Sunday River resort so that teachers can get away, relax, and learn in a comfortable environment that you won't find at typical summer conferences. Healthy breakfasts and hearty lunches will fuel your brain for learning and are included in your registration. And when we're done for the day you can relax in the pool, soak in a hot tub,  play the world-class Sunday River golf course, go on a sunset Moose tour, cast a line into the blue-ribbon Androscoggin fishery, or browse through the shops in historic downtown Bethel, Maine.

Want to turn your trip to the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp into a family vacation? Sunday River has extended special room rates for two room suites that are good for your whole stay even if you come early or stay late. So bring your family and go on a zipline through the mountains, paddle down the river, go geocaching, or hike a stretch of the world-renowned Appalachian Trail. Click here for more information about activities in the area.

What you will learn.
The two day workshop is based on my framework of Discovery, Discussion, and Demonstration. The first day is focused helping students use technology to discover and discuss. Day two is focused on demonstrating knowledge by creating new digital content including podcasts, videos, and other multimedia productions. Abbreviated outlines of each day are posted below. Day One:
  • Breakfast 7:30-8:30.
  • Teaching students how to search effectively.
  • Going beyond Google.
  • Collaborative research.
  • The role of social networks in education.
  • Backchannels and informal assessment tools.
  • Lunch 12:00-1:00
  • Collaborative writing and publishing with Google Drive and other collaborative tools.
  • Building blogs and websites.
  • Teaching digital citizenship.
Day Two:
  • Breakfast 7:30-8:30
  • Copyright, Creative Commons, and Fair Use
  • Podcasting and audio editing.
  • Video production with free web tools.
  • Lunch 12:00-1:00
  • Creating multimedia ebooks.
  • Maps as stories.
  • Sharing your work.

Register today!

Who should come to the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp?
K-12 teachers and curriculum directors who want to discover the best tools and strategies for teaching with technology in the new school year. You do not have to have any prior technology skills in order to learn a lot during the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Just bring your laptop and you're ready to go. If you are a more experienced user of educational technology, there will be plenty of new tools and ideas for you too. Here's what some people have said about my previous workshops:
  • FYI...I learned several things tonight. Really looking forward to this series. When I go to teacher led classes at conferences I usually know more than they do. Tonight was not that way :)
  • @rmbyrne Thank you, Richard - truly inspiring - lots of fantastic information and tips! Can't wait to explore some more! Have a great day!
  • Great presentation from @rmbyrne New ideas to apply augmented reality w students with Autism & independence.
  • Thanks to @rmbyrne, I know how to make a choose your own adventure story using google forms. #edchat #edtech
  • And just to give you a little sense of my personality, here's a Tweet from one of my former students. It's always a fun history class when you're trying to roll your tongue with your teacher. #swag @rmbyrne

Register Today!

  • Super Early Camper registration (available through March 15) is $397/person.
  • Early Camper Registration (available through May 15)  is $447/person.
  • Standard Registration (after May 15) is $497/person.
Your registration includes breakfast and lunch both days. You are responsible for making your own room reservations through Sunday River. Mention "" to get special room rates. Standard rooms are $101/night, suites with kitchenettes are available for $141/night. Two ways to register.
  1. The easiest way to register is through the EventBrite form below.
  2. The other way to register is with a check or purchase order from your school. Contact me at richardbyrne (at) to pay with a check or purchase order.
To ensure that everyone gets the attention they need, the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is limited to 25 participants. Register today! (Please note that EventBrite doesn't account for seats sold offline, the ticket count shown below may not be an accurate reflection of actual seats available. If you have a large group, please contact me directly at richardbyrne at
Refund policy
  • 100% refunds will be given up to 60 days prior to the start of the event.
  • 50% refunds will be given up to 30 days prior to the start of the event. 
  • No refunds will be given for cancellations less than 30 days prior to the start of the event.
What to bring to camp
  • This is a hands-on learning environment. Bring a laptop. Everything on the agenda can be done on a laptop, but not everything can be done on an iPad or Android tablet. You're welcome to bring your iPad or Android tablet, but make sure you also bring a laptop.
  • A smile and a willingness to learn.
Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 10.57.43 AM

TwistedWave - Create Audio Recordings and Save Them in Google Drive

TwistedWave is a new audio recording and editing tool that is now included in Next Vista's list of recommended tools. Through TwistedWave you can create and edit spoken audio recordings from scratch. Your completed tracks can be exported to Google Drive and SoundCloud.

If you have existing audio tracks in your SoundCloud or Google Drive account you can also import it into TwistedWave to edit those audio tracks.

TwistedWave's audio editing tools include options for fade-in, fade-out, looping, sound normalization, and pitch adjustments. The editor also includes the typical track clipping tools that you would expect to see in an audio editing tool.

You will have to create a free TwistedWave account in order to create and or edit a track of more than thirty seconds in length.

Applications for Education
TwistedWave could be a good audio track creation and editing tool for students and teachers that are using Chromebooks. The integration with Google Drive makes it easy for students to save their works and share their recordings with their teachers.

Haiku Deck to PowerPoint & PowerPoint to Haiku Deck

Haiku Deck is a fantastic tool for designing slideshow presentations. The best aspect of Haiku Deck is the built-in Creative Commons image search tool. That tool makes it easy to find high resolution images to match the message of each slide in your presentation. Over the last year I've had a handful of occasions on which used Haiku Deck to find images and design slides before dropping them into Keynote. On the same track, Haiku Deck recently published directions for exporting Haiku Deck to PowerPoint. That option is available in both the iPad and web app versions of Haiku Deck.

And if you want to import PPT or Keynote slides into Haiku Deck, you can find those directions here.

Four Sources of Print-on-demand Graph Paper

Every mathematics teacher I know needs graph paper. If you're a mathematics teacher and find yourself running short on graph paper or you need a graph paper that is different from what your school purchases, try one of these four places for printing graph paper.

Incompetech offers more than forty different graph and lined paper templates. The offerings from Incompetech even includes sheet music ledger.

Print Free Graph Paper offers eight graph paper formats. Print Free Graph Paper allows you to customize the size of the graph before printing.

Math Drills hosts fourteen templates for printing your own graph paper. The templates are in metric and imperial measurements.

Gridzzly is a free tool for designing lined, grid, and graph paper. Simply open the site, select the format for your paper (dots, lines, squares, or hexagons) then choose the spacing for the paper and print it. A ruler at the top of the page indicates the spacing of the dots, lines, squares, or hexagons on your page.

H/T to Lifehacker for Griddzly. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Two Activities to Help Students Learn About the Cost of Living

Spent is an online game designed to teach players about the challenges of living on minimum wage (or slightly higher) employment. Players begin by selecting a job which will provide the wages they have to survive on for a month. Then throughout the game players are confronted with challenges that they have to handle by making an "either or" choice. After each choice the player's account balance is adjusted. In addition to the change in the player's balance sheet, each choice is followed by an explanation of consequence of the choice made.

The Living Wage Calculator is a website developed and maintained by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier at MIT. The purpose of the Living Wage Calculator is to provide a snapshot of what it actually costs to survive in counties and cities in the United States. The Living Wage Calculator shows the differences between minimum wages and minimum living wages for each county and some cities in the U.S. The calculator accounts for eight different household scenarios from single adult to two adults and three children living in the same household.

The Living Wage Calculator only accounts for the basic monthly expenses in each scenario. After looking at the Living Wage Calculator's data for your county, ask your students to try to account for other expenses that a typical family has. After they look at the data for their county ask your students to try to locate help wanted postings that provide a minimum living wage in their county. Then have them determine what type of education and training those jobs require.

60 Second Lessons on Economics, Philosophy, and Religion

60 second videos are clearly not a replacement for actual lessons, but they could be great introductions to larger lessons. They also provide a good model for short video projects that you can do with your students. The Open University offers three playlists featuring sixty second lessons on economics, philosophy, and religion. Those playlists are embedded below.

The Week In Review - The Ski-a-thon Edition

Good evening from Maine where I'm late with the week-in-review for a good reason. Today, I participated in a ski-a-thon to raise money for Maine Adaptive Sports. My friend Holly convinced me to join her team this year and we had a blast as "Queens (and King) of the Mountain." With more than 100 teams on the mountain over $300,000 was raised for this wonderful organization today. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope you have an equally enjoyable time.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Seven Registration-Free Drawing Tools for Students
2. A Handful of Google Calendar Tutorials for Teachers
3. Ten Good Online Tools for Creating Mind Maps
4. A Handful of Helpful Google Forms Tutorials for Teachers
5. By Request - Seven Tools for Building and Sharing Online Quizzes
6. Free Collaborative Video Creation with iPads
7. ClassDojo Launches a Messaging Service to Help Teachers Keep Parents Informed

Would you like to come learn with me this summer?
Click here to learn more about the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Class Charts provides a great way to record and analyze student behavior information.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
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.
EdTechTeacher is offers professional development workshops in Boston and Chicago.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.
Fresno Pacific University offers a wide variety of technology courses for teachers.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter, on Google+, or on Pinterest.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Strength of Simple Videos

Over the last month I've facilitated a handful of workshops on the topic of video creation in the classroom. One of the points that I always try to stress in those workshops is that the focus of most student video projects should be on developing and delivering clear story lines. Yes, it is great if students use slick transitions and special effects, but those don't mean a thing if the video doesn't have a clear purpose (unless that purpose is to demonstrate editing skills).

Most of us are not teachers of video production, we're teaching some other subject and using the video project as a means to get students engaged in demonstrating their knowledge and skills. To that end, I always start video projects by outlining what it is I want students to demonstrate through their videos. Then I think about the video creation tools that will fit that purpose. You can see an outline of my process and the tools that I like here.

There two examples on Next Vista that I frequently share to illustrate the strength of simple videos that have clear story lines and purposes. First, is the Black Death In 90 Seconds in which a teacher uses still shots of Legos and other toys to explain the Black Death to students. This video packs in all the basics while entertaining at the same time. Second, is My Name is Michael in which a student named Michael explains what life is like living with Autism. Both videos are embedded below.

Both of the videos above were created with iMovie (now pre-installed on new iPads), but they could have just as easily been created with WeVideo or Windows Movie Maker.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Handful of Google Calendar Tutorials for Teachers

From simply keeping track of personal appointments to sharing important information with students, Google Calendar is a versatile tool for teachers. The following tutorials can help you get the most out of using Google Calendar.

A Short Guide to Creating and Sharing Google Calendars - The basics

How to Add Attachments to Google Calendar Events

How to Embed a Google Calendar Into Your Blogger Blog

How to Create Google Calendar Event Reminders

How to Create Appointment Slots in Google Apps Calendars

Gooru Adds a Collaboration Option for Building Resource Collections With Your Colleagues

Gooru is a service designed to help teachers create and share collections of educational videos, texts, and images. This week Gooru released a few new features that you could find helpful in building your collections. First, Gooru now allows you to collaborate on collections with up to twenty of your colleagues. Simply invite them by email while you're working on a collection and they can start adding materials to the collection. Click here to learn more about collaborating on Gooru collections.

The second Gooru update of note is a new folders tool for organizing multiple collections into one folder. The third update to note is an updated standards library. The Gooru standards library contains collections of materials aligned to the Common Core math standards for grades five through twelve.

Applications for Education
As a teacher on Gooru you can create collections, add text narration to each element in the collection, create quiz questions about items in your collections, and share your collections with students either publicly or privately. Being able to add quiz questions for students to answer as they go through one of the collections you've created is the feature of Gooru that I like best. By having students answer as they go through the collection I can get a sense of what I need to spend more or less time covering in my classroom.

Free iBook - 16 Online Resources & Ideas for Teaching Geography

Online Resources for Teaching IB DP Geography is a free iBook published by Richard Allaway. The free iBook contains sixteen chapters addressing sixteen topics in the geography theme of "patterns and change." Within each chapter you will find a featured online resource and suggestions for using it to teach the topic of the chapter. For example, in chapter three Movement Responses - Migration you will learn about and glean some ideas for how you can use it to teach students about the causes of migration.

Applications for Education
Geography teachers who are looking for some new tools, particularly tools around data analysis, would do well to download Online Resources for Teaching IB DP Geography. As with most professional development books the value of Online Resources for Teaching IB DP Geography lies more in the ideas shared than in the tools themselves.

Learn Computer Science and Coding With This edX Course

Through edX Harvard has made an updated version of their popular CS50 course available to everyone. The twelve week course is designed for people who do not have any prior coding experience. The course begins with the basics of how computers work before moving through the languages C, PHP, and JavaScript plus SQL, CSS, and HTML. Other topics covered in the course include abstraction, algorithms, data structures, encapsulation, resource management, security, software engineering, and web development.

Applications for Education
If you have high school students who are interested in computer science, but your school doesn't offer a course for them, working through CS50 on edX could be a good way for those students to receive a comprehensive introduction to computer science and programming.

H/T to Open Culture

ClassDojo Launches a Messaging Service to Help Teachers Keep Parents Informed

ClassDojo, a popular student behavior recording service, has launched an excellent new messaging feature in their Android and iOS apps. The new messaging feature allows teachers to send messages to parents about their children. The messaging featuring can be used to send messages to parents on an individual basis and on a whole group basis. ClassDojo is using the term "Direct Messaging" to refer to sending messages to individuals and the term "Broadcast Messaging" to refer to sending messages to all parents in a group.

ClassDojo's messaging service, like that of Remind 101 and similar messaging services, hides the personal contact information of the teacher and the of the parents. Parents have to opt-in to receive messages from the teacher.

Applications for Education
The new direct messaging aspect of ClassDojo's messaging service could be a great tool for keeping parents informed about the positive things their children are doing in your classroom. The broadcast messaging aspect of ClassDojo's messaging service could be good for sending reminders to all parents about things like due dates for paperwork or homework that their children need to complete.

I would be a little leery of using the messaging service to notify parents of negative behaviors. In those cases I would still prefer speaking directly to parents.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

By Request - Seven Tools for Building and Sharing Online Quizzes

Earlier today, through the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page, I was asked for suggestions for tools for creating and sharing online quizzes. 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.

QuizBean is a nice platform for creating simple image-based quizzes that your students can complete online. The service offers some nice features that teachers will appreciate. You can now assign quizzes to students on a class-by-class or individual basis. Quiz results are automatically sent to your teacher dashboard when students have completed a quiz. Try my sample QuizBean quiz to get a better sense of how students will see a quiz that you distribute to them.

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.

Did You Know This About YouTube?

YouTube Help offers three helpful playlists for learning tips and tricks about YouTube and the YouTube mobile apps. The Did You Know? playlist covers an assortment of search and editing tips. Mobile Mondays is dedicated to tips about the YouTube mobile apps. And How-To's is all about the editing options built into YouTube.

An Illustrated Glossary of Genetic Terms

The National Human Genome Research Institute has a great talking glossary of genetic terms for students. The glossary is available online and as a free iPad app. The Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms features scientists explaining each term. Most terms are accompanied by an illustration and some terms are accompanied by 3D animations.

Applications for Education
After reviewing terms in the Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms students can test their knowledge by taking the Test Your Gene Knowledge quiz. The glossary on its own is a good review resource to link to your course blog or website.

Colds and the Flu Explained

After years of not getting sick this winter I've had the flu and caught a few colds. My latest cold has knocked me back this week. The only good thing about getting a cold is that it reminded me of some resources that can help students understand colds, flu, and the immune system. Those resources are included below.

What is the difference between having a cold and having the flu? Explania has the answer in the video below.

What is ‘flu? - Explania

So how is a cold or flu passed from person to person and what exactly is it doing to your body? NPR answers those questions in the following animated video.

Paul Andersen explains the immune system to high school students in the video below. This is a video that would be a excellent to use as part of a flipped lesson.

A Handful of Helpful Google Forms Tutorials for Teachers

Google Forms and Google Sheets can be very useful for collecting all kinds of information from students and others. Three of the most common uses of Google Forms and Sheets in schools are creating quizzes, conducting surveys, and organizing workflow. The following videos, screenshots, and links will help you learn how to use Google Forms and Sheets in your classroom.

Insert images into Google Forms. 

Inserting Videos into questions in Google Forms: 
Click image to view full size. 
Click image to view full size. 

gClassFolders is a script that will create folders for you for as many course sections as you need. The concept behind it is this; students have a "dropbox" folder in their Google Drive accounts that you have shared with them. To submit work students drag files into that "dropbox" folder. From there gClassFolders sorts submissions to the correct folder for each student. You can find complete directions for gClassFolders here.

Doctopus is a Google Spreadsheet script that can help teachers manage the flow of shared work in in their Google Drive accounts. The basic concept behind the script is to enable teachers to quickly share documents with all of the students on a roster, monitor usage of shared documents, and give students feedback within that roster spreadsheet. Find directions for Doctopus here or watch the videos embedded below.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Map of Life - The Distribution of Animals Around the World

Map of Life is a mapping project sponsored in part by Yale and the University of Colorado, Boulder. The map offers the option to see distribution of a species around the world. To do so, select a species from the species menu and placemarks for that species will be displayed on the map. Map of Life also provides the option to see a distribution of animals closest to you. To do that select "what lives near me."

Applications for Education
Map of Life could be a good resource for students studying ecology or biology. You could have students select a species, see its distribution mapped, then investigate the challenges facing the species in various parts of the world. You could also ask students to explain why a particular species is not present in a region of the world.

H/T to Google Maps Mania

Now You Can Edit Images In Google Slides

Google Slides has come a long way since its early days of offering very basic collaborative slideshow creation. Today, Google released a new Google Slides option for editing the images in your slides. You've always been able to re-size images in your slides, but now when you add an image to a slide you can crop it, apply borders to it, and apply masks to it. To do any of these things simply select the image then select an editing option from the new image editing menu. See the screenshot below for the location of the new image editing menu. Click here for Google's post with directions on using the new image editing tools.

Click to view full size. 

Sports Science - Baseball

Spring will be here soon. With spring comes the beginning of a new baseball season for Little Leaguers, high school players, and pros. This is a good time to take a look at the science of the sport.

Exploratorium has a little feature called the Science of Baseball. The Science of Baseball is a bit dated in its looks, but it still has some nice resources that can help students understand how a bit of science and mathematics is involved in the game. The Science of Baseball includes video and audio clips of baseball players and scientists explaining how the weather affects the flight of the ball, the physics of various pitches, and reaction times to thrown and batted baseballs.

ESPN's Sport Science has a handful of little resources about the science of baseball. Currently featured on ESPN's homepage is a Anatomy of a Pitch. In Anatomy of a Pitch seven pitchers from the Arizona Diamondbacks explain how they throw their signature pitches. Each explanation includes slow motion footage and the pitchers explaining the release points, finger positionings, leg uses, and rotations involved in each their pitches.

Sport Science also offers a small collection of videos explaining things like reaction times involved in baseball.

Common Craft Explains Primary and Secondary Sources

Understanding the differences between primary and secondary sources can be a challenge to some middle school and high school students. Understanding the relationship between them and the value of each in the research process can help students become better researchers. Common Craft recently released a new video in which the differences and relationships between primary and secondary sources are explained in a two minute story. The video is embedded below. You can also click here to view it on the Common Craft website.

A Small Collection of Resources for Learning About Mount Everest

The Himalaya climbing season is just beginning. This is a good time for lessons about Mount Everest and the Himalaya in general. Concepts in math, science, geography, and geology can be covered while teaching about Mount Everest. Here are some good resources for lessons about Mount Everest., hosts dozens of other interactive panoramas from around the world. Included in that list is a 360 degree interactive panoramic image taken from the peak of Mt. Everest. Using that panoramic image students can see what mountaineers see when they stand on the peak of Mt. Everest. The image includes views of the famous Khumbu valley as well as Everest's neighboring peaks Lhotse, Changtse, Makalu, and Nupste. The rest of the list of interactive panoramas includes views of cultural festivals and tourist attractions. The database of US panoramic views includes the Grand Canyon, the Jefferson Memorial, and two dozen other panoramas.

This Google Earth tour of Mount Everest's South Col route offers good views of the steps and camps along the way to the summit of Mount Everest. The South Col route is the route that Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay used on the first successful summit climb. The South Col route is also the most commonly used route up Mount Everest.

Last year I read Mount Everest, The Reconnaissance 1921 which I downloaded for free from Google Books. In the introduction there is a three page explanation of the methods used to measure the height of Mount Everest. An explanation of the differences in measurements is also provided in the introduction. Part of that explanation includes differences in snow fall, cyclical deviations of gravity, and differences atmospheric refraction when observations were made. I'm not a mathematics teacher and will never pretend to be one, but reading that introduction did get me thinking about a possible mathematics lesson.

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

Google Maps Special Collections includes Street View imagery for Mount Everest, Mount Aconcagua, Mount Elbrus, and Mount Kilimanjaro. Those are four of what are referred to by mountaineers as the Seven Summits.

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The imagery doesn't take you to the summit of Mount Everest but you can take a look around base camp and the approach to it. The imagery may spark your students' curiosity about Mount Everest and if it does you will want to take a look at the following resources.

All of the resources above give a very western perspective to Mount Everest. There's another side of Everest and that is the perspective of the Sherpa people who are native to the area and have climbed Everest more than any other group. To see a different perspective on Everest watch this BBC documentary about Sherpas who work with westerners on the mountain. You can watch the video below. Before showing the video to your students, you may want to remind them that Sherpa is an ethnic group, not a job title.

Glacier Works, Microsoft, and David Breashears have collaborated to develop a great new site called Everest: Rivers of Ice. Everest: Rivers of Ice is an interactive site that takes visitors on a virtual trek to Mount Everest base camp. There are eight stops along the way to base camp. At each stop viewers can explore panoramic images of valleys and glaciers. After completing the virtual trek to base camp viewers can compare the size of Himalayan glaciers in the 1920's to the size of those same glaciers today. As David Breashears says in the opening video, Everest: Rivers of Ice is designed to raise awareness of the shrinking glaciers of the Himalaya. Those glaciers provide water to nearly two billion people. Everest: Rivers of Ice could be used as part of lesson in which students learn about the formation of glaciers and rivers.

For younger students the following video from MocomiKids provides an overview of basic facts about Mount Everest.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Analyzing Shakespeare With Storyboards

Creating a storyboard can be a good way to organize a story and plan a video project. As Rebecca Ray shares in the slides below, creating storyboards can also be a good way to deconstruct and analyze a story.

Share my-lesson-webinar-on-shakespeare from Richard Byrne

The recording of Rebecca Ray's presentation is embedded below.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers. 

Three Mind Mapping Tools That Save to Google Drive

One of my favorite aspects of Google Drive is the option to create content with third party services and save that content in your Google Drive account. The option to sign into a service with a Google Account makes it convenient create content without the need to keep track of a separate user name and password. Creating mind maps is one of my favorite ways to organize ideas and information. I've often had my students create mind maps as an exercise in making visual connections between important concepts, events, and people in a unit of study. The following three mind mapping tools allow students to save their mind maps in their Google Drive accounts.

MindMup is a free mind mapping tool that can be used online, with Google Drive, and on your desktop. MindMup works like most mind mapping tools in that you can create a central idea and add child and sibling nodes all over a blank canvas. MindMup nodes can contain text and links. When you're ready to save your MindMup mind map you can save it to Google Drive, save it to your desktop, or publish it online. If you publish it online, you can grab an embed code for it to post it in a blog post or webpage.

Lucidchart offers a simple drag and drop interface for creating flow charts, organizational charts, mind maps, and other types of diagrams. To create with Lucidchart just select elements from the menus and drag them to the canvas. You can re-size any element and type text within elements on your chart. Arrows and connecting lines can be re-sized, repositioned, and labeled to bring clarity to your diagrams. Google Chrome users can use Lucidchart offline through the Lucidchart Chrome app. Lucid Chart offers the option to include interactive tables and notations to your charts. You can right-click on any shape in your mind map to write and add a note about it. Lucidchart now offers a Google Documents Add-on too.

Mindmeister is a colorful mind mapping tool that offers a Google Drive app and a new Google Documents Add-on. The Google Drive app is an intuitive tool through which you can click and drag nodes on your mind map. The Google Documents Add-on creates a mind map from a list in your document.

ArkGIS - Explore Maps of the Changing Arctic Landscape

ArkGIS is a customizable map developed by the World Wildlife Fund for the purpose of visualizing historical data about sea ice, marine life, and oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. To create custom visualizations of data layers on the ArkGIS map simply select a data category then select data layers to display. For example, I chose the "marine mammals" category then selected the "beluga whales" and "walrus" to view their distributions.

Applications for Education
ArkGIS could be good tool for students to use to compare the range of animals in the Arctic. Students could also use the map to combine and compare information from multiple categories. For example, they could combine data layers about animal ranges and icepack cover.

World Science U - Short Online Science Courses

World Science U is a new site featuring hundreds of short videos explaining dozens of topics in physics. The site also includes free short online courses for high school and college students. Visitors to World Science U can browse for videos by theme and topic. Select a theme to open a menu of topics within that theme. Learn more about World Science U in the video below.

The courses available through World Science U are completely free. The courses include discussion forums and assessments by which you can measure your progress.

Seven Registration-Free Drawing Tools for Students

Earlier today Shannon Miller Tweeted about a free drawing tool called Sketch Toy. Students do not have to register to use Sketch Toy and they can download all of their drawings to use in other projects.  After trying Sketch Toy I decided to revisit some other drawing tools that do not require students to register in order to create and download drawings. 

Aww App is a super simple browser-based application for creating drawings. To get started just go to and click on "start drawing."  To invite people to collaborate on your drawing just send them the link assigned to your drawing board and they can join in the drawing fun. If you would like to use Aww App on your classroom or school website and you have familiarity with editing the code behind your site, you can install Aww App for free.

ABCya Animate is a fun 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. The feature that I like best about ABCya Animate is that students can see the previous frames of their animations while working on a current frame. This helps students know where to position items in each frame in order to make their animations as smooth as possible. Students do not need to register on ABCya Animate in order to use the tool or to save their animations. When students click "save" on ABCya Animate their creations are downloaded as GIFs.

Sketchpad is a free, feature-rich, online drawing tablet that I recently came across in my stumbling around the Internet. Sketchpad offers users the ability to quickly create drawings. Sketchpad doesn't require you to create an account in order to create and save your drawings. All of the drawing tools that you would expect to find like brushes, pencils, and a large range of colors are offered by Sketchpad. Additionally, Sketchpad offers some unique tools for creating patterns, swatches, and blends of colors.

Art Pad and Sketch Pad (different from the Sketch Pad above) are both blank slate drawing utilities. Art Pad and Sketch Pad allow users to select from a variety of drawing tools and painting tools. Art Pad has a neat playback feature that shows you the steps you took in creating your images. Both Art Pad and Sketch Pad allow you to share your drawings via email or in a public gallery.

Crayola's online drawing canvas provides students with a blank canvas on which they can draw using virtual markers, crayons, pencils, and paints. Drawings cannot be saved online, but they can be printed. Pre-K Teachers looking for coloring pages can create their own or have students create their own using Crayola's Create & Color tool. Create & Color provides templates for creating custom coloring pages. You can pick a background template and modify it by adding speech bubbles and pictures. Coloring pages cannot be saved online, but they can be printed.

Bomomo is an interesting drawing utility that creates images out of controlled chaos. Users select a drawing utility then the Bomomo program begins randomly drawing. Users can determine where the drawing starts with their computer's mouse. Users can also select general shapes and patterns to be drawn.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Seven Resources for Teaching and Learning About Food & Nutrition

On Tuesday morning I'm going to visit a school that has adopted a new health and fitness curriculum focused on helping students make better food choices and help them develop personal fitness goals. In thinking about my upcoming visit I revisited the following resources that can help students learn about food and nutrition.

Chow Checker was developed by students was developed by students at Hampstead Academy. The app was submitted to and won Verizon's Innovative App Challenge. Chow Checker is a free Android app that anyone can use to search for foods and discover which allergens may be in them. Chow Checker users can create profiles of their own allergens to help them keep track of the foods that contain allergens that can affect them. You don't have to create a profile in order to use the app. You can simply enter a food's name or part of the name ("trail" instead of "trail mix" for example) and view the common allergens that it contains.

Why do so many of us crave sugar and sweet things? Untamed Science offers a short explanation in the video below.

Chew or Die is a free iOS app that encourages people to try new healthy foods. The free app contains a series of healthy food challenges. The challenges include things like removing bread and potato-based starches with rice, trying a new vegetable, removing meat from your diet for a week, and sneaking more fiber into your diet. When you try a challenge take a picture of the food that you try and upload it to Chew or Die to challenge your friends to match your healthy choice.

Sugar Stacks is a good website for understanding how much sugar is in the food and beverages that we consume. Sugar Stacks lists popular food and beverage items in ten categories. Every item is pictured with a stack of sugar cubes. Each sugar cube represents four grams of sugar. This is a great way to see just how much sugar you really consume in your favorite snack or beverage.

Food Play Productions produces and performs educational plays about healthy lifestyle habits. In addition to the plays, Food Play produces a nice selection of resources for teachers to use in their classrooms. Food Play also has resources designed for kids, teens, and parents to access on their own. The type of resource that visitors to the site will find are things like "school wellness" checklists and "snacking guides."

Healthy Heroes is a free iPad app designed to help children learn about healthy snacks and meals. In the free app students feed healthy foods to a friendly monster. Before each activity students are shown a few healthy foods and they’re told a bit about the nutrition and calories of the foods. Then in the activity students tap mystery boxes to find the snacks and drag them to the monster’s mouth. Between each activity a short, healthy eating tip is played for students to watch.

Nourish Interactive is a great resource for elementary school health and nutrition teachers. Nourish Interactive offers lesson plans, printable guides and forms, resources for parents, and games for students. In the printables section teachers will find things like fun coloring pages as well as educational pages like "name the food group" and "exercise tracking sheets." The parents' section of Nourish Interactive offers parents tips on teaching healthy eating habits at home. The parents' section also offers tips and recipes for cooking healthy food with kids. The games section of Nourish Interactive contains ten online games for elementary school students. The games are designed to reinforce the lessons learned from parents and teachers using the teaching resources on Nourish Interactive.