Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Newsletter Option - The Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week

This weekend I finally set-up a newsletter option that many people have asked for over the years, a once-per-week email with a list of the most popular posts and a tip or two.

Beginning today you can sign up for my new newsletter, The Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week. Along with an idea for making your technology integration experience better, the seven most popular posts of the week on Free Technology for Teachers will be included in the email. The email will go out on Sunday night/ Monday morning depending upon your timezone. If you prefer to see the posts directly rather than through email, they will be posted on

This week I'm including the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week on Free Technology for Teachers, but in the future it may only appear on and in email to subscribers.

Here's this week's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week:

error-63628_640One of the things that I've learned through introducing new web tools to thousands of students and teachers is that if something can go wrong, it probably will. So when I'm setting up a workshop or setting up a lesson for students, I try to eliminate as many opportunities for things to go wrong as possible. One of the ways that I do this is through unified browser use.

Not all browsers handle every website the same way. If it's at all possible, a day or two before your training session send an email to all participants asking them to install your preferred browser or update it to the latest version. If that's not possible, at the start of your workshop tell everyone which browser you are using and encourage them to use the same for the day. If getting all participants in your training session to use the same browser isn't possible, at the very least stress to them importance of having the latest version of their preferred browsers installed. Not only will doing that improve their experience with most web tools, it will lower browser security issues as older versions of browsers are more susceptible to security threats).

Initially, it might be uncomfortable for some people to use a new browser, but by the end of the day most people will be comfortable with a different browser. Having everyone use the same browser will make your day easier and in the long run make it a better day for everyone. When everyone uses the same browser if there are unexpected glitches or problems they will likely be the same for everyone in your training session. Solve the glitch once and you’ve solved it for the whole group for the day.

Here are the most popular posts of the week from Free Technology for Teachers. 
1. Seven Free Online Whiteboard Tools for Teachers and Students 
2. Free Ebook - Digital Storytelling With Comics 
3. Would You Rather - Quick and Fun Math Lessons 
4. TED Introduces TED-Ed Clubs to Get Kids Talking About Big Ideas 
5. Compare the Size of Countries and States With These Map Mash-ups 
6. Webinar Recording - Digital Storytelling With Comics 
7. Three Good Tools for Building Flipped Lessons That Include Assessment Tools 

Click here to subscribe to the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week. 

How to Create Contact Groups to Make Sharing Google Documents Easier

A couple of days ago I received a question about sharing Google Drive files. The person who emailed me wanted to know if there is an easier way to share with a group than typing each person's email address individually. The answer is yes. The method is to create a contact group in your Gmail settings (personal Gmail or GAFE). That group will then carry over to your Google Drive where you can use it to quickly share Google Drive files. Screenshots of process are included below (click the images to view them in full size.

Step 1: Open your mail, place your cursor over "Mail" and choose "contacts" from the drop-down menu.

Step 2: Click the "add contact" icon.

Step 3: Select at least one contact name to reveal and open the "contacts group" icon.

Step 4: Name your new contacts group.

Step 5: Your new group is now created. You can add more names by simply selecting them from your contacts list and assigning them to your new group. Contacts can be members of more than one group.

Step 6:  Now when you open the sharing menu on a Google Document you can type the name of a contact group rather than entering emails individually.

Applications for Education
By creating contact groups you can quickly share with a group of students or faculty members without having to enter individual email addresses. I've used contact groups frequently when teaching multiple sections of a course. This makes it easy for me to simply type, "period 1" into the sharing menu on a document to have all of my students in that class receive it at once.