Wednesday, April 16, 2014

FAQs About the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp

This summer for the second year in a row I will be hosting the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp at Sunday River Resort in beautiful Newry, Maine. The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp will be held on July 14th and 15th, 2014. Discounted early registration is still available. I have received quite a few questions about the summer camp. Those common questions and their answers are provided below.

1. Can I register with a purchase order / check from my school?
Yes, you can. To register with a purchase order or a check from your school email me or have your business administrator email at richardbyrne (at) and I will register you on receipt of the purchase order.

2. Are you (Richard) the only instructor?
While I will be leading the summer camp, I will also be joined by Mike Morrell and Denise Blain who will be there to ensure that everyone gets the attention they need. Mike is a former colleague of mine, a high school science teacher, he is currently pursuing his M. Ed in educational technology, and is an all-around great guy. Denise is currently an alternative education teacher at the high school level and previously taught math, English, and social studies at the middle school and high school level.

3. My school is transitioning to Google Apps for Education, will this help me?
In short, yes. The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp will include the use of Google tools in each day. We will share methods for incorporating Google tools into much of what we do. That said, this is not focused only on Google tools. The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp 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.

4. I want to bring my principal, will she/he benefit from attending?
Absolutely! As I've heard my friend Scott McLeod say, "the leaders must get it." This is a great opportunity for your principal to gain a great understanding of what you and your colleagues want to do when school starts again in the fall. Equally importantly, they'll learn why you want to do it.

5. My school is going 1:1 with iPads, will this help me?
While I will share apps and methods for using iPads, the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp was designed with laptops and Chromebooks in mind. Participants in last year's summer camp who brought their iPads also brought their laptops.

6. We would love to attend but the dates don't work for us, will you be offering this at another time?
At this time I don't have plans to offer the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp on other dates. I am more than happy to come to your school district to offer a workshop. Please click here for information about my on-location professional development services.

7. Will you be streaming this online?
No. The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is designed to be hands-on and a livestream wouldn't capture much.

8. Where the heck is Sunday River and how do I get there?
Sunday River is in Newry, Maine. It is about an hour from Portland, Maine. Portland has an international airport serviced by US Airways, United, Delta, SouthWest, Jet Blue, and AirTran. Boston/ Logan Airport is about three hours away. Most people who came last year rented a car and explored a bit of Maine before and after the summer camp. I am happy to make recommendations on things to see and do if you want to extend your trip. Click here for a list of suggested activities in the area.

9. Why isn't this event free?
There are two reasons why it isn't free. First, I incur a lot of expenses in organizing and hosting the event. Second, while all of the sites and apps we will use are free, my time for teaching about them isn't free.

10. I want to sign up, where do I do that?
Click here to register online. Contact me via email at richardbyrne (at) to register with a purchase order or school check.

If the answer to your question wasn't provided above, please feel free to contact me directly at richardbyrne (at)

Too Noisy - Give Your Students Visual Feedback on Noise in Your Classroom

Last week I shared a couple of browser-based noise meters that show students how loudly they speak. That post was written in response a request for an alternative to the iPad app Too Noisy. Today, the developers of Too Noisy released a browser-based version of their app.

Too Noisy for your browser displays a large meter whose needle moves in response to the sound in your classroom. To use the Too Noisy meter just open the site and give it access to your computer's microphone. Too Noisy currently works in Chrome and Opera.

Applications for Education
Projecting the Too Noisy meter for all of your students to see could be a good way to help them understand the appropriate volume for conversations while working on group activities in your classroom.

How to Open and Edit Word Files in Google Drive

Every now and then I will receive a Word (Docx) file as an email attachment. I have configured my Google Account to allow me to open these files as documents converted into Google Docs format. In the video below I demonstrate how to configure this setting.

If you upload a file without converting it first, you can still open it in Google Docs format. To do this, right-click on the file's name then select "open with Google Docs." Screenshots of that process are included below.

Option 1:
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Option 2:
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How to Find and Use Report Card Templates in Google Drive

Earlier today through the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page I was asked for a recommendation for a free tool for creating report cards. One free online method of creating report cards is to use a Google Sheets template. Rather than starting from scratch, my recommendation is to search in the Google Drive template gallery for a report card template. I did that this morning and found some templates that I liked.

After locating a report card template in the Google Drive template gallery, click the preview link to see the full template. If after previewing the template you decide that it will work for your purposes, click "use this template" to create a copy that you can modify in your Google Drive account. Screenshots of the process are included below.

Step 1: Search for a template at
Click image to view in full size.

Step 2: Preview a template.
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Step 3: Click "use this template" to create a copy to modify in your Google Drive account.
Click image to view full size.

Five Good File Conversion Tools

Even though I create nearly all of my documents online and use cloud storage services that support a multitude of file formats, there are still a few occasions when someone sends me a file that I need to convert. If your school is not using Google Drive, Dropbox, or a similar cloud service, you may find yourself and your students in need of a file conversion tool too. A more common need for a file conversion tool arises when we start to work with audio and video files. Here are file good online file conversion tools.

The tool that I recommend nine times out of ten is Want to convert a video to a new format? Online-Convert does that. Do you need to convert an audio file to MP3 or WAV? No problem, Online-Convert has you covered. Need to convert a document to HTML from PDF? Online-ConVert does that too. Those are just a few of the many conversions that you can accomplish with Online-Convert. And you can do all of this without ever entering your email address, Facebook credentials, or any other form of registration. One of the features of Online-ConVert that I really liked is found in the video conversion tool. Not only can you change the format of the video, but Online-Convert also allows you to specify the display dimensions of the video you're converting.

Like Online-Convert above, iLoveFile provides a free suite of online file conversion tools. Registration is not required in order to use the iLoveFile conversion tools. Simply click an image, document, or audio conversion icon then upload your file and choose a file output format. After your file is converted you will be redirected to a download page to grab your file.

Cometdocs is a free service for quickly converting documents and sharing them with others. Cometdocs will convert your documents to and from Word, PDF, and Excel. When you use Cometdocs to convert a document you can share directly with others via email. After converting your documents Cometdocs also gives you a public URL that you can post for others to use to download your document. To use Cometdocs just upload a document, select the action that you want performed and enter your email address to share the document. When I tried it this evening the whole process took less than a minute. If you register for an account on Cometdocs, you can get some extra features like more storage space and unlimited file conversions.

PDF4Kindle is a neat little free service that will convert PDFs into .mobi format for reading on Kindle devices. To use the service all that you need to do is upload a PDF and let PDF4Kindle do the rest. When the conversion is complete you can download the .mobi file. The converted file will let you resize text as you would with any other Kindle document.

2EPUB provides a simple way to convert your text documents into ePub documents for viewing on ereaders. 2EPUB supports the conversion of many file types including Doc, Docx, ODT, PDF, and HTML. To convert your file into an ePub file simply upload your file, set the display parameters, and click convert. When the conversion is complete you can download your file and use it on any device that supports ePub display.

Reactions: Everyday Science - Science Videos Addressing Common Curiosities

Reactions: Everyday Science is a YouTube channel that was formerly known as Bytesize Science. I have featured a few Bytesize Science videos in the past. The new Reactions: Everyday Science continues the same pattern of producing short explanatory videos about the science in common elements of our lives. The latest video is about the science of caffeinated beverages. The end of the video includes a good visual explanation of how much caffeine is too much (it reminded me that I drink too much coffee).

I live within sight of a ski mountain so I'm fond of this Reactions video about the science of artificial snow.

H/T to Open Culture.