Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Libraries and Librarians in the Internet Age

Libraries in the Internet Age is the title of the latest video produced by Common Craft. The video provides a clear overview of how libraries and the importance of librarians has changed over time. The video echoes a point that I made in a webinar today and that I have heard many librarians say to students, "Google is not the only search engine." Librarians can help students access databases that they otherwise wouldn't be able to use which in turn takes them to information they wouldn't otherwise find. The video is embedded below. You can also click here to watch it.

Applications for Education
Libraries in the Internet Age could be a great video to show to students at the beginning of the school year or just before they embark on a new research project. The video might help students realize that there is a lot more to their school libraries than meets their eyes.

The Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers in March

Good evening from the FreeTech4Teachers.com world headquarters in Woodstock, Maine. It is finally starting to feel like spring here. And as you can see in the picture to the left, no one is as happy about that as Max who is finding all of sticks that were buried all winter.

This was a busy month for me as I traveled to conferences and hosted a bunch of webinars. As a result the posting was a little lighter than normal for me, but I still managed to publish nearly 100 posts. The list below features the posts that were the most popular in March.

Here are the most popular posts of the month:
1. 10 Good Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms Add-ons for Teachers
2. Five Ways Students Can Share Videos Without YouTube
3. 7 Tools for Building Review Games
4. iStoryBooks Now Offers Premium Books for Free to Teachers
5. How to Sign Documents That Have Been Emailed to You Without Printing Them
6. Great Tools for Informal Assessment
7. 5 Free Tools for Creating Whiteboard Videos
8. 75 Practical Ed Tech Tips Videos
9. Two Tools for Turning Outlines Into Mind Maps
10. Canva for Education - Lesson Plans Incorporating Visuals Across the Curriculum

The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp being held on July 13 &14. The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is a two day, hands-on learning experience for teachers. This year's event is being held in downtown Portland, Maine just a few blocks from the ocean, great dining, and iconic lighthouses. Register by April 16th to save $50 on registration.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
Versal is a great tool for building interactive online course components.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
PresentationTube provides a good way to use PowerPoint to create flipped lessons.
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.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
SeeSaw is a great iPad app for creating digital portfolios.

Before You Embed That Gadget or Badge or Infographic...

Last week I received a panicked email from a reader who was having problems with her classroom blog. She reported that dialogue boxes were popping-up whenever someone visited her blog. That's usually a sign that there is some malware hidden in the code of the blog. So I used an laptop that I keep around for these kinds of things and took a look at her blog. Sure enough, as soon as I visited the site a bunch of dialogue boxes popped-up on my screen.

As I looked at the blog I saw an educational game gadget embedded into the sidebar. There was also a countdown calendar embedded into the sidebar. The countdown calendar was one I had seen in a lot  of blogs so I didn't think that was the problem. The game gadget was from a service I hadn't heard of. I asked the owner of the blog if she could remove it. She did and the pop-ups went away.

Embedding gadgets into a blog can be a good way to enhance what your blog offers. That said, some gadgets seem harmless can cause problems for you. Before you embed a gadget or badge consider its source. Is it from a site or company you've never heard of? Does the site itself have a bunch of pop-ups appearing? If so, those could be good signs that the gadgets they're offering are suspect too.

On a similar note, a lot of companies like to get bloggers to embed badges that say something like "top teacher blog." Before you embed that badge consider its source. Is it coming from a site like "Best Online Degrees?" If so, they're giving out those badges as a part of their SEO strategy. Dan Meyer wrote a great post about those kinds of sites, I highly recommend reading it. I'm not saying that you shouldn't put up a badge if you've been recognized for something, just consider that badge's source and whether or not it is being given as recognition or as part of an SEO strategy (spoiler, sometimes it's for both purposes).

Infographics are widely used for SEO purposes too. I have at least two per day emailed to me. The next time you have an infographic emailed to you or see one that you want to embed, take a look at who created it, who is hosting it, and who it links back to. For example, one that has been sent to me twice this week is titled, "How Technology Is Changing the Classroom." It looks like a decent infographic. But I took one look at the embed code and saw that it was linking back to an online degree scam site. Another I received this week is titled, "White House History." When I looked at the code for that site it linked back to an online rug and carpet store. Needless to say, neither infographic will be appearing on my blog.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Handful of Ways to Publish Audio Recordings

Over the last month, basically since I published this post, I have received a bunch of emails from teachers asking about ways to publish their audio recordings/ podcasts. Here are the methods and platforms that I've been recommending.

Publishing your podcast through iTunes will probably give it the best opportunity to reach a large audience. People are familiar with the process of subscribing to podcasts through iTunes which will help you help them subscribe to your podcast. The drawback to using iTunes to publish your podcast is that the set-up process is confusing the first time you do it. WordPress can make the process a little easier. But if you're only publishing occasionally or only looking to share your audio recordings with a specific audience (let's say students, their parents, and perhaps another classroom or two) then you might be better served by using a simpler method of publishing your audio recordings.

AudioBoom and SoundCloud both offer options to upload recordings made and saved on your computer even if those recordings weren't made using their services. Both offer the option to create a channel to which people can subscribe. Both offer the option to embed your recordings into blog posts and webpages. And both services allow you to upload a picture to accompany your recordings. AudioBoom limits each recording to ten minutes. SoundCloud doesn't limit your individual recording lengths, but does limit you to two hours of total time before you have to upgrade your plan or delete old recordings.

Google Classroom and or Google Drive are options if you're just concerned with sharing audio recordings with a specific audience. Google Classroom will limit your sharing to members of your class while Google Drive could open your sharing options to a larger audience. Create a public Google Drive folder and upload your recordings to it. From there your audience could download the recordings to listen to on their laptops.

Dropbox or Box. Both services will allow you to host audio files. Like Google Drive, you could use Box or Dropbox to create a public folder in which you make your audio files available. Place a link to folder in a prominent place on your classroom blog so that people visiting your blog can easily find your audio files.

Register for Two Free Webinars With Me

People who are subscribed to the Practical Ed Tech newsletter got this information yesterday. I apologize to those who are seeing it as a repeat.

This week I am leading some free webinars for teachers.

On Tuesday I will be giving two short (30 minutes) presentations as part of Simple K12’s afternoon of webinars on Google Apps. My presentations will be on search strategies and workflow tips. My presentations will at 2pm and 3pm Eastern Time. You can learn more and register here.

On Thursday I will be hosting a free webinar on the best backchannel and informal assessment tools for teachers. This webinar is based on my popular in-person workshop of the same name. This is going to be an interactive webinar so come ready to participate. The webinar will be held at 7pm Eastern Time. Registration is limited to the first 200 people. Click here to register.

Thursday’s webinar will be recorded. You do not need to email me to get the recording, it will be posted on FreeTech4Teachers.com and included in next Sunday’s Practical Ed Tech newsletter.

Neither of the free webinars listed above carry any graduate credits or certification. My online classes on Google Apps and Blogging do offer graduate credit options through the Midwest Teachers Institute.

ExamTime Changes Names - Still Offers Good Review Tools

ExamTime is a service that provides a bunch of good study tools for students. Over the weekend ExamTime changed its name to GoConqr. Students will be able to use their ExamTime usernames and passwords on GoConqr. GoConqr will offer the same options as ExamTime did for creating and sharing flashcards, building mind maps, and tracking your own study habits.

The next update to the ExamTime mobile apps will the reflect the new GoConqr name too.

In reading ExamTime's blog post about their name change it wasn't exactly clear what motivated the name change or if anything significant will change in the service. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Note: the ExamTime website is still live, but when you try to sign into an account you will be redirected to GoConqr.

Convert PDFs to Google Docs to Differentiate Instructional Materials

This is a guest post post from Brenda Doucette (@doucetteb) of EdTechTeacher - an advertiser on this site.

Recently, we discovered a feature of Google Drive that has changed how we prepare and access materials and resources for our students. As we attempt to make all curricula digital and thus make it available to all students, the idea of using PDFs was always a problem. PDFs are just not editable in most situations, and this was an issue when it came to modifying and differentiating documents. Adobe Acrobat was our “go to” application for this type of conversion, but it was costly and often hard to come by in an educational setting. Note: We still use Adobe Acrobat for complex projects or documents that do not convert well in Google Drive. With the most recent update to Google Drive, OCR (Optical Character Recognition) capabilities are better and easier than ever.

Here is how it works:
  1. Open and sign into Google Drive
  2. Upload a PDF document to your Drive
  3. Right-Click on the document once it is uploaded.
  4. Choose Open with>Google Docs
Convert PDFs to Docs

The original PDF remains in your Drive and a new, converted document is created. You can open your new document and rename, edit, annotate, share, etc. just as you can do with any other Google Doc, Slides or Sheets. This works best with PDF documents that are clear and mostly text-based. Tables, images and formatted text can be a bit of a challenge for Google Docs (images and tables tend to end up on one page and text on a separate page), but I am sure it’ll get even better and easier in the next update.

To learn more about differentiating instruction and working with Google Apps, EdTechTeacher will be offering a variety of hands-on Summer Workshops in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mail Call! - Answers to Questions from Readers

I receive a lot of emails and Facebook messages from readers asking all kinds of questions related to educational technology. Some of those questions are very specific to the writer's classroom while others have a bit more broad appeal. My answers to the broader questions often end up as blog posts. Here are some of the latest questions from readers and my answers to them.

1. I am wondering if you might have any suggestions for an application that can take voice mail messages and transcribe them to text and put them in a spreadsheet. Thanks for any help you can offer.

Google Voice will transcribe your voicemail messages. You could then try using this If This Then That formula to send the transcriptions to a Google Spreadsheet https://ifttt.com/recipes/109028-store-google-voice-voicemail-data-into-google-spreadsheet (full disclosure, I have not tried this recipe, I just found it through a search on If This Then That).

2. Do you know of any sites that are a better alternative to Quia? Our teachers use quia but some find that is lacking when it comes to graphics. Our Engineering and Design teacher was hoping to find something similar (with games) that has better support for his engineering graphics that he needs to display as part of the assessment/game. Any ideas?

TinyTap (an iPad and Android app) keeps expanding their offerings to provide support creating games/ quizzes based upon your own graphics. These game board builders might offer what you need http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2014/10/three-nice-online-tools-for-building.html ProProfs also offers some game builder tools http://www.proprofs.com/games/create-game/

3. Mr Richard sir, if that is your real name. Have been trying to find a recording tool that also records sound as in over the speaker sound and not mic. Have been using Screenr till now but of course it doesn't have this feature. Been installing questionable programs for a few hours now and all I've found is BSR screen recorder, but the audio goes way out of sync or stops all together....even on very conservative quality settings. Got any tips? Thanks in advance and thanks for all the effort you put into sharing.

Yes, Richard is my real name. Feel free to Google me. Screencast-O-Matic.com has all of the features that you're looking for. I use it for that purpose at least twice a week.

4. Hey Admin ..!! I want to purchase your page instead i will give you a good amount if you are interested then feed me back. My offer will be $16,000 for this page payment via Paypal.or Western union, , if sounds good to you then reply me back with your personal profile link or message me in private so we can close the deal asap.

Hey spammer! As tempting and legitimate as your offer sounds (#sarcasm), I'll have to say no.

Too Many Updates?

Every Sunday morning FeedBlitz (my RSS and email provider) sends me a report about the number of subscribers to my blog and email updates. That report also tells me the reason people give for unsubscribing. By far the most common reason people give is "too many updates." So to remedy that problem last year I started the Practical Ed Tech newsletter.

The Practical Ed Tech newsletter is sent out once per week on Sunday evening (Eastern Time). The newsletter contains my favorite tip of the week (usually with a screencast video) and a list of the most popular posts of the week from FreeTech4Teachers.com. Again, I only send that update once per week. So if you're feeling like you cannot keep up with everything I do here, give the Practical Ed Tech newsletter a try.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Dozens of Alternatives to YouTube

Over the last few years I've seen more schools opening up access to YouTube, at least to teachers, than I had in the past. YouTube for Schools has partially contributed to that trend. Tools like ViewPure and Watchkin have made using YouTube videos in schools a little less scary too. All that said, there are still lots of schools that block access to YouTube. That's why a few years ago I started to maintain a list of alternatives to YouTube.

This week I updated my list of alternatives to YouTube. I removed some options that have disappeared and edited information about sites that have changed. The updated list and video search engine can be found here.

7 Tools for Building Review Games

This week I received at least a half dozen emails from people who were looking for suggestions for creating review games or practice quizzes for their students. The following are the tools that I suggested in reply to those emails. One teacher's needs are little bit different from another's so this list covers a fairly wide range of options.

TinyTap is a good iPad and Android app for creating your own review games based on pictures and diagrams. You can create games in which students have to identify parts of picture or diagram. You can also build games in which your students have to assemble a puzzle by dragging and dropping pieces into place (the puzzle does not have to follow the jigsaw puzzle format). Click here to see a selection of games that teachers have made and published through TinyTap.

ClassTools.net offers a handful of templates for building your own educational games. Through ClassTools.net you could build a Pac-Man style game, a Connect Four style of game, or build a QR code treasure hunt for your students.

Socrative and Kahoot continue to be my two favorite platforms for hosting fast-paced review quizzes. Both services allow you to create quizzes and host quizzes that your students complete through their mobile devices or laptops. Students can receive instant feedback on each question (if you allow that option) and a final score. In both tools you can include pictures as part of your questions. Socrative allows you to host team activities that they call "space races."

If a Jeopardy-style game is what you're after, eQuizShow, Jeopardy Rocks, and FlipQuiz are worth giving a try. None of the three services requires you to download any files to create your activities. All three services provide text-based questions for free. eQuizShow and FlipQuiz support picture-based questions if you upgrade to their premium plans. Click here to learn more about FlipQuiz, eQuizShow, and Jeopardy Rocks.

The Week in Review - Keep Calm and Go Skiing

Good morning from the FreeTech4Teachers.com world headquarters in Woodstock, Maine. For a few seconds this morning I thought that this week's week-in-review post wouldn't be happening. When I logged into my blog this morning 9000+ posts were missing. It took me a few more seconds to realize that I logged into the wrong blog. That experience reminded me of two things. First, back-up your blog often. Second, sometimes there is nothing you can do so keep calm and go skiing. Skiing is what I'll be doing soon. I hope that all of you have something fun planned for your weekend too.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 10 Charts Comparing Popular Ed Tech Tools
2. 10 Good Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms Add-ons for Teachers
3. 60 Second Lessons on the Presidents of the United States
4. Twisted Wave - Create Audio Recordings Online to Save in Google Drive
5. Three Good Ways to Use Socrative In Your Classroom
6. PlayMessenger: Supervising Children on the Digital Playground
7. An Overview of Important Basic YouTube Settings for Teachers

The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp being held on July 13 &14. The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is a two day, hands-on learning experience for teachers. This year's event is being held in downtown Portland, Maine just a few blocks from the ocean, great dining, and iconic lighthouses. Register by April 16th to save $50 on registration.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
Versal is a great tool for building interactive online course components.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
PresentationTube provides a good way to use PowerPoint to create flipped lessons.
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.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
SeeSaw is a great iPad app for creating digital portfolios.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Quick Key Mobile - Now for iOS and Android

For the last 18+ months my former colleague Mike Morrell has raved about Quick Key. Quick Key is an app that turns your iPhone into a bubble sheet scanner. This morning I learned from Mike that Quick Key is now available as an Android app too.

Quick Key has two parts to it that when combined make it very easy for you to quickly grade multiple choice and true/false quizzes. Here’s the basics of how it works; create your quiz on the Quick Key website then print and distribute a bubble sheet. After your students have completed the bubble sheet you simply scan the sheets with your iPhone (it works on iPads too, but the resolution is grainy) and the grading is done for you. From the app you can send grades to the classes that you have created on the Quick Key website. If you enter students’ email addresses into your class rosters on Quick Key, you can have grades emailed to students.

Telling a #Dogsofed Story With Shadow Puppet Edu

If you follow me on Twitter you might have noticed that I started a fun hashtag last night called #dogsofed. I did it just to have fun and help people connect on a common interest of education and dogs. Lots of people shared pictures of their dogs through the chat. Then this morning Tom Grissom upped the fun a bit by posting an awesome audio story about his dog, Wego the Wonder Dog. Tom's story is a great example of the possibilities of telling stories with audio.

Listening to Tom's story about Wego the Wonder Dog got me thinking about making a story of my own. I decided to use Shadow Puppet Edu to create my story about my dogs Max and Morrison. Shadow Puppet Edu is a free iPad app that you can use to create audio slideshow videos. The app offers an integrated search tool for finding pictures from the Library of Congress, to search for images from NASA, and to find Creative Commons licensed images from Flickr. You can also import pictures and videos from the camera roll on your iPad. After selecting a set of images students you can arrange them into any sequence by simply dragging and dropping them into order. Then to create a story press the record button and talk while flipping through your images. My story is embedded below.

You might have noticed that on the first slide I had a magic wand effect to highlight each dog. That is one of many effects that you can add to your images in Shadow Puppet Edu. You can also zoom and type over your pictures. Completed Shadow Puppet Edu projects are automatically saved to your iPad's camera roll. You can also export your projects directly to YouTube.

How to Create a Multifaceted Backchannel Through Tozzl

Update: On October 17, 2020 the new owners of the domain tozzl.com threatened to sue me if I didn't take down this post. Needless to say, I don't recommend that anyone go to that site, ever.

A few weeks ago I reviewed a new backchannel/ message board tool called Tozzl. Then two weeks ago I had this horrendous experience with TodaysMeet. As a result I'm switching to using Tozzl for most of my backchannel needs. Tozzl allows me to create sections for chat, file sharing, and YouTube videos within one backchannel. I can also import the feed of a Twitter hashtag into my Tozzl backchannel. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to create a Tozzl backchannel.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Google Keep Gets a Couple of Needed Updates

Last fall I wrote about using Google Keep on my phone and in my browser to organize my thoughts with color coded notes. I've used Keep for that purpose off and on for the last six months. The knock against Keep has been that while color coding helps organize notes it would be better if you could label your notes too. The latest update to Keep will let you do just that (the update is on the web version now, the Android version is coming soon).

 I also use Keep to set reminders on my phone. The update for the Android version Keep will allow me to set recurring reminders for tasks and events.

Applications for Education
Setting recurring reminders on Keep could be a good way to help students get in the habit of reading or studying at a consistent time during the week. Using labels and color coded notes in Keep could be a nice way for students to construct an outline for a research paper or presentation.

H/T to Lifehacker for the updates.

Twisted Wave - Create Audio Recordings Online to Save in Google Drive

In my previous post I highlighted five apps for creating audio recordings on iPads and Android devices. If you're looking for web-based audio recording tools take a look at these five or Twisted Wave which I demonstrate in the video embedded below.

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.

Comparison Chart - 5 iPad and Android Apps for Audio Recording

It has been a while since I published my last chart comparing popular ed tech tools. (Ten of those charts can be found here). So when I was recently asked for suggestions for audio recording apps that could be used in a BYOD setting I put together a new chart. In the chart embedded below you will find five free audio recording apps for iOS and Android. The apps are designed for creating short audio recordings that could be used to capture short interviews or capture your own thoughts for a podcast/ audio blogging project.

You can download the PDF though the Box.com widget below or find a Google Docs copy here.

If you found this post useful, please consider clicking the link to Tweet: 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wistia - A Great Video Hosting Platform

YouTube can be a good place to host videos that you and your students have made. However, that doesn't do you much good if your school blocks YouTube. Furthermore, YouTube can and will insert video over and or next your videos (that's the trade-off for a free service). If you want another place to host your videos, take a look at Wistia.

Wistia is a video hosting service designed for businesses, I use it to host my webinar recordings, but it does offer a free plan for new users. Wistia's free plan allows you to host up to 50 videos at a time. You can host HD videos and videos of nearly unlimited length. Wistia also provides a wide range of customizations that you can apply to your embedded videos.

Visit Wistia's learning center for tips on producing great videos.

An Overview of Important Basic YouTube Settings for Teachers

When it is used correctly YouTube can be a good platform for spreading news about the great things that are happening in our classrooms and schools. It can also be a good platform for students to share their thoughts and projects. But before you upload videos to YouTube there are a few settings that you should be aware of. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of those settings.

How to Embed Google Street View Imagery Into Your Blog Posts

This morning I received an email from someone who had seen my recent post about the Google Maps Street View Special Collections. She wanted to know how I was able to display the imagery and keep it interactive in my blog post. The quickest way to explain how to do that is to show it in a screencast video. That video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
As I pointed at the end of the video, embedded Street View imagery into a blog post is a good way to get all of your students to quickly look at the same geographic place. This is handy when you're pressed for time and or you want students to have blog-based discussion about a place.

Spring Timelapse - A Video Project

Last night I shared a post about using Project Noah to have students document the signs of the seasons. While I was walking my dogs this morning I remembered a project idea that I shared last fall. The idea was to create a timelapse video to document the signs of the change of seasons. The idea is to have students take one picture per day for a few weeks. Then at the end of a few weeks they can upload those images to a video editor like JellyCam, WeVideo, or iMovie to create a timelapse video.

1. Take one picture per day of the same view or of one singular plant. 
Using your cell phone is probably the best tool for this because we rarely go anywhere without one.

2. Upload the pictures to a Google Drive folder. 
It only takes one or two taps to move my photos from your phone to a Google Drive folder. If This Then That has a recipe for doing this automatically from Android phones and from iPhones.

3. After four to six weeks, upload photos to JellyCam and create your timelapse. 
JellyCam is a free video editing program for Windows and Mac users. You can easily adjust the duration of each frame and easily add a soundtrack to your video. Click here for a video about using JellyCam.

Lapse It is a timelapse video creation tool available for iPad and Android tablets.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Is Here! Let's Go Outside to Learn

Today was the first day that it actually felt like spring here in Woodstock, Maine. As I was walking my dogs in the relatively warm air I noticed and they noticed more squirrels and birds moving about than we've seen since last fall. That reminded me of a great program for getting kids outside to learn. That program is called Project Noah.

Project Noah is a global project to which anyone can contribute. On Project Noah you can share pictures and stories of the plants and the animals that you observe in your neighborhood. Project Noah has a section titled Missions in which you can find projects that you can contribute to. The Missions ask people to make contributions of images and observations about a specific animal, plant, or region.

Applications for Education
Project Noah for Teachers allows you to create and manage Project Noah accounts for your students. You can also use Project Noah for Teachers to enroll your students in "missions" or projects on Project Noah. Project Noah offers iOS and Android apps that you can use to record and share your observations on the go.

Join Me Next Tuesday for an Afternoon of Free Webinars

Next Tuesday, March 31st Simple K12 is hosting an afternoon of free webinars about Google tools for teachers. The webinars will start at 1pm Eastern Time and run until 5pm Eastern Time.

I will be conducting two webinars that afternoon. In my webinars I'll share some of my favorite Google Search strategies, ideas for teaching search strategies, and using Google Forms and Spreadsheets to streamline workflow. I will be presenting at 2pm and 3pm. Click here to register for this free PD opportunity.

These free webinars are designed for folks who are new to using Google tools.  Teachers who would like to pick up some tips for teaching others how to take advantage of the great things that Google has to offer will also enjoy the content of these webinars. Click here to register.

FAQs About Simple K12 Webinars:
1.) Is this free?
a. Yes!

2.) Can I have the recordings after?
a. We will make the recordings available for 2 weeks following the event.

3.) How do I access the recordings? Do I need a SimpleK12 membership?
a. No, SimpleK12 will share the links with Richard Byrne / FreeTech4Teachers.com and all of the registrants following the event so you can view for 2 weeks following the event. But be sure to register so you will be notified.

4.) Why would you do this when people are in class?
a. Historically, this is one of our most highly attended days and times. We will make recordings available for those who are unable to attend.

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my time presenting these webinars. 

About EasyBib, RefME, and Other Bibliography Generators

This afternoon I received a lengthy email (a three page attachment came with it) from someone who really did not like that I have promoted EasyBib, RefME, and other bibliography creation tools over the years. The reader seemed to take most offense to my recent post about Google Docs Add-ons in which I included the EasyBib Add-on. The reader rightly pointed out that those tools don't always format citations perfectly.

Granted those tools aren't always perfect in their formatting of citations (I have pointed out some of those flaws in my webinars and workshops over the years), but I think they are still valuable because they help get students into the habit of citing their sources of information and keeping a record of the sources they use. Furthermore, if EasyBib, RefME, or one of the other bibliography generators does make a mistake you can turn that into a teaching opportunity with your students. Point out the flaw and how to correct it.

Finally, we can tell students not to use bibliography creation tools but they are going to find them and try to use them anyway. The same can be said for Wikipedia, but that's a conversation for another day. I would rather tell students about bibliography creation tools and teach them how to recognize if the tool made an error than I would pretend that students aren't going to use the tools.

MyReadingMapped Has Shut Down

MyReadingMapped was a great blog that featured more than 160 Google Maps and Google Earth files depicting patterns and events in science and history. As recently as a few weeks ago I featured one of the biology maps that was published through MyReadingMapped. Unfortunately, on March 13 the owner of MyReadingMapped shut it down. Here's the content of the email that he sent to me.

As of Friday March 13, 2015, MyReadingMapped ‘s 160 Google Maps of history and science were removed from the Internet by the powers that be ending your and my access to these educational tools. I would like to thank you, and all your readers, who valued MyReadingMapped’s contribution. Unfortunately those of you who have networked KML files, those files will no longer work. So be sure to test your files to see if they still function. For those of you who still have the non-networked KML files, they should still work until someone figures out how to stop them from working as well.

Without the embedded maps, the website was useless and I shut it down.

Again, I thank you all for your participation in my free personalized Self-Organized Learning Environment project.


George Stiller

I am sorry to see the site go. I thought that MyReadingMapped was a fantastic resource.
If you want to try to create your own Google Maps to depict patterns and events, I have video with directions available here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Explore Notable and Interesting U.S. Landmarks in Google Maps Street View

Google Maps Special Collections is a great place to find and explore the Street View imagery of interesting places all over the world. This afternoon Google Lat Long blog featured a collection that I hadn't seen before, U.S. Highlights. U.S. Highlights features Street View imagery of historic places like Gettysburg and Antietam battlefields as well as interesting places like state and national parks. Next to the imagery you will find a pop-up box containing facts about the place featured in the imagery you are viewing. Embedded below is a view of Faneuil Hall in Boston.

Applications for Education
The U.S. Highlights Street View collection could provide good supplementary material in lessons on U.S. history and culture. For some of the places you could create an assignment in which students have to find historical imagery to compare to current views of the same place.

As I always say about Street View, this Street View imagery allows students to virtually explore a place that can't be done by simply flipping through static pictures in a book or on a website.

Socrative Will Soon Have a New Look

Socrative was one of the first backchannel and quiz tools that really worked well on all desktop and mobile platforms. Other tools have come and gone (see Infuse Learning), but Socrative is still here. Over the weekend I received an email from Socrative's founder Ben Berte in which he shared that Socrative will soon have a new look.

On April 2nd Socrative will launch a new interface called "snowy." The new interface will retain all of the great functions that we've come to love in Socrative, but will be even more mobile-friendly than before. The new interface is also designed for better display on modern HD projectors. You can preview the new look here.

Applications for Education
If you haven't used Socrative or haven't looked at it in a while, there are few features to note. As always it is a great platform for hosting online review quizzes, team quizzes, and digital exit ticket activities. You can ask students to respond anonymously or you can collect their names with their answers. Either way your students don't have to create accounts in order to participate in Socrative activities. If you don't have time to create a new activity in Socrative, you can import one of the 1300+ of publicly shared Socrative quizzes.

Disclosure: Socrative's parent company, MasteryConnect, is an advertiser on this blog.

In Pieces - An Interactive Site About Endangered Animals

In Pieces is a neat site that features the stories of 30 endangered animals around the world. Visit the site and you will be greeted by a little animation that comes together to form the shape of a whale. After the animation plays click through to see the stories of the 30 animals featured in the site. Each animal's story is told with text, images, and video. You'll learn about the threats to each animal, its native habit, and efforts to save each animal.

Applications for Education
In Pieces reminded me a bit of the WWF Together app. Both In Pieces and WWF Together provide visually appealing ways for students to learn about the threats to animal populations around the world.

After learning about the animals in the site and app I might have students conduct their own research about endangered animals then put together visual reports about those animals. I would consider having students use Pic-Collage and Thinglink to make their own interactive displays about endangered animals. Tutorials for that process can be found here.

H/T to The Next Web for In Pieces. 

Now Google Docs Add-ons Can Be Distributed by Domain Admins

Add-ons is one of the best features that Google has added to Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms in the last year. Until now Add-ons installation was controlled by individual users within a domain. Domain administrators could turn off the option, but couldn't push Add-ons to their users' accounts. As of late last week Google Apps administrators can now push Add-ons to their users' accounts.

Currently, not every Add-on can be distributed by administrators. Add-on developers have to enable domain-wide distribution of their Add-ons. Add-ons that are enabled for domain-wide distribution will appear in the Google Apps Marketplace.

Applications for Education
Being able to distribute Google Docs Add-ons across a domain should make it a little easier for administrators to get all of their faculty members using tools that can help them streamline workflow and take advantage of features that might otherwise go overlooked by teachers.

Click here for a list of my ten favorite Google Docs Add-ons.

PlayMessenger: Supervising Children on the Digital Playground

This is a guest post from Sabba Quidwai (@AskMsQ) of EdTechTeacher - an advertiser on this site.

  Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 10.44.17 PM
How many of the above tools did you recognize?  Do you know which ones are safe and which ones are harmful? Do your students or children know the difference between them?  How many of the above tools frighten you as a parent or a teacher?  As the world becomes smaller, and children are surrounded by a variety of different communication tools, it’s time for us as adults to reevaluate what we mean when we teach children the classic lesson, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

The term “talk” used to be limited to face to face interaction, but with the rise of social media, the term “talk” can mean so many different things. This lesson used to also only apply to the dangers associated with talking to those who you do not know.  Countless stories, however, will tell us otherwise - not only about the impact of what we share with those whom we know but also with those whom we do not know in the real world.

As adults, we can try to shelter students from these growing forms of communication or we can give them the digital citizenship skills they need to successfully navigate their digital world.  The benefits and power that come with being a connected individual can far outweigh the negatives if students are taught from an early age what being a connected individual means in today’s world.

To assist parents and adults in this process, welcome to the Digital Playground, where your children can learn how to use social media tools to communicate and collaborate in a safe environment with the supervision they need to guide their experience with a new app called PLAYMessenger.  This is an app designed specifically for kids but with adults in mind. Kids are given a sense of independence and are able to send text, pictures and voice messages to their friends and family, all while adults have peace of mind knowing that their children are safe and secure. Parents and teachers can use PlayMessenger working together to model the many ways students can be safe and responsible connected learners.

PlayMessenger has many great features, however what really drew my attention to the app was the language filter.  Language filters monitor all text messages sent to kids and adults. Parents are alerted when their child has attempted to send another user an inappropriate message, and kids are warned when they have attempted to send an inappropriate message. This presents a great opportunity for adults to have conversations with children about how they are communicating and what the potential consequences can be for this type of behavior.

  play messenger

With PLAYMessenger, kids can send text, photo and voice messages to people approved by adults on their contact list.  All child accounts are linked to an adult account, and the adults can manage the settings, monitor activity, view the chat history, and determine which users the child’s account is connected to.

  Play messenger privacy

Adults have access to “Trust Mode” where they can choose the level of oversight they want and personalize it for each child. When Trust mode is OFF, all messages and requests require parental approval before they are sent to a child, and when Trust Mode is ON messages and requests are sent directly to the child without parental approval.  Again, this presents another great opportunity for adults to allow children to be responsible users.

To ensure that children are interacting with people who are who they say they are, all adult users are verified during the registration process through Privo to ensure they are who they say they are. Let’s educate our children and guide their learning in the Digital Playground so they become responsible digital citizens who use the power of being connected for positive, safe and healthy interactions. PlayMessenger is available on iOS and Android platforms. To learn more visit the PlayMessenger web site.

You can learn more from Sabba this summer! She will be leading hands-on workshops for EdTechTeacher in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Short Math and Science Lessons in Rap Form

Rhyme 'n Learn is a series of math and science lessons presented in short rap music form. About half of the raps are provided in video format with visuals to support the lesson. The other half of the lessons are audio only, but do have transcripts available to help your students or you follow along. A couple of the video raps are embedded below.

What Determines Hair Color? - And Other Lessons on Genetics

Brain Science is one of my favorite YouTube channels because they consistently produce concise, interesting, and informative videos. One of the latest videos is all about hair color. The video goes beyond the factors of genetics to explain how hair gets its color and why our hair (or at least my hair) turns gray with age.

To extend this video lesson about hair color take a look at the following TED-Ed lesson How Mendel's Pea Plants Helped Us Understand Genetics, students receive a crash course in heredity, genotypes, and punnett squares through the story of Mendel and his study of peas. The video is embedded below. The full lesson with questions is available here.

Thingdom is a fun and challenging game through which students can learn about genetics. The game, produced by the London Science Museum, asks players to select a "thing" then try to find a make for that "thing" based on various traits. Players move through a progression of challenges in which they try to create "thing" offspring that have certain traits.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Watchkin - Another Tool for Distraction-free YouTube Viewing

Over the years I've shared a variety of tools for watching YouTube videos without all of the "related" videos and advertisements appearing on screen. Watchkin is the latest tool in this market that I have tried. Watchkin is a service that allows you to watch and project YouTube videos without seeing the related sidebar content typically seen on YouTube.com.

Watchkin can be used in a few ways. You can enter the direct URL of a video into Watchkin to have the sidebar content removed. You can search for videos through Watchkin and have family-friendly results displayed (if a video appears that is not family-friendly Watchkin has a mechanism for flagging it as inappropriate). Watchkin also offers a browser bookmarklet tool that you can click while on YouTube.com to have the related content disappear from the page.

Applications for Education
The Watchkin website and browser bookmarklet are great tools for teachers who want to show a YouTube video in their classrooms without risking displaying "related" sidebar content. To be clear, Watchkin is not a work-around if your school blocks YouTube and it is not a tool for downloading YouTube videos. (Downloading YouTube videos is a violation of the YouTube terms of service).

The Week In Review - Back in Maine

Good morning from Woodstock, Maine where I have finally recovered from the jet lag of my return from the Future Schools Expo in Sydney. Again, thank you to everyone who came to see me speak at that event. I'm home for the next month and during that time I'll be conducting a lot of webinars and working on a project that I've put on the back burner for the last month. But before I do any of that I'm heading out to ski in a fundraiser for Maine Adaptive Sports. I hope that you too have fun things on your schedule this weekend.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 10 Good Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms Add-ons for Teachers
2. Five Ways Students Can Share Videos Without YouTube
3. How to Create an Audio Slideshow With Annotations in YouTube
4. How to Sign Documents That Have Been Emailed to You Without Printing Them
5. Journey to the Centre of the Earth - An Animated Infographic
6. Two New Apps That Are Great for Recording Audio Interviews
7. 5 Free Tools for Creating Whiteboard Videos

This week I opened registration for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp being held on July 13 &14. The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is a two day, hands-on learning experience for teachers. This year's event is being held in downtown Portland, Maine just a few blocks from the ocean, great dining, and iconic lighthouses. Register by April 16th to save $50 on registration.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
Versal is a great tool for building interactive online course components.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
PresentationTube provides a good way to use PowerPoint to create flipped lessons.
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.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
SeeSaw is a great iPad app for creating digital portfolios.

Friday, March 20, 2015

How to Post to Blogger via Email

Google's Blogger service makes it easy for teachers to quickly create a classroom blog. If your school uses Google Apps for Education you can make Blogger one of the services available within your domain thereby making it even easier to post on Blogger. One shortcoming of Blogger is that there isn't an obvious way for you to moderate students' posts before they go live on a group blog. The solution is to use the "post via email" setting in Blogger. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use this setting and explain a bit more about it.

Click here to find screenshots of the process outlined in the video.

I'll be covering topics like this one and many more in my upcoming Practical Ed Tech course Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders.

How to Follow a #Hashtag Across Multiple Social Networks

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about using Tagboard to follow a hashtag across multiple social networks. As I wrote back then, the beauty of Tagboard is that I can follow a hashtag and see all of the Tweets, Instgram, Facebook, and Google+ posts about it in one place. This enables me to quickly catch up with what people are sharing about an event or saying in a chat like #edchat. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of how to use Tagboard.

Two New Apps That Are Great for Recording Audio Interviews

This week I tested two new apps for recording audio interviews. Both of these apps can be used by students without creating any kind of new online accounts. Neither one is entirely perfect, but they're both quite good.

Opinion is a free iPad app for creating short audio recordings. To record simply open the app and tap the big red recording button at the top of the screen. When you're done talking, tap the recording button again to stop the recording. You can chop your recording into smaller pieces by tapping on your recording then tapping the scissors icon to cut your recording. Opinion recordings can be shared to a variety of places on the web including SoundCloud and Evernote. Opinion limits you to ten minutes of recording before you have to either upgrade or eliminate older recordings.

StoryCorps has a new app called StoryCorps.me that Larry Ferlazzo raved about earlier this week. The app is available for iPhone (it will also work on iPads, it's just a little grainy looking) and Android devices. StoryCorps.me will try to force you to create a StoryCorps account, but you can use it without creating an account. Creating an account will allow you to publish your recordings on the StoryCorps website.

StoryCorps.me is designed to help people conduct and record great interviews. The app includes a set of questions that you can use in your interview. The question sets are varied depending upon the relationship that you do or don't have with your interviewee. While recording your interview you can swipe through the questions to help you keep the interview on track. Completed recordings can saved on your device and or shared with the StoryCorps community.

Applications for Education
The Opinion app could be a good choice if you just want students quickly create a simple recording. Students might use Opinion to record a quick reflection on what they learned during the week. If they have SoundCloud accounts Opinion makes it easy to create an on-going audio blog.

StoryCorps.me will take a little more time for students to set-up than they will spend setting-up the Opinion app. That said, StoryCorps.me is the app that I would want students to use when they are recording podcasts involving two or more people. Being able to see the questions while they record should help students keep their interviews concise and on track.

Consumer Education at the Mall

The FTC offers a lot of good resources designed to help students and adults become savvy consumers. One of the resources they provide for students is an online environment called Consumer Education at the Mall. This virtual mall features animated lessons, games, and other activities that help students understand advertising methods, product pricing, and privacy protection. The virtual mall also has a section in which students can learn about common consumer scams.

The consumer education mall has four sections. In the west terrace students learn about advertising methods and truth in advertising rules. The west terrace also includes a game in which students have to match advertisements to their intended audiences. In the consumer education mall's food court students learn about how competition between businesses can be a good thing for consumers. In the food court students students also learn how supply and demand affect prices. The mall's security plaza is where students head when they want to learn about consumer privacy protections, what kind of personal information is safe to share and which kinds are not safe to share. In the mall's east terrace students discover why enticing prices, give-away promotions, and flattery isn't what it appears to be on the surface.

Applications for Education
The activities in Consumer Education at the Mall are designed for students in upper elementary grades and middle school. You could have students attempt to go through all of the activities in one sitting or you could break it up into sixteen smaller lessons for your students. The FTC provides PDF fact sheets for each activity in the consumer education mall.

Two Online Courses Starting Next Week - Graduate Credit Available

I have two Practical Ed Tech courses starting next week. On Monday evening we will start Getting Going With GAFE. On Tuesday evening we will start Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders. Through my partnership with the Midwest Teachers Institute you can earn three graduate credits for each course.

More about Getting Going With GAFE:
Is your school transitioning to Google Apps for Education? If so, this course offers everything you need to know to take advantage of the great things that GAFE offers to teachers and students. Getting Going With GAFE is a Practical Ed Tech webinar series designed for teachers and administrators who are new to using Google Apps for Education. Getting Going With  GAFE is a five week course covering everything you need to know to to integrate Google Drive, Google Classroom, Google Calendar, and Google Sites into your practice.

Getting Going With GAFE costs $147. Three graduate credits are available for the course through my partnership Midwest Teachers Institute and Calumet College of St. Joseph. Graduate credits require an additional fee and completion of weekly assignments.

Course dates:
Spring section 1: March 23, 30, April 6, 13, 20 - all classes meet at 7pm ET.

More about Blogs & Social Media for Teachers & School Leaders:
Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is designed to help teachers and school leaders develop an understanding of the many ways they can use blogs and social media (Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and more) to enhance communication between school and home. Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is a five week webinar series during which teachers and school administrators will learn the how to choose the best blogging platform for their situations, how to set-up a blog for classroom and school-wide use, and learn about strategies on how to manage blogs in classroom and school-wide settings. Participants will also learn how to avoid the mistakes that often lead to blogging endeavors being abandoned. After establishing blogs we’ll jump into using social networks like Twitter, Google+, and Instagram to reach out to parents, students, and other members of school communities.

This course costs $147. Three graduate credits are available for the course through my partnership Midwest Teachers Institute and Calumet College of St. Joseph. Graduate credits require an additional fee and completion of weekly assignments.

Course dates:
Spring section: March 24, 31, April 7, 14, 21st. - all classes meet at 7pm ET.