Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from the Free Technology for Teachers World Headquarters in Woodstock, Maine. It's a beautiful late fall morning here. It's the kind of morning that makes wearing a sweater fun. It's also the kind of morning that reminds us that winter isn't far away and we should take care of any last-minute yard work before the snow flies. That's exactly what I'm going to do right after I write this post.

This week I was home all week preparing for a busy November and December. Next week I'll be at the IETC conference in Illinois. If you're there, please say hello. Later this month I'll be launching a new section of my popular online course Getting Going With GAFE. That course will again offer a graduate credit option and a registration discount will be available to people who are subscribed to the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 9 Google Apps Productivity Tools & Tips for Teachers
2. An Illustrated Mathematics Dictionary
3. Write Music in Google Documents
4. 7 Halloween-themed Educational Activities
5. OpenEd Offers Thousands of Quizzes and Review Materials to Share in Google Classroom
6. 10 Resources for Teaching With Primary Sources
7. An Introduction to Google Forms for Teachers

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference?
Click here to learn about my professional development services. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
HelloTalk is a mobile community for learning a new language.
MasteryConnect offers a series of apps for identifying standards. 
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
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.
Lesley University offers online education programs for teachers.
PortfolioGen is a professional portfolio tool for teachers.  
Southeastern University offers online M.Ed programs.

75 Google Apps Video Tutorials

One of the most popular posts of the past week was my two video introduction to Google Forms for teachers. Those videos are part of my larger, constantly growing, playlist of Google Apps tutorial videos. I now have more than 75 videos in that playlist. All of the videos were created by me using Screencast-o-matic. The entire playlist is embedded below. You can subscribe to my YouTube channel here to be notified whenever a new video is added to my channel. Lately, I've been creating two new videos per week.

Hands on Banking - Personal Finance Lessons for Kids

Hands on Banking is a program produced by Wells Fargo. The purpose of the program is to introduce students to the basics of personal finance including saving, budgeting, and credit management. Hands on Banking has a self-directed component for students as well as a teacher-directed component.

The self-directed component of Hands on Banking features an animated tour in which students learn what gives money its value, how to save it in a bank, and the benefits of saving in a bank. The tour then goes on to illustrate budgeting and borrowing concepts. Finally, students can earn a certificate of completion if they pass an assessment at the end of the tour. A glossary of terms and a calculator is provided for students to use throughout the Hands on Banking interactive, animated tour.

Applications for Education
The teacher-directed component of Hands on Banking features a PDF that corresponds to the animated tour. Included in the PDF are a list of key points to emphasize with students, worksheets to correspond with the animations, and activities for classroom practice.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Nursery Rhyme History

Earlier this week I was chatting with a friend and we somehow got on the topic of nursery rhymes. That prompted us to Google search for an explanation of the Baa Baa Black Sheep nursery rhyme. That search landed me on a YouTube channel called Nursery Rhyme History. The channel offers sixteen short videos explaining the origins of common nursery rhymes including one of my childhood favorites, Humpty Dumpty.

Applications for Education
Nursery Rhyme History could be a good channel for history teachers to bookmark. I would use these videos if I wanted to help students make a connection to one of the topics we're studying in class.

How to Create a Twitter Poll

Over the last week Twitter has been rolling out a new polling feature to its users. The new polling option allows you to post a Tweet that contains a short poll question. Using a poll is different than just asking people to reply to a question that you Tweet. When you post a poll people don't have to reply to you with an "@" reply. Instead of sending a written reply people just choose from one of your response choices. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how the new polling feature works.

Applications for Education
Twitter polls could be useful in large professional development settings in which you want to quickly get a sense of the participants' level of interest in a particular topic. Twitter polls could also be useful for sparking discussion in a social studies/ current events course. Post a poll about an issue and then discuss the results with your students.

New Video Series - The Rod & Richard Show

A few weeks ago I posted that I would soon be publishing a new video series in which Rod Berger and I answer your ed tech questions. The first episode is finally ready. We had fun recording it and Rod did a great job of editing the video. If you have ed tech questions that you would like us to answer please post them on the EdCircuit Facebook page, Tweet them with the hashtag #askrichardbyrne, or send me an email at richardbyrne (at)

R&Repisode1 from MindRocket Media Group on Vimeo.

I'm not sure what was going on with my eyes in the video...

Use Google Keep to Draw Notes on Your Android Device

Google Keep is my go-to app for writing short notes and setting reminders for myself. I've also used it as a mindmapping tool from time to time. Today, Google Keep for Android got a huge update. You can now draw notes in the app. To draw a note just open the app and tap the pen icon to start drawing. You can also add a drawing to a text, image, or voice note. To add drawings to an existing note tap the three dots in the upper-right corner of the screen and select "add drawing."

Google Keep is available also available as a website, as a Chrome app, and as an iOS app. Unfortunately, while you can view drawn notes in those other apps, you cannot create new drawings in the non-Android versions of Google Keep at this time.

Applications for Education
Google Keep is a great app for creating to-do lists and reminders. Google Keep lets users share notes just like sharing Google Documents. In that regard it's great for keeping track of to-do lists in team projects.

Drawing notes in Google Keep could be a great way for students using Android tablets and larger Android phones to sketch mindmaps or flow charts. It could also be a good place for students in mathematics classes to take notes on how to solve a particular type of problem.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

An Illustrated Mathematics Dictionary

Math is Fun is a free website that offers math games, puzzles, and tutorials. One of the tutorial resources that they offer is an illustrated mathematics dictionary. The Math is Fun dictionary offers more than 700 definitions of mathematics terms. All of the definitions include an illustration. Nearly 200 of the definitions include an animation. Some of the animations are interactive tutorials.

Applications for Education
For some students one of the obstacles to understanding how to solve a mathematics problem is understanding the vocabulary used in the problem. Once they understand the meaning of terms they have an easier time understanding and solving the problems. Having a glossary of terms often helps students get to the heart of a mathematics problem.

How to Create a B-roll Media Folder in Google Drive

The best way to have students avoid accidentally using copyrighted images or videos in their own projects is to use media that they've created themselves. One of the strategies that I frequently recommend to teachers as a way to help students avoid any copyright issues in their work is to use media from a classroom b-roll gallery. You can build this gallery by having students contribute pictures, video clips, and sounds to a shared Google Drive folder. In the video below I demonstrate how to create a shared Google Drive folder.

Daylight Saving Time Explained

Rolling the clocks back one hour is a sure sign that winter is fast approaching North America. We'll be doing that here this weekend. If your state or province practices Daylight Saving Time, you'll be rolling back your clocks before bed and gaining back that hour of sleep you lost in the spring. Students may be wondering about the reasons for Daylight Saving Time. The following videos offer concise explanations of Daylight Saving Time.

And although it's not about daylight saving time, this TED-Ed lesson about the standardization of timezones is worth watching.

Histography - A Massive Interactive Timeline

Histography is an impressive interactive timeline spanning today through the beginning of recorded history. The timeline is divided into fifteen categories including war, politics, discoveries, inventions, and art. To explore the timeline select one of the categories listed on the Histography website then adjust the timeline slider to see events from the range of dates that you've selected. After choosing a category and date range you can click on dots in the timeline to see pop-up boxes containing event titles, representative pictures, and a link to a Wikipedia page about the event.

Applications for Education
All points on the Histography timeline are based on Wikipedia entries, but don't let that discourage you from using it. I think viewing and manipulating the Histography timeline could be a good way for students to discover events and topics that they otherwise might not find in a typical history textbook. That process of exploring the timeline could lead students to further investigate an event or topic outside of the Wikipedia entry.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Screenr is Closing - Try Screencast-o-Matic

Earlier today I wrote a post about screencasting tools. In that post I included Screenr. A couple of hours later I received an email from Screenr announcing that they are shutting down on November 11th. Screencast-o-matic is my recommendation for a Screenr replacement.

Screencast-O-Matic is available in a free version and a pro version. The free version allows you to record for up to fifteen minutes at a time (that is plenty of time for most screencasts), publish to YouTube in HD, and save videos to your computer as MP4, AVI, and FLV files. The pro version ($15/year) includes video editing tools, unlimited recording lengths, a script tool, and removal of the Screencast-O-Matic watermark. Both versions of Screencast-O-Matic include a highlighted circle around your cursor so that viewers can easily follow your movements on the screen. A webcam recording option is included in the free and pro versions of Screencast-O-Matic.

Applications for Education
Screencast-O-Matic can be used for creating how-to videos or simple flipped lesson videos in which you record yourself talking over a set of slides.

Tools and Techniques for Creating Screencast Videos

The question that I seem to receive in my email more than any other is, "what software do you use to create your tutorial videos." I use Screencast-o-matic Pro most of the time. Screencast-o-matic Pro is perfect for my needs. But there are other tools that you might want to consider for your situation. I have used all of the following screencasting tools at one time or another.

Screencast recording on a Mac.
The simplest way to create a screencast on a Mac is to use Quicktime. Apple offers step-by-step directions for recording a screencast through Quicktime. A video of the process is embedded below.

Screencast recording in Windows.
I use Screencast-o-matic to record on my Windows computers. There is a free browser-based version of Screencast-o-matic and a paid desktop version ($15/year). The free version is great for most situations. The desktop version offers some editing tools and longer recording times.

Windows 10 users have an option to create screencast videos if they install the Xbox app. The following video explains this process along with some of the shortcomings of the process.

Screencast recording on Chromebooks.
TechSmith offers Snagit for Chrome which supports creating screencasts that you can save into your Google Drive account. To use the screencasting option in Snagit for Chrome you will have enable the both the Snagit for Chrome extension and the corresponding Snagit Chrome app.  The Snagit Chrome extension is what allows you to capture your screen. The Snagit Chrome app allows you to save your screen captures in your Google Drive account. You do have to install both the extension and the app for Snagit to work correctly.

A Google+ Hangout On Air allows you to broadcast your screen (you can do this even if no one else is in your Hangout). The broadcast is automatically recorded and saved to your YouTube account. Brian Bennett posted detailed directions on the process here.

Browser-based recording.
Screenr is a browser-based recording tool that I've used in the past. It works well although your recording time is limited to five minutes. The solution to that problem is to just record a series of short videos if you need to explain a detailed process. Shortly after this post went live I received notice that Screenr is shutting down on November 11th.

My recommendation for a browser-based screencasting tool is Screencast-o-matic's free version.

iPad screencasting.
There is no shortage of apps that will let you create whiteboard videos in which you draw and talk. But recording yourself demonstrating how to use an app or how to complete a workflow process on an iPad isn't so straight-forward. The best option that I've used isn't free. That option is to use AirServer's recording tool. AirServer is available to schools for $8-$12 depending upon volume.

Android screencasting.
This is the most difficult of all screencasts to record. Again, there are apps for making whiteboard videos, but to record actual app usage or workflow requires a number of steps. Labnol offers detailed directions on how to create a screencast video on an Android device.

An Introduction to Google Forms for Teachers

Using Google Forms can be the solution to many problems that teachers have. I've used Forms for years to save time in delivering and grading short quizzes. Forms are also great for conducting surveys, keeping track of items borrowed from your classroom, and to gather contact information from parents. If you haven't tried Google Forms, I created the following videos just for you.

If you are an experienced Google Forms user, please feel free to share these videos with colleagues who could benefit from learning the basics of Google Forms.

Superhero Science - Lessons Based on Superhero Superpowers

Superhero Science is a playlist of science lessons published by TED-Ed. The lessons in the playlist feature explanations of what would happen in various scenarios if you had superhero powers like flight, strength, and speed. Each lessons explains the mathematics and science of scenarios frequently found in superhero stories. For example, in the lesson on strength we learn what would happen if a superhero did catch someone falling from the top of a skyscraper.

The complete Superhero Science playlist is embedded below.

Two Easy Ways to Create Your Own Halloween Cards

Halloween is coming up this weekend. If you're looking for a last-minute writing activity that has a Halloween theme, consider having students create Halloween cards. Storyboard That and Canva make it easy to create Halloween cards.

Canva is a service for creating graphics. Canva offers dozens of templates for creating infographics, letterhead, and social media posts. Take a look at the social media posts templates for 800x800px graphics and you will find a bunch of templates containing Halloween graphics. Your students can modify the templates by changing the colors, fonts, and graphics. Students can insert their own text into the templates. Completed templates can be printed.

On Storyboard That you can turn your storyboards into Halloween cards. In the Storyboard That creator you can use the myths and mystical scenes and characters to create your Halloween story. Once your storyboard is saved you can choose to print it with Halloween borders. The print-out includes lines for cutting and folding your cards. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create Halloween cards on Storyboard That.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

OpenEd Offers Thousands of Quizzes and Review Materials to Share in Google Classroom

OpenEd is a service that has offers a massive catalog of educational videos, games, and practice assessments that you can browse by topic, grade level, or Common Core standard. Today, OpenEd announced an improved integration with Google Classroom.

There are two ways that you can use OpenEd resources with Google Classroom. First, you can share resources from OpenEd to your Google Classroom classes by using the "share to Google Classroom" button within OpenEd resources. Second, you can now import your Google Classroom roster into OpenEd. Importing your roster will allow you to create collections of resources to share with your students instead of just sharing individual items.

Applications for Education
My favorite aspect of OpenEd is its search tool. Rather than searching and hoping to find a video on YouTube that matches the standard(s) you're addressing in a lesson, you can start with the standard and have OpenEd locate videos for you. Likewise, it's easy to find and share games and quizzes that match the topics you're teaching.

Quizalize - A Fun Quiz Platform

Quizalize is a newer quiz game platform that reminds me of Kahoot. Like Kahoot, students play your quiz games on their laptops or tablets by going to the Quizalize website then entering their names and a class code. Students are awarded points for correctly answering questions quickly. Students are given feedback instantly on every quiz question that they answer. A total score is presented to students at the end of every quiz.

Creating quizzes on Quizalize is a simple process. To get started just name your quiz and tag it with a subject label. As you write each quiz question you can include a picture and up to four answer choices. You can specify a time limit of 5 to 120 seconds for each question.

Quizalize offers a marketplace in which you can find quizzes created by other users. Some of the quizzes are free and others are sold for a dollar or two. To be clear, creating and playing your own quizzes is completely free.

An overview of Quizalize is provided in the video embedded below.

Applications for Education
One of the better aspects of Quizalize is found in the results page that you see as a teacher. The scores for each student appear on your screen in one place. On the results page you can quickly identify the questions that gave students the most difficulty in terms of correct answers as well as time needed to answer each question.

NatGeo Map Maker Interactive - A Good Classroom Alternative to Google Maps

National Geographic's Mapmaker Interactive can be a good alternative to using Google Maps in your classroom. Mapmaker Interactive offers a number of features that students and teachers can utilize without the need to enter an email address or register to use the Mapmaker tools. Those tools include measuring distances, adding placemarks, layering information, and switching between base map layers. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of the features in National Geographic's Mapmaker Interactive.

9 Google Apps Productivity Tools & Tips for Teachers

The one thing that every teacher wants more of, besides salary, is time. I can't give you more time in the day. What I can do is point you to some tools and techniques for completing routine tasks more efficiently.

Auto Text Expander for Google Chrome is a convenient Chrome extension that I've recently started using. The extension enables me to create keyboard shortcuts for words and phrases that I frequently use in emails. In the video embedded below I provide a short overview of how this helpful Chrome extension works.

Add Reminders is a Google Sheets add-on that enables you to send emails from a spreadsheet. The add-on will format your spreadsheet so that you simply enter reminder messages and email addresses then specify a date on which you want your reminders sent. The Add Reminders Add-on allows you to send the same reminder to everyone in your email list or you can send individualized reminders to everyone in your email list. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use the Add Reminders Google Sheets Add-on.

The Add Reminders add-on for Google Sheets is great if you just need to send reminder emails. However, if you want to create custom, personalized emails then you're going to need a slightly different spreadsheet script. Doing this requires adding a script to a Google Spreadsheet containing email addresses. It might sound complicated, but it really isn't. Watch the short video below from the Google Developers team to learn the process.

When you receive a document that needs to be signed, you don't need to print it if you use Hello Sign. Hello Sign offers a Google Drive app. You can also use it without integrating it into your Google Drive account. Learn more about Hello Sign in the video below.

Flubaroo is a popular Google Sheets Add-on that enables me to grade all at once all of my students' responses to a quiz created in Google Forms. The autograde option in Flubaroo allows you to have students automatically receive their scores after submitting their responses to a quiz you created in Google Forms. The autograde feature will send students an email with their scores and the answer key (you can exclude the answer key). With autograding enabled students do not have to wait for you to run the grading process or wait for you to send emails. You can also print grades from Flubaroo and or save them as a PDF.

Online Rubric is a Google Spreadsheets Add-on that enables to you create rubrics, enter scores, and email scores to students all from one place. Online Rubric provides very clear instructions for each step of the processes of creating a roster sheet, creating a rubric, and emailing grades to students. The video below provides a demonstration of how to use the Online Rubric Add-on.

Doctopus is a Google Spreadsheet Add-on that can help teachers manage the flow of shared work in in their Google Drive accounts. The basic concept behind the Add-on 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. When Google launched Google Classroom it seemed that Doctopus might become redundant, but that has not exactly become the case as Justin Brink demonstrates in the videos embedded below.

Lab Scheduler is a neat Google Sheets Add-on that enables you to easily create and maintain a lab or room reservation system for your school. It is designed for schools that use a labeled block schedule (for example, the high school in my district uses "period 1" through "period 8" even though there are only four periods in a given day). Once you have added Lab Scheduler to your Google Spreadsheet it will walk you through the process of creating blocks of time and lab/room space in your spreadsheet. You can set your Lab Scheduler to maintain a preview of as many dates as you like. The preview is what people will see when they want to make a reservation. Share the spreadsheet with your staff and they can reserve a block of time in it.

YouCanBook.Me is a meeting scheduling tool that integrates with your Google Calendar and is easier to use than the appointment slots feature in Google Apps for Education calendars. YouCanBook.Me allows people to book fixed blocks of time in your calendar. You identify the times in your calendar that you are available to meet. Then when someone needs to schedule a meeting with you, you send him or her a link to your booking calendar. Visitors to your calendar click a block and enter their email addresses to reserve a block of your time. When a block of time is reserved you receive an email alert and the other person receives a confirmation email.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Review Halloween Safety With Kahoot

In this week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I demonstrated how to search for, duplicate, and edit quizzes in Kahoot's public gallery. If you take a look at that video, you'll notice that I found lots of quizzes about Halloween and Halloween safety. Playing those quizzes could be a great way to review Halloween safety with kids before they head out to trick o' trick this Saturday. If you missed it earlier, I have the video embedded below.

Applications for Education
Kahoot provides a fun way to gather feedback from a group through their phones, iPads, Chromebooks, or any other device that has a web browser and an Internet connection. You can include pictures and or videos as part of each question that you create and share in a Kahoot activity. Players are awarded points for answering correctly and quickly. Or you can turn off the points system to use Kahoot in a non-competitive environment.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

How Stress Affects Your Body - A TED-Ed Lesson

Hopefully, as you read this you've had a relaxing weekend absent of stress. As we all know, stress can do some odd things to us. From headaches to backaches to just flat-out getting sick, being stressed is not fun for anyone. But why do our bodies react to stress? And which systems in our bodies are impacted by stress? The answer to those questions and more are found in a new TED-Ed lesson How Stress Affects Your Body.

As we start to head into mid-term exams in some schools and later final exams for the semester, this might be a good time to remind students to get proper rest and take other steps to keep their stress levels in check. This video is also a great reminder for all of us to take steps to take time to decompress when we're feeling stressed. Speaking of which, Vicki Davis has some good tips on dealing with stress at school.

Go On Safari in Google Earth

A couple of nights ago I opened Google Earth to search for something completely unrelated to what I'm sharing in this post. When I opened Google Earth I was greeted by a pop-up promoting a new-to-me file in Google Earth called Go On Safari. This file is a 66 placemark tour of wildlife in Africa.

The Go On Safari tour is based on the work of Mike Fay's Africa Mega Flyover project which set out to study the impact of human activity on wilderness and wildlife. You can find the tour in Google Earth under the Primary Databases and Voyager layers.

Applications for Education
One of the great things about Google Earth is that it lets students see places in ways that paper maps and pictures cannot. Encourage students to dive deeper into the placemarks on this tour or others and see the landscape around the stops on the tour. Ask them to analyze how the physical and human geography has shaped places and impacted wildlife in an area.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Week in Review - It's Ski Season!

Good morning from Maine where the leaves still show some signs of autumn, but they're fading fast. A sure sign that winter is almost here is that the local ski resort opened for skiing this week. I haven't been skiing yet this season, but that will change soon. The key to surviving Maine winters is to embrace all of the opportunities for recreation that the weather provides. Otherwise, you just go crazy in the house. Of course, that can be said for just about any season. Getting outside in the fresh air can lower your stress level and is just plain fun. So wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you make time to have fun outdoors.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. How to Access Thousands of Free eBooks for Kids
2. How to Create a Word Cloud in Google Documents
3. Candy Crime Scene - A Science Lesson
4. 70 Google Apps Video Tutorials
5. Slides from Colonial Tech Conference #techcsd #delachat
6. How to Duplicate and Edit Public Kahoot Quizzes
7. 12 Good Resources for Teaching Digital Citizenship - A PDF Handout

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference?
Click here to learn about my professional development services. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
HelloTalk is a mobile community for learning a new language.
MasteryConnect offers a series of apps for identifying standards. 
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
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.
Lesley University offers online education programs for teachers.
PortfolioGen is a professional portfolio tool for teachers.  
Southeastern University offers online M.Ed programs.

7 Halloween-themed Educational Activities

Halloween is next Saturday. If you're in need of some educational activities with a Halloween-theme, take a look at the resources summarized below. All of these resources have appeared in individual posts in the past.

On Storyboard That you can now turn your storyboards into Halloween cards. In the Storyboard That creator you can use the myths and mystical scenes and characters to create your Halloween story. Once your storyboard is saved you can choose to print it with Halloween borders. The print-out includes lines for cutting and folding your cards. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create Halloween cards on Storyboard That.

Every month BoomWriter publishes a new set of vocabulary words to incorporate into writing lessons for elementary and middle school students. The vocabulary word sets are aligned to seasons and holidays. This month the vocabulary set has a Halloween theme. The new Halloween-themed vocabulary lesson plans can be conducted through their free WordWriter service. WordWriter allows teachers to create vocabulary lists that they want students to incorporate into a writing assignment. The new Halloween-themed lesson plans include pre-made lists of Halloween-themed words for your students to use in the writing assignment that you distribute to them.You can find BoomWriter tutorial videos here.

The Pit and the Pendulum is available as an interactive comic book created by Poe in the Pit. If you view the comic book online you can click symbols within it to open videos, additional images, and additional background and analysis of Poe's work. If you choose to print the comic book you can us the QR codes embedded within it to access the videos, images, and additional info on your mobile device.

Number Chase - Math vs. Zombies is a free iPad game with a Halloween theme. The game is has three virtual worlds each containing ten levels of basic math problems. The object of the game is to correctly solve as many math problems as possible before the zombies catch you. The math of the game is basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Scholastic offers a variety of Halloween-themed activities for elementary school students. The Halloween Tooth: Max's Math Adventure is a math activity for K-2 students. In the activity students read and listen to a poem about Halloween candy then complete a set of activities in which they make patterns and count candy. Halloween Web Hunt is a simple web quest for students in grades three through five. The activity has students visit a virtual museum and online libraries to answer questions about mummies, bats, and Halloween history. Writing Mysteries provides a template and walks elementary school students through the process of writing mystery stories.

Halloween Magazine offers a safety game for students. The game is designed to teach students to recognize safe and unsafe situations while they're out trick 'o treating.

Smarty Games offers Halloween Math. In Halloween Math students move a ghost to catch the answers to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems.

Disclosure: Storyboard That and BoomWriter are currently advertisers on this blog. 

Historypin Launches a New Design and New Features

Historypin is a great place to find geo-located historical imagery. Historypin allows users to place historical images within the setting of current Google Maps Streetview imagery. Recently, Historypin launched a new design and new features for users.

Historypin now has a feature called Collections which allows you to create a collection of pins and have anyone else can add to it. If you're an existing user of Historypin, all of your pins are now in a collection named after you. New users will have collections based on their names until they rename the collections and or create new collections.

Historypin's other big update deals with the content that you can add to your collections. In the past you could add pictures and videos. Now you can add simple text pins too.

Learn more about the new version of Historypin in the video below.

Applications for Education
Your students could contribute to an existing Historypin collection or create collections of their own. Your students could create a Historypin collection of their own by going to your local history society, scanning historical images, and placing them into a map

Friday, October 23, 2015

What Are You Doing Tomorrow? - Check Out the Discovery Virt Con

If you're looking for something to do tomorrow morning, consider taking advantage of a free PD opportunity from Discovery Education.

Every fall Discovery Education hosts a virtual conference that is open to the world. The DEN Fall VirtCon is a blended online and physical conference. This year's event is happening on October 24th. You can participate virtually as I did last year or attend one of the physical events organized in locations all over North America.

A couple of years ago I had the privilege of giving one of the keynotes for Discovery's DEN Fall VirtCon. That year the theme was open resources. This year the theme of the DEN Fall VirtCon is Literacies for the Digital Age.  The event will feature presentations packed with tips, tricks, and treats for teaching digital literacy.

Click here to register and learn more about the DEN Fall VirtCon.

If you can't make the live sessions tomorrow, don't worry because they are being recorded.

10 Resources for Teaching With Primary Sources

I'm looking forward to next week's LOC virtual conference on teaching with primary sources. Thinking about the conference prompted me to put together the following collection of resources related to teaching history with primary sources.

Before students can work with primary sources they need to understand the differences between primary and secondary sources. Common Craft offers a 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.

Zoom In provides units of lesson plans built around primary source documents. The collection of lesson units is organized into six eras of US History. Zoom In is more than just a collection of lesson plans and documents. Zoom In provides an online classroom environment. As a teacher you can manage multiple classrooms within your Zoom In account. Students join your class by using a class code (email addresses not required). Once students have joined your class, you can begin distributing assignments to them from the lesson plan database. You can track which students have started the assignments, read their responses to questions within the assignments, and give students feedback on the assignments all within your Zoom In classroom.

Historical Scene Investigation offers a fun way for students to investigate history through primary documents and images. Historical Scene Investigation presents students with historical cases to "crack." Each of these thirteen cases present students with clues to analyze in order to form a conclusion to each investigation. The clues for each investigation come in the forms of primary documents and images as well as secondary sources. HSI provides students with "case files" on which they record the evidence they find in the documents and images. At the conclusion of their investigation students need to answer questions and decide if the case should be closed or if more investigation is necessary.

The World Digital Library hosts more than 10,000 primary documents and images from collections around the world. Sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the mission of the World Digital Library is to promote the study and understanding of cultures. The WDL can be searched by date, era, country, continent, topic, and type of resource. In my search of the WDL I noticed that roughly half of the resources are historical maps and images. The WDL aims to be accessible to as many people as possible by providing search tools and content descriptions in seven languages. The WDL can also be searched by clicking through the map on the homepage.

Who Am I? A History Mystery is a fun and challenging activity from the Smithsonian's The Price of Freedom online exhibit. Who Am I? presents players with six historical characters that they have to identify using the text and image clues provided. To solve the mystery players have to match the visual artifacts to each character. The Price of Freedom offers a series of detailed lesson plans and videos for six major events and eras in US History. Those events and eras are War of Independence, Wars of Expansion, The Civil War, World War II, Cold War/ Vietnam, and September 11.

Student Discovery Sets from the Library of Congress offer primary collections of primary sources in free iBooks. There are twelve Student Discovery Sets available as iBooks. Each set is arranged thematically. The sets contain a mix of images, documents, audio recordings, and video clips. Each artifact in each set is accompanied by guiding questions designed to help students analyze what they are seeing, reading, or hearing. Images and texts in the Student Discovery Sets can be annotated with drawing tools built into each iBook.

A central part of the Teacher's Page on the Library of Congress website is the primary source center. The primary source center walks teachers through the process of locating documents on the Library of Congress' site. The primary source center also provides guides for using various types of primary sources including political cartoons, photographs, and oral histories.

The National Archives Experience Digital Vaults is one of the resources that I almost always share in my workshop on teaching history with technology primary sources. The Digital Vaults offers good tools that students and teachers can use to create content using images and documents from the National Archives. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how students can create digital posters and movies in the National Archives Experience Digital Vaults.

The National Archives Experience's Docs Teach interactive tools center offers seven free tools that teachers can use to create interactive learning activities based on primary source documents and images. The seven tools are Finding a Sequence, Focusing on Details, Making Connections, Mapping History, Seeing the Big Picture, Weighing the Evidence, and Interpreting Data. To get a sense of how each of these activities works you can view existing activities made and shared here by other teachers. In fact, you may want to browse through the Find & Use section before creating an activity from scratch as you may find that someone else has shared an activity that meets your instructional goals too. The Find & Use activities are arranged by historical era and are labeled with a thinking skill and a level of Bloom's revised taxonomy.'s historical thinking posters are interactive displays that guide students through the process of examining and thinking about history. There are two interactive posters available. The poster for elementary school is called Doing History is Like Solving a Mystery. The poster for high school students is called History is an Argument About the Past. Both posters include images of primary sources. Clicking on the images in the posters opens a series of guiding questions.

Another Place to Find Google Slides Templates

In my recent post about creating certificates in Google Slides I featured the Google Slides template gallery. The Slides and Drive template galleries are my go-to places for templates. Yesterday, Craig Badura tipped me off on another place to find Google Slides templates.

Slides Carnival is a website that offers dozens of Google Slides templates. Provided that you are signed into your Google Account, each template can be saved to your Google Drive account by simply clicking the "use this presentation template" button that appears below each template. Once you have saved the template you can modify the content to suit your needs. I've embedded an example one of the Slides Carnival templates below.

Applications for Education
Slides Carnival isn't going to change the way students present, but it does offer a nice alternative to seeing the same old templates over and over again.

Delivering Instruction in a Star Wars Setting

Russel Tarr has just added another fun tool to his catalog of resources on The latest addition is a template called Movie Text. Movie Text lets you create Star Wars-like scrolling introductions.

To use Movie Text simply go to the template found here then click the edit button in the lower, left corner of the screen. Change the text in the template editor to read whatever you want it to display then save it. Once you have saved a template it will be assigned its own URL and you will have an opportunity to grab an embed code to post in your blog.

Applications for Education
If you play the Movie Text sample all the way through you will find some ideas for using it in a classroom setting. I think it could be fun to use it occasionally to give instructions to students.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Give Written Feedback on Students' Answers in GoFormative Assessments

Formative, found at, is a free service for assigning questions to students and having them answer on their laptops or tablets in real-time. One of the best features of Formative is the option to have students draw responses to your questions. A couple of months ago I published a video about that feature.

Another feature of Formative that stands out is the option to give students feedback in real-time. You can give them feedback in a points system or you can give them written feedback in real-time. In some cases, like in the case of a multiple choice question, you can use both feedback mechanisms to help your students understand their mistakes. The video below demonstrates how to use the written feedback function in Formative.

Applications for Education
Letting students see the results of their work in real-time is a nice feature for them and for teachers as it can guide everyone in identifying what they need to spend more time studying. From a practical standpoint it might not always be possible to give every student written feedback immediately. In that case the written feedback mechanism is still helpful as your students can check later to see an explanation from you of why their answers were incorrect.

Teaching With Primary Sources - A Free Online Conference

Thanks to Glenn Wiebe I just registered for an exciting online learning event for social studies teachers. Next week the Library of Congress is hosting an online conference titled The Library of Congress and Teachers Unlocking the Power of Primary Sources. This two day event will be comprised for more than a dozen live webinars about teaching with primary sources. The webinars are taking place next Tuesday and Wednesday between 4pm and 8pm Eastern Time.

The conference has two strands. There is a resource strand and a strategies strand. The resources strand focuses on collections in the LOC. The strategies strand appears to offer sessions that will present ideas that can be applied to the social studies classroom regardless of whether or not you use LOC collections.

You can register for each session in the conference individually. I'm already registered for a session on working with visuals. All sessions will be recorded and certificates will be available to those who watch the recordings and or participate in the live sessions.

Register today for The Library of Congress and Teachers Unlocking the Power of Primary Sources.

How to Create a Student Certificate in Google Slides

Throughout the course of the school year there are plenty of occasions when you might need to create certificates for students. In the Google Slides template gallery there is a template for creating a student certificate. In the older Google Drive template gallery there are many certificate templates. In the video below I provide an overview of how to access and modify these certificate templates.

Check out my Google Tutorials playlist for more Google Apps tips.

How to Create & Customize Tables in Google Slides

After publishing yesterday's post about the Table Formatter Add-on for Google Documents, I received a couple of questions about formatting tables in Google Slides. Unfortunately, there is not an Add-on for Google Slides that makes it easy to format tables. However, it is possible to manually style tables that you insert into Google Slides. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to do that.

This video is the 73rd that I have created for my playlist of Google Apps Tutorials.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Table Formatter Provides an Easy Way to Style Google Docs Tables

Table Formatter is a free Google Docs Add-on that lets you add a little color to your tables in Google Docs. With the Add-on installed simply choose a color scheme from the menu and choose the size of your table. You can mix and math color schemes within the same document.

Applications for Education
The table tool is one of the Google Docs tools that tends to get overlooked. It's a useful tool for quickly creating charts. I have long used it to give organization to group notes during jigsaw reading activities.

A Geography Quiz Created With YouTube Annotations

On Saturday I shared directions for creating annotations in YouTube videos along with an example of using that feature to create a choose-your-own-adventure series of videos. This week, through Maps Mania, I found another way to use the annotations feature in YouTube.

The Topo Quiz Western Europe uses YouTube's annotations feature to create a video quiz about European capitals. Each video in the series shows an outline map of an area and displays a list of capital cities. Viewers have to click the name of the capital city to move forward in the quiz. If a viewer clicks the wrong answer he or she will be sent back the same video to try again.

Applications for Education
The quiz itself is challenging, but it might not be the most engaging quiz your students will take this week. That said, it is a great example of what can be done with YouTube's annotations tools.

You could have students use the YouTube annotations tools to create a video tour of capital cities, countries, or other geographic features on a map.

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