Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Month in Review - January's Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Good evening from Woodstock, Maine where we had a beautiful sunset on the last day of January, 2016. As I do at the end of every month, I've assembled a list of the most popular posts. The list is based on views and shares of posts throughout the previous 30 days.

Here are the most popular posts of the month:
1. Click to Spin - A Fun and Free Random Name Picker
2. 4 Helpful Gmail Settings for Teachers & Students
3. 10 Good Video Sources for Social Studies Teachers and Students
4. Google Books for Teachers and Students - A Guide
5. 16 Ways to Use TinyTap in Your Classroom
6. Ten Good Video Sources for Science Teachers and Students
7. 5 Great Things You Can Do With Google Sheets
8. Choosito - A Search Engine With Reading Level Index
9. 82 Google Tools Tutorial Videos
10. ClassDojo's Big Ideas Teaches Kids About Growth Mindset

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. 
SlideModel offers great PowerPoint templates for teachers. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
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.
KidzType provides a fun way to teach and learn typing skills.

Create a Single Dashboard for All of Your Cloud Storage Accounts

If you're like me, you might have utilize more than one cloud storage service. I use Google Drive most often, but I also use Dropbox and Box too. MultCloud is a service that allows me to tie them all together in one place. MultCloud does more than just provide a single log-in for all of the cloud services that I use. It also allows me to move files between services with a simple drag-and-drop.

By connecting your cloud storage services through MultCloud you create a single dashboard page on which you can view and access the files within all of your cloud storage accounts. To move a file between the services you just select a file from one service and drag it to the other.

Applications for Education
If your school hasn't adopted a standard cloud storage platform for all teachers and students, MultCloud could be a great tool for organizing files strewn across multiple cloud storage services.

Two Easy Ways to Create QR Codes to Use In Your Classroom

QR codes make it easy to quickly share important information with students. Through a QR code you can share links to websites and Google Documents (provided you have set sharing permissions to "anyone with the link") for your students to open on their tablets or phones. You can share links to Google Calendars or to specific calendar events that students then sync to the calendars on their mobile devices. In the video embedded below I demonstrate two ways to quickly create QR codes.

The two tools featured in the video are QR Droid and

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Week in Review - A Week at Home

Good afternoon from sunny Woodstock, Maine where I've had a nice week at home with my dog Max. Max was very happy to have me home for the whole week after being on the road the previous two weeks. Next week I'll be Texas for the TCEA conference and to speak to at Texas A&M. But before then I'm going to soak up some fun with Max as we walk and romp in the woods. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you have some time for fun things too.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Choosito - A Search Engine With Reading Level Index
2. 5 Great Things You Can Do With Google Sheets
3. Click to Spin - A Fun and Free Random Name Picker
4. Tour Buckingham Palace In Virtual Reality
5. How to Set a Time Limit on Google Forms
6. How to Create a Classroom Blog on Weebly for Education
7. 5 Videos on Making Flipped Video Lessons

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. 
SlideModel offers great PowerPoint templates for teachers. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
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.
KidzType provides a fun way to teach and learn typing skills.

Friday, January 29, 2016

How to Create a Multiple Part Test in Google Forms

Yesterday, I posted a video in which I demonstrated how to impose a time limit on a Google Form. In response to that post someone on Facebook asked me if there was a way for students to save their progress on a Google Form and come back to finish it later. Unfortunately, there is not an easy way to do that. My suggestion is to break-up long tests into multiple Google Forms. At the end of each Form include a link to the next Form in the series. For example, instead of giving one twenty question Form to students I might give them two Forms containing ten questions each. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to do this.

For more Google tools tutorials, check out my playlist of more than 80 Google tools tutorials.

How to Use Choosito's Reading Level-indexed Search Tool for Free

On Wednesday I published a post about Choosito that spurred a lot of questions in email and comments on Facebook including some not-so-pleasant comments that I deleted. Choosito is a search engine that offers a reading level index for results. You have to register on Choosito even if you just want to use their free product which includes the reading level refinement. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Choosito's reading level refinement search options.

Today I Learned - Fun Facts Featured in National Geographic Videos

National Geographic's YouTube channel includes a fun playlist of short videos about interesting science facts. The playlist, called Today I Learned or TIL for short, is comprised of 60 to 90 second videos on things like "why is the ocean salty?" and "how chameleons change color." The playlist is embedded below.

Applications for Education
The videos in Today I Learned aren't long enough to be full flipped lessons, but they could be useful as warm-up material to spark your students' curiosities about a topic.

New Commenting Options in Google Slides, Sheets, Docs Mobile Apps

If you have run updates on your iPad or Android tablet in the last 24 hours you might have noticed some new commenting options in Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets. If you haven't run updates, you will want to after learning about the new commenting features.

Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets for iOS and Android now have instant mentions in comments. Simply start typing a contact's name in a comment box and you will see a list of suggested names to mention in your comments. Anyone you select from that list will be notified of being mentioned in your comment.

One of my favorite features of Google Docs comments is the ability to reply to someone else's comment. Now you can do that in the Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets mobile apps too. And to make it easier to sort through comments all of the Docs, Slides, and Sheets apps have comment swiping enabled.

Applications for Education
The latest updates to the Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets mobile apps bring the experience on a tablet closer to that of using Docs, Slides, and Sheets in your web browser. For schools that have BYOD programs these updates should help streamline your workflow throughout the Google Apps suite.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

How to Create a Classroom Blog on Weebly for Education

Weebly for Education offers a good platform for creating a classroom blog. One of the perks of Weebly for Education is that you can create and manage your students' accounts from one central dashboard. Weebly for Education also offers all of the great templates and content management tools that has made Weebly one of the most popular tools on the web for creating blogs and websites.

In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to create student accounts in Weebly for Education and how to create a blog in your Weebly for Education account.

The following video shows you how to create a video blog through YouTube and Weebly.

How to Set a Time Limit on Google Forms

This morning I received a question from a teacher who was looking for a way to impose a time limit on a quiz or test administered through Google Forms. My suggestion was to try using the Google Forms Add-on called Form Limiter. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to install and use Form Limiter.

If you wanted to break your test into multiple sections in Google Forms, you could impose a time limit on each section. For example, let's say that you want to give a 30 question test. You could break that test into three sections of ten questions by making three separate Forms. At the end of each Form include a link to proceed to the next Form in the series. You would place the link in the "response accepted" message at the bottom of the Forms that you publish.

For more Google Forms tips and tricks, check out my playlist of more than 80 Google Apps Tutorials.

Free PowerPoint Templates for Teachers and Students

We've all seen plenty of poorly designed slides that have harsh color schemes, fonts that are too small, or otherwise just don't look quite right. Fortunately, there is help for those of us who struggle with visual design. Sites like SlideModel, SlideHunter, and FPPT offer slide design templates that we can use in PowerPoint, OpenOffice Impress, and Google Slides.

SlideHunter is a free website containing a collection of free slide decks. These slides can be downloaded then imported into PowerPoint, OpenOffice Impress, or Google Slides. Pro tip for Google Slides users, you can import all of the slides or select just the ones that have the layout you want. Once you've imported the slide templates you can modify them to fit your needs. And if you don't need complete slides, but just a piece of artwork or a diagram template, you can find those on SlideHunter too. I'm a big fan of this design that I found on SlideHunter.

FPPT is another site that offers free PowerPoint templates for teachers and students. You can search for templates on FPPT according to category, tag, or even color scheme. There is an education section on the site. In the education section I found this neat template for a history presentation.

SlideModel is a website that offers professionally designed PowerPoint slide templates. When converted, the templates also work in OpenOffice and Google Slides. You can register for a free account on SlideModel to receive their free template of the week. There is also an option to upgrade to plans with unlimited slide template access.

Disclosure: SlideModel is currently an advertiser on

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tour Buckingham Palace In Virtual Reality

Last week Google opened up a beta program for schools that want to use Google Expeditions on Android devices. If you get into that program or if you already have Google Cardboard viewers, you might want to take a look at the latest addition to the line-up of virtual reality expeditions. Students can now tour Buckingham Palace through the Google Expeditions app. You can also view the tour through the YouTube Android app. If you view it through the YouTube Android app you will want to select "cardboard view" to see the video clearly. I've embedded the tour below, but it will look blurry if you don't view it through the app.

Groundhog Day Explained

Next Tuesday is Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day is the day that, according to legend, a groundhog will predict how much longer winter will last in the northern hemisphere. Your students might be wondering where this tradition originated. The following two videos provide brief explanations of Groundhog Day's origins.

This video from Storm Shield explains a bit of meteorology that goes into whether or not the groundhog will see his or her shadow.

This video from CGP Grey deals mostly with the origin of the tradition. Like most CGP Grey videos there is a fair amount of snark included in the video so review it carefully before deciding if it's appropriate for your students.

Choosito - A Search Engine With Reading Level Index

Ever since Google removed the reading level option from their advanced search menu I've received at least one request per week from readers looking for alternative options. Recently, I have started to suggest trying Choosito.

Choosito is a search engine that offers a reading level index for its search results. When you search on Choosito you can select to refine results to reading levels marked as Early Readers, Emerging Readers, Fluent Readers, or Advanced Readers. In addition to reading level refinement Choosito offers an option to sort results by subject area.

Choosito's basic search tools including the reading level and subject area filters are available to use for free. Choosito also offers a premium service that lets teachers create collections of resources, manage student accounts, and track students' search habits.

Applications for Education
Students who feel overwhelmed by unfiltered results on Google or Bing, could benefit from using Choosito to filter search results. Likewise, students who have trouble refining their search terms could benefit from Choosito's "related searches" suggestions.

Teachers who are looking for reading materials for their students, should appreciate the option to filter results to a reading level appropriate for their students.

Plickers Now Offers Scoresheets for Reviewing Students' Progress

Plickers is my favorite student response tool for classrooms in which not every student has his or her own tablet or laptop. Plickers makes it easy to semi-anonymously gather feedback from students. Students simply hold up a card with a QR code to vote and you scan the cards with your phone or tablet. You can scan the whole room in one swoop and have results instantly appear on your screen.

This week Plickers released a new feature for keeping track of how your students respond to your questions. The new Plickers Scoresheet allows you to see your students' responses to multiple questions in one convenient scoresheet. On your scoresheet you can choose to display every question that you have asked your students over a given range of dates. The scoresheet gives you the option to show all question responses or drill down to see how students have performed on an individual question over a range of dates. And all scoresheets can be downloaded as a spreadsheet to analyze offline.

To access your Plickers Scoresheet simply choose "scoresheet" from the "reports" menu in your Plickers dashboard.

Applications for Education
Plickers Scoresheet should be a great tool for keeping track of your students' progress on a given question or type of question over a period of time. The scoresheet should help you identify the type of questions that you need to ask more or less frequently in your classroom.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How to Create a Classroom Blog on SeeSaw

A couple of weeks ago SeeSaw introduced an option to create a classroom blog within your SeeSaw account. SeeSaw's blogging tool allows you to create public or private blog to share with students and their parents. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create a blog on

The videos below demonstrate how to add students to your SeeSaw classroom.

Leap Year Explained

2016 is a leap year which means that February will have 29 days this year. You may have students wondering why there is an extra day added to the calendar this year. You may also find yourself explaining, as I did one year, that leap year doesn't mean they go to school for an extra day. Should you find yourself in that position, the following two videos could be helpful to you. The first video addresses the history and evolution of calendars. The second video deals purely with the mathematics of leap year.

Presentation Planning Explained by Common Craft

Planning a presentation of any length can feel like a daunting task. For some people the difficulty is in figuring out what to say. For others the trouble is thinking about standing in front of an audience. Either way, having a solid plan for your presentation can make things easier. In their latest video, Presentation Planning, Common Craft explains a fantastic method of planning and organizing presentations. The method involves sticky notes. Share this video with your students before they embark on their next presentation assignments.

How Does the Electoral College Work? - And Election Outcomes Explained

The United States will choose a new president this year. Students often ask why the process is not as simple just having everyone show up to vote on a given day in November, counting the votes, and declaring a winner. Here are some resources to help students understand the process of choosing a new President of the United States.

Primaries & Caucuses:
In the video below Keith Hughes explains the differences between a primary and caucus. Most importantly he explains how a caucus works.

CGP Grey explains primary elections in the video below.

The electoral college:
This TED-Ed lesson offers a short explanation of the Electoral College by answering the question, "does your vote count?" The video for the lesson is embedded below.

Common Craft offers The Electoral College in Plain English.

Who won? - Outcomes explained.
The outcome of every election since 1900 is explained in this series of lessons created by Keith Hughes.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Three Free iOS Apps for Test Prep

Last week my post about the test prep app Gojimo was one of the most popular posts of the week. This morning someone emailed me looking for a simple app in which students could create their own review materials. The following three apps let students create their own review flashcards that include explanations for questions.

Through the Quizlet iPad app students can access their own sets of flashcards or search for those created and shared by others. Through the app students can access their flashcards used even when they don’t have an internet connection. Quizlet flashcards can include audio elements in eighteen languages. Audio support is available for Quizlet flashcards. To access the audio option students simply tap the speaker icon to hear the contents of their flashcards read aloud. Quizlet’s iPad app offers four review modes. “Cards” mode is your standard flipping of flashcards from question side to answer side. “Study” mode is just the a question with its answer displayed next to it. “Match” mode is a Memory-style game in which students look for matching cards. “Learn” mode is a Jeopardy-style activity in which students are shown a term and they have to type in a question.

StudyBlue is a service for creating and sharing flashcard sets. The free StudyBlue iPad app allows you to create flashcards in three ways. You can enter text, take a picture, or speak into the app. The app can be used by students to review their flashcards in a quiz style or by just flipping through their flashcards. And students can use the app to search for public sets of flashcards in the StudyBlue gallery. StudyBlue will track usage statistics in order to help students identify which flashcards a student has mastered and which ones they need to spend more time on. Students can study their flashcards without an Internet connection, but they do need an Internet connection in order to create new flashcards and search for other users’ flashcards.

GoConqr is a service for creating and sharing flashcards, building mind maps, and tracking your study habits. The GoConqr iPad app lets students take their materials with them wherever they go. Performance tracking in the app allows students to keep track of how they scored on practice quizzes, monitor which flashcards they know and which they need to spend more time with, and track their comprehension of nodes of their mind maps. That last option provides students with "tick boxes" that they can check when they feel like they have mastered the topics depicted on mind maps that they have created.

A Math Review App in English and Spanish

Math Vocabulary Cards is a free iPad app designed for elementary school students. The app offers exactly what its name implies, a series of flashcards of mathematics vocabulary terms. Each card contains a term, a diagram, and a definition. By default the term is hidden and students have to guess the term based on the definition and diagram. Students can also use the cards with the definitions hidden and the terms revealed. Math Vocabulary Cards can be used in Spanish or English. Simply select a language at the bottom of each card. Students can browse through the entire gallery of flashcards or choose a specific category of terms to study.

Applications for Education
For many students a visual glossary of mathematics terms is the little extra help that they need to understand a math problem. An app like Math Vocabulary Cards could provide the glossary that a student needs.

The bilingual aspect of Math Vocabulary Cards could make it a good choice for students who live in homes in which English is not the first language.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Dragontape - Remix YouTube Clips

At last night's TeachMeet BETT Martin Burrett reminded me of a neat tool for remixing clips of YouTube videos. That tool is called Dragontape.

If you made mix tapes in the 80's, the concept of Dragontape will be familiar to you. Dragontaape makes it easy to string together a series of YouTube videos and or sections of YouTube videos. Create your mix tape of videos just launch the Dragontape editor, enter a search term for videos, then drag videos on to the Dragontape timeline. You enter searches and drag videos as many times as you like. To trim video timings and string videos together just match them up on the timeline editor. Dragontape allows you to collaborate with others on a mix.

Applications for Education
Dragontape could be a good tool for creating video of news story highlights. As a social studies teacher I would use Dragontape to have students assemble a "week in review" of news stories.

The Week in Review - The BETT Edition

Good evening from London where I'm waiting for my flight home after a nice couple of days at the BETT Show. I spent some time meeting with developers of some neat applications (more about those in future posts) and just walking around to see what was new and interesting.

Once again the best part of BETT was TeachMeet BETT. During a TeachMeet teachers have two to seven minutes to share examples of new and interesting things that they are doing in their classrooms. As always, I learned some new things and was refreshed on things that I hadn't thought about in a while. If you ever get a chance to attend a TeachMeet, do it!

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Google Books for Teachers and Students - A Guide
2. ClassDojo's Big Ideas Teaches Kids About Growth Mindset
3. Click to Spin - A Fun and Free Random Name Picker
4. Quill - Packs of Interactive Writing Lessons
5. Learn HTML & CSS Through a Free 12 Part Guide
6. Gojimo - A Great App for Self-paced Test Prep
7. Soundtrap - Collaboratively Create Music Online

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.
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.
KidzType provides a fun way to teach and learn typing skills.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Gojimo - A Great App for Self-paced Test Prep

Earlier today I had the opportunity to test out a study app called Gojimo. Gojimo was initially developed by a student for students. Gojimo offers thousands of free practice tests for students of high school age. Students can find practice tests for topics in science, math, history, geography, economics, and language arts. The app was originally designed for students in the UK, but it has expanded to offer SAT, ACT, and AP exam prep.

Gojimo is available as a free iPad app, as a free Android app, and as a free web app. Whichever app students choose to use, they will have access to all review content.

Applications for Education
One of the nice things about Gojimo is that after every question students can see an explanation of the correct answer. Students can choose to review a specific set of questions or they can review a set of questions randomly selected from a topic of their choosing.

Test the New Google Expeditions Android App

Two of my favorite new Google products of the last nine months are Google Expeditions and the Cardboard Camera app. This week at BETT Jim Sill introduced me to the beta version of the new Google Expeditions Android app. The Expeditions Android app will bring much of the imagery and experience of Google Expeditions to your Android tablets and Android phones. The app is still in a closed beta period that is only open to teachers who apply to download the app.

What is Google Expeditions?
Expeditions uses an app on the teacher's tablet in conjunction with the Cardboard viewer to guide students on virtual reality field trips. Today, Google announced that they are bringing Expedition demonstrations and the required kits to schools all over North America, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

During the 2015/2016 school year the Expeditions Pioneer Program will be visiting schools to set them up with the materials needed for taking students on more than 100 virtual field trips. Visit the Expeditions Pioneer Program website to find out if the program will be near you and to register your school for a visit.

What is the Cardboard Camera app?
Cardboard Camera is a free Android app that enables you to create your own virtual reality imagery to use in Google's Cardboard Viewer.

With the Cardboard Camera app installed on your Android phone or tablet you can capture 360 degree panoramic imagery. If you choose to keep your phone's microphone turned on, you can capture sound with your imagery. To capture imagery simply open the app, tap the camera icon, then start recording. Slowly move your phone from left to right and turn 360 degrees to completely capture the images around you. Cardboard Camera will tell you if you are moving too quickly or too slowly. Once you've captured your imagery you can view it through the Cardboard Viewer. Unfortunately, the Cardboard Viewer is not free but it is inexpensive. Schools that are selected for the Expeditions Pioneer Program will get viewers for free.

Three Free iPad Apps for Fun Vocabulary Practice

Yesterday, I received an email from an elementary school teacher who was looking for some new-to-her vocabulary practice apps to put on her classroom set of iPads. The following were my suggestions.

Winning Words is a series of free iPad apps that feature matching / "memory" style vocabulary games. There are six apps in the series. Each app is played in the same manner of flipping a card and trying to find a match for it. The six apps are synonym match, antonym match, homophone match, compound match, double letter match, and singular/plural match. Each app supports up to four players and has three levels of difficulty.

Vocabulary Catcher is a series of six free apps. Each of the apps follows the same model. Students read and hear a word then have to "pop" the balloon containing the object that represents the word they heard. Students earn points based on their accuracy and their speed. Vocabulary Catcher 1 is about numbers, colors, and fruit. Vocabulary Catcher 2 is about animals. Vocabulary Catcher 3 is about toys and classroom objects. Vocabulary Catcher 4 features numbers and prices. Vocabulary Catcher 5 contains words about weather and seasons as well as more words about school facilities. And Vocabulary Catcher 6 contains words about clothing, sports, and sports equipment.

World’s Worst Pet is a free iPad app that contains a series of fun vocabulary games. In the app players have to help bring home Snargg, the world’s worst pet, who has run away. To get Snargg back players have to fill his food dish by learning new vocabulary words. Each of the six levels in the game contain ten dishes (each dish represents a new set of words) that can be filled. Four games are available for each dish. The games are fill-in-the-blank, synonym identification, antonym identification, and definition identification. World’s Worst Pet is designed for students in grades four through eight. The app contains a total of 1,000 vocabulary words.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Newsela's iPad App Offers News Stories Sorted by Reading Level

Newsela is a service that helps teachers find current events articles that are appropriate for their students' age and reading abilities. This week Newsela launched a free iPad app and iPhone app.

The Newsela iPad app and iPhone app delivers current news articles to students. The stories are matched to students' reading abilities. At the end of each article students can take quizzes to check their understanding of what they read. Should students find that the articles are too easy for them, they can quickly select a more challenging reading level.

Applications for Education
Newsela has an online classroom component that you can use to assign articles to your students' accounts. Beth Holland wrote a great overview of how to use Newsela in conjunction with Google Documents. You can read her article here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Two Tools for Writing & Drawing Books Online Before Printing

This morning I received an email from a reader who was looking for tools that her students can use to create booklets that they design online then print. The caveat of the request was that the tools had to have an option for students to draw as well as type and insert pictures. A few tools fit that description. Those tools are Buncee and MyStoryBook.

On Buncee students can create a visual story that is unveiled as a viewer scroll across the page. Buncee stories can also be set to play automatically when they are viewed. Students create their Buncee stories by adding custom background templates to Buncee slides. To each template students can add animations, pictures, text, drawings, and videos. Buncee provides a large gallery of media that students can use in their stories. Additionally, students can import media from their computers, from YouTube, from Vimeo, from Dropbox, from SoundCloud, and from Gooru. Completed Buncee projects can be viewed online and or saved as PDFs.

MyStorybook is a nice online tool for creating short storybooks. MyStorybook provides blank pages on which you can type, draw, and place clipart. Your storybook pages can also include pictures that you upload. After signing into your MyStorybook account you can start creating your first book. Click on the text fields to edit any existing text in the title and author fields. You can add more text by clicking "text" in the editing menu. To add a picture of your own select "items" in the editing menu. At the bottom of the "items" menu you will find an option to upload your own images. MyStorybook provides lots of stock imagery that you can place on a page or use as the background to a page. If you want to branch-out beyond text and images, use the drawing tools on your pages.

Disclosure: Buncee is a client of MindRocket Media Group. I am a partner in MRMG. 

Google Books for Teachers and Students - A Guide

Google Books is one of my favorite research tools that students and teachers often overlook. In a post earlier today I embedded a book that I found through a Google Books search. Google Books allows you to do that with books that are in the public domain. I have done that a lot over the years when I wanted to share all or part of book with my students in an electronic format. Embedding books into blog posts is just one of many features of Google Books that teachers and students can use. In the slides and videos below I provide overviews of the other useful features of Google Books.

Lots of Lessons About Winter Weather

Conditions at my house on Tuesday.
A large winter storm is in the forecast for later this week in the northeastern United States. If you like snow, this is a great forecast for you. If you hate snow, the snow is still coming. I subscribe to the philosophy that you should make the most out of every season. That's why I love living in New England. One of the ways that we can make the most out of every season is to teach lessons related to each season of the year.

Scholastic has a large set of lesson plans and online activities for teaching about winter weather, winter sports, and winter traditions. Within Winter: Everything You Need you will find lesson plans on weather forecasting,  lessons on how animals adapt to winter, and ideas for teaching math through winter weather connections.

My favorite winter weather lesson resource from Scholastic is the Interactive Weather Maker. Using the Interactive Weather Maker students adjust temperatures and humidity levels to create rain and snow storms. Students simply move the temperature and humidity sliders until rain or snow begins to show up in the scene on their screens.

How windchill is calculated:
The windchill was -20F last night at my house. The following video explains how windchill is calculated. The video comes from Presh Talwalkar.

The psychology of extreme weather:
Television news reporters like to use the word "extreme" whenever we have a lot of rain or snow in a short amount of time. Is the weather really "extreme" or is that just our impression of it? The following Minute Earth video takes on the topic of how extreme weather affects our thinking about weather patterns in general. I found the video to be interesting from a psychology perspective. The video is embedded below.

How snowflakes are created:
The following episode of Bytesize Science embedded below explains how snowflakes are created.

Why the moon appears brighter in winter:
In the winter when we have fresh snow combined with a full moon I don't have to wear a headlamp to see my dogs in the yard at night. In the following Minute Physics video we learn why the full moon appears brighter in the winter.

Fun things to do in the snow:
NOVA, as part of their program on Denali, has directions for building a snow cave and directions for building an Igloo. (If you do either of these activities, make sure that you closely supervise students. A collapsed snow cave or Igloo can be very dangerous).

Boys' Life offers a list of outdoor winter games as well as directions for building igloos and snow shelters.

Making your own snowshoes is an activity that can be done indoors with the final product enjoyed outdoors. Mother Earth News offers directions for making your own snowshoes. How Cast has video directions for making an emergency pair of snowshoes.

In the video below BBC Survival Expert Ray Mears teaches viewers how to make an igloo and what igloos were traditionally used for.

When I was about seven or eight I was given a copy of The American Boy's Handy Book(Amazon link). That book is filled with fun hands-on indoor and outdoor activities including an entire section devoted to snow forts and other snow-related activities.

Soundtrap - Collaboratively Create Music Online

Soundtrap is a fantastic tool for creating music. I tested it out last winter and used during a couple of my workshops this past summer and fall. The really cool thing about Soundtrap is that students can use virtual instruments to create music or they can record themselves playing music on an instrument and then use that recording in conjunction with the virtual instruments in the Soundtrap environment.

What makes Soundtrap stand-out from the crowd is its collaboration options. Click the "collaborate" tab in the Soundtrap editor to invite others to create music with you. Soundtrap will work in the Chrome web browser on a laptop, iPad, Chromebook, and Android tablet. In my workshops I often describe Soundtrap as Google Docs for music.

When I started using Soundtrap last year it was only available as a consumer/ free platform. That version was fine if your students were over the age of 13 and you didn't have concerns about them sharing with people outside of your district. This month Soundtrap introduced a classroom edition. The classroom edition of Soundtrap allows you to create a walled garden in which your students can only work with people in your district domain. Soundtap also now has a Google Classroom integration available.

Take a look at the videos below to see how Soundtrap could work in your classroom.

Applications for Education
The best way for students to avoid any worries about copyright infringement when creating a multimedia project is to use audio tracks that they've created. Soundtrap could be a great tool for that purpose. Soundtrap's collaboration option could be a great solution when students working on a group project need to develop spoken tracks. Soundtrap could also be a good tool for students in a music class to experiment with sounds and rhythms to hear how they combine to create music.

One of the things that Soundtrap's founders are sharing during the BETT Show this week is the idea of using Soundtrap's audio recording as an aid in world languages courses. Students can record dialogues and then teachers can give them feedback. Or the teacher can record a passage for students to listen to.

Disclosure: Soundtrap is a client of MindRocket Media Group. I am a partner in MRMG.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Learn HTML & CSS Through a Free 12 Part Guide

Learn to Code HTML & CSS is a free resource developed by Shay Howe whose resume reveals that he has worked on the user interface for Groupon among other projects. There are twelve text-based lessons for beginners in Learn to Code HTML & CSS. Once you've mastered the beginner lessons you can try your hand at the advanced lessons. The lessons cover everything from building your first web page to building forms and organizing data in tables.

Applications for Education
Using a WYSIWYG platform like Blogger or Google Sites to create a blog or website is more than adequate for most teachers and students. But at some point you might want to beyond the limitations of WYSIWYG. It's then that you'll want know how to write and edit HTML yourself. Learn to Code HTML & CSS could be a good way for you and your students to learn together.

An Easy Way to Download Your Google Data

One of the most common concerns or questions that I hear from educators (often school administrators) about using Google services revolves around the question of "can I get my information out of Google?" The answer is yes. At the Google Takeout site you can create an offline archive of your data. To do so just visit Google Takeout and select the service(s) from which you want to download your data.

Quill - Packs of Interactive Writing Lessons

Quill is a free service that puts a new spin on the old writing worksheets that most of us used in middle school. The service offers more than just the writing practice activities, but that is its core feature. There are three activity categories within Quill. Those activities are Quill Proofreader, Quill Grammar, and Quill Writer.

In Quill Proofreader students are shown students passages that have grammatical errors placed in them. Students have to identify and correct the errors in the passages that they read.

Quill Grammar requires students to complete short exercises in which they finish the construction of sentences by inserting the correct words and or punctuation marks.

In Quill Writer activities students work together to construct sentences from a shared word bank.

Applications for Education
You can assign Quill activities to your students through your teacher dashboard. Once you create an account on Quill you can create a class and distribute assignments. Your class will have a code that your students enter when they sign in to use Quill. After creating your class you can start to browse through the pre-made Activity Packs. Each Activity Pack is labeled according to skill type, grade level, and Common Core standards.

ClassDojo's Big Ideas Teaches Kids About Growth Mindset

ClassDojo has launched a new initiative that they are calling Big Ideas. The purpose of Big Ideas is to introduce students, parents, and teachers to big ideas or trends in education. ClassDojo's Big Ideas does this through the use of videos and accompanying discussion guides.

The first series in ClassDojo's Big Ideas series is all about Growth Mindset. The series will be five episodes in length that follow Mojo (ClassDojo's much loved green monster) and his friend Katie as they explore different aspects of growth mindset. The first video in the series is live now and other episodes will be released on Sunday. The first episode is embedded below.

The ClassDojo team developed the Big Idea video series with guidance from a new partner in Stanford University’s Project for Education Research That Scales (PERTS). PERTS is an applied research center that partners with schools, colleges, and other organizations to identify educational practices that improve learning outcomes and to drive the effective adoption of those practices on a large-scale.

Applications for Education
The Big Ideas video series can be used in any K-12 classroom. The discussion guides that accompany each episode are suitable for K-6 students. When you download the discussion guide (PDF) you will also download a sheet of "tear away" questions that you can send home with your students to discuss with their parents.

For resources to use with older students, take a look at Mindset Kit produced by PERTS at Stanford University.

Monday, January 18, 2016

NEW! Nearpodize Your Classroom from Your iPhone

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

The world of mobile teaching and learning seems to be getting smaller and smaller and Nearpod is no exception. Last week, they brought their interactive and dynamic tool to iPhone.  At a time where the idea of a “phone” being used for teaching and learning still makes many uneasy, Nearpod created yet another avenue to show the value of using smartphones in the classroom as a means to enhance the learning experience for both teachers and students.

App Overview

When opening the app, you are presented with three options:
  • My Library – access and launch presentations that you have created from your computer
  • Explore – find lessons by grade level and subject area
  • Join – experience Nearpod as a student and join a presentation


When launching a presentation from your phone, you can navigate the presentation in much the same way as you would using your laptop.  Question responses show on the screen, and you can share the results with your audience. This is particularly helpful when presenting with students, in a meeting, or at a conference, enabling you to step away from the podium and truly engage with your audience.


Use of proximity and audience engagement is especially important when modeling to students what great presentations look like.  Oftentimes, students stand behind podiums ready to read off the slides as they have seen many others model for them.  However, Nearpod encourages interaction and engagement through asking thoughtful questions that assess understanding, provoke discussion, stir controversy, and allow for reflection.

Ways to Get Started

Upon first glance, many mistake Nearpod for a glamorized version of direct instruction. However, when you begin using it, you will see that the list of ways in which it can be used grows by the day.  Now that Nearpod lessons can be run from your phone, it’s one more way to model great digital citizenship and effective use of technology.

Here are a few ways that you can make the most of this new app:
  • Instead of launching a keynote or PowerPoint, Nearpodize your lesson by opening the presentation with Nearpod, add some questions, and launch it live with your phone.
  • Facilitate meetings with faculty, administrators, parents or any other school wide presentation using your phone so that you can interact more closely with them.
  • Let students practice their presentation skills using their phone.
  • Pair Nearpod with visible thinking routines such as, “Think, Pair, Share” to generate class discussion.

Want to learn more? Sabba Quidwai and Beth Holland will be presenting on Nearpod at the February 2-3, 2016 EdTechTeacher Innovation Summit. You can also learn more from the Nearpod team themselves as they will be exhibitors at that conference.

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