Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from the temporary Byrne Instructional Media, LLC headquarters at O'Hare International Airport. I'm currently waiting for my flight home after a great afternoon yesterday with people who came to the networking event hosted by Otus. Thank you to everyone that came out to hear me speak. Getting to meet passionate educators all over the world and share stories is the best thing about maintaining this blog. Those opportunities wouldn't happen without all of you who follow and share my posts. Thank you!

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. My Three Favorite Classroom Timer Tools
2. Telling Stories With Storyboards - Webinar Recording
3. How to Add Word Art to Google Slides
4. Four Tools for Creating Screencasts on Chromebooks - A Comparison
5. STEM in 30 - A Smithsonian Webcast for Middle School Students
6. Four Ways to Explore the News Through Maps
7. Resources for Reviewing for AP US History Exam

Spring and Summer PD Opportunities With Me
  • Discounted early registration for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps is available through the end of the day. 
  • If coming to Maine isn't an option for you, take a look at the online workshops I'm hosting throughout the spring and summer.
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. 
FreshGrade is a great online digital portfolio tool. 
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.
FrontRow offers adaptive online ELA and Math practice activities.  
Teach n Go is a comprehensive platform for teaching online courses.
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.

11 Google Apps Updates You Might Have Missed This Month

It's the end of the month and it feels like I was writing about Google Apps daily in April. I checked, I wasn't, but there were a lot of useful updates to Google Apps products this month. Here are the updates that are of interest to teachers and students.

1. Google Play podcasts. You can now publish your podcast on Google Play. The process is actually rather straight-forward.

2. New filtering options for YouTube within Google Apps domains.

3. Google Calendar now suggests mutually convenient meeting times for your group.

4. You can now create and track goals in Google Calendar.

5. Google Calendar's web app now includes task reminders.

6. Google Classroom now includes a polling function.

7. Outlook users will be pleased to know that the Google Drive plug-in for Microsoft Office now supports Outlook.

8. The Mac & PC Google Drive desktop apps now allow you to choose which folders you want to sync.

9. Google Drive now lets you choose which files you want to sync for offline access.

10. Google Keep for Chrome & Android now let you bookmark websites, add notes to your bookmarks, share bookmarks, and set reminders for sharing. Watch my latest video overview of the Google Keep for Chrome extension.

11. Desktop notifications are now a feature of Google Drive's web app. The notifications will tell you when someone shares a file and or requests a file. Watch my video to learn how to enable this feature.

Learn how to put all of these features and more to good use in your classroom in my online course Getting Going With GAFE. You can earn three graduate credits in the course. 

Preparing Students to Learn & Work Independently - Slides

On Friday afternoon I gave a presentation to a great group of educators from the greater Chicago area. Twice as many people registered as came to the event so I'm guessing there are some folks who would like to see the slides from my talk. Those slides are embedded below.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Resources for Reviewing for AP US History Exam

The AP exam for US History is just a week away now. Tom Richey has put together a great page of resources for students who are reviewing for that exam. Tom's AP US History review page includes short strategy guides for each part of the exam. Those guides include PDFs and videos with strategy hints.

Students in need of specific content area review will find plenty of videos. The videos are organized by period according to the AP exam structure. The videos on Tom Richey's AP US History review page are produced by Tom as well as others including Keith Hughes, Daniel Jocz, and Timothy Betts who all have large followings of their own on YouTube.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Explain VR Virtual Zoo - Animals in Virtual Reality

Explain VR Virtual Zoo is a free iPhone app that is designed to work with Google Cardboard. The free app features ten animals in virtual reality. Some of the animals featured in the app include giraffes, elephants, tigers, and bears. Each animal appears individually and students can see them move in virtual reality. Audio in the app provides students with some basic information about each animal.

Applications for Education
Explain VR Virtual Zoo could provide students with a fun way to learn about animals that they might not see without otherwise going to a zoo. The audio information in the app isn't terribly detailed so the app is probably best for elementary school students.

Four Ways to Explore the News Through Maps

One of the things that I like about CNN Student News is that it almost always includes a map to show students where a story is taking place in the world. I try to do the same whenever I teach current events by showing students a map of where a story takes place. It can also be good to let students pick a place on a map and then read stories about that place. The following three websites can provide students with a geographic connection to news stories.

Newspaper Map is a neat tool for locating and reading newspapers from locations all around the world. Newspaper Map claims to have geolocated 10,000 newspapers. To find a newspaper you can browse the map then click on a placemark to open the link within to read a newspaper. You can also locate newspapers by using the search boxes to locate a newspaper by title or location. Along with links to the newspapers, Newspapers Map provides links to translate the newspapers you find on the map.

Breaking News presents a constant stream of headlines from around the world. A map of story locations resides behind the news stream that greets you on the homepage. Click the tiny map icon in the upper-right corner of the news stream to find stories by location instead of by topic.

Unfiltered News is a new site that uses an interactive cartogram to help you find trending news stories from around the world. To find stories through Unfiltered News simply open the website and click on a topic listed within one of the circles on the map. Once you've made a selection a list of stories will appear on the right side of your screen. Click on a story to read it in full. From the menu on the right side of the screen you can choose a different location and a new list of stories will appear.

Historical Newspapers Mapped
The U.S. News Map is a great resource produced by Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. The U.S. New Map is an archive of American newspapers printed between 1836 and 1925. You can search the archive by entering a keyword or phrase. The results of your search will be displayed on an interactive map. Click on any of the markers on the map and you'll be shown a list of newspaper articles related to your search term. Click on a listed article to read it on the Library of Congress' Chronicling America website.

Learn how to create your own multimedia maps and more in my online course Teaching History With Technology

STEM in 30 - A Smithsonian Webcast for Middle School Students

STEM in 30 is a neat webcast produced by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The series featured 30 minute live webcasts about a variety of topics related to air and space travel and science. During the live webcasts students can submit questions to the show's hosts. Students can also submit questions in advance of each show.

The next STEM in 30 episode will be webcast on May 11th. Helicopters will be the focus of the next episode. The show will be webcast live at 11am and 1pm EST.

If the live webcast schedule doesn't work for you, you can access the recording of the shows. Past show topics include kites, WWII and the Tuskegee Airmen, Mars exploration, and hot air balloons.

Haiku Deck Releases a New iPhone App for Creating Presentations

This morning Haiku Deck, a popular presentation creation tool, released a new iPhone app. This new app brings the features of the Haiku Deck iPad app and web app to the iPhone.

The Haiku Deck apps allow anyone to create beautiful slide presentations. One of the core features of Haiku Deck that has made is popular with teachers is the integrated Creative Commons image search. Your students can search for images, insert them in high resolution into their slides, and have attribution information automatically attached to them all without leaving the app.

Haiku Deck's iPhone and iPad apps allow you to use your phone or tablet as a teleprompter during presentations. Speaker notes are shown to you, but not to your audience while you are in presentation mode.

If typing on a phone is a challenge, Haiku Deck's voice-to-text option offers a convenient way to add text to your slides.

Applications for Education
Haiku Deck does offer a share to Google Classroom option. For schools that don't have iOS devices, the Haiku Deck web app is a good option. Watch my tutorial to learn more about the Haiku Deck web app.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

New Options for Filtering YouTube in Schools

As I Tweeted earlier today, Google has introduced some new options for filtering YouTube in schools. If your school uses Google Apps for Education you can now whitelist (approve for viewing) an entire YouTube channel instead of just individual videos. This means that if I want all of my history students to be able to access Tom Richey's and Keith Hughes' videos, I can  approve the whole channel which includes current videos and any future videos that are added to it. That should be a lot less time-consuming than whitelisting each video as it becomes available.

Another new option is to give logged-in users access to YouTube on a strict, moderate, or unrestricted level. Google Apps administrators can change those settings for user groups or individuals.

You can learn how to enable any of these new settings in the YouTube settings support documentation offered by Google.

Google Calendar Now Helps You Find Mutual Meeting Times

Parts of this post originally appeared on my other blog, Android4Schools

A couple of weeks ago Google added a goal setting feature to Google Calendar that helps you identify times to work on personal goals like exercising or reading for pleasure. Today, Google put some of that same technology into a new Google Calendar for Android feature that helps you identify meeting times with colleagues.

The new scheduling feature works with shared Google Calendars created within Google Apps for Education or Google Apps for Work. When you need to schedule a meeting with colleagues with whom you have shared a calendar, simply tap the new “find a time” option that appears when you create the meeting event in your Google Calendar. When you tap “find a time” Google Calendar will identify potential meeting times for spaces that are open on your shared calendars.

Applications for Education
The new “find a time” feature in Google Calendar for Android could be a great tool for teachers who work on teams. It could also be useful to guidance counselors and other specialists who need to coordinate times for meeting with teachers and students.

“Find a time” is currently available only through Google Calendar for Android, but could soon be available on iPhones too.

How to Enable Google Drive Desktop Notifications

Earlier this week Google launched a new notifications feature for Google Drive users. You can now get an alert on your desktop whenever someone shares an item with you or when someone requests that you share an item with him or her. There have been third-party apps that did this in the past. This is the first time that Google has offered it as a native feature. Watch the video below to learn how to enable desktop notifications for Google Drive.

Teaching History With Technology - An Online Course Starting Monday

Next week I'm starting a new version of an online course that I've offered a few times in the past. Teaching History With Technology is an online course designed to help you learn and develop new ideas for using technology in your history, civics, or geography lessons. Some of the things that you can learn through this three week course include how to use online mapping tools, how to help students become better researchers, build interactive timelines, and how to create engaging flipped video lessons.

Teaching History With Technology begins on Monday, May 2nd at 7pm EST.

Subscribers to any of my blogs can use the discount code "subscriber" during registration.

Recordings available
Everyone who completes the registration will be able to participate in the live sessions which include Q&A and access recordings of the live sessions.

PD Certificates
Participants who attend the live sessions will be given certificates for three hours of professional development. Contact your local licensing/ certification authority to determine whether or not you can use those hours toward license/ certificate renewal. 

Send me an email richardbyrne (at)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

PBS LearningMedia Introduces New Curriculum-based iBooks

PBS LearningMedia has released a new series of iBooks for K-8 teachers. The series promises to provide teachers with iBooks on topics in math, English language arts, social studies, and Spanish language and culture. Each iBook will include lesson plans, videos, games, and other activities aligned to NCSS, ACTFL, and Common Core standards.

Two iBooks are available now and two more will be released by the end of this month. The two that are available now are All About the Holidays and Beginning Spanish.

All About the Holidays offers lesson plans for 61 holidays. Beginning Spanish is a mapped curriculum for teaching Spanish to students in third through fifth grade.

Nearly 100 TED-Ed Lessons About Nature

In recent weeks I have featured some neat National Geographic videos about cool things in nature like birds that eat dirt and animal migrations in Yellowstone. While those videos are great, they are a bit short. For longer lessons about interesting things in nature, take a look at the TED-ED playlist called Awesome Nature.

96 videos are included in the Awesome Nature playlist. The latest addition to the playlist attempts to explain the odd behaviors of domesticated cats.

Start Your Graduate Degree or Certificate This Summer or Fall

Disclosure: The Educational Technology program at Boise State University is an advertiser on this site. This program has recently expanded its 100% online Ed Tech programs for teachers and has seats available for new students who want to start this summer or fall.

Each year, hundreds of K-12 teachers from across the nation enroll in these high quality programs to earn a master’s degree in educational technology or a certificate in online teaching, technology integration or school technology integration.

The 100% online format is an excellent option for those who live in rural communities or those who prefer to earn a graduate degree at home in their spare time. Most educators work full time and attend classes at a time convenient for them. Those who enroll in the program learn to the best ways to blend new technology and 21st century learning theory with current lesson plans. Course content can be applied to any grade level or subject taught.

The program recently was ranked one of the top online education graduate programs by U.S. News and World Report. The program also has one of the largest number of graduates nationwide each year.

The admission process is simple with an online application. No GRE is required for admission to master's degree or a certificate program. To learn more visit the program website

Tuition is affordable and most teachers qualify for some kind of financial aid, regardless of credit history, assets or income. Many can defer student loan payments while they are enrolled in the program. Classes are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, so class size is limited to 23.

New Ed.S. Degree and Games Certificate will begin this fall. The program will offer two new 100% online programs this fall---an education specialist program and a graduate certificate in educational games and simulations.

To learn more, contact an admission adviser:
Jerry Foster phone: (208) 426-4008 or email:
Dixie Conner: phone: (619) 741-7748 or email

Telling Stories With Storyboards - Webinar Recording

Last night I hosted a webinar about using storyboards in the classroom. The webinar was sponsored by Storyboard That. Thanks to everyone who joined us live. If you couldn't attend the live webinar, you can now watch the recording on my YouTube channel or as embedded below. The links shared in the webinar are included in this slidedeck.

Four Tools for Creating Screencasts on Chromebooks - A Comparison

In response to my latest Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week I received a bunch of requests for comparisons of screencasting tools that work on Chromebooks. So yesterday I made three screencast videos using three different screencasting tools. Add that to the one that I made on Friday with another screencast tool and you have four options for creating screencasts on a Chromebook. The four options are Nimbus Screenshot, TechSmith Snagit, CaptureCast, and Screencastify. My comments on each are listed below. The list is ranked according to my preference.

Nimbus Screenshot:
Nimbus Screenshot is my favorite tool on this list because of its ease of installation and it is the only tool on this list that provided a customizable countdown timer. I like the countdown timer because it gives me a few seconds to prepare to start talking over my screencast. The other tools just started recording the second that I hit the record button. Nimbus Screenshot was also the easiest to install and configure on my Chromebook.

Screencasts recorded with Nimbus Screenshot can be saved to your local drive or to an online Nimbus account. I chose to save to my local drive then upload to my YouTube channel. You could also save to your local drive then share to Google Drive or another online storage service.

Take a look at the video I created with Nimbus Screenshot.

TechSmith Snagit:
TechSmith's Snagit tool is a close second to Nimbus Screenshot. The only reason that I ranked it slightly lower is that it takes a bit of reading to understand how all of the features work, but that is to be expected when a tool has lots of options. The advantage of Snagit is that you can save your recordings directly to your Google Drive account or YouTube account. Snagit also benefits from being backed by TechSmith who is arguably the leader in screencasting tool development.

From a recording standpoint, I wish that Snagit would include a countdown timer before I started to record. Check out my screencast made with Snagit for Chrome.

CaptureCast is the tool that I featured in a post last week. I put it on the same level as Snagit. CaptureCast was rather easy to install. Your recording length is unlimited. You can record your webcam while recording your screen which you cannot do with the Nimbus tool or Snagit. Set-up of CaptureCast is easy too. For folks who don't want to use YouTube to share recordings, CaptureCast lets you share directly to a Vimeo account. See my CaptureCast sample in this post.

Screencastify might have the most name recognition in this list, but I like it the least of the four tools in this list. In fact, it's definitely the last one that I'd recommend to new Chromebook users. The set-up process asks a lot questions that could confuse new users. The free version limits recordings to ten minutes and puts a watermark on the recording. I was also not impressed with quality of the video recording. See my Screencastify sample to see the watermark and recording quality.

Come to the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp to take a deep dive into creating videos on Chromebooks. Discounted registration is available through the end of the month.

Monday, April 25, 2016

How to Add Label Clouds to Blogger Blogs

Adding a label cloud or tag cloud to your blog can provide visitors with a convenient way to search for older content within your blog. Rather than scrolling through your archives or performing a keyword search, visitors simply click on a label in the label cloud to find all of the posts related to that label. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to add a label cloud to a Blogger blog.

Applications for Education
If you regularly label your the posts on your classroom blog, your students will thank you for adding a label cloud. When they're reviewing for final exams they will be able to simply click on a label for the topic they're studying and find all of the resources that you posted on that topic. That's much easier than trying to search through the blog archives for the month or day that you posted that handy review guide on the War of 1812 or the Pythagorean theorem.

How to Add Word Art to Google Slides

Google's gallery of fonts provides a lot of style flexibility in Google Slides. Even more flexibility is available if you use the word art options in Google Slides. In the video embedded below I demonstrate the differences between using fonts and word art in Google Slides as well has how to customize your word art.

Learn many more features of Google Slides and ideas for use in your classroom in my online course Getting Going With GAFE. You can even earn graduate credits through the course.

How to Create a Google+ Hangout On Air

Thanks to everyone who joined me last night for the Google+ Hangout on Air about ed tech blogging. I appreciated the questions and comments that came in through Google+ and Twitter during the Hangout. Some people have emailed me asking how I set it up and how I got the recording posted so quickly last night. In the video below I demonstrate how to create a Google+ Hangout on Air. (The volume is a bit loud in this recording so you may want to turn your volume down before you hit play).

Applications for Education
Hosting a Google+ Hangout on Air can be a good way to host an informal professional development Q&A session. Google+ Hangouts themselves can be a good way to connect classrooms who have been blogging buddies.

Collaborative Book Publishing with Google Slides & Issuu

EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site, has launched a new FREE video series called #ETTchat. Each week, one of their instructors posts a new video with ideas using technology in the service of learning. 

Collaborative Book Publishing

Google Slides has become a universal tool for students to use on any device. In this video, Greg Kulowiec (@gregkulowiec) shows how students could collaboratively design a book using Google Slides and then publish it with the digital publishing platform, Issuu

Learn more about collaborative tools and ePub creation on the EdTechTeacher web site.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

An Informal Chat About Ed Tech Blogging - Recording

Earlier this evening I hosted a Google+ Hangout On Air for people who had questions related to blogging for professional purposes. It was an informal half hour in which I answered a bunch of the questions that I frequently receive in my email on that topic. A few new questions were added into the chat too. If you weren't able to make it, you can now watch the recording on my YouTube channel. (you may want to fast-forward through the first two minutes in which I was just setting things up).

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from sunny Woodstock, Maine where I am about to head out on group bicycle ride. Winter ended early this year so we're taking advantage of the nice weather by going biking.

This week more registrations arrived for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps. Both of them are now more than 50% full. I was down at the host hotel this week and it got me excited about once again leading these hands-on workshops. Early bird registration is available for seven more days.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 16 Educational Resources for Earth Day 2016
2. Scrible Edu Helps Students Organize Research
3. 100 Google Apps Tutorial Videos
4. Three Good Ways to Use All Those Pictures Students Take
5. CaptureCast - Record Screencasts on Your Chromebook
6. GeoGebra Exam Mode Lets You Choose Which Tools Your Students Can Use During Tests
7. Geopedia - A Map & Wikipedia Mashup

Spring and Summer PD Opportunities With Me
  • Discounted early registration for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps is available through the end of the month. 
  • If coming to Maine isn't an option for you, take a look at the online workshops I'm hosting throughout the spring and summer.
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. 
FreshGrade is a great online digital portfolio tool. 
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.
FrontRow offers adaptive online ELA and Math practice activities.  
Teach n Go is a comprehensive platform for teaching online courses.
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.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Join Me for a Hangout On Air About Ed Tech Blogging

 Every week I get lots of questions from people who want to know how I started, how I maintain it, and, of course, how it helps me make a living. I'll answer those questions and any others that you have during a Google Hangout On Air on Sunday at 7pm EST.

This is informal. There won't be slides or handouts, but it will be posted on my YouTube Channel.

Join me! at 7pm EST on Sunday. You might even get to see my loyal assistants on air.

Aurasma Studio - Create Augmented Reality In Your Web Browser

Earlier this morning I received an email from someone who is coming to the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp for the third time. She was looking for ideas on creating augmented reality layers without using an iPad. My first thought went to Aurasma Studio.

Aurasma Studio is developed by the same people that launched the very popular Aurasma iPad app three or four years ago. Aurasma Studio lets you create augmented reality layers of information within your web browser. Within Aurasma Studio you can upload trigger images that will result in an animation or video being displayed when someone views that image in the Aurasma apps. In the Aurasma Studio you specify which animations or videos will be displayed by the trigger image. You can upload your own animations and videos. To make your augmented reality trigger images more accurate, Aurasma Studio lets you set location parameters.

The video below provides an overview of Aurasma Studio.

I've been playing with Aurasma Studio for a little while. One of the things that you should note is that it can take a long time for your videos and or animations to upload and process. In fact, the last one that I made took almost 30 minutes to fully process. So if you're going to use this in your classroom, plan your time accordingly.

How to Create Bookmarks & Reminders With the New Google Keep Extension

Google Keep is a handy tool to taking notes in your web browser, on your Android phone, or on your iPhone. I've previously featured ten ways that students can use Google Keep. This week Google announced some updates to Keep.

The latest version of the Google Keep Chrome extension and the Google Keep Android app enables you to create bookmarks and notes while browsing any webpage. One of the neat things about the extension is that in addition to applying labels and notes to your bookmarks you can also set reminders to share your bookmarks with someone else at a later time.

In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Google Keep to create bookmarks, notes, labels, and reminders within the Chrome web browser.

Applications for Education
As I demonstrated in the video above, creating a reminder to go along with a bookmark could be a good way to time when you share resources with your friends and colleagues. Rather than sharing as soon as you make a bookmark you can time when you want share by using the reminders feature in Google Keep notes. For example, rather than sharing this article on a Friday afternoon when many of my colleagues aren't going to pay much attention to a new bookmark that I've shared (I can't blame them for that), I'll create a reminder to share it on Monday morning when it is more likely to be seen by them.

Kaizena for iPad - Add Voice Notes to Students' Printed Documents

Kaizena is a great tool for adding voice comments to your students' documents and slides. When Kaizena originally launched it was designed for adding comments to Google Documents and Google Slides in the Chrome web browser. It then expanded to add support for Word files and PDFs. The latest update to Kaizena introduces support for commenting on physical documents through iPhones and iPads.

Kaizena's free iPad app and free iPhone app allows you to take a picture of a document, scan it, and upload it to Kaizena where you can then add voice comments to it. Of course, Kaizena's free iOS apps also support voice commenting on Google Documents, Word documents, and PDFs too.

Applications for Education
The latest update to Kaizena's iPad app could provide you with a good way to give students feedback on handwritten work. If you collect exams that have lengthy handwritten responses, Kaizena's iPad app could help you digitize those exam responses and speed up your process of providing students with feedback on their responses.

Why Do Price Tags End In .99? - A Psychology and Consumer Education Lesson

Take a stroll through any supermarket or browse your favorite online retailer and you'll see prices ending in .99 more often than not. Why is that? What's the psychology behind that kind of pricing? BrainStuff has the answers to those questions and more in a new video Why Do Price Tags End in .99? The video introduces viewers to the retail psychology concepts of bargain signalling and rounding off.

Check out the notes on YouTube below BrainStuff's video to see the sources and studies they used in making the video.

This video is a good companion to The TED-Ed lesson Why do competitors open their stores next to one another? in which students learn why retail stores are found next to each other.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why Do Some Birds Eat Dirt? - National Geographic Explains

National Geographic's YouTube channel includes a fun playlist of short videos about interesting science facts. The playlist is called Today I Learned or TIL for short. In the playlist you will find videos that answer questions like "why is the ocean salty?" and "why do some birds eat dirt?"

The answer to "why do some birds eat dirt?" is provided in the video below. It's a short explanation of why macaws seek salt and other minerals found in dirt.

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.

CaptureCast - Record Screencasts on Your Chromebook

CaptureCast is a free Chrome extension that enables you to create screencast videos on your Chromebook. With CaptureCast installed you can record everything that you display on your Chromebook's screen. The CaptureCast extension gives you the option to record your sound. An option to record yourself through your webcam is also offered in CaptureCast. In fact, you could choose to just record your webcam and sound to make a video blog entry.

Recordings made with CaptureCast are saved on your Chromebook under the "manage media" tab in CaptureCast. From there you can upload your video directly to YouTube or save it to Google Drive.

Applications for Education
I used CaptureCast to create the video in my earlier post about CaptureCast is good for that kind of tutorial video. You might also use it to record a short lecture over slides that are in your Google Drive account.

As I mentioned above, CaptureCast could be used to create video blog entries by just selecting the webcam and sound options instead of the desktop recording option. Video blogging can be a good way to get students to share observations about what they have learned in your classroom without the pressure of having to write.

Creating screencasts and flipped lessons is one of the topics that will be covered during the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp and the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp. I hope that you can join us this summer. 

How to Use With Google Drive is a great tool to connect to your Google Drive account. With you can take notes on one side of your screen while watching a video on the other side. Your notes are automatically synchronized with the timestamps in the video. You can share your notes just like you share any other file within Google Drive. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how works.

The screencast video above was recorded on a Chromebook. Creating videos on Chromebooks is one of the topics we'll cover in-depth during the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp, I hope that you can join us.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Free Webinar - Summarizing the School Year Through Storyboards

This coming Monday evening (April 25) I will be hosting a free webinar sponsored by Storyboard That. The webinar will focus on using storyboards to tell stories. In particular, we'll be spending time looking at using storyboards to have students show what they have learned in your classroom during the school year. These stories could be academic lessons that your students learned or they could be life lessons that your students learned during the course of the school year.

Storyboard That has rolled-out a bunch of new features during the 2015-2016 school year. So if it has been a while since you tried Storyboard That, join us on Monday evening at 7pm to see the new features in action.

The webinar will be recorded. If you cannot attend the live webinar, you can still get the recording by completing this short form

Geopedia - A Map & Wikipedia Mashup

Geopedia is a nice combination of a map and Wikipedia entries. Search for a location on the Geopedia map and you will be shown a bunch of map placemarks around that location. Click on any of the displayed placmarks and you will see a corresponding image and Wikipedia entry. To change locations you can either right-click on a new area of the map or enter a new search term.

Applications for Education
Google Earth has a Wikipedia layer that does essentially the same thing as Geopedia. Unfortunately, Google Earth will only work on a Windows or Mac computer. Geopedia provides a nice browser-based alternative to the Google Earth Wikipedia layer.

The Geopedia map offers students a good way to see the correlation between places and events.

H/T to Maps Mania

Try Watchkin for Distraction-free YouTube Viewing

Watchkin is a free service that allows you to watch and project YouTube videos without seeing the related sidebar content typically seen on Watchkin can be used in a few ways. You can enter the direct URL of a video into Watchkin to have the sidebar content removed. You can search for videos through Watchkin and have family-friendly results displayed (if a video appears that is not family-friendly Watchkin has a mechanism for flagging it as inappropriate). Watchkin also offers a browser bookmarklet tool that you can click while on to have the related content disappear from the page. In the video below I demonstrate how Watchkin works.

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

5 Questions to Consider in BYOD Schools

This post originally appeared on one of my other blogs,

More schools are allowing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) now than even just a few years ago. As a teacher BYOD can be a good thing as it allows students to work with a computer, tablet, or phone with which they are familiar. At the same time, BYOD can be a bad thing if you or the school leadership hasn't thought through all of the implications and ramifications of BYOD. To that end, here are five things that should be thoughtfully considered as you move to BYOD.

1. Can you find apps and sites suitable for all students' devices?
When every student uses the same school-provided computer or tablet you don't have to worry about this question too much because you simply pick a site or app that works on one device and you're all set. In a BYOD environment you will have a variety of operating systems, versions of operating systems, and display sizes. For BYOD environments I always try to find web apps that are coded in HTML5 so that I have the best chance of the app or site working on all devices.

2. Can your network handle the number of devices that will be added to it?
This is a question for the IT department to answer. Once you allow students to add their devices to your wireless network you're going to have a massive uptick in traffic. Are you prepared? Along the same line, are you ready to support helping students figure out how to add a myriad of devices to your network.

3. Are you going BYOD to save money by not providing computers to students?
If so, you're missing the point of BYOD. Using BYOD as a reason to not provide students with computers creates an unequal environment for students. BYOD should be a supplement, not a replacement for a 1:1 program.

4. How are your students going to share files and or print files?
As a classroom teacher who will be collecting assignments from students think about the way in which you want to collect those assignments. In a Google Apps for Education environment you might use Google Classroom or Google Drive. In other settings you might need to create a Dropbox or Box folder to which students submit files. If it's printed work that you need, are your students going to be able to connect to a network printer or will you have to do all of the printing from a school-issued computer? If you're not sure, ask a member of your IT staff before those printed assignments are due.

5. How will you handle inappropriate use of mobile phones?
In the 8th grade I got in trouble for reading a Field & Stream article that I had stuffed inside my Algebra textbook. My point being that students texting in class is a classroom management issue, it's not the fault of the device being present in the classroom any more than Field & Stream was to blame for me not paying attention to my Algebra teacher, Mr. Dorsey.

We'll be talking about this topic and many others during the Practical Ed Tech BYOD Camp this summer. Early discounted registration is on sale now.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Now You Can Choose Which Google Drive Files Are Synced for Offline Access

For years now we have been able to sync Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets for offline access on our laptops and Chromebooks (learn how). That was great, but it didn't typically sync your all of your older files. Soon that will change as Google has announced an update to Google Drive that will allow you to specify which files you want to sync for offline access. To do this you will simply open a file's overflow menu (that little three dot icon to the far right of your file) and toggle the "available online" switch.

This feature will roll out over the next few days. The feature is only available if you are using the Chrome web browser. Users in a Google Apps for Education domain will also need to make sure that their domain administrators have enabled offline access for Google Drive.

Learn more about using Google Apps for Education in my online course (graduate credit available) or at the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp.

A Lesson on Bears and Punnett Squares

A recent conversation with a friend about black bears in our neighborhood (neighborhood is a relative term as I live on a six acre woodlot) reminded me about a neat National Geographic article that I read about five years ago. Back then National Geographic magazine had a cover story about the "Spirit Bears" of British Columbia. "Spirit Bear" refers to the Black Bears that are white in color due to a recessive trait called Kermodism. As always the National Geographic website has some neat resources to support the main article. One of the online resources for the Spirit Bear article is a Punnett Square that explains how two black Black Bears can produce a white Black Bear.

On a related note, National Geographic has a short video about photographing Polar Bears in their natural environments that you might find interesting. The video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
The story of the Spirit Bear could provide a good backdrop to an introductory lesson in genetics.

Scrible Edu Helps Students Organize Research

Scrible is a free service that offers a nice tool to help students organize their online research efforts.

Scrible offers a Chrome extension that includes tools for highlighting, creating sticky notes, and altering the font on any webpage that you save in your Scrible account. Scrible also offers an option for formatting bibliographies while you bookmark. And to help you organize your favorite parts of articles Scrible allows you to compile your article clippings into one package accessible through your Google Account.

Scrible's Google Docs Add-on provides students with access to all of their saved resources. From the Add-on students can insert inline citations into their documents. Scrible also formats a bibliography for students based upon the citations that they insert into their documents. MLA, APA, and Chicago style bibliography formatting is available through Scrible's Google Docs Add-on.

As many teachers have pointed out over the years, automated bibliography generators don't always format citations with 100% accuracy. That's why Scrible's Google Docs Add-on lets students edit the formatting of a citation.

Applications for Education
Scrible's Google Docs Add-on could prove to helpful to students who are writing research papers that are primarily based upon online research. Scrible's Google Docs Add-on does not support book or periodical citations unless students are subscribed to one of Scrible's paid plans.

GeoGebra Exam Mode Lets You Choose Which Tools Your Students Can Use During Tests

GeoGebra, a free mathematics modeling tool, seems to be continuously improving and in the process becoming more and more popular with teachers. Thanks to Guillermo at Math and Multimedia, last weekend I learned about GeoGebra's exam mode.

GeoGebra's exam mode allows you to specify which GeoGebra tools can and cannot be used during an exam. Exam mode runs in full screen so that students cannot access other browser tabs while using GeoGebra during an exam. If a student does exit the full screen the top of the screen turns to make it easy for a teacher to spot when a student has exited full screen mode.  GeoGebra keeps a log of when students start using exam mode, when the exit full screen, and when the re-enter exam mode.

Applications for Education
GeoGebra offers an extensive set of suggestions and guidelines for using exam mode. One of the suggestions that stood out to me was the idea of coming up with an "emergency protocol" with your students in case they accidentally leave exam mode or their computers freeze.

Monday, April 18, 2016

ReadWorks Offers a Nice Set of Poems and Guiding Questions for Poetry Month

ReadWorks is one of my favorite nonprofit services for teachers. ReadWorks offers hundreds of lesson plans and thousands of non-fiction and fiction passages aligned to Common Core standards. Additionally, each article is listed with a Lexile score and suggested grade level.

ReadWorks recently released a new set of poems and guided reading questions. The collection has poems appropriate for students in middle school and high school. Each poem in the collection comes with a set of questions that you can give to students to answer individually or simply use as a group discussion guide.

Applications for Education
One of the aspects of ReadWorks that I like is that lexile scores are listed for each article. ReadWorks makes it easy to find fiction and non-fiction articles that are appropriate for your students.

With a free ReadWorks account you can search for lessons and reading passages by grade level, lexile score, reading skill, subject area, and text type (fiction or non-fiction). In your ReadWorks account you can create digital binders of the lesson plans and reading passages that you want to use.

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