Friday, September 30, 2016

The Most Popular Posts of the Month on Free Technology for Teachers

The end of September is here and by now we're settled into the the new school year. I hope that the first month or so of the new school year has gone well for you. As I do at the end of every month, I have compiled a list of the most popular posts of the month. The list is determined by the number of clicks, pageviews, and shares for each post.

I've recently rediscovered the benefits of planning my editorial and work calendar for the weeks and months ahead. Looking toward October I'll be focused on publishing more tutorial videos on my YouTube channel, creating a couple of new PDF hand-outs like the Practical Ed Tech Handbook, and teaching three online courses that start next week.

Here are September's most popular posts:
1. Five Good Digital Exit Ticket Tools
2. Click to Spin - A Fun and Free Random Name Picker
3. How to Create a Check-in/ Check-out System In Google Forms
4. My Go-to Google Tools for Social Studies Classrooms
5. Flubaroo Compared to the New Google Forms Auto-grading Feature
6. Practical Ed Tech Handbook - Updated for 2016-17
7. 7 Good Tools for Creating Timelines
8. How to Create Comic Strips in Google Slides
9. How to Insert Columns Into Google Docs
10. Try My Simpleshow for Creating Explanatory Videos

Getting Going With GAFE, Teaching History With Technology, and Blogs & Social Media for Teachers will start in October. Graduate credits are available. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
Haiku Deck offers the best alternative to PowerPoint.  
Pixton provides a create way to create comics. 
SeeSaw is the best platform for creating digital portfolios with K-8 students. 
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.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explainer videos.

5 Neat Things Students Can Do With Google Drawings

Google Drawings is one of the tools in the Google Drive suite that often gets overlooked by students and teachers. It can be a handy tool if you know how to use it. In the short video embedded below I provide a demonstration of five things that students can do with Google Drawings.

The five things featured in the video above are:
1. Image cropping
2. Image filtering
3. Image labeling & commenting
4. Creating custom word art
5. Creating & customizing charts and graphs.

A Short Overview of PrepFactory for Middle School

Last week I shared the news about PrepFactory updating its offerings to include language arts and math practice exercises for middle school students. The new exercises include written and video tutorials that students can consult before, during, or after a round of practice exercises. In the short video embedded below I provide an overview of the new features of PrepFactory for middle school students.

Disclosure: PrepFactory is an advertiser on

Thursday, September 29, 2016

QuickKey + Inexpensive Phone = Time Saved On Grading

QuickKey is a popular iOS and Android app that can help you save a ton of time when grading multiple choice or true/false quizzes. I first learned about it a few years ago when a colleague of mine was raving about it on Facebook.

Here’s the basics of how it works; create your quiz on the Quick Key website then print and distribute a bubble sheet. After your students have completed the bubble sheet you simply scan the sheets with your phone and the grading is done for you. As you can learn in the video embedded below, QuickKey will work on the cheapest of Android phones as well as on more expensive Android phones and on iPhones.

Android Tracfone Scanning from Quick Key on Vimeo.

GameOn World - A Great, Multiplayer Geography Game

GameOn World is a new, multiplayer geography game developed by a high school teacher and his student in Portland, Maine. The game is similar in structure to that of Kahoot. In GameOn World the teacher selects a game category (cities, places, and timeline are three of the nine categories) and starts the game. The students join the game by going to GameOn.World and entering a game pin. In the location and timeline games, students answer the questions by moving a placemark on a map or selecting a date on a timeline. In some of the other games students answer by choosing a number on a sliding scale.

GameOn World is in its first iteration. At this time you cannot create your own games, you have to select from one of the pre-made games.

GameOn World can be played on any device that has a modern web browser including phones, iPads, and Android tablets.

Applications for Education
Playing GameOn World could be a fun way for students to review and expand their geography knowledge. When students respond to location questions they move a placemark on a map. Once they've submitted their answers students instantly see how close they were to the correct location.

How to Live Stream from YouTube's Creator Studio

This is a guest post from Ben Sondgeroth (@mr_sondgeroth) of EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

You may have noticed that Google+ no longer supports Google Hangouts On Air (GHOA) - a great tool that allowed users to record a Google Hangout and stream it live for outside viewing on YouTube. While the service is no longer housed on Google+, it has been moved over to YouTube. To access the new streaming system, users will need to first navigate to the YouTube Creator Studio. Inside the Creator Studio, you will notice a new tab on the left menu that says “Live Streaming.” Once you do that, you will enter an environment in which you will have two types of streaming available: Stream Now and Events.

Stream Now requires a user to download an encoder in order to utilize its features. This service would be ideal for streaming sports games, theater events, or classroom performances automatically to YouTube. It could even be configured as a live webcam of your classroom.

The Events method of streaming is very similar to the old process of creating a GHOA and does not require an encoder. By selecting Event from your dashboard, you are taken to a setup window that is very similar to what a GHOA event used to look like. Whether you immediately start an event or schedule one for later times; each of these options creates a direct link to a YouTube page from which your audience can open and view the stream. For more detailed instructions and a step-by-step tutorial video, check out the video below.

Get More Google Tips from Ben and other Google Certified Educators at the Innovation Summit in Boston!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Practical Ed Tech Handbook - Updated for 2016-17

Last year I published a 30 page document that I called The Practical Ed Tech Handbook. This week I spent some time revising that document and updating it the 2016-17 school year. The Practical Ed Tech Handbook isn't just a list of my favorite resources. I've included ideas for using these resources and in many cases I've included links to video tutorials about my favorite resources.

In The Practical Ed Tech Handbook you will find resources arranged in seven categories; communication with students & parents, web search strategies, digital citizenship, video creation, audio production, backchannels & informal assessment, and digital portfolios.

The Practical Ed Tech Handbook is embedded below. You can also grab a copy of it here.

The link and the embed above are both hosted by If you cannot see the embedded document or you cannot access the link, check with your domain administrator to see if you're allowed to access at school. 

5 More Overlooked Google Slides Features Students Should Know

One of last month's most popular posts featured five frequently overlooked Google Slides features. Last week I featured a video about making comics in Google Slides. There are still more features of Google Slides that students and teachers frequently overlook. Those features include customizing charts, importing slides from previous presentations, creating a personal dictionary, and some image editing features. All of those features are demonstrated in my new video that is embedded below.

You can learn more about how to use these Google Slides features in your classroom in my upcoming course, Getting Going With GAFE

TurboNote Adds New Features for Syncing Notes to Videos

TurboNote is a great Chrome extension that lets you take time-stamped notes while watching videos on YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and many other video sharing sites. I was immediately impressed by TurboNote when I reviewed it last month. This week TurboNote released two great updates. Those updates feature transcript search and synced viewing.

In the updated version of TurboNote you can invite other TurboNote users to take notes with you in real-time. To do this you create a TurboNote "event" (a nice name for a chat room) then invite others to join by sending them the link to your event. Once people have joined your TurboNote event you can can sync the video time to watch videos at the same pace. You can then chat about the video in real-time.

The transcript search feature in TurboNote is a beta feature that currently works only on YouTube videos that have captions enabled. On those videos TurboNote can be used to search the transcript of the captions to find specific points in the videos according to keywords.

Applications for Education
The new synced viewing option in TurboNote could be a good option for students to use to take notes together while watching a short video lecture like a TED Talk. The transcript search function could be helpful in locating a key point in that same TED Talk video.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

ClassDojo Launches a New Series of Videos About Empathy

Earlier this year ClassDojo launched a new video series that they called Big Ideas. The first videos in the series were all about growth mindset. The videos proved to be extremely popular as they were all viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

Next week ClassDojo is releasing some new videos in their Big Ideas series. The next set of videos will be all about empathy. The videos were created by ClassDojo in conjunction with Making Caring Common, a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Applications for Education
Like the other videos in the Big Ideas series, the empathy videos will be accompanied by discussion guides that 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.

How to Use Google Scholar to Track Product Developments

Last week I wrote about how students can use Google Scholar to track product developments and innovations over time. In the video embedded below I provide more details on how students can use Google Scholar and Google Patents to trace the history of a product's development.

We'll cover topics like this one and many more in Teaching History With Technology which starts next week.

A Brief History of the Cuban Missile Crisis

No unit of study about the Cold War is complete without including the Cuban Missile Crisis. The latest TED-Ed lesson provides students with a five minute overview of the moments of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The History of the Cuban Missile Crisis explains why the Soviet Union wanted to place nuclear weapons in Cuba, the decisions that Kennedy and Khrushchev had to make, the compromise that ended the crisis, and how historians view the outcome of the crisis today.

Take a look at Keith Hughes' work for a more in-depth video lesson about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

To The Brink is a free iPad app about the Cuban Missile Crisis. It offers more detail and media about the Cuban Missile Crisis than I’ve ever seen in a middle school or high school history textbook (print or digital). As a free app it is a resource that I highly recommend to middle school and high school history teachers.

Spend a Few Fall Evenings Learning New Tech Skills To Use In Your Classroom

Next week I'm starting three sections of my popular Practical Ed Tech online courses. On Monday Blogs & Social Media for Teachers & School Leaders begins. On Tuesday Getting Going With GAFE begins. Graduate credits are available for completing both of those five week courses. Teaching History With Technology is a three week course that starts next Thursday evening.

About the Courses
Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is a five week webinar series during which teachers and school administrators will learn the how to choose the best blogging platform for their situations, how to set-up a blog for classroom and school-wide use, and learn about strategies on how to manage blogs in classroom and school-wide settings. Participants will also learn how to avoid the mistakes that often lead to blogging endeavors being abandoned. After establishing blogs we’ll jump into using social networks like Twitter, Google+, and Instagram to reach out to parents, students, and other members of school communities.

Getting Going With GAFE is a webinar series designed for teachers and administrators who are new to using Google Apps for Education. Getting Going With GAFE is a five week course covering everything you need to know to integrate Google Drive, Google Classroom, Google Calendar, and Google Sites into your practice.

In Teaching History With Technology you will learn how to develop engaging and challenging learning activities through the use tools like Google Earth and Maps, video production tools, primary source databases, and how to help your students become better researchers. This course features three interactive online meetings.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Evolution of Presidential Campaign Commercials

As the campaign for the White House continues to heat up, tonight's debate should make that clear, it might be a good idea to take a look back at how campaigns have evolved over the last sixty years. The Living Room Candidate is a great website shows visitors how political campaigns have evolved.

The Living Room Candidate is part of a larger project called the Museum of the Moving Image. Visitors to The Living Room Candidate can view the commercials from each campaign from both parties. A written transcript is provided with each commercial. Provided along with each video is an overview of the political landscape of at the time of the campaigns. Visitors to the website can search for commercials by election year, type of commercial, or by campaign issue.

Applications for Education
The Living Room Candidate has a great tool for students called The Living Room Candidate Ad Maker. The Ad Maker can be used by students to remix old advertisements, sound bites, and images to create new campaign commercials. The teachers page on The Living Room Candidate offers nine lesson plans for teaching about the historical context of campaigns, analyzing campaign ads, and creating new campaign ads.

Identifying Arguments - A Debate Assignment for High School Students

The first debate between U.S. Presidential candidates is happening tonight at 9pm ET/ 6pm PT. Lifehacker has a list of all of the ways that you can watch the debate even if you don't have a cable/ satellite television. The debate should provide high school students with a good opportunity to learn more about the positions of both of the major candidates. The debate will also provide students with the opportunity to practice identifying positions, arguments, and logical fallacies.

If you're thinking about giving students the assignment to watch the debate tonight, consider asking them to watch with the purpose of trying to identify the candidates' positions on questions raised, their arguments or justifications for their positions, and any logical fallacies that either candidate uses. Your Logical Fallacy Is offers a convenient list of logical fallacies. Wireless Philosophy offers short video lessons on logical fallacies.

Students who choose to watch the debate online can use or TurboNote to record time-stamped notes while watching the debate. With the TurboNote Chrome extension installed your students can take notes while watching any video. To take notes students just need to click the TurboNote extension icon in their browsers and start writing notes in the menu that appears on the right side of the screen. Any notes that studetns type are automatically time-stamped. Notes can be edited while the video is playing or while the video is stopped. All notes can be shared via social media and email. 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.

Google Inches Closer to Making Google Play Available on More Chromebooks

Earlier this year Google announced a move to make Android apps and other element of the Google Play store available on Chromebooks. The first opportunity to do this was in the beta version of Chrome OS on a couple of specific Chromebook models (the Acer R11 and Asus Flip). Late last week Google removed the need to run the beta version of Chrome OS.

Owners of Acer R11 and Asus Flip Chromebooks can now access the Google Play Store without having to use the beta version of Chrome OS. You can now run the stable, widely distributed Chrome OS and access the Google Play Store on your Chromebook.

The list of Android apps that can be used on a Chromebook as steadily expanded. That list can be seen on this Chrome Web Store page (note, the page only displays the apps if you are viewing it on a Chromebook).

Applications for Education
As the number of Android apps that can run on Chromebooks expands, we'll find that more students can quickly transition from using their Chromebooks at school to using the same apps on their personal devices. This could make it easier for students to continue working on a project as they can quickly transition from one device to the next.

H/T to Lifehacker

Saturday, September 24, 2016

27 Ideas for Teaching With & About Topographic Maps

The USGS offers free topographic maps for most of the United States. The maps can be downloaded as PDFs through the USGS store. The maps can be used in the 27 suggested topographic maps lessons found in the USGS education site. All of the lessons are rated by grade level and time required for completing the activity. In the list of lesson ideas you will find suggestions for lessons about typical geography topics like coordinates, scale, and map projections as well as lesson suggestions for less common things like analysis of stereo aerial photographs and analysis of humans and hydrography.

The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it certainly feels like fall.
This week my daughter turned one month old. The time is flying. As you can see in the picture to the left, she's already helping me in my office. She already has her own email address, just like her big dog brothers do. You can email her and or the dogs, but it might be a while before they get back to you. In the meantime, you can always email me at richardbyrne (at) with your ed tech questions.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Five Good Digital Exit Ticket Tools
2. 7 Good Tools for Creating Timelines
3. How to Create Comic Strips in Google Slides
4. Try My Simpleshow for Creating Explanatory Videos
5. How to Create Simple Comics on Pixton
6. Draw and Tell: Create Animated Screencasts with Elementary Students
7. 5 Common Classroom Blog Mistakes

Getting Going With GAFE, Teaching History With Technology, and Blogs & Social Media for Teachers will start in October. Graduate credits are available. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
Haiku Deck offers the best alternative to PowerPoint.  
Pixton provides a create way to create comics. 
SeeSaw is the best platform for creating digital portfolios with K-8 students. 
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.
Buncee offers a great tool for creating visual stories.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explainer videos.

MIT + K12 = Science Videos for K-12 Students

MIT + K12 is an MIT project that features MIT students explaining math and science concepts for K-12 students. The website isn't a collection of Khan Academy-style videos, it's a place where you will find videos featuring real MIT students explaining concepts while showing them as hands-on demonstrations or experiments. Watch one of the featured videos below.

Applications for Education
MIT + K12's library is fairly limited. It consists of a few dozen videos, but the concept of the MIT + K12 is promising. If you have an idea for a video, you can suggest it on the site.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A New TED-Ed Lesson Explains Why There Are So Many Types of Apples

It is apple picking season here in New England. Take a stroll through a local orchard and you're likely to see a bunch of different types of apples. In fact, you might even find a type of apple that you haven't previously seen. The reason for this is explained in a new TED-Ed lesson titled Why Are There So Many Types of Apples?

In the lesson students can learn how new types of apples are developed, the benefits of developing new types of apples, and how many types of apples currently exist in the world.

MindMup Adds New Options to Their Mind Mapping Tool for Google Drive

MindMup is one of my favorite online mind mapping tools. MindMup works in your browser and it can be integrated into your Google Drive account where you can then collaborate with other users.

In the spring MindMup added an option for vertical structuring of mind maps and for creating hierarchies in your mind maps. This week a new design option was added to MindMup. You can now have multiple roots within the same mind map in MindMup. The branches coming off of each route can be connected to show overlap between the ideas originating from your multiple mind map roots. See the Tweet embedded below for a visual explanation of the newest MindMup feature.

Applications for Education
Creating mind maps is one of my favorite ways to organize ideas and information. I've often had my students create mind maps as an exercise in making visual connections between important concepts, events, and people in a unit of study. The new multiple roots option in MindMup could make a good tool for having students illustrate the connections between ideas originating from different places.

Which Parts of the Brain Do What?

Which Parts of the Brain Do What? is the title of a new MinuteEarth video. In the short video students can learn a bit about the origins of brain studies, how FRMIs changed the way brain function is studied, and why correlation does not always equal causation. The video also introduces students to the terms brain lesion, Broca’s area, fusiform face area, hippocampus, and amygdala. A look at the video notes on YouTube will provide you with a list of the resources used in creating the video.

If you want your students do more than just watch this video, you could have them take notes while watching then share their notes with you. These three tools will enable them to do that. You could also develop a quiz based on this video by using the Vizia video quiz creation tool.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Great Review Games for the Classroom That Isn't 1:1

A comment that I frequently hear during or after my workshop on backchannels and informal assessment goes something like this, "I would love to do these things, but not all of my students have computers to use." Fortunately, there are some great review games that can be played in classrooms that only have a handful of web-enabled devices.

Kahoot, the wildly popular quiz game platform, released a new team mode last spring. The team mode is designed to be used with students who are sharing computers, tablets, or phones. In team mode students arrange themselves in teams around a shared computer or tablet. When you start a Kahoot game you'll now choose "team mode." With team mode selected your students will be prompted to enter a team name and a list of the team members. After the teams have entered their names you will be ready to start the game. One of the nice features of team mode is that students have time to discuss their answer choices before they are allowed to submit a response. From there the game is played and scored just as any other Kahoot game is played and scored.

Quizlet Live allows teachers to select a set of vocabulary words in Quizlet and that set as the basis of a review game that students play in teams. Much like Kahoot and other multiplayer review games controlled by teachers, in Quizlet Live students go to a dedicated webpage ( then they have to enter a game pin. As soon as your students have entered the correct game pin they will be randomly assigned to teams (teachers can reshuffle teams). The game aspect is that students have to work in teams to sort vocabulary terms to their matching definitions (you can also create vocabulary sets that feature math problems or other questions). Teams earn points by making correct matches quickly, but their progress is reset to zero if they make a mistake so they need to focus on accuracy more than speed.

Plickers uses a teacher's iPad or Android tablet in conjunction with a series of QR codes to create a student response system. Students are given a set of QR codes on large index cards. The codes are assigned to students. Each code card can be turned in four orientations. Each orientation provides a different answer. When the teacher is ready to collect data, he or she uses the Plickers mobile app to scan the cards to see a bar graph of responses. In your teacher account on Plickers you can view and save all of the data that you collected from scanning your students' Plickers cards.

Jeopardy-style games are the old standard for in-classroom review games. You can use Flippity to create Jeopardy-style gameboards through Google Spreadsheets. In the video embedded I demonstrate how to use Flippity to create a Jeopardy-style gameboard.

FAQs About Practical Ed Tech Webinars

This week I have received a bunch of questions about the Practical Ed Tech courses that I am teaching in October. These are the most frequently asked questions and my answers to them.

1. Will it be recorded? I want to participate, but I can't make it to every webinar.
Yes, all of live sessions will be recorded. Links to download the recordings will be emailed to you within 12 hours of the end of each webinar.

2. I don't need graduate credit, can I still take the GAFE course or the Blogging course
Yes, the courses are open to folks who don't need the graduate credits. Folks who take the course without the graduate credit option will receive a certificate of hours.

3. Is there a graduate credit option for Teaching History With Technology?
Unfortunately, at this time I do not have a graduate credit option for this course. You will receive a certificate of hours that you may be able to use toward re-certification/ license renewal (check with your local licensing requirements).

4. What is the discount code for subscribers to the Practical Ed Tech newsletter?
The discount code is "subscriber" (all lowercase, no quotation marks).

5. Is there Q&A?
Of course, ask any questions you like during the webinars.

6. What have other people said about the courses?
I'd take another course from you anytime. You are very knowledgeable, and your experience in the classroom "makes it real." - Diana

Thank you for a great class...I learned a lot and am looking forward to putting it all together. Thanks so much! - Tiffany

Thanks for a great program on blogs and social media. Lots of food for thought for me in my current role as a high school social studies teacher and my future role as a media specialist. I recommended your course to one of my colleagues during the first session, and she spoke so highly of it I had to join myself! - Jacquelyn

7. Why do you charge for the courses? 
Three primary reasons: 1. I have to pay for licensing of GoToTraining and for hosting of recordings. 2. I want to work with people who are committed to the course. I've found that when I offer free webinars many people sign up, but few show up.  3. This is part of how I make my living, but believe me I'm not getting rich from this.

You Choose 2016 Teaches Kids About the Presidential Election Process

Last month I featured the classroom debate kits from PBS Election Central. This week PBS published another good resource for helping students learn about the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

PBS Kids You Choose is designed to help elementary school students understand some of the key points of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. The site features short biographies of Trump and Clinton, create little campaign posters, and collect "Presidential trading cards." A collection of short, animated videos is also included in PBS Kids You Choose. The videos feature familiar PBS Kids characters singing and or talking about things like the importance of voting, the first Presidents, and frequency of elections.

Applications for Education
PBS Kids You Choose does contain some resources that could be useful with students in 2nd to 5th grade. Unfortunately, the site leaves a bit to be desired in its layout so you'll need to pick resources from it and direct your students to them rather than just letting students use the site on their own.

Short Lessons on the Autumnal Equinox

The autumnal equinox occurs today in the northern hemisphere. If you're looking for some resources for teaching about the equinox and the change of seasons, I have a small collection of resources for you.

On National Geographic's Education page there is a hands-on lesson that is worth noting. This hands-on activity is designed to help students understand the changes in intensity and duration of sunlight on their part of the world throughout the year. The activity requires use of foam balls (or similar) and flashlights that students position to mimic the changes in that amount of sunlight that reaches different parts of the world at different times throughout the year.

Mechanism Of The Seasons is a video that I found on YouTube. The six minute video could be helpful in a flipped classroom environment as it covers the same information that your students will review in the National Geographic materials mentioned above.

Sixty Symbols offers an eleven minute video about equinoxes and solstices. It's not a video that most kids will find engaging, but I'm including it because in it you can see a demonstration of how you can use the free Stellarium software in your lessons.

This video from NASA explains why the full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox is called the Harvest Moon.

If you would like some resources for teaching about the changing fall foliage, click here for a list that I recently posted.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

PrepFactory Introduces Great, New Practice Activities for Middle School Students

PrepFactory is a popular service that for years has offered great, self-paced SAT and ACT preparation activities. For the new school year PrepFactory has expanded to offer self-paced math and language arts lessons for middle school students.

The self-paced lessons and activities in the new middle school section in PrepFactory reflect the recent changes to the site as a whole. Now when students sign into their PrepFactory accounts they have the option to read a passage of information about each topic or skill in a category and or watch videos on each topic or skill in a category. Students can choose to practice skills in the areas of mathematics, reading, or English/ writing.

As students work their way through a set of practice activities they can avail themselves of helpful hints hyperlinked at the top of each activity. Video review is also available to students. Students are provided with instant feedback after each question or problem in a section. If a student answers incorrectly, he will be given an explanation of why his answer was wrong. The question will also cycle through again for the student to attempt it again.

To avoid monotony, PrepFactory varies the practice activities within every section that a student uses. For example, in the English section students will see fill-in-the-blank, sorting, multiple choice, and short response questions in random sequences.

Disclosure: PrepFactory is an advertiser on

Trace Product Developments Through Google Scholar Patent Search

Last week I was on Facebook chatting with an old friend about an older friend of ours who passed away almost a decade ago now. His name was Steve Gibbs and he owned a successful business that manufactured archery products. Steve's company sponsored me when I was attempting to make the 2000 U.S. Olympic Archery Team. (I didn't qualify, but that's a story for another place and time).

Steve and his company developed a bunch of innovative, patented products. Many of those innovations have been improved upon since his passing. Thinking about Steve and his innovations prompted me to do a little digging in Google Scholar. Specifically, digging into the patent search in Google Scholar. Through my digging in Google Scholar I was able to see who has used and or referenced my friend's patent in the development of subsequent, similar products.

In Google Scholar you can search for patent filings as well as literature about patents and their respective holders. What's interesting about patent search in Google Scholar is that once you've located a filing you can then read the abstract of the filing, view drawings associated with the filing, and read the claims made by the patent holder. Further more, at the bottom of the filing page in Google Scholar you will find a list of citations to related patents referenced in the filing along with a list of other patent filings referencing the one that you're currently viewing. Most of those references include direct links that you can follow back to their respective patent filings.

Applications for Education
Conducting a patent search in Google Scholar and or on Google Patents (a subsection of Scholar) could be a good way for students to trace the development of innovations on a product or process. You could have students create a timeline of development. In that timeline ask them to summarize how each new, related patent was influenced by prior developments.

We will explore this idea and many others in Teaching History With Technology starting in October. 

How to Insert Columns Into Google Docs

Yesterday, Google announced a change to the way in which search works in Google Drive. Buried at the bottom of that announcement was a note about column formatting in Google Docs. For years the only way to create columns in Google Docs has been to insert a table. That finally changed yesterday with the addition of new column formatting option.

To insert columns into your Google Documents you now simply open the "format" drop-down menu and select "columns." In the video embedded below I demonstrate this new feature of Google Docs.

In October you can earn three graduate credits while learning more about Google Docs and all aspects of Google Apps for Education. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How to Create Comic Strips in Google Slides

Earlier today I published a post listing a handful of tools that students can use to create comic strips. Google Slides is one tool that wasn't in that list. With a little creativity your students can create comic strips in Google Slides. Google Slides contains all of the tools that students need in order to create, share, and print comic strips. The best part of creating a comic strip in Google Slides is that students can collaborate on the process of making a comic strip story.

In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create a comic strip in Google Slides.

In October you can earn graduate credits while learning more about Google Slides and all aspects of Google Apps for Education.

Draw and Tell: Create Animated Screencasts with Elementary Students

This is a guest post from Tom Daccord (@thomasdaccord) of EdTechTeacher, an advertiser on this site.

Thanks to a recent partnership with Khan Academy, Duck Duck Moose has made its terrific Draw and Tell iOS app completely FREE. With Draw and Tell, young students can easily create an animated screencast complete with voice, drawings, images, and objects. As a result, it's simple for emerging learners to create digital stories or presentations on any number of topics.

With Draw and Tell, students can draw, color, and insert stickers or stencils onto a scene. They can do so on a blank scene, or a formatted coloring scene, and have a wide variety of colors, objects, and backgrounds from which to choose. Students can even record themselves while they move objects on the screen and the end result is an animated screencast. Once complete, students can save their screencast as a video file to the iPad’s Camera Roll. From here, the video can now be “app smashed” (inserted into another app) into Book Creator, iMovie, or any number of apps.

As shown in the adjacent image, students can choose stickers, stencils, a pencil, a coloring brush, or coloring pens from menu items in the right column. The sticker option provides a range of cartoon animals, vehicles, clothing, foods, household items, buttons, and cutouts, as well as numbers and letters, that appear at the bottom of the scene. Simply tap on a sticker and then tap on the scene to make that sticker appear. Once in place, an object can be moved, resized or deleted (by swiping it off the scene).

At the top of the scene, a microphone is available for students to record themselves.  If students record as they move an object on the scene, they could, for instance, show and describe the movement of a truck, bird, or ship. Or, they could simply explain how and why they created a particular scene. For example, students might draw their favorite animals and then record their explanation of what they are and why they drew them. They might describe a pattern they see in a series of objects, such as a color pattern or geometric pattern. Students might draw a poster, an avatar, a costume, or any number of objects. They might describe a procedure, such as cleaning leaves in their yard, or they might draw their home, neighborhood, or family and explain what each means to them. Each of these activities can help teachers better understand what students know, think, feel, and understand about a particular topic.

Very young students might simply color. Draw and Tell provides dozens of templates, and children can draw to their heart’s content.  Students can choose from different coloring pens and crayons not only to draw figures but also to color a background or fill in a particular space on a template. The templates also serve as prompts to encourage students to develop a story.

Though screencasts are limited to one scene, it’s possible to combines scenes to create an extended story. Simply drag your created scenes to reorder them or drag one on top of another to create a group. In this way, students could create an extended story about, say, what they did over the summer or their favorite superhero’s activities.

At its heart, Draw and Tell is self-directed storytelling and exploration tool, so it doesn’t come with a user guide. Personally, I certainly could have used help getting the pencil tool to work, but I figure the 7-year old me would have figured that out sooner.

It would also be helpful if Draw and Tell provided ready access to the Camera Roll to insert video into animations. Yet, despite a few limitations, Draw and Tell is an engaging and intuitive app that helps prompts students to think, imagine, and nurture their creative spirit and energies. It’s well worth the exploration.

Get More Creative iPad Ideas from Tom Daccord at the November 3-4, EdTechTeacher Innovation Summit.

4 Browser-based Tools for Creating Comic Strips

Lately, I've published quite a bit about Pixton and Storyboard That. Both of those services provide good platforms for creating comic strips. Those aren't the only tools that you can use to create comic strips with your students. Here are some other browser-based tools that your students can use to create comic strips.

Make Beliefs Comix offers comic strip templates and writing prompts in up to seven languages. The templates and prompts can be completed online or you can print them out to give to your students. Make Beliefs Comix also offers a free iPad app. Make Beliefs Comix iPad app supports the creation of comics in seven languages; English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Latin. The free Make Beliefs Comix iPad app allows students to create two, three, and four panel comic strips. To create comics in the Make Beliefs Comix iPad app you simply select the number of frames you want to use then choose the characters that you want to feature in your story. After choosing your frames and characters you can type text into speech bubbles to tell your story.

Comic Master is a free tool designed for students to use to create comics in the "graphic novel style" that is popular with a lot of kids in the ten to fourteen years old age range. Comic Master provides a drag and drop interface for students to build their comics on. Students using Comic Master can select from a variety of layouts, backgrounds, characters, effects, and fonts. Students can create free accounts on Comic Master to save their works and edit them whenever they like. Comic Master gives students the option to create and print multiple page stories.

Witty Comics provides a simple platform that students can use to create two character dialogues. To use Witty Comics students just need to select the pre-drawn background scenes and the pre-drawn characters they want to feature in their comics. Writing the dialogues is the creative element that is left to the students.

Write Comics is a free, simple tool for creating comic strips. Write Comics doesn't require any registration to use. In fact, registration is not even an option. To create a comic on Write Comics just select a background from the menu, choose some characters, and add some speech bubbles. You can continue adding frames until you've completed your story. Write Comics is quite easy to use, but there is one short-coming and that is the only way you can save your work is to save it to your local hard drive.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Quill Adds 50 New Passages to Their Free 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. Essentially, Quill provides lesson activities based on written passages about people, places, things, and events. Each passage contains errors that students have to correct while they are reading. Quill recently added 50 new passages to their library of activities.

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.

View 3500+ Art Exhibitions Online

Thanks to Open Culture I have just learned about the Museum of Modern Art's new website that showcases artwork from the more than 3500 exhibitions that have been held at MoMA since its founding in 1929.

MoMA's Exhibition History site lets you browse through the highlights of every exhibition that has ever been on display at MoMA. You can search for exhibitions according to artist's name, type of exhibition, and or decade of display. It is also possible to perform a keyword search and see all exhibitions related to that keyword. Once you land on an exhibition you can read the press releases that accompanied the exhibition, a list of artists and the works in the exhibition, and view images of the exhibition.

Not every exhibit is available in its entirety online. Some of the film exhibitions that I viewed only had text descriptions. I assume that this is due to licensing rights associated with the films.

Applications for Education
MoMA's Exhibition History site could be a good resource for art teachers who are looking for examples to share with students. With older students you might let them browse some of the collections to find a favorite artist then jump into research about that person.

Due to the varied and occasionally controversial nature of MoMA exhibitions, I would not recommend letting younger students search the site without direct supervision.

How to Create, Share, and Print Thematic Maps

Google's My Maps and Google Earth tools can provide a great way to create thematic maps. Unfortunately, those tools are quite limited if your students don't have Google Accounts to use at school. National Geographic's Mapmaker Interactive is a free map creation tool that doesn't require students to have any kind of registered account in order to make great thematic maps.

Some of the excellent tools offered in Mapmaker Interactive include measuring distances, adding placemarks, layering information, and switching between base map layers. All maps created in Mapmaker Interactive can be printed. They can also be shared online. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of the features in National Geographic's Mapmaker Interactive.

Five Good Digital Exit Ticket Tools

One of the strategies that I use when creating lesson plans is to reflect on the previous lesson. Part of that reflection includes feedback from students. This can be done by simply asking students to raise their hands in response to a "did you get it?" type of question, but I like to have better record of responses than just a hand count. Here are some tools that can be used for collecting exit information from students.

Google Forms
Almost as soon as my school went 1:1 with netbooks, I started using Google Forms to collect responses from students. The Form that I created and frequently re-used simply asked students to respond to "what did you learn today?" and "what questions do you have for next class?"

I started using Padlet back when it was called WallWisher. Padlet enables me to have students not only share exit responses as text, but to also share exit responses as hyperlinks. For example, if my students have been working on research projects I will ask them to share a link to something they found that day along with an explanation of how it is relevant to their research.

Plickers - For the classroom that isn't 1:1
If not every student in your classroom has a laptop or tablet to use, then you need to check out Plickers as a student response system. Plickers uses a teacher's iPad or Android tablet in conjunction with a series of QR codes to create a student response system. Students are given a set of QR codes on large index cards. The codes are assigned to students. Each code card can be turned in four orientations. Each orientation provides a different answer. When the teacher is ready to collect data, he or she uses the Plickers mobile app to scan the cards to see a bar graph of responses. In your teacher account on Plickers you can view and save all of the data that you collected from scanning your students' Plickers cards.

PingPong provides you with a free and easy way to collect feedback from students in the forms of multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions. PingPong also lets you collect sketches from students which is a great way to have students illustrate solutions to mathematics problems or to submit diagrams to answer a question. A video demonstration of PingPong is included in this post.

Formative provides you with a place to create online classrooms. Your students join your classroom by entering the assigned class code after registering on the Formative website. Once your classroom is established you can begin distributing assignments to students. Assignments can be as simple as one question exit tickets like "what did you learn today?" to complex quizzes that use a combination of multiple choice, short answer, and true/false questions. You can assign point values to questions or leave them as ungraded questions. The best feature of Formative is the option to create "show your work" questions. "Show your work" questions enables students to draw responses and or upload pictures as responses to your questions. When you use this question type students will see a blank canvas directly below the question. On that canvas they can draw and or type responses.

I will be sharing more ideas for using Google Forms in my Practical Ed Tech course Getting Ready for GAFE. That course starts in October. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Wild Weather Kitchen Experiments

Wild Weather Kitchen Experiments is a short series of instructional videos produced by The Open University. Each of the four videos in the series features a short lesson followed by directions for an experiment that you can carry out to see the lesson's concepts in action. The four lessons are on avalanches, tornadoes, floods, and dust storms.

Applications for Education
The videos in the Wild Weather Kitchen Experiments series probably aren't terribly engaging. That said, Wild Weather Kitchen Experiments could be a good place to find ideas and directions for activities that your students can do in your classroom. Depending upon the age of your students, you may have to modify some of the experiments.

Fun and Short Smithsonian Videos

Ask Smithsonian is a fun video series featured on the Smithsonian Magazine website. All of the videos in the series are less than two minutes long. Each video tackles a fun topic in science. Some of the videos address questions that are less serious topics than others. For example, on the first page of Ask Smithsonian there is currently a video about why humans kiss alongside a video about how anesthesia works.

Applications for Education
The videos in Ask Smithsonian could be useful as fun lesson starters. I would also consider adding these videos to my classroom website to display as "bonus" materials for students to watch and respond to for extra credit points.

5 Common Classroom Blog Mistakes

A classroom blog can be a powerful tool for improving communication with parents, for building a sense of community amongst your students, and for creating a record of what you and your students have learned throughout a school year. But you can only reap these benefits of classroom blogs if you maintain the blog and avoid some of the most common mistakes made in classroom blogging.

1. Making it optional:
If you make it optional for students and parents to visit the classroom blog, they'll generally opt not to view it.

2. Inconsistency:
It is better to post once a week on the same day than it is to post three posts in one week and two the next and four the following week.

3. Lack of purpose:
I often hear people say, "I don't know what we should blog about." Without a defined purpose for a blog it is hard to come with ideas for individual blog posts. If you identify a purpose, "weekly reflections on learning" is a good purpose, you will find it easier to come up with topics for individual blog posts.

4. Not publicizing your blog:
You might be thinking, "but my blog is public, isn't that enough?" In the old days of blogging, it probably was enough to just make your blog public. People weren't distracted by social media networks on their phones and in their web browsers. Today, you need to remind people that your blog exists. Schedule your blog posts to be automatically Tweeted, shared on Facebook, and sent in email.

5. Leaving out the visuals:
Apply the old adage of, "a picture tells a thousand words" to your blog posts. Putting an image or two into every blog post helps to draw readers into your posts. If you don't have a picture that exactly matches your blog post's topic, create one in service like Canva.

I'll be covering these topics and many more in my upcoming webinar series Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

5 Benefits of Having a Classroom Blog

1. Being authors on a blog gives students the opportunity to share their thoughts with you, their classmates, and their parents on a longer timeline than is typically feasible during a school day. Not every student is going to be able to quickly articulate his or her thoughts during a face-to-face conversation with his or her teacher. Having a place to write down his or her expanded thoughts after a conversation is one of the best benefits of inviting students to be authors on a blog.

2. Parents are privy to the comments and question that their children raise in regards to school. Parents often complain that their kids come home from school and say,"nothing" in response to the question, "what did you do in school today?"

3. Authoring a classroom blog can be a great way to create a record of what you and your students do in your classroom. By the end of the school year it can be hard to recall what you did in which week earlier in the school year. The blog's archive makes it easy to look back at the year.

4. Authoring a classroom blog provides students with a real-world audience for their work. Connect with another classroom or two to become blogging buddies. Students in each class then have an audience for their work that extends beyond the typical confines of a paper-based writing assignment or face-to-face classroom conversation.

5. A classroom blog can provide parents and students with a calendar of upcoming events and assignments.

Blogs & Social Media for Teachers & School Leaders is an online course that covers these ideas and many more in much greater depth than a blog post does. Learn more about the course on this page.

Popular Posts