Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Best of Free Technology for Teachers in January

Sunset over Casco Bay.
Good evening from Maine where the sun is setting on the first month of 2017. It has been a busy month here at the Byrne Instructional Media, LLC World Headquarters. Besides the usual blogging activities that you see here, I hosted a series of Wednesday afternoon webinars, taught a course, spoke at a conference, and made arrangements for this summer's Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps. And, of course, I tried to answer your email requests for ed tech help. You can always email me at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com

As I do at this time every month, I have compiled a list of the month's most popular posts.

Here are the most popular posts from January, 2017:
1. New Google Classroom Features Focus on Individual Instruction
2. Two Tools That Help Students Analyze Writing
3. Three Alternatives to Google Classroom
4. Practical Ed Tech Handbook - Best of 2016
5. Track Progress Toward Goals With This Google Sheets Template
6. Quick Rubric Offers an Easy Way to Create Rubrics Online
7. Tips for Accessing Sites Blocked by Your School
8. Students Can Build and Launch Virtual Rockets on Rocket Science 101 from NASA
9. A Cute Video About Email Etiquette for Students - Best of 2016
10. Storyboard That Offers Lesson Plans for Every Month

Do you need a workshop or keynote speaker this spring or summer? 
My calendar is filling up, but I still have some dates available. Click here to learn more about workshops and presentations.

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.
QuickKey saves teachers tons of time when scoring formative assessments.
WriteReader is a fantastic multimedia writing tool for elementary school students.
Math Playground offers hundreds of math games and tutorial videos. 
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.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosts workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explainer videos.

Access All Google Drive Templates From One Place

Using Google Documents, Sheets, Slides, and Forms templates can save you time when you need to create something that many other teachers also need. For example, rather than creating a certificate from scratch, you might use and modify the template that someone else used. For the last couple of years when you went to the Google Docs, Forms, Sheets, or Slides homepages you would see the template options. Yesterday, Google announced that you can now access those same templates within Google Drive.

To create from a template in Google Drive just select "new" in your Google Drive dashboard then choose the type of file you want to create. Then, rather than just choosing a new file choose "from template."

How Not To...

This is a guest post from Ruston Hurley, the founder of Next Vista for Learning and the author of Making Your School Something Special.

It can be work getting students (and ourselves, truth be told) to remember what we should do. Getting our charges to make a video explaining what to do can be helpful, but there's arguably an even better way: have them make a video about what not to do.

How to Fail a Speech

As this video shows, explaining the wrong thing to do can be a lot of fun. Additionally, a student who does something that everyone worked to explain shouldn't be done runs the risk of some good-natured ridicule.

If your students create some great how-not-to videos, we'd like to see them for possible inclusion in the NextVista.org library, so please share!

WriteReader Presents the Most Popular Topics Amongst Student Authors

WriteReader is a great multimedia writing tool for elementary school students and their teachers. On WriteReader students can create multimedia ebooks independently or with the assistance of their teachers. Teachers can log-in and see what their students have written. Teachers can make suggestions and corrections to what their students have written in WriteReader. Teachers' suggestions and corrections appear in a space just below what their students originally wrote.

Recently, WriteReader published a list of the most popular topics amongst the student authors using the WriteReader platform. Three of the ten most popular topics were animals, Minecraft, and food. See the whole list here.

Applications for Education
WriteReader makes it easy to get started creating multimedia books with your students. You can create a classroom account for free on the site. Your students don't need to have email addresses in order to use the service. And if you are in a school that uses Google Classroom, you can use those rosters to create classrooms within WriteReader.

If you're struggling to come up with topics for your students to write about, consult WriteReader's list of the most popular topics amongst student writers. WriteReader also offers a set of free writing lesson plans that will provide you with activities for six weeks.

Disclosure: WriteReader is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Monday, January 30, 2017

Three Themes to Brainstorm About for Your Classroom Blog

Maintaining any kind of regular posting schedule on a blog requires some planning. To that end, one of the things that I do on a regular basis is have a brainstorming session in which I develop themes to write about and then topics within those themes. You can do this for your classroom blog by inviting your students to participate in a group brainstorming session. Here are three themes to get you started.

1. Unique aspects of your town/city/state/region. 
This is a great theme for classroom blogs that are going to be read by students in other parts of the world. Connect your classroom with a classroom in another part of the world to learn about the customs and physical geography of each other's parts of the world.

2. Tech tips.
Let your classroom blog be a place that other students, teachers, and parents come to for help with common tech questions. Ask your students to think about the questions that their parents often have about technology.

3. Time management/ study strategies.
Between homework, extracurricular activities at school, and responsibilities elsewhere it seems that our students are busier than ever before. Have them share ideas with each other on how to manage their time and priorities. Or take the theme in a slightly different yet related direction by asking students to share their favorite studying tips.

I'll be sharing more about brainstorming and mind mapping activities in a webinar this Wednesday at 4pm Eastern Time

Quick Key + Google Classroom = Great Way to Conduct Formative Assessments

Quick Key is an excellent platform for creating and conducting formative assessments. I often include Quick Key in my presentations about formative assessment because it is a tool that works equally well in classrooms that are 1:1 and in classrooms that are not 1:1. This is possible because Quick Key allows you to create formative assessments that you can distribute electronically as well as on paper.

If you use Quick Key to distribute your assessments electronically, Quick Key will score your students' responses automatically. One of the latest features of Quick Key is an integration with Google Classroom. This integration lets you use your Google Classroom rosters to distribute and collect assessments.

If you distribute your assessments on paper, you can use the Quick Key mobile app to quickly scan your students' answer sheets and receive the scores. Watch the following teacher-produced video to learn how easy it is to use Quick Key to score formative assessments.

Applications for Education
Conducting formative assessments on a regular basis is one of many ways to understand what your students know and don't know. That information can help you design your next lessons to meet the needs of your students. Or as Tyler Welch from Sumner Schools in Tennessee wrote, "Quick Key allows me to give ten standards-aligned questions at the start of each block of instruction. It takes 5 minutes for the students to complete and less than two minutes for me to grade. I am able to tool my instruction towards the specific needs of my students much more quickly.”

Disclosure: Quick Key is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Make Your Own Virtual Reality Headset

On Saturday afternoon I saw Hall Davidson give the closing keynote for the Fort Worth ISD Technology Conference. In his presentation he spoke extensively about the possibilities for use of virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence in the classroom. One of the things that he mentioned was that you don't need to spend a lot of money in order to use virtual reality in your classroom. In fact, most schools already have the materials necessary to create virtual reality viewers. With some cardboard, glue, and plastic bottles you could build enough virtual reality viewers for a classroom.

The Google Cardboard website has templates that you can print and follow to build your own virtual reality viewers (scroll past the items listed for sale). Instructables also offers a template and directions for making your own VR viewers. And for those who would like to see the process before embarking on the project, the following video covers the process from start to finish.

Three Reasons to Maintain a Photo Gallery With Your Students

We are all taking so many more pictures today than we did fifteen to twenty years ago. Thanks to cloud storage we can save and share thousands of images from our phones. No one knows this better than our students who will never understand the agonizing waits we used to endure after dropping off rolls of film at the local photo developer. Since our students are already snapping thousands of pictures, let's take advantage of that habit and use it in our classrooms. Here are three reasons to maintain photo galleries with your students.

1. Copyright freedom.
Use a Google Drive, Dropbox, or another cloud service to create a gallery of pictures that your students can access for use in their multimedia projects. Ask your students to submit pictures that align to themes that you designate. For example, you might have a nature theme or pet theme in your gallery that you have students add pictures that match that theme. If you're worried about inappropriate submissions, moderate submissions by first having students upload to a folder that only accepts files then move the pictures to a publicly viewable folder. DropItToMe is a great tool for doing that. Learn how to use DropItToMe by watching this video.

2. Writing prompts.
Anyone who has ever taught a language arts class will tell you that one of perennial challenges is helping students who say, "I don't have anything to write about" when you give them a creative writing assignment. Having an image gallery for those students to scroll through can be of assistance in those situations. Have your students scroll through one of the thematic galleries you've created and choose a picture or two to craft a story about.

3. Concept illustrations.
Math and science is all around us. Have your students take pictures that they think illustrate or are representative of the concepts they are learning about in your math or science lessons. By putting those pictures into a classroom gallery you're letting all of the students learn from and with each other.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Three Options for Adding Q&A to Your Slide Presentations

Building questions into your slides is a great way to get your audience to think about your message and to interact with your message. You can do this by putting a question on your slide and then directing people to a TodaysMeet room or another similar chat service. The problem with that method is that you then have to exit the slides to show a browser window when you want your audience to see the questions and answers on the screen in front of them. That's when using a presentation tool that lets you show questions and answers without using a separate program is convenient for you and your audience. The following three tools will let your audience interact with your slides.

A Q&A feature was added to Google Slides in May of last year. The Q&A feature lets your audience submit questions to you. They can all of the questions submitted and vote for the ones they want you to answer. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how this feature works.

Mentimeter lets you add questions to your slides. You can create slides in Mentimeter or import slides from your desktop. You can create poll questions that your audience responds to in a multiple choice format or they can respond by using emojis. Like a lot of audience polling tools, your audience responds to your questions by going to a specific URL then entering a code to access your questions.

Microsoft Office users can take advantage of the OfficeMix plug-in for PowerPoint to add quizzes and polls into their slides. Watch the tutorial below to learn how to use the features of OfficeMix.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Week in Review - The Texas Edition

When it Texas, wear cowboy boots.
Good evening from Fort Worth, Texas where I am relaxing after a great day at the Fort Worth ISD Technology Conference. I had the honor of giving the opening keynote and the privilege to see some other great presenters including Hall Davidson and Maggie Elliott. The conference had a great mix of opportunities for hands-on learning, break-out presentations, and some time for exercise (have you tried Drum Fit? I did today). If you're in the greater Fort Worth area, put this conference on your calendar for next year.

Tomorrow morning I'm leaving the relatively warm weather of Texas to go home to the cold of Maine where I'm already making plans for the summer. Those plans include hosting two Practical Ed Tech Summer Camps. Discounted early registration is now open for both events.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Six Tools for Collaborative Brainstorming - A Comparison Chart
2. Slick Write Helps You Analyze Your Writing
3. The Climate Time Machine
4. This Handy Extension Helps You Get Back on Task
5. Use Google Maps to Tell a Story Within a Story
6. 5 Good Elementary School Activities from the Smithsonian
7. A Great Example of Using Google Maps in Science

Next week my Wednesday Webinar series begins again. The topic of the next webinar is Mind Mapping and Collaborative Brainstorming. Learn more about the series here.

Do you need a workshop or keynote speaker this spring or summer? 
My calendar is filling up, but I still have some dates available. Click here to learn more about workshops and presentations.

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.
QuickKey saves teachers tons of time when scoring formative assessments.
WriteReader is a fantastic multimedia writing tool for elementary school students.
Math Playground offers hundreds of math games and tutorial videos. 
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.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosts workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explainer videos.

Three Alternatives to Google Classroom

Last week I received an email from a reader who was looking for an alternative to Google Classroom. This is not an uncommon request. A couple of times a week I get similar questions from folks who don't have access to Google Classroom. Here are my three recommendations for a free alternative to Google Classroom. This list is ranked by my preference.

Otus is designed to be a complete LMS (learning management system) for teachers. In addition to the gradebook you have options for sharing assignments and delivering quizzes directly to your students' inboxes. Otus provides teachers with a library of instructional resources (videos, texts, interactive review activities) that they can share with their students. Third-party resource providers are integrated into the Otus LMS. A couple of notable third party applications are Khan Academy and OpenEd. OpenEd offers thousands of math and language arts practice assessments aligned to Common Core standards. Otus is free for individual teachers to use. Otus can also be purchased for district-wide implementation which includes additional reporting tools for administrators.

Kiddom is a free service that enables teachers to create online classroom spaces. In Kiddom you can create and manage multiple classrooms. In those classrooms you can distribute assignments to students to complete and return to you. One of the things that Kiddom offers to try to make itself stand out is an integrated search for assignment materials. For example, fourth grade teachers can search for mathematics assignments that are aligned to standards of their choosing. When a material is found teachers can then assign it to their students as a homework assignment, as a quiz, or as a long-term assignment. Teachers can also create assignments from scratch by uploading materials and or importing them them Google Drive. Read my full review of Kiddom here.

Edmodo, in a nutshell, is a system designed specifically for teachers and students to share announcements, assignments, and handouts. Edmodo allows teachers to create a group specifically for their students and exclude those not invited to the group. Edmodo provides teachers with a place to post assignment reminders, build an event calendar, and post messages to the group. Just as with any good microblogging service users can share links, videos, and images. One of the most popular posts ever published on this blog outlined 15 things you can do with Edmodo.

5 Ways Students Can Earn Money Without Flipping Burgers

One of the talks that I give from time to time is titled Preparing Students to Work and Learn Independently. The focus of the talk is to help people understand the learning and employment opportunities that exist today that didn't exist 10-15 years ago. One part of the talk includes examples of the kinds of self-employment opportunities that are available to students today that didn't exist 10-15 years ago. Here are five of those opportunities.

1. Tee-shirt design and sales. There are plenty of online services that let students design and sell tee-shirts without any start-up costs. SunFrog is a service that I have personally used for that purpose.

2. Drone piloting. Students who have drones might offer their skills for sale to real estate agents. I know one realtor in my area who has hired students to fly drones to photograph the properties they are listing for sale.

3. YouTube publishing. YouTube allows you to monetize your videos through the use of their ad network, AdSense. Students could publish tutorial videos for their favorite games, demonstrate DIY projects, or publish videos about any other topic that strikes their fancy. It takes a lot of video views to make significant money this way, but it's  not unrealistic for a teenager to make $50-100/month.

4. Design and sell 3D printed objects. I've seen students create cell phone cases and speakers with 3D printers. A simple e-junkie or eBay store is a fine platform for resale of those items.

5. Virtual tech help. This has been an in-person option for years, but free tools like Skype, Zoom, and Google+ Hangouts make it possible for students to offer tech help remotely.

Disclaimer: Most online stores and advertising programs require people to be 18 or older. Therefore, students will need to have their parents register and let their teens manage the materials sold. Depending upon how much students earn, there may be tax implications to consider. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

5 Good Elementary School Activities from the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian offers wonderful online resources for students of all ages. The Smithsonian's Learning Lab lets teachers create collections of resources. But you don't have to use the Learning Lab to use many of the activities available through the various Smithsonian channels. Here are five good online activities available through the Smithsonian. These are activities for elementary school students.

How Things Fly is a feature from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. How Things Fly contains an interactive module in which students design their own airplanes. The activity starts with a simple and slow airplane that students have to modify until it reaches a target speed and altitude. As students modify the wings, fuselage, and engines of their airplanes they are given instant feedback on the effects of those modifications. In some cases the feedback includes the airplane crashing and the students having to start over again.

Shutterbugs Wiggle and Stomp is an educational game produced by the Smithsonian. The purpose of the game is to help children recognize the movements of animals. In the game children move through a virtual zoo with a zoo keeper. As they go through the virtual zoo the zoo keeper will ask students to take pictures of animals who are demonstrating running, jumping, stomping, and other movements. Shutterbugs Wiggle and Stomp can be played online. The game is also available as a free iPad app and as a free Android app.

The Smithsonian Science Education Center's Weather Lab is a simple online activity designed to help elementary and middle school students learn about weather patterns. In the Weather Lab students select an ocean current and an air mass then try to predict the weather pattern that will result from their choices. The Weather Lab provides an overview of the characteristics of each air mass and ocean current. Students should use that information in making their weather predictions.  After making their predictions the Weather Lab will tell students if they were correct or not. In the feedback given to students they will find links to videos for further learning about each weather pattern featured in the Weather Lab.

Habitats is a fun little game from the Smithsonian Science Education Center. The online game challenges elementary school to match animals to their habitats. The game shows students images representative of four habitats; desert, coral reef, jungle, and marsh. Students drag pictures of animals from a list to their corresponding habitats. Students receive instant feedback on each move they make in the game. Once an animal has been placed in the correct habitat students can click on it to learn more about it in the Encyclopedia of Life.

The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage has some neat resources for teachers and students. One of the resources that I like is the Masters of the Building Arts Activity Guide. The Masters of the Building Arts Activity Guide provides the history of six types of buildings and architectural features. At the conclusion of each section there is a hands-on activity for students to try in your classroom. For example at the end of the section on timber framing you will find directions for an activity in which students attempt to create a model building with straws or pipe cleaners. At the end of the section on stained glass students can try to create their own "stained glass" panels with tissue papers, ribbons, and glue.

Three Things to Brainstorm Before You Search

One of the things that I ask students to do before they begin any research activity is to take some time to brainstorm. They might groan about having to do this instead of immediately typing or speaking search phrases, but it is good habit for students to develop. Here are three things students should brainstorm about before searching.

1. Brainstorming a list of alternative search terms and phrases to use in a search engine. It is easy for students to fall into the trap of thinking about a topic in only the way that they describe it or how you've described it to them. Stopping to brainstorm a list of similar words and phrases can open students to new ways of describing the topic they're researching.

2. What are the best formats for sharing information about the topic you're researching? If the topic is related to geography or geology, you might find a lot of value in refining the search to return only KML and KMZ files. Refining in that way will bring students to items that typically don't rank highly in search engines, but none-the-less contain valuable information.

3. Who can you ask about this topic? Asking the school librarian might be the best thing that students can do to improve their search results. The school librarian has knowledge of the databases available to students. Many students will struggle with those databases without guidance from a librarian.

You might also have your students try to develop a list of people they know (parents, other teachers, friends of parents) who have expert knowledge on a topic. Those experts can help students think about a topic in a different way.

Strategies like this one and many others are covered in Search Strategies Students Need to Know

A Great Example of Using Google Maps in Science

At almost every conference that I attend I offer a session about Google Maps and Google Earth. Most of the people that come to those sessions are social studies teachers. That is because there is a natural connection between maps and topics in social studies. But there are plenty of other subject areas and topics in which Google Maps and Google Earth can be helpful. One example of this comes from my former colleague, John Haley.

John Haley created a blog and a corresponding Google Map called Maine Geology Hikes. On Maine Geology Hikes John writes about interesting hikes in Maine that lead you to neat geological formations. Each placemark on the map includes a description with a link back to a blog post about the hike. The blog posts are more than just stories about hiking. He shares lessons worthy of inclusion in books on the topic of Maine geology.

Applications for Education
John Haley's Maine Geology Hikes is a great example of using Google Maps in an subject area outside of social studies. The model that John provides could be modified for any state or region. Google's My Maps tool offers a couple of ways that your students can collaborate to create their own geology hikes maps.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Climate Time Machine

Crafting my previous post about 40 years of snow data reminded me of a neat climate change demonstration for kids. NASA's Climate Time Machine is one of many activities that students can complete on NASA's Climate Kids website.

The Climate Time Machine is essentially an interactive timeline that lets students see the changes in the Arctic ice pack, temperatures, carbon emissions, and sea level over time. Students move the slider on the timeline to see how the ice pack has changed and how sea levels could change in the future.

Applications for Education
Besides the games and hands-on activities featured on Climate Kids students can work through the Climate Kids guided big questions wheel. The guided questions wheel walks students through the basic concepts and issues related to climate change. Six questions are featured in the wheel. Students select a question to discover the answers through the exploration of a series of smaller questions. Each question is addressed with a mix of image, text, and video explanations.

Wednesday Webinars Resume Next Week

In December and January I hosted a series of professional development webinars on Wednesday afternoons. A couple of those webinars sold out. After a week off, the series will resume next week at 4pm Eastern Time with a webinar on Mind Mapping and Collaborative Brainstorming. The following week the topic will be using Google Maps in multiple subject areas. And on February 15th the topic will be Search Strategies Students Need to Know.

There are two registration options for the February series of webinars. You can sign up for an individual session for $20 or if you register by January 31st you can register for all three sessions for just $30. Either way your registration includes access to the live webinar, unlimited access to the recording of the webinar, handouts, and the option for a PD certificate. Learn more on the Practical Ed Tech Wednesday Webinar page.

Richard, why is there a charge for the webinars? 
I explain the answer in this video

40 Years of Snow Data

The Snow Guardian is an interesting short film featured on National Geographic's YouTube channel. The film features billy barr (he chooses not to capitalize his name) who has lived alone on Gothic Mountain in Colorado for more than 40 years. For all but one of those years he has kept detailed, daily records of the snow pack. That data is now used by scientists studying climate change. The video is fascinating. Watch The Snow Guardian as embedded below.

Applications for Education
Besides the record keeping aspect of this story, your students may have a lot of questions about how billy barr has managed to maintain his solitary lifestyle in the mountains for more than forty years. I certainly had a lot of questions about that so I went and did a little searching on the web for answers. I found this excellent article from The Atlantic that answered most of my questions.

New Google Docs & Sheets Features for Mobile Users

If you frequently use Google Docs and Sheets on your phone or tablet, you may be happy the next time you update the Docs and Sheets apps. As announced this morning, Google Docs for Android will now let you drag and drop to edit images, insert headers and footers, and drag and drop text. The latest version of Docs for iOS will also let you insert headers and footers.

The latest version of Docs for iOS allows you to add page numbers to your documents and change the page orientation of your documents. The updated Sheets app for iOS now offers the option to edit cell border appearance.

Applications for Education
These new features bring the mobile versions of Google Docs closer to the browser version. That should ease some of the frustration that students experience when they transition between the computers they use at school at the mobile devices that they use away from school.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Text2VoiceOver - Type to Create Video Voice Over Files

Text2VoiceOver is a service that will let you type the words that you want to hear spoken over a video. You can use Text2VoiceOver to create a voice over for a video that you have found on YouTube. Text2VoiceOver can also be used to create a voice over for a video that you have stored on your computer.

The process of creating a voice over on Text2VoiceOver is fairly straight-forward. You start by either linking to a YouTube video or uploading a video that you have stored on your computer. Then you set the beginning point for your voice over and start typing the words that you want to hear spoken over the video. You can choose from a variety of languages and voices to use in your voice over track. Learn more about the Text2VoiceOver process in the video embedded below.

Applications for Education
Text2VoiceOver could be a good tool for students who want to create videos, but don't want to use their own voices in their videos.

Use Google Maps to Tell a Story Within a Story

Google's My Maps platform lets anyone who has a Google Account create their own multimedia maps. One of my favorite features within the My Maps platform is the option to create a slideshow of images and videos within a placemark. By using that feature you can tell a story within a story.

In My Maps you can create maps that contain placemarks to identify landmarks, to indicate the locations of a series of events, and to show the start and end points of journey. Within all of those placemarks you can include text descriptions, images, and videos. Students can include pictures they've taken and videos they have made. Students can also use the search tools integrated into My Maps to find images and videos to use within their placemarks.

Applications for Education
You can apply this concept of using My Maps to tell a story to a variety of subject areas. You might have students create placemarks about the locations mentioned in a favorite story. Students could map the locations and tell the story of events within a political revolution. Or you might have students map the locations of interesting geological formations then explain within those placemarks how those formations were made.

I'll be covering this idea and many others in more detail during To Geography and Beyond With Google Maps

How to Record Video Notes With MoocNote

MoocNote is a free tool for taking notes while watching a YouTube or Vimeo video. All of your notes are timestamped and all of your notes can be shared with other MoocNote users. In the short video embedded below I demonstrate how to take notes while watching videos through MoocNote.

Applications for Education
MoocNote can be a good tool to use to create informal flipped video lessons. You can create a group that your students join then share a video with them that they take notes on while watching it. You might consider making multiple groups within a class then have each group watch a similar, but different video on a topic. Then have your students compare notes on that topic.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Fun of Remembering Something Important

This is a guest post from Ruston Hurley. Rushton is the founder of Next Vista for Learning.

Can explaining something abstract be interesting and fun? Can students more easily memorize something through a clever video?

Whatever you need a student to remember, students may have a fun take on how to make it happen!

In this very short example, two students explain how to remember FOIL for multiplying binomials. Even if the term "binomial" has passed into the mists of your past, you'll probably enjoy the clever job these two did to share the idea with their classmates:

What ideas might your students come up with to help others remember something important?

Six Tools for Collaborative Brainstorming - A Comparison Chart

Sitting down to map out your thoughts can be a great way to get yourself organized before embarking on a big writing project. It's also something that I do before I begin creating slides for any of my keynote presentations. While it is great to start the mind mapping process on your own, it is helpful to get some feedback and input from trusted colleagues. Students, of course, can benefit from going through the same process of brainstorming ideas on their own before gathering input from their peers.

The tools featured in my chart embedded below can be used by students to brainstorm individually or with the help of their friends. With the exception of Dotstorming, all of the tools in the chart feature drawing canvases for students to use together. Dotstorming uses a text and image format.

The chart is hosted on Box.com. If your school blocks Box, you can view the chart here as a Google Doc.

Learn more about mind mapping techniques and tools in my upcoming webinar Mind Mapping & Collaborative Brainstorming

A Short Lesson About the Great Lakes

In the fall of 2012 I crisscrossed my way across Michigan's upper peninsula. In doing so I was able to experience some of the magnitude of Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron. I was along the shore of Lake Superior during a storm that created waves the size of those we see on Maine's Atlantic shoreline. But it is more than just size that makes the Great Lakes great.

A recent TED-Ed lesson titled What's So Great About the Great Lakes? teaches students about the size, location, and ecosystem of the Great Lakes. Unlike a lot of TED-Ed lessons, this one doesn't begin with multiple choice questions about facts. Instead it asks students to think about the Great Lakes system. I particularly like this question from the lesson, "Trace the path or journey a raindrop might take from Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean. What different sights and species might it encounter along the way?"

The video for the lesson is embedded below.

Everything CK-12 - Open Resources and More

The CK-12 Foundation provides teachers and students with some excellent resources including Flexbooks, study guides, interactive math and science simulations, and even an online whiteboard platform.

This Wednesday CK-12 is hosting a free webinar about all of the open resources that they offer. In the webinar you will learn how to locate, save, and share resources in the CK-12 library. You will also learn how to assign work to students and track their progress through CK-12's LMS platform.

If you cannot attend the live webinar tomorrow, you can always visit CK-12's YouTube channel to learn more about the tools and open educational resources that they offer. Embedded below you will see CK-12's playlist of videos all about electricity.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Slick Write Helps You Analyze Your Writing

Slick Write is a free tool that helps you analyze your writing or that of others. To use Slick Write you can write new text in the provided text editor or copy and paste chunks of existing text into Slick Write's text editor. Either way Slick Write will provide you with an analysis of your writing. That analysis will include typical things like a word count, a readability score, and an estimated reading time for your document. Slick Write will also analyze your use of adverbs and prepositional phrases throughout your document.

You can customize Slick Write's analysis settings by choosing what you would like Slick Write analyze in your document. For example, you can choose to have Slick Write identify clich├ęs in your document. There is also an option in Slick Write's settings to have it analyze your use of conjunctions and contractions. There is a total of thirty analysis options that you can enable or disable in Slick Write.

Applications for Education
Slick Write, like similar tools, can help students proof their own work before sharing it with a classmate for peer review.

The Evolution and Disappearance of Languages

Last week I shared an interactive map of languages. That map is crowd-sourced and unfiltered which is why I recommended only using it to find recordings that you play for your students rather than letting them browse the map on their own. For interactive maps of languages spoken around the world, take a look at the following two resources.

The Endangered Languages Project map contains references to more than 3,000 endangered languages. Click on the placemarks on the map to find the names of languages, information about who speaks those languages, and the risk of those languages becoming extinct. The Endangered Languages Project is a collaborative project that invites contributions of language documentation in text and video form.

National Geographic's Vanishing Voices is a languages hotspots map. The languages hotspots map is a heatmap of regions in which there are languages in danger of vanishing. You can click on the map to learn about the languages in danger in those regions. You will also find a talking dictionary linked to the language hotspots map.

TED-Ed has a neat lesson on the evolution of languages. Through the lesson students can learn about the difference between a dialect and a language, causes of linguistic divergence, and the types of words that are likely to be borrowed between languages. The video of the lesson is embedded below.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

This Handy Extension Helps You Get Back on Task

It can be easy to say to yourself, "I'll just take a quick look at Facebook" and then look up at the clock to realize you've wasted twenty minutes sharing memes for or against a political stance. Dayboard is a Chrome extension that can help you avoid falling into the trap of opening a new tab just to "take a quick look" at something on social media.

Dayboard is a free Chrome extension that opens your daily to-do list every time you open a new tab in Chrome. When you open a new tab for the first time Dayboard will appear and ask you to enter your to-do list for the day. After creating your to-do list for the rest of the day whenever you open a new tab you will see your list. You can place a checkmark next to items as you complete them.

Applications for Education
Dayboard is the kind of to-do list that I need and that I am sure many students can benefit from using too. I often find that I lose momentum on my to-do list when I start switching between tabs. Having my to-do list appear instead of the default "most visited sites" tab appear in Chrome should help me stay on task. I'm sure that it will help some students stay on task too.

Use Historical Images to Spark Discussions

One of my favorite ways to spark students' interest in a history lesson is to have them look for interesting historical images. I've found that interesting images can prompt good conversations which in turn lead to good questions for my students to research the answers to. One of the ways that I've carried out those activities over the years is by having students look through digital archives of images and then sharing their favorite images on a Padlet wall. Along with the image I ask students to share a question that they have about it. Here are three good places to find historical images.

My go-to source for years has been The Commons on Flickr. The Commons contains more than one million historical images that are in the public domain. Dozens of libraries and museums around the world have contributed to The Commons. When you find a picture on The Commons, look for the download arrow icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen. Click that arrow and you can choose from a variety of image sizes to download.

Use the Getty Search Gateway to search through more than 85,000 images in the Getty Museum's Open Content Program. The Getty Search Gateway allows you to filter your search according to material type, topic, name, source, and location. Once you find an image, click the image's title to be taken to its landing page where you can learn more about it, get the required attribution information, and learn more about the history of your chosen image.

Try Lapse It for Creating Timelapse Videos

Lapse It is mobile app (available for iOS and Android) that makes it easy to create short time lapse videos. The app comes in two versions, free and pro. The free version is adequate for most uses, but the pro version offers additional editing effects and a much higher output resolution.

To create a time lapse video with Lapse It just open the app, select “new capture,” and set the timer for the frequency with which you want images captured. You can set the frequency by milliseconds, seconds, or minutes. Lapse It provides options for setting the focus, white balance, color saturation, and flash for the camera on your phone or tablet. Once you’ve captured all of your imagery for your time lapse video you can use Lapse It to set the number of frames per second in your playback. Lapse It also provides tools for trimming your video and adding music to your video. When you’re happy with your final product you can share it to YouTube or render it in MOV, MP4, or FLV.

Applications for Education
Lapse It could be a good app to use to record a slow and or multiple step process then play it back for students in a condensed video.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

CommonLit Added a Guided Reading Mode for Students

CommonLit is a free service that offers a large collection of fiction and nonfiction texts paired to reading questions. You can create a classroom on CommonLit in which you can monitor your students' progress through the texts that you assign to them.

Recently, CommonLit added a new feature that they call Guided Reading Mode. When you enable Guided Reading Mode your students will see questions appear in the margin of the documents. Students have to answer those questions correctly in order for the next section of the document to appear. See the Guided Reading Mode in action in the video embedded below.

Applications for Education
CommonLit has been a favorite resource of mine for a couple of years because of the nature of the thematic questions they provide for thought and discussion. The only trouble was that if students didn't understand the assigned text they would have difficulty participating in conversation about the thematic questions. The new Guided Reading Mode should help more students understand assigned texts and participate in classroom discussions about the thematic questions accompanying assigned texts.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where the sun is trying to poke through the clouds. As I do every week, I have created a list of the most popular posts of the week. I think it is fitting that in the week in which the last man to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan, passed away, the most popular post of the week was about an iPad app produced by NASA. That post and the other most popular posts of the week are linked below.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Students Can Build and Launch Virtual Rockets on Rocket Science 101 from NASA
2. Tips for Accessing Sites Blocked by Your School
3. Create Audio Recordings and Save Them In Google Drive
4. Please Practice Good Digital Citizenship
5. MoocNote Offers a Chrome Extension for Taking Notes on Videos
6. Would You Rather? - Quick Math Challenges
7. 18 Cartoon Videos About Cyber Safety for Students

This week I conducted a webinar called Search Strategies Students Need to Know. The webinar was sold out. Many people have asked about accessing the recording. The recording of that webinar and all of the others in my Wednesday Webinar series are now available on-demand.

Do you need a workshop or keynote speaker this spring or summer? 
My calendar is filling up, but I still have some dates available. Click here to learn more about workshops and presentations.

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.
QuickKey saves teachers tons of time when scoring formative assessments.
WriteReader is a fantastic multimedia writing tool for elementary school students.
Math Playground offers hundreds of math games and tutorial videos. 
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.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosts workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explainer videos.

Take a Virtual Tour of Petra In Google Cardboard or In Street View

Last year Google added a virtual tour of Petra to its collection of landmarks that you can see in-depth in Google Maps Street View. This week that tour was updated for viewing in Google Cardboard VR headsets. Much of the imagery used in the tour was captured by a Street View Trekker camera. Take a quick tour of the imagery by watching the video below. Check out the Petra virtual tours here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Three Ways to Create Stop-motion Videos

Creating stop-motion and time-lapse videos can be a good way for students to tell a story that they have developed. Stop-motion and time-lapse videos can also be helpful when teachers are trying to help students see how a lengthy process like osmosis works. The following free tools make it relatively easy to create stop-motion and time-lapse videos.

Parapara Animation is a free animation creation tool developed and hosted by Mozilla. The tool is easy to use and it does not require registration in order to use it. To get started simply visit the Parapara Animation website, select a digital crayon, then start drawing. Click the large "+" icon in the top of the screen to add a new frame to your animation. You can playback your frames at any time in the creation process. When you're done making your animation it will be assigned a unique URL that can be shared via email. A QR code for your animation will also be generated for you.

JellyCam. JellyCam is a free program (available for Mac and Windows) for creating stop motion movies. In the video below I demonstrate how to use JellyCam to create a simple stop motion movie.

JellyCam uses the Adobe Air platform. If you don't have Adobe Air Runtime it takes just a couple of minutes to install.

OSnap is an iPad app (available in a free version and in a paid version) that you can use to create stop motion and time lapse videos. The app is quite easy to use. To create a video with the OSnap app you simply need to start a project and take a series of still pictures using your iPad’s camera. Then adjust the number of frame per second to edit your video. If you want to, you can add a sound track to your video by selecting audio files that are stored on your iPad. You can go back and edit your videos by removing images and from the project at any time. Completed projects can be stored on your iPad, uploaded to YouTube, or shared via email.

Reading Rockets Provides Students With Daily Reading Tips

Reading Rockets Reading Tip of the Day widget does exactly what its name implies, it provides daily reading tips. The widget can be installed in your blog or website.

Applications for Education
The Reading Tip of the Day widget could be a good addition to your school blog or website. The widget provides a tips that parents can reinforce with their children at home.

Two New Google Calendar Features Help You Schedule Meetings

Google Calendar's web interface got a helpful update this week. It now includes the same "smart scheduling" features for rooms and times that the Google Calendar Android and iOS apps provide. This means that Google Calendar in your web browser will now suggest a meeting room for you based on the rooms that you have previously used.

The other new feature is a "find a time" tab in Google Calendar. This feature will show you the timezones that your Calendar event guests live in.

It is important to note that these features are available to G Suite users and may take a few days to appear in your G Suite account.

Applications for Education
The room suggestion feature could be helpful when you need to find a meeting place within your school. The "find a time" feature might be helpful if you are trying to connect classrooms for a Skype or Google Hangout meeting.

Create Audio Recordings and Save Them In Google Drive

TwistedWave is an audio recording and editing tool that is included in Next Vista's list of recommended tools. Through TwistedWave you can create and edit spoken audio recordings from scratch. Your completed tracks can be exported to Google Drive and SoundCloud.

If you have existing audio tracks in your SoundCloud or Google Drive account you can also import it into TwistedWave to edit those audio tracks.

TwistedWave's audio editing tools include options for fade-in, fade-out, looping, sound normalization, and pitch adjustments. The editor also includes the typical track clipping tools that you would expect to see in an audio editing tool.

You will have to create a free TwistedWave account in order to create and or edit a track of more than thirty seconds in length.

Applications for Education
TwistedWave could be a good audio track creation and editing tool for students and teachers that are using Chromebooks. The integration with Google Drive makes it easy for students to save their works and share their recordings with their teachers.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Using Storyboards to Analyze Shakespeare

Creating a storyboard can be a good way to organize a story and plan a video project. As Rebecca Ray shares in the slides below, creating storyboards can also be a good way to deconstruct and analyze a story.

Share my-lesson-webinar-on-shakespeare from Richard Byrne

The recording of Rebecca Ray's presentation is embedded below.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers. 

Would You Rather? - Quick Math Challenges

Would You Rather? is a website maintained by John Stevens for the purpose of sharing quick and fun math challenges for students.  Would You Rather? presents a picture with a mathematics problem that asks "would you rather?" Most of the questions have a financial aspect to them. One of my favorite examples is this challenge that asks "would you rather go on a 5 minute shopping spree in the store of your choice or get a $2,000 gift card to the store of your choice?"

Would You Rather? offers a simple worksheet that your students can use to analyze the choices presented to them in the challenges.

Applications for Education
In my email to Jamie I mentioned that Would You Rather? is a resource that I could see myself using in an Intro to Personal Finances course. Would You Rather? provides a great context for math lessons that students can relate to.

If You Missed a Wednesday Webinar...

Six Practical Ed Tech Wednesday Webinars were offered in December and January. Many people have asked about accessing the recordings. All of the recordings and corresponding handouts are now available on-demand on PracticalEdTech.com. A brief description of each of the webinars is included below.

Search Strategies Students Need to Know
In Search Strategies Students Need to Know you will learn why informational searches are the hardest types of Internet searches for students to conduct. You will learn how to help students break-down complex search topics into manageable pieces then put the whole picture together. You’ll learn how to help your students save students tons of time by thinking before searching. And you’ll how to develop instructional search challenge activities to use with students of any age.

Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners
In this webinar you will everything you need to know to get started using Google Forms and Google Sheets to streamline your workflow in grading quizzes, emailing parents and students, and keeping track of classroom materials. You will also learn how to build self-guided video review activities for your students. Google Forms and Sheets can complete all kinds of tasks for you, if you know how to use them. Once you’ve learned the basics of Google Forms and Google Sheets you will be amazed at how these powerful tools can streamline processes for you. Those streamlined processes can free up lots of time for you to spend on the fun aspects of teaching.

Winning Blog Strategies
If you have ever started a blog only to see it slide out of view, this webinar is for you. Based on ten years of blogging professionally and personally, in this interactive webinar we will look at the reasons why so many blogs don’t last long and what you can do to make yours work. Whether blogging is a classroom activity that you do with students or a personal activity that you’re doing to enhance your professional life, you’ll learn strategies to make your blog a winner.

Fun Formative Assessments
As good teachers know, gauging your students’ understanding of the topics you teach is a process that involves discussion, a bit of intuition, and some formative assessment activities. In this webinar you will learn how to use free tech tools to create and conduct fun, engaging, and informative formative assessments. Whether you teach elementary school, middle school, or high school, you will come away from this webinar with fun formative assessment activities that you can do tomorrow. Fun Formative Assessments addresses the needs of teachers who don’t have computers or tablets for every student. And teachers who do have laptops, Chromebooks, or tablets for every student will learn some new ways to have students use those too.

Quick & Powerful Video Projects
When students create projects that are only shared in the classroom, they’ll settle for good enough. As my friend Rushton Hurley often says, “when students create videos that are shared with a global audience, they’ll only settle for the best.” In this webinar you will learn how to design a video project for your students. You will learn how to use the tools you will need to conduct video creation projects in your classroom. Examples from real students and teachers are shared during the webinar.

YouTube, It’s Not Just Cats & Khan Academy
There is a lot more to YouTube than meets the eye. Sure, you can search for educational videos to share with your students. But did you know that you can have students search and share their findings with you? Or that you and your favorite colleagues can collaborate to create a master playlist of educational videos for your students? YouTube has a slew of frequently overlooked video creation and editing tools built into it. Those tools make YouTube a better educational tool than meets the eye. You can use these tools to protect students’ privacy, to create choose-your-own-adventure videos, to make slow motion videos, or to just make your videos look a little bit better. All of those things and more will be covered in this webinar.

Click here to get the webinar recordings.

Richard, why do you charge for the webinars? 
I explain the answer in this video