Thursday, August 17, 2017

8 Free Timers to Help You Keep Activities on Schedule

One of the challenges of teaching in a block schedule is that some high school and many middle school students struggle to focus for 80 minute, 90 minute, or longer blocks of time. I always try to break up blocks like this into shorter segments with breaks. To prevent breaks from running too long, I always use a timer. I also use timers to time break-out activities. Whenever it is possible to do so, I like to display the timer countdown on a projector or whiteboard so that all of the students can see it. Here are eight free timers that you can use for these purposes.

1. Simply type into a Google search "set timer" followed by an amount of time and a countdown timer is displayed. An alarm beeps when time is up. You can make the timer appear full screen without advertisements by clicking a little box icon to the right of the timer.

2. Russel Tarr's Classtools Countdown Timer has two slick features. You can create and set multiple timers on the same page. This means that if you had students sharing in rapid succession you wouldn't have to reset the timer for each student, you simply move onto using the next timer on the page. The second feature of note in the Classtools Countdown Timer is the option to add music to your timers. You can have your countdown timers set to music. Mission Impossible, The Apprentice, and Countdown are the standard music options. You can add other music by using the YouTube search tool built into the timer.

3. Zero Noise Classroom is a free Chrome App that lets you simultaneously display a countdown timer and a noise meter to your students. The directions about how to use Zero Noise Classroom are kind of hidden in the app so I made the following short video to demonstrate how to adjust the settings in the app.

4. Timer Pop allows you to create and save multiple timer settings. For example, if I want to have a count down that lasts for five minutes, a count down of fifteen minutes, and a count down of three minutes I can save them all. Then when I need one of them I'll just click on it to start the count down.

5. Online Stopwatch is a free website that gives you the choice of a stopwatch function or a countdown function. You can set the countdown timer for any length of time and an alarm sounds when time is up.

6. Online Egg Timer is a simple website offering three countdown timers on one screen. You can set just one timer or run all three at the same time with different settings. Registration is not required in order to use Online Egg Timer. Just go to the site, set the countdown timer(s) using the up and down arrows, then click "start timers."

7. Timer Tab is a free application offered through the Chrome Web Store and as a stand-alone website at As a Chrome app Timer Tab can be used online or offline. The website version of Timer Tab can only be used online. Both versions of Timer Tab offer a count-down timer, an alarm clock, and a stopwatch. For the count-down timer and the alarm clock you can select a video to play when time expires or when you've reached your specified alarm time. You do this by pasting the URL of a YouTube video into the "alarm" field below the timer. Also in both versions of Timer Tab you can customize the background by specifying an image URL.

8. offers two versions of their free countdown service. The regular Timerrr displays a dial like my grandmother used to have on top of her stove. The "egg timer" version displays an egg timer as the countdown device. Both can be used to set a countdown of up to sixty minutes.

5 Updates to Google Docs to Note

Throughout the summer Google added many new features to Google Forms and Google Classroom. Now it's time for Google Docs to get some updates.

Yesterday, Google announced some updates to Google Documents. Those updates mostly center around how keeping track of revisions to documents. One update was made to the Google Docs Templates Gallery.

1. Revision History is now called Version History. 
This isn't a huge change. It just reflects that you can now name the different revisions or versions of your Documents, Slides, and Sheets.

2. A new "clean" preview. 
This lets you see preview your document without the comments or edit suggestions made by your collaborators being displayed.

3. Make suggestions from Android or iOS devices. 
The menu in the bottom right corner of the document that you're viewing includes a new "suggest changes" option.

4. Accept or reject all changes in one fell swoop. 
Rather than manually rejecting or approving every suggested change individually, you can approve or reject them all as one group.

5. Add-ons included in new Google Docs templates. 
Not all of the templates in the Google Docs templates gallery include Add-ons, but some of them now do include pre-installed Add-ons. For example, the "reports" template now includes the EasyBib Add-on already installed.

How to Use Google Sheets to Create & Print Word Searches

Flippity is a service that I have been writing about for a few years now because they provide teachers with easy-to-use Google Sheets templates. The latest template released by Flippity enables you to quickly create a word search activity in Google Sheets. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Google Sheets to create and print a word search.

Learn more about Google Sheets in next week's Practical Ed Tech webinar, Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners

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