Google
 

Monday, December 31, 2018

These Chrome Extensions Show Vocabulary Words When You Open New Tabs

Opening a new Chrome tab so that you can check Facebook for "just a minute" is a dangerous game. If it's not Facebook it could be any number of equally time-sucking sites like Pinterest, Twitter, or YouTube. In the past I've suggested using Recall Study Time to see a reminder whenever a new Chrome tab is opened. That extension just shows you a reminder to get back on task. Another option is to try one of the following extensions that show you a vocabulary word or review question whenever a new Chrome tab is opened.

New Tab Quizlet is a Chrome extension that will display a flashcard from your Quizlet sets whenever you open a new tab. If you have questions on your cards, you'll see the question and answer. If you have vocabulary words on your cards, you'll see the word and definition.

FlashTabs is a Chrome extension that will show you one of your flashcards whenever you open a new tab. FlashTabs does require that you create your flashcards on their site. When you open a new tab you will see one of the flashcard questions. The answer is only revealed when you choose to see it. FlashTabs is probably a better choice for those who don't have Quizlet accounts.

The Ten Most Watched Ed Tech Tutorial Videos of 2018

More than 13,000 of you are now subscribed to my YouTube channel. These were the ten most watched videos on my YouTube channel in 2018. Interestingly, despite publishing more than 100 new videos in 2018, nine of the ten most-watched videos of the year were made in 2017 or earlier.

How to Add Your Voice to Google Slides this video was originally published in 2017.


How to Use Padlet. (originally published in 2013, the updated version is embedded below).


Installing Back-up and Sync for Google Drive on Windows 10

How to Add Music to Google Slides


How to Use Flipgrid - See Updated Guide Here


How to Use Adobe Spark


How to Create a QR Code for a Google Form


How to Use Google's VR Tour Creator


How to Share Videos Through Google Drive


How to Create a Timeline in Google Slides

Quick Tips for Changing the Layout of Your Google Drive

Sometimes a small change to the user interface of a web tool can make a huge difference in how quickly you use that tool. Case in point, the grid or "material" view in Google Drive drives me crazy. I much prefer a list of folders and files to a grid display of those same folders and files. Other people love the grid view and hate the linear view. Similarly, some people like desktop reminders while I can't stand the distraction. Fortunately, Google makes it easy to modify the layout and features of your Google Drive dashboard.

In the following video I demonstrate how you can change the layout of your Google Drive dashboard.


Learn more about Google Drive and G Suite in my online course, Getting Going With G Suite

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Best of 2018 - 250+ Google Tools Tutorial Videos for Teachers

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from August.

A few years ago I decided to start making video tutorials for the many Google tools that I write about on this blog and feature in some of my professional development workshops. This week I created my 250th Google tools tutorial. All of my Google tools tutorial videos can be found in this YouTube playlist. The tutorials in the playlist cover a wide range of features of Google tools for teachers and students. I've embedded a few of the highlights of the playlist below.

How to Record Audio in Google Slides


How to Measure Distances in Google Earth


How to Create Comic Strips in Google Slides


How to Use Data Validation in Google Forms

Best of 2018 - Create Jeopardy Games in Google Slides

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from August.

I think I was in the second grade the first time that I played Jeopardy-style review game. More than three decades later playing Jeopardy-style games is a still a popular way to host review sessions in classrooms. You can make your own Jeopardy games that include pictures and videos in Google Slides. In the following video I demonstrate how you can make your own Jeopardy games in Google Slides.

Best of 2018 - The Periodic Table in Pictures and Words

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from July.

The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words is an interactive site that shows students how each element is used or is present in familiar products. When students click on an element in the interactive display an image of a familiar product or object appears along with a description of the element and its characteristics. For example, if you click on aluminum an image of airplane appears along with a description of aluminum, its uses, and its characteristics.

The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words was created by Keith Enevoldsen. He also offers free PDFs of The Periodic Table, in Pictures and Words. Should you choose, you can support Keith by purchasing a poster of the table.

Applications for Education
The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words could be a great resource for middle school science classrooms. It also provides a nice model for an assignment in which you have your students pick an element and then try to identify as many products as possible that contain that chosen element.

H/T to Lifehacker

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Best of 2018 - Create a Video Lesson Completely in PowerPoint

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from May.

One of the easier ways to get started making your own video lessons is found within a tool that some of us have been using for decades. That tool is PowerPoint.

There is a screen recorder built into the current Windows desktop version of PowerPoint. The screen recorder will capture anything that you display on your screen and will record you talking about what is displayed on your screen. You can specify how much of your screen you want to have recorded. This means that you could use the screen recorder to record yourself talking over the slides that you have in a PowerPoint presentation.

Follow these steps to create a simple video lesson in PowerPoint:
  1. Create your slides in PowerPoint or open an existing PowerPoint presentation.
  2. Create a blank slide then select "screen recording" from within the "insert" menu.
  3. Drag and drop the "select area" tool to select the amount of screen space you want to have recorded. If you want to record your full screen, just drag the "select area" to the edge of your screen. (The select area tool launches automatically when you select "screen recording" as directed in step 2).
  4. Make sure that you have turned on the audio recording option and that your computer's audio input is working.
  5. Click the record button. All actions on your screen will be recorded including transitions between slides.
  6. When you stop recording, the video will be saved in your PowerPoint presentation. When you share your PowerPoint presentation anyone who has the current version of PowerPoint will be able to view the video. 
This post was updated on May 7th to reflect that these steps only work for the current Windows version of PowerPoint. It doesn't work on PowerPoint for Mac. 

Drawings, Emojis, and Passwords - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where Santa is about to visit my daughters, again. We spent actual Christmas day traveling back from Florida where we visited grandma and uncles. So this morning my girls are having a second visit from Santa. (Santa's reindeer take a long time to go from Florida to Maine, if you ask my toddler). I hope that all of you have something equally fun planned for the weekend. Before my daughters toddle out of bed, I have this week's list of the most-read posts of the week.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Best of 2018 - Ten Overlooked Google Docs Features
2. Best of 2018 - Ten Free Apps for Elementary School Math Lessons
3. Best of 2018 - Interactive Periodic Table of Elements
4. Canvas - A Good Alternative to Google Drawings for Tablet Users
5. How to Make Your Own Emojis - And How to Use Them in a Lesson
6. Terrible Passwords, Password Security, and Protecting Your Online Account
7. Best of 2018 - Free Hands-on STEM Lesson Plans

Three Online PD Courses Starting in January
I'm offering three professional development courses to start 2019. Discounted early registration is now open for:
Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com book me today.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
TypingClub offers more than 600 typing lessons for kids.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.

Seterra offers a huge selection of geography games for students. 

Best of 2018 - New Ways to Customize Google Forms

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from June.

For years and years people have asked me if there is way to customize the fonts in Google Forms. And for years and years I've had to say no. That is finally going to change! Yesterday, Google announced the addition of new Google Forms customization options.

Choose Your Font Style
You can now choose from a selection of fonts to use in your form's title and in the questions in your form.

Mix and Match Theme and Background Colors
For many years you've been able to choose a form theme and even upload your own images to use in your form's theme. However, you couldn't customize the form's appearance much more than that. Soon you'll be able to change the background color of your form independently from the the color of the header. You'll still be able to upload an image to use in your header too.

You can find the new customization options by clicking on the palette icon in a Google Forms header. (That's the same icon you use to change the header color now).

The new Google Forms customization options will be rolling out over the next fifteen days. If you don't see them in your account today, don't worry, you'll get them soon.


Learn more about Google Forms in on my on-demand training, Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Best of 2018 - How to Use Google's VR Tour Creator

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from May.

A few hours ago Google announced the launch of their new VR Tour Creator. This free tool lets everyone create their own virtual tours to view in Google Cardboard and or in the Chrome web browser. Tours are created by selecting locations in Google Maps and then selecting 360 degree Street View imagery. There's also an option to upload your own 360 degree imagery.

This afternoon I made a couple of tours with the VR Tour Creator. The process of creating a tour in the Tour Creator is straight-forward one. Watch my video embedded below to learn how you and your students can create virtual reality tours in Tour Creator.


Updated videos since this post was originally written:

How to Include Narration in a VR Tour:

How to Add Points of Interest in a VR Tour:

How to Share VR Tours With Students:

Three Ways You Can Earn a Side Income Online (After School Ends)

The Internet provides many opportunities for people to earn a side income online. If you're reading this blog, you're helping me make some of my income. But there are other ways that teachers can make a side income online. In the following video and in this blog post that I published yesterday I explain the basics of affiliate marketing, online teaching/ tutoring services, and selling digital products like lesson plans.


It was at this time ten ago that I bought a few domains to carve-out my niche in the educational technology landscape. I had been blogging for a year at that time and with a nudge from Allen Stern I finally bought a few domains and moved off of a .blogspot address. The timing was perfect because I was on school vacation and I had a little time to tinker. The timing was also perfect because I needed to figure out a way to make a little side income and blogging seemed to be a means toward that end. I was thinking about that yesterday when I published three ways teachers can earn a side income online.

Slides from the video:


Ditch TPT & Sell Your Digital Products

From Blog to Job - TeacherPreneur Jumpstart

Best of 2018 - PhET PowerPoint Add-in

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from April.

PhET is a free resource that has been popular with science and math teachers for many years. PhET provides free interactive math and science simulations covering topics in physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, and mathematics. In the PhET library you'll find simulations appropriate for elementary, middle, high school, and university students. PhET even offers a search tool that will help you find lesson ideas built upon the free simulations.

56 of the PhET simulations are available to insert into PowerPoint presentations through the use of PhET's free PowerPoint Add-in. With the Add-in installed you can browse the available simulations and insert them into your slides. The simulations work in your slide just as they do on the PhET website.

Applications for Education
The PhET PowerPoint Add-in could be time-saver if you are planning to use more than one simulation during a lesson. Rather than clicking through menus or clicking through bookmarks to bring-up the right simulation, you could just create a slideshow that has your PhET simulations arranged in the sequence you plan to use them during your lesson.

Best of 2018 - Five Options for Creating Animated Videos on Chromebooks

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from May.

Creating animated videos can be a great way for students to explain a science concept, to tell a history story, or to bring to life short stories they've written. One of last week's most popular posts was about how to do those things on an iPad. Chromebook users have some good tools available to them too.

Option 1: Toontastic 3D
If you have a Chromebook that supports the use of Android apps, Toontastic 3D is a tool you must try. On Toontastic 3D students can pick from a variety of story setting templates or they can create their own. Once they have established a background setting students then select cartoon characters to use in their stories. Students can choose from a wide array of customizable cartoon characters or they can create their own from scratch. Once characters are placed into the story scenes students can begin recording themselves talking while moving the characters around in each scene. Students can swap characters between scenes, change the appearance of characters between scenes, and move characters from one scene to the next. Check this list to see if your Chromebook supports the use of Android apps.

Option 2: Animaker Edify
Animaker Edify is the classroom version of the popular Animaker animation creation tool. To create a video on Animaker Edify students start by selecting “video” from the menu of project options. Then they can choose to make a video by following a template or by building from scratch. Creating a video in Animaker Edify is done on a frame-by-frame basis. Each frame can be designed by dragging and dropping individual characters, speech bubbles, background scenes, and clip art into the scene. Animaker Edify provides tools for animating each character. For example, you can make a character appear to be running across the screen, walking, or talking. You can build as many characters and animation actions into each scene as you need. Once you have built the frames for your video you can add sound effects, music, or narration. Animake Edify provides a large gallery of royalty-free music and sound effects that you can use. But you can also record your own voice by using the built-in voice-over capability.

Option 3: PowToon
Creating a video on PowToon is similar to making one on Animaker Edify. It has been a popular platform for creating animated videos for many years. In PowToon students create animated videos on a scene-by-scene basis through a series of slides. Students can choose background scenes, characters, and scene objects from a huge media gallery. After configuring the scenes of their stories, students can record voiceovers or play music in the background.

Option 4: Animatron
Animatron is a nice tool for creating animated videos and images. To create a video on Animatron you start by dragging and dropping characters on a background scene and then choosing how long each character will be displayed in a scene. You can also set the length of time for each character in a scene to be in motion. By using Animatron's timeline editor you can make objects appear and disappear from a scene. The best feature of Animatron is that you can record audio directly over the animation. The built-in recording tools lets you see the scene while you're recording so that you can precisely synchronize each scene with its audio track.

Option 5: MySimpleShow
MySimpleshow is a free tool for creating Common Craft-style explanatory videos. MySimpleshow requires you to write a script for your video before you can start adding illustrations and sounds to it. In MySimpleshow you will find a wide variety of script templates that will help you plan your video. The script is written in chapters that become the outline for your video. After you have written your script MySimpleshow will take your chapters and give you suggested images and animations to use. The suggestions are based on the keywords in your script. You also have the option to upload your own visuals to use in your video. Adding narration to your video is the last step in the MySimpleshow editor. There is an automated text-to-speech narration that will read your script as narration for your video. Completed videos can be downloaded and or directly uploaded to YouTube from MySimpleshow.

Disclosure: Animaker and Mysimpleshow have been advertisers on this blog at various times. 

Best of 2018 - NASA's Interactive Guide to the Solar System

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from April.

I have been reviewing and sharing sharing resources from NASA for almost as long as this blog has existed. Somehow, I missed NASA's Solar System Exploration until it was mentioned last week on Maps Mania.

NASA's Solar System Exploration website contains interactive displays of the planets, dwarf planets, and moons of our solar system. To launch an interactive display just choose one of the planets, dwarf planets, or moons from the menu in the site's header. Each display includes little markers in it. Click one of the markers to open a side panel that contains information about that particular feature of the planet, dwarf planet, or moon. Below each interactive display you'll find additional facts and figures.

Applications for Education
Google Earth (the desktop version) has files for displaying the moon and Mars. But to explore the rest of the solar system, NASA Solar System Exploration is a must-bookmark. It could make a great reference site for middle school science classes.

Best of 2018 - Adobe Launches Spark for Education

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from April.

Earlier this year at the BETT Show Adobe announced that they would launching a new version of Adobe Spark designed specifically for school use. That new version is finally here. Earlier today Adobe launched Spark for Education.

Spark for Education is a free service that Adobe has launched to address the concerns that schools have had about Spark since it's launch a few years ago. The biggest of those concerns being use by students under the age of 13. Spark for Education is designed for school-wide deployment (much like G Suite for Education) in a manner that is COPPA compliant. The school will be able to manage student and teacher use of Spark including access to the service itself. Additionally, Spark for Education will provide students and teachers with free access to all of premium features of Adobe Spark.

Applications for Education
From a previous post that I published about Adobe Spark, here are ten ways to use Adobe Spark.

Post:
Post is the part of the Adobe Spark that lets you create graphics like posters, announcements, and Internet memes.
  • Students and teachers can create simple posters to print and post in their schools to announce club meetings, campaigns for class elections, or to post encouraging messages to students.
  • To help students understand and show that they understand what propaganda messages look like, I have had them create simple early 20th Century-style propaganda posters of their own. Adobe Spark has built-in Creative Commons search that can help students find pictures to use for those posters. Students can also upload pictures they've found in the public domain.
  • Create a meme-style graphic to share on your classroom, library, or school website. The graphic could be intended to encourage students and parents to remind each other of an upcoming school event. You could also create a meme to encourage students to continue reading over the summer. 
Video:
As the name implies, this is the Adobe Spark tool for creating videos. Videos are created by adding text and images to slides. You can record yourself talking over each slide. A library of free music is available to layer under your narration or you can use that music in lieu of narration.

  • Create a short flipped-lesson with Adobe Spark. The recording tool makes it easy to precisely record your narration over the slides in your lesson. 
  • Have your students create video lessons. The slide aspect of Adobe Spark's video tool lends itself to students creating short Ken Burns-style documentary videos. Have them use Spark's search tool to find images to use in their videos or have them use a place Flickr's The Commons to find historical images. I've had students make this style of video to tell the stories of people moving west across the United States in the 19th Century. 
  • This is the time of year for end-of-school assemblies and celebrations. Use Adobe Spark's video creation tool to make a video of highlights of the school year. Rather than narrating the video you can use music from Adobe Spark's library. 
Page:
Page is the tool for creating simple web pages to showcase pictures, posters, videos, text, and links. 
  • Create an event invitation page. Create a page that outlines the highlights of an upcoming school event like a fundraiser or open house night. Include images of past events, images of prizes, or include a video about the event. Should you need people to register for your event, include a link to a Google Form. (Learn how to use Google Forms).
  • Create a digital portfolio. Spark pages provide a great format for digital portfolios. Students can organize their pages into sections to showcase videos they've made, documents they've written, and their reflections on what they've learned. 
  • Make a multimedia timeline. While it wasn't designed specifically for making timelines, Spark Page's formatting does lend itself to timelines. Ask your students to research a series of events, find media representative of those events, caption the events and media with dates, and then place them into the proper order.
  • Write an image-based story. Students can write a story about themselves by using pictures they've taken placed into a Spark Page. Another way to think about image-based stories is to have students search for images and use them as writing prompts. Ask them to choose five pictures and write a story that connects the images. 

Adobe Spark works in your web browser including on Chromebooks. Adobe Spark is also available as a series of iPad apps for Page, Video, and Post. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Best of 2018 - Top 5 Choices for Making Multimedia Quizzes

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from March.

Over the years I have tried and written reviews of dozens of tools that teachers can use to create multimedia quizzes. But at the end of the day there is just a handful of tools that I consistently think of when it is time to make a quiz myself. Those tools are included in the following chart. Links to video tutorials for each tool are included in the chart.


Click here if you cannot see the embedded chart.

A few points about the items in the chart:
  • Formative supports embedding media from third parties. That means that you could include an embedded audio file from a source like Vocaroo or Anchor.fm. 
  • Vizia responses land in a spreadsheet or CSV file of your choosing. 
  • If you're wondering why I didn't include Kahoot or programs like it, I put Kahoot in the category of "game" and not something I would use for an assessment that would go into my gradebook. 

How to Make Your Own Emojis - And How to Use Them in a Lesson

During the summer Tony Vincent helped me see emojis as more than just annoying symbols that people use in text messages and social media posts. He did that with a slick graphic that he created and shared on Twitter. In the graphic, seen here, he created a game in which students have to decipher school terms based on the emojis displayed. If you want to create a similar activity, you can do so by using emojis that are built into Google Docs or by creating your own emojis with this simple tool that I demonstrate in the video embedded below.


And here's a video to show you how to add emojis to Google Docs.

Best of 2018 - Free Hands-on STEM Lesson Plans

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular post of 2018. Here's one from February.

"Hacking STEM" was one of the initiatives that Microsoft was heavily promoting at the BETT Show last month. I asked a few Microsoft employees what "hacking STEM" meant. They all replied with explanations that centered on the idea of providing teachers with hands-on STEM lessons and projects that can be done without having to spend much money, if any, on physical materials. One of the many examples that Microsoft had on display to represent their hacking STEM projects was the homemade wave machine pictured in this blog post. You can find directions for that project here (link opens PDF).

Microsoft's Hacking STEM Library is divided into activities that take multiple days to complete and activities that can be completed in one day. All of the activities in the Hacking STEM Library include detailed directions, materials lists including places to acquire materials, and lesson objectives. The homemade wave machine project is an example of a one-day project. This lesson on harnessing electricity to communicate is an example of a multiple day project.

Best of 2018 - How to Create a Bingo Board With Google Sheets

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog.  As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from February.

Flippity is one of my favorite Google Sheets Add-ons because it gives you direct access to sixteen templates that you can use to create games, progress trackers, and random name selectors. One of Flippity's most popular templates, the Bingo template, was recently updated to allow you to include pictures in your Bingo games.

Flippity's Bingo template is easy to follow. Just the complete the steps listed here and you're ready to publish your game. You can print game cards to distribute to your students or you can have them play online.

It is important to note that in order to use images in the Flippity Bingo template the images must be hosted online and publicly accessible. A host like Flickr is ideal for this purpose. Google Drive doesn't work for this purpose. Likewise, any site that blocks hotlinking will not work for this purpose.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Best of 2018 - Interactive Periodic Table of Elements

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from February.

There are lots of websites offering interactive or dynamic periodic tables. One that has been around for many years now is Ptable. Ptable is an interactive display of the Periodic Table of Elements. Place your mouse pointer over an element to access the basic information about it. Click on an element to open a Wikipedia article about that element. The article opens within a dialogue box within Ptable so that you don't have to leave the site and then come back to use the table again.

Applications for Education
Ptable is not going to revolutionize the way that students learn the Periodic Table, but it is another example of making academic information more accessible than in the past. Students don't need to lug around a big chemistry text when they can simply access resources like Ptable to get much of the same information from their Internet-connected devices.

Best of 2018 - Ten Free Apps for Elementary School Math Lessons

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from January.

Math Learning Center offers ten free apps that are designed for teaching elementary school mathematics lessons. All of the apps are available in versions as free iPad apps, as Chrome apps, and for use in the web browser of any computer. With the exception of the flashcards app, all of the Math Learning Center's free apps are designed to provide you and your students with virtual manipulatives. By the way, the flashcard app is available in English and Spanish.

Last week I included Math Learning Center's Geoboard in my round-up of math resources. Geoboard is a good example of how all of the apps are intended to be used. Geoboard is a free app on which students stretch virtual rubber bands over pegboards to create lines and shapes to learn about perimeter, area, and angles. Another app features US currency to help students learn to add and subtract money. The Pattern Shapes app is designed to help students recognize and develop patterns by moving colorful shapes into place.

Applications for Education
It is important to note that except for the flashcard app all of the Math Learning Center apps are really just virtual manipulatives designed to be used as a part of lesson plan not as stand-alone practice apps. You will need to provide your students with feedback when they are using these apps.

Best of 2018 - Ten Overlooked Google Docs Features

This week is a vacation week for the vast majority of readers of this blog. As I do at this time every year, I'm going to republish some of the most popular posts of 2018. Here's one from January.

Google Docs has a lot of features that new users often don't notice. Some these are features that even experienced Google Docs users overlook. Some of these features will save you time, some will give you more formatting flexibility, and others will improve the way that you share your documents.

1. Word Art
Just like in Google Slides, you can insert Word Art into Google Documents. The process of using Word Art requires that you use the "drawing" option found in the "insert" drop-down menu. Word Art is great for inserting colorful headlines into your documents.

2. Insert your signature
Once again the "drawing" option found in the "insert" drop-down menu is quite helpful. Use the drawing pad's free-form line drawing tool to create your signature and insert it into a document. You can do this with a mouse, but if you have a touch-screen computer it is even easier to do. Inserting your signature is a great way to personalize letters that you send home to parents.

3. File Export
Not everyone with whom you have to share documents is going to jump on the Google Docs bandwagon. For example, I used to write for a publication that only accepted Word files. That didn't mean that I had to write my articles in Word. I wrote my articles in Google Docs then just downloaded those articles as Word docs before sending them off as attachments. You can also download your Google Documents as PDFs, Rich Text documents, HTML, Plain Text, Open Document, and ePub.

4. Sharing Restrictions
One the original selling points of Google Docs was document sharing and collaboration. That feature is still the thing that makes Google Docs special. In fact, just yesterday at the BETT Show I saw someone presenting just that feature. But sometimes you want to share your documents without letting other people make copies of them or print them. So when you open your sharing settings select "advanced" and you can prevent people from copying, downloading, or printing your documents.

Restricting printing is a great option to use when you just want someone to look at your document for a final review but you don't want them to print it. For example, when writing up a IEP you might want a colleague to look at it, but you don't want him or her to print it because you know that he or she is the one who sends everything to a network printer and then forgets to pick it up for an hour.

5. Voice Typing
It used to be that you needed a third-party application in order to use voice input in Google Docs. Now you can just open the "tools" drop-down menu and select "voice typing" to start using voice input into Google Documents.

6. Google Keep Notepad
Are your students using Google Keep to bookmark references for inclusion in a research paper? If so, they can access those bookmarks without having to leave Google Docs. They can access those bookmarks and insert them into their documents by opening the Google Keep Notepad from the "tools" drop-down menu.

7. Change Default Page Layout
The question that new Google Docs users ask me more than any other is, "can I use landscape mode?" Yes, you can use landscape mode. Open the "file" drop-down menu and select "page setup." From there you can change the page orientation, the page size, change and set default margins, and you can even change the page's background color.

8. Columns & Grids
Need columns in your document? You can insert those from the "format" drop-down menu. However, the columns will apply to the whole page. If you only need columns for part of the page, use the "table" drop-down menu to insert a simple 1x2 table. The table's cells will expand as you type.

9. Headers, Footers, and Page Numbers
In the early years of Google Docs headers, footers, and page numbers had to be manually inserted. Today, you can have headers, footers, and page numbers automatically inserted into your document by making those selections from the "insert" menu. You can even apply them retroactively.

10. Import & Convert Word Documents
If your school is transitioning from a Windows environment to a G Suite environment, you probably have old Word documents that you'd prefer to not have to copy and paste or rewrite entirely. You can import and have those old documents instantly converted to Google Docs format. There are two ways to do this. First, if you just have one or two documents you can import them by selecting "file upload" in Google Docs. Second, if you have a lot of Word documents, bundle them into a folder then use the "folder upload" function in Google Drive. Just make sure your Google Drive settings (the gear icon in the upper-right corner) is set to "automatically convert to Google Docs."

Readers' Choice Winners

Last week I posted the final nominations for the Free Technology for Teachers Readers' Choice awards. The final voting closed over the weekend and the results are in.

2018 Free Technology for Teachers Readers' Choice awards

Best Virtual Reality App

  • Google Expeditions

Best Augmented Reality App
  • Anatomy 4D 

Best Digital Portfolio App/ Website
  • Google Sites

Best Video Creation Tool
  • WeVideo

Best Podcast Recording and Editing App or Service
  • Spreaker Studio

Best Formative Assessment Tool
  • CoRubrics

Best Blog or Website Creation Tool
  • Google Sites

Favorite Chrome App/ Extension
  • CoRubrics

Favorite Google Docs/ Sheets/ Slides Add-on
  • CoRubrics

In the interest of transparency, I should have required email addresses for voting. Here's the spreadsheet of final votes

Six On-demand PD Webinars in One Bundle

Throughout the year many of you participated in one of my Practical Ed Tech professional development webinars. Thank you so much for helping to keep FreeTech4Teachers.com running by registering for those webinars.

If you missed one of the Practical Ed Tech webinars this year, you can now get the six most popular of 2018 in one convenient bundle. This bundle will be available until midnight (ET) on December 31st. The bundle includes the recording of the webinars and their corresponding digital handouts.


The webinars included in this package are:
  • Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know
  • Getting Organized With Google Classroom, Calendar, and Keep
  • Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners
  • 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom
  • Introduction to AR & VR in Education
  • 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons

Monday, December 24, 2018

Videezy - Free Video Clips for Multimedia Projects

Last week I shared a video overview of three great places to find free video clips to use in classroom projects. Videezy is another good site to add to that list. Videezy offers more than 1,000 video clips that you can download for free. The videos are organized into twelve categories. Within each category you'll find subcategories that make it easy to find the perfect video clip for your project.

Videezy does require you credit them for any other their video clips that you use unless you purchase a license to reuse the videos.

Applications for Education
Videezy could be a good option for students who need some short clips to include in larger video projects like school newscasts or mini-documentaries.

Learn more about student video projects in my upcoming course, Video Projects for Every Classroom

Vacation Project - Build the Coolest Machine Ever!

I know that the vast majority of you are on vacation right now. I also know that many of you have children who will be looking for fun things to do during vacation days. SciShow Kids has a couple of videos about hands-on science projects that kids can do at home. The first video is The Coolest Machine Ever! In this video students learn how to build a Rube Goldberg machine. They also learn who Rube Goldberg was.


SciShow Kids also recently released Make Your Own Cartoon! In that video students learn how old fashioned cartoons were made by using a series of drawings that are displayed in rapid succession. The real purpose of the video is to show students how to create a zoetrope to play a cartoon. That's something that kids can do at home with parents.

Canvas - A Good Alternative to Google Drawings for Tablet Users

Canvas is a new drawing tool from Google. Canvas is a great alternative to Google Drawings for iPad and Android tablet users. Canvas lets anyone create a drawing in his or her web browser by simply going to Canvas.apps.chrome. Once there you can start drawing on a blank canvas. There are four drawing tools that you can use to draw in a wide array of colors.

Canvas doesn't have to be used to create a drawing from scratch. You can upload a picture and draw on top of it. Either way, when your drawing is complete you can download it as a PNG file. All of your drawings are also stored in your Google account at canvas.apps.chrome. Watch my video that is embedded below to see Canvas in action.


Applications for Education
Canvas could be a good little tool for students to use to create mind maps on their tablets, phones, or laptops. It could also be good for annotating diagrams and pictures.

H/T to Chrome Unboxed

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Drawings, Emojis, and Passwords - The Week in Review


Pins, Maps, and Grids - The Week in Review

Good morning from Florida where we're visiting family for Christmas. Flying with two toddlers was a "fun" new experience. A couple of fun iPad apps, a pair of toddler headphones, and lots of snacks made the experience go relatively smoothly for everyone involved including the passengers near us. If you're traveling this week, I hope that it goes well for you. And to all of you who are on vacation for the next couple of weeks, enjoy it!

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Coming Soon - PIN Access to Google Drive Files
2. How to Use a Spreadsheet to Create a Map
3. Vote for Your Favorite Ed Tech Tools of 2018
4. 21 Places to Find Media for Classroom Projects
5. Learning About Microsoft's Tools for Inclusive Classrooms
6. How to Use Flipgrid on an iPad
7. Introduction to Using Google Expeditions in Your Classroom

Three Online PD Courses Starting in January
I'm offering three professional development courses to start 2019. Discounted early registration is now open for:
Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com book me today.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
TypingClub offers more than 600 typing lessons for kids.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.

Seterra offers a huge selection of geography games for students. 

Friday, December 21, 2018

Terrible Passwords, Password Security, and Protecting Your Online Account

Last week Splash Data revealed their annual list of worst passwords of the year. Many of those passwords will not be a surprise. Using "123456" and common words or names as your password is always a terrible idea. We all know that it is a terrible idea yet we all know someone who uses terrible passwords. This is a good time remind yourself or your loved ones to update passwords on a regular basis.

Crafting a strong password and periodically changing it is the first step in protecting your online accounts. Common Craft offers this excellent video on how to create a strong password.


Another step in protecting your online accounts is to use two-factor authentication whenever it is offered. For example, when I sign into my Google account on a new computer I not only have to enter my password, I also have to use my cell phone to verify that I'm signing into my account on a new computer. That concept and more are explained in Common Craft's Account Security video.


One more key tip for protecting your online accounts is to never trust text messages or emails that ask you to change your password or confirm account details unless you specifically requested to have your password reset. A scam that I've had a couple of friends ask me about recently involves getting a text message that purports to be from Apple technical support stating that their iTunes account were compromised and that they need to update their passwords. My advice is that if you think your account might have been compromised, don't click the link that was unexpectedly sent to you. Instead, go directly to your account on your computer, phone, or iPad and look for any suspicious activity. Apple tells users to only update passwords and account details that way or at http://appleid.apple.com/ Apple has more tips about keeping your account safe right here.

Disclosure: I have a long-standing in-kind relationship with Common Craft.  

H/T to Make Use Of for the Splash Data link. 

An Extensive Guide to Copyright and Fair Use

On Sunday I published a guide to locating media for use in classroom projects. In that guide I provided basic summaries of the concepts of public domain, Creative Commons, and fair use. In the section on fair use I referenced Stanford University Libraries' Copyright & Fair Use guide. That guide should be bookmarked by anyone who has questions about copyright and fair use.

The guide covers everything from the basics of copyright to the nuances of fair use. There is even a section devoted to academic fair use that should be of particular interest to teachers who publish lessons online. In the guide you will find templates for requesting permission to use copyrighted works. Use the template if you're in doubt about whether or not you can use someone else's work. And if you're looking to publish on your own website or blog, pay attention to the section titled Websites: Five Ways to Stay Out of Trouble.

Finally, if you'd like a copy of my guide to finding media to use in classroom projects, you can get a copy here as a Google Doc or here as a PDF.




Some of the resources featured in this guide are integral to my upcoming course Video Projects for Every Classroom.

Short Overviews of Immersive Reader in Word and OneNote

Immersive Reader is one of the central components of Microsoft's accessibility tools for inclusive classrooms. Immersive Reader will read documents aloud. It can be customized to highlight each word or each syllable as a document is read aloud. Users of Immersive Reader can also select the voice in which a document is read aloud and the speed with which the document is read aloud.

Immersive Reader is a part of Microsoft's Learning Tools which can be found in Word and OneNote. Watch the following video to see how Immersive Reader works in Word.

Watch this video for an overview of Immersive Reader in OneNote.


Immersive Reader on Macs and iPads.
Immersive Reader is not limited to those who use Windows. You can use Immersive Reader in Word for Mac. In fact, that's what I was using when I made the first video in this post. Immersive Reader is also available in Word for iPad and OneNote for iPad

Thursday, December 20, 2018

How to Use Flipgrid's Android App

Based on the number of videos that I have made about it in the last month, it is not a secret that I think Flipgrid is a fantastic tool for gathering feedback from students. One of the reasons that I like it so much is that it works equally well and is equally easy for students to use on all common classroom devices including iPads, Android tablets, Chromebooks, MacBooks, Surface Tablets, and regular old Windows computers. In the following video I demonstrate how students can use Flipgrid on Android phones or tablets.


Get the Flipgrid Android app here.

Free Technology for Teachers Readers' Choice Awards Voting is Open

Last week I asked you to nominate your favorite educational technology tools of the year. The nominations are in and the final voting is now open. Voting is open now through Sunday night (11:59pm ET). You can vote for one or all categories. You can vote for your favorites in the form embedded below. In an attempt to eliminate the spam problem that I had on the nomination form, I have required voters to be signed into a Google account in order to vote.


(I removed the categories of favorite iPad and Android apps because there weren't any apps that received more than one nomination).

Learning About Microsoft's Tools for Inclusive Classrooms

Yesterday Mike Tholfsen Tweeted about Microsoft's Teacher Training Packs. Teacher Training Packs are collections of resources that are designed to help IT administrators, technology specialists, and curriculum directors lead professional development workshops centered around various Microsoft tools (most of which are completely free for educators).

There are three categories of Teacher Training Packs. Those categories are Inclusive Classrooms, 21st Century Classrooms with Microsoft Teams, and Unlock Office 365 for the Classroom. Within each category you will find three to five packs that you can use to lead professional development. Each pack provides a detailed plan for leading a professional development workshop, slides, activities, and to-do lists. At the end of your workshop participants can take a quiz to show understanding of the new tools and materials.

One of the Teacher Training Packs that grabbed my attention was Literacy Tools for the Inclusive Classroom. This Teacher Training Pack introduces workshop participants to the Immersive Reader and Dictate tools. The session is more than just "how to" as it is focused on leading discussions around how these tools can help students access documents and slides. If you're not familiar with any of Microsoft's accessibility tools, take a look at this short video that I created about Immersive Reader.

How to Create a Custom Flipgrid Code

If you're a Flipgrid user you already know that each of your grids is given a default code and URL. But did you know that you can customize that code and URL? You don't have to use the default code and URL. You can customize it by making one small change in the grid set-up process. In the following video I demonstrate how to make that change to set a custom code for your Flipgrid grids.


If you have never used Flipgrid, but you want to give it a try, I have a complete start-to-finish tutorial available right here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

How to Use Flipgrid on an iPad

Last week I published a detailed tutorial on how to get started using Flipgrid in your classroom. In that tutorial I focused on using Flipgrid in the web browser on Mac, Windows, and Chrome OS computers. Students can also use Flipgrid on iPads. The Flipgrid iPad app is intended for student use not for teacher use. The app lets students respond to topics that you have posted for them. Just like in the web browser, students can use the Flipgrid iPad app to record videos and add stickers to those videos.

Watch my short video to learn how your students can use Flipgrid on their iPads.


On a related note, if you're in the market for a new iPad, Amazon has current generation iPads on sale for just $229 right now!