Google
 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Google Sites Conversion Tool Now Available to More Users

A couple of months ago Google introduced an easy way to convert old Google Sites to the new version of Google Sites. Availability of that tool has been mixed with some domains having access to it and others not seeing it at all. That's changing this week as Google has announced a full deployment of the Google Sites automatic conversion tool. The conversion tool lets you quickly recreate your existing classic (AKA old version) Google Site in the new version of Google Sites. Watch my video to see how you can convert your classic Google Site to the new version of Google Sites.


Just a reminder, the old version of Google Sites is going away. The new version does have some great features that the old version lacked.

Five Ways to Create Mind Maps and Flowcharts Online

Earlier this week Tony Vincent Tweeted an excellent graphic that he made to show the process of creating a flowchart in Google Drawings. Tony's graphics are always top notch and this one was not an exception to that rule. Check it out.



For those who would like a video overview of how to make a flowchart or mind map in Google Drawings, I have one for you.


You can do a similar thing in Google Slides and in PowerPoint.



Connected Mind is a free mind mapping tool that you can use in your web browser and is also available as an iOS app and as an Android app.


Finally, Padlet offers a nice feature that will let you collaboratively create flowcharts.

Exciting New Features Coming to Scratch Later This Year

Thanks to a Tweet from Helen Maddox I found an announcement from the MIT Scratch Team about the new features that will be available in Scratch starting in August. Scratch 3.0 will roll-out as a beta product in August.

Scratch 3.0 will offer some exciting new features including:
  • A new extension system for programming physical devices.
  • New characters, sounds, and backgrounds.
  • Updated editors for characters and sounds.
  • Improved support for use on tablets. 
The desktop versions of Scratch will continue to be available and be supported. Any existing projects that you have in the current version of Scratch will continue to exist even after Scratch 3.0 leaves the beta phase. And ScratchJr will still be available for younger students. 

Finding Old Maps Online

On Wednesday morning I shared a neat geography quiz that asks students to identify cities by looking at historic maps. In that blog post I suggested having students compare the historic maps shown in the quiz with other historic maps in order to come up with accurate responses on the quiz. Old Maps Online is a good site that your students can use to find historic maps. Old Maps Online is a map that you can browse and search to find historical maps to view online, to download, and to print. You can search the map by entering a location or you can just pan and zoom around the world to find historical maps. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Old Maps Online.

Common Craft Offers a Great Guide to Understanding the World Cup

Like many Americans, I don't really understand soccer so when the World Cup rolls around every four years I have to refresh my memory about the game. Fortunately for me, as they did four years ago, Common Craft has released an updated guide to understanding the World Cup.

Common Craft's Soccer Guide was made for folks like me who aren't well versed in the rules of soccer and the format of the World Cup. The Common Craft Soccer Guide contains twelve chapters about the format of the World Cup and the rules of soccer. Each chapter contains text and animated GIFs demonstrating the key points of each chapter. You can view all of the guide online.

Applications for Education
The Common Craft Soccer Guide is perfectly timed for the World Cup. After the World Cup the guide could be a good resource for introducing kids to the basics of soccer.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Otus Adds New Features Including a Lockdown Browser

Otus is a fantastic learning management system (LMS) that I've watched mature from its early iterations as an iPad-specific tool to a full-fledged LMS. This week, the folks at Otus announced a new round of updates to their LMS. Included in those update is a new lockdown browser mode that can be activated when students are completing an assessment delivered through Otus. Lockdown browser mode will keep students locked into the assessment until it is completed. As you can see in the screenshot below, there are also options to restrict printing and to assign time limits.

Other updates to Otus include a redesigned lesson builder, more reporting options, and more options for updating student profiles.

Applications for Education
The lockdown browser mode is one that a lot of teachers ask for. In fact, on Monday night I answered an email from a reader who was looking for a tool that would do exactly what lockdown browser mode does in Otus. Using lockdown mode could help to reduce the chances of students opening a second browser window to search for answers while completing an assessment online.

If you're going to be at the ISTE conference next week, stop by the Otus booth to see lockdown browser mode in action.

Identifying Cities from Historic Maps - A Geography Game

Late last year The Guardian published a challenging geography quiz. The quiz presents historic maps of ten cities. You have to identify the city by examining the map. The quiz is multiple choice so you do have a little bit of hint as there are only three choices for each map. The quiz gives instant feedback when you submit your answers. The ten cities in the quiz are Berlin, Tokyo, Mexico City, Barcelona, Sydney, London, Kolkata, Rome, Lima, and Vienna.

Applications for Education
The Guardian's historic city map quiz could be a good activity for students to complete. Rather than just guessing at the answers I would have students look at the answer choices then find historic maps of each city in the answer choices before making a selection. Students could use the David Rumsey Historic Map layer in Google Earth to find historic maps of cities. Students could also use Old Maps Online to find historic maps of cities.

H/T to Maps Mania

Anchor Now Has an iPad App for Easy Podcast Creation and Publication

Anchor is a free service that makes easy to record, edit, and publish your own podcasts. In fact, you can record and publish your first podcast in less than six minutes. You can use Anchor in your web browser, as an Android app, as an iPhone app, and now as an iPad app.

Yesterday, Anchor released a new iPad-specific app for recording and publishing your own podcasts. Anchor's iPad app lets you record, edit, and publish your recordings from one convenient place. If you're just getting started you can start by making simple spoken recordings. If you're looking to make your podcast sound a bit more professional, you can use Anchor to import audio from multiple sources and then edit it all in Anchor. Watch the following video for an overview of the Anchor iPad app.



Podcasts that you make through Anchor can be published to iTunes and many other popular podcast listening platforms. You can also have your podcasts played through your blog. Watch the following video to learn how to embed an Anchor podcast into an Edublogs blog.


And if you're looking for ideas for classroom podcast topics, start with this list of ten topic suggestions.

New Google Forms Customization Options

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.



Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Google's "Be Internet Awesome" Curriculum is Now Available in Spanish

At about this time last year Google introduced Be Internet Awesome. Be Internet Awesome offers an interactive site called Interland. Interland is a game in which students navigate a virtual world by correctly answering questions about internet safety. Starting today that game is available in Spanish and English.

The rest of the Be Internet Awesome curriculum has been updated along with Interland game. The written curriculum guide has been expanded to 69 pages from its original 48 pages. The curriculum now includes nineteen interactive slide presentations that you can copy and use for free.

The core concepts of Be Internet Awesome remain unchanged. Those five core concepts are:
  • Share with care.
  • Don't fall for fake.
  • Secure your secrets.
  • It's cool to be kind.
  • When in doubt, talk it out. 

4 Fun Summer Science Activities

Now that summer is here in the northern hemisphere it's a great time to go outside for a science lesson. SciShow Kids has four suggestions for outdoor science lessons. In Fun Summer Science adults and children can learn about the science of bubbles, kites, ice cream, and solar energy. Each segment includes an explanation of the science and brief suggestions and directions for a hands-on activity.

The Myth of the Giant's Causeway Explained

The Giant's Causeway is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites that I have had the privilege to see in person. It can be seen in Google Maps Street View too. It's a unique geological site created by molten basalt. That's interesting but not as interesting as the myth of its creation. The myth of the Giant's Causeway is the topic of a recently published TED-Ed lesson.


In addition to using the pre-made TED lesson questions, you could follow-up a showing of this video by asking your students to think about why myths like this one are created and how they grow over time.

Add Voice Recordings to Maps

Over the weekend I tested an app called JoJo that lets you create short audio recordings and have them placed on map. For a myriad of reasons including privacy concerns, JoJo is not an app that I would recommend for school use. But the app did give me an idea for combining audio recordings and digital maps. In the following video I demonstrate how you can include sound recordings on a map made with Google's My Maps tool.


Applications for Education
In the demonstration I used SoundCloud as the source of my audio file. Students could use other sources like the LOC's National Jukebox to find recordings to geolocate. You could have students map the locations of where famous songs were recorded or where politicians made notable speeches.

Short Lessons on the Longest Day of the Year

The summer solstice is just a couple of days away. Many refer to this as the "longest day of the year" when they really mean "longest period of daylight in a day." But that's beside the point of this post which is to share a few handy resources that can help kids understand the summer solstice.

National Geographic offer this hands-on activity designed to help students understand the changes in intensity and duration of sunlight on their part of the world throughout the year. Before the activity you could show students National Geographic's video What is a Solstice?



Mechanism Of The Seasons is a YouTube video that I found years ago when looking for a video to use in a flipped lesson on the topic of solstices. The six minute video could be helpful in a flipped classroom environment as it covers the same information that your students will review in the National Geographic materials mentioned above.


And here's a great side-by-side time-lapse of the winter and summer solstices in Manchester, UK.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Grackle - Assess the Accessibility of Your Google Docs & Slides

Grackle is a service that will check your Google Documents, Slides, and Sheets for accessibility. It is available as an Add-on for Google Docs, for Google Slides, and for Google Sheets. With the Add-on installed Grackle will run a check for visual accessibility then make suggestions for improvements.

When you run Grackle's accessibility checker it will identify places where your document, slide, or sheet doesn't meet accessibility standards. It makes suggestions for improvement on the areas in which your document, slide, or sheet doesn't meet accessibility standards. Some of the suggestions can be implemented with just a click from the Grackle Add-on menu while others are changes that you will have to make yourself. For example, if your document lacks a clearly labeled title, Grackle will suggest and let you implement a title with just one click. Changing the color contrast is an example of change you would have to make manually.

Applications for Education
Grackle could make it quick and easy to ensure that your documents and slides meet your students' accessibility needs. In addition to using it myself, I would consider having students use it on their Google Slides presentations just to help them evaluate their color and font choices.

Google Tasks to Become a Core G Suite Service

In late April Google launched a new stand-alone app called Google Tasks. Last week Google announced that at the end of June Google Tasks will become a core service of G Suite. It will be on by default for all domains.

Google Tasks is kind of like Google Keep without a bookmarking function. At its most basic level Google Tasks lets you create lists of tasks that you need to do and check them off as you complete them. Dig a little deeper into the app and you will find that you can create multiple lists for different projects or goals. Within each list you can create tasks and sub-tasks. Google Calendar is integrated into the app to let you set due dates for each task and task list.

Get the Google Tasks Android app here and get the Google Tasks iOS app here.

Huge Flipgrid News! - All Features Now Free

Flipgrid has been acquired by Microsoft. That's good news for the founders of Flipgrid and great news for all of us who enjoy using Flipgrid. As of this morning all Flipgrid features are now free for all users! If you are a person who paid for a Flipgrid Pro account, you'll be getting a prorated refund of your subscription.


Some of the features of Flipgrid that are now available to all users include:
  • Unlimited grids!
  • More time limit options
    • Set a time limit between fifteen seconds and five minutes. 
  • Scheduled launch and freeze dates.
According to their statement Flipgrid will continue to work and Chromebooks, iPads, iPhones, Android phones and tablets, and in the web browser on your Windows or Mac computer.

If you haven't tried Flipgrid, take a look at my video to see what it's all about.

A Quick and Easy Way to Create Printable Mazes

Maze Generator is a free site that does exactly what it says on the tin, it generates mazes. To make a printable maze on Maze Generator just select the shape, size, and style you want your maze to have. The shape options are rectangle, triangle, circle, and hexagon. You can also choose the level of difficulty and starting point for your mazes. After you have made all of your size and style selections just hit the "generate" button to get a printable PDF.


Applications for Education
From time-to-time we all need a low-tech to no-tech activity for our students. You might need a no-tech activity for students to do after finishing a test. Completing a maze on paper is a decidedly no-tech activity for students. But making the maze on your computer for to replicate, modify, and print is low-tech activity. If you find yourself wanting to make a maze, take a look at Maze Generator.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Games, Screencasting, and Ducks - The Week in Review

Good evening from Maine where we had a great day exploring the Maine Wildlife Park. My older daughter loved feeding the ducks! And we all enjoyed seeing the deer, moose, lynx and bears up close. It was a great way to relax after a long week on the road during which included seven workshops in South Carolina and one all-day workshop in Boston. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you get time to relax and unwind too.


These were the week's most popular posts:
1. An Easy Speech-to-Text Option for Word, OneNote, and PowerPoint
2. Educational Games for Elementary School Science Lessons
3. Camp GoNoodle - Four Weeks of Fun and Educational Summer Activities
4. Three Ways to Use Screencasting In Your Classroom
5. The Economics of Seinfeld - Lessons Based on Seinfeld Clips
6. Now You and Your Students Can Create Quizzes in Kahoot's Mobile App
7. Crayon - Super Simple Collaborative Whiteboard

Bring Me to Your School
I have three openings left in my summer schedule for on-site professional development workshops. I can provide professional development workshops on G Suite for Education, Teaching History With Technology, and many other topicsClick here to learn more or send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to book me today.

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.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
MySimpleShow offers a great way to create animated videos for free.
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.
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.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Educational Games for Elementary School Science Lessons

Educational games can be useful in helping to reinforce concepts and content. A good game can keep students engaged while also helping them develop some thinking skills at the same time. You could create your own games on platforms like Kahoot or Metaverse, but those might not provide the depth of context that professionally developed games provide. If you're an elementary school teacher looking for some games to use in science lessons, take a look at the following five games that I frequently share with other teachers. 

Peep and the Big Wide World, produced by WGBH, offers a great collection of online games, videos, and offline activities designed to help students learn and practice skills in math and science. One emphasis of the games that I tried is recognizing patterns. In all there are twenty-one online games available through Peep and the Big Wide World.

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 an Android app.

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.

Aquation is a free game offered by the the Smithsonian Science Education Center. The game, designed for students in upper elementary school or middle school, teaches students about the distribution of clean water and what can be done to balance global water resources. In the game students select a region to explore its current water supplies. Based on the information provided students take action in the form of building desalination plants, conducting further research, reacting to natural events, and attempting to move water between regions. Aquation can be played in a web browser. It is also available as a free iPad app and as a free Android app.

Feed the Dingo is a fun game that teaches students about the importance of maintaining balanced ecosystems. In the game students have to build and maintain a desert ecosystem. The game begins with a blank slate to which students have to add plants and animals. The game plays out over twelve virtual days. Each day students have to add more elements in order to maintain balance in the ecosystem. At the end of each day students are given feedback as to which plants and animals are healthy, which are in danger, and which have died.

Camp GoNoodle - Four Weeks of Fun and Educational Summer Activities

Camp GoNoodle is a summer program offered by the folks at GoNoodle. The program is designed for elementary school age students to complete over the course of four weeks. It can be used in a summer camp setting, summer school setting, or at home setting. There is a different theme for each week. Within each week there are five thematically connected activities. The themes of Camp GoNoodle are friendship, superheroes, world, and space.

The activities in Camp GoNoodle include learning camp songs, learning about and trying healthy foods, a fun exercise activity, and some art or craft activities. Students can receive a printable, digital badge for successfully completing all of the activities in a week's program.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for activities to suggest to parents to keep their kids active and learning throughout the summer, take a look at what Camp GoNoodle offers each week. I don't love all of the activities, but I do like the spirit of Camp GoNoodle.

The Most Important Search Skills and Attitudes According to SearchReSearch Readers

Dan Russell's Search ReSearch blog is my go-to resource for learning new strategies and for ideas on teaching search. His search challenge blog posts always provide a new way to think about search. At the end of May he conducted a survey of his readers. The survey was to determine what readers of Search ReSearch think are the most important search skills and attitudes toward search. The results of the survey were posted last week.

The survey results are noteworthy to me because the readers of Search ReSearch tend to be people who are skilled researchers and are often people who spend time teaching search skills to others. The survey results are divided into four sections. Those sections are most important skills, most important attitudes, how to ask good questions, and other advice. I encourage you to read the full survey results right here. The top tips from the first three categories are copied below.

Most Important Skill
Query formulation (and reformulation)

Most Important Attitude
Persistence

How to Ask Good Questions
Be specific / be clear about what you’re asking

Thursday, June 14, 2018

How to Duplicate a Google Site

A couple of weeks ago the option to duplicate a site was added to the new version of Google Sites. Duplicating a Google Site will let you make an exact copy of an existing site and have it reside at a new URL. Duplicating a site could be a convenient option to use at the beginning of a school year. If you spent the previous school year maintaining a site and you're happy with the look and content, you could re-use it by duplicating it and then just updating parts of it through the year. Duplicating a site is also a good way to create a "test" site to try to new features without impacting your primary site. In the following video I demonstrate how to duplicate a Google Site.

A Conversation With Dr. Keith Westman from Otus

Last month I thought to myself that I didn't have enough to do so I set about launching a podcast. I failed. It turns out that I don't really have enough time to do all of the editing that a good podcast requires and still meet all of the other obligations that I have in my life. But I did record a handful of conversations with folks over Google Hangouts. I'm going to publish those recordings over the next couple of weeks. The editing is rough to non-existent, but the conversations are good. The first one that I'm publishing is my conversation with Dr. Keith Westman.

Keith is the COO of Otus. Otus is an LMS provider that I frequently recommend to teachers and administrators who are looking for something with more features that Google Classroom but not so complicated that you'll need weeks of training to understand how it all works. And Otus is free for individual teachers to use which makes it a great choice for small schools.

Ten Search Strategies Students Should Know

If you have ever had a student tell you, "Google has nothing on this," you know that students need help formulating good web search strategies. A few months ago I hosted a webinar on the ten search strategies that I think every student should know how to employ. That webinar is available on-demand on Practical Ed Tech. The slides that I used in the webinar can be seen as embedded below.


Britannica Insights - A Chrome Extension for Encyclopedia Britannica

Britannica Insights is a Chrome Extension that will show you entries from Encyclopedia Britannica in the right-hand margin of your Google search results. The way it works is that when you conduct a Google search the extension will generate a list of related Britannica articles on the same page as the Google results. Basically, the Britannica Insights extension replaces the Wikipedia results that often appear in the right-hand margin of a Google search results page.

Despite studies indicating that Wikipedia is generally as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica there are still people who insist that Wikipedia is unreliable. The Britannica Insights Chrome extension was made for those folks. (Side note, it was also made to direct traffic to the Encyclopedia Britannica website for the purpose of garnering ad revenue). Otherwise, the built-in quick facts panel that pops-up in many Google search results pages is just fine.

Applications for Education
The potential use for Britannica Insights is that it does provide quick access to generally accepted facts about topics that are commonly researched by students. That could save them a little time when starting a research project.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Now You and Your Students Can Create Quizzes in Kahoot's Mobile App

Kahoot has released a major update to their free mobile apps. As of this morning you can now create a Kahoot game within the free app. The app also lets you distribute games to be played in your classroom or as "challenges" for students to play at home. More importantly, now students can create games in the Kahoot mobile apps!

Creating a game in the Kahoot mobile app is a fairly straight-forward process. In fact, the process is nearly identical to the process used in the browser-based version of Kahoot. Open the app, select "create," and title your game. You can add a cover image to your game's title page. Creating each question in your game is just a matter of writing the question then writing the answer choices. Just like in the browser-based version of Kahoot, in the mobile app you can include pictures or videos in your questions. Watch the following video for an overview of the game creation process in Kahoot's mobile app.


Applications for Education
I'm excited about this update to Kahoot's mobile app because it lets kids show what they know and what they think is important about a topic through the process of making and sharing their own games. Rather than just playing the games that you make, your students can make a game that features what they think is important about a topic. In doing that they are showing you how they interpret a topic. One of Kahoot's co-founders talks about that idea in the following video.

An Easy Speech-to-Text Option for Word, OneNote, and PowerPoint

Word, OneNote, and PowerPoint users have a new speech-to-text option. A new dictation option has been added to Office 365. The dictation tool will transcribe your spoken words into text on your screen.

This afternoon I tried the dictation option in both Word and PowerPoint on my desktop. It is easy to use and accurate as long as you speak clearly. Your text will appear wherever your cursor is placed so make sure to move your cursor if you want to place text in different boxes on a slide. Text appears in your default font style unless you change it before dictating. It's important to note that the new dictation tool doesn't yet work in the online versions of Word and OneNote. Microsoft says that dictation will be available in the online versions later this year.

Adverbs, Themes, and Labels - New Immersive Reader Features

Immersive Reader is a free add-in for Word, OneNote, Outlook, and Edge enables students to have articles read aloud to them at pace that meets their needs. Additionally, Immersive Reader will identify individual syllables, highlight each word as it is read, and identify parts of speech for students. It has become my go-to recommendation whenever I'm asked to recommend an accessibility tool that has either text-to-speech capabilities or readability enhancement capabilities.

This week Microsoft added three more options to Immersive Reader. First, Immersive Reader will now highlight adverbs. You can activate this option in the "parts of speech" menu in Immersive Reader. Second, there are new color palette choices in Immersive Reader. This gives users more control over contrast and text visibility. The third new option is the ability to have parts of speech labels displayed in Immersive Reader. These labels are in addition to the color-coding that is already in place for parts of speech highlighting.

These new Immersive Reader options are available in Word Online, OneNote Online, OneNote for Windows 10, OneNote for iPad, OneNote for Mac, and Outlook in the Web. Immersive Reader is a part of Microsoft's Learning Tools.


Crayon - Super Simple Collaborative Whiteboard

Crayon is a new service in the collaborative whiteboard market. You can use Crayon without creating an account. To make a collaborative whiteboard just go to the Crayon site, enter your name, and enter a name for your whiteboard space. With your whiteboard open copy its URL and send it to the people you want to collaborate with you.

Crayon doesn't offer anything other than a whiteboard on which you can draw. There isn't any kind of chat option so there is the potential for you to write over your collaborators if you're not already talking via Skype, phone, or Google Hangouts at the same time.

I'm not ready to recommend Crayon in place of other online whiteboard options, but I do like its simplicity and its potential. Crayon is still in an "alpha" phase so there should be more features coming in the future.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Three Ways to Use Screencasting In Your Classroom

Creating videos doesn't have to be a complicated process. Screencasting is one relatively easy way to get started making videos in your classroom. Screencasting is the process of recording the actions that are happening on your laptop, tablet, or phone screen. Here are three ways that you can use screencasting in your classroom.

Simple Slideshow Video Lessons
Have slides? Record yourself talking over the slides. Try to keep this kind of video short, under five minutes, or you risk losing your students' attention. Using a tool like Screencast-o-matic that lets you record your webcam at the same time as your screen to include your face in the video. That can give it slightly personal touch. If you're a dedicated PowerPoint user you can even create an screencast video within PowerPoint.

Whiteboard Videos
There are plenty of iPad apps and Android apps for making whiteboard videos. ShowMe is a good representative of those apps. On a Chromebook, MacBook, or Windows computer use a screencasting tool like Screencastify in the Chrome web browser to record while drawing in Google Drawings.

Tech Help Videos
If you're the person that everyone in your school emails for help with their tech problems, you need to have a good screencasting tool at the ready. Loom is a fantastic tool for making quick screencast videos to answer requests for tech help. You can launch Loom from the Chrome browser or directly from your email inbox. Click here to learn how to create a screencast right from your email inbox.

Updated - 5 Online, Collaborative Whiteboard Services

Online, collaborative, whiteboards can be great tools for hosting quick review sessions for your students. Your students can also use these tools to conduct online study sessions with each other. Here are five free online whiteboard tools to try.

Draw Chat is a free service that allows anyone to create a video chat over a whiteboard, PDF, image, or map. To use Draw Chat you just have to visit the site and click "Start New Whiteboard." Once your whiteboard launches you will have the option to enable access to your webcam and microphone. You can have people join your whiteboard video conference by sending them the link assigned to your whiteboard. Draw Chat allows you to draw or type on a shared whiteboard. Additionally, you can upload a PDF or an image to annotate on the whiteboard. A fourth option for drawing on Draw Chat is to import the URL for a Google Map and draw on that map.

Skype Interviews is a free Microsoft service that was developed for employers to use to interview potential employees. It was specifically designed with coders and programmers in mind as there is a code editor component that lets candidates display their skills in realtime. Yesterday, Microsoft added a whiteboard to Skype Interviews. The whiteboard in Skype Interviews allows you to draw on and share a virtual whiteboard while in your call. You can also type on the whiteboard. A few pre-made shapes are also available to add to your whiteboard to create a flowchart.

Realtime Board is an online whiteboard tool that I have been recommending for the last half-dozen years. At its basic level Realtime Board provides a blank canvas on which you can type, draw, and post pictures. You can connect elements on your boards through a simple linking tool. Realtime Board includes an activity tracking feature. This feature lets you see the changes that have been made to a shared Realtime Board whiteboard.

WebRoom is a free service for hosting online meetings. WebRoom doesn't require you to download any software and you don't need to register in order to use it. WebRoom lets you use your webcam if you want people to see your face during the meeting. A whiteboard space is provided. You can draw on the whiteboard or upload a file to share and discuss on the whiteboard. A text chat space is provided in each WebRoom meeting. It is possible to share your screen with other meeting participants. However, to share your screen you will need to install the WebRoom Chrome extension.



Stoodle is a free online collaborative whiteboard tool hosted by CK12. On Stoodle you can create a whiteboard space and invite others to use it with you. Registration is not required in order to use Stoodle. Stoodle has voice and text chat options, but it does not have a video chat option. In the video embedded below I demonstrate the features of Stoodle.



A Spreadsheet of Phones That Do and Don't Support Google Expeditions

Yesterday, I answered an email from a participant in my recent Intro to VR & AR webinar. She was having trouble getting Google Expeditions to work on one of her phones. I did a little research and found that the phone she was trying to use Expeditions on didn't have a gyroscope. The absence of a gyroscope made Expeditions not work as expected. I was able to discover that information with the help of Andrew Caffrey's spreadsheet of devices that do and don't support Google Expeditions.

Andrew Caffrey's site has other good information for teachers who are interested in learning more about Google Expeditions including directions for making your own Google Cardboard viewer.

On a related note, Roman UrsuHack offers the following video that provides an overview of making your own VR viewer.


The template that Roman UrsuHack follows in the video can be found here (link opens a PDF).

Monday, June 11, 2018

If You Want to Create Polite Digital Citizens...

Warning! This post is a bit of a rant. 

The sleep-deprived state that I exist in as the father of two kids under age two has made my patience for impolite email and social media messages shorter than ever. That said, I am noticing three disturbing trends in my email inbox and in the social media interactions that I see. First, more than ever I am receiving impolite and downright rude email. Second, people who I know are teachers sharing fake news and fake giveaways on Facebook. Third, people who appear to be using Twitter just to prove that they're "thought leaders" or "change agents" by arguing with anyone who will engage. That's the trend that turned me off to Twitter chats years ago and it seems that behavior spread outside of Twitter chats. I wouldn't accept that kind of digital behavior from students and I hope that teachers would be better models of good digital behavior.

Two highlights in my inbox of late include,
"I've been following your suggestions for a while and I have to say there [sic] total crap!" "I'm not sure you know what you're talking about. I tried (product name removed). It sucks!" 
Here are my suggestions for modeling good digital citizenship. 

1. Avoid hitting send before taking five or twenty good, deep breaths.

2. Stop sharing fake giveaways on social media. Delta isn't giving free airplane tickets. Carnival Cruises isn't giving you a stateroom. And the New England Patriots aren't giving away playoff tickets. If you think there's a chance that a giveaway like one of those is true, look for the verified checkmark on Facebook or Twitter. If it's not there, it's fake.

3. Stop sharing memes from Like Farms. Check your own confirmation bias before sharing.

4. Stop sharing without reading. I have the privilege to have more than 500,000 social media followers. It's alarming to me the number of times that I see my Facebook posts shared between friends with a note like, "I didn't read this, but it seems good."

5. Don't feed the trolls. Be nice.

Three Good PowerPoint Add-ins for Math Teachers

PowerPoint has many features that students and teachers often overlook. That's bound to happen with any program that has been around as long as PowerPoint has and includes as many features as PowerPoint does. One of those overlooked features is found in the Add-ins available for PowerPoint. Browse through the gallery of Add-ins and you'll find some excellent tools for math teachers and students.

The GeoGebra PowerPoint Add-in lets you access GeoGebra materials directly from your PowerPoint slides. You can also use the Add-in to create graphs, shapes, and spreadsheets within your slides. The GeoGebra PowerPoint Add-in works in the desktop and online versions of PowerPoint.

Khan Academy's math videos and math practice exercises are available in a PowerPoint Add-in. The Khan Academy PowerPoint Add-in lets you find videos and exercises to insert directly into slides. The exercises that you insert into your slides are fully functional which means that you could use them for live demonstrations without having to leave your slides.

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. More than 50 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.

Free Alternative to GooseChase

This morning I received the following email from a reader who wants to create a digital scavenger hunt for an upcoming conference.
"GooseChase has the features that I want but would cost $200. That is a tough sell for a game no matter how great I think it would be. This activity is not only a way to encourage teachers to make connections, it has clear application to the classroom. But, like I said, $200.... Do you have another idea?"
My response was to take a look at what Metaverse can do. I've often described Metaverse as a DIY platform for making educational versions of games like Pokemon Go. Through the Metaverse Studio anyone can program an augmented reality app without having any prior coding or programming knowledge. You can create scavenger hunts that are based on locations. You can also create augmented reality games that are location-independent.


You can even use Metaverse to create digital breakout games.

Three Ways to Digitize Your Physical Sticky Notes

Last week Padlet added a new feature to their free iPad and iPhone apps. That feature is the ability to snap a picture of a set of physical sticky notes then have those notes appear on a Padlet wall that you can manipulate in the app and or in your web browser. If you haven't tried it yet take a look at Kathi Kersznowski's demo video. (By the way, Padlet says the Android version of this will be available in a month).


Padlet isn't the first to offer this kind of sticky note digitization capability. Post-it has offered it in their free iOS app for the last four years. The Post-it Plus app lets you snap a picture of a set of Post-it (or other sticky notes) and then manipulate those notes in the app.


While not designed specifically for digitizing sticky notes, Microsoft's Office Lens apps will convert notes written on paper into digital notes that you can edit. You can use the digitized notes in OneNote, Word, and PowerPoint. Get the Android version here and the get the iOS version here.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Ten Types of Notes You Can Add to Padlet Walls

As I wrote yesterday, this week Padlet added a new feature to their iPad and iPhone app. The new feature is called Catscan. Catscan lets you scan a set of physical sticky notes and have those notes digitized and displayed on a Padlet wall. Catscan is one of many ways that you can add notes to a Padlet wall. In all there are now at least ten types of notes that you can add to a Padlet wall. Nine of them are featured in the following video. The tenth is the new Catscan option.


Ten types of notes that can be added to Padlet.
  • Text
  • Hyperlinks
  • File upload
  • Video recorded with webcam/ mobile phone camera.
  • Audio recorded directly on Padlet.
  • Scribble/ free hand drawing on Padlet.
  • Pictures taken with webcam/ mobile phone camera.
  • Google Search to add image, video, GIF, or link. 
  • Google Map.
  • Digitized version of physical sticky note (Catscan mode).
Bonus Items:
If you enable these options, you can comment and or vote on the notes added to a Padlet wall. 

How to Automatically Forward Your G Suite Email to a Personal Gmail Address

This is the time of year that I always get a bunch of questions from folks who leaving a school and want to take some emails with them from their old accounts. That can be done by just forwarding those messages from your old account to your personal account. But if you're not leaving your district and you just want to make it so you only have to check one account during the summer, you'll want to use the method that I demonstrate in the following video.

Cheese, Teams, and Games - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine. By the time that most of you read this I will be fly fishing on my favorite lake in Maine, Kennebago. After a busy and stressful week I need a break. That means fishing and not going online until the weekend is over. And if you follow on my Twitter and are wondering how I'm posting through the weekend, I use Hootsuite's scheduling too. See you all on Monday.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Quizalize Introduces New Differentiation Tools
2. Turning Milk Into Cheese - A Science Lesson
3. Changes Coming to the Google Sign-in Screen
4. Three Free iPad Apps for Creating Animated Movies
5. Five Things You and Your Students Can Make With Canva
6. Microsoft Adds New OneNote and Teams Features for Teachers and Students
7. Purpose Games - Create and Play Educational Games

Bring Me to Your School
I have three openings left in my summer schedule for on-site professional development workshops. I can provide professional development workshops on G Suite for Education, Teaching History With Technology, and many other topicsClick here to learn more or send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to book me today.

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.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
MySimpleShow offers a great way to create animated videos for free.
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.
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.

Friday, June 8, 2018

5 Ways to Make Stop-motion and Time-lapse Movies

Creating a stop-motion video or a time-lapse videos can be a good way for students to tell a story in the style of Gumby. Making stop-motion and time-lapse videos can also be a good way for students to demonstrate how a lengthy process works without making people watch a long video. The following free tools make it relatively easy to create stop-motion and time-lapse videos.

Stop Motion Animator is a free Chrome app for creating stop motion videos. The app is free and easy to use. It does not even require students to create accounts in order to use it. Watch the following video to see how to use Stop Motion Animator.



ClapMotion is another Chrome app that students can use to create stop-motion videos. I don't have as much experience with this app as I do with Stop Motion Animator featured above. But in my limited use I found it just as easy to use as Stop Motion Animator. ClapMotion's promo video embedded below provides a nice example of how students can use ClapMotion in school.


Parapara Animation is a free animation creation tool that has been around of years. Rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. The tool was developed and is hosted by Mozilla. The tool is easy to use and it does not require registration in order to use it. Watch my tutorial video to learn how to use Parapara Animation.


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.

ABCya Animate is a free tool that students can use to create animations. It can be a great tool for elementary school and middle school students to use to create animations to use to tell a short story. For example, in my demonstration video the animation I started to make could be used as part of a larger story about marine life or ocean ecosystems. To complete the story I would need to add some more drawings and perhaps some text for clarification. Your students might also use short animations as part of larger multimedia project. Watch my demonstration video embedded below to learn more about how to use ABCya Animate.



Bonus item! 
For many years JellyCam was my go-to tool for making stop-motion videos. While it is still available to download and use for free, the developer is no longer supporting the software. If you want to give it a try anyway, watch my tutorial video to see how to get started.

Flipgrid Password-protected All Grids This Morning

This morning all teachers using Flipgrid were sent an email about privacy updates that they made to all accounts. Those updates included automatically password-protecting all Flipgrid grids that did not already have password-protection in place. That means that students will need to enter a password in order to view and or add to a Flipgrid grid. You can sign into your Flipgrid account to change the automatically set password.

The other part of Flipgrid's email to users mentioned the need for all teachers to verify and or update their account information. The next time you sign into your account you will be prompted to verify or update before you can access the rest of your teacher dashboard. Verifying and or updating takes just a minute, I did it in my account this morning.

Wondering what Flipgrid is? Watch my video overview of the service.

Not Going to ISTE? - Join the "Not at ISTE" IGNITE

Going to the annual ISTE conference can be a great way to learn about new and emerging trends in the field of educational technology. It's also a great place to connect with other educators. Unfortunately, it's also an expensive undertaking that many teachers simply can't afford. That's part of the reason that I'm not attending this year (believe it or not, running a site titled Free Technology for Teachers isn't lucrative).

For those of us who aren't going to ISTE Jen Wagner, Peggy George, and Vicky Sedgwick are putting together an online event called Not At ISTE IGNITE. Not at ISTE IGNITE will feature five minute, twenty slide presentations broadcast through Google Hangouts. If you would like to give a presentation during Not At ISTE IGNITE, complete this form. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by June 15th.

Thanks to Edublogs for sharing the Not At ISTE IGNITE information. 

Turn a Set of Physical Sticky Notes Into Digital Ones With Padlet's Catscan

Padlet has added a new feature called Catscan to their iPhone and iPad apps. Catscan's purpose is to let you take a picture of a set of physical sticky notes and then have those notes appear as individual notes on a Padlet wall. Once those notes are on your Padlet wall you'll be able to move them around and interact with them just like notes that you manually add to any other Padlet wall.

Catscan is a beta feature of the Padlet iOS apps so don't expect it to work perfectly right away. If you have physical stickies that are overlapping, Catscan will have trouble differentiating between them.

Applications for Education
If you lead group brainstorming sessions or gallery walks in which you have students place sticky notes on a board, Padlet's Catscan feature could provide you with a way to digitize and reuse those notes. Share the wall that the notes are added to and your students can help sort them and or add more ideas to the fall in the form of digital notes.

Watch this video for more ideas about adding notes to Padlet walls.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

10 Good Templates for Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts Lessons

Earlier this week I published a post about Read Write Think's theme poem online activity. Obviously, that activity is a great fit for a language arts lesson. RWT is known for language arts interactive activities and templates. Dig a little deeper into RWT and you'll find interactive activities, apps, and templates that can be used in science and social studies lessons too.

Read Write Think offers a good interactive guide that can help students craft a good persuasive essay. The Persuasion Map asks students to start with a thesis statement before walking them through developing support for that thesis. Students can print their persuasion maps or email them to you. RWT offers a number of lesson plans that incorporate the Persuasion Map. You can find those lessons here.

Essay Map provides students with step by step guidance in the construction of an informational essay. Some of my students seem to struggle most with constructing an introduction and conclusion to their essays. Essay Map is particularly good for helping students visualize the steps needed to construct good introductory and conclusion paragraphs. After students complete all of the steps in their Essay Map they can print their essay outlines.

Read Write Think's Crossword Puzzle Generator makes it easy to create your own crossword puzzles. To create your puzzle simply enter a list of words, a set of clues for your words, and then let the generator make a puzzle for you. You can test the puzzle before printing it. You can print blank puzzles and answer sheets from the puzzle generator.

Alphabet Organizer is a great little tool from Read Write Think that students can use to create alphabet charts and books. The idea behind Alphabet Organizer is to help students make visual connections between letters of the alphabet and the first letter of common words. In the video below I demonstrate how to use this tool.



RWT Timeline is available as a web app (Flash required), as an Android app, and as an iPad app. All three versions make it easy for students to create a timeline for a series of events. In the video below I demonstrate how to use the web version of the RWT Timeline creation tool.




RWT's Animal Inquiry guide is a good fit for elementary school science lessons. Animal Inquiry provides students with four templates; animal facts, animal babies, animal interactions, and animal habitats. Each template is an interactive template in which students respond to three prompts to help them create short reports about animals they are studying. Read Write Think suggests using the questions in the Animal Inquiry template as prompts for research. The questions in the templates could also be good for helping students brainstorm additional questions to research.

RWT's Theme Poems interactive provides students with 32 pictures to use as the basis for writing short poems. To write a poem students launch the interactive then choose a theme. Within each of the five themes students will find related images. Once they choose an image students are prompted to write the words that come to mind as they look at the image. Students then create poems from those words. The finished product can be saved as a PDF and or emailed to a teacher from the RWT site.

Read Write Think offers a free program called the Profile PublisherProfile Publisher allows students to create and print mock-ups of social network profiles. Students can create profiles for themselves of for fictional characters. Profile Publisher includes fields for "about me," "blog posts," "interests," and all of the other profile fields typically found on a social network. Completed profiles can be printed.

The RWT Flip Book app is available for iPadfor Android, and for use in your web browser (Chrome or Firefox is recommended). RWT Flip Book lets students create books by typing or by drawing on the pages in their books. There is a variety of page templates that students can choose to use within their books. Some templates are text-only, some are drawing-only, and some are a mix of drawing and text templates. To use RWT Flip Book students simply open the app, enter their first names, then start creating their first pages.

Read Write Think's Word Mover app for iOSAndroid, and web browser helps students develop poems and short stories. When students open the Word Mover app they are shown a selection of words that they can drag onto a canvas to construct a poem or story. Word Mover provides students with eight canvas backgrounds on which they can construct their poems. If the word bank provided by Word Mover doesn’t offer enough words they can add their own words to the word bank.