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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Feedback, Focus, and Cars - The Week in Review

Good morning from Paris Hill, Maine where today is Founder's Day. This is an annual event in our historic neighborhood that is highlighted by a library fundraiser in the form of a public viewing of an extensive antique car collection at the former home of Hannibal Hamlin. Some libraries sell old books, ours sells tickets to view million dollar cars like the one in my picture.

In other news, this week I had the privilege to speak at the TechSplash Conference in Abingdon, Virginia. Thank you to the conference organizers for hosting a great event!

I'm home for the next two weeks without traveling. That's giving me the opportunity to host some Practical Ed Tech webinars. On Tuesday I am hosting Google Earth, Maps, and VR Tours. On Thursday I'm hosting Fast & Fun Formative Assessment. I hope you'll join me. 

These were the week's most popular posts: 
1. 10 Tools for Gathering Real-time Feedback From Students
2. An Easy Way to Create a GIF from Google Slides
3. Formatically Offers a New Instant Citation Tool
4. How to Protect Student Privacy With Blurring Effects in Videos
5. Three Tools That Can Help You Save Time on Routine Tasks
6. These Chrome Extensions Can Help You Stay On Task
7. Add Music to Your Google Slides With the AudioPlayer Chrome Extension

Bring Me to Your School
My fall calendar is almost full! If you would like to bring me to your school for a professional development day, please get in touch. I offer 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.
TypingClub offers more than 600 typing lessons for kids. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
Kami is a great tool for annotating and collaborating on PDFs. 
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.

How to Create an Animated GIF

Animated GIFs can be handy for quickly showing a process or sequence of events. Check out Common Craft's soccer guide for great examples of using animated GIFs to illustrate concepts. And, of course, GIFs are fun to use to make a point in a social media post. If you want to make your own animated GIFs, try using the Docs365 GIFmaker Google Slides add-on. In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to make an animated GIF from your Google Slides.


Say Goodbye to Old Google Forms

The current version of Google Forms has been available for almost three years. But change is hard and so there are still people using the old "classic" version of Google Forms. The old version is going to be officially retired by the end of this year. Google has announced that starting on August 22nd you will only be able to create new forms by using the current, AKA "new," version of Google Forms. Also beginning on August 22nd all existing "classic" Forms will be automatically updated to the new or current version of the Google Forms interface.

Any submissions that have been collected through the old version of Google Forms will not be affected by the automatic upgrade to the new version of Google Forms. Any questions that were written in the old version of Google Forms will not be affected by the upgrade to the new version.

My Practical Ed Tech webinar Google Forms and Sheets for Beginners will show you everything you need to know to get started with the latest version of Google Forms. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

An Easy Way to Find Images for Google Slides Presentations

There are plenty of good places to find public domain and Creative Commons images to use in your Google Slides presentations. The Unsplash photos add-on even makes it possible to find public domain images without ever leaving the slides editor. But even with the wealth of images available in the public domain, using your own images can be your best option. If you use Google Photos to save all of the pictures that you take with your phone, you can easily add those images to your Google Slides presentation. Watch my video that is embedded below to see how easy it is to add your Google Photos images to your Google Slides presentations.



On a related note, here are three good places to find free images to use in any multimedia project.

ClassTag's Parent-Teacher Engagement Contest Will Award $10,000 for Classroom Supplies (Kind of)

ClassTag is a teacher-parent communication service that I've watched develop for a couple of years now. I like a lot of what it offers including the option to track how your students' parents respond to messages and adjust your messages accordingly. This month ClassTag announced that they are opening an online marketplace in which teachers can get classroom supplies and other products as rewards for having a high level of engagement with parents through the ClassTag system. The marketplace seems a bit limited right now, but that could change by the time it officially launches on August 3rd.

To generate interest in their marketplace ClassTag is hosting a contest that will award $1,000 of marketplace credit to ten teachers who enter the ClassTag Parent-Teacher Engagement Contest. To enter the contest you have to write a short essay about the innovative and creative ways you've engaged with your students' parents. Entries are due by August 20 and the complete contest rules can be found here.

An Easy Way to Find 360 Videos to View in Google Cardboard

Google Expeditions offers lots of 360 content that your students can explore in Google Cardboard viewers. But Google Expeditions isn't the only source of 360 content that you can use in your Google Cardboard or other virtual reality headsets. There is a lot of 360 content available on YouTube. For example, take a look at the 360 video about constellations that I shared last week. The easiest way to find 360 videos is to conduct a keyword search on YouTube and then filter results to view only 360 videos. Watch my video that is embedded below to learn how to filter YouTube results to display only 360 content.

Practical Ed Tech Webinar - Google Earth, Maps, and VR in Your Classroom

Next Tuesday I'm hosting a Practical Ed Tech webinar titled Google Earth, Maps, and VR Tours. The webinar will introduce you to how to use these powerful tools in your classroom. While social studies is the obvious fit for these tools, they can be used in many other subject areas. In the webinar you will learn how Google Earth, Maps, and VR tour builder can be used in a variety of subject areas besides social studies.


Click here to register!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

How to Use Blended Play for Classroom Review Games

Last week I published a post about a neat game platform called Blended Play. Blended Play provides five online game boards that you can project in your classroom to use as the template for review games. I have had a lot of questions about Blended Play since I published my blog post about it last week. I made the following video to demonstrate how Blended Play works.

A Great Example of Sharing Stories Through Google's My Maps

Kevin Hodgson's blog has been one of my daily reads for the better part of the last ten years. Kevin is a sixth grade teacher and masterful storyteller. Over the years I have learned a lot from reading his blog. Earlier this week Kevin published a blog post titled #WriteOut:Mapping the Immigrant Experience at the Springfield Armory. In the post Kevin shares a map that he created to display immigrant stories as they were connected to the Springfield Armory and the home countries of the immigrants who stories are told through text and audio displayed on the map. The map is one of the best examples that I've seen of using Google's My Maps to share stories. Go to Kevin's blog to read the post and see the map.

If you would like to create a similar map of your own, you can do so through Google's My Maps tool. In the following three videos I demonstrate how to use the features of Google's My Maps.





Join me on July 24th for a webinar about using Google Maps in your classroom

How to Add Music to Google Slides

In my previous post I shared some information about the AudioPlayer for Google Slides Chrome extension. If you need some help getting started with that extension, please watch the following video tutorial that I created.


It should be noted that the first time you use the extension it could take ten to fifteen minutes for your Google Drive audio files to sync and become available through the extension. Be patient with the first time you use it. After the initial use it is much faster.

Add Music to Your Google Slides With the AudioPlayer Chrome Extension

Earlier this year I excitedly shared the Google Slides Add-on called AudioPlayer for Google Slides. The video tutorial that I made for about it has proven to be popular too. Recently, I've received comments from viewers of that video who said that they can't find the Add-on. It turns out that the developer of the Add-on has turned it into a Chrome extension.

AudioPlayer for Slides is a Chrome extension that will let you add music or spoken audio to your Google Slides presentations. With the extension installed you can simply right-click on a slide in your presentation and then select an audio file from your Google Drive to play on that slide. Unfortunately, the audio file will only play on the selected slide and not over all of the slides throughout the presentation. It should also be noted that you can only play audio files that you have stored in your Google Drive.

Applications for Education
AudioPlayer for Slides could be useful to students who would like to add a little bit of background music to presentations. Students could also use this extension to add spoken audio to their slides. They will have to record the spoken audio in a separate tool (Vocaroo is easy to use for that purpose) and then add the audio recording to their slides.

It's important to note that your students will need to have audio files stored in their Google Drive accounts before using AudioPlayer for Slides.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Formatically Offers a New Instant Citation Tool

Formatically is a service that was designed by college students to help other students create properly formatted works cited pages. Last year I published a tutorial about how to use it. This week Formatically introduced a new instant citation tool. The instant citation tool can be used by anyone to format an APA, MLA, Chicago, or Harvard citation for a book or web page.

To use Formatically's instant citation tool just paste the URL of the page that you want to cite into the instant citation tool. Once pasted into the tool you can choose the format that you want to use for your citation. If there is an error in the citation, you can correct it by clicking the edit icon at the end of the written citation. The system works the same way for books except that rather than entering a web page URL you enter a book title. Watch the video embedded below to learn more about Formatically's instant citation tool.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Three Ways to Record and Share Video Notes in Real-time

Tools like EDpuzzle and TED-Ed are good for creating questions that you want your students to answer about videos that you share with them. But if you want students to share their own questions or notes with you, you'll have to try some tools that were designed for that purpose. Here are three tools that you and your students can use to share notes and questions while watching videos.

Watch2gether is a neat site through which you can watch YouTube videos and host text chats about them at the same time.It is fairly easy to use Watch2gether. To get started enter a nickname for yourself (it could be your real first name) then search for a video or enter the URL of a video that you have previously bookmarked. When you have found the video you want a chat column will be present on the right side of your browser. You can invite others to chat with you by sending them the URL assigned to your chatroom. Together you can watch a video and chat about it at the same time.

Vynchronize is a tool that lets you create an online room in which you can watch a video while chatting about it with other viewers at the same time. To use Vynchronize just go to the site, enter your name, and pick a name for your chat room. As soon as you do that your chat room will be launched and you can invite others to join by giving them the URL assigned to your room. Within your room you can play videos from YouTube and Vimeo. To play a video just copy its URL from YouTube or Vimeo and then paste it into the video queue. Chat about the video happens in a side panel on the same page. You can pause, rewind, and fast-forward the video just like you can on YouTube or Vimeo.

Timelinely is a tool for annotating videos that are hosted on YouTube. Timelinely makes it easy to get started annotating and sharing video notes. You just have to copy a YouTube URL into the Timelinely homepage to get started. Once you have entered the URL for a video, a new screen appears that allows you to add tags or annotations to the timeline of the video. You can do this while the video plays or you can simply jump to a place on the video to add annotations. Your annotations can include text or images.

How to Protect Student Privacy With Blurring Effects in Videos

On Monday morning I had the privilege to give a presentation about classroom video projects during the TechSplash conference in Abingdon, Virginia. One of the elements of that presentation addressed protecting student privacy when publishing videos online. In the presentation I gave a demonstration of how to use YouTube's built-in editing tools to blur faces from videos. That tool is available to anyone who has a YouTube account. Watch my video embedded below to learn how you can protect student privacy by using the blurring tools built into YouTube's Creator Studio.

10 Tools for Gathering Real-time Feedback From Students

Chat rooms and polling services provide good ways to hear from all of the students in a classroom. These kind of tools allow shy students to ask questions and share comments. For your more outspoken students who want to comment on everything, a feedback mechanism provides a good outlet for them too. In the last few months some of my old-reliable feedback tools shutdown and others were updated. This is my updated list of backchannel and informal assessment tools for gathering real-time feedback from students.

Backchannel Chat is a service that provides exactly what its name implies. On Backchannel Chat you can create a free backchannel room (AKA chat room) in which you can post comments and questions for your students to respond to. Your students can respond in realtime. Students can ask you and their classmates questions within the confines of your Backchannel Chat room. The free version of Backchannel Chat limits you to 30 participants at a time.

GoSoapBox is a platform through which your students can respond to questions through their laptops, tablets, and phones. Polls and Discussion in GoSoapBox are the meat and potatoes of the service. The Polls tool allows you to survey your audience by having them select an answer choice in response to a question. The Discussions tool allows you to have audience members reply to open-ended questions. One of the simplest yet effective survey options in GoSoapBox is a tools called a Confusion Meter. The Confusion Meter allows members of your audience to simply say, "yes, I get it" or "no, I don't get it." The Confusion Meter, like all of the GoSoapBox survey tools, can accept anonymous feedback. You can use the Social Q&A tool in GoSoapBox to have students submit their questions to you. Students can see each other's question submissions and vote them up if they want to.

AnswerGarden is a convenient service that allows you to embed a open-ended feedback tool into your classroom blog or website. With an AnswerGarden embedded into your blog your students can simply type responses to your question and see their responses appear in a word cloud. Creating an AnswerGarden is a simple process that does not require you to create an account. To get started go to the AnswerGarden homepage and click "create AnswerGarden." On the next screen you will enter a question or statement for your students to respond to. To share your AnswerGarden with students you can give them the link or embed the AnswerGarden into your blog as I have done below. Optionally, before sharing your AnswerGarden you can turn on moderation of responses and set an admin password.

Plickers is a great student response system for classrooms that aren't 1:1 or for anyone who would rather not have to go through the trouble of trying to get all students onto the same webpage or chatroom at the beginning of a lesson. Plickers uses a teacher's iPad or Android tablet in conjunction with a series of QR codes to create a student response system. Students are given a set of QR codes on large index cards. The codes are assigned to students. Each code card can be turned in four orientations. Each orientation provides a different answer. When the teacher is ready to collect data, he or she uses the Plickers mobile app to scan the cards to see a bar graph of responses. Click here for three ideas for using Plickers in your classroom.

Mentimeter is an audience response tool lets you create polls and quizzes for your audience to respond to during your presentations. Responses to open-ended poll questions can be displayed as a word cloud, but there isn't a true chat function in Mentimeter. You can create and display polls and quizzes from the Mentimeter website or you can use their PowerPoint Add-in to display your polls and quizzes from your slideshow. Your audience members can respond from their phones, tablets, or laptops.

The Q&A function built into the presentation mode of Google Slides is a good option for gathering questions from students when they are viewing slides that you or their classmates present.


GoSoapBox allows you to have your audience respond to questions through their laptops, tablets, and phones. Polls and Discussion in GoSoapBox are the meat and potatoes of the service. The Polls tool allows you to survey your audience by having them select an answer choice in response to a question. The Discussions tool allows you to have audience members reply to open-ended questions. One of the simplest yet effective survey options in GoSoapBox is a tools called a Confusion Meter. The Confusion Meter allows members of your audience to simply say, "yes, I get it" or "no, I don't get it." The Confusion Meter, like all of the GoSoapBox survey tools, can accept anonymous feedback. You can use the Social Q&A tool in GoSoapBox to have students submit their questions to you. Students can see each other's question submissions and vote them up if they want to.

Poll Everywhere is a service that allows you to collect responses from an audience via text messaging. The free plan for K-12 educators provides selection of features and quantity of responses that is adequate for almost any classroom. One of the neat ways to display feedback gathered through Poll Everywhere is in word clouds. The word cloud feature integrates with WordleTagxedo, and Tagul.

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

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

7 TED-Ed Food Science Lessons

Like many people, I probably drink more coffee and eat a few more carbs than I should. That combination can lead to some serious swings in my energy levels during the day. Caffeine and carbohydrates are just a couple of the topics covered in TED-Ed lessons about the science of food. Here are seven TED-Ed lessons that address elements of the science of food.

How Does Caffeine Keep Us Awake? explains what caffeine is and where it is found. The lesson also explains how the body adapts to regular doses of caffeine and what happens when you stop consuming caffeine.


How Sugar Affects the Brain is a TED-Ed lesson through which students learn why sugary foods and beverages can become addictive and how the human body processes sugar. The video is embedded below.


How Do Carbohydrates Impact Your Health? teaches students the basics of what carbohydrates are, the types of foods that are rich in carbohydrates, and how the human body processes carbohydrates.


What's the Big Deal With Gluten? is a lesson that teaches students what gluten is and where it is found. The lesson also addresses why some people are allergic to gluten and why some people just think they're allergic to gluten.


How the Food You Eat Affects Your Gut is a TED-Ed lesson through which students can learn about the gut microbiome that helps your body maintain its immune system and the best foods to maintain a healthy gut microbiome.


How the Food You Eat Affects Your Brain takes a look at the composition of the human brain and the foods that have an impact on how the brain functions. Like the lesson about gut health, this lesson includes a list of the foods that can have a positive impact on your brain's function.


This last one is a bit of physics lesson. Why is Ketchup so Hard to Pour? uses ketchup to explain why non-Newtonian fluids can transform from solid to liquid so quickly.

Ten Common Challenges in 2018

This morning I had the privilege to give the opening keynote at the TechSplash conference in Abingdon, Virginia. When I was invited to the conference the organizers expressed interest in one of my older keynote topics so I updated it for 2018. The slides from my talk are embedded below.

These Chrome Extensions Can Help You Stay On Task

In my previous post I shared a few tools that can help you save time on routine tasks. A related challenge is managing your time to be more productive. Both students and adults can struggle with resisting the urge to do things like checking Facebook or checking Amazon for a sale. During the course of a day those little things can rob you of time that could be better spent on other things. Here are three Google Chrome extensions that can help you stay on task.

Stay Focusd is a Chrome extension designed to help you stop wasting time on sites like Facebook and get your work done instead. With Stay Focusd installed you can set a time limit for yourself for how much cumulative time in a day that you spend on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Once you've used up your self-allotted time on those sites you won't be able to revisit them in that browser for 24 hours.

Dayboard is a free Google Chrome extension that opens your daily to-do list every time you open a new tab in Chrome. When you open a new tab for the first time Dayboard will appear and ask you to enter your to-do list for the day. After creating your to-do list for the rest of the day whenever you open a new tab you will see your list. You can place a checkmark next to items as you complete them. Dayboard does not require you to create an account, it works offline, and when I installed it it only asked for permission to view activity on the Dayboard website.



WasteNoTime is an extension that provides reports on where you spend time on the internet. This extension allows you to block some sites all of the time and set time quotas for others. There is also a feature that allows you to lockdown everything so you can focus for a set period of time with little internet access. You can also customize when these settings will be in place.

Three Tools That Can Help You Save Time on Routine Tasks

Time is the one thing that we want more of. We can't create more time for ourselves but we can be more efficient on some routine tasks so that we have more time for the fun things we want to do. Here are three tools that you might want to try to use to save time on routine tasks.

Reply to email more efficiently
Auto Text Expander for Google Chrome is a convenient Chrome extension that enables you to create keyboard shortcuts for phrases that you frequently use in emails. As you can see in the video embedded below, you can set a keyword that when typed will fill the body of your email with programmed text. This is a convenient tool to use if you find yourself frequently replying to the same type of questions in your email.


Use your voice to comment on documents
Kaizena is a free tool that enables you to record voice comments on Google Documents instead of writing comments. But the part of Kaizena that really stands out is the option to link your comments to a lesson that you have stored in your Kaizena account. For example, you could highlight a misuse of "their" or "there" in a student's document and then link that highlight to a lesson about homonyms.


Create and send videos from your inbox
If you're the person who everyone emails for help with their tech problems, you need to try Loom. You can launch Loom's screen recorder directly from your inbox. Not only can you launch it from your inbox you can also add your recording into any email that you are sending. As I explain and demonstrate in this video, Loom makes it easy to quickly send a screencast to a colleague who emails you to ask for tech help.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

An Easy Way to Create a GIF from Google Slides

A simple animated GIF can be useful for things like showing how a simple system works, illustrating the steps to solving a math problem, or showing a sequence of before and after pictures. A few months ago I shared three easy ways to create animated GIFs. This morning I discovered another easy way to create a GIF.

Docs365 GIFmaker is a free Google Slides add-on that you can use to turn your slides into a GIF. To make a GIF with Docs365 GIFmaker first create a set of slides in the sequence in which you want the parts of your animation to appear. After making your slides run the Docs365 GIFmaker add-on. The add-on will then turn your slides into a GIF. You can specify the dimensions that you want your GIF to be or you can use the default sizing. Your GIF can be downloaded directly to your computer or you can save it to Google Drive right from the add-on.


Forms, Games, and Timers - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we have a busy Saturday ahead of us. Our little Tinkergarten class starts up again this morning. It's a fun time of exploring and learning with friends in an outdoor setting. If you have kids between ages 18 months and six years, consider joining a Tinkergarten group in your area. After Tinkergarten I have to mow the lawn then pack for a trip to Virginia where I will be speaking at the TechSplash conference on Monday morning. I hope to meet some of you there.

But before I do any of the things on my list for the day, I have this week's list of the most popular posts to share. Take a look and see if there's an item that piques your interest.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Google Forms Features You Should Know How to Use
2. 51 World Geography Games for Kids
3. Educational Games for Elementary School Science Lessons
4. PhET PowerPoint Add-in - Add Science & Math Simulations to Slides
5. TypingClub's Typing Jungle Offers Hundreds of Typing Lessons
6. How to Add a Timer to PowerPoint Slides
7. 7 Places to Create Your Own Educational Games for Students to Play at Home

Bring Me to Your School
My fall calendar is almost full! If you would like to bring me to your school for a professional development day, please get in touch. I offer 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.
TypingClub offers more than 600 typing lessons for kids. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
Kami is a great tool for annotating and collaborating on PDFs. 
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, July 13, 2018

13 Great Drawing Lessons for Students

ShowMe is a popular app for creating whiteboard style instructional videos on iPads, Android tablets, and Chromebooks. ShowMe users have the option to publish their videos for inclusion in a public gallery of instructional videos. It was in that gallery that I found thirteen videos published by an art teacher named Nikkie Milner. The topics of her instructional videos include how to draw hands, portrait proportions, and shading techniques.



Watch all thirteen videos right here.

How to Add a Timer to PowerPoint Slides

I recently received this email from a reader who was looking for help adding a timer to her PowerPoint slides,

"I need your help adding a timer to already made quizzes in PowerPoint. I need a timer that shows 30 minutes. I would like the timer to be seen at the top right corner on all slides so students can see how much time they have left during a quiz."

My suggestion is to try the Timer Slice PowerPoint Add-in. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to add a timer to PowerPoint slides by using Timer Slice.


There are other methods for adding timers to PowerPoint slides. You can use this animation method described in detail by Microsoft. You can also use and modify the timer templates available in the PowerPoint templates gallery.

Flippity Fun With Words

In my excitement about Flippity's Google Sheets Add-on working again I forgot to mention that they have new template available for all Google Sheets users. The latest template in Flippity's gallery of Google Sheets templates is called Fun With Words.

The Flippity Fun With Words template creates printable word art from the words that you have listed in a Google Sheets column. To do this simply make a copy of the template, enter words into column A in the spreadsheet, and then select "publish to the web" from the "file" drop-down menu. Once you do those three steps Flippity will generate a link for you to view your words as word art. There are seven word art styles that you can use. Those styles are Nature, Signs, Blocks, Lego, Scrabble, ASL, and Periodic Table. As you can see in the picture below, I chose to have my name displayed in ASL.

Applications for Education
Flippity's Fun With Words template could provide you with a great way to print your students' names for display in your classroom at the beginning of the school year. Using Flippity's word art to print their names is a nice way to break out of the typical fonts that you might use to label desks or cubbies in your classroom.

Making Your Teaching Something Special - An Online Book Club With Rushton Hurley

Rushton Hurley, founder of Next Vista for Learning, published Making Your Teaching Something Special. If you picked up the book to read this summer or you've already read it, consider joining the online book club that Participate and ICE are hosting starting on Sunday. The book club is free to join. The club runs for six weeks. Each week has a different discussion theme based on the topics covered in the book. Those topics are building rapport with students, assessment, delivery, collegiality and professionalism, logistics, and reflection.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A 360° Video That Shows You How to Find the Summer Constellations

NPR's Skunk Bear YouTube channel has recently become one of my favorite YouTube channels. The latest video published on the channel is a 360° video that explains how to find the constellations that are visible in the summer night sky over North America. Because the video is a 360° video you can pan through the video to follow the instructions that are given in the video. You can do that by using your mouse and clicking in the video, holding and dragging in the video on your phone or tablet, or by moving your head while watching the video in a Google Cardboard viewer. Skunk Bear also has a corresponding PDF of directions that you can download (link opens PDF).

In addition to teaching viewers how to identify the constellations the video explains a bit of the history associated with each constellation's name.



Applications for Education
It is a beautiful evening for star gazing as I write this. My kids are in bed, but when they're a little older we'll be outside trying to identify the constellations over us on summer nights. A video like this one will be helpful in that endeavor. Likewise, the SkyView augmented reality app can help you identify constellations wherever you are in the world.

Blended Play - A Blend of Online and Offline Review Games

Blended Play is a service for creating educational games to use in your classroom. Unlike the game creation tools featured in my previous post, all of the games on Blended Play have to be played in your classroom. They have to be played in your classroom because Blended Play games are designed to be projected in the front of your room and students answer questions aloud to progress through the games.

To use Blended Play you first have to create a free account on the site. Once you have created your account you can use any of five game board templates. All games use the same question and answer format. It is just the presentation of the questions and the progress display that changes between games. For example, you can use the same ten geography questions in multiple games. When you are ready to play a game in your classroom simply log into your account, open a game, and select your questions to use in the game. You then project the game on a screen in front of your classroom and when students answer a question correctly, you mark it correct and their game pieces move forward on the digital game board.

Applications for Education
Blended Play is essentially a set of digital board game templates that you can project in your classroom to use for group review activities. It's a nice alternative to the standard Jeopardy or Bingo review activities that have been around since the dawn of time for decades. Using Blended Play isn't going to radically change your classroom, but it could provide a nice way to engage kids in a review activity.

7 Places to Create Your Own Educational Games for Students to Play at Home

The Internet is not lacking for websites that offer games that students can play online. Despite that fact, there are still occasions when you can't find exactly what you or your students need. In those cases you might want to just create your own game instead of conducting more fruitless searches. Here are seven places where you can create your own educational games that students can play at home or in your classroom.

ProProfs Brain Games provides templates for building interactive crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, word searches, hangman games, and sliding puzzle games. The games you create can be embedded into your blog or shared via email, social media, or any place that you'd typically post a link for students. If you don't want to take the time to create your own game, you can browse the gallery of games. Most of the games in gallery can be embedded into your blog.

ClassTools.net has long been one of my favorite places to find free educational games and templates for creating educational games. On ClassTools you'll find templates for creating map-based games, word sorting games, matching games, and many more common game formats. Use the search function on ClassTools to find the game template that is best for you and your students.




Purpose Games is a free service for creating and or playing simple educational games. The service currently gives users the ability to create seven types of games. Those game types are image quizzes, text quizzes, matching games, fill-in-the-blank games, multiple choice games, shape games, and slide games.

TinyTap is a free iPad app and Android app that enables you to create educational games for your students to play on their iPads or Android tablets. Through TinyTap you can create games in which students identify objects and respond by typing, tapping, or speaking. You can create games in which students complete sentences or even complete a diagram by dragging and dropping puzzle pieces.



Wherever I've demonstrated it in the last year, people have been intrigued by Metaverse. It's a free service that essentially lets you create your own educational versions of Pokemon Go. This augmented reality platform has been used by teachers to create digital breakout games, augmented reality scavenger hunts, and virtual tours.



There was a time when Kahoot games could only be played in the classroom and only created on your laptop. That is no longer the case. Challenge mode lets you assign games to your students to play at home or anywhere else on their mobile devices. You can even share those challenges through Remind. And the latest update to Kahoot enables you and your students to build quiz games on your mobile devices.


Finally, if you're a G Suite for Education user, you should check out Flippity's assortment of game templates. Flippity offers seventeen Google Sheets templates including seven templates for making games like hangman, Bingo, and Memory.

Flippity's Google Sheets Add-on is Working Again!

Back in May I started to get a bunch of messages from readers who were experiencing trouble with the Flippity Add-on for Google Sheets. The trouble was that after years of successful use, people were getting a warning message from Google that said the Flippity Add-on was unverified and not recommended for use. I reached out to the developers of Flippity back in May and was told that they were aware of the issue and were working to resolve it. (By the way, Flippity wasn't the only Add-on that had this trouble in the spring).

This evening I checked on the Flippity Add-on for Google Sheets and it seems to be working again without any problems. I was able to successfully install it and use it in three different Google Accounts. So if you were having problems with the Flippity Add-on for Google Sheets in May or June, give it a try tonight and see if it works for you.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Text2MindMap is Back - Outlines and Mind Maps on the Same Page

For a few years there was a popular mind map tool called Text2MindMap that enabled you to create mind maps from typed outlines. It was popular because you could see a written outline on one side of your screen and the connected mind map on the other side of the screen. Unfortunately, Text2MindMap went offline a couple of years ago and never returned. However, this morning I discovered that an independent developer named Tobias Løfgren has revived it on his own site.

Tobias' installation of Text2MindMap is open for anyone to to use. To use it simply go here, clear the existing text and replace it with your own text. Every line that you type in your outline becomes a node in the mind map. You can create a branch from a node by simply indenting a line in your outline (see my screenshot below for an example).

You can save the text of your mind map as a plain text file but there isn't an option to print it other than by using your browser's print function which will print the entire webpage instead of just the mind map. There is not an option to save your mind map or outline online so you will need to either download the plain text file, print the webpage, or take a screenshot of your mind map.

Applications for Education
Text2MindMap is an excellent tool for students to use to write outlines and see the connections between ideas in their outlines. Students can rearrange the connections in their mind maps by simply cutting and pasting lines from their written outlines.

How to Share Specific Google Earth Views in Google Classroom

The development of the browser-based version made Google Earth accessible to students who use Chromebooks as their primary classroom computers. One way that I like to use Google Earth is to create sets of inquiry questions based upon a specific location and or a specific view of a place. You can tell students the location and have them find it on their own in Google Earth. But if you are short on time, let's say your intent is to quickly start a classroom conversation about a particular view, then sharing a link to a specific view is the way to go. You can share that link in Google Classroom or any other LMS. In the following video I demonstrate how to share specific Google Earth views in Google Classroom.

Rye Board - An Online Corkboard for Your Ideas

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo's This Week In Web 2.0 I recently learned about a new online corkboard tool called Rye Board. Rye Board provides you with a blank canvas on which you can place text notes, images, and drawings. Notes and pictures can be dragged and dropped into any arrangement that you like. Drawings can be added in the spaces between notes and or directly on top of images on your Rye Board. Watch my video that is embedded below to see how Rye Board works.


Applications for Education
Rye Board is still in beta. According to the site developer's notes there are plans to add collaboration options as well as comment widgets. Once those options are added Rye Board could be a good place to host online, collaborative brainstorming sessions. Until then Rye Board could be a good place for students to organize their own notes or simply maintain to-do lists for themselves.



Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Kami - Annotate and Collaborate on PDFs

Disclosure: Kami is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Kami is a neat service that makes it easy to annotate and comment on PDFs. The folks at Kami describe their service as a digital pen and paper. That is an accurate description of what the core of the service provides. The core function of Kami provides you with a place to draw, highlight, and type on a PDF. You can share your PDFs in Kami and write notes in the margins for others to see and they can do the same.

Create a free account to start using Kami. Once you have created your account you can import PDFs into Kami from your Google Drive or you can import them from your desktop. Kami can be integrated with Google Classroom to make it easy to share annotated PDFs with your students and for them to share with you.


Kami's core service for drawing, commenting, and annotating PDFs is free for all users. Kami does offer the option to upgrade to a premium account. The premium version includes options for adding voice comments and video comments to your PDFs. The premium version also supports conversion and use of Word documents.
Applications for Education
Kami could be used by students to annotate historical documents that have been scanned and saved as PDFs. For example, many of the featured daily documents from the U.S. National Archives are PDFs.

5 Google Forms Features You Should Know How to Use

Google Forms received a couple of updates that teachers have requested for years. Those new features let you create a custom look for your Forms. The new customization options are just a couple of the built-in features that are handy yet frequently overlooked features in Google Forms. Here are five features that you should know how to use.

Custom Fonts and Backgrounds for Google Forms



Save Time by Setting Default Point Values and Response Requirements



Response Validation


How to Print a Google Form


Provide Automated Feedback to Responses

Soft Fruit, Mold, and Sour Milk - A Lesson on Food Safety

At one time or another we've all opened a milk container and noticed that something wasn't quite right or picked up a piece of fruit that was just a little too soft. Reactions, one of my favorite YouTube channels, has a video that answers whether or not you can eat that soft fruit, moldy bread, or drink that sour milk. Reactions is a channel that is all about applying chemistry and biology concepts to common scenarios. To that end, Can I Still Eat This? explains the science of why fruits get soft, why milk gets sour, and how mold grows and spreads through food.


Applications for Education
Can I Still Eat This? is a good example of a science video to use in flipped lessons. A couple of my go-to tools for making flipped lessons are EDpuzzle and TES Teach

Monday, July 9, 2018

Elementary School Rocks

K-5 GeoSource is a great resource produced by the American Geosciences Institute. On K-5 GeoSource you will find free lesson plans, science fair project ideas, links to virtual activities, and resources for professional development. The first time I looked at the site back in 2009 it had a distinct Web 1.0 feel. The site has improved of late to make it easier to find the materials you want. A few of the resources that I looked at were this free chart about types of rocks, a science fair project guide, and a short Geoscientist career guide.

Applications for Education
As I mentioned above, K-5 GeoSource isn't the fanciest site you'll find on the web, if you need to find some ideas to use in your classroom, K-5 GeoSource is definitely worth bookmarking. The most useful aspect of the site might be the science fair project guide that you and your students could work through to plan a hands-on Earth science project.

Create Your Own Search Engine

Last week I saw some folks on Twitter sharing a link to a site called Kidy that advertised itself as an "intellegent, safe search engine for kids." I checked out the site and found that it was just an implementation of a Google Custom Search Engine that anyone can create. The implementation on Kidy was also lacking in the amount of sources it indexed. I tried five varied searches and in each case all of the results appeared to come from a small selection of sources like PBS, National Geographic, Encyclopedia Britannica (no better than using Wikipedia), NASA, and History.com. Anyone could replicate that search engine and or improve upon it by using Google's Custom Search Engine tool.

Take a look at my video and slides below to learn how you can create your own custom search engine.


Slides of the process are embedded below.


Applications for Education
Creating your own search engine can be a good way to help students limit the scope of their searches. For example, when you're teaching younger students about search strategies you might want to have them use a search engine that only indexes a few dozen websites so that you can have some assurance that they won't be landing on pages of questionable content.

Socrative Has a New Owner - Not Much Changes

Before there was Kahoot or Quizizz there was Socrative. Socrative was a pioneer in the area of quiz-style student response systems that incorporated responses from students' phones, tablets, and computers. Socrative has offered individual and team games from the start. And the aspect of Socrative that I appreciate the most from a classroom management standpoint is that all activities happen under the same classroom ID. So rather than giving students a different game ID for every activity, you just have them use the same classroom ID for every activity and then select the activity to complete.

A few years ago Socrative was acquired by MasteryConnect. This morning I went to my Socrative account and noticed a banner announcing that it was acquired by Showbie. I read the full announcement here. From reading the announcement it seems that nothing is changing for current Socrative users.

TypingClub's Typing Jungle Offers Hundreds of Typing Lessons

Disclosure: Typing Club is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

TypingClub has been providing excellent typing instruction for many years. I've watched as the service grew from a simple practice site to a complete system that teaches students proper typing technique. The latest version of TypingClub features a program called Typing Jungle that provides more than 600 progressive lessons and activities.

TypingClub's Typing Jungle is designed to give students instruction and practice on using proper technique. TypingClub does this by providing direct instruction through short videos followed by guided practice activities. As you might expect, the lessons start with the basics using just a couple of keys then progresses through to complete use of the keyboard. TypingClub will track and keep students' progress so they don't have to start at the beginning every time they sign-in. Similarly, not every student needs to start at the beginning. Students can take a placement test to determine where they should start in the Typing Jungle series.

TypingClub's Typing Jungle has some customization options that students can apply. Those customization options include changing the font size, style, and color scheme. Students can also choose to have the letters of the keys read aloud while they type.


Typing Jungle isn't the only offering from TypingClub. TypingClub also offers Jungle Junior, Typing Basics, Left Hand-only, Right Hand-only, and story-based typing practice. Jungle Junior is designed specifically for Kindergarten and first grade students. Typing Basics is the classic version of Typing Club and is a little faster paced and slightly more traditional typing practice environment. Story-based typing practice is a novel approach to typing practice.

TypingClub's story-based typing practice presents typing practice as a story for students to write. The story will unfold as students type. They type the letters of that appear on the page. When they type correctly more of the story is revealed. Students are provided with feedback on their typing in the form of letters changing color when they type incorrectly. The story also pauses until they type the correct letters.