Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Math, Rocks, and Overlooked Features - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun is setting on the first month of the year. It seems like just yesterday we were ringing in the New Year. How are you doing on your New Year's resolution? I'm 50/50 on the follow-through for the two resolutions that I made.

As I do at the end of every month, I have compiled a list of the posts that were visited the most in previous 30 days. Take a look and see if you missed anything new and interesting in January.

Here are January's most popular posts on
1. Ten Overlooked Google Docs Features
2. Gamifying Writing Instruction
3. Google Calendar is Changing Whether You Like It or Not
4. 10 Free Apps for Elementary School Math Lessons
5. 12 Free Lessons About Rocks, Minerals, and Landforms
6. Ten Overlooked Google Slides Features
7. 10 Good Resources for Math Teachers and Students
8. How to Create an Interactive Diagram in Google Slides
9. Automatically Issue Certificates When Students Pass a Quiz in Google Forms
10. Free Music to Use In Google Slides Presentations

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. Click here to 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.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
QuickKey provides an efficient way to conduct online and in-person formative assessments.

Add Live Polls and Q&A to Your PowerPoint Slides

Glisser is a live polling and online Q&A platform that offers a free PowerPoint add-in. Glisser's free PowerPoint add-in will sync your slides to Glisser's online service. With Glisser activated you can ask multiple choice poll questions or let your audience submit their own questions much like the Q&A feature for Google Slides.

To use Glisser's free PowerPoint add-in just create your slides as you normally would. Then with the add-in activated select "sync" followed by "go live" in your PowerPoint deck. While presenting live you can use a Glisser's keyboard shortcuts to toggle between your slides and your polls.

Applications for Education
If you're in the habit of using PowerPoint to deliver lessons to your students, Glisser's free PowerPoint add-in could provide you with a way for students to submit questions and then vote for the questions that they want you to answer first. You could also use Glisser's PowerPoint add-in to build questions to use as quick warm-up quizzes at the start of a lesson.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The History of the State of the Union Address

Tonight, President Trump delivered the State of the Union Address. This post is not about what he said or didn't say tonight. Instead, it is intended to share some resources that could help you teach your students about the history of the State of the Union Address.

The following two videos from CNN and Fox News, respectively, cover the bare basics about the history of the State of the Union Address.

The History of the State of the Union from C-SPAN is a longer, more in-depth, and fairly dry overview of the history of the State of the Union Address.

How to Add Q&A to Your Google Slides Presentations

From TodaysMeet (a perennial inclusion in Best of the Web) to FlipGrid (included in this year's Best of the Web) to Padlet there are plenty of ways to gather questions from students in a digital format. But one of the ways that is often overlooked is to just add a Q&A component to a slide presentation. That can be done quite easily in Google Slides right from the presentation menu. Watch my video embedded below to learn how to add Q&A to your Google Slides presentations.

Applications for Education
The option for students to vote a question up or down is useful in determining which questions seem the most important to your students.

Learn more about Google Slides in lesson 3 of my Practical Ed Tech course, G Suite for Teachers.

New Google Sites Publishing Options

One of my favorite features of the old version of Google Sites was the option to restrict access to individual pages through a function called "page-level permissions." Google hasn't brought that feature over to the new version of Google Sites, but they did get a little closer with the announcement of a new option to specify who can see your site when it is published.

In the new version of Google Sites you can now specify individuals who can view your published Google Site. This option is a middle ground between making your site public and keeping it private. You invite people to view your published site by entering their email addresses in the "invite people" box (found in the upper-right corner of your site editor) and then choosing "can view published" after entering email addresses. 

Like almost all new features added to G Suite products, this new Google Sites privacy option will be gradually rolled-out. Depending upon your domain, you might see it today or you might not see it until the end of February. 

Google Sites is featured in lesson 9 of my online course G Suite for Teachers

How to Use Microsoft Translator

Last week I wrote that Microsoft Translator was the coolest thing that I saw at BETT. If you haven't tried Microsoft Translator, watch my video below to see how it works.

For a demo of Microsoft Translator working in PowerPoint in a classroom, watch this video from Microsoft. (Jump to the 1 minute mark).

Monday, January 29, 2018

LinguaPracticaVR - Learn English in Virtual Reality

Update August 2019: This app is no longer available. 

As I walked around the BETT Show last week there seemed to be a vendor selling a virtual reality product at every turn. LinguaPracticaVR is one of those VR products that I tested.

LinguaPracticaVR offers free English lessons in a virtual reality context. LinguaPracticaVR builds short lessons into virtual reality images of places in Ireland and the United Kingdom. For example, in the screenshot below you will see an image of the Powerscourt Waterfall. Within that image there are three short lessons about the words used to describe what is seen in the image.

Applications for Education
LinguaPracticaVR is a still in the early phases of its development, but there is excellent potential for its use as an instructional tool. One thing to note is that it seems to be built with high school age or older ELL/ ESL learners. I say that because one of the tours includes a visit to a pub.

Code for Life - Coding Challenges and Lesson Plans

Code for Life is a free program that I learned about while attending the BETT Show last week. Code for Life has a programming interface based on Blockly. Anyone who has used Blockly or Scratch will immediately recognize the similarities when they launch Code for Life's programming interface.

Code for Life contains more than 100 challenges that students can complete through Code for Life's Rapid Router program. Each challenge is preceded by some simple directions for students to follow. Students can save their progress in Rapid Router by creating a free account on Code for Life.

Applications for Education
Code for Life offers an extensive collection of free lesson plans for teachers. The lesson plans are aligned to the UK Computing Curriculum. That doesn't mean that you can't adapt the lesson plans to meet the standards for your school district, state, or province.

Create Your Own Google Expeditions

To coincide with the BETT Show Google announced a new beta program that will enable schools to create their own Google Expeditions. The latest iteration of the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program will provide schools with all of the equipment required to capture 360 images and to create their own immersive Google Expeditions. The announcement didn't say this, but I will guess that the Google Expeditions Pioneer Program will provide some type of professional development or training. The application to become a part of the new Google Expeditions Pioneer Program is now open. Click here to apply.

Other ways to create your own virtual reality imagery and tours:
In the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week I featured a free program called Patches that enables anyone to build virtual reality tours. Patches provides tons of animations, objects, and scenes that you can customize. The program also supports importing your own images and animations.

Google's Cardboard Camera App will let you create narrated panoramic images to view in virtual reality headsets. Watch my following video to learn how to use Google's Cardboard Camera App.

You can get the Cardboard Camera app for Android here and the iPhone version here.

A Free Teleprompter

Thanks to Beth Holland this weekend I learned about a free teleprompter service called CuePrompter. CuePrompter displays your written script in a clear, large, scrolling format in your web browser. It's perfect for use when recording yourself or someone else on camera.

To use CuePrompter just go to the site then start entering your script into the "quick start" text box. After you have entered your script you can select the size of the prompter display, the size of the text, and the display color scheme. Click "start prompter" when you're ready to start using your script in the CuePrompter display. You can adjust the speed at which your script scrolls down the screen. If you need to stop and rewind, you can do that in the script display too.

Applications for Education
I immediately thought of my friend Joe Cummings after I tried CuePrompter. Joe is a middle school teacher who does some great video projects with his students. Many of the videos feature students on camera. A tool like CuePrompter could help students get their lines right on the first try or at least with fewer tries.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Slides, Mount Rushmore, and Tours - The Week in Review

Good evening from terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport where I'm waiting for a flight home after attending the BETT Show in London. It was a whirlwind trip to catch up with some friends and colleagues based in Europe while also seeing some of the new offerings of some of the ed tech industry. I am fortunate to have these opportunities to travel, but I'm always happy to be returning home to my kids who miss me (Skype just isn't the same as being there). Before I board my flight home, I have this week's run-down of the most visited posts of the week.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Ten Overlooked Google Slides Features
2. Geometry at Mount Rushmore - A Math Lesson
3. Ten Overlooked Google Docs Features
4. Story Cubes - Templates to Help Students Plan Stories
5. How to Add Voice Comments to Google Docs
6. Important News About Adobe Spark
7. GE Teach Tour Builder - Create Google Earth Tours for the Web

Only One Day Left!
Tomorrow is the last day to join the Practical Ed Tech courses Teaching History With Technology or G Suite for Teachers at the discounted rate of just $75. In both courses you'll get at least ten instructional videos (20-45 minutes each), lesson outlines, and suggested classroom activities. Use the code "construction" to receive the discounted price.

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. Click here to 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.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

Gamifying Writing Instruction

Last night at TeachMeet BETT Simon Johnson gave a great little talk about 21 Things Every Teacher Should Try. He didn't cover all 21 things in the talk (he only had seven minutes to talk), but one of the things that he did talk about was game-based learning. The example that he gave was gamifiying writing instruction.

In Simon's example of gamifying writing instruction he shared a grid in which students were given points based on the type and complexity of the words that they used in their writing. For example, students might earn five points for correctly using an adverb. Or they could earn could earn points for correctly using words from a vocabulary list.

Generally, I tend to think about "gamification" as a kind of a gimmick. That said, I can see it being beneficial to some students in the right context. For students who have a generally negative view of school and have become accustomed to grading practices that detract points for not doing something, a gamification of writing could feel better. Rather than seeing that they didn't use "x" number of vocabulary words correctly they could see it as "I scored 500 points" for using "x" number of words correctly.

Ten Overlooked Google Docs Features

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you're new to using Google Docs or G Suite in general, check out my G Suite for Teachers course.

Friday, January 26, 2018

A Periodic Table of AR and VR Apps

At the start of the BETT Show Mark Anderson and Steve Bambury announced the release of their new Periodic Table of iOS Apps for AR and VR. The table is an interactive Thinglink image that links to AR and VR apps. The apps can be used to address topics in STEM, creativity, geography, storytelling, art, teaching, science, and history. Some of the apps in the table are free while others are paid. And it should be noted that Mark and Steve work in the UK so the links point to the UK version of the app store.

Important News About Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark is a great tool for making videos, storytelling websites, and simple graphics. It has been popular since its launch a few years ago. Also since its launch there have been many questions about whether or not it can be used with students under the age of 13. For while Adobe's guide for educators indicated that it could be used with students under 13 with the right supervision. This week at the BETT Show, Adobe made an official announcement about the use of Adobe Spark by students under age 13.

The announcement states that beginning in April students under the age of 13 will be able to use Adobe Spark with Adobe's school ID integration.

In the same announcement about age restrictions, Adobe announced that starting in April all of the premium Adobe Spark features will be available for free to all schools and universities.

Applications for Education
Adobe Spark Video is one of the tools that I feature in Teaching History With Technology because I believe that it provides a good way for students to create short historical documentaries. Ten other ways to use Adobe Spark are featured here.

The Coolest Thing I Saw at BETT Today!

Today at the BETT Show in London I met with Mike Tholfsen to learn about some of the free products that Microsoft is making for schools. He shared some more details on the announcements that Microsoft made earlier in the week, but I was absolutely blown away when he demonstrated Microsoft Translator!

Microsoft Translator does what its name implies, it translates your text in real-time. It support translations for sixty languages. But that's not what impressed me. What blew me away about Microsoft Translator is that members of your group or assembled audience can choose the language they want your words translated into. For example, I could be writing or speaking in English and have two people reading my words in Spanish, one in French, and another in Japanese.

Microsoft Translator will translate your spoken or typed words in real-time. To get started just head to the Microsoft Translator website then choose "start conversation." From there your translation room is launched. Your audience can join your conversation by either entering using a join link or by scanning a QR code. Microsoft Translator has dedicated mobile apps. It can also be used in any modern web browser on a laptop.

Microsoft Translator isn't a one-way street. People who have joined your conversation can reply in their chosen languages and their messages will be instantly translated into your chosen language. So just like in the listening example that I gave, I could have two people speaking Spanish, one speaking French, and another speaking Japanese and all of their messages will appear to me in English.

In addition to the stand-alone website and mobile apps, Microsoft Translator is available as a PowerPoint add-in. When installed into PowerPoint Microsoft Translator will automatically subtitle your slides as you speak. More than 60 languages are available in the Microsoft Translator PowerPoint add-in.

If you work with an ESL/ ELL population, you need to try Microsoft Translator.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Peter Pig Helps Kids Learn About Money

Peter Pig’s Money Counter is a fun little game designed to help kids learn to recognize U.S. coins, to recognize the values of U.S. coins, and to add the values of U.S. coins. The game is available to play online. Peter Pig's Money Counter is also available as a free iPad app and as a free Android app.

There are three levels in Peter Pig’s Money Counter and three games within each level. The first game asks students to sort coins into jars. The second game requires students to count coins and select the matching total value. The third game has students look at two piles of coins and determine which one has the greater value. The difference between the levels is the quantity and variety of coins displayed.

Applications for Education
Playing Peter Pig’s Money Counter could be a fun way for students to practice identifying and adding coins.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Cold and Flu Season Lessons

As anyone who has been in a webinar with me in the last week can confirm, I've been fighting a cold. Like a lot of people, I seem to get a cold or the flu around this time every year. Fortunately, it's just a cold and not the flu. But what's the difference between the two? How can you avoid catching either one? Those questions and more are answered in the following videos.

Colds, the Flu, and You is a video from SciShow Kids that is appropriate for elementary school classrooms.

How is a cold or flu passed from person to person and what exactly is it doing to your body? NPR answers those questions in the following animated video.

What is ‘flu? - Explania

If you want to use any of these videos in flipped lessons, take a look at the tools featured in my playlist of tutorials on creating flipped lessons.

WriteReader Launches a New User Interface

WriteReader is one of my favorite writing tools for elementary school students and their teachers. WriteReader is a free service that students can use to create multimedia ebooks. I like it so much that I have included it in my Best of the Web 2018 presentation.

This week WriteReader unveiled an updated user interface. The new interface retains all of the features of the old one and adds some new functions. One of those new functions is drag-and-drop reordering of pages in WriteReader books. Another update is the option to share books with a private URL. And for teachers, there's an improved overview of all students' books. Finally, WriteReader is now more mobile-friendly than ever before. 

Applications for Education
One of WriteReader's outstanding features for teachers is the option to write corrections directly beneath a student's original writing in the ebook before publication. The feature that students like is gallery of artwork including Sesame Street scenes to use in their stories. And parents like that their children can record their own voices in WriteReader books.

Last fall Vicki Den Ouden wrote a guest post about using WriteReader with emerging writers in K-5 classrooms. You can read her post here.

Sutori Offers Another Alternative to Storify

Sutori is a neat tool for creating multimedia timelines. Therefore, it was a somewhat natural move for the Sutori team to develop a tool that enables Storify users to move their stories into Sutori. Sutori's Storify importer is easy to use as it doesn't require any coding on your part. To import a Storify story into Sutori all that you need to do is copy the link for a Storify story and paste it into the Sutori importer. Of course, you will need to do this for every Storify story that you wish to preserve before May when Storify will shut down and take down all content.

Another option for organizing Tweets into linear collections is to use Twitter's Moments feature.

Best of the Web 2018

This morning I had the privilege to give a presentation for the 2018 Wild Wisconsin Web Conference. They asked me last fall to give a Best of the Web presentation and I was happy to oblige. Until this morning I hadn't given a Best of the Web presentation since last March so I spent last week updating it for 2018. The slides from the presentation that I gave this morning are embedded below. You can also get PPT or PDF copies here.

Patches - Create Your Own Virtual Reality Environments

In the past I've featured Google's Cardboard Camera and Street View apps as tools for creating simple virtual reality imagery. Those tools are great if you want to capture immersive images of physical environments and share those images with others. But if you want to create completely drawn and animated virtual reality scenes, then you'll want to try Patches.

Patches is a free online tool for creating virtual reality scenes. Patches offers animated characters, animals, buildings, and common objects that you can place inside a virtual reality scene. Just drag and drop objects and animations from the selection menus to the Patches design canvas. You can create and customize your VR scenes as much as you like by changing object positioning, color schemes, and even the speed at which an animation moves. You can preview your VR scenes within the Patches editor. Completed projects can be viewed in a VR viewer by just enter the link assigned to your project into your mobile phone's browser.

Applications for Education
Students could use Patches to create virtual reality environments in which a fiction story is brought to life in VR. Patches could be used by students to create simulations of historical events. As someone in the Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group pointed out, Patches could be used in math classes to help students further their understanding of geometry concepts.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Polar Bear "Street" View Lesson Plans

Polar Bears International offers a set of extensive lesson plans designed to help students learn about polar bears and their habitat. One of those lesson plans is called Street View and Polar Bears. In Street View and Polar Bears students use Google Maps to explore the geography, geology, and ecosystem of the tundra around Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. At the end of the lesson students should be able to answer questions like "what are the characteristics of the subarctic tundra?" and "what would be some of the considerations for the construction of buildings, schools, houses, etc. in the subarctic?"

Bear Tracker is another feature of the Polar Bears International website. The Bear Tracker plots the travels of collared polar bears in Hudson Bay and the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. You can view the travel paths of one or all of the bears on each map. The map also offers play the travel paths recorded over time.

Mentimeter Adds a New Q&A Feature

Mentimeter, one of the tools that I often mention for conducting formative assessments, has just released a new Q&A feature. The new feature will let your audience submit questions that they want you to answer. Additionally, members of the audience can vote for the questions that they want you to answer.

The new Mentimeter Q&A feature is in addition to all of the other polling options that are built into the platform. Those include open responses displayed as word clouds, multiple choice questions, scales, and matrix responses. Watch the following video to learn how to use the new Q&A feature in Mentimeter.

Applications for Education
Mentimeter's new Q&A function could be useful in helping you identify and prioritize the questions that your students want you to answer. I also think that it could provide a good way to have students submit question that they think should or will appear on an upcoming assessment.

How to Add Voice Comments to Google Docs

Last night I shared the news of Kaizena's updated Google Docs Add-on that streamlines the process of adding voice comments to Google Documents. If you haven't tried it, watch the video that I just made about how to add voice comments to Google Documents.

Applications for Education
As I wrote last night, the combination of voice comments with direct links to a lesson could be very helpful to students who might otherwise be confused by the voice comment alone or the lesson alone. And, as Louis Odendaal pointed out on Twitter, the voice commenting feature can be helpful to ELL students and teachers.

Are you new to using Google Docs? Learn everything you need to know in my online course, G Suite for Teachers

An Updated Version of Google Earth Released

Thanks to the Google Earth Blog I just learned about the release of an updated version of Google Earth Pro. Google Earth Pro (it's free despite the "pro" designation) is the desktop version or "classic" version of Google Earth. The latest version includes thirteen improvements to Google Earth Pro. You can see the full list of improvements here, but I'm going to highlight the ones that will probably matter the most to teachers and students.

The first notable updated is support for Windows 64-bit. This matters if your school's computers operate on the 64-bit versions of Windows.

The latest update to Google Earth Pro provides improved handling of large KML files. If you have previously had Google Earth slow or freeze when launching large KML (AKA Google Earth files), you should experience that less often now. Speaking from experience, there's nothing more frustrating than trying to get all of your students to launch a KML file only to hear half of them say, "Mr. Byrne, it's not doing anything, it's frozen."

Finally, the latest version of Google Earth Pro has resolved the inconsistency issues associated with the elevation measuring tool.

Ten Ideas for Using Google Earth in Your Classroom
One of the most popular posts that I published last year was this one in which I highlighted ten ways that you can use Google Earth. The list is not limited to just social studies lessons. In the list you will also find some tutorials.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Desmos Classroom Activities - Lessons With Online Graphing Calculators

This post originally appeared a few years ago. I'm sharing it again because Desmos was just added as an option in OneNote

Desmos is a free graphing calculator that is available to use in your web browser and as an Android and iPad app. The Desmos calculator performs all of the functions you would expect to see in a graphing calculator with a couple of extras that you don't find in typical graphing calculators. Desmos allows you to share your equations and graphs. Desmos graphs your equations as you type them and redraws them as you alter your equations.

Applications for Education
Desmos offers a good collection of resources for teachers. The teacher resources page features a dozen pre-made activities that you can distribute to students. The activities take advantage of the functions in Desmos while helping your students learn about graphing, problem modeling, algebra, and geometry. Once you've reviewed some of the pre-made activities in Desmos you can use the Desmos activity builder to create your own lessons and distribute them to your students.

Microsoft Introduces Page Locking for OneNote Class Notebooks

Today, Microsoft announced a slew of new features for teachers and students who use Office 365 Education. Among those new features is an option that anyone using OneNote Class Notebooks is sure to appreciate. That is the new option to lock pages as "read only" for students.

A couple of other new OneNote features to note (see what I did there?) are the integration of Desmos and new digital stickers to use when giving feedback on a OneNote page. Desmos is a free graphing calculator. I've covered Desmos extensively in the past. In addition to the calculator itself, Desmos has a large collection of free math lesson plans.

Ten Overlooked Google Slides Features

Like any robust presentation tool, Google Slides has many features that often go overlooked by new users. Some of these features will let you accomplish the things that you used to do in PowerPoint or Keynote while others will just save you a bit of time. Either way, here are ten features of Google Slides that you should know how to use. 

1. Word Art
Word Art is different than just changing your font size or style. Inserting word art lets you apply custom borders, colors, and shading to your font. It also lets you dynamically resize font to fit almost anywhere in a slide. 

2. Live Q&A
Launch a live Q&A channel forum for your audience directly from the Presenter View menu. Your audience can submit questions by going to the Q&A link that is automatically displayed across the top of your slides when you have Q&A activated. You can also disable this feature at any time. 

3. Import Google Keep Note
Open the "tools" menu while editing your slides and you can choose to open a Keep Notepad. That will display all of the notes that you have saved in Google Keep including pictures and links. 

4. Integrated Unsplash Image Search
You can use the "insert image" menu to launch a Google Images search, but that's not the best option for an integrated image search. Unsplash Photos has a free Google Slides Add-on that provides access to hundreds of thousands of images that are in the public domain. 

5. Add Audio to Your Slides
There are two ways that you can do this. You could place a YouTube music video in your slide and then shrink it down and hide it in the corner of your slide. Or you could use the AudioPlayer for Slides Add-on which makes it quite easy to play music behind your entire presentation. 

6. Play videos without using YouTube. 
Last year Google finally added the option to include videos in your slides without those videos having to be on YouTube. Upload any video to your Google Drive account and then you can import it directly into any slide. 

7. Make Interactive Diagrams
I made a video about this last week and featured it in the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week. By using the hyperlinking tools in Google Slides you can link multiple parts of one slide to other slides within the same presentation. Take the model to its fullest extent and your students can begin to build choose-your-own-adventure stories in Google Slides. 

8. Voice Typing Speaker Notes
In the "tools" menu in Google Slides you will find an option for speech-to-text. This function only works for the speaker notes and not for the body of slides. 

9. Chart, Diagram, and Timeline Templates.
Within the "insert" menu in Google Slides you will find a handful of chart, diagram, and timeline templates that you can customize. 

10. Import your old PPT slides
If your school recently made the switch from a Windows-based environment to Chromebooks or just to G Suite for Education, you might be worried about having to recreate some of your favorite presentations. You don't have to do that. You can import your old PPT files into Google Slides right from the "file" drop-down menu in Google Slides. 

If you're new to using G Suite for Education, check-out the online course that I built just for folks like you. Use the code "construction" this week to get a discount on enrollment. 

Kaizena - Streamlined Voice Commenting in Google Docs

Kaizena is a free Google Docs Add-on that makes it easy to add voice comments to your documents and to the documents that students share with you. Today, the Kaizena team announced a new streamlined version of their Google Docs Add-on. The new version lets you record your voice comments without having to ever leave the document.

Once you have the Kaizena Add-on installed and open, you can simply highlight any piece of text in a document and then click the record icon to record a voice comment. Kaizena also supports writing comments.

One other awesome aspect of Kaizena 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.

Applications for Education
Kaizena provides a great way to efficiently deliver feedback to your students about their documents. The combination of voice comments with direct links to a lesson could be very helpful to students who might otherwise be confused by the voice comment alone or the lesson alone.

You can learn more about Google Docs Add-ons in my on-demand course, G Suite for Teachers

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Geometry at Mount Rushmore - A Math Lesson

CyArk is an organization building an online library of 3D models of the world's cultural heritage sites. Mount Rushmore is one of the places that CyArk features in their galleries of 3D models. You can find the entire collection of places here.

Applications for Education
In the CyArk lesson plan collection you will find a handful of lesson plans about the mathematics connected to Mount Rushmore. Scroll down to items 17 through 26 to find the lesson plans about Mount Rushmore. In these lesson plans you will find activities for teaching measurement, geometry, and algebra. There are lesson plans available for K-12. Some lessons are as simple as identifying shapes while others are as complex as predicting when two cracks on the surface of Mount Rushmore would intersect over time.

Math, Social Studies, and Diagrams - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where a cold bug has hit our house. I tried to fight it, but this morning I have to admit that I've caught it too. This might put me a little behind on my plan to have Practical Ed Tech completely remodeled by kick-off off the Patriots' game on Sunday afternoon. So while I'm tending to sick babies and trying to get some rest myself, I hope that you all have good weekends.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 10 Free Apps for Elementary School Math Lessons
2. How to Create an Interactive Diagram in Google Slides
3. 5 Ways to Use Comics in Social Studies Lessons
4. Virtual Tours of Ancient and Modern Greece
5. 300+ Free Economics Lessons, Videos, and Educational Games
6. Loom 2.0 - Create and Edit Screencasts
7. Eight Lessons in Teaching History With Technology

Online Professional Development
There only three days left to join the 2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group. After Monday the group will be closed to new members.

You can join Teaching History With Technology or G Suite for Teachers at any time. Use the code "construction" this weekend to get a discount on registration.

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. Click here to 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.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Create Animations With ABCya Animate

ABCya Animate is a fun tool from ABCya that enables students to create animated GIFs containing up to 100 frames. On ABCya Animate students build their animation creations by drawing, typing, and inserting images. Students can change the background of each frame, include new pictures in each frame, and change the text in each frame of their animations.

The feature that I like best about ABCya Animate is that students can see the previous frames of their animations while working on a current frame. This helps students know where to position items in each frame in order to make their animations as smooth as possible. Students do not need to register on ABCya Animate in order to use the tool or to save their animations. When students click "save" on ABCya Animate their creations are downloaded as GIFs.

Applications for Education
ABCya Animate could 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, the animation that I started in the picture above could be the beginning of a short story about flying to visit grandparents. To complete the story I would add some drawings to represent my family and perhaps some text for clarification. Your students might also use short animations as part of larger multimedia project.

If you want to create instructional animations of your own, try one of the options highlighted in last week's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week.

My Unprofessional Videos

If you follow my YouTube channel or even if you just watch the videos that I put into blog posts here, you'll notice a significant lack of editing. In the last couple of weeks I've had a few people ask me why I don't make my videos look more professional. So this morning I went live on YouTube and Facebook to explain why my videos don't have much in the way of post-production editing. If you missed it, you can view the video here.

Like you, I only have 24 hours in a day and I don't have an assistant. I'm faced with the choice of spending time making post-production edits or moving on to review more tools, learn more, and manage the other responsibilities in my day. If a rough cut or one-take video can convey the information that I need to share, that's fine with me.

Unless you're making videos in which you are the focal point of the video, I don't think that there is a lot to be gained by spending time scrutinizing and editing every aspect of the video. This is especially true if, like me, you're just making three to five minute screencast videos. That said, if you're trying to become the next Keith Hughes, Tom Richey, or John Green then it does make sense to carefully edit every part of your video.

Sometimes teachers don't make videos or don't have students make videos because they think that a video needs to go through a lot of editing in order to be useful. A simple screencast in which you record yourself talking over some slides for a few minutes can be as effective as a three minute video that went through hours of editing. Now that doesn't mean that students shouldn't try to put in their best efforts, but we also need to bear in mind that unless the class is about video production, there are bigger things to worry about than whether or not a video has perfect edits. In fact, one my favorite videos produced by my own students had many flubs in it.

How to Make an Interactive Diagram in PowerPoint

A couple of days ago I published a video that demonstrated how to create an interactive diagram in Google Slides. This morning I received an email from a reader who wanted to know if the same thing can be done in PowerPoint. Yes, you can use PowerPoint to create interactive diagrams. I made the following video to show you how to make interactive diagrams in PowerPoint.

How to Create & Send Screencasts from Your Inbox

On Thursday morning I featured Loom 2.0 which offers a convenient way to create screencasts on a Chromebook, Mac, or Windows computer. One of the "hidden" features of Loom is that once you have connected it to your email account, 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.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Sundials and Snowflakes - How to Make Your Own

SciShow Kids recently published a new video that explains to students how a sundial works and how they can make their own sundials. The video could be the basis for a fun, hands-on lesson about learning to tell time.

For those in cold, northern climates creating and taking sundials outside with your students might not be practical in the snow. So SciShow Kids has a video that is a little more appropriate for winter. That video is How to Make a Paper Snowflake. The video gives directions at a nice pace that students can follow. The video also introduces some science vocabulary that might be new to elementary school students.

Remodeling Practical Ed Tech

As you may know, I addition to this blog I maintain where I host professional development courses for teachers. That site had tremendous growth in 2017 so I have had to make some changes to the back end in order to make sure that it can be helpful to as many visitors as possible.

Better email management
Last fall I made a switch to a better email management service. That change happened rather seamlessly for those who subscribe to the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter.

Better on-demand offerings
For years I offered courses that consisted of a series of live webinars. Those were great for the folks who could attend. But I had many people who would have rather done the courses at different times. That's why made my most popular courses, Teaching History With Technology and G Suite for Teachers available in on-demand, self-paced formats.

New design
The third update to Practical Ed Tech is underway. It's a change to the design to make it faster and more responsive. This change is a work in progress. It will hopefully be done by the time the Patriots kick-off on Sunday afternoon. In the meantime if you visit the site you may notice some design elements are a bit out of whack. All of the content is there and working, it's just the color schemes and layouts that are bit whacky right now.

Construction sale
While Practical Ed Tech is being remodeled, I'm offering a discount on my on-demand courses Teaching History With Technology and G Suite for Teachers. Use the code "construction" during registration to get either course for $75 instead of the regular $97. This code will be good until Sunday night (January 21st). Register and you can start your first lesson today!

Citations and Citing Your Work - New Common Craft Video

What needs to be cited and what doesn't need to be cited in a paper is a question that has confounded many students over the years. Common Craft has a new video that addresses that question and more. Citations and Citing Your Work teaches students about the differences between in-text and full citations and how they work together.

Disclosure: I have an in-kind business relationship with Common Craft.

Loom 2.0 - Create and Edit Screencasts

Loom is a free screencasting tool that works in the Chrome web browser. In addition to using it on a Chromebook, you can use Loom on a Mac or Windows computer as long as use the Chrome browser. Loom will let you create a recording of anything on your computer's screen. There's also an option to use your webcam while recording.

This week Loom announced the launch of version 2.0. Loom 2.0 includes the option to trim sections out of your videos. Initially, Loom limited recordings to ten minutes. That restriction has been removed in the latest version of Loom. Learn more about Loom 2.0 by watching the video that is embedded below. Watch for the bit about how you can use emoji reactions with your videos.

Applications for Education
If you're the person at your school who everyone emails when they have questions about how to do something on their Chromebooks, Loom has a handy feature for you. With Loom activated you will see a "send with Loom" option in your email composition window. Use that to quickly record and send screencasts to colleagues and students.

If Loom isn't for you, here are six other ways that you can create screencast videos.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Simple Tips for Learning From PD Webinars

I love webinars. They're a convenient way to learn from experts that I otherwise wouldn't get to interact with. But not everyone enjoys them like I do. In fact, I didn't always find them enjoyable. Then a handful of years ago I made some simple, almost "duh," discoveries that helped me get more out of each webinar that I joined. I shared those tips in this video on my YouTube channel. Below the embedded video I have written the tips.

1. Participate in live webinars, don't just watch them.
Every webinar platform has some kind of chat or Q&A feature. Use it! Use it to ask the presenter questions. An experienced webinar presenter will be able to handle questions in realtime. Don't be afraid to ask clarifying questions. Even when I'm attending webinars about things with which I'm already familiar, I make an effort to think of questions to ask. This forces me to tune-in and listen with more focus than if I was just listening in the hopes that something said by the presenter will jump out at me.

2. Close Facebook and take notes.
If I cannot attend the live version of a webinar, I still find great value in recorded webinars. When I watch recorded webinar I focus on it the same way I would during a live session. That means closing Facebook and taking notes in my notebook. In that notebook I write the questions that I want to send to the presenter via email.

3. Act on webinar ideas quickly.
When I participate in a webinar my participation isn’t over until I actually act on what I was just taught. Just like in a traditional classroom setting, it’s important to try for yourself what was just demonstrated for you. Do this as quickly as you can.

The next webinar that I am hosting is next week for the Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group. There is still time to join for 2018. After next week, membership will be closed to new members.

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