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Monday, April 30, 2018

Padlet, Spark, and PhET - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where the snow that coated my yard on many mornings in April now all gone. Another sign that spring is here can be found in my TV viewing habit of quickly jumping between three channels to watch the Bruins, Celtics, and Red Sox play on the same night. Two of the three are winning as I draft this post.

As I do at the end of every month, I have compiled a list of the ten most popular posts of the previous 30 days. This month's most popular post was a response to the changes to Padlet's free plan. That post was just slightly more popular than this one about the launch of the Adobe Spark for Education. Take a look at the full list below.

These were the most popular posts in April, 2018:
1. 5 Alternatives to Padlet
2. Adobe Launches Spark for Education
3. Reminder - The Library of Congress Seeks a Teacher-in-Residence
4. NASA's Interactive Guide to the Solar System
5. Now You Can Include Google Slides In a Google Document
6. PhET PowerPoint Add-in - Add Science & Math Simulations to Slides
7. 1766 Free Lesson Plans for Art Teachers
8. Jungle Jeopardy - A Game About Ecosystems
9. TED-Ed Lessons About Every Element on the Periodic Table
10. Tube - A Distraction-free Way to Search and Watch YouTube

Online PD Opportunities
On May 7th I'm launching a self-paced course about classroom video projects. This is in addition to all of the other on-demand webinars and self-paced courses currently available on PracticalEdTech.com.

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.

Today's Blogging Q&A Recording

This afternoon I hosted a live Q&A session about blogging. I used YouTube's relatively new desktop livestreaming tool for the broadcast. If you missed the broadcast, you can watch the recording as embedded below. A list of the questions that I answered is included below the video in this post.



  • How do I get started?
  • What is the best blog provider? For school issues.
  • Resources/Websites to create blogs and attract audiences.
  • Picking it back up after being off for a few years and want to learn from someone (you) I've followed for years and know is successful.
  • How do I keep it up?
  • In a world with so many blogs, how do I find my own voice? I sometimes feel like everything is already being said.
I do offer an on-demand webinar all about how to build a great classroom blog. You'll find that webinar right here on PracticalEdTech.com.

How to Automatically Issue Certificates When Students Pass a Quiz in Google Forms

The quizzes setting in Google Forms makes it easy to quickly score quizzes and return quiz scores to your students. The Google Forms Add-on called Certify'em makes it possible to not only give students their grades right away, it also issues them a certificate for passing the quiz. Watch my video embedded below to learn how to use Certify'em to automatically issue certificates to students when they pass a quiz in Google Forms.


Certify'em was developed by the same person who developed the very popular Flubaroo Add-on for Google Sheets.

Learn more about Google Forms in my online course, G Suite for Teachers

Old Google Sites vs. New Google Sites

Last week I published a video about converting old Google Sites to the new version of Google Sites. That post prompted a lot of emails from readers who wanted to know what would happen when they switch from the old version to the new version of Google Sites. To answer those questions I've put together the following brief overview of what you gain and what you lose when you switch from the old version to the new version of Google Sites.

What you gain when switching to the new version of Google Sites:

  • Better handling of third-party embed codes. The old version of Google Sites is notoriously finicky when it comes to embedding media from sources outside of the G Suite ecosystem. The new version of Google Sites is much improved in that area.
  • Design templates optimized for phone and tablet viewing. The old version of Google Sites does have a "mobile-friendly" option hidden in the settings but even that with that setting enabled old Google Sites don't always function correctly on mobile phones.
  • Streamlined integration of docs, slides, forms, spreadsheets, videos, and other files stored within your Google Drive account. You've always been able to include these items in Google Sites, the new version just makes it a little easier to do. 
What you lose when switching to the new version of Google Sites:
  • Page-level permissions. This feature lets you give students access to edit specified, individual pages within a site. So far this feature has not been added to the new version of Google Sites.
     
  • "Announcements." The "announcements" page format in old Google Sites essentially enabled you to create a blog section within your site. This feature has yet to appear in the new version of Google Sites. 
Bottom line
Google hasn't announced a firm deadline for when they're ending support of the old version of Google Sites, but it's going to happen sooner than later. If you're thinking about using Google Sites for the next school year, you should use the new version to save yourself headaches down the road. 

The new version of Google Sites is the version that I now teach in my G Suite for Teachers online course as well as in my on-site G Suite workshops

Sunday, April 29, 2018

TodaysMeet Is Shutting Down - Six Alternatives to Try

TodaysMeet is shutting down. James Socol, the creator and only developer of TodaysMeet, has announced that he's shutting it down on June 16th. I'm going to miss it and I know that a lot of you will too. I encourage you to read the announcement that James posted because it will give you a good understanding of how much sacrifice goes into producing and maintaining some of our favorite free tools.

I was introduced to TodaysMeet by Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano nearly a decade ago and I have used it ever since in classrooms, professional development workshops, and during keynotes. TodaysMeet provided an easy way to give every student a digital voice in classroom discussions. TodaysMeet has been my go-to backchannel tool for so long that it's going to take some time to settle on the best alternative, but here are the alternatives I'm going to be using in various settings over the next few weeks.

Tozzl
Tozzl is a chat platform that allows you to quickly create private, password-protected message boards as well as public boards. To get started visit Tozzl and select "create a new Tozzl." Then you can name your message board and set a privacy password (optional). Tozzl assigns a new, unique URL to each message board. On your message board you can add sections for chat, file sharing, to-do lists, and YouTube videos. You can also import the feed of a Twitter hashtag into your Tozzl boards.



Backchannel Chat
This 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.

Google Slides Q&A
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. For now, this is probably the option I will use during keynote presentations.



Mentimeter
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.

GoSoapBox
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.

AnswerGarden
AnswerGarden is a neat 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.

Thanks to Kathi Kersznowski for alerting me to the closure of TodaysMeet. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

PhET, Grasshoppers, and AR Creatures - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where spring is in the air. Lately, we've had some rainy days mixed with wonderfully warm and sunny days. That's a winning combination to make the flowers grow start to sprout in our gardens. It's also great for getting outside to walk, run, bike or just enjoy not having to wear a parka. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that the weather lets you get outside for fun too. And if the weather isn't great, take some time to catch up on this week's top stories on Free Technology for Teachers.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. PhET PowerPoint Add-in - Add Science & Math Simulations to Slides
2. A Fun App That Helps Kids Learn How Animals Adapt to Their Environments
3. 5 PowerPoint Features Often Overlooked by Students and Teachers
4. How to Use Flipgrid - A Guide for Getting Started
5. Grasshopper - Learn to Code on Your Phone
6. WikiWhere - A Challenging Map Game
7. How to Convert Old Google Sites to New Google Sites

Online PD Opportunities
On May 7th I'm launching a self-paced course about classroom video projects. This is in addition to all of the other on-demand webinars and self-paced courses currently available on PracticalEdTech.com.

For the rest of the month, group packages for my G Suite for Teachers online course are on sale. If you have five or more teachers register from your school, you get 40% off. Have more than 15 and you can get an even better deal.

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.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Book Creator Now Offers "Read To Me" Mode Online

Last summer the Book Creator team launched a web-based version of their popular iPad app. The web-based version, called Book Creator for Chrome, has been a hit with teachers and students.

The latest update to Book Creator for Chrome includes a feature called "Read To Me." Read To Me is a text-to-speech function that reads the words on the pages of any book created in Book Creator. Read To Me highlights each word as it is read aloud. The pages of the books automatically turn when the end of a page is read aloud.

Read To Me works in Chrome, Safari, and Edge. It also works within the iPad app.

Book Creator's Read To Me includes the option to change the speed at which the text is read aloud. You can also specify whether or not words are highlighted and whether or not multimedia elements are played within the book when Read To Me is enabled.

Watch Live - Bison Calves in Yellowstone

A few minutes ago I was browsing Facebook when I noticed that the Yellowstone National Park page was livestreaming images of bison and their new calves. You can view the stream here right now.


If you're not able to view the stream because of restrictions on your school filters or you want more information about bison, check out the following resources.

Meet the American Bison does a fine job of showing younger students basic facts about bison. If you look carefully, you'll also notice that it does a great job of modeling how to cite the sources of images used in a video.


Older students who want to learn about bison should turn to the resources available on the Yellowstone National Park website. Those resources include the following video about the challenges of bison conservation.



And find more resources for learning about Yellowstone in this blog post written by Beth Still.

TED-Ed Lessons About Every Element on the Periodic Table

For years I have referred readers to the University of Nottingham's Periodic Table of Videos. That table provides a video about every element that is in the Periodic Table. Recently, via Lifehacker, I learned that the producers of the Periodic Table of Videos partnered with TED-Ed to create lessons about every element in the Periodic Table.

TED-Ed's Periodic Videos page features an interactive Periodic Table of Elements. Click on any of the elements to launch a video. Below the video you will find a link to the related TED-Ed lesson. (Note, I had to reduce my browser size to see the links). Each of the TED-Ed lessons follows the typical format of providing a handful of multiple choice and short answer questions. The lessons also include some links to additional references.

Here's the lesson about Technetium.


If the questions that the TED-Ed lessons ask are too simple for your students, you can customize the lesson after registering on TED-Ed. You can also create similar lessons by using EDpuzzle.

A Convenient G Suite Update

On Thursday Google announced a small update to G Suite that could prove to be convenient and reduce confusion for folks who have more than one Google account. In the next few weeks G Suite administrators will be able to add custom images or logos to appear next to users' profile pictures. This will mean that when you're signed into services like Google Calendar you will be able to see your school's logo next to your profile image or profile initials.

This isn't a huge update by any means. This update could help users quickly confirm that they're in their school Google accounts instead of their personal accounts. It might also be reassuring to parents who are booking appointments with you through the appointment slots feature in Google Calendar to see the school's logo appearing at the top of the calendar.

G Suite administrators will find directions for uploading system-wide custom images and logos right here.

Is your school making the switch to G Suite for Education this summer? If so, my online G Suite for Teachers course will provide you with everything you need to know to feel comfortable using it in your classroom. My group rates allow you get training for your whole school for less than the cost of sending a few people to a Google Summit. 

From the Catbird Seat - A Poetry Podcast

Just in time for the end of National Poetry Month the Library of Congress has launched a new podcast series about poetry. The podcast is called From the Catbird Seat. The podcast will feature conversations with Rob Casper and Anne Holmes from the Poetry and Literature Center at the LOC. In the first eight episodes they'll be highlighting the work of Poet Laureates of the last five years. In the first episode they're joined by the current Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith. You can find the first episode right here or play the recording as embedded below.



Applications for Education
The vast majority of students aren't going to listen to this podcast in its entirety. However, you might find some good pieces of information to share with your students as conversation starters or pointers that students might use to improve their own poetry.

On a related note, the Library of Congress recently hosted a livestream with Tracy K. Smith to talk about the poetry in the age of technology. You can find the recording of that livestream right here.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Join Me On Monday for a Blogging Q&A

After more than a decade of daily blogging I'd like to think that I've learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn't. If you're thinking about starting a blog or you just want to up your blogging game, join me on Monday afternoon at 3pm Eastern Time for a free, live blogging Q&A. I'll answer any and all questions related to blogging. I'll be broadcasting simultaneously on my YouTube channel and on my Practical Ed Tech Facebook page. If you want to submit a question in advance, fill out the form below.


How to Convert Old Google Sites to New Google Sites

Google Sites users who want to switch to the new version of Google Sites have two options. The first option is to create an entirely new site in the new version of Google Sites and then copy and past content from your old site. The second option, and the more efficient option, is to use the Sites conversion tool that has started to appear in some Google accounts. Using the Sites conversion tool has the added benefits of being able to keep your original site address and being able to move all site contributors to the updated version at the same time. Watch my video to see how to convert your Google Site from the old version to the new version.



After you convert your site to the new version, check out these five features that every user should know how to access.

Caring for Comics - And Other Ideas for Video Projects

Earlier this week the Library of Congress Twitter account posted a link to the LOC's reference page about the deterioration of paper. From that page I stumbled into the library's Collections Care reference pages. Those pages are full of information about how to care for and preserve a variety of physical media including newspapers and comic books.

The Collections Care reference pages are full of great information, but they were definitely not created with middle school or high school students in mind. The font is small, the text is crowded, and their is not anything interactive on the pages. But that doesn't mean there isn't value in those pages for middle school and high school students.

Applications for Education
The value that I find in the LOC's Collections Care pages is ideas for student video projects. In particular, I think that students who enjoy comic books would enjoy producing a video about how to care for and preserve comic books. Another section of the Collections Care page is about preserving photographs, that's another topic that some students would enjoy producing a video about. Videos on those topics are a good fit for publication on Next Vista for Learning.

If you're interested in learning how to create and complete classroom video projects, I'm launching a new course for you in May. The Complete Guide to Classroom Video Projects will be available on May 7th. 

Google Tasks - A Very Simple Task Management App

On Wednesday Google announced a bunch of updates to Gmail. That story was covered by every blog under the sun and garnered lots of commentary on social media. What didn't get nearly as much attention was Google's launch of a new task management app called Google Tasks.

Google Tasks is a free app that is basically a stripped-down version of Google Keep. At its most basic level Google Tasks lets you create lists of tasks that you need to do and check them off as you complete them. Dig a little deeper into the app and you will find that you can create multiple lists for different projects or goals. Within each list you can create tasks and sub-tasks. The integrated calendar lets you set due dates for each task and task list.

What Google Tasks doesn't appear to have at this time is an option to share task lists with other G Suite users. So if sharing task lists is an important feature for you, you'll want to stick with Google Keep which does support sharing of task lists.

Google Tasks is being added to G Suite which means a few things of note. First, it supports accessing multiple accounts much like Gmail mobile app. In other words you can create and access task lists in your personal G Suite account and your professional G Suite account from the same place. Second, your tasks will sync with your G Suite account for access via the web browser on your laptop. Go to https://mail.google.com/tasks/canvas/ to access your tasks in your browser. Finally, as TechCrunch pointed-out, Google considers this app to be a part of G Suite which means it's not a 20% project or some other beta project that will get scrapped in a few months. Although, we once thought the same thing about Google Reader and iGoogle.

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Quick Guide to OneNote

Over the last few months I have come to appreciate all of the things that OneNote does that my trusty old Google Keep can't do. Whenever a product has as many features layered into it as OneNote does, it can take some time to understand how all of those features work individually and can work together. If  you're a devoted Google Keep or Evernote user who has never tried OneNote, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

Mircosoft has excellent guides to help you start using OneNote. Take a look at this Sway page for a quick overview of how to use OneNote. For a more detailed guidance, take a look at these pages that include detailed step-by-step directions.

These OneNote tutorials are part of a larger collection of MS Office quick start guides that are available to view and or download right here.

One of my favorite uses of OneNote is Tom Grissom's Notestreaming technique. It's a great concept that, when applied correctly, could be very helpful in providing students with video content to supplement course instruction. Watch Tom's video as embedded below or jump to his OneNote notebook of resources which includes this introductory video.

How to Embed Flipgrid Topics Into Google Sites

One of the good things about the new version of Google Sites is that Google has made it much easier to embed content from third party services. Flipgrid is one of the popular ed tech tools that you might want to add to your Google Site. By embedding a fully functional Flipgrid topic into your Google Site your students can record their video replies to your topics while they're viewing your Google Site. In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate how you can include Flipgrid in your Google Site.


Applications for Education
By embedding Flipgrid into a page on your Google Site you are essentially creating a video blog on your Google Site. In a social studies course you might have students post weekly responses to news stories. You could also use it as a place for students to simply share weekly reflections on what they learned in your classroom.

New to New Google Sites? 5 Features You Should Know How To Use

The new (current) version of Google Sites is easier for new users to start using. But with that ease of use comes fewer features and some "hidden" features that are often overlooked. If you're thinking about building a website with the new version of Google Sites, here are five features that you should know how to use.

Custom Header Images
Google provides plenty of stock images to use in your site's header, but to really add personality to your site you'll want to use own header image. You can upload an image from your computer or you can insert an image that you have stored in your Google Drive account. Follow these steps to upload your own header image:

  • Place cursor over the lower, left corner of the header field. 
  • When the "change image" button appears select "upload" from the drop-down menu. 
  • Upload image. Note that your image might be automatically re-sized or re-positioned to fit with your theme. 
  • To choose an image from your Google Drive select "select image" rather than "upload" from the "change image" menu. 

Custom Favicons
The favicon is the little image that appears in the browser tab when your site is open. You can change this image by selecting "edit favicon" from the little menu that appears just to the left of the "publish" button.

Public Search Settings
You might want your site to appear in Google Search results or you might not want it to appear in search results. If you don't want it to appear in Google Search results, you can make that specification in the "publish settings" menu that appears just to the right of the "publish" button.

Video from Google Drive
YouTube can be a great source of educational videos to include in your website. But if your school blocks YouTube or you have a video that you want to include in your site without first putting it on YouTube, you do have other options. One of those options is to insert a video from your Google Drive account. First upload your video to your Google Drive account then in your Google Site select "From Drive" in the "insert" menu on the righthand side of your screen.

3rd Party Embeds
The old or "classic" version of Google Sites was notoriously finicky about embedding content from third party websites. The new version of Google Sites includes much improved support for embedding content from third party services. There are two ways to add content from third party services. The first option is to just paste a link into the "embed" widget available in the "insert" menu. The second option is to paste an embed code into the "embed" widget available in the "insert" menu.

Join Me Tomorrow for 5 Ways to Blend Tech Into Outdoor Lessons

As the winter fades and spring begins to bloom here in New England, kids and adults are itching to get outside more often. This is a great time to take your students outside for some lessons. In a live webinar tomorrow afternoon at 4pm Eastern Time we’ll explore five ways that you can incorporate technology into outdoor lessons.

Join me on April 26th at 4pm Eastern Time to learn how you can incorporate technology into outdoor learning experiences.

In this webinar we’ll explore:
  • Augmented Reality 
  • Digital mapping 
  • Geocaching 
  • Activity tracking 
  • Observing and collecting scientific data


Click here to register!

When you register you will get:
  • Access to the live webinar on April 26th at 4pm Eastern Time 
  • Unlimited access to the recording after the webinar. 
  • Digital handouts 
  • PD certificate
The recording will be available to anyone who registers but cannot attend the live session.

Click here to register!

About this post: The sale of my professional development online courses and my on-site professional development services provides the funding to keep Free Technology for Teachers running. The resources that I feature in my online courses and webinars are free. However, there is a significant cost associated with creating, hosting, and managing the courses and webinars which is why I am not able to provide them for free.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

WikiWhere - A Challenging Map Game

WikiWhere is a neat map-based trivia game. The goal of the game is to identify cities based on their descriptions. The descriptions come from Wikipedia entries. You can get up to three clues before you have to answer by clicking on the map to identify the city that you think is described by the excerpts. When you click on the map you'll be shown the correct answer and how far away you were from the correct answer.

Applications for Education
WikiWhere could be a fun and challenging way for students to test their knowledge of world geography. One way to extend the use of the game would be to set a rule for students that if they were off by more than 50 or 100 miles that they then have to do some light research about the city.

H/T to Maps Mania.

Hurricane Webinar 2018!

Thanks to a teacher at Sigsbee Charter School in Key West I learned about a free webinar for fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students. The webinar is the 2018 Hurricane Webinar hosted by Hurricanes: Science and Society team in partnership with the NOAA National Hurricane Center and the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center.

The goal of the 2018 Hurricane Webinar is to teach students about hurricane hazards, hurricane forecasting, observing hurricanes with airplanes, and hurricane preparedness.

This free webinar is scheduled for May 9, 2018 at 10:00 Central Time. Click here to learn more about the webinar and click here to register.

On a related note, Hurricanes: Engines of Destruction is a good video that explains how the Coriolis Effect influences the direction in which hurricanes rotate, the role of heat in hurricane formation, and the origin of the word hurricane. The video is embedded below, but you should also take a look at the video on YouTube to access the reference materials used in the creation of the video.

Inspiration From an App That Didn't Work as Expected

In preparation for a webinar that I am hosting on Thursday I tested a new app that is supposed to help users identify trees. The app is called FindATree. The concept behind the app is solid, but the execution is lacking. The app has you answer a few questions about the characteristics of the tree that you see in front of you. Based on those responses the app tells you what you're seeing. Except in my case it didn't identify the correct tree. The app repeatedly told me that I was looking at a red cedar tree when I knew I was looking at an eastern hemlock.

The FindATree app lacked a few components that could make it better. First, more detailed questions should be asked before stating a result. Second, a bigger database of images of trees is needed for users to compare what to what they're seeing in real life. And third, an augmented reality component would make it possible to capture a picture of a tree to compare to a database. While it would take a long time build an app that includes every possible tree and variation of tree, students could build their own regionally-based app through the services of either the MIT App Inventor or Metaverse.


To be clear, I didn't write this post to bash FindATree. I wrote it to share the idea that I got from testing an app that didn't work as I thought it would.

New Scenes and Characters Added to Storyboard That

Storyboard That has been one of my favorite digital storytelling tools since I first tried it many years ago. Many readers of this blog have come to love it too. Three of the things that make Storyboard That popular are its ease of use, the free lesson plans, and a commitment to continuous development. That continuous development includes enlarging the collection of original artwork that you can grab from the Storyboard That library to use in your stories.

This morning Storyboard That released new artwork that includes eleven new characters, four new background scenes, and dozens of new scene items like kitchen utensils and character enhancements like Roman helmets. Some of the new characters are generic while others are designed to look like famous people. Those people are Sally Ride, Sandra Day O'Connor, Amelia Earhart, and Mother Teresa.

Check out this post for five ways to use comics in elementary school and this one for using comics in social studies classrooms.


Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Monday, April 23, 2018

Record and Share Observations of Nature on iNaturalist

iNaturalist is a community website for sharing pictures and observations of plants and animals. To enable easy sharing of observations, iNaturalist offers a free Android app and a free iOS app. Using the apps you can take a picture, geo-locate it, write your observations, and upload to the iNaturalist community. If your observation is incomplete, for example if you're not sure of a scientific name, you can ask the community to add comments to improve the recording of your observation. If you don't want to join the iNaturalist community, you can simply explore members' observations through the iNaturalist Google Map.

iNaturalist is one of the apps that I'll be featuring this Thursday in my Practical Ed Tech webinar titled 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons




Register for the webinar right here

Dig Into Mining - Virtual Field Labs and Field Trips About Copper Mining

Dig Into Mining is a free resource from Discovery Education and Freeport-McMoran (the world's largest copper mining company). The purpose of Dig Into Mining is to help students understand how copper is mined and processed for use in products like pipes and wires. Dig Into Mining offers seven virtual labs and virtual tours that Discovery calls "digital explorations."

Through the Dig Into Mining digital explorations students learn how copper is mined, how copper is found, how land is reclaimed after a mining operation is completed, and where copper and gold are used in our daily lives. The digital explorations are self-paced. Students are given a user code when they start one of the explorations. Students use their individual user codes to save their places as they work through a digital exploration.

Dig Into Mining has a series of videos that correspond with some of the digital explorations. For example the following video is about metals in everyday life.

Dig into Mining - Full Virtual Field Trip from Discovery Education on Vimeo.

PhET PowerPoint Add-in - Add Science & Math Simulations to Slides

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

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

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

Storyline JS - Turn Your Spreadsheets Into Stories

In yesterday's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week I featured the storytelling tools produced by Knight Lab at Northwestern University. One of those tools is called Storyline JS. Storyline JS lets you create an interactive, annotated line chart. The purpose of Storyline JS is to enable you to add detailed annotations to the data points displayed on your line charts. Watch my video below to see how to create an annotated line chart with Storyline JS.


Applications for Education
Storyline JS could be a great tool for students to use to demonstrate their understanding of what the data in a line chart actually means. Similarly, using Storyline JS could be a good way for students to explain the causes for changes in the data displayed in their line charts.

5 PowerPoint Features Often Overlooked by Students and Teachers

About ten years ago I started to notice a lot of alternatives to PowerPoint popping-up on the web. Some of those presentation tools like Google Slides and Prezi are still going strong while others have faded away. Through it all, PowerPoint kept chugging along even though it wasn't a darling of Web 2.0 users. Today, PowerPoint has all of the features students and teachers need, including collaboration, but often those features are overlooked. If you haven't taken a look at PowerPoint in a while, here are five PowerPoint features that you should try.

Screen Recording
Making a presentation about your favorite software or websites? Try using the screen recorder that is built into PowerPoint. Your recorded video is automatically inserted into the slide that you have open at the time you make your recording. Of course, you can use that video in other slides too. Find the screen recorder in the "Insert" menu in PowerPoint.

Sound Recording/ Sound Upload
Add your voice to your slides through the audio recorder built into PowerPoint. This is particularly useful if your slides will mostly be viewed independent of your presence.

Have music or sound effects that you want to add to your slides? In PowerPoint you can upload those recordings directly to your presentation and play them on the slides of your choice.

The sound recording and sound upload options are found in the "Insert" menu in PowerPoint.

Add-ins
Google Slides has Add-ons, PowerPoint has Add-ins. Add-ins offered by third parties can provide additional functions in PowerPoint. In my video embedded below I demonstrate how to find and install PowerPoint Add-ins. The video features the Pixabay Add-in that provides access to thousands of images that are in the public domain.



Word Art
Tired of the same old Times New Roman, Georgia, or Comic Sans (gasp!), use Word Art to create custom fonts. You'll find Word Art in the "Insert" menu in PowerPoint.

Morph
Morph is a PowerPoint feature available to Microsoft 365 subscribers. Morph allows you to create animations by combining two similar slides into one display.

Coming In May - The Complete Guide to Classroom Video Projects

Back in March more than 100 people participated in my one hour webinar titled 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom. If you missed it, you can access the recording here. That webinar was designed to provide an overview of some of the tools that you can use to make videos with your students and for your students. In one hour it isn't possible to go into depth on each of the tools. That's why I'm building a new online course that goes into depth on how to use video creation tools in your classroom.

In The Complete Guide to Classroom Video Projects you will be able to learn how to complete five classroom video projects from start to finish. You'll see how each project is completed on Chromebooks, iPads, Android tablets, Macs, and Windows computers. You'll also learn the best ways to save and share videos while protecting student privacy.

The Complete Guide to Classroom Video Projects will be available on May 7th. Register your interest below to be notified when the course goes on sale.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Slides, Forms, and Novels - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where this morning it actually feels like spring! It's a nice contrast to the snowy mornings that we had twice this week. I'm hoping that the weather stays nice through the weekend because we have a couple of fun outdoor activities planned including a Tinkergarten class tomorrow. Speaking of outdoor activities, next week I'm hosting a webinar about blending technology into outdoor learning experiences.

Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you have some time to relax and recharge too.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Now You Can Include Google Slides In a Google Document
2. Tube - A Distraction-free Way to Search and Watch YouTube
3. Novels on Location - A Map of Novels
4. Podcast Recording and Editing Tips
5. Google Adds New Security Features to G Suite for Education
6. How to Create a Custom Google Forms Theme
7. My Go-to Tool for Making Stop Motion Movies

New Online PD Opportunities
On PracticalEdTech.com I have two new professional development offerings. First, on April 26th I am hosting 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons. Second, on May 7th I'm launching a self-paced course about classroom video projects.

And for the rest of the month, group packages for my G Suite for Teachers online course are on sale. Two schools jumped on the sale this week. If you have five or more teachers register from your school, you get 40% off. Have more than 20 and you can get an even better deal.

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.

Friday, April 20, 2018

A Fun App That Helps Kids Learn How Animals Adapt to Their Environments

As the weather warms students start asking, "can we have class outside today?" If you're an elementary school teacher who has heard this recently and you're ready to get your kids outside for a lesson, take a look at Plum's Creaturizer.

Plum's Creaturizer from PBS Kids is a free iOS and Android app that lets students create fun cartoon creatures then place them into outdoor settings through the use of augmented reality. The purpose of the app is to have students learn and show how the characteristics of an animal help it thrive in its environment. In the following video I demonstrate how the app works (apologies for the background noise, I recorded this video outside to show how the AR feature works in real settings).


Join me next Thursday for a Practical Ed Tech webinar in which we'll look at five ways you can incorporate technology into outdoor learning experiences. Click here to register for 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons.

Grasshopper - Learn to Code on Your Phone

Grasshopper is a free app that teaches you to Javascript coding through a series of easy-to-follow tutorials. The free app, available for iOS and Android, starts off with an introduction to the basic vocabulary of coding before moving into the coding lessons. You have to pass the vocabulary quiz before your can jump into the lessons. Each lesson has a tutorial, a practice activity, and a quiz. You have to successfully complete each lesson before progressing to the next one. If you need to stop a lesson, Grasshopper saves your place until you can resume. Grasshopper offers an optional reminder service that will encourage you to practice on a daily schedule.


Applications for Education
I tried the Grasshopper app this afternoon and found it intuitive and easy to use. I can see middle school and high school students following the tutorials with little or no intervention from their teachers. The instant feedback in each lesson makes it possible for students to quickly see their mistakes and try again.

Open Explorer - Follow Along on National Geographic Expeditions

Open Explorer is a new offering from National Geographic that is designed to let anyone follow along on exploration expeditions around the world. When you visit the site you will see a big "get started" button on the homepage. Scroll down past that to see an interactive map representing the locations of more than 400 expeditions. Down below the map you'll find a list of the expeditions that you can follow.

Each expedition included in Open Explorer is displayed with a summary statements, a multimedia timeline, and a map. The timeline is where you will find updates from the expedition. Some of the expeditions have many updates while others only have a couple of updates at this time.

Applications for Education
Open Explorer could be a good site for students to use to learn interesting facts about interesting places around the world. While it's fun to learn about far away places, I might have students look for expeditions that are near them. For example, there is a neat New England Explorers expedition that kids in New England can follow as the expedition searches for lost historic locations buried in the forests and waters of New England.

H/T to The Adventure Blog.

5 Ways to Improve Your Next Video

Today we have more tools to record, edit, and share videos than ever before. With the tap of an app or the click of a link, you and your students can be making videos to tell stories, to teach lessons, or to share news. That's why more than 300 hours of video gets added to YouTube every minute of the day. Some of those videos are very good, some are very bad, and some are in the middle. Before before your students publish their next videos, have them review these five simple things that they can do to make their videos better.


The bullet point version of the video:

  • Make it short and sweet! 
  • Landscape, Landscape, Landscape!
  • Pay attention to your background.
  • Show your eyes not your nostrils!
  • Filter your audio.
Learn more about classroom video projects in my upcoming course, The Complete Guide to Classroom Video Projects


Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Origins of the London Underground

Fun fact: I once got terribly lost in London when the Tube line that I was on unexpectedly (to me, anyway) went out of service and I had to find an alternate route back to my hotel. I'm telling you that only as a way to introduce a new TED-Ed lesson about the world's first subway system. How the World's First Subway System Was Built is a new TED-Ed lesson that teaches viewers how and why the London subway system was first developed. The lesson also dives into a little bit of the unintended outcomes of the development of the subway subway system.



Applications for Education
I can see myself incorporating this video lesson into a larger social studies unit about crowding, urban planning, and transportation.

Guides and Rulers for Google Slides

If you're like me, you might need a little help making things line up the way they should in your presentations. If you're a Google Slides user, one of the things that can help you with that is using the guides and rulers. This week Google updated the guides option so that you can add your own guidelines for placement of objects in your slides. The rulers tool was updated with finer controls and indentations.

You will find guides and rulers in Google Slides in the "view" drop-down menu in Google Slides. Select "show ruler" to display the updated ruler on your slide editor. Select "guides" to view the pre-defined guidelines and or add your own guidelines.


Applications for Education
Whether we're teachers, administrators, or students we all want to make our presentations look good. The updated guides and rulers options in Google Slides can help everyone make their presentations a little bit better.

Learn more about Google Slides in my online course, G Suite for Teachers. The course is on sale now through Monday. 

Now You Can Include Google Slides In a Google Document

Inserting charts from Google Sheets has been an option in Google Documents for quite a while. This week Google added the option to add a slide from Google Slides into a document. Your chosen slide essentially appears as an image within your document. Once it is inserted into your document you can resize your slide and text wrap just as you would an image.

To insert a slide from Google Slides into your Google Documents select the "copy" option on the slide that you want to insert and then use the "paste" option in your document.

As with almost all new features, Google is rolling this one out over the course of a couple of weeks. If you don't see the new option today or it doesn't work as you expected, give it a day or two and then try again.

Applications for Education
I can see this new option being useful to students who have used Google Slides to create charts and diagrams for a presentation. Those charts and diagrams from the presentation could also be useful in writing a corresponding paper.

Animated Map of First Foliage Appearances

Last Friday I was in Greenwich, Connecticut to give a presentation. Greenwich is roughly 300 miles south of my home in Maine. Greenwich was in full spring bloom with green grass and foliage starting to bud on the trees. Meanwhile back home in Maine my yard was covered in snow. In making that drive I saw what The New York Times has illustrated in a new animated map of spring foliage. The map, put together by Henry Fountain and Jeremy White, is a time-lapse map that shows when, on average, the "first leaf" appears in each state. The data represented in the map comes from the USA National Phenology Network. The animation moves quickly, but you can pause it by clicking on it.

Applications for Education
Autumn is when most of us in New England think of and take notice of the changes in foliage. But the spring has just as many changes in foliage even if those changes are quite as colorful. None-the-less, the changes throughout the season are the perfect subject for a timelapse video project. You could have students take one picture per day of their backyards or your school yard for a month. Then at the end of the month stitch those pictures together to create a timelapse video by using a tool like Jellycam or Stop Motion Animator.

H/T to Cool Infographics for the map. 

Enable These Google Forms Settings to Save Time When Making Quizzes

Making quizzes and giving quizzes is a common use of Google Forms. If you have ever built a quiz and given it to your students only to notice after the fact that you forgot to assign a point value to a question, then you need to watch my video about setting Forms preferences. If you've ever forgotten to make a question required, you need to watch my video about setting Forms preferences. In the following video I demonstrate how to set your Forms preferences so that you always have a point value assigned to your questions and made every question required.


Learn more about Google Forms in my on-demand webinar, Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners. Or get a complete training on all things G Suite in my ten module G Suite for Teachers online course