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Saturday, June 30, 2018

Google Classroom, Flipgrid, and SeeSaw - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the sun is shining and it is a perfect day to play outside with daughters and my dogs. Before they're awake and we're bounding out the door, I have this week's week-in-review to share.

This week the annual ISTE conference was held in Chicago. I wasn't able to attend this year. Through the zillions of press releases that I was sent and through the #notatiste sharing of so many teachers and administrators, I was able to keep up with most of what was announced during the conference. The one thing that can't be replicated online is the in-person conversations with other passionate educators. Hopefully, I'll get to catch up with many of you at next year's ISTE conference.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Five Google Classroom Improvements Announced During ISTE
2. How to Use Flipgrid to Publish Instructional Videos
3. SeeSaw Unveils a New Activity Library - 1500+ Activities to Use Now
4. How to Create a Virtual Tour That Includes Audio Narration
5. Vynchronize - Watch Videos and Discuss Them in the Same Window
6. A Lesson for Beachcombers - How Seashells Are Made
7. Exciting New Features Coming to Scratch Later This Year

Bring Me to Your School
My fall calendar is almost full! If you would like to bring me to your school for a professional development day, please get in touch. I offer professional development workshops on G Suite for Education, Teaching History With Technology, and many other topicsClick here to learn more or send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to book me today.

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com book me today.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
MySimpleShow offers a great way to create animated videos for free.
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

How to Find Free Images to Use in Multimedia Projects

Earlier this week I received an email from a reader who was seeking clarification on the meaning of "not filtered by license" in the Tools menu in Google Images. I made the following video to answer that question and to show some other places to find free images to use in multimedia projects.




My preferred places to find images for multimedia projects are:
Photos for Class
Unsplash
Pixabay

ABCya's Number Chart Is a Fun Math Activity for Kids

ABCya's Number Chart is a simple but fun online activity for elementary school students. The chart offers "beginner" and "challenge" activities. In both activity levels students have to drag numbers into their proper places on a number line. In the "beginner" level students are shown a number line of ten numbers at a time. In the "challenge" activities students are shown numbers 1-100 and have to drag the missing numbers into place in the number line.

Applications for Education
ABCya's Number Chart isn't a revolutionary online activity by any stretch of the imagination. That said, it is a well-designed and fun little practice activity for young students. ABCya's browser-based activities are now written in HTML5 which means that they will work on iPads and Android tablets.

Last Day to Get Five Practical Ed Tech Webinars in One Package

As many of you know, Practical Ed Tech is the site through which I offer professional development webinars. I host those webinars on a regular basis throughout the school year. For the last week I've offered the five most popular of those webinars in a summer sales pack. Today is the last day to get all five of those webinars in one package for $25.

Five on-demand professional development webinars:
  • 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom
  • Intro to Using Augmented and Virtual Reality in Your Classroom
  • 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lesson
  • Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners
  • Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know
Purchase here

5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom
Learn how to create and complete five video projects that can be done in almost any classroom. You’ll learn how your students can make animated videos, make documentary-style videos, and instructional videos. Examples from real students and teachers are shared in the webinar.

Intro to Using Augmented and Virtual Reality in Your Classroom
Take a look at any ed tech blog or magazine today and you’re bound to see an article about virtual reality or augmented reality. You might think that these are new technologies but they’ve actually been used in education for more than two decades. But today it is easier and cheaper than ever to bring virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) into your classroom. In this webinar you will learn how you can use these powerful technologies in your classroom.

5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons
In this recorded webinar you’ll learn five ways that you can incorporate technology into outdoor lessons. These strategies can be used in elementary school, middle school, or high school settings. You’ll learn about augmented reality, digital mapping, geocaching, activity tracking, observing and collecting scientific data.

Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners
From creating and scoring meaningful formative assessments to organizing school events, Google Forms and Google Sheets are powerful tools to help you get things done. But you need to know where to start. That’s why I created this webinar. If you’ve ever read about or seen a neat use of Google Forms or Google Sheets and thought, “I want to do that,” this webinar is for you.

Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know
Too often our students don’t get beyond the first few pages of search results before declaring, “Google has nothing about this!” Why? Because the average time spent on a search is just 1 minute! And the average search term only has three words! We can help our students do better than that. In this recorded webinar you will learn why informational searches are the hardest types of Internet searches for students to conduct. You will learn how to help students break-down complex search topics into manageable pieces and then put the whole picture together. You’ll learn how to help your students save students tons of time by thinking before searching. And you’ll learn how to develop instructional search challenge activities to use with students of any age.

Sale Ends Tonight!

Purchase here

Three Random Name Selectors

If your students are like mine, at one point or another you've asked for volunteers and not had any students raise their hands. In that situation using a random name selection tool is an easy way to choose students to call on. And for those times when all of your students raise their hands for something fun like being the line leaders, the a random name selector is a convenient tool to have at your disposal too. Here are three good random name selection tools.

Random Name Picker is a free tool from Russel Tarr at Classtools.net. The Random Name Picker lets you input names and spin a virtual wheel to have a name randomly selected from the list. After a name is selected you can remove it from the wheel so that it is not selected again. Random Name Picker is free to use and does not require a registration on Classtools.net. You can save your lists by assigning passwords to them. You can re-use your saved lists. The Random Name Picker wheel can be embedded into your blog or website. The Random Name Picker was written in HTML5 so that it will run in the browser of your iPad.

Flippity.net offers sixteen Google Sheets templates. One of those templates is a random name selector. Simply make a copy of this template, insert your class roster, and then publish your spreadsheet to use Flippity's random name selector.

The Random Name Selector from Primary Technology is a simple tool for picking names from a list you've created. To use the selector just type in or copy a list of names then hit "go." Once a name is selected you have the option of launching a two minute or seven minute countdown timer. You also have the option to remove a name from the list after it has been selected. Watch the video below to learn a little more and see the Random Name Selector in use.


Friday, June 29, 2018

5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons

By the time that many of you read this, I'll be fly fishing on one of my favorite rivers in Maine. Where I'm going there isn't any cell phone reception. Even though there won't be reception, I will still have my phone with me to take pictures. Sometimes I take pictures of fish that I catch and other times I take pictures of insects that are hatching. I take pictures of the insects so that I can later look for fly patterns to either tie myself (I rarely have time for that these days) or buy to match what I've found on the water. This is just one way that technology can be helpful in learning about the outdoors. Here are some other ways that you might consider blending technology into outdoor lessons.

Augmented Reality scavenger hunts
Create your own or have your students use a tool like Metaverse to create augmented reality scavenger hunts. Think of it like making an educational version of Pokemon Go.

Geocaching
Geocaching can be a fun way for students to learn about latitude and longitude, to discover geological features, learn or relearn basic math concepts, and to practice good digital citizenship. Go to Geocaching.org to get started.

Planning Through Digital Mapping
Use tools like Google's My Maps or the measuring tools in Google Earth to have students plan safe walking and biking routes.

Activity Tracking
The thing that jumps to mind here is using products like Fitbit or Strava to track how many steps you take or how far you've ridden a bike. But there's another option and that is the Google Science Journal app that kids can use to record observations about acceleration, noise, and outdoor lighting.

Recording Observations / Collecting Data
Sites like Project Noah were designed to encourage teachers to get their kids outside to record and share observations about that natural world around them.

Learn more about each of these ideas in my on-demand webinar, 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons. It's one of the webinars included in the current Practical Ed Tech Summer Sales Pack.  

This RWT Template Helps Students Craft Persuasive Essays

Developing persuasive writing skills is a process that students start in elementary school and continue to develop through high school and beyond. Read Write Think offers a good interactive guide that can help students craft a good persuasive essay. The Persuasion Map asks students to start with a thesis statement before walking them through developing support for that thesis. Students can print their persuasion maps or email them to you.

Applications for Education
Using Read Write Think's Persuasion Map won't replace the need for your instruction, but it could be helpful to students who need a little assistance after your lesson. RWT offers a number of lesson plans that incorporate the Persuasion Map. You can find those lessons here.

Measuring Worth - A Lesson on Inflation

Do you remember when a cup of coffee didn't cost $3? Or when ten dollars bought you enough gasoline to drive for a week? How about buying a pack of baseball cards for 25 cents and getting a piece of gum in the pack too? I remember those days. My money seemed to go a lot farther then. Or did it? You can figure out the answer to that question and other economics questions by using the Measuring Worth calculators.

Measuring Worth provides an extensive series of data sets and calculation tools that students can use to compare the purchasing power of a dollar over time and around the world. Measuring Worth is available in four currencies. In addition to the calculator tools, Measuring Worth provides a series of customizable graphs of historical economic data. Using these graphs you can generate visuals of changes in purchasing power and GDP over time.

Applications for Education
Measuring Worth provides excellent data sets, calculators, and graphs that students can use in an economics course or a consumer mathematics course. A simple assignment that you could have students do with Measuring Worth is to have students pick their favorite food and figure out how much it would have cost when their parents were the same age. Students could also ask parents how much their first car cost and calculate what that cost would be today.

82 Math in Real Life Lessons

Years ago TED-Ed started a playlist of video lessons called Math in Real Life. That playlist that started out with just a couple dozen lessons has now grown to include 82 lessons. The "real life" context in these lessons isn't things like "how calculating percentages helps you be a frugal shopper." The "real life" context found in the videos in the Math in Real Life series is broad in nature. For example, you will find lessons about how math is used to guide ships and why airlines often sell more seats than they have on an airplane.



Lessons to Help You and Your Students Become Better Researchers

If you're looking to improve your search skills this summer or you want to find new ideas for teaching search skills, check out Power Searching With Google. Power Searching With Google was hosted by Google back in 2012. With the exception of the live Hangouts on Air that were held during the course, all of the course content is still available. There are six modules within the course. Each module has three to six sections. Each section has a video and a practice activity to try.

The video lessons within Power Searching With Google feature Google employees Dan Russell and or Matt Cutts (no longer a Google employee) explaining how each power search concept can be used. The video from lesson 3.1 is embedded below.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Why Sheep Don't Shrink in the Rain

It's a rainy day here in Maine and after a little trail run with my dogs, my feet were soaked! My Smartwool socks keep my feet relatively warm, but do nothing to keep them dry. This scenario always makes we wonder about two things. First, why don't my Smartwool socks shrink when I wash and dry them? Second, why don't sheep shrink in the rain? The answer to the first question is that the socks aren't 100% wool. The answer to the second question is found in a clever MinuteEarth video titled Why Don't Sheep Shrink in the Rain?

How to Create, Use, and Embed Lino Boards Into Blog Posts

This morning on the Practical Ed Tech Facebook page I had a question from a reader who was looking for an alternative to Padlet. My recommendation was to take a look at Lino. On Lino you can create digital boards to which you can add sticky notes that contain text, images, videos, or document attachments. Notes containing video links will play the video within your Lino wall. Images can be uploaded to your notes. And you can attach document files to your notes for other people to view. In the following video I demonstrate how to get started using Lino and how to embed Lino board into a blog post.

Photo Roulette - A Library of Congress Game

Photo Roulette is a fun little game from Library of Congress. The game shows you a randomly selected pictures from the LOC's digital collections and you have to guess the year in which the picture was taken. You have ten guesses before you're out of luck. After the submission of each guess you're given a hint as to which way to make your next guess. For example, if you're first guess is off by being ten years too early, Photo Roulette will give you a clue like "turn the calendar." When you do make a correct guess, you'll be able to see the image source and read more about the context of when the image was taken.


Applications for Education
Photo Roulette could be a fun activity to use in a history class. Encourage students to use some context clues and their knowledge of history to make educated guesses.

If you have the technical chops, you can use the code for the LOC's Photo Roulette to make your own version of the game.

5 PD Webinars in One Package

Throughout the year I offer many professional development webinars on PracticalEdTech.com. The sales of those webinars help to keep this blog running. This week I've been running a sale on PracticalEdTech.com webinars and many people have taken advantage of it. The sale runs for two more days. In this summer sales pack of webinars I have included my most popular webinars of the last six months. You can watch these webinars whenever you like and as often as you like. Purchased individually these five webinars would cost $100. But during this sale you’ll get them all for just $25!

Five on-demand professional development webinars:

  • 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom
  • Intro to Using Augmented and Virtual Reality in Your Classroom
  • 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lesson
  • Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners
  • Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know

Purchase here

5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom
Learn how to create and complete five video projects that can be done in almost any classroom. You’ll learn how your students can make animated videos, make documentary-style videos, and instructional videos. Examples from real students and teachers are shared in the webinar.

Intro to Using Augmented and Virtual Reality in Your Classroom
Take a look at any ed tech blog or magazine today and you’re bound to see an article about virtual reality or augmented reality. You might think that these are new technologies but they’ve actually been used in education for more than two decades. But today it is easier and cheaper than ever to bring virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) into your classroom. In this webinar you will learn how you can use these powerful technologies in your classroom.

5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons
In this recorded webinar you’ll learn five ways that you can incorporate technology into outdoor lessons. These strategies can be used in elementary school, middle school, or high school settings. You’ll learn about augmented reality, digital mapping, geocaching, activity tracking, observing and collecting scientific data.

Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners
From creating and scoring meaningful formative assessments to organizing school events, Google Forms and Google Sheets are powerful tools to help you get things done. But you need to know where to start. That’s why I created this webinar. If you’ve ever read about or seen a neat use of Google Forms or Google Sheets and thought, “I want to do that,” this webinar is for you.

Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know
Too often our students don’t get beyond the first few pages of search results before declaring, “Google has nothing about this!” Why? Because the average time spent on a search is just 1 minute! And the average search term only has three words! We can help our students do better than that. In this recorded webinar you will learn why informational searches are the hardest types of Internet searches for students to conduct. You will learn how to help students break-down complex search topics into manageable pieces and then put the whole picture together. You’ll learn how to help your students save students tons of time by thinking before searching. And you’ll learn how to develop instructional search challenge activities to use with students of any age.

Sale Ends June 30th!


Purchase here

What is a Storyboard? - History and Use Cases

Over the years I've written many blog posts about using storyboards in a variety of classroom settings. I've even hosted webinars on the topic. But until today I never wondered about the origins of storyboards. That changed when I read Aaron Sherman's What is a Storyboard?

In What is a Storyboard? Aaron Sherman, founder of Storyboard That, explains the origins of storyboards and provides examples of how they're using in film production, in business, and in classrooms. Did you know that Gone With the Wind was the first live-action movie to be completely drawn out on storyboards before filming? That must have been a lot of storyboards!

Read What is a Storyboard? to find examples of using storyboards to help students understand new vocabulary, to analyze literature, and to create a narrative.

And for a complete overview of how you can use storyboards in your classroom, watch the recording of this webinar that I hosted last fall.


Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

How to Use SeeSaw's New Activity Library

Earlier this week SeeSaw unveiled a new activity library for teachers. The new library contains more than 1500 activities that you can assign to your students in your SeeSaw classroom. You can use the activities as they are written or modify them to meet your students' needs. In the following video I demonstrate how to access activities in the SeeSaw library and share those activities with your students.

More Ways to Add Content to Book Creator Projects - Coming Soon!

Thanks to Amy Burns I just learned about a great, new feature that is soon to be available in Book Creator. The new feature will let you embed content from third-party sites into your Book Creator books. Some of the many third-party sites that will be supported in this new feature include Desmos (an online graphing calculator), Google Maps, YouTube, Vimeo, Google VR tours, and Flipgrid!


Applications for Education
Book Creator was already one of my two favorite tools for making multimedia ebooks. This new feature makes it even better in my book. I can see using this feature to have students include VR tours that they make with Google's VR Tour Creator in the stories that they write in Book Creator.

Five Key Updates to Microsoft's Education Products

During the ISTE conference this week Microsoft showcased many features of their varied education products. If you, like me, were not able to attend the conference, you can get a full run-down of all of the updates in What's New in EDU.  Here are the updates that stood-out to me.


Add Forms to Assignments in Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Forms provides a good platform for creating quizzes and surveys. You can now add your Forms to assignments that you distribute to students through Microsoft Teams.

If you haven't tried Microsoft Forms, watch my video to learn how to get started. It has some features that I think you'll like.

Use Rubrics in Microsoft Teams
This was actually announced a couple of weeks ago, but it is worth sharing again. You can attach rubrics to assignments for students to see before and after completing an assignment. Equally important, you'll be able to grade an assignment using that rubric without having to open multiple tabs or windows.

Dictation Available to More Users
From Immersive Reader to Dictation, Microsoft tries to make their products as accessible as possible to everyone. To that end, Dictation is now available in the Win 32 versions of PowerPoint and Word. This is in addition to all of the other places that Dictation is available including the Windows 10 version of OneNote.

Math Quizzes in Forms
Microsoft Forms has an excellent math feature. You can use this feature to create math quizzes in Microsoft Forms. After creating your quiz you can add that form to an assignment in Microsoft Teams.

MakeCode for LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3
If you're lucky enough to have the budget for LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3, you'll want to check out Microsoft MakeCode for LEGO MINSTORMS EV3. MakeCode is a drag-and-drop, block-based, programming interface that students can use on any computer to program their robots.

Prior to ISTE Microsoft announced some other product updates including expansion of Immersive Reader functions and page-locking in OneNote class notebooks

How to Save Bookmarks Using OneNote for Android

In 2018 I have been using OneNote as my primary tool for saving bookmarks and quick notes. Previously, used Google Keep for all of my bookmarks and notes on my Android phone. I made the switch because I found OneNote's Android app to have more features that I use on a regular basis. The feature I use the most is bookmarking links. In the following video I demonstrate how I use OneNote to bookmark links on my Android phone.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Five Google Classroom Improvements Announced During ISTE

The week of the annual ISTE conference is when many of the biggest purveyors of technology products unveil their latest and greatest offerings. Google is not an exception to that rule and so uses this week to showcase their latest product updates. This week they've introduced five Google Classroom updates. Some three of these are minor improvements and two are significant improvements.

Two Significant Improvements to Google Classroom
First, Google Classroom now has a section called "classwork." The Classwork section is where you'll now place assignments and reference resources for your students. In the Classwork section you can organize materials according to unit of study or topic instead of just organizing materials by date. A header of Classwork will now appear at the top of your Google Classroom page.

The second significant update is the option to create and post Google Forms quizzes directly within Google Classroom. When you select "Create" in the new Classwork section you'll now see an option to make a quiz. And if your students are using school-managed Chromebooks, you'll be able to lock them into the quiz until they submit their final responses.

Three Minor Improvements to Google Classroom
The purpose of adding the Classwork section to Google Classroom is to make it easier for students to find assignments and reference materials. In adding the Classwork section Google made the Stream section a little more compact and streamlined to help students see announcements and comment on discussion posts.

Settings for editing the class description, class code, and controls over student postings are will now be found in one menu.

Managing co-teacher, parent, and student access to your Google Classroom will now be done under one People menu.

As with most updates to G Suite for Education, these new features might not be visible in all domains right away. 

A Complete Guide to Making Videos in Microsoft Photos

Windows Movie Maker is no longer available for download and Microsoft now recommends using the video creation tools that are built into Microsoft Photos. In Microsoft Photos you can create videos that feature your pictures or other pictures that you have permission to use (Creative Commons licensed or Public Domain).

At the most basic level the video creation option in Microsoft Photos lets you arrange a set of pictures in the sequence in which you want them to appear in a video and then add music to play in the background. That's exactly what the old Movie Maker program did too. But Microsoft Photos offers more video creation and editing features. You can set the duration of display for each image on an individual basis, add titles and text to each image, add narration, and even add 3D effects to your videos created in Microsoft Photos.

Microsoft News Centre UK recently published a helpful set of tutorial videos that can help you create videos in Microsoft Photos. I've embedded a couple of those tutorial videos below.

Getting Started


3D and Special Effects



Applications for Education
If your school uses Windows 10 or your students use Windows 10 on their personal computers, Microsoft Photos could be a great tool for students to use to create videos. The fine controls over timing make it a better choice than some automated audio slideshow video tools without introducing the complications of using full-fledged video editors.

How to Use Flipgrid to Publish Instructional Videos

In Sunday's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week I mentioned three ways to use Flipgrid now that all features are free for all users. One of those ways is to have students record and publish instructional videos. They can do this is a few ways. They can record themselves in front of a whiteboard, they can upload a video made with a tool like Screencast-o-matic, or they can record a video with the Flipgrid mobile app. In the following video I demonstrate how to publish an instructional video on Flipgrid.

How to Measure Distances in Google Earth

The addition of a measurement tool in the Chrome (browser) and Android versions of Google Earth was one of the many things that Google announced yesterday. I'm not sure what took them so long to add this because it was always a feature in the desktop version of Google Earth. In the following video I demonstrate how you can measure distances in the Chrome version and in the desktop version of Google Earth. The video also shows you how to change the units of measurement in both versions of Google Earth.

Beautiful AI - Create Better Slideshows

Beautiful.AI is a neat service that helps you design better PowerPoint presentations. Beautiful.AI provides more than fifty slideshow templates that automatically adjust when you type or add media to them. Beautiful.AI suggests color schemes, fonts, and media placement to make your slides easier to view. When your slideshow is complete you can share it online and or export it as a PowerPoint file to play from your desktop.


Applications for Education
Whether you want to make your own presentations look better or you want your students' presentations to look better, you should give Beautiful AI a try.

Monday, June 25, 2018

How to Create a Virtual Tour That Includes Audio Narration

One of the many things that Google announced to coincide with the ISTE conference was the addition of an option to add audio to virtual reality tours created with Google's VR Tour Creator. This is an update to the VR Tour Creator that was launched just a couple of months ago. This update lets you add audio to each of the scenes and points of interest within your VR tours. Watch my new video to learn how you can create a VR tour that includes audio.


As is mentioned in the video, you need to record your audio in a program outside of the VR Tour Creator, save it as an MP3, and then import it into the tour. I used Vocaroo to record the audio used in the demonstration.

Applications for Education
Making their own VR tours could be a great way for students to show what they have learned about places they studied in a geography lesson. Think of making a VR tour as an alternative to a traditional PowerPoint presentation. Students can share their tours with their classmates to view in virtual reality viewers like Google Cardboard.

SeeSaw Unveils a New Activity Library - 1500+ Activities to Use Now

SeeSaw is a great digital portfolio tool that students can use on Chromebooks, iPads, Android tablets, and on any computer that has an updated web browser. Last fall SeeSaw introduced a feature called "Activities" that enabled teachers to create and give assignments in their SeeSaw online classrooms. That feature proved to be a hit! Now SeeSaw is making Activities even better with two new features.

SeeSaw Activity Library
The SeeSaw Activity library contains more than 1500 activities created, used, and submitted by SeeSaw's teacher ambassadors. The library is arranged by grade and subject. When you find an activity that you like simply tap or click the heart icon in the activity's title to save it in your own SeeSaw library. Once you have saved the activity in your library you use it as written or modify it to meet your students' needs.

Improved Activity Sharing
Last week when I talked to Carl Sjogreen, one of SeeSaw's co-founders, he mentioned that workflow is one of the things they've worked hard to improve since Activities launched last fall. To that end, teachers can now share Activities to multiple classes with just one click. Previously, if you wanted to give the same activity to multiple classes you had to manually open each class and assign activities to students. Now that can all be done from one place when you're viewing one of your SeeSaw Activities.
SeeSaw is made up of some of the friendliest people I've had the pleasure to talk with in the ed tech business. If you're at the ISTE conference this week, stop by their booth to see the new SeeSaw features in action.

Google Forms Will Have a "Locked" Mode This Fall (For Some Users)

Last week Google introduced some long-awaited style customization options. This morning Google introduced another long-awaited feature. That new feature is "locked" mode. Locked mode will be a setting that you can activate in Google Forms when you create and distribute a quiz. The locked mode will prevent students from leaving the Google Form until they submit their final answers. Locked mode will be available in the fall.

Before you get too excited about the locked mode for Google Forms, it is important to note that it will only work on Chromebooks that are managed by your school. So if you don't use school-managed Chromebooks you're going to need to find another solution to prevent students from opening new tabs or windows while completing an online assessment. One possible solution is the new Lockdown Browser option from Otus.

A New Look for Kahoot - Coming Soon

Two weeks ago Kahoot added a new game creation capability to their free mobile apps. This week at ISTE they're previewing a new user interface for teachers. The new user interface is based on the one that is now available for Kahoot business users. The new interface features improved collaboration options and improved results reporting. Watch the following video to get a sense of what the new Kahoot interface will look like.


A firm date has not been announced for when the updated interface will be available to teachers. The press release that I received simply said, "by late 2018."

The Web Version of Google Earth Finally Gets a Measuring Tool

Distance measurement has been a feature of the desktop version of Google Earth for as long as I have been using it. So I was surprised when it wasn't included in the browser-based version of Google Earth that was launched last year. This morning Google announced that a measuring tool has finally been added into the browser-based version of Google Earth. A measuring tool has also been added to the Android version of Google Earth and will soon be available in the iOS version of Google Earth.

Google's announcement about the new measuring tool states that it is available now in Chrome (browser) and Android versions of Google Earth. However, as of 11:20 Eastern Time I don't see it in any of my accounts. Once I get a chance to use it, I'll publish a video tutorial on how to use it.

Applications for Education
The measuring tool in the desktop version of Google Earth has always been useful in developing lessons that incorporate math and geography concepts. Tom Barrett's Maths Maps has always been a great source of inspiration on that topic. Now that a measuring tool will be available in the browser version of Google Earth teachers whose students use Chromebooks can avail themselves of some of the ideas that Tom has shared in Maths Maps.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Short List of Physical Tech Products That I Recommend

From time to time I am asked for recommendations on the purchase of physical tech products. I generally don't make recommendations for school-wide or other large scale purchases, but I will make recommendations for small purchases. Here's the short list of physical tech products that I recommend today.

Elegoo UNO Super Starter Kit for Arduino
If you're thinking about trying your hand at Arduino programming, this kit has everything that you need to get started. It even includes a comprehensive tutorial and suggested first projects. It's a good deal at $34.99 (less if you have Amazon Prime). I've purchased more than a dozen of these kits for use in some of my workshops.

Blu Snowball Microphone
I have been recommending this microphone for years. It's an affordable, high-quality microphone for recording on your Windows, Mac, or Chromebook computer. I own two of them. One of which has seen on four continents, been dropped countless times, and triggered more TSA "enhanced security screenings" than I care to count. At $49.99 it is affordable and durable. These have been around for so long that you can actually get refurbished ones now.

Acer R11 Touchscreen Chromebook
Today, I do most of my daily work on a Lenovo T470s Windows 10 laptop. But for a while I was using my Chromebook for the bulk of my work and the Acer R11 is the Chromebook that I still use whenever I host workshops geared toward Chromebook-using teachers. The Acer R11 is an affordable and durable touchscreen Chromebook. If I was buying a Chromebook for one of my kids today, the Acer R11 is the one that I'd go for. You can buy this new for $299 or refurbished for $219.

Essential Android Phone
I have been using and abusing Android phones since 2011. The Essential Phone is the one I am using today. The only one that I liked better was my custom Motorola Pure Droid X. The Essential Phone is one of the only truly unlocked smartphones on the market today. It doesn't come with any pre-installed apps other than what is absolutely essential to make the phone and camera run. You can buy it today for $443 and use it on any network. I published a detailed review of this phone on Practical Ed Tech.

Adobe Spark Post Now Available on Android

Adobe Spark Post is a free graphic design tool that has been available online and as an iPad app for a few years. Last week it finally became available for use as an Android app too. You can use Adobe Spark Post to create photo collages, to edit your images for sharing on social media, to make announcement graphics, or even to design great-looking slides.

Adobe Spark Post provides a huge gallery of design templates that you can use or you can go on your own to design from scratch. One of the thing that I like about Adobe Spark Post is that even if you don't work with a template it will make suggestions for color schemes and font choices when you import your own images.

Get the Adobe Spark Post Android app here.

Applications for Education
  • Students and teachers can create simple posters to print and post in their schools to announce club meetings, campaigns for class elections, or to post encouraging messages to students.
  • To help students understand and show that they understand what propaganda messages look like, I have had them create simple early 20th Century-style propaganda posters of their own. Adobe Spark has built-in Creative Commons search that can help students find pictures to use for those posters. Students can also upload pictures they've found in the public domain.
  • Create a meme-style graphic to share on your classroom, library, or school website. The graphic could be intended to encourage students and parents to remind each other of an upcoming school event. You could also create a meme to encourage students to continue reading over the summer. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Flipgrid, Forms, and Accessibility - The Week in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on a nice summer day. The week was full of great summer weather and none better than the actual first day of summer on Thursday when my daughters and I played outside all day except for nap time. I hope those of you in the northern hemisphere are also enjoying summer like we are here in South Paris, Maine.

I'm not going to be at the ISTE conference this year. But I've already had virtual meetings with many vendors who are announcing new products and product features during the conference. I'll be publishing about those new features throughout the next week. And you can also follow ISTE happenings through a variety of online channels outlined in this article by Kathleen Morris.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Huge Flipgrid News! - All Features Now Free
2. New Google Forms Customization Options
3. Identifying Cities from Historic Maps - A Geography Game
4. Five Ways to Create Mind Maps and Flowcharts Online
5. Grackle - Assess the Accessibility of Your Google Docs & Slides
6. Vynchronize - Watch Videos and Discuss Them in the Same Window
7. Add Voice Recordings to Maps

Bring Me to Your School
My fall calendar is almost full! If you would like to bring me to your school for a professional development day, please get in touch. I offer professional development workshops on G Suite for Education, Teaching History With Technology, and many other topicsClick here to learn more or send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to book me today.

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com book me today.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
MySimpleShow offers a great way to create animated videos for free.
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

A Lesson for Beachcombers - How Seashells Are Made

If your summer plans include going to the beach, you may be interested in a new video from Reactions about how seashells are made. In How Seashells Are Made viewers learn that seashells are made of 95% calcium carbonate and 5% protein and sugar. The video doesn't stop with just listing the components of seashells. By watching the video viewers can learn how calcite and aragonite are layered in seashells to create a hard shell.


Applications for Education
I've never been a "lay on the beach" kind of person. I'm the person you'll find wandering and looking at neat things that get washed up on shore. If you have students that like to wander and collect seashells, use that curiosity as a segue into a science lesson about how seashells are made. This video is a great candidate for inclusion in an EDpuzzle lesson in which you add questions and your own clarifying remarks for students. Watch my EDpuzzle tutorial to learn how to add questions to an existing video.

Use Scheduling to Blog Consistently

Earlier this week I hosted a webinar about creating and maintaining classroom blogs. One of the topics that I addressed during the webinar was the importance of publishing blog posts on a consistent schedule. Publishing consistently helps your students and their parents know when they should expect to see new entries appearing on your blog.

You might not always have time to write on the same day(s) every week, but you can publish on the same day(s) if you use blog scheduling. When you have the time to write more than one blog entry, don't post them at the same time. Instead schedule one to appear at a later time so that you can maintain your consistent publishing schedule.

In the following video I demonstrate how you can schedule blog posts in Blogger, Edublogs, and WordPress blogs.


By the way, this post appears thanks to the scheduling tool. I wrote it on Tuesday night and it's appearing now on Saturday morning. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Two Lessons on Cloud Types and Their Names

Meteorology is a science topic that affects all of us whether you like it or not. Look up at the clouds and you're making a science observation. But what exactly are you looking at when you look at the clouds? And what kind of clouds are you seeing? Those questions are answered in a National Weather Service video titled Weather 101: A Tutorial on Cloud Types.


The NWS video above mentions the Latin origins of the cloud type names. A better video about the naming of clouds is found in this TED-Ed lesson titled How Did Clouds Get Their Names?


Applications for Education
As a follow-up to having students watch the videos about clouds, take them outside to try to identify the clouds that they see above them. It's a breezy and sunny summer day as I write this blog entry. In other words, it's perfect for laying in the grass and watching the clouds go by. So take your kids outside and do the same.

Where You Can Follow My Work

If you're reading this, the numbers say that you found my blog through one of the following methods:
  1. Facebook referral - Here's the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page.
  2. Email referral - Join the daily email list.
  3. Organic search 
  4. Twitter referral - Follow me on Twitter.
  5. Pinterest referral - Follow my primary board
There are other places that I publish online and other ways to to keep up with what I'm doing. 
  1. The Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week is the email that send out on Sunday evening. That email contains my favorite tip of the week and a rundown of the most popular posts of the week on Free Technology for Teachers. You can join that mailing list here.
  2. I publish a new tutorial or two every week on my YouTube channel.
  3. If you're interested in what's going on my life beyond ed tech, you're welcome to follow me on Instagram (it's mostly pictures of my babies, my dogs, and whatever outdoor sport is in season). 

Vynchronize - Watch Videos and Discuss Them in the Same Window

Vynchronize is a new video discussion platform that I learned about through Larry Ferlazzo's recent This Week in Web 2.0 post. Vynchronize lets you create an online room in which you can watch a video while chatting about it with other viewers at the same time.

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

Applications for Education
Vynchronize isn't going to replace full flipped video lesson tools like EDpuzzle but it could be a convenient tool to use for informal discussion about an educational video.

A Soccer Physics Lesson

If you watch the World Cup or any other professional soccer game you're bound to see some incredible kicks that make the ball curve through the air. Football Physics: The "Impossible" Free Kick is a TED-Ed lesson that illustrates and explains how soccer players make the ball curve when they kick it on a free kick or a corner kick. The video also explains how the forces that make a soccer ball curve can also make a thrown baseball curve. The video also answers the question of whether or not it would be possible to make a ball boomerang back to you. The video is embedded below. The full lesson can be seen here.



And if you need some help understanding the game of soccer or how the World Cup works, check out the free soccer guide that Common Craft offers.

Plastics 101 - National Geographic Lesson

From the top of your coffee cup to the laptop or phone you're using right now, our daily lives are full of plastic. How did we get to this point? How is plastic made? What can be done to reduce the impact of our plastic-infused lives? Those questions and more are addressed in a National Geographic video titled Plastics 101.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Google Sites Conversion Tool Now Available to More Users

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


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

Five Ways to Create Mind Maps and Flowcharts Online

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



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


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



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


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

Exciting New Features Coming to Scratch Later This Year

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

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

Finding Old Maps Online

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

Common Craft Offers a Great Guide to Understanding the World Cup

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

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

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