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Monday, July 16, 2018

7 TED-Ed Food Science Lessons

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Ten Common Challenges in 2018

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

These Chrome Extensions Can Help You Stay On Task

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

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

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



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

Three Tools That Can Help You Save Time on Routine Tasks

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

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


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


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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

An Easy Way to Create a GIF from Google Slides

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

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


Forms, Games, and Timers - The Week in Review

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

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

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

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

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

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
TypingClub offers more than 600 typing lessons for kids. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
Kami is a great tool for annotating and collaborating on PDFs. 
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

Friday, July 13, 2018

13 Great Drawing Lessons for Students

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



Watch all thirteen videos right here.

How to Add a Timer to PowerPoint Slides

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

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

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


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

Flippity Fun With Words

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 12, 2018

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

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

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



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

Blended Play - A Blend of Online and Offline Review Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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



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



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


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

How to Share Specific Google Earth Views in Google Classroom

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

Rye Board - An Online Corkboard for Your Ideas

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


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



Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Kami - Annotate and Collaborate on PDFs

Disclosure: Kami is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

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

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


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

5 Google Forms Features You Should Know How to Use

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

Custom Fonts and Backgrounds for Google Forms



Save Time by Setting Default Point Values and Response Requirements



Response Validation


How to Print a Google Form


Provide Automated Feedback to Responses

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

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


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

Monday, July 9, 2018

Elementary School Rocks

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

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

Create Your Own Search Engine

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

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


Slides of the process are embedded below.


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

Socrative Has a New Owner - Not Much Changes

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

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

TypingClub's Typing Jungle Offers Hundreds of Typing Lessons

Disclosure: Typing Club is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

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

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

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


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

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

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Math, Forms, and Images - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the steamy weather has finally cooled off a bit. While it's still cool we're going on one of our favorite outings. We're going to the Maine Wildlife Park to feed the ducks and see the baby moose including this one that was befriended by a German Shepherd. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you get outside for some fun in the sun too.

Before my kids wake up and we head out the door, I have a run-down of this week's most popular posts to share. Take a look and see if your favorite made the list.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. MathsLinks - A Good Place to Find Resources for Math Lessons
2. 82 Math in Real Life Lessons
3. PhET PowerPoint Add-in - Add Science & Math Simulations to Slides
4. NRICH - Another Good Place to Find Math Activities
5. 4-H STEM Lab - A Good Place to Find Hands-on STEM Activities for K-12
6. How to Use the New Google Forms Customization Options
7. How to Find Free Images to Use in Multimedia Projects

Please Say Hello to New Blog Sponsors
Advertising is one of the means through which this site is supported. This week I welcomed two new site sponsors, Typing Club and Kami. Typing Club offers a novel approach to typing instruction. Kami is a great tool for annotating PDFs and more.

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.

Friday, July 6, 2018

New Metaverse Tutorials - Build Your Own Augmented Reality Games

Over the last year Metaverse has become a popular tool for creating your own augmented reality games. Many teachers have used it to create digital breakout games. Like many other tools that quickly rise in popularity, Metaverse has made some changes to make it easier for new users to get started. To that end, this week Metaverse published sixteen new tutorial videos for beginners.

In the first playlist, Getting Started, you'll find everything you need to know to make your first augmented reality experience through the Metaverse platforms.


In the second playlist, More Features, you'll find tutorials for the advanced options available within Metaverse.

Share Flipgrid Topics Through Otus

Last month Flipgrid made the huge announcement that all features were going to be made available to all users for free. That opened up a bunch of new possibilities for using Flipgrid in your classroom. Now that Flipgrid is free for everyone to use, I think we'll see more people sharing creative ways to use it in their classrooms. I predict that we'll also start to see more ways to share Flipgrid grids and topics. Case in point, Otus recently published a video about how to share Flipgrid topics with students through the Otus LMS.


Monster Heart Medic - A Game for Learning About Heart Health

Monster Heart Medic is a free iPad app produced by the Lawrence Hall of Science with funding from the National Institutes of Health. The purpose of the app is to help students learn about the cardiovascular system through a game environment.

The basic premise of Monster Heart Medic is that students have to help a friendly monster named Ragnar live a healthier life. Throughout the game students conduct exams on Ragnar to monitor components of his health like blood pressure and cholesterol. Students also have to teach Ragnar how to take care of himself by making better food choices and exercising. In all there are 37 tasks called Health Fact Achievements that students need to complete in the game.


To successfully complete all of the Health Fact Achievements in Monster Heart Medic could require a few hours or more. I played Monster Heart Medic through the first few achievements this morning and that took about fifteen minutes. Part of the reason for that time is that the initial start-up of the app includes a lot of written directions for students. The reason it takes a while to move through each achievement is that the animations and simulations are detailed and truly designed to teach not just provide a review for students.

Monster Heart Medic was designed for elementary school students but middle school students could also learn a lot from playing the game.

A Great Place to Find WordPress Tutorials

Creating a classroom or personal blog on hosted services like Blogger, Weebly, or Edublogs is rather quick and easy process. Services like these provide easy-to-follow templates and manage all of the software and security updates that a lot of people don't want to spend time fussing with. But if you blog long enough there may come a time when you want to have more customization options on your blog. That's when you might turn to self-hosting a WordPress blog. That's why last year I created this guide to help to creating a self-hosted WordPress blog.

My guide will help you get started. After you get the basic framework of your self-hosted blog established, there are nearly infinite customization options that you can use. When it comes to learning how to customize your self-hosted WordPress blog, there is not a better place than WP Beginner. WPBeginner offers free video tutorials and written tutorials about all of the basics of WordPress customization and many advanced customization options too. On WP Beginner you can find everything from how to change your default font size to how to add background color effects to how to create a forum within your WordPress blog.



Applications for Education
If you've been looking to take your classroom blog to the next level by including a classroom discussion forum within it or by creating better-looking portfolio pages, WPBeginner is a good resource to keep bookmarked.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Learn About Lake Ecosystems on DIY Lake Science

For the Fourth of July holiday I took my daughters to play at a little beach on a local lake. My older daughter enjoyed gathering snail and mussel shells in her bucket while my younger daughter enjoyed playing with some beach toys. The smell of the snail and mussel shells that my daughter collected reminded me of a neat iPad app that I found a couple of years ago.

DIY Lake Science is a free iPad app designed to help students learn about lake ecosystems. In the app students will find a small simulation of a lake ecosystem. Students can change the depth of the lake, the temperature, and the general climate around the lake to learn how those changes alter the ecosystem. After using the simulation students can learn more about lake ecosystems in the DIY Lake Science video library.

The “DIY” aspect of DIY Lake Science is found in the directions for a dozen hands-on activities designed to help students learn more about lake ecosystems. Half of the activities, like “make a lake” and “freezing lakes” can be conducted indoors in a classroom or at home with the help of parents. The other half of the DIY Lake Science activities require going outdoors to learn how to measure the murkiness of water, find aquatic insects, and to see how run-off affects lakes.

A Lesson From the Evolution of My Bookmarks

One of the questions that readers ask me on a fairly regular basis is, "how do you keep track of everything?" The answer to that has remained largely the same for the last decade. My process is that when I find something interesting I bookmark it, review it, and, if I like it, I write about it here on Free Technology for Teachers. Once I write about something I tend to remember it better than if I just looked at it and tested it for a little while. The one part of the process that has changed over the years is just where my bookmarks get saved.

Delicious (or Del.icio.us)
Delicious was the first online bookmarking tool that I used. It was the leader in the field of social bookmarking for quite a while. Unfortunately, it started to suffer from feature bloat which prompted me to move on to Google Notebook. In the years after I stopped using it Delicious was bought and sold a few times before ceasing to operate. Mashable has a good little history of the evolution of one of the original Web 2.0 darlings.

Google Notebook
Google Notebook offered a simple way to save bookmarks into my Google Account. I cannot remember all of the features of Google Notebook today, but I do recall at various times using the collaboration option and the option to take notes while saving each bookmark. Google stopped development of Google Notebook in 2009 and shuttered the service completely in 2011.

Evernote
When Google announced that end of development of Google Notebook I moved my bookmarks over to Evernote. Evernote was smart in making it easy to import Google Notebooks into Evernote. At the time Evernote didn't place any limitations on the number of devices you could use with a free account. It was also at this time that I played with using Diigo for my personal bookmarks but kept going back to Evernote because their mobile apps were better than Diigo's. That said, I did use Diigo with student groups because the collaboration component was easier for students to use.

Google Keep
When Evernote started to restrict their free plan to use on only a couple of devices at a time, I moved my bookmarking activity to Google Keep. Google Keep didn't have as many options for organization of notes as Evernote did, but for my purposes Google Keep did everything that I needed it to.

OneNote
In January of this year I decided that I needed to get to know Microsoft's products a bit better so I started using OneNote for bookmarking. I'm now doing almost all of my bookmarking in OneNote and occasionally using Google Keep to bookmark or record quick notes.

Everything Changes
The lesson to take away from the evolution of my bookmarks is that everything in tech changes. While each change seemed like a big hassle at the time, after a week or two I was over it. Those bookmarks that I had in Delicious more than a decade ago aren't worth anything to me today nor are those that I had in Evernote four years ago. So the next time that a favorite ed tech service changes or shuts down, go ahead and groan for a bit but remember that an alternative will probably present itself in short order.

My Ten Favorite ClassTools Templates

There are dozens of great game builders, writing templates, and handy classroom tools on Classtools.net. I've tried nearly all of them over the years. My ten favorite Classtools tools are featured below.

The Dustbin game is an activity in which students sort vocabulary terms. Playing a Dustbin game can be a good way for your students to review key vocabulary terms. In a science classroom you could create a game in which students sort animal names into the categories of mammal, reptile, fish, and bird. In a geography classroom you could create a game in which students sort city names according to state, province, country, or continent.




The ClassTools Hexagons Generator lets you create an online hexagonal learning activity to share with your students. To use the template just enter a topic then a minimum of five terms related to that topic. For example, I entered the topic of "American Revolution" then entered the terms "Stamp Act," "Sugar Act," "Boston Tea Party," "Intolerable Acts," and "Olive Branch Petition." The generator then created five hexagons that my students can arrange online to show the connections between the topics. Students can also edit the hexagons to add explanations to the connections.


The Diamond 9 template has students write text into nine boxes that form a diamond shape. Students have to sort the boxes into order of importance and connection to ideas in other boxes. A space is provided for students to write a justification for placement of each box.

The Jigsaw template has students write keywords or phrases into jigsaw pieces. Students then arrange the pieces to show the connections between the keywords in the those pieces. Students can color code each piece in their puzzles.

The ClassTools Source Analyser provides students with a simple template that can help them analyze the resources that they want to use in research papers and presentations. The template asks students to answer five basic questions about the reliability and utility of a source. Three hint buttons in the template can give students further guidance in analyzing a source.

Mission MapQuest is a great tool for map-based quizzes and games. The concept behind it is simple, you create a series of clues that your students need to follow to identify places around the world. You can add as few or as many clues to your MapQuest as you like. When you're ready to have students try your MapQuest just give them the web address assigned to it. Watch the video embedded below to learn how to create your own map-based quizzes on Mission MapQuest.


The Classtools Fake SMS Generator is free to use and does not require students to register to use it. In the video below I demonstrate how to create a fictitious text message exchange between historical characters. As I mentioned in the video, the Fake SMS Generator could also be used to create visuals for lessons on cyber-safety and etiquette.



Connect Fours is a game in which that you have to create four sets of four related terms from sixteen terms displayed on the game board. Connect Fours is based on the concept of the connect wall in the BBC gameshow Only Connect. The idea is that you have to create four sets of four related terms from sixteen terms displayed on the board. For example, I created a game about the four major professional sports leagues in the United States. Sixteen team names are displayed on the board and players have to arrange the teams according to the leagues that they belong to. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Connect Fours to create your own review games.



The Random Name Picker and the Fruit Machine are two of those tools that can be used in almost every classroom setting. Both tools can be used to select names or numbers at random. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use both of those tools.


Twister, like the Fake SMS allows you imagine what historical figures would have done if they had access to social media. On Twister you can create fake Tweets as if you were Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, or any other person in history. To create a fake Tweet on Twister just go to the site and enter a name, a Tweet, and date stamp for your Tweet. Twister will pull a public domain image for the profile picture and show you the fake Tweet. Your fake Tweet will be given its own URL. You can also just take a screenshot of it to save it.

4-H STEM Lab - A Good Place to Find Hands-on STEM Activities for K-12

The 4-H STEM Lab is a good place to find hands-on STEM activities for students of all ages. Activities in the 4-H STEM Lab are organized according to topic and grade level. The topics are alternative energy, chemistry, electricity, engineering, and physics. As is often the case with resources like this, some of the suggested activities can be applied to multiple topics.

All of the activities listed in the 4-H STEM Lab contain materials lists and detailed directions for completion. Each activity page also includes a PDF that you can download to reference while completing the activity with your students. The PDF contains discussion questions that you can use to debrief after the activity is completed. For example, the Rubber Band Car activity PDF includes questions that ask students to consider other simple machines that could be powered by rubber bands.

Applications for Education
The 4-H STEM Lab's library of activities is still fairly small, but the activities that it does offer are well developed. I appreciate that the activities have possibilities for modification and extension based on your students' needs. The activities in the 4-H STEM Lab are a good fit for a summer or after-school enrichment program as well as being useful for traditional classroom settings.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Videos for Learning About the Tour de France and the Science of Bicycling

The Tour de France begins on Saturday. What started out as a promotion to boost the sales of newspapers in France is now one of the biggest sporting events in the world (and a big business). On Tuesday I shared a couple of ideas for making virtual tours of the Tour de France. Here are some other resources for learning more about the Tour de France.

Watch this animated video to learn all about the tactics of the race, the logistics of the race, the physiology of riding in the race, and many other interesting facts about the world's most famous bicycle race.



How is the overall winner of the Tour de France determined? It's not as simple as you might think. In addition to the overall winner's Yellow Jersey there are other prizes awarded in the race. Learn all about how the race times and points are calculated by watching the following video from the Global Cycling Network.




If watching the race (broadcast on NBC Sports in the US) inspires you to get outside and ride a bike, don't forget your helmet. The Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky offers some good resources about brain injury prevention. One of those resources is a short animated video designed to teach students about the need for wearing a helmet and how to wear helmets when biking or skateboarding. In the video students learn how to pick a helmet and how to properly fit a helmet. Watch the two minute video below.



The Science Behind the Bike is a four part video series from The Open University. The series has a total running length of 33 minutes and is a complement to a larger Open Learn course called The Science Behind Wheeled Sports. The videos and the course are designed to help students understand the physics, the physiology,  and the technology that influence the outcome of cycling events.

Minute Physics offers two videos about the physics of bicycles. In How Do Bikes Stay Up? we learn how bikes stay upright, how design and weight influences balance, and why bicycles are difficult to balance in reverse.


The Counterintuitive Physics of Turning a Bike explains how we turn bicycles.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

NRICH - Another Good Place to Find Math Activities

In response to yesterday's post about MathsLinks a handful of folks reminded me via email and Facebook of another good place for teachers to find mathematics resources. That place is NRICH which I initially reviewed almost eight years ago and then again five years ago. Upon revisiting NRICH today I found that it is still a great place to find math resources.

NRICH is a provider of mathematics curricula and lesson plans covering everything from basic addition through advanced algebra and geometry. NRICH has sections for teachers and sections for the students. The teacher sections contain lesson ideas and plans. Some of those plans correspond to activities students can do online while others are entirely offline activities. The student sections of NRICH are intended to be mostly self-guided. Students will find interactive games and also find some challenge activities that are not games but instead prompt students to apply their math skills to ask questions and solve problems like this one.

NRICH offers dozens of posters to download and print. Each of the posters displays a mathematics "trick" or challenge question. Teachers can download and print any of the posters in the collection. Each poster in the collection is linked to a problem page that contains notes for teachers using the posters.

How to Create a Virtual Tour of the Tour de France

The Tour de France starts on Saturday. Unlike in recent years, this year the race is almost entirely within France. The riders will only be outside of France once during the three week event. The complete course can be seen on the official Tour de France map. Unfortunately, the official map doesn't provide anything more than just the locations of the start and end points of each segment of the race. This presents a great opportunity for a Google My Maps project or Google VR Tour Creator project.

Create a Google Maps tour of the 2018 Tour de France
Students could use Google's My Maps tool to create a map with placemarks for the start and end points of each segment of the race. In addition to the town and city names have them include a handful of interesting facts about within each placemark. Students can also include pictures and videos in those placemarks. If you have never tried using Google's My Maps, watch my video below to learn how to get started.



Create a VR Tour of the 2018 Tour de France
Google's VR Tour Creator that was launched a couple of months ago is quickly becoming one of my favorite mapping tools. With the VR Tour Creator students could create a VR tour of the starting points of the segments of the Tour de France. And with the latest addition to VR Tour Creator students can add their own narration to the tours that they create. Watch my videos embedded below to learn how to get started using Google's VR Tour Creator.



A Crash Course on Independence Day

Tomorrow, July 4th, is Independence Day in the U.S.  In the video below John Green offers a short overview of the history of Independence Day and the ways in which Americans have celebrated the holiday since 1776.


As always, Green includes plenty of sarcastic comments throughout the video so if your students have trouble recognizing sarcasm then this won't be an appropriate video for them.