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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Scratch 3.0 and a New Creative Computing Curriculum Guide

Earlier this summer I shared the news that Scratch 3.0 would be available in a beta form in August. August is still a couple of hours away, but Scratch 3.0 is actually available now. I just went to the Scratch 3.0 beta site and it is live. You can try the new Scratch online editor right now!

Scratch 3.0 offers the following new features:
  • 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. 
It is important to note that Scratch 3.0 is still a beta product. The full, stable version is expected to be ready in January. The current desktop and browser versions of Scratch (Scratch 2.0) are still available and all projects created in those versions will continue to work as normal. 

New Creative Computing Curriculum Guide!
A big Scratch conference at MIT just wrapped-up. I wish that I could have gone. Fortunately, some of the conference presentation resources are available online. One of those resources is the new Creative Computing Curriculum Guide (link opens PDF) published by the ScratchEd team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The 32 page guide includes a nice template for planning a mini Scratch project, prompts for thinking about remixing projects, and guidelines for assessment. 

GIFs, Forms, and Math - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on July. As I do at the end of every month I've put together a list of the ten most read posts of the previous 30 days. It's interesting to note that not all of the posts in the list were published in July. In fact, some of them were published last year, but for some reason saw a lot of visits in July.

These were the most popular posts in July:
1. The Periodic Table in Pictures and Words
2. A New Grammar Checker is Coming to Google Docs
3. PhET PowerPoint Add-in - Add Science & Math Simulations to Slides
4. Say Goodbye to Old Google Forms
5. MathsLinks - A Good Place to Find Resources for Math Lessons
6. 82 Math in Real Life Lessons
7. 10 Tools for Gathering Real-time Feedback From Students
8. 51 World Geography Games for Kids
9. 4-H STEM Lab - A Good Place to Find Hands-on STEM Activities for K-12
10. An Easy Way to Create a GIF from Google Slides

On-site Professional Development
My fall calendar has only three openings left! 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.

Try Using Icebreaker Tags at New Staff Orientation

The new school year is almost here and that means there will be new staff orientation meetings are happening everywhere. Rather than using generic name tags or ID badges for that first meeting, try using Icebreaker Tags. IceBreaker Tags is a free tool for making your name tags that can help people break out of the typical "what do you do?" questions that are asked when meeting for the first time.

To use Icebreaker Tags just go to the site, enter your desired display name, upload an image to display on your name tag, and type your ice-breaker question or statement. When you hit the print button your customized name tags will be displayed in a sheet of eight name tags that you can download and print on sticker paper (here's the kind I use).


On a related note, while looking for the sticker paper link mentioned above, I found these cool super hero name tags on Amazon.

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Short Guide to Getting Started With Google Drive

Six years ago I published a short PDF that contained directions for getting started using Google Drive. I still get requests for that document even though it is outdated. This evening I'm happy to share that I have put together an updated guide to getting started with Google Drive.

This guide was developed for a total beginner who has never used Google Drive or any aspect of G Suite for Education before. You can view it as a set of Google Slides as embedded below. If you would like a PDF version, you can download that through the Box.com widget that I have embedded below the Google Slides.


Get the PDF version through the Box.com widget that is embedded below.

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

Tomorrow afternoon at 4pm Eastern Time I'm hosting a Practical Ed Tech webinar titled 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons. I hosted this webinar back in the spring to close out the school year. It was well received then so I'm offering it again. In the webinar I'll share activities, tools, and strategies for getting your kids outside and involved in lessons that incorporate technology.

In tomorrow's webinar you can learn about:
  • Augmented Reality 
  • Digital mapping 
  • Geocaching 
  • Activity tracking 
  • Observing and collecting scientific data


Your registration includes: 

  • Access to the live webinar on July 31st at 4pm Eastern Time. 
    • Please take advantage of the Q&A 
  • Unlimited access to the webinar recording. 
  • Digital handouts. 
  • PD certificate.

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

Sunday, July 29, 2018

7 Ways to Make Animated GIFs

Whiteboard-style videos and Common Craft-style videos can be a great for helping students understand big concepts in short, easy-to-follow videos. But for smaller concepts, an animated GIF can do the trick. In the last few months I've come across a lot of free tools for making animated GIFs. Here's a run down of some of the better ones.

Loopy is a free tool for creating your own animated simulations or illustrations of a concept. This free animation tool is designed to showing relationships between two or more parts of a system. It's perfect for showing cause and effect or for showing a workflow system. To create an animation on Loopy you simply have to click on the blank canvas to place a circle that represents the start of a system. Then click on the canvas again to add another element to your system animation. To connect the two (or more) pieces you use a drawing tool to connect them. Once you've drawn the connections you can add cause and effect commands by selecting them from the Loopy editor. 

Draw Island is a free online tool (tablet-friendly) for creating drawings and simple GIF animations. Draw Island offers you your choice of four canvas sizes on which you can draw. Draw Island offers two canvas sizes for creating simple GIF animations. To use Draw Island just head to the site and select a drawing tool. You can draw free hand (or should I say free mouse?) or select pre-defined shapes to use in your images. After you are done drawing, just click the save button to download your drawing or animation.

Flip Anim provides possibly an easy way to draw and create an animated GIF. In the following short video I demonstrate how to create animated GIFs by using Flip Anim.



Brush Ninja is a free tool for creating animated GIFs. Unlike some similar tools, Brush Ninja works equally well in the web browser on a Chromebook, Windows or Mac laptop, iPads, Android tablets, and iOS and Android phones. Watch my video that is embedded below to see the process of using Brush Ninja.



The Docs365 GIFmaker Google Slides add-on will turn a series of Google Slides into an animated GIF for you. In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to make an animated GIF from your Google Slides.


Parapara Animation is a free animation creation tool developed and hosted by Mozilla. The tool is easy to use and it does not require registration in order to use it. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create an animation with ParaPara Animation.



Animatron is a nice tool for creating animated videos and images. To create an animated GIF you drag and drop characters and other scene elements into frames in the Animatron editor. Scenes created in Animatron can be downloaded as videos and or as GIFs. Animatron's free plan limits you to ten seconds of download time. The free plan will let you embed and or share longer scenes via social media. The other limitation of the free plan is that you can only create five projects before you'll have to delete one.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

GIFs, Whiteboards, and Slides - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the heat, humidity, and rain combined to cancel our morning plans. Mason doesn't even want to go outside. In the picture to the left he had just looked at me as if to say, "I'm not leaving the air conditioning?" Hopefully, we can all get outside to play a bit later. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you can get outside to play too.

Back to school season is almost here. I'm going to prepare for it by taking a few days off (completely offline) next week. Next Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I'll be re-running some of the most popular posts of the year so far. But just before that little break I'm hosting a webinar titled 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. A New Grammar Checker is Coming to Google Docs
2. Say Goodbye to Old Google Forms
3. More Than 5,000 Historical Maps for Teachers and Students
4. How to Create an Animated GIF
5. Promethean Grant - Win an Interactive Whiteboard for Your Classroom
6. Editing PDFs and Nine Other Microsoft Word Tutorials
7. How to Annotate Your Google Slides

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.

150+ Tips for New Teachers

One of the best things about being a teacher is the support that you can often find from colleagues in your own building and, increasingly, through online professional groups. That collegiality can be a huge asset to teachers who are new to the profession. That's why five years ago I started to collect and publish tips from veteran teachers for new teachers. That collection now contains more than 150 tips for new teachers. The collection is displayed in the slides embedded below.


If you have a tip of your own that you want included in the slides above, please add it to the following Google Form.

Friday, July 27, 2018

How Does Air Conditioning Work? - A Lesson for the Dog Days of Summer

Here in northern New England we don't handle hot and humid weather well. The first heat wave of the summer always sends people scrambling to buy the few air conditioners that are in stock at Home Depot or Walmart. In fact, I was one of those scramblers a couple of weeks ago. This leads me to a new video from Reactions titled How Air Conditioning Works.

How Air Conditioning Works uses excellent drawings and narration to explain the inner workings of air conditioners. The video also explains the environmental impact of the chemicals that are used in air conditioners and the alternatives that are currently being explored.

Brush Ninja - Make Animated GIFs on Your Desktop or Mobile Device

Brush Ninja is a free tool for creating animated GIFs. Unlike some similar tools, Brush Ninja works equally well in the web browser on a Chromebook, Windows or Mac laptop, iPads, Android tablets, and iOS and Android phones.

To make an animated GIF on Brush Ninja simply go to the website and start drawing on the blank scene editor. You can draw as many scenes as you like in Brush Ninja. When you have drawn all of the scenes for your animation press the play button to preview your animation. If you are happy with your animation, you can download it by clicking the export option. If you don't like a part of your animation, you can go back and edit any of the scenes that you need to adjust. Watch my video that is embedded below to see the whole process in action.



Applications for Education
Animated GIFs can be a good for displaying the steps of a solving a math problem. I’ve also seen them used to illustrate parts of speech. And my friends who teach physics can use animated GIFs to illustrate key physics concepts. Those are just a few of the ways that you could use animated GIFs in your classroom.

Take a Look at TypingClub's Unique Approach to Typing Practice

TypingClub is a site that offers an extensive set of typing lessons for students. On TypingClub you'll find lessons that use a traditional approach to typing practice as well as lessons that use a rather novel approach to typing practice. That novel unique approach to typing practice is found in TypingClub's story-based typing practice. This approach presents typing practice as a story for students to write. Watch my video that is embedded below to see TypingClub's story-based typing practice in action.


As you can see in the video above, the story unfolds as students type. They type the letters that appear on the page. More of the story is revealed as students type. Feedback is provided in the form of letters changing color when students type incorrectly. Additionally, the story pauses until students type the correct letters.

Disclosure: TypingClub is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Climate Kids' Big Questions Teaches Students About Climate Change

NASA's Climate Kids website has many excellent online and offline resources for teaching students about climate change. One of those resources is the Big Questions wheel. The Big Questions wheel guides students through the basic concepts and issues related to climate change. Seven big questions are featured in the wheel. Students select a question to discover the answers through the exploration of a series of smaller questions. Each question is addressed with a mix of image, text, and video explanations.

The Climate Kids Big Questions are:

  • What does climate change mean?
  • What is the big deal with carbon?
  • What is the greenhouse effect?
  • How do we know the climate is changing?
  • What is happening in the oceans?
  • What can we do to help?
  • What else do we need to find out?
Applications for Education
After working through the Big Questions you could have students play some of the Climate Kids online games which address topics including recycling, renewable energy, and climate history. Some of the hands-on activities featured on Climate Kids include re-purposing old clothing to make re-usable shopping bags, creating your own paper, and garden projects.

Climate Kids includes a page for teachers. On that page you can find a directory of resources aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. Besides the directory, the page for teachers offers galleries of media that you can use in your climate change lesson plans.

Headliner - A Slick Online Video Editor

Headliner is an online video editing tool that could challenge Adobe Spark and WeVideo for the top of my recommended video tools list. I just learned about Headliner from their PR person this afternoon. 99% of the PR emails that I'm sent are useless (seriously, I got one today about lawn fertilizer), but the one I got about Headliner is in the 1% of useful PR emails.

Headliner is a free online video editor that was designed for the purpose of making videos for use on social media, but the editor could be used for making videos for any purpose. To get started using Headliner you do need to create a free account on the site. Once you've created an account you can begin making videos from scratch or by following one of the simple templates in Headliner. Using the blank template is probably the best way to get to know the features built into the Headliner editor.

The first time that you open a blank project in Headliner you might think that you have to upload audio to start. That's because Headliner displays a prompt to upload audio as soon as you open the editor. I found that you don't have to actually upload audio to get started. Instead of adding audio to start you can import pictures, use the built-in image search tool, import video, or use the built-in video search tool. Once you have imported media you can adjust the duration of display, add pan and zoom effects, insert transition effects, and add text to the video. Of course, you can also add audio to the video at any time.

Completed Headliner projects can be downloaded as MP4 files, embedded into blog posts and webpages, or shared on social media.

Applications for Education
Headliner could be a great video creation tool for high school students to use to make short documentary-style videos. While it is relatively easy to use, making a short documentary in Headliner would require a good bit of advanced planning and patience in editing images, video clips, text, and audio into one polished final product.

Editing PDFs and Nine Other Microsoft Word Tutorials

On Wednesday morning I published a couple of tutorials about annotating PDFs and annotating Google Slides. Shortly after publishing those tutorials Mike Tholfsen Tweeted a link to Microsoft's 10 Handy Tips for Microsoft Word. One of those tips is using Word to edit PDFs. A short video tutorial for that process is embedded below.


The nine other tips in Microsoft's 10 Handy Tips for Microsoft Word are:

  • Dictate to type
  • Spelling, grammar, and clarity check.
  • Track changes
  • Insert a table
  • Add and edit text
  • Insert headers and footers
  • Insert or remove page breaks
  • Add a table of contents
  • Change line spacing
Video tutorials for all of those tips can be found here

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The New Gmail is Coming Soon to More Domains and Users

Back in April Google revealed a redesigned Gmail user interface with a fantastic set of features including reply suggestions, message snoozing, and follow-up reminders. When it was announced the new Gmail interface was only available to those domains in the Early Adopter Program. Today, Google announced that the new Gmail interface will soon be available to all G Suite domains.

There are a few options that G Suite administrators can use for the roll-out of the new Gmail interface. No matter which option is chosen, by October 16th the new version of the Gmail UI (user interface) will be the only one available to new users and current users will see the option to revert to the old version disappear.

Option 1: Make the new Gmail the default for all users immediately. 
This option will make the new Gmail the default for all users in a domain as soon as the administrator activates it. Users will still have the option to use the old Gmail until October 16th.

Option 2: Allow users to select the new Gmail UI and features when they're ready. 
This is the default option for domains who participated in the Early Adopter Program. This option will allow domain administrators to let their users choose to use the new Gmail UI and features when they're ready. However, all users who have not opted-in by September 18th will automatically be transitioned beginning on September 18th. Users will still be able to revert to the old Gmail UI until October 16th.

Option 3: All users begin the transition to new Gmail UI and features on August 21st. 
This is the default option for domains that didn't participate in the Early Adopter Program. This option leaves users on the current version of Gmail until August 21st. After August 21st they'll see the option to try the new Gmail UI and features. If they don't opt-in by September 18th, they'll automatically be transitioned. Users will still be able to revert to the old Gmail UI until October 16th.

What does this mean for teachers?
A change like this can be hard, especially at the beginning of the school year when you already have a lot of other things on your plate. But in this case the change is a good thing because the features in the new Gmail UI can help you get through your inbox more efficiently.

Smart Reply is my favorite feature of the new Gmail UI. Smart Reply creates suggestions for replies to send to messages in your inbox. This can be a real time-saver when your inbox is full of emails that contain similar types of questions. I've been using Smart Reply on Gmail on my phone all summer and it has proven to be convenient for short messages.

Nudging is the other feature of the new Gmail UI that I like a lot. Nudging prompts you to reply to emails that you haven't responded to. Nudging also prompts you to follow-up on messages that you sent but didn't receive a reply to. 

How to Annotate Your Google Slides

On the heels of answering questions about how to annotate PDFs, I received a question on the Practical Ed Tech Facebook page about annotating Google Slides. You could do that by exporting your slides as PDFs and then importing them into Kami. Or you can use the drawing and commenting tools built into Google Slides. In the following video I demonstrate how to annotate Google Slides by using the drawing and commenting tools built into Google Slides.


Applications for Education
You could use the drawing and commenting tools in Google Slides to give your students feedback on the content and design of their slideshows before they present them to your class. You might also use the drawing and commenting tools as I demonstrated in the video to have students respond to questions about elements within a slide.

Join me on Thursday for Fast & Fun Formative Assessments

Cancelled

On Thursday afternoon at 4pm Eastern Time I'm hosting a Practical Ed Tech webinar titled Fast & Fun Formative Assessments. I hosted this webinar last year, but a lot of things have changed for the better since then so I've updated it to better equip you for the 2018-19 school year.

Whether you teach elementary school, middle school, or high school, you will come away from this webinar with fun formative assessment activities that you can do tomorrow. Fun Formative Assessments addresses the needs of teachers who don’t have computers or tablets for every student. And teachers who do have laptops, Chromebooks, or tablets for every student will learn some new ways to have students use those too.






In the webinar you'll learn:
1. What makes a formative assessment valuable to you while also fun for students.
2. How to create fun formative assessments for classrooms that aren’t 1:1.
3. Why you should leverage students’ picture-taking habits for formative assessment.
4. Development of engaging formative assessment activities that use a variety of question formats.
5. How to include students in the creation of formative assessments.


Your registration includes:
Live webinar at 4pm EST on July 26th
Unlimited access to the webinar recording. (Available within 12 hours of webinar completion)
PD certificate

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

How to Annotate PDFs

Twice in this week, once on Facebook and once in email, I have been asked about how to annotate PDFs. In both instances my response was to take a look at using Kami to annotate PDFs. Kami is a browser-based service through which you can 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. Watch my video that is embedded below to learn how to annotate PDFs by using Kami.



Disclosure: Kami is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A New Grammar Checker is Coming to Google Docs

Google Docs has had a spell check tool for years. The grammar check tool has always been a bit rudimentary. That is going to change in the next few months.

Earlier today Google announced that a new grammar suggestions tool is going to be added to Google Docs. The new grammar suggestions tool will automatically underline possible grammar mistakes. Google Docs users will be able to right-click on underlined grammar mistakes to see suggested corrections.

The new grammar suggestions tool in Google Docs will initially be available only to those who apply for the Early Adopter Program.

Loom is Introducing a Desktop Screencasting Tool

Loom is a screencast recording tool that I started to use earlier this year and have found to be excellent for making short videos directly from my inbox. This afternoon I received an email from Loom that announced their plans to introduce a desktop app this fall. There are not many details about it available right now, but as I shared on Facebook, if the desktop app is as good as the browser version of Loom, it will be a great product.

You can register for early access to Loom's desktop app right here. And if you haven't tried Loom, watch my video that is embedded below to see how you can create a screencast right from your inbox.

23 World Languages Lesson Plans That Incorporate Comics

Storyboard That is known for its excellent storyboard creation tool that can be used for many purposes including making comic strips, creating scripts, making greeting cards, and developing timelines. Storyboard That also offers detailed lesson plans that you can use for free.

The lesson plans in Storyboard That's collection of free lesson plans are written by teachers who actually use the product in their classrooms. One of the smaller, but growing sections of that collection is the World Languages section. In the World Languages section you will find seven lesson plans for French language classes and sixteen lesson plans for Spanish language classes. You can use the lesson plans and their corresponding storyboard templates as they are written or modify them to meet your students' needs.


Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Monday, July 23, 2018

More Than 5,000 Historical Maps for Teachers and Students

Florida's Educational Technology Clearinghouse has a collection of more than 5,000 historical maps. The maps are licensed for free download and reuse by teachers and students. The collection is organized by continent and country. The US category is further broken down and organized by state and by historical theme.

Some of the maps in this collection are excellent maps to download and layer over Google Earth and Google Maps for the purpose of showing current maps and historic maps in the same screen. Learn how to do that during Tuesday's webinar about Google Earth, Google Maps, and virtual tour creator.

Applications for Education
Historical maps can be very useful in helping students to get a better sense of an entire historical event or story. These maps could be used as a supplement to a history lesson or as the beginning of an inquiry-based lesson. These maps could also be used as overlay images in Google Earth files that students develop.

Promethean Grant - Win an Interactive Whiteboard for Your Classroom

If you have desired to get an interactive whiteboard for your classroom, but budget has kept that wish from becoming reality then you should check out Promethean's "grant" program. Promethean calls it a grant program even though it seems more like a contest. To be eligible to be awarded a Promethean ActivPanel interactive whiteboard you must create a video that demonstrates your need for an interactive whiteboard and the impact that it would have on teaching and learning in your classroom. Entries will be judged based on creativity, need, and potential classroom impact.

Applications for Promethean's grant program will be accepted August 1st through November 1st. Teachers are encouraged to include students in the creation and production of their grant application videos. The complete program details can be found here

SciShow Kids Answers "Why Do Animals Have Tails?"

My daughters and my dogs' tails have a close relationship. Sometimes that relationship is tested by a quick grab of a tail and sometimes tested by a swishing tail to the face. But no matter what, my dogs always wag their tails when we come home. That, of course, begs the question, "why do animals have tails?" SciShow Kids has the answer to that question in their latest video. The video explains how some animals use their tails to communicate and some use them for balance. The video also explains why humans don't need tails.

Join Me on Tuesday at 4pm for a Webinar on Google Earth, Maps, and VR Tours

Tomorrow, July 24th, at 4pm Eastern Time I am hosting a Practical Ed Tech webinar all about Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google's VR Tour Creator.

During Tuesday's webinar you will learn:
1. How to create multimedia maps.
2. How to build virtual tours.
3. How to collaboratively create multimedia maps.
4. How to map data.
5. Options for multimedia mapping with students who don’t have email or Google accounts.


Click here to register!


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

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Feedback, Focus, and Cars - The Week in Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Create an Animated GIF

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


Say Goodbye to Old Google Forms

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

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

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

Friday, July 20, 2018

An Easy Way to Find Images for Google Slides Presentations

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Click here to register!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

How to Use Blended Play for Classroom Review Games

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

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

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

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





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

How to Add Music to Google Slides

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


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

Add Music to Your Google Slides With the AudioPlayer Chrome Extension

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Formatically Offers a New Instant Citation Tool

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

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

How to Protect Student Privacy With Blurring Effects in Videos

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

10 Tools for Gathering Real-time Feedback From Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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