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Friday, August 31, 2018

Classroom, Games, and Books - The Month in Review

Good afternoon from Maine where it is a beautiful late summer day. I don't know about you, but I always feel like August passes too quickly. At the beginning of the month it feels like, "hey, it's summer!" and by the end of the month it feels like, "back to school, already?" I hope that those of you who started school in August had a great start to the new school year. And I hope that those starting next week have a great start too!

 In August I spent a lot of time on the road conducting professional development workshops for schools and I spent some unplanned "bonus" time in airports too. Getting to work with teachers all over the country is the thing that I love best about running this blog. If you would like to have me visit your school, please send me a note at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com.

These were the most popular posts on FreeTech4Teachers.com in August:
1. Two New Google Classroom Features Available to Everyone
2. How to Create a Jeopardy-style Game in Google Slides
3. 5 Ways to Display YouTube in Class Without "Related" Content
4. 10 Overlooked Google Docs Features
5. A Free Presidential Timeline Poster for Your Classroom
6. Factitious - A Game That Tests Your Ability to Spot Fake News
7. 56 Examples of Using Scratch Across the Curriculum
8. Your Next Read - Webs of Book Recommendations
9. Free iPad Apps for Creating Animated Movies
10. Check It Out - CheckItOut for Google Forms is Back!

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.
Book Creator is a great tool for creating multimedia books.
Kami is a great tool for annotating and collaborating on PDFs. 
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.

Yo Teach! - A Great Alternative to TodaysMeet

Since TodaysMeet was shuttered in June I have fielded lots of emails and Tweets from teachers looking for alternatives to it. I have been suggesting Backchannel Chat and GoSoapBox, but as of this morning I have a new alternative to TodaysMeet that I really like. That tool is called Yo Teach!

Yo Teach! was developed by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Pedagogic and Active Mobile Learning Solutions project as an alternative to TodaysMeet.

Yo Teach! lets you create online backchannel spaces to facilitate discussions. To get started on Yo Teach! simply go to the site and name your room. You can get started by just doing those two steps, but I would recommend taking a another minute to scroll down the Yo Teach! site to activate the admin function, the password function, and to select "avoid search."  The "avoid search" option will hide your room from search results so that people cannot find it without being given its direct URL. The password function lets you set a password that must be entered before students can participate in the chat. The admin features of Yo Teach! let you mute or remove students from a discussion, delete your room, and view statistic about the usage of your room. The admin function that reveals statistics will show the names of participants and how active they have been in your Yo Teach! room.

A student can participate in your Yo Teach! room by going the URL that is assigned to your room, entering the nickname that he/she wants to have displayed, and then entering the password that you have set for your room. (You can also use Yo Teach! without setting a room password). Students can type notes and questions to appear in the chat. But the coolest features of Yo Teach! is the option for students to draw on a whiteboard and have their drawings appear in the chat.

Applications for Education
If you have been looking for an alternative to TodaysMeet and haven't found one you like, give Yo Teach! a try. The option to have students draw on a whiteboard and insert those drawings into a chat is simply fantastic. In a math class you could have students show their work or highlight a portion of a problem on which they need help. You can also insert a drawing to aid an explanation.

Backchannels, in general, can help you provide a voice for every student in your classroom. You can use a backchannel to have students submit questions, to respond to your questions or their classmates' questions, or to simply share some observations during a classroom activity.

Three Short Lessons About the Origins of Labor Day

This weekend, Labor Day weekend, is the unofficial end of summer. After this weekend nearly all students and teachers will be back in school. If you're already back in school, you and your students are probably looking forward to the three day weekend. Before you start the three day weekend, take a few minutes to ask students if they know why Labor Day exists. The following three videos explain the origins of Labor Day.

Labor Day's Violent Beginnings


Why Do Americans and Canadians Celebrate Labor Day? - A TED-Ed Lesson


History of the Holidays: Labor Day History



Find more Labor Day resources in Larry Ferlazzo's extensive list of links.

250 Google Tools Tutorials for Teachers

A few years ago I decided to start making video tutorials for the many Google tools that I write about on this blog and feature in some of my professional development workshops. This week I created my 250th Google tools tutorial. All of my Google tools tutorial videos can be found in this YouTube playlist. The tutorials in the playlist cover a wide range of features of Google tools for teachers and students. I've embedded a few of the highlights of the playlist below.

How to Record Audio in Google Slides


How to Measure Distances in Google Earth


How to Create Comic Strips in Google Slides


How to Use Data Validation in Google Forms

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Another Small, Convenient Update to Google Sites and Google Forms

Earlier today I shared the news of the new option to add buttons to Google Sites. This afternoon Google announced another small update to Google Sites that is based on a small update to Google Forms.

Now when you embed a Google Form into a page on a Google Site the Form's background will be blended to match the appearance of the rest of the page. The Form will also be automatically sized to match the available space. And the Form will be optimized to for display on mobile and desktop browsers.

Applications for Education
These are not major updates and there is nothing for you to do to implement these changes in Google Sites (unless you're still using the old version of Google Sites in which case these updates don't apply). These changes could be helpful to you in the sense that improved display of your Forms will make it easier for students and parents to complete Forms on a variety of devices including laptops, tablets, and phones.

A Science Lesson for Dog Owners

As regular readers of this blog know, I love dogs. But as much as I love them there is one habit that I wish "man's best friend" would kick. That habit is eating poop. Whether its from a deer, a moose, a horse, or any other mammal, my dogs have had time not scooping up a mouthful. While I still don't like the habit, thanks to a new MinuteEarth video, I now know why they do it.

Why Do Some Animals Eat Poop? explains why and how some animals get nutrients from eating the excrement of other animals. The video also mentions why the feces of some animals has more nutrients than that of other animals. Like all MinuteEarth videos, the description notes on YouTube for this video include a list of the references used in producing the video. Watch the video on YouTube or as embedded below.


Applications for Education
Any student who has a dog, might be interested in the lesson in this video. And if you want to build a complete flipped video lesson around it, try using EDpuzzle or TES Teach.

Apparently, I write about poop more often than I remember. A quick search of my archives unveiled three other poop-related lessons. Those are a TED-Ed Lesson explaining why the world isn't covered in poop, a TED-Ed lesson about constipation, and the classic Who Pooped? game from the Minnesota Zoo.

How to Create an eBook on Book Creator

On Tuesday I shared five ideas for making ebooks with your students. Book Creator is a great tool for making those ebooks. With Book Creator your students can make ebooks that include text, images, audio recordings, videos, and even maps. Students can insert media that they've created or embed content from sites like YouTube and Vimeo into the pages of their ebooks.

In the following video I provide a complete overview of how to create an ebook on Book Creator. In the video you will see how to select a page size, customize the page color, and how to alter the text layout. In the video I also cover embedding content from third-party sites, adding maps to pages, uploading pictures, and recording audio and video directly into Book Creator pages.


You and your students can use Book Creator for free with the limitation of 40 books per account. There is an upgraded, school-wide version that offers real-time collaboration, LMS integration, and an admin dashboard. That school-wide version is on sale in the month of September.

Disclosure: Book Creator is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com 

Google Sites Has a New Design Component

The "new" version of Google Sites (it has been out for two years) has a new design component that you can use to make navigation of your site a little bit easier for visitors.

As Google announced yesterday, you can now add buttons to the pages of your sites made on Google Sites. Buttons are small, highlighted or colored areas intended to make links stand out from the rest of the text on a page. You will find buttons in the insert menu in the Google Sites page editor.

Applications for Education
When used sparingly, buttons on the pages of your Google Sites could make it a little bit easier for your students to and or their parents to find the most important information on the pages.

If you have not made the switch to new Google Sites from the old version of Google Sites, you will want to do so sooner than later. Watch this video to learn how to migrate a site from the old version of Google Sites to the new version of Google Sites.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Join Me Tomorrow Evening to Get Organized With Google Classroom and More

Tomorrow at 7pm EDT I'm hosting a Practical Ed Tech webinar titled Get Organized With Google Classroom, Calendar, and Keep. In the webinar I will showcase the new features that were added to Google Classroom for the 2018-19 school year. We'll then dive into how you can use Google Classroom, Calendar, and Keep to stay organized throughout the school year.

Five Key Things You’ll Learn In This Webinar:
1. How to streamline your workflow through Google Classroom.
2. How to organize and share resources with students.
3. How to keep track of goals (yours and your students’) through Google Keep and Calendar.
4. How to manage multiple course calendars without losing your mind.
5. How to streamline meetings and meeting scheduling.

Click here to register today!

Yes, the webinar will be recorded for those who register but cannot attend the live broadcast. Everyone who registers will be sent a copy of the recording of the live webinar.

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.  

Anchor Adds New Ways to Craft Podcasts

In the last year Anchor.fm has become my go-to recommendation for easily creating podcasts with students. The web version of Anchor.fm lets you record, edit, and publish podcasts in a matter of minutes. The Anchor mobile apps are even easier to use.

This week Anchor added a couple of new features to their free iOS and Android apps. In addition to recording and publishing, the apps now let you trim the beginning and end of your recording, split your recordings, name segments of recordings, and flag recording segments. Naming and flagging recording segments can make it easier to edit your podcast because you'll be able to easily jump to a flagged segment rather than having to play through your recording to find the segment you need to edit.


Applications for Education
If you have ever wanted to create podcasts with your students, but you got discouraged by the thought of dealing with technical complexity of publishing the podcasts, Anchor.fm is the tool for you. I've never found an easier way to create a podcast than to use Anchor. Click here for ten ideas for classroom podcasts students can produce through Anchor.

How to Quickly Add Page Numbers to Long Google Documents

Since Sunday evening when I published the 2018-19 Practical Ed Tech Handbook I have had a couple of people ask how I added the page numbers to it and kept them straight in Google Docs. The answer is found in a simple, but often overlooked function in the "insert" drop-down menu in Google Docs. Simply open that menu then choose "header & page number" to have page numbers automatically added to the pages of your document. Watch my video that is embedded below to see these steps in action.

A New Way to Add Google Keep Notes to Google Documents

Last year Google added the option to insert your Google Keep notes into your Google Documents. That feature made it easy for students who use Google Keep to bookmark resources while conducting research to then insert those bookmarked resources into their Google Documents.

This week Google changed the way that you can access Google Keep in Google Documents. Previously, you could access your Google Keep notes through the "tools" drop-down menu in Google Docs. Now you can access your Google Keep notes through the side panel located in bottom, right corner of your Google Documents. Watch my new video to see how to access Google Keep through Google Docs.


Learn more about Google Keep in tomorrow's Practical Ed Tech webinar, Get Organized With Google Classroom, Calendar, and Keep

View Upcoming Google Classroom Assignments in Google Docs

A new little side panel option recently appeared in my Google Docs. In fact, it appeared while I was in the middle of a workshop in which I was showcasing some Google Docs add-ons.

The new side panel in Google Docs provides quick access to Google Calendar, Google Keep, and Google Tasks. You can view items from all three services in the right-hand side of your screen while you're working on a Google Document. You can access any and all of your upcoming Google Calendar events, including Google Classroom assignments, while working on a document. Watch my video that is embedded below to see how you can access upcoming Google Classroom assignments through Google Documents.


Learn more about Google Classroom and Google Calendar in tomorrow's Practical Ed Tech webinar, Get Organized With Google Classroom, Calendar, and Keep

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

5 Ideas for Making Multimedia eBooks With Students

For many years Book Creator was my go-to recommendation for teachers who wanted to have their students create multimedia ebooks on iPads. So when the folks at Book Creator launched an online version to use Google Chrome I quickly added it to my list of recommended web tools too. Book Creator can be used by students to create multimedia ebooks that include video, images, audio, text, and free-hand drawings. You can watch an overview of Book Creator here. After getting familiar with Book Creator consider having your students make one of the following types of ebooks.

1. Multimedia Comic Books
Book Creator offers a half-dozen page layout templates including three specifically designed for students who want to make their own comic books. Within those comic templates students will find options for adding speech and thought bubbles, word art, comic stickers, and clip art to the pages of their comic books. They can also add utilize all of the other Book Creator tools like recording audio and inserting videos into the pages of their comic books.

2. Digital Portfolios
Book Creator supports uploading many kinds of media and then adding that media to the pages of an ebook. This can be a great way to have students build digital portfolios of their best work.

3. How-to Guides
Combining text, pictures, and video on the same page can be an excellent way to build a how-to guide for everything from conducting science experiments to tuning a lawn mower's engine.

4. Creative Writing
Students can enhance their creative writing by adding sound effects, mood music, or spoken words to the pages of their Book Creator ebooks. Students can do this by selecting the option to import media into any page of their ebooks.

5. Multimedia Reports
Watching videos and listening to podcasts is increasingly a part of the research that students do when beginning a research assignment. Rather than just writing summaries of the content of those videos or podcasts, students can embed them into the pages of their reports written in Book Creator.

Book Creator is available for individual registration as well as school-wide registration. From now until the end of September Book Creator is offering a great discount on their school-wide package




Disclosure: Book Creator is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Monday, August 27, 2018

G Suite and Chrome Accessibility

Accessibility options for G Suite for Education services and Google's Chrome browser have improved in the last couple of years. If you use these services with students who need improved accessibility options, the G Suite user guide to accessibility is a resource that you should bookmark. The user guide is divided into sixteen sections. In the first section you will find recommendations for the best screen readers to use while using G Suite on Mac, Windows, and Chrome OS computers. The other sections of the guide are devoted to specific products within the G Suite including Google Classroom. Each section contains information on accessibility shortcuts, screen reader instructions for each app, and in some sections you will find how to videos like this one for using a screen reader with Google Docs.



The Chrome Web Store includes a small collection of recommended extensions that can improve content accessibility.

ClassDojo Releases Three New Features for the New School Year

If you're a ClassDojo user, you should have recently received an email about three new features that have been added for the 2018-19 school year. One of those features is significant and two are just convenient.

The significant update is found in ClassDojo's new Student Portfolios service. This free service was announced at the end of the last school year will soon be available to all users. ClassDojo Portfolios are student-led portfolios. Students can choose the items that they want to include in their portfolios. They can include pictures, documents, videos, notes, and drawings in their portfolios. Just like in the current Student Stories teachers will have to approve all submissions before they are shared. Parents are able to see only the work of their children and not of other children in the class. The best of ClassDojo Student Portfolios is that the portfolios can stay with a student from year-to-year even when they change teachers.


Class Stories is the ClassDojo feature that teachers can use to distribute pictures, videos, and written updates about their classes for parents to see. Student Stories is updated for the new school year with an option to share multiple pictures in a story. This feature is kind of like including multiple pictures in one Instagram post.

Finally, ClassDojo now gives you the option to display all points, only positive points, or no points when sharing updates with parents.

Get Your Copy of the 2018-19 Practical Ed Tech Handbook

Last night subscribers to the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter were sent copies of the 2018-19 Practical Ed Tech Handbook. This annual publication is a free, 36 page PDF that highlights my favorite educational technology sites and apps.

The Practical Ed Tech Handbook is organized into nine sections. Those sections are:

  • Communication tools and strategies. 
  • Search strategies. 
  • Digital citizenship.
  • Video creation and flipped lessons. 
  • Audio recording and publishing. 
  • Backchannels and informal assessments. 
  • Digital portfolios. 
  • Augmented reality and virtual reality. 
  • Programming.
You can download a copy of the Practical Ed Tech Handbook here, view it as a Google Doc, or view it as embedded below. 


(If your school blocks Box.com, you won't be able to download the PDF through the links above. If that's the case for you, send me a note at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to request a copy). 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Use This Chrome Setting to Save Your Laptop's Battery

Even though it has improved in the last year, Google Chrome is still notorious for draining laptop batteries. This is particularly true when you have many extensions installed. You can preserve some of your battery's life by opening the advanced settings menu in Chrome and choosing to disable the option to "continue running background apps when Chrome is closed." Watch the following video to learn how to enable this setting.


Tips on What to Include in Digital Portfolios

During the course ​​of ​​the ​​school​ ​year ​​our​ ​students will ​​create ​​some ​​fantastic ​​digital artifacts.​​ Building ​​a ​​digital ​​portfolio ​​is ​​a ​​great​​way​​ for ​​students ​​to ​​organize those artifacts to share with you and to share with their parents. If you're considering having your students create digital portfolios this year, but you're not sure what to have them include in their portfolios, consider the advice that Carl Sjogreen shared with me in this interview last fall. Carl is one of the founders of the popular digital portfolio service, SeeSaw.



On a related note, SeeSaw has added new activities collections for the new school year. Watch this video to learn more about SeeSaw's activities library.

Emojis, Citations, and Tech Fails - The Week in Review

Good evening from Maine where a few more red leaves are appearing every day. As the summer winds down I've take a couple of afternoons off to go fly fishing and to spend more time with daughters before my schedule gets busy with fall commitments to schools and conferences all over the U.S. If you live in the northern hemisphere, I hope that you're still enjoying summer too.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. What To Do When Your Classroom Technology Fails
2. New Artifact Collections Added to DocsTeach
3. Three Tools to Help Students Understand Classroom Noise
4. MyBib - A Free Citation Generator
5. 5 Back-to-School Tech Tips for Teachers
6. A Couple of Reminders About Email Etiquette
7. How to Add Emojis to Google Docs - And a Classroom Activity

I'll Come to Your School This Year!
If you would like to have me lead a professional development day at your school during this school year, please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com - or click here for more information about my professional development services.

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.
Book Creator is a great tool for creating multimedia books.
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, August 24, 2018

Find Relevant YouTube Videos With These Search Tools

Last week I shared some tools for displaying YouTube videos in your classroom without showing all of the distracting comments and sidebar materials found on YouTube. Those tools are all predicated on already knowing which videos you want to show in your classroom. If you need some help finding videos that are timely and relevant, try using this search refinement tool. And if you want to find videos to view in VR headsets, try using this search refinement option.


For New Google Slides Users: Import Your PPT Slides

If you're making the switch from a Windows desktop/laptop environment to a Chromebook environment this year, don't abandon your old PPT and Word files. You can import those files into your G Suite account and have them automatically converted into Google Slides or Google Docs format. In the following video I demonstrate how to import PPT slides into Google Slides.

A Couple of Reminders About Email Etiquette

Two things prompted this post. First, this week I have received a dozen or more emails from teachers who didn't bother to write anything like, "Hi Richard" or any other greeting. Instead they just jumped right into a request. I like to help people, but I like to help polite people more. Second, as school starts it is a good time to remind our students about the proper way to send an email.

Emailing Your Teacher, With Captain Communicator is one of my favorite videos about email etiquette. The short video features two students demonstrating how to write an email to a teacher. It's cute and well worth 90 seconds of your time.



The following video was made by a teacher for the purpose of sharing email etiquette tips with students. It's a bit more serious that the Captain Communicator video.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Answers to 5 Questions Frequently Asked by New Chromebook Users

Thanks to a reader named Barbara I was reminded of a short video that I made a couple of years ago for new Chromebook users. I went back and watched it this evening and it is still applicable to anyone who is using a Chromebook for the first time this fall. In 5 Tips for New Chromebook Users I answer five questions that I an frequently asked by new Chromebook users.


Answered in the video:
1. How do I change the background picture on my Chromebook?
2. Where do files go when I save them on my Chromebook?
3. How do I access files without an internet connection?
4. Where do I find the app for X on my Chromebook?
5. How do I add new apps to my Chromebook?

Three Tools to Help Students Understand Classroom Noise

I like the sound of a classroom full of kids talking and working together on projects. But there are times when students need to be aware of the volume of their voices during those times that they're working together. And there times when you do need your students to be quiet for activities like silent reading or journal writing. You could play the role of judge and jury when it comes to classroom noise or you can get some help in the form of a simple noise meter that you display on a screen in your room. Here are three simple noise meters that you can use on your laptop and display on a screen in your classroom.

Bouncy Balls is a free online noise meter that I have been using for a couple of years. It shows the volume of the noise in a room by displaying a set of colorful bouncing balls on your screen. The louder your students are, the higher and more frequently the balls on the screen bounce. To use Bouncy Balls simply go to the website, click "begin bouncing," and then click the microphone icon to allow the site to access your computer's microphone.

Calmness Counter is similar to Bouncy Balls. The difference is that Calmness Counter displays a dial meter to display the decibel level in your classroom. You can adjust the microphone input sensitivity directly on the Calmness Counter screen.

Zero Noise Classroom is a countdown timer and a noise meter into one convenient Chrome app. When you launch Zero Noise Classroom you can set the countdown timer and adjust the goal for the volume of noise in your classroom. You will also set a goal for a percentage of the time that can exceed the maximum volume. When the countdown timer expires a chime sounds and the percentage of time above the volume limit is displayed.

New Artifact Collections Added to DocsTeach

DocsTeach is one of my go-to recommendations for anyone who teaches U.S. History at a middle school or high school level. The site offers a dozen tools that you can use to create interactive history lessons based on primary and secondary sources. To help you build those lessons DocsTeach provides thousands of primary and secondary source artifacts. You can search for those artifacts according to keyword, historical era, or artifact type.

In many cases your search for artifacts on DocsTeach will lead you to small collections of related documents, images, maps, videos, or audio files. Case in point, DocsTeach recently announced the release of five new collections of artifacts. Those collections are WWII Newsmaps, The Slave Trade, Foreign Affairs Political Cartoons, The 1918 Flu Pandemic, and WWII Foreign Posters

I'm always drawn to interesting uses of maps so this morning I spent some time exploring WWII Newsmaps collection. This collection contains 35 newsmaps published by the U.S. Army between 1942 and 1946. Each newsmap featured 5-10 numbered, short news articles that corresponded to numbers displayed on a map on the same page. The purpose of newsmaps was to provide a visual, geographic context for the stories about WWII.

Applications for Education
If you teach any U.S. History lessons, you owe it to yourself to spend some time getting to know the features of DocsTeach. I particularly like the document analysis and "Big Picture" activities that DocsTeach offers. The document analysis activities are excellent for helping students identify the key items in a primary source document in relation to the greater context of the time in which it was written. The Big Picture activities help students piece together multiple sources to understand the causes and effects of historical events.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

How to Add Emojis to Google Docs - And a Classroom Activity

Thanks to the influence of Tony Vincent I've started to see the utility of adding emojis to documents and graphics. Scroll through Tony's Twitter feed and you'll see lots of examples of classroom uses for emojis. Here's one recent Tweet in which Tony shared a little activity he developed for students to complete by guessing the school term based on the emojis displayed in a graphic.



You could build a similar type of activity in Google Documents through the use of the special characters menu. Watch my video to learn how you can easily insert emojis into your Google Docs.

How to Create a Bibliography With MyBib

Earlier this week I learned about a new bibliography creation tool called MyBib. MyBib is an open source project. Unlike some of the big names in the bibliography generator market, MyBib doesn't charge a fee for their advanced features like exporting your bibliography to Google Drive or using a citation style other than MLA or APA. MyBib can create citations and bibliographies in a wide range of styles including the popular MLA, APA, Chicago, IEEE, and Harvard styles. Watch my video to see how your students can use MyBib to create bibliographies.

5 Google Slides Editing Tips

Google Slides has come a long way since its early days as a bare-bones slideshow tool. Today, it is packed with features. Some of those features are obvious and others are hidden away in menus that are frequently ignored. In the following video I provide an overview of five Google Slides editing tips.

Watch the video to learn about:
  • Setting background colors and images.
  • Editing images in Google Slides.
  • Inserting emojis into Google Slides.
  • Quickly centering objects on a slide.
  • Animating elements within your Google Slides. 

Kahoot Adds New Features for Teachers

Kahoot has just announced a feature that teachers have requested for a long time. You can now upload a spreadsheet of questions to create a game in Kahoot. To do this you have to use Kahoot's spreadsheet template. I think that after you've used the template a time or two writing quiz questions and answers will be faster in a spreadsheet than in Kahoot's current game builder (which you can still use).

Spreadsheet importing is not the only new feature that Kahoot announced today. Kahoot's mobile app now includes access to a library of 2,000 free images that you can include in your Kahoot games. This library was previously only available when creating games in the Kahoot website.

The navigation within your Kahoot account was updated in this latest round of Kahoot improvements. Your account will now has a streamlined display of games you've created, games you have "favorited," and games that have been shared with you.

The following video provides an overview of Kahoot's new features. I recommend turning off your volume when you watch the video unless you really feel like listening to that annoying Kahoot music for two minutes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Great Example of a Teacher and Student Working Together

A couple of years ago I was contacted by a teacher just down the road from me in Portland, Maine who had developed an online geography game with the help of one of his students. That game was called GameOn World and it is still going strong today. In fact, they continued to work on it and it is was recently one of the sites that I include in my best of the web presentation.

GameOn World is played in a manner similar to Kahoot. The teacher projects the game questions on a screen and students reply from their phones, tablets, or laptops. One of the convenient features of GameOn World is that you don't have to create an account in order to start playing fun geography and history games with your students. In GameOn World the teacher selects a game category (cities, places, and timeline are a few of the categories) and starts the game. The students join the game by going to GameOn.World and entering a game pin. In the location and timeline games, students answer the questions by moving a placemark on a map or selecting a date on a timeline. In some of the other games students answer by choosing a number on a sliding scale.

Get Organized With Google Classroom, Calendar, & Keep

If you have been following this blog throughout the summer, you know that Google has made a bunch of updates to Classroom. If you haven't kept up with those updates or you just need some guidance on how they will affect you, join me next Thursday at 7pm Eastern Time for a Practical Ed Tech webinar titled Get Organized With Google Classroom, Calendar, and Keep.

In the webinar on August 30th you’ll learn what’s new in Google Classroom, what’s changed, and how you can use Google Classroom to stay organized throughout the school year.

Five Key Things You’ll Learn In This Webinar:
1. How to streamline your workflow through Google Classroom.
2. How to organize and share resources with students.
3. How to keep track of goals (yours and your students’) through Google Keep and Calendar.
4. How to manage multiple course calendars without losing your mind.
5. How to streamline meetings and meeting scheduling.

Click here to register today!

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.  

Five Chrome Extensions for Teachers and Students

Extensions for Google Chrome can do all kinds of helpful things for you and your students. This is the time of year when teachers who have Chromebooks for the first time ask me what they should add in addition to the standard things that their IT staff installed. Usually my suggestions begin with a few Chrome apps and some extensions. Here are five Chrome extensions that I frequently recommend to teachers.

1. Audio Player for Google Slides
This extension answers the question, "how do I add music to Google Slides?" With Audio Player for Google Slides installed you can not only add music to play continuously in the background of a presentation you can also use it to record audio in your Google Slides.

2. Use Loom to Make Screencasts from Your Inbox
Loom is a Chrome extension that you can use to record screencast videos. Additionally, when you have Loom installed you can record screencast videos directly from your email inbox. Watch my video to learn how to use Loom.



3. Auto Text Expander for Chrome
This extension might become redundant with the new iteration of Gmail, but it is still worth mentioning for now. Auto Text Expander for Chrome enables you to create keyboard shortcuts for phrases that you frequently use in emails. This extension lets 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.

4. ReCall Study Time
This extension can be equally helpful to teachers and students. ReCall Study Time is a Chrome extension that is intended to help you cut down on the time you spend looking at social media sites when you should be studying or working. With the extension installed and enabled you'll be shown a big reminder to get back on task whenever you try to open Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, or Instagram in a new browser tab.

5. Share to Classroom
If you're married to the Google ecosystem and using Google Classroom within a G Suite for Education domain then you should to try Share to Classroom. With this extension installed you will be able to push webpages to your students' devices by simply opening the extension and specifying which of your Google Classroom classes you want to receive the page. Students do not need to do anything because the page will automatically load in their web browsers. You can also have students push pages to you through Share to Classroom.

Bonus Item!
There is a Google Keep Chrome extension that makes it easy to save bookmarks and notes to your Google Keep account. You can then access your notes and bookmarks at Keep.Google.com or view them through Google Docs. If you're already using G Suite for Education, Google Keep is a convenient place to save your bookmarks and notes. Learn more about Google Keep in the webinar that I'm hosting next week on PracticalEdTech.com.

How Submarines Work

SciShow Kids is one of my favorite YouTube channels for kids. SciShow Kids publishes a steady stream of science lessons for elementary school students. The latest video lesson from SciShow Kids is all about how submarines work. The video does a nice job of covering the basics of how submarines are sunk and how they are returned to the surface. A little demonstration that you could create in your classroom is included in the video.


My only criticism of the video is that I wish there was a bit more explanation about how oxygen is supplied in a submarine. Perhaps the answer to that question could be the start of a lesson in your classroom.

Monday, August 20, 2018

MyBib - A Free Citation Generator

MyBib is a free, open source citation generator that rivals similar services that charge a subscription fee. MyBib can create citations and bibliographies in a wide range of styles including the popular MLA, APA, Chicago, IEEE, and Harvard styles. If a student isn't sure which style to use, he or she can see examples of each style by clicking the information icon next to the style name in MyBib.

To create a citation on MyBib go to the site and click the orange "Add Citation" button. When you click the citation button you'll be prompted to specify the type of material that you want to cite. After making that select you can enter the title of the document, book, journal, video, podcast, artwork, or other artifact to cite. One of the great things about MyBib is that if you don't know the complete title of a work you can search for it through MyBib. Once you've entered or selected a title a citation will be made. You can proofread and edit your citations in MyBib.

Your citations will be added into a project in your free MyBib account. You can create multiple projects in your account to keep track of citations. Click the "download bibliography" button on any of your projects at any time. You can download your bibliography as a Word file, save it as a Google Doc, print it, email it, or simply copy and paste it into an existing document.

Applications for Education
MyBib offers all of the features that a student needs to generate a bibliography without the cost associated with services like EasyBib that charge a subscription fee to unlock all of their features.

The Return of My Favorite Forms Add-ons - And One That Never Left

On Saturday morning I shared my delight in discovering that the CheckItOut Google Forms add-on is working again. That's not the only one of my favorite Forms add-ons to recently start working again, just in time for the new school year. Choice Eliminator, Form Recycler, and FormLimiter are also working again. Keep reading to learn more about each of these Google Forms add-ons.

Choice Eliminator is a Google Forms Add-on that lets you create a Form on which choices disappear after they have been used. For example, if I create a Google Form that has ten meeting times listed on it, once a meeting time has been selected it will disappear from the options available to subsequent visitors. Using Choice Eliminator is a good option for teachers who have personal Google Accounts, but don't have G Suite for Education accounts. Of course, it works well if you do have a G Suite for Education account. There are two versions of Choice Eliminator. The "lite" version is recommended for Forms that will be shared with a limited audience. The "2" version is recommended for use with larger audiences.

formRecycler is a free Google Forms Add-on that makes it easy to reuse questions from one Google Form into another form. When you have the formRecycler Add-on installed you can access all of your existing Google Forms and then pick questions from one of those existing Forms to use in a new form. You can use formRecycler multiple times on the same form and thereby include questions from multiple existing forms in your new form.

FormLimiter allows you to set a time for a form to automatically stop accepting responses. You can also use FormLimiter to set a limit on number of responses a form will accept. Watch my video to learn how to enable and set limits on Google Forms.



If you missed my post on Saturday, here's a video about the CheckItOut Google Forms Add-on.



An add-on that I started using in January and absolutely love is Certify'em. You can use this add-on to automatically issue certificates to students when they successfully pass a quiz.

What To Do When Your Classroom Technology Fails

In my previous post I highlighted five things that you can do to make sure that your classroom technology is ready for the new school year. But even if you do all of those things, there will still be times when things don't go as expected. Here are a few things that you can do when classroom technology isn't working as expected.

#1 - Plan
So you can't actually do this when the technology fails. You have to do this before your technology. Here's a few things to account for in your planning:
  • Test the site/ app on your school's wi-fi network not just on your home network. 
  • Have an alternate lesson plan or at least a variation on your lesson plan that doesn't require internet access. 
  • Know who to call for help. If you're trying something new, ask your tech integration specialist or a member of IT staff if he/she can come to your classroom at the beginning of your lesson. 

#2 - It's Not Me, It's You!
You could be doing everything right and still run into problems that are out of your control. If you find that a site isn't working as expected, enter its URL into Down For Everyone Or Just Me? to determine if the site itself is down. 

#3 - Pop-ups and Cookies
Not allowing pop-ups or cookies is the culprit in many cases of a web app not working as expected. I frequently see this in the cases of teachers and students using browser-based services that offer audio and video recording capabilities. 

#4 - Hotspot
If you absolutely must have internet access for your lesson and you can afford it, you could use your own mobile hotspot to provide internet access for your computer or tablet. Check your school's policy about this before doing it and don't put your students' computers on it because then they'll have unfiltered access to the web through your hotspot. 

#5 - Check Connections and Restart It
It is amazing how many little tech problems can be solved by simply checking that cables haven't been unplugged. Similarly, restarting a computer or tablet has resolved many small tech problems over the years. 

5 Back-to-School Tech Tips for Teachers

The new school year has now started for almost everyone. And if it hasn't started in your area, it will be starting soon. In the last few days before school starts take some time to make sure that your tech is in order just like the rest of your classroom. Here's my back-to-school tech checklist for teachers. 

#1 - Updates!
Now is the time to run those updates that you have been ignoring on your laptop, phone, and tablet. If your laptop or tablet is owned and managed by your school, your IT staff may have already run updates for you. If so, take a look at what's new. If your IT staff hasn't run updates for you, now is the time to run them yourself. 

Updates aren't limited to the operating system of your computer, tablet, and phone. Run the pending updates for your web browser and for your favorite apps. Sure, some features may change, and change is scary, but overall updates are good and necessary to keep your apps running as intended.

#2 - Dude! Where's my printer?
While you were away for the summer, your IT staff was hard at work updating lots of things to make life better for everyone who uses your school's network. You might find that old printers were removed and new ones were added. The morning of the first day of school is not the time to discover that you can't connect to a printer. Test print a page or two as soon as you can. 

#3 - Can You See This? Can You Hear This?
Is there a new projector in your classroom? Give it a try as soon as you can. If it is projector that uses an HDMI connection, you might find that the HDMI is trying to carry the audio as well as the visual from your laptop. This could be fine if your projector has speakers and those speakers are loud enough for your whole class to hear. Otherwise, you'll need to figure out how to project your audio to a set of speakers. That process can be amazingly easy or maddeningly difficult depending upon your computer and projector combination. 

Do you have an interactive whiteboard in your classroom? If so, make sure to run any pending updates to the software that it uses. 

#4 - Freshly Filtered Websites
Your IT staff might have changed filtering services or settings over the summer. If that's the case, your favorite websites and web apps from last year might not be accessible in your classroom this fall. Make a list of the sites and apps that you previously used and are now filtered. Then calmly discuss the items on that list with the people who have the power to make changes to filtering. 

#5 - Use the IT Department's Request System
You might think that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" is the best way to get your tech problem fixed quickly. The reality is that your IT department is just as busy as you are and would prefer that you don't barge into their offices just as you don't want someone barging into your classroom in the middle of a lesson. If your IT department has a formal work request system, use it. If they don't have one, email them with your request. 

By the way, many school IT departments take care of 3x-4x as many staff as their private-sector equivalents.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Fake News, Books, and Audio Slides - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it is good to be home after two weeks of travel for back-to-school workshops. Nothing says "back to school" quite like seeing a couple of leaves that have changed color. Yes, that happens early here in northern New England. But there is still plenty of warm weather left and my daughters and I are going to take advantage of it by going to the Maine Wildlife Park this morning. My older daughter especially likes seeing the baby moose and the baby deer at the wildlife park. And both of my daughters like feeding the ducks. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you get outside for fun too.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Factitious - A Game That Tests Your Ability to Spot Fake News
2. Your Next Read - Webs of Book Recommendations
3. 56 Examples of Using Scratch Across the Curriculum
4. 5 Ways to Display YouTube in Class Without "Related" Content
5. How to Manage Installed Chrome Extensions
6. Free Webinar - How to Create DIY Explainer Videos
7. How to Record Audio in Google Slides

Only Two Days Left!
I only have two days left in my 2018 workshop calendar. If you would like to have me lead a professional development day at your school in November or December, please get in touch ASAP. I can be reached at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com - more information is available here.

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.

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