Google
 

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.

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.

Create a Word Search on ABCya

ABCya is known for their many educational games available to play in your web browser or as stand-alone iOS and Android apps. ABCya also provides some tools for teachers to use to create printable activities. One of those templates is a word search generator. As you can see in my video below, making a word search on ABCya is a simple process. To make your word search simply name it, enter up to 15 words, and then let ABCya generate a printable word search document for you. Watch my video to see how it works.

How to Create a Comment Bank in Google Classroom

Google Classroom got a bunch of new features this summer. One of those is a new option to create a comment bank to use when commenting on your students' work. The comment bank option will let you create and save lists of comments that you can easily view and insert into documents while you are grading your students' work. Watch my video to learn how you can create and use a comment bank in Google Classroom.



Click here to learn about some other new features in Google Classroom.

Check It Out - CheckItOut for Google Forms is Back!

CheckItOut is a Google Forms Add-on that makes it easy to keep track of the things that you let kids borrow from your classroom. It's an Add-on that I recommended for a couple of years until this past spring when it, like a bunch of other Add-ons, stopped working. But some of those other Add-ons recently started working again so I decided to give CheckItOut another try. Much to my delight CheckItOut is working again! Watch my video to see how you can use CheckItOut to create a simple check-in/ check-out system through Google Forms.


From what I have been told by a developer who makes Add-ons, the reason so many Add-ons stopped working earlier this year is that Google changed some of the requirements for third-party developers to authenticate their apps and Add-ons. Not all developers were able to quickly meet those new requirements.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Participate - Create and Share Collections of Resources

Participate offers a variety of free professional development resources for teachers. Last month I featured one of their free online book clubs. Today, I'm featuring Participate's free collections service.

Participate Collections provides you with a place to create organized collections of resources. You can make your collections on your own or invite colleagues to build collections with you. The collections that you make on Participate can be kept private or you can share them for others to see. Click here to take a look at the public gallery of Participate Collections. Watch my video that is embedded below to see you can create and share resource collections on Participate.


Applications for Education
Participate Collections could be great for assembling sets of resources with colleagues in your school or department. As I tested the Collections feature I thought it would be a great tool for making collections of resources aligned to units of study. I can also see teachers using it to create collections of resources that are aligned to standards.

5 Ways to Display YouTube in Class Without "Related" Content

One of the questions that I'm frequently asked at the beginning of the school year goes something like this, "do you know how I can download videos from YouTube?" I do know how to do that, but I won't teach you how to do that because it is a violation of YouTube's terms of service. But I will show you how you can display YouTube videos in your classroom without showing the sidebar related video suggestions and comments. Here are five tools that you can use to display YouTube videos without showing the related video suggestions and comments.

ViewPure is one of my longest standing recommendations for viewing YouTube videos without distractions. At its basic level to use View Pure just copy the link of a video into the "purifier" on the View Pure website and then click purify. Your "purified" video will be displayed on a blank white background. You can password-protect links to videos that you share through ViewPure (click here for directions). In the last year ViewPure expanded to offer curated collections of educational videos.

Watchkin is a service that provides a few ways to watch YouTube videos without seeing the related video suggestions and comments. You can enter the direct URL of a video into Watchkin to have the sidebar content removed. You can search for videos through Watchkin and have family-friendly results displayed (if a video appears that is not family-friendly Watchkin has a mechanism for flagging it as inappropriate). Watchkin also offers a browser bookmarklet tool that you can click while on YouTube.com to have the related content disappear from the page.

Quietube is a convenient tool that you can add to your browser's bookmarks bar. With Quietube installed you can simply click it whenever you're viewing a video on YouTube and all of the related clutter will be hidden from view. Installing Quietube requires nothing more than dragging the Quietube button to your toolbar.

Tube is a free tool that provide a minimalist view of YouTube. When you go to the Tube website the only things you will see are "Tube," a disclaimer, a link to the developer's Twitter account, and a search box. Enter your search terms into the Tube search box and a list of results appears below it without showing any advertising or other sidebar content. When you click one of the videos in the search results it is displayed nearly full-screen on a plain white background.

SafeShare.tv makes it possible to view YouTube videos without displaying the related videos and associated comments. To use SafeShare.tv simply copy the URL of a YouTube video and paste it into SafeShare.tv. SafeShare also offers browser a bookmarklet tool that will eliminate the need to copy and paste links from YouTube into SafeShare.

Methods for those who use Google Classroom, Google Sites, or any blogging service:
If you use Google Classroom, you can simply post the link to a video in your Classroom and when students click on it, it should display within Classroom without showing any related content from YouTube.

You can embed YouTube videos into Google Sites, Blogger, and many other website and blog creation platforms. The embedded videos won't display any comments that might have been written on YouTube.

Great Tips & Reminders for Securing Your Mobile Phone

Many students use their smartphones more often than their laptops to browse the web, shop, and access important files. That's why we need to teach students to protect their mobile phones with the same level diligence used to protect their laptops. Common Craft recently published a good video about mobile phone safety and security. The video teaches viewers the common ways that mobile phone security is compromised and how they can protect their phones from security threats. The points in the video will be reminders to many viewers, but it could be new information to younger viewers or viewers who have just purchased their first smartphones.


Disclosure: FreeTech4Teachers.com and Common Craft have an in-kind relationship. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Six New Layout Options for New Google Sites

Whether you like or not, the old version of Google Sites will soon go the way of the dinosaurs. The new version of Google Sites, which is two years old now, has seen a steady stream of updates this year. The latest update announced by Google brings six pre-built section layouts for Google Sites. These section layouts will let you combine multiple elements like images and videos into one section of a Google Site's page.

This isn't a major update to Google Sites but it is nice to have more options for layout design. These new layout options will be rolling out to users over the next couple of weeks.

If you still haven't made the switch to new Google Sites, there is a free transition tool that you can use to convert your existing Google Sites from the old version to the new version. Watch my video that is embedded below to learn how to convert from old Google Sites to new Google Sites.

How to Create a Backchannel Chat

For most of the last decade I recommended using TodaysMeet to create backchannel chats. In June TodaysMeet shut down. Since then I have been using Backchannel Chat to create backchannel chat rooms. While it isn't exactly like TodaysMeet, it is probably best alternative that I have used in the last two months.

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. Watch my video that is embedded below to see how you can use Backchannel Chat.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

60 Second Adventures in Economics

The Open University hosts a series of six short videos intended to introduce viewers to some of the basic concepts of macroeconomics. In 60 Second Adventures in Economics you will find short videos explaining things like the Paradox of Thrift and Comparative Advantage. The video about comparative advantage is embedded below.



Applications for Education
60 Second Adventures in Economics is clearly not a replacement for actual lessons in economics, but they could be good introductions or reviews of a lesson.

Blue Snowball Microphone - Takes a Lickin' and Keeps on Tickin'

I have been recommending Blue Snowball microphones for many years. They provide outstanding audio quality for not a lot of money. And they have always proven to be durable for classroom use. Here's my latest testament to their durability.

On Monday morning I got up at 3am for a flight to Missouri. As you might expect, I was groggy as could be while going through the TSA security checkpoint. Even though I have TSA Pre✓® which enables me to leave my laptop in my bag, I take my Blue Snowball microphone out of my bag because every TSA screener is mystified when they see the microphone in the x-ray scanner. Usually this is just a minor inconvenience. On Monday morning in my groggy state I pushed my tote right off the scanner conveyor belt and right onto the floor. The microphone crashed to the concrete floor then bounced a few feet before coming to rest against a cart.  After a crash and multiple bounces on the concrete I figured that my Blue Snowball microphone was toast. But after clearing security I tested it and it worked just fine.

If you're considering doing any podcasting or video projects in your classroom this year and you want to improve the quality of your students' recordings, give the Blue Snowball microphone a try.

Update about recording on iPads:
Andrew Croce asked me on Facebook about using this microphone with an iPad. It can be done if you have an adapter to connect your iPad to a standard USB cable. However, when you do that you will probably experience degraded recording quality. For that reason I recommend using a microphone built specifically for recording on an iPad. The iRig products like this microphone made for podcasting from iOS are a better option than recording with a mic connected to your iPad through an adapter.

Factitious - A Game That Tests Your Ability to Spot Fake News

Factitious is a game for testing your skill at identifying fake and misleading news stories. The game was developed by the American University Game Lab and the American University's School of Communication. I learned about the game last month when Larry Ferlazzo featured it and I have since shared it in a couple of professional development workshops. It was a hit in both workshops in which I shared it with teachers.

To play Factitious simply go to the site and select quick start. You'll then see an article appear on the screen. Read through the article, click the source listed at the bottom, and then select either the green check mark or red X to indicate whether or not you think the article is a real news story. After you make your selection you'll get instant feedback and an explanation of how you can tell if the article was a real or fake news story.

Factitious does offer the option to create an account to save your progress in a game, but you don't need to create an account in order to play the game in "quick start" mode.

Applications for Education
Factitious could be a great game to have students play at the conclusion of a larger lesson about evaluating the credibility of websites. If you don't want to have students play the game on their own, you could print the articles listed in the game and use them as part of lesson that you teach to your class.

Free Webinar - How to Create DIY Explainer Videos

A decade ago Common Craft introduced the world to a new style of explanatory videos. That style which came to known as the Common Craft Style consisted of Lee LeFever narrating a video while displaying simple paper cutouts on a blank white background. Since then teachers and students all over the world have made their own videos in the Common Craft style. Next week, Common Craft is hosting a free webinar in which you can learn how you can make your own videos in the Common Craft style. The live webinar is going to be held on August 21st at 2pm Eastern Time. Register here.

Highlights of How to Create DIY Explainer Videos include:
  • Using storyboards to develop ideas.
  • Basic steps for creating DIY animated videos.
  • Tips for recording voice-overs.
  • Making scripts for videos.
  • Q&A with Lee LeFever
The last time that I joined one of Common Craft's webinars I gained a bunch of video creation tips so I plan to attend their next free webinar on Tuesday and I hope that you will too. 

Disclosure: I have a long-standing in-kind relationship with Common Craft. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Your Next Read - Webs of Book Recommendations

Your Next Read is a site that provides you with a web of book recommendations based on the authors and books you already like. Here's how it works; type in the title of a book you like or author you like and Your Next Read will provide you with a web of books that might also enjoy. Click on any of the books appearing the web to create another new web. Below you'll see the web of recommendations that appeared when I typed in Gary Paulsen's Hatchet.

Applications for Education
Your Next Read could be a great resource for teachers that are trying to locate fiction works that their students might enjoy. Rather than having to rely on your own list of books, you can have students name books they've enjoyed in the past and instantly find some other appealing titles. 

Best of the Web Summer 2018

This morning I had the privilege to visit the Lewis County C1 School District in Missouri. One of the presentations that I gave there was the latest version of my popular Best of the Web presentation. The presentation is broken into four sections. Those sections are creating and remixing, workflow and classroom management, exploring and learning, and checking for understanding.


Having trouble viewing the slides? Click here

If you would like to have me visit your school this year, please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com or click here for more information.

Monday, August 13, 2018

An Animated Shark Tracking Map - How Far Do Sharks Roam?

Years ago I included a shark tracking Google Earth layer in my workshop about Google Earth. It provided a good example of how Google Earth can be used in science classes. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find that file for a couple of years now and even if I did find the data is outdated now. That's why I was excited when I saw the Maps Mania blog post a link to a new shark tracking map.

The Global Fishing Watch map includes an animated layer that displays the movement of tagged sharks off of the east coast of the United States. The map contains records for 45 tagged sharks. You can find shark tracks by clicking on one of the small placemarkers on the map. When you select a shark you will see the entire path of travel for that shark. The timeline slider at the bottom of the map lets you select a timespan for the tracking of the shark. The play button on the timeline will replay the travel of the shark in the Atlantic ocean.

Applications for Education
The Global Fishing Watch map of tagged sharks could be great for showing students how far a shark will travel in a typical year and or over the course of its lifetime. The map itself doesn't display the distance the sharks travel. To figure out the actual distance you will need to copy the coordinates of a shark's locations into Google Earth (web or desktop version will work) and then measure the distance traveled.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

How to Manage Installed Chrome Extensions

During a workshop that I was leading this week someone asked me how she could remove some of the extension icons that were displayed in her Chrome browser. The simple solution is to right-click on the extension icon and then choose the option to either hide or remove the extension. Hiding it will just hide it from view without disabling it or uninstalling it. Choosing the option to remove an extension will uninstall it. Watch the following video that I made to show how to manage your installed Chrome extensions.

Google Classroom, Jeopardy, and Scratch - The Week in Review

Good evening from Paris Hill, Maine where I'm home after a week on the road in which I facilitated professional development for teachers in Kansas and Illinois. Next week I'll be in Missouri. If you would like to have me visit your school in the new school year, please get in touch. I only have two openings left for 2018, but I have more availability in 2019. Speaking of the new school year, I hope that those of you who started school this week had a great start to the year!

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Two New Google Classroom Features Available to Everyone
2. How to Create a Jeopardy-style Game in Google Slides
3. A Free Presidential Timeline Poster for Your Classroom
4. 56 Examples of Using Scratch Across the Curriculum
5. Add Music to Play Continuously in a Google Slides Presentation
6. How to Record Audio in Google Slides
7. Take a Look at Microsoft's Free Hands-on STEM Lesson Plans and Projects

Only Two Days Left!
As I write this, 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.

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

Friday, August 10, 2018

SeeSaw's Android App Has New Features for Students and Teachers

SeeSaw is one of my favorite tools for creating and maintaining digital portfolios. In fact, I featured it in a workshop that I facilitated yesterday. This week SeeSaw added some new options to their free Android app. Students can now use the app to respond to activity prompts that their teachers have shared. Students can also use the app to add labels to the pictures and drawings that they add to their portfolios. Teachers can use the updated SeeSaw Android app to view the public SeeSaw Activity Library.

Earlier this summer SeeSaw added some features that teachers can use on the web and in the mobile apps. The highlight of those new features being an expanded activity library that contains more than 1500 activities created, used, and submitted by SeeSaw's teacher ambassadors. The library is arranged by grade and subject. Watch my video to learn more about SeeSaw's expanded activity library.

56 Examples of Using Scratch Across the Curriculum

Scratch is one of the ed tech tools that I always mention in my Built to Last presentation. That presentation is an overview of ed tech tools that have stood the test of time. As I shared a couple of weeks ago, Scratch 3.0 is now available in a public beta. Scratch is a free program through which students learn to program. Despite being a flexible tool that can be used in all subject areas, many people think of it only for computer science classes.

The ScratchED team at Harvard Graduate School of Education wants you to see the potential for using Scratch in all subject areas. To that end they have published a couple of resources to bookmark. First, their Creative Computing Curriculum Guide (link opens PDF) is a 32 page guide that includes a nice template for planning a mini Scratch project, prompts for thinking about remixing projects, and guidelines for assessment. Second, Scratch Projects Across the Curriculum is a listing of 56 sample projects for math, ELA, science, social studies, world languages, music, and visual and media arts. Click on the link for any of the projects in the list to find details on how it was made and instructions for your own use.

How to Record Audio in Google Slides

The Audio Player for Slides Chrome extension was recently updated with some features that teachers have wanted for years! First, you can now use the extension to have music play continuously throughout a presentation even when you change slides. Second, you can now make audio recordings directly in your slides. In the following video I demonstrate how you can record audio directly in Google Slides.


Applications for Education
If you have ever wanted your students to record their own narration for their Google Slides presentations, this new feature in Audio Player for Slides is one that you will want to try.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Add Music to Play Continuously in a Google Slides Presentation

A couple of weeks ago I published a video about how to use the Audio Player for Google Slides Chrome extension. That extension was updated this week.

The updated version of Audio Player for Google Slides gives you the option to have your music play continuously through your slideshow. The previous version of the extension only let you add music to one slide at a time and if you needed that music to play throughout the presentation, you would have to add it to each slide. The update to Audio Player for Google Slides will let you have your music played without interruption throughout your presentation regardless of how quickly or slowly you advance your slides.


Find Some Flipgrid Pals for Your Classroom #GridPals

In addition to the new features in the mobile app, the Flipgrid website has a new feature for teachers. That feature is the #GridPals tab in your teacher dashboard. Under the #GridPals tab you will find an option to make your teacher profile public for other teachers to find so that you can connect your classrooms to participate in each other's Flipgrid topics. In other words, you can become virtual "penpals" or, in this context, "videopals."

Applications for Education
#GridPals could be a great way to connect your classroom with another. You could connect to talk about topics in the news or just to talk about what life is like in a different part of the world.

Certify'em Has New Options for Automatically Issuing Certificates from Google Forms

Certify'em is one of my favorite Google Forms Add-ons. With Certify'em activated you can automatically issue certificates to students when they get a passing (or better) score on a quiz in Google Forms. You can see a demonstration of how it works right here.

This week the developer of Certify'em, Dave Abouav, added some advanced options to the Add-on. The Add-on now lets you issue certificates as PDFs or as images. More significantly, you can now automatically issue certificates to students even if they don't have email addresses. In the advanced settings in Certify'em you will now see an option to issue certificates via Google Drive instead of via email. This is perfect for students who don't have email addresses but do have Google Drive accounts through your school's G Suite for Education account.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Flipgrid's Mobile App Now Has Basic Editing Options

Buried in amongst the other Microsoft EDU announcements that were made this week was the news that Flipgrid's mobile app was updated.

The latest version of the Flipgrid mobile app has a basic editing function that will let students trim the beginning and or end of a video before submitting it to a grid. Additionally, the latest update to the Flipgrid added the option to use both front and rear facing cameras in a video. Students can tap the flip icon in the recorder to switch from the front to rear camera and back within the same recording. The third new feature in the app is the option for kids to switch from landscape to portrait view while recording.

Here are the links to the updated mobile apps:
Flipgrid for Android
Flipgrid for iOS
Flipgrid for Windows 10

Applications for Education
Of the new features in the Flipgrid mobile app, the option to flip between the front and rear cameras in the same video is the one that I think will be the most useful for students and teachers. Switching between those two cameras could be great for making short instructional videos in which you start by talking into the camera and then switch to showing something like a chemistry demonstration.

SpeakPipe Adds New Landing Pages for Gathering Voice Recordings

SpeakPipe is a service that I have used and recommended for many years. It's a service that provides you with the ability to collect voicemail messages through your blog or website. Simply create a SpeakPipe account, place their widget in your blog, and then visitors can click the widget to record and send you a voice message.

This morning I received an email from SpeakPipe in which they announced a new feature called SpeakPipe Pages. This feature lets you create a simple landing page through which people can send you voice messages. You can use the landing page even if you don't use the widget in your blog or have a blog. You can send people directly to your SpeakPipe landing page to send you voice messages that you can then playback in your email, read a transcript, or access directly through SpeakPipe. Take a look at my new SpeakPipe page and give it a try.

Applications for Education
SpeakPipe can be a nice little addition to a school, library, or club website so that you can collect voice messages that are automatically transcribed for reading. You can also use it to simply create your own MP3 recordings that you download and distribute through your blog or website.

Rubric Grading and Ten Other New Microsoft for EDU Features

Google wasn't the only tech giant to release new tools for teachers and students this week. Microsoft has also announced eleven new features for teachers and students who use Microsoft Teams for EDU.

Rubric Grading in Microsoft Teams is at the top of the list of new Microsoft Teams for EDU features. This is a feature was initially announced back in June, but wasn't available to all users. Now any teachers who use Microsoft Teams for EDU have access to the rubric grading feature. You can attach rubrics to assignments for students to see before and after completing an assignment. Equally important, you'll be able to grade an assignment using that rubric without having to open multiple tabs or windows. Watch the following video from Microsoft to see rubric grading in action.



Updated iOS and Android app
The apps have been updated with a capability for teachers to create assignments. In the updated apps students will now be able to see all upcoming assignments and tasks in one place.

Re-use Assignments
You can now re-use an assignment that you have previously given. You can even pull assignments from archived Teams.

Archive Teams
Have a Team that you don't use anymore? You can now archive it.

Updated Flipgrid App
Microsoft acquired Flipgrid earlier this summer and Microsoft promptly made all of Flipgrid's features free for all teachers. This week the Flipgrid app got a big update in the form of a new Flipgrid recorder that includes the capability to trim videos before posting.

New OneNote Features
Class and Staff Notebooks have updated toolbars.

Recording of Video Meetings
If you use the video meetings option in Teams you can now have those meetings recorded, transcribed, and time-stamped with just a click.

Dark Mode
This is a just an option to have a darker background in Teams.

Features announced, but not yet available:
A few features were announced this week that are not yet available. Those are Immersive Reader for Teams Messages, placing Microsoft Forms in assignments, and an email digest for parents. 

A New Place to Learn About Google Forms

The Google for Education Teacher Center has a new section called Welcome to Your First Day of Google Forms. In this section you will find a couple of Google-produced tutorial videos and nine videos created by teachers for teachers. I was flattered to have Google ask to use a few of my videos in the new Welcome to Your First Day of Google Forms training page.

In Welcome to Your First Day of Google Forms you will find videos explaining how to password-protect a Form, how to use response validation, and how to add feedback to quiz questions. On the same page you can also learn a handy shortcut for adding questions to Forms, how to send certificates to students when they pass a quiz, and how to customize the appearance of your Google Forms. Take a look and see if there is anything new for you on Welcome to Your First Day of Google Forms.

Two New Google Classroom Features Available to Everyone

Back in June Google announced that Google Classroom would be getting a bit of redesign along with some helpful new features. Initially, the new design and features were only available to some users. Earlier today Google announced that those features are now available to all Google Classroom users.

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

Comment Bank
Are you tired of writing the same comments over and over again? If so, you'll want to take advantage of the new Comment Bank option available when you're grading assignments submitted through Google Classroom.



Get to know these new features and more in Google's new First Day of Classroom resources page.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

How to Create a Jeopardy-style Game in Google Slides

I think I was in the second grade the first time that I played Jeopardy-style review game. More than three decades later playing Jeopardy-style games is a still a popular way to host review sessions in classrooms. You can make your own Jeopardy games that include pictures and videos in Google Slides. In the following video I demonstrate how you can make your own Jeopardy games in Google Slides.

Monday, August 6, 2018

ClassTag's Marketplace Opens Tomorrow - Enter to Win Free Supplies

Last month ClassTag announced that they were launching a Marketplace through which teachers can earn classroom supplies and other products as rewards for having a high level of engagement with parents through the ClassTag system. The ClassTag Marketplace was initially going to launch last week but its launch was delayed until tomorrow.

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.

A Free Presidential Timeline Poster for Your Classroom

For the last few years C-SPAN Classroom has offered a free poster depicting a timeline of American presidents. That offer is back for the 2018-19 school year. The poster shows each President's time in office, a short biography, the era of American history in which each President served, and a couple of major events that happened during each President's time in office. The poster is free for anyone who has a free C-SPAN Classroom account. (By the way, if you haven't logged into your C-SPAN Classroom account since the last school year, you will probably need to update your account this fall).

Applications for Education
C-SPAN Classroom offers a number of suggestions for using the poster in your classroom. I had a similar poster in my classroom eight years ago. I let my students choose a President from the poster and create a short video biography of their chosen President.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Videos, Scratch, and Fly Fishing - The Week in Review

Good evening from rainy Paris Hill, Maine where I'm home after a few days of fly fishing. It was nice to get away and recharge offline before a busy few months of workshops and conference keynotes starts on Monday when I fly to Kansas. I'll probably be offline most of tomorrow too as I soak up as much time with my kids as I can before the week starts. I hope that you get time for fun and relaxation this weekend too. If part of your plans call for catching up on some ed tech reading, take a look at this week's most popular posts.

These were the week's most popular posts on FreeTech4Teachers.com:
1. Free iPad Apps for Creating Animated Movies
2. 10 Overlooked Google Docs Features
3. Use Flipgrid to Publish Instructional Videos
4. 7 Ways to Make Animated GIFs
5. Scratch 3.0 and a New Creative Computing Curriculum Guide
6. A Short Guide to Getting Started With Google Drive
7. Try Using Icebreaker Tags and New Staff Orientation

Only Three Days Left!
As I write this, I only have three 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.

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

Friday, August 3, 2018

Use Flipgrid to Publish Instructional Videos

The new school year will be here soon and I haven't taken a break all summer. I'm taking a short break from the Internet to go fishing at one of my favorite places in the world, Kennebago Lake. I'll be back with new posts on Saturday. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 

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

10 Overlooked Google Docs Features

The new school year will be here soon and I haven't taken a break all summer. I'm taking a short break from the Internet to go fishing at one of my favorite places in the world, Kennebago Lake. I'll be back with new posts on Saturday. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 

Google Docs has a lot of features that new users often don't notice. Some these are features that even experienced Google Docs users overlook. Some of these features will save you time, some will give you more formatting flexibility, and others will improve the way that you share your documents.

1. Word Art
Just like in Google Slides, you can insert Word Art into Google Documents. The process of using Word Art requires that you use the "drawing" option found in the "insert" drop-down menu. Word Art is great for inserting colorful headlines into your documents.

2. Insert your signature
Once again the "drawing" option found in the "insert" drop-down menu is quite helpful. Use the drawing pad's free-form line drawing tool to create your signature and insert it into a document. You can do this with a mouse, but if you have a touch-screen computer it is even easier to do. Inserting your signature is a great way to personalize letters that you send home to parents.

3. File Export
Not everyone with whom you have to share documents is going to jump on the Google Docs bandwagon. For example, I used to write for a publication that only accepted Word files. That didn't mean that I had to write my articles in Word. I wrote my articles in Google Docs then just downloaded those articles as Word docs before sending them off as attachments. You can also download your Google Documents as PDFs, Rich Text documents, HTML, Plain Text, Open Document, and ePub.

4. Sharing Restrictions
One the original selling points of Google Docs was document sharing and collaboration. That feature is still the thing that makes Google Docs special. In fact, just yesterday at the BETT Show I saw someone presenting just that feature. But sometimes you want to share your documents without letting other people make copies of them or print them. So when you open your sharing settings select "advanced" and you can prevent people from copying, downloading, or printing your documents.

Restricting printing is a great option to use when you just want someone to look at your document for a final review but you don't want them to print it. For example, when writing up a IEP you might want a colleague to look at it, but you don't want him or her to print it because you know that he or she is the one who sends everything to a network printer and then forgets to pick it up for an hour.

5. Voice Typing
It used to be that you needed a third-party application in order to use voice input in Google Docs. Now you can just open the "tools" drop-down menu and select "voice typing" to start using voice input into Google Documents.

6. Google Keep Notepad
Are your students using Google Keep to bookmark references for inclusion in a research paper? If so, they can access those bookmarks without having to leave Google Docs. They can access those bookmarks and insert them into their documents by opening the Google Keep Notepad from the "tools" drop-down menu.

7. Change Default Page Layout
The question that new Google Docs users ask me more than any other is, "can I use landscape mode?" Yes, you can use landscape mode. Open the "file" drop-down menu and select "page setup." From there you can change the page orientation, the page size, change and set default margins, and you can even change the page's background color.

8. Columns & Grids
Need columns in your document? You can insert those from the "format" drop-down menu. However, the columns will apply to the whole page. If you only need columns for part of the page, use the "table" drop-down menu to insert a simple 1x2 table. The table's cells will expand as you type.

9. Headers, Footers, and Page Numbers
In the early years of Google Docs headers, footers, and page numbers had to be manually inserted. Today, you can have headers, footers, and page numbers automatically inserted into your document by making those selections from the "insert" menu. You can even apply them retroactively.

10. Import & Convert Word Documents
If your school is transitioning from a Windows environment to a G Suite environment, you probably have old Word documents that you'd prefer to not have to copy and paste or rewrite entirely. You can import and have those old documents instantly converted to Google Docs format. There are two ways to do this. First, if you just have one or two documents you can import them by selecting "file upload" in Google Docs. Second, if you have a lot of Word documents, bundle them into a folder then use the "folder upload" function in Google Drive. Just make sure your Google Drive settings (the gear icon in the upper-right corner) is set to "automatically convert to Google Docs."

If you're new to using Google Docs or G Suite in general, check out my G Suite for Teachers course.

How to Use Google Slides to Create Interactive Diagrams

The new school year will be here soon and I haven't taken a break all summer. I'm taking a short break from the Internet to go fishing at one of my favorite places in the world, Kennebago Lake. I'll be back with new posts on Saturday. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 

Google Slides has a lot of capabilities that often go overlooked. One of those capabilities is the option to link slides so that viewers don't have to necessarily see them in a chronological sequence. By linking slides you can create an interactive diagram in Google Slides. In this video I demonstrate how to create an interactive diagram in Google Slides. You can try my diagram yourself by viewing the slides here.


Are you new to using G Suite for Education? My Practical Ed Tech online class will help you get started.

Take a Look at Microsoft's Free Hands-on STEM Lesson Plans and Projects

The new school year will be here soon and I haven't taken a break all summer. I'm taking a short break from the Internet to go fishing at one of my favorite places in the world, Kennebago Lake. I'll be back with new posts on Saturday. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 


"Hacking STEM" was one of the initiatives that Microsoft was heavily promoting at the BETT Show last month. I asked a few Microsoft employees what "hacking STEM" meant. They all replied with explanations that centered on the idea of providing teachers with hands-on STEM lessons and projects that can be done without having to spend much money, if any, on physical materials. One of the many examples that Microsoft had on display to represent their hacking STEM projects was the homemade wave machine pictured in this blog post. You can find directions for that project here (link opens PDF).

Microsoft's Hacking STEM Library is divided into activities that take multiple days to complete and activities that can be completed in one day. All of the activities in the Hacking STEM Library include detailed directions, materials lists including places to acquire materials, and lesson objectives. The homemade wave machine project is an example of a one-day project. This lesson on harnessing electricity to communicate is an example of a multiple day project.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Five Observations Students Can Record With Google's Science Journal App

The new school year will be here soon and I haven't taken a break all summer. I'm taking a short break from the Internet to go fishing at one of my favorite places in the world, Kennebago Lake. I'll be back with new posts on Saturday. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 


Google's Science Journal app provides some neat tools for recording data and writing observations. Within the app students create notebooks for recording experiment data and observations. Students can also use those notebooks to simply organize observations by topic. There are sensors built into the app for recording sound, speed, light, direction, and magnetism. Here are five things that students can record with Google's Science Journal app (click here for Android version and here for iOS version).

1. Decibel Levels
Ask your students if a basketball clanging off of a rim is louder in an empty gym or a full gym? Have them make a hyphothesis then test it in your school's gym. (Check with your physical education teacher to make sure it's okay to borrow his or her classroom).

2. Speed. 
Have students record how quickly or slowly they walk down the hallway.

3. Speed and Sound Correlation
Have students record the speed with which they walk down the hallway. Have them record the sound at the same time. Ask them to try to identify a correlation between the speed with which they walk and the amount of noise that they make.

4. Light
Today, whenever I look out of my office window I am nearly blinded by the reflection of the sun off of the frozen snow. It was brighter earlier today when the sun was hitting the snow at a more direct angle. Students can use the Science Journal app to measure and compare the brightness of one place throughout the day.

5. Light and angles correlation
The Science Journal app has an inclinometer function. Have students use that function to measure the angle of the sun to a fixed position throughout the day. Have them use the light meter whenever they use the inclinometer. Then ask them to determine the correlation between the angle of the sun and the brightness at the chosen spot. They might be surprised at the results.

Bonus item:
I plan to use the Science Journal app on my phone to record the cries of my baby in relation to the speed at which I walk and bounce her. Maybe I will find the perfect speed at which she always stops crying.

Ten Free Apps for Elementary School Math Lessons

The new school year will be here soon and I haven't taken a break all summer. I'm taking a short break from the Internet to go fishing at one of my favorite places in the world, Kennebago Lake. I'll be back with new posts on Saturday. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 


Math Learning Center offers ten free apps that are designed for teaching elementary school mathematics lessons. All of the apps are available in versions as free iPad apps, as Chrome apps, and for use in the web browser of any computer. With the exception of the flashcards app, all of the Math Learning Center's free apps are designed to provide you and your students with virtual manipulatives. By the way, the flashcard app is available in English and Spanish.

Last week I included Math Learning Center's Geoboard in my round-up of math resources. Geoboard is a good example of how all of the apps are intended to be used. Geoboard is a free app on which students stretch virtual rubber bands over pegboards to create lines and shapes to learn about perimeter, area, and angles. Another app features US currency to help students learn to add and subtract money. The Pattern Shapes app is designed to help students recognize and develop patterns by moving colorful shapes into place.

Applications for Education
It is important to note that except for the flashcard app all of the Math Learning Center apps are really just virtual manipulatives designed to be used as a part of lesson plan not as stand-alone practice apps. You will need to provide your students with feedback when they are using these apps.

Free iPad Apps for Creating Animated Movies

The new school year will be here soon and I haven't taken a break all summer. I'm taking a short break from the Internet to go fishing at one of my favorite places in the world, Kennebago Lake. I'll be back with new posts on Saturday. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 
Last night I answered an email from a reader who was looking for a free alternative to Tellagami. Tellagami hasn't been updated to work with iOS 11 so if you've updated your iPad, the app won't work. Tellagami says that an update is coming, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for that. They said the same thing about the Android app and eventually just removed the Android app from Google Play. So if you're looking for a free iPad app to use to create animated videos, try one of the following three options.

PuppetMaster is a free iPad app that kids can use to create animated movies. The app is designed for elementary school students and therefore doesn’t require students to create accounts in order to use it. All movies made with the PuppetMaster app are saved to the camera roll on a student’s iPad. To create an animated movie with PuppetMaster students simply open the app, select a character, and the select a background scene for their movies. PuppetMaster has pre-made characters and background scenes. Students can also add their own background scenes by taking a picture to use as the background.

Toontastic 3D a free app for Android and iOS. To make a video on Toontastic 3D students first select the type of story that they want to create. Their options are "short story" (a three part story), "classic" (a five part story), or "science report." Once they have selected a story type they will be prompted to craft each part of their stories in order. A short description of what each part of the story should do is included before students start each section. Students can pick from a variety of story setting templates or they can create their own within Toontastic 3D. Once they have established a background setting students then select cartoon characters to use in their stories. Students can choose from a wide array of customizable cartoon characters or they can create their own from scratch. Once characters are placed into the story scenes students can begin recording themselves talking while moving the characters around in each scene. Students can swap characters between scenes, change the appearance of characters between scenes, and move characters from one scene to the next.

ChatterPix Kids is a free iPad app that students can use to turn pictures into talking pictures. To create a talking picture just snap a picture with your iPad or import a picture from your iPad’s camera roll. After taking the picture just draw in a face and tap the record button to make your picture talk. Your recording can be up to thirty seconds in length. Before publishing your talking picture you can add fun stickers, text, and frames to your picture. Finished Chatter Pix projects are saved to your camera roll and from there you can export it to a number of services including YouTube. ChatterPix Kids doesn’t require students to create an account in order to use the service. Using the app can be a great way to get students to bring simple stories to life.