Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ten Tools for Teaching With YouTube Videos

If you can get past the distraction of cute animal videos, video game highlights, and other nonsense, you can find excellent educational videos on YouTube. But even then it's not enough to just share the video with your students either in your classroom or online. When sharing videos with students in an online format, add some questions for them to answer or ideas for them to consider as they watch. Here are five tools that are good for doing that.

After a few years EDpuzzle remains at the top of my list of recommended tools for creating flipped video lessons. It is a neat tool that allows you to add your voice and text questions to educational videos. On EDpuzzle you can search for educational videos and or upload your own videos to use as the basis of your lesson. In your EDpuzzle lessons you can make it a requirement for students to answer a question before moving forward in the video. EDpuzzle has an online classroom component that you can use to assign videos to students and track their progress through your video lessons.

Vialogues is a free service that allows you to build online discussions around videos hosted online and videos that you have saved on your computer. Registered users can upload videos to Vialogues or use YouTube videos as the centerpieces of their conversations. After you have selected a video from YouTube or uploaded a video of your own, you can post poll questions and add comments that are tied to points in the video. Your Vialogue can be made public or private. Public Vialogues can be embedded into your blog or website.

VideoNotes is a neat tool for taking notes while watching videos. VideoNotes allows you to load any YouTube video on the left side of your screen and on the right side of the screen VideoNotes gives you a notepad to type on. VideoNotes integrates with your Google Drive account. By integrating with Google Drive VideoNotes allows you to share your notes and collaborate on your notes just as you can do with a Google Document. You can use VideoNotes to have students submit questions to you and each other while watching videos. Of course, you can insert questions into the conversation for your students to answer too.

Teachem is a service that uses the TED Ed model of creating lessons based on video. On Teachem teachers can build courses that are composed of a series of videos hosted on YouTube. Teachers can write questions and comments in "flashcards" that are tied to specific parts of each video and display next to each video. Students can take notes while watching the videos using the Teachem SmartNote system. Creating a Teachem course a straight-forward process of choosing a video URL then writing corresponding questions. When you create a Teachem course you can make it public or private. Public courses can be accessed by anyone that has address for your course. Teachem contains an option to collaborate with colleagues on the creation of courses.

TES Teach makes it easy for teachers to organize and share educational materials in a visually pleasing format. On TES Teach you arrange videos, links, images, and files around any topic of your choosing. TES Teach has built-in search tools so that you do not have to leave your TES Teach account in order to locate resources. When you share a set of TES Teach materials with your students they can give you feedback to show that they understand the materials or they can ask questions about the materials. You can also see if your students actually looked at all of the materials that you have shared with them.

Remove Distractions
When you're showing a video in your classroom you can remove distracting sidebar and "related" materials from YouTube with the following tools. 

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

FAQs About Upcoming Practical Ed Tech Courses

This weekend I have answered a bunch of questions about the two Practical Ed Tech courses that are starting next week. I figure that if even one person asks there are probably a few others who are curious about the same topic too. Here's a list FAQs about the Practical Ed Tech courses that are starting next week.

1. Do I have to attend all of the live webinars?
No, you don't have to attend all of the live webinars. If you miss one, you can go back and watch the recording that will be available a few hours after the conclusion of the live broadcast.

2. How long is each webinar?
Each webinar is scheduled for sixty minutes plus about fifteen minutes for Q&A.

3. Can I send you questions outside of the webinar times?
Absolutely, you can

4. Will the PD certificate count toward my license/ certificate renewal?
That's a determination that you will have to make in consultation with your local regulating body. There are too many regulating bodies, rules, and nuances for me to make a definitive statement on whether or not the hours will count for your teaching license. (If you live in Maine, email me because I do have lots of first-hand experience with the Maine DOE).

5. I've never used G Suite for Education, will this be too advanced for me?
No, it won't. The Getting Going With G Suite course is designed for beginners.

6. I teach K-3 students, are the concepts in Teaching History With Technology too advanced for them?
While most of the course content can be adapted for K-3, third grade is about the earliest age that I would start using the content and concepts of the course.

7. Is there homework?
There are suggested practice activities to do between webinars but they aren't required.

Create a Screencast Within Padlet

Back in June I published a video that demonstrated ten types of notes that you can add to Padlet walls. Thanks to Dan Methven I recently learned that there is another new way to add notes to Padlet walls. The new type of note is a screencast video.

If you install Padlet's Chrome extension you can launch a screen recording tool directly from a Padlet note. You can record your screen and voice for up to five minutes. Your recording will be automatically added to your note when stop your recording.

Applications for Education
Padlet's screencasting feature could be used to have students create short instructional videos to post on one Padlet wall. One use of this would be to assign each of your students a topic within a unit. Each student would then use Padlet's screencasting feature to make a short instructional video to share with the class.

Just a reminder that Padlet altered their business model last spring. You can have three Padlet walls for free with all functions for free. Users who had more walls than that prior to the change have all of those pre-existing walls grandfathered into their free accounts.

Classroom, Math, and Instagram - The Month in Review

It's the end of September. By now everyone has been back in school for at least a month. I hope that the start of school year has gone well for you. As we head into October here's a look back at the most popular posts of September, 2018.

A quick reminder, in October I'm hosting two professional development courses. Getting Going With G Suite starts on Tuesday and Teaching History With Technology starts on Thursday.

These were the most popular posts in September:
1. Two New Google Classroom Features That Everyone Has Been Asking For!
2. Math Playground - Hundreds of Math Games & Instructional Videos
3. ReadWorks Now Integrates With Google Classroom
4. 250 Google Tools Tutorials for Teachers
5. Share Math Playground Activities to Google Classroom
6. If You Manage a School Facebook Page, Watch Out for This Scam
7. Poetry 180 - A Poem for Every Day of the School Year
8. A Parent's Guide to Instagram - Including a Glossary and Discussion Questions
9. 5 Ways to Use Google Sheets in Your Classroom
10. 5 Ways to Use Google Slides Besides Making Presentations

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) 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.
Seterra offers a huge selection of geography games for students. 

Seterra Offers Science Quiz Games

Disclosure: Seterra is currently an advertiser on

A couple of weeks ago I featured Seterra's hundreds of geography quiz games that are available in more than thirty languages. But geography isn't the only subject that Seterra offers quiz games about. Seterra also offers games about human anatomy, plant cells, animal cells, and microscopes.

Just like the geography games, Seterra's science games can be played in four modes. You can play them in pin mode, type mode, and labeling mode. In the simple "Pin" mode students simply click on the locations of the parts of the cell or parts of anatomy that they're asked to identify. The type version of a game is found by selecting "type" mode below the game. In that mode students have to type on the diagram to identify parts of a cell or parts of human anatomy. And in the matching mode called "place the labels" students have to match labels to the diagram parts indicated by pins on the diagram.

Seterra's science games can be played in your web browser or as free iOS and Android apps.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Planning a Student Video Project? - Don't Forget the Storyboards

Earlier this week I shared details of Next Vista for Learning's Creative Storm student video contest. One of the rules of that contest is that videos have to be 90 seconds or less. That's generally a good guideline of classroom video projects too. Even though 90 seconds might not seem like a long time, it can be plenty of time if students plan their videos well. To plan a good video students can create storyboards.

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image has an excellent overview of storyboarding for beginners. The ACMI overview of storyboarding includes suggested activities for learning how to create storyboards. Included in those activities is a storyboard template that beginners can download and duplicate. Watch this video from the ACMI for an explanation of what a storyboard is an how it is used in the video creation process.

If you don't want to use ACMI's storyboard template you can make your own in PowerPoint or in Google Slides. Watch my videos embedded below to learn how to use PowerPoint and Google Slides to make printable storyboards.

How to create a storyboard template in PowerPoint.

How to create a storyboard template in Google Slides.

A Rubric for Digital Portfolio Assessment

Next week I am working with a group of teachers to help them start creating digital portfolios with their students. After we decide what we want students to include in their portfolios and the platform for the portfolio we'll start looking at the assessment aspect. To help get that conversation started we'll be looking at the electronic portfolio rubric created by Joan Vandervelde at the University of Wisconsin, Stout.

We probably won't use the rubric created by Joan Vandevelde exactly as written. Instead, we'll use it as a way to get the conversation rolling about what aspects of a digital portfolio are important to these particular teachers and their students.

The teachers with whom I am working use G Suite for Education so we'll eventually use Google Sheets to create the final draft of the digital portfolio rubric. The Online Rubric add-on for Google Sheets makes it easy to format a rubric. Watch my video to learn how to make a rubric in Google Sheets.

Sheets, Math, and Timelines - The Week in Review

Good morning from Key West, Florida where I have spent the week working with the great staff of Sigsbee Charter School. And while it is great to be in the sunshine state, it's also hard to be away from my little family for so long too. Thanks to Skype we're able to see each other every morning and at bedtime. But it's not quite the same and I can't wait to give them hugs. In the meantime I'll take advantage of being in Key West and enjoy the sunshine. I hope that wherever you are this weekend that you get outside for fun in the sun too.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Ways to Use Google Sheets in Your Classroom
2. Math Playground - Hundreds of Math Games & Instructional Videos
3. 5 Ways to Use Google Slides Besides Making Presentations
4. 5 VR Projects for Students
5. 10 Good Templates for Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts Lessons
6. 5 Ways to Use Comics in Social Studies Lessons
7. 8 Tools for Making Multimedia Timelines

Professional Development Courses Starting Next Week!
In October I am hosting two online professional development courses. Getting Going With G Suite starts on Tuesday. That course is designed for those who are new to using G Suite for Education. Teaching History With Technology starts on Thursday. That course is designed to help you use technology to create engaging social studies lessons.

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) 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.
Seterra offers a huge selection of geography games for students. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

How to Quickly Create Audio Slideshow Videos

This afternoon I answered a question from a school principal who was looking for an efficient way to create a video of pictures from a recent school event. My suggestion was to try Sharalike. Sharalike is available to use in the web browser on your laptop and is also available as an iOS app and as an Android app.

Sharalike is a service that will let you select a set of pictures on your phone or computer then add background music. Once you've selected pictures and selected music Sharalike does the rest of the work for you. Sharalike handles all of the work of adding transitions, pan and zoom effects, and lighting adjustments. You can choose from several slideshow themes. Each theme uses slightly different transitions and frames around your images. Sharalike does include a small selection of free instrumental music that you can use in your slideshow or you can import music from outside of the service.

Watch my video to learn how easy it is to create a video with Sharalike.

The Student Blogging Challenge - An Audience for Your Students' Blogs

Edublogs provides an excellent service for creating classroom blogs and student blogs. But offering a solid blogging platform isn't the only way that Edublogs supports teachers. Throughout the year Edublogs publishes helpful tips for creating and maintaining blogs with students. You'll find those tips on The Edublogger. And twice each year Edublogs hosts a student blogging challenge. The next student blogging challenge begins the week of October 7th.

  The Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge is a ten week challenge. Each week there is a different challenge for students to complete. All of the challenges are designed to help students develop their writing and digital citizenship skills. Participating in the challenges can give your students' blog entries a larger audience as you'll be connected with other classes participating in the Student Blogging Challenge.

Learn more about the Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge in the following video.

Manufacture Your Future - A Discovery Virtual Field Trip

Next Friday at 1pm EDT Discovery Education is a hosting a virtual field trip titled Manufacture Your Future. The virtual field trip will take students to the Arconic plant in Texas where they'll learn about the 3D printing in the context of the aerospace industry. During the virtual field trip students will hear from engineers and from the technicians who run 3D printers. The virtual field trip is free, but you do need to register in advance right here.

If the timing of this virtual field trip doesn't work for your class, register anyway so that you can be notified when a recording is available.

The Manufacture Your Future virtual field trip is a part of Discovery's Celebrate Manufacturing Day. You can find additional resources, including videos of field trips from previous years, on the Celebrate Manufacturing Day website.

The LOC Launches the National Screening Room Online

The Library of Congress has a new online collection called the National Screening Room. The National Screening Room currently contains 287 videos. The videos are digital copies of films made in the 19th and 20th centuries. You can browse the collection by date, location of the filming, and subject. You can also search for videos that are parts of other LOC collections. All of the videos in the National Screening Room can be viewed online and or downloaded as MP4 files.

Embedded below you will see a copy of Jamestown Exposition, 1907 from the National Screening Room.

Applications for Education
In a press release Mike Mashon, head of the LOC's Moving Image Section, said, “The goal of this digital project is to present the public with a broad range of historical and cultural audio-visual materials that will enrich education, scholarship and lifelong learning.”

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Lessons in Teaching History With Technology

Next week I am hosting my Teaching History With Technology course on That five week course covers seventeen concepts for infusing technology into social studies lessons. Those core concepts are outlined below.

  • Using technology to help students analyze historical/ primary source documents.
  • Making artifacts interactive.
  • Hosting online history discussions
  • The importance of structure and expectations.
  • Using audio in history lessons
  • Recording history with students
  • Hearing history
  • Creating multimedia timelines with students.
  • Simple to complex options for every grade level.
  • Creating multimedia maps
  • Search Strategies for History Students
  • Saving and sharing search results.
  • Google Maps and Earth are not your only options.
  • Creating videos and teaching with video.
  • Making and using virtual tours.
  • Virtual Reality tours.
  • Augmented Reality tours.

G Suite for Education Shortcuts

We all have that colleague who always searches for Google Docs or thinks that the only way to find Google Classroom is to first open his email and then open the apps menu. That's why I created a PDF and PNG of shortcuts to the core elements of G Suite for Education. You can find the PDF here and view the PNG file below.

Learn more about G Suite for Education in my upcoming course, Getting Going With G Suite

Frostbite Theater - 87 Science Experiment Video Lessons

Jefferson Lab's YouTube channel includes a playlist titled Frostbite Theater. The first time I looked at the playlist a few years ago it had about fifty videos. The playlist has now expanded to 87 videos. The playlist features videos of science demonstrations and experiments. Many of the demonstrations involve the use of liquid nitrogen. You'll also find videos about electricity, insects, and lasers. The video from the playlist that I've embedded below is about measuring the speed of light.

Applications for Education
Rather than just showing these videos to your students, place them into a tool like EDpuzzle or TES Teach with Blendspace to build questions into the videos. Both of those tools will let you add questions into the timeline of a video and let your students respond while watching the videos.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Good Resource for Learning About the Science of Food

Foodskey is a site produced by The University of Nottingham who also produces the Periodic Table of Videos. Foodskey is a set of fourteen videos about the science of food. The videos cover topics like nutrition, food security, and crop technology. I've embedded the video about broccoli below.

Applications for Education
Foodskey isn't terribly in-depth yet, but the content that is present could be useful for a short lesson on the science of food. You might use the videos an introduction to a lesson or as part of an editorial moment in your lesson.

Einstein's Archives Online

More than 80,000 of Albert Einstein's documents and drawings are now available to view for free at Einstein Archives Online. The archives include not only his scientific work but also his images and documents from his travels and thoughts on the world in general.

Applications for Education
The Einstein Archives Online has the potential to be a great resource for science, math, and history teachers who their students to research the development of Einstein's ideas over the course of his life.

5 Ways to Use Google Slides Besides Making Presentations

Google Slides has come a long way since the first time that I had students use it a decade ago. Many features have been added in that time. Many of those features make it possible to use Google Slides for more than just making slideshows. Here are five ways that you and your students can use Google Slides besides making presentations.

1. Create Comic Strips

2. Create Jeopardy-style games.

3. Create Choose-Your-Own Adventure Stories.
By using the same logic that is applied in making a Jeopardy-style game in Google Slides, students can create choose-your-own adventure stories. Have students publish the presentation to the web so that their classmates can interact with their stories.

4. Create and Printable Storyboards.

5. Make Certificates.
Open the template gallery at and you will find a template for making certificates. You can use those certificates as is (obviously altering names and descriptions) or customize the colors and font styles before downloading them as PDFs or printing them.

Learn more about how to use Google Slides by participating in my upcoming course, Getting Going With G Suite.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

5 VR Projects for Students

Google's VR Tour Creator is one of my favorite media creation tools. Since its launch in May of this year I have shown it to hundreds of teachers in-person and even more in videos and webinars. I love it because it empowers students to make their own virtual reality experiences rather than just consuming virtual reality content. Here are five ideas for VR creation projects for students.

5 VR Creation Projects for Students
  • Virtual reality tours based upon students’ favorite books. (On a similar note, VR to illustrate stories that students have written.)
  • VR tours about places students study in geography / history lessons.
  • VR tours to illustrate examples of math and science used in the design and construction of landmarks. 
  • VR tours to illustrate examples of types of landforms, rocks, waterways, and bodies of water.
  • VR tours to illustrate examples of an animal’s natural habitat and range.
Google VR Tour Creator Tutorial Videos

Tour Creator basics.

Adding points of interest to tours.

Learn more about how to use VR tours in social studies by taking my online course, Teaching History With Technology

8 Tools for Making Multimedia Timelines

Creating timelines has been a go-to activity for history teachers since the beginning of history. When I made timelines as a student and in my first year or two of teaching, timelines were made on paper. Today, there are better ways to have students create timelines. In fact, in Teaching History With Technology I feature a couple of my favorite timeline tools for use in high school, middle school, and elementary school classrooms. In the chart embedded below I highlight the main features of eight free multimedia timeline creation tools.

Click here for a Google Docs copy of the chart.

A Timeline Game!
Play Your Dates Right is a templates that I like to use to create a game that is focused on helping students recall the sequence of historical events. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create a simple timeline-based game with the Play Your Dates Right template from

Learn more about these tools and other strategies for using technology in social studies classes in my upcoming course, Teaching History With Technology.

Creative Storm - A Next Vista Video Contest

Next Vista for Learning is a great place for teachers and students to share short video lessons that they create. I have been recommending the service for almost ten years now. One of the aspects of Next Vista for Learning that I particularly like is the video contests that are run a couple of times each year. The current contest, open to entries now through December 14th, is called Creative Storm.

Creative Storm is a video creation contest that has three categories. There is a category for student-produced videos, a category for teacher-produced videos, and a category for videos created through the collaborative efforts of teachers and students. Regardless of the category, all videos must teach a lesson in 90 seconds or less. The lesson can be about almost any concept a person would learn about in elementary, middle, or high school. Take a look at this video made by a Kindergarten class or any of the previous contest's finalists here for some inspiration.

Contest winners receive iTunes gift cards and the pride of showcasing their videos for a larger audience.

Applications for Education
I've been recommending Next Vista for Learning for many years because it solves two problems. First, Next Vista provides an excellent alternative to posting students' videos on sites like YouTube or Vimeo. Second, Next Vista can be a great source of inspiration for creating a video project.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Why Should You Read Poe? - A TED-Ed Lesson

Halloween is a little more than a month away. It is during these next five weeks that a lot of students will be introduced to the work of Edgar Allan Poe. A new TED-Ed lesson examines what made Poe's macabre work timeless classics.

In Why Should You Read Edgar Allan Poe? students can learn about Poe's guiding principles for writing, the recurring themes of his work, and the personal factors in his life that contributed to his writing. Find the complete lesson here or watch the video as embedded below.

Here are a couple of other Poe-related resources:

Introduce The Pit and the Pendulum to students is through Flocabulary's rap of the story. That video is embedded below.

Here is an animated telling of Edgar Allen Poe's Tell Tale Heart.

Two Online PD Courses Starting Next Week

Throughout 2018 I have offered various one-hour professional development webinars through Those have proven to be popular, but some people have been asking if I plan to go back to offering full, live PD courses like I did from 2013 through 2017. I'm happy to announce that I am offering live, online courses through in October. Those courses are Getting Going With G Suite and Teaching History With Technology.

Getting Going With G Suite
This course offers everything you need to know to take advantage of the great things that G Suite for Education offers to teachers and students. Getting Going With G Suite is a webinar series designed for teachers and administrators who are new to using G Suite for Education. This is a five week course covering everything you need to know to integrate Google Drive, Google Classroom, Google Calendar, and Google Sites into your practice. This course begins on October 2nd at 7pm Eastern Time. Learn more and register here.

Teaching History With Technology
This has been one of my favorite courses for many years. For the fall of 2018 I have completely updated it with new topics and new resources. In this course you will learn how to develop engaging and challenging learning activities through the use of tools like Google Earth and Maps, video production tools, and virtual reality. You will also learn how to help your students become better researchers. Each interactive webinar in the course features practical ideas for using technology to create new, engaging lessons or to update some of your existing “go-to” history lessons. This course begins on October 4th at 7pm Eastern Time. Learn more and register here.

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.  

Create Flipgrid Mixtapes to Showcase Grid Highlights

Flipgrid continues to add new features for teachers. The latest feature is the option to combine videos from multiple grids. Flipgrid calls this new feature Mixtapes. Mixtapes was created so that you can pull videos from multiple grids to create things like digital portfolios, summaries of a semester's discussions, and presentation highlights. Watch my video to see how you can create a Flipgrid mixtape.

5 Ways to Use Google Sheets in Your Classroom

Last week I posted a video about how to use pivot tables in Google Sheets. Manipulating the way that data is displayed is one of many ways that you can use Google Sheets in your classroom. Here are five other ways to use Google Sheets in your classroom.

Build Multimedia Timelines
The timeline project is as old as history classes. Today, you can put a modern spin on that project by having students build timelines that include videos, audio recordings, pictures, and interactive maps. Timeline JS is a service that students can use to turn a spreadsheet of dates, text, and media links into a timeline. Watch the following video to learn how to use Timeline JS.

Create Rubrics
Online Rubric is a free Google Sheets Add-on makes it easy to create a rubric. This Add-on does more than just format your Google Sheet into a rubric template. With Online Rubric you can enter scores, write comments for your students, and email your students directly from the Sheet. When you send an email from the Sheet your students receive a copy of their scores, your comments, and the descriptors from the rubric.

Schedule Reminder Emails
Add Reminders is a Google Sheets add-on that you can use to schedule reminder emails to be sent to your students, their parents, to colleagues, or anyone else. To use this Add-on just fill in the template with email addresses, recipient names, the tasks they need to be reminded of, and the due dates for the tasks.

Create a Random Name Selector offers eighteen Google Sheets templates. One of those templates is a random name selector. Simply make a copy of the name selector template, insert your class roster, and then publish your spreadsheet to use Flippity's random name selector.

Graph Data
One of the frequently overlooked features of Google Sheets is buried in the lower, right corner of your Google Sheets. That feature is the "Explore" function. Click on Explore to see the graphs that Google makes and suggests based on the data in your spreadsheet.

Learn more about these features in my upcoming course, Getting Going With G Suite

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Three Lessons About Why Leaves Change Color

Every autumn people tour Maine just to see the leaves changing color. Seeing the leaves change is one of my favorite things about the fall too. Here are three good videos that explain why leaves change color in the fall.

Untamed Science offers a good, partially animated, explanation of why leaves change colors, what produces the colors, and why bright and sunny days are best for viewing red leaves. The video is embedded below.

Reactions, a great YouTube channel from the American Chemical Society, offers a nice video about the chemistry involved in the process of leaves changing color. The videos explains how chlorophyll and the glucose stored inside trees help reveal the reds, yellows and, browns of fall foliage.

SciShow Kids offers the following video about the science of changing leaves.

Facebook, Backchannels, and Math - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it feels like fall. Starting on Monday week I'll be working with the Sigsbee Charter School in Key West, Florida for most of the next few weeks which means that I'll miss a good chunk of my favorite season here in Maine. That's why today I plan to soak up the fall weather by playing outside with my daughters and my dogs. As always, I hope that wherever you are you get to spend some time enjoying the weekend too.

These were the most popular posts of the week:
1. If You Manage a School Facebook Page, Watch Out for This Scam
2. Why We Say "OK" - And Other Lessons on the Origins of Words
3. How to Create a Progress Tracker With Google Forms and Sheets
4. Seven Ways to Create Screencasts on Chromebooks
5. Math Playground - Hundreds of Math Games & Instructional Videos
6. Use Flippity to Make a Multimedia Timeline
7. 7 Reasons to Try Using Backchannels in Your Classroom

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) - 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) 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.
Seterra offers a huge selection of geography games for students. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Math in Real Life - Why Airlines Overbook Flights

I'm currently flying home the ESC-20 Library Resource Roundup in San Antonio, Texas. Before I boarded the flight the gate agent was looking for volunteers to take an alternate flight due to overbooking. This seems like a good time to share the TED-Ed lesson Why Do Airlines Sell Too Many Tickets?

In Why Do Airlines Sell Too Many Tickets? students can learn about the mathematics that airlines use to maximize the revenue that they can generate from each flight. That math includes calculating the probability that everyone who holds a ticket for a flight will actually show up for the flight. The way that probability is calculated is explained in the video. Finally, the lesson asks students to consider the ethics of overbooking flights. Watch the video below or go here to see the entire lesson.

Fall Time-lapse - A Video Project

The fall is my favorite season of the year. I love waking up to cold, crisp mornings then enjoying mild days outside. In fact, that's what I'm planning to do tomorrow morning. This time of year always reminds me of one of my favorite uses for time-lapse video creation tools. The outline of my time-lapse of autumn project is included below.

The idea is to take one picture every day to document the changes in the foliage as we progress through autumn from the first few orange leaves to full-blown autumn foliage colors to the drab brown we see after in the winter.

Here's how your students could create their own autumn foliage time-lapse videos.

1. Take one picture per day of the same view or of one singular tree. 
Using a cell phone is probably the best tool for this because students rarely go anywhere without one.

2. Upload the pictures to a Google Drive folder. 
It only takes one tap to move photos from a phone phone to a Google Drive folder labeled "Fall foliage." If This Then That has a recipe for doing this automatically from Android phones and from iPhones.

3. After four to six weeks, upload photos to JellyCam or Stop Motion Animator and create your timelapse. 
JellyCam is a free video editing program for Windows and Mac users. You can easily adjust the duration of each frame and easily add a soundtrack to your video. Click here for a video about using JellyCam. Stop Motion Animator is a free tool for creating stop motion movies on Chromebooks.

Slides from ESC-20 Library Resource Roundup

Today I had the pleasure of giving four short presentations at the Texas ESC-20 Library Resource Roundup. It was a great day! Thank you to everyone who came to my presentations. And a special thank you to those who came for multiple presentations. As I always say, the best compliment that I can get is when you have seen me present and you come back for more. Here are the slides from the presentations that I gave today.

Quick & Powerful Video Projects

Technology to Take You & Your Students Beyond Library Walls

Worlds Are Colliding - Intro to AR & VR

Best of the Web 2018

Thursday, September 20, 2018

How to Make a Timeline Through Google Sheets

Earlier this week I wrote about Flippity's new timeline creation template for use in Google Sheets. The template lets you create a multimedia timeline by simply entering information into a spreadsheet and then publishing it to the web. There are a couple of quirks to using the template that should be noted before you have a whole class of students use Flippity to make a multimedia timeline. I point out those quirks as part of my tutorial video embedded below.

Three Apps to Explore the Potential of Augmented Reality

On Friday I am giving a presentation about augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality in education. If you're unsure of the differences between the three, take a look at my explanatory video and slideshow on the topic. As a part of the presentation that I am giving I will be demonstrating a few augmented reality apps that you can use in your classroom. Those apps are Google Expeditions, Plum's Creaturizer, and Metaverse.

Plum's Creaturizer
Plum's Creaturizer from PBS Kids is a free iOS and Android app that lets students create fun cartoon creatures then place them into outdoor settings through the use of augmented reality. The purpose of the app is to have students learn and show how the characteristics of an animal help it thrive in its environment. In the following video I demonstrate how the app works (apologies for the background noise, I recorded this video outside to show how the AR feature works in real settings).

Google Expeditions AR
Google Expeditions is best known as for its virtual reality tours, but it also has an augmented reality component. In late May of this year Google added augmented reality tours to Expeditions. The AR content in Google Expeditions lets students view and manipulate digital content in a physical world context. The new AR content can be used as components in science, math, geography, history, and art lessons. Some examples of the more than 100 AR tours that you'll now find in the app include landforms, the skeletal system, dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, the brain, and the Space Race. And as a good Mainer my favorite of the new AR tours is about lobsters.

To use the AR content available through Google Expeditions you will need to print marker or trigger sheets that students scan with their phones or tablets. Once scanned the AR imagery appears on the screen. (You can actually preview some of the imagery without scanning a marker, but the imagery will not be interactive or 3D). Students don't need to look through a Cardboard viewer in order to see the AR imagery. You can get the Google Expeditions Android app here and the iOS version here.

Metaverse is both an app and an augmented reality game creation tool. The app, available for Android and iOS, lets you find and play augmented reality games. The app includes a large selection of educational games. The game creation aspect of Metaverse lets anyone create his or her own augmented reality game. Since its launch eighteen months ago, teachers have been using it to create AR games for a wide range of topics including geography, math, science, and language arts. Watch the following video to see how you can create an augmented reality game on Metaverse.

Three Apps to Incorporate Into Outdoor Learning Activities

One of my passions is encouraging teachers to take their students outside for class. The technology that our students use the most in their daily lives is meant to be mobile so don't keep it locked up in your classroom. Tomorrow, I am giving a presentation about this topic at the ESC 20 Library Resource Roundup. Three of the apps that I will be demonstrating during this presentation are the Google Science Journal, Nature Cat's Great Outdoors, and the Geocaching app from Groundspeak.

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. Learn more about the app here. You can download the Android version here and the iOS version here.

Nature Cat's Great Outdoors is a free app from PBS Kids. The app, available for iOS and Android, provides students with activities they can do outdoors in all kinds of weather. To use the Nature Cat's Great Outdoors app students simply open it, press play, and select a "daily nature adventure." There are adventures for sunny days, rainy days, and snowy days. An example of a rainy day adventure is recording the sounds of rain drops and the sounds of splashing in puddles. The app has more than 100 adventure suggestions built into it. Students earn digital badges for completing adventures.

Geocaching is a fun activity for students to do to learn about latitude and longitude, to discover geological features, learn or relearn basic math concepts, and to practice good digital citizenship. Seven years ago Jen Lefebvre, née Deyenberg wrote a great overview of geocaching in an education context. You can read that blog post here. When Jen wrote that post you had to use handheld GPS units to go on geocaching activities. Today, you can simply use the Geocaching Android app or iOS apps.

Learn more about this topic in my on-demand webinar, 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

7 Reasons to Try Using Backchannels in Your Classroom

A couple of the most popular posts that I have published lately were about creating backchannel chats to use in your classroom. In response to those posts some readers have sent questions asking for more explanation of why they should try tools like Backchannel Chat or Yo Teach. Here are some reasons to try using a backchannel chat in your classroom.

1. A Voice for Shy Students
Typing a response or asking a question in a backchannel chat can be a little less intimidating for some students who aren't comfortable asking questions aloud.

2. An Outlet for Chatty Students
We've all had that student who wants to say something about everything. A backchannel chat gives that student a place to ask all of the questions that he/she can think of.

3. Extend Classroom Discussions
If you've ever had a great classroom discussion cut short by the sound of the bell, a backchannel can help. With an online backchannel chat your students can continue to add comments and questions to the discussion after the school day ends.

4. Post Quick Warm-up/ "Do Now" Activities
Do you need a place to post little activities for your kids to do when they walk into your classroom? If so, post those warm-up activities in a backchannel chat for students to see when they open their laptops or unlock their iPads.

5. Preserve the Flow of a Presentation/ Video
Whenever I have shown videos in a classroom there have always been students who want to ask questions about what they're seeing and others who are annoyed by those questions interrupting the flow of the video. By using a backchannel the students who need to ask questions can do so and I can respond to them without breaking the flow of the presentation for the other students.

6. Create a Record of a Classroom Discussion
Have you ever had a student who was absent during a great classroom discussion come back to you a day later and ask, "what did I miss?" If so, a backchannel chat could be a solution for you. Using a backchannel to have kids share their questions and their comments creates a record of some of the highlights of your classroom discussion.

7. Practice Good Digital Citizenship
Hosting a backchannel chat for class by using a tool like Backchannel Chat or Yo Teach! can provide you with good opportunity to have your students develop digital citizenship skills in the form of respectful online discussion. Both Backchannel Chat and Yo Teach let you remove inappropriate comments and mute students who don't adhere to the standards that you have set for online discussion.

If You Manage a School Facebook Page, Watch Out for This Scam

I manage a handful of Facebook Pages. This morning when I logged into Facebook I had notifications that "Verified Facebook Page" had requested administrative access to those pages. This seemed phishy to me and so rather than just clicking "accept" I stopped and thought about it then did a little research before ultimately determining that it was a phishing attempt that would have given complete control of my Facebook pages to a stranger if I hadn't caught it first. Here's how the scam works and how I figured it out.

How the "Verified Facebook Page" Scam Works

  • Someone creates a Facebook account that he/she calls "Verified Facebook Page" or something similarly named to make you think that Facebook is actually reaching out to you.
  • Said person then sends requests to you as the owner/administrator of your Facebook Page asking for administrative access. 
    • If you grant administrative access to the fake "Verified Facebook Page" account, the owner of that fake account then goes in and changes the settings, content, and will attempt to lock you out of the page that you own. 

How I Detected the "Verified Facebook Page" Scam

  • Since I had previously done some research on the process of getting the little blue verified checkmark that you see on pages verified by Facebook, I knew that the pages I manage are not eligible for the verified status (the reasons why are a point of contention, but that's a topic for another day).
  • I also know from experience of managing pages for many years, Facebook doesn't just send a request without an explanation in the form of a FB inbox message, an email, a phone call, or all three in some cases. (Phone calls are rare and you shouldn't expect one unless you have hundreds of thousands of followers or you spend a lot of money on Facebook advertising).
  • I know that Facebook doesn't need to request access to a page if they want to do anything to it. They can suspend any page at any time for policy violations or to simply respond to suspected account security breach.
  • I did a quick Google search for "Verified Facebook Page Scam" and found plenty of examples of page administrators getting locked out of their pages after approving administrative access for "Verified Facebook Page."
The Bottom Line for Administrators of School Facebook Pages
  • If you get a request for administrative access to your Facebook page when you weren't expecting one and or from someone you don't recognize, deny the request and report it to Facebook as suspicious activity. 
    • If someone who actually works for Facebook is trying to contact you, it won't be through a simple request without an explanation. 

Anchor Adds New "Smart" Background Music to Podcasts

Anchor is a podcast recording and publishing tool that I have been writing about all year. I started writing about it because using it is the easiest way to record, edit, and publish podcasts. I've continued to write about it because the new features seem to be added every month. This month's new Anchor feature is a library of background music tracks.

Anchor's library of background music contains one hundred tracks that you can use for free in your podcast episodes. Anchor calls the tracks "smart background music" because the volume of the tracks automatically adjusts to the volume of spoken words in the podcasts.

Applications for Education
Hearing their voices on isolated vocal tracks can be a bit unsettling for some students. Many times they'll say, "I don't sound like that" or "I hate how my voice sounds." Adding background music can make the podcast sound a bit less isolated, dampen echoes, and generally make students feel a little more comfortable with the sounds of their voices in a podcast.

Watch the following video to learn how to get started making podcasts on Anchor.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Use Flippity to Make a Multimedia Timeline

Flippity is a site that I have recommended for years as a place to find templates that you can use in Google Sheets to make things like flashcards, quiz games, and random name pickers. Recently, I noticed that Flippity has added a template for making multimedia timelines.

Flippity's multimedia timeline template is rather easy to use. To use it, simply make a copy of it from Flippity's homepage and then fill in the information that you want to display on your timeline. You can include text, pictures, videos, and slideshows within each event on your timeline. To include pictures, videos, and slideshows you paste the URLs at which they're available online into a column in your Google Sheet. Publish your spreadsheet to the web after you have entered all of the information and media links that you want to display. Your published spreadsheet will then be used by Flippity to generate a multimedia timeline that you can view online. Take a look at this sample to see how a timeline made with Flippity looks.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a flexible and free tool that your students can use to create a multimedia timeline, Flippity's free timeline template is worth trying. Students can collaborate on making a timeline by sharing the Google Sheet in which they are entering dates, text, and media.

The Places Where I Will Be Presenting This Fall

I am fortunate to be invited to speak at many conferences and schools every year. In the last couple of years since my first daughter was born I have had to alter my travel schedule. I still speak at a couple of events every month and work with a school or two every month. The following is a list of the places where I will speaking this fall. Most of my spring schedule has filled in, but I still have some space available in my December and January calendars. Please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) if you are interested in having me speak at your school or conference. Click here for more information about my speaking and professional development services.

  • September 21st - ESC-20 Library Resource Round-up
  • October 5th - Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Teachers' Convention
  • October 21st & 22nd - CECA/CASL Annual Conference
  • November 7th - EdTechTeacher Innovation Summit 
  • November 27th-29th - LACUE Annual Conference
Please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) if you are interested in having me speak at your school or conference. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Three Sites That Help Students Understand the Size of the Universe

Living in a relatively rural area that doesn't have a lot of artificial light helps make it easy to spot constellations. Some nights when I take my dogs out before bedtime I look up at the constellations and I try to wrap my head around the size of the universe. Over the last few years I've shared some resources that can help viewers understand the scale of things in the universe, here they are.

How Far Is It To Mars? is a neat infographic that provides a pixel scale to show you how far it is from Earth to the Moon and the distance from Earth to Mars. The infographic is a motion infographic so you have to click on it to make it move. The distances are represented by pixels. After you get to the moon on the infographic click it again then sit back and watch as it takes a while to scroll to Mars.

3D Solar System Web is a neat resource available through the Chrome web store. 3D Solar System Web features a narrated tour of the solar system beginning at the sun and working out through all of the planets. The tour explains the classifications of each planet, how long it takes each planet to orbit the sun, and each planet's unique features.

Magnifying the Universe is an interactive infographic that allows you to see the size of atoms, animals, buildings, mountains, planets, stars, and galaxies in relation to other objects in the universe.

Bonus Video:
The Known Universe is a six minute video tour of the known universe that starts with Earth's biggest mountains in the Himalaya and zooms out from there. 

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