Friday, November 30, 2018

QR Codes, Music, and CoRubrics - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where I'm home after a great few days at the LACUE conference in New Orleans. November was a busy month as I hosted three professional development courses through Practical Ed Tech and was a featured presenter at two conferences. Thank you to everyone who participated in one of my courses or came to my conference presentations this month. I'm looking forward to meeting and working with more of you in 2019. If you'd like to have me come to your school in 2019, please send me a note at richardbyrne (at)

As I do every month, I have compiled a list of the most popular posts of the last thirty days.

These were the the most popular posts in November:
1. CoRubrics - An Add-on to Facilitate Assessment Among Students
2. Change Coming to Your Google Account's Sign-in Screen
3. 5 Good Places to Find Public Domain Video Clips
4. How to Create a QR Code for a Voice Recording
5. Five Places to Find Free Music and Sounds for Multimedia Projects
6. Edji - A Great Tool for Literacy and Critical Thinking
7. Is Your Feedback Really Effective? - This Google Docs Add-on Will Tell You
8. Supercharge Student Self-Editing Skills with this Writing Checker for Google Docs
9. Build a Body - An Interactive Biology Lesson
10. Nearly 900 Free Art History Books - And an Art Lesson

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.
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.

Seterra offers a huge selection of geography games for students. 

Turn Text to Speech With the Voicepods Chrome Extension

A couple of months ago I discovered a new text to speech tool called Voicepods. When I first tried it and wrote about it Voicepods would only create voice recordings based on text that you wrote. This week Voicepods launched a free Chrome extension that will let you have the text of any webpage read aloud. There are other Chrome extensions that do the same. What makes Voicepods different is that while Voicepods reads the text of webpage it also makes a recording that you can save and playback whenever you want. Watch my demonstration video to see how the Voicepods Chrome extension works.

As you can see the video, Voicepods has another new feature. That feature is called "read along." Read Along highlights the words in a block of text while they are being read aloud.

Applications for Education
The new Voicepods Chrome extension could be a good one for students who need some help with pronunciation of words while reading a webpage. The extension has support for ten languages which could make it useful in ELL/ ESL classrooms.

Teaching the Constitution With Political Cartoons - Webinar Recording

DocsTeach is one of my favorite tools for building history lessons centered around primary source documents, pictures, maps, and drawings. DocsTeach contains an integrated search tool for finding artifacts from the U.S. National Archives. You can use that search tool to find political cartoons. That was focus of a recent professional development webinar that was hosted by the US National Archives.

Teaching the Constitution With Political Cartoons is now available to view for free. The webinar focuses on using Clifford K. Berryman cartoons from the U.S. Senate Collection in lessons designed to help students understand the nuanced aspects of the US Constitution. The webinar includes a good overview of how students should analyze political cartoons and guiding questions that you can give to your students. The last third of the webinar, around the 27 minute mark, is where the webinar transitions into demonstrating how to use the tools within DocsTeach.

The webinar recording is available here and as embedded below.

Image credit:
Untitled [Political Cartoon]; 3/24/1937; (Y-086); Berryman Political Cartoon Collection, 1896 - 1949; Records of the U.S. Senate, Record Group 46; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. [Online Version,, November 30, 2018]

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Dear Colleagues, Can We Please Stop Sharing These Things?

Can we teach critical thinking and good digital citizenship practices if we don't use them ourselves? I'm asking because every week I see another educator in my social networks share a Facebook scam. Here are the last two that I saw shared by people who have administrative roles in schools.

  • A posting by a page titled "Official Patriots Nation" that promised to give season tickets to a random person who shared a post. A quick look at the page itself would tell you it is not the official New England Patriots page. You can tell because there isn't an official Facebook verification check on the page. The other giveaway is that the only posts on the page were posts promising to give away tickets. No legitimate Facebook page exists just to give away expensive products to random people.
  • A posting from a page that claimed to be Ellen Degeneres giving away money to people who shared the post and wrote "money" in the comments. This scam is particular laughable because the person who created the page didn't even spell Ellen's name correctly. If that wasn't enough to make you suspicious, the first line of the posting is "Warning All!!! this is not fraud." That has the sound of a used car salesman saying, "this is a great car only driven by an old lady to church on Sunday!" 
Please, if you work in education, stop sharing scams on social media. It just makes us all look bad. 

A New Gradebook for Google Classroom!

One of the long-running complaints about Google Classroom that I and many others have had is about the nearly featureless gradebook. It appears that Google has heard those complaints and is taking some steps to improve the Google Classroom gradebook. The first step was taken this summer when Google added a comment bank to the Google Classroom gradebook. The second step came today in the form of an announcement of a new Google Classroom gradebook design.

The new Google Classroom gradebook will let you see all of your assignments and grades on the same screen. As you can see in the screenshot below, you'll be able to see assignments listed across the top of a grid with fields for entering grades directly below those assignments. And you'll be able to see all of your students' overall course grades on the same page.
Image courtesy of G Suite for Edu marketing team. 

The new Google Classroom gradebook is available through a beta program. You can sign-up for the beta right here.

Sign-up Now for Google Forms Locked Mode

Back in June Google teased us with an announcement about a locked mode for Google Forms. All summer and fall I got questions about when it would be available. Today, Google announced that G Suite for Education users can now sign-up for early access to Google Forms locked mode. Sign-up here. Locked mode will allow you to restrict students to viewing only your Google Form while taking a quiz that you have given to them in Google Forms.
GIF courtesy of Google for Edu marketing team.
Before you get too excited about locked mode there are a couple of things that you need to know. The first is that it will only work on school-managed Chromebooks. Second, your Chromebooks need to be updated to Chrome OS 68.

Slides and Notes from LACUE

I've just wrapped-up two days of giving presentations at the LACUE conference in New Orleans. A huge thank you to the conference organizers for inviting me and to everyone who came to my presentations. If you're curious about what I spoke about at the conference, my slides and brief notes are included below.

Best of the Web
I'm asked to do this presentation at every conference I go to. It highlights some of my favorite new tools and favorite tools updated in 2018.

5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons
This is a presentation that I started giving at conference during the summer. It is increasing in popularity every time that I do it. Highlights of this presentation include incorporating augmented reality into outdoor lessons.

Fast & Fun Formative Assessments
This is a perennial favorite that includes quite a bit of audience participation in the demonstration of various formative assessment tools.

Worlds are Colliding: Introduction to AR & VR in Education
This presentation is exactly what it says on the tin. I feature some of the best ways to get your feet wet with augmented reality and virtual reality in education. I also include a bit of research in these fields in the presentation.

Quick & Powerful Video Projects
This presentation features five classroom video projects that you can do in a relatively short amount of time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sites in VR - The VR App for Those Without VR Headsets

Sites in VR is a free Android and iOS app that provides a 1700 virtual reality views of significant landmarks around the world. The app is a good one for those who would like to experience a bit of virtual reality without having to use a virtual reality headset. Sites in VR provides imagery that you can navigate through by moving your phone or tablet in a manner similar to that of using a virtual reality viewer like Google Cardboard.

To use the app simply open it then select a country, city, or landmark type. Then on the next screen select from a menu of landmarks to view. Once you've made a selection you will be able to view the imagery and navigate through it by moving your phone or tablet.

Applications for Education
Sites in VR is a good app for those who would like to try using virtual reality in their geography lessons, but don't want to or can't make the investment in virtual reality viewing headsets.

Sites in VR is one of the resources that I featured today in my Introduction to AR & VR presentation at the LACUE conference in New Orleans. The slides from that presentation are embedded below.

Google Classroom is Now Open to All G Suite Domains

Today, Google announced that Google Classroom is now available to all G Suite domains including non-profit and business domains. This follows last year's addition of Google Classroom to personal Google accounts. Today's announcement essentially makes Google Classroom available to anyone and any entity that wants to use it.

I wasn't able to turn on Classroom for the business domains that I manage today because this update is on the "extended roll-out" plan. But I'll guess that if this is anything like the other versions of Google Classroom, everyone who participates in a Google Classroom on a business or non-profit domain will need to have a Google account issued by that domain.

Google is Removing Annotations from YouTube Videos

Eighteen months ago Google removed the annotations editor from YouTube. Today, I logged into the YouTube editor and saw an announcement that Google is going to remove all existing annotations from YouTube videos on January 15th. Google states that viewers don't like annotations and typically close twelve of them for every one that they do interact with.

What this means for you:
If you never used YouTube annotations, this means nothing to you.
If you used YouTube annotations to make a linked series of videos or a choose-your-own adventure series, all of those links will be broken on January 15th.

Personally, I'm disappointed by this because I always felt that using annotations was a great way to build a choose-your-own-adventure series of videos. Google suggests using end screens and cards as an alternative to annotations, but it's not quite the same.

11 Years Later...

On this day eleven years I published my first blog post here on Free Technology for Teachers. I had a little bit of an idea of what I wanted to do and no idea that eleven years and nearly 14,000 posts later I would still be doing it. Some of you have been with me for almost all of last eleven years, thank you!

I think that now is as good a time as any to reflect on what's happened in the eleven years since I hit publish on the first post here.

A few observations on what's changed in eleven years of blogging
  • 11 years ago everyone was talking about wikis. One of Common Craft's earliest videos explained wikis in plain English. Today, the biggest classroom wiki services no longer exist and I haven't had anyone ask me about wikis in a couple of years.
  • 11 years ago netbooks were the low cost way to get more computers into classrooms. The first iPads were more than two years away and the first Chromebooks were almost four years away.
  • 11 years ago I checked my email on my laptop and took pictures with a camera that couldn't make phone calls or send texts. You probably did the same.
  • 11 years ago I bookmarked websites by using Delicious on Firefox. Chrome was still a couple years away.
  • Google Docs morphed into Google Drive into Google Apps for Education into G Suite for Education. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Need Blog Post Ideas? Edublogs Has You Covered

For many people the biggest challenge in maintaining a blog has nothing to do with the technical aspects. It's coming up with ideas for blog posts that often proves to be the biggest challenge to keeping a blog going. This is true whether you're running a blog for a classroom, as a hobby, or for  business. If you're trying to keep your students blogging, Edublogs has a new list of fifty blog post ideas for students.

Saying that the list has 50 prompts is a bit misleading, but misleading in a good way. Buried within the list of prompts are links to additional sources of writing prompts including this New York Times list of more than 1,000 writing prompts. In the Edublogs list you'll also find a link to one of my favorite blogging challenges of the last few years, the 100 Word Challenge

Between the 50 prompts that Edublogs provides and the additional links, you should have plenty of things for your students to blog about for the rest of the year. Click here to view Edublogs' 50 new Blog Post Ideas for Students. You can even download the list as a PDF right here

The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - My Tip of the Week Delivered Once Per Week

As you may know, I offer professional development webinars through But that's not the only thing that I do with that site. I also use it to publish my tip of the week newsletter. That is a once-per-week mailing that contains my favorite tip of the week, usually with a video, and a list of the most popular posts of the week from Free Technology for Teachers. As of this morning 16,257 people subscribe to that newsletter.

You can register for the Practical Ed Tech newsletter here

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How to Enable or Disable Gmail "Smart Replies"

Smart Reply is one of my favorite features to come with the "new" Gmail that was thrust upon all users earlier this year. Smart Reply takes the context of the email message to which you are replying and what you have already typed to form a suggested completion to your sentence. These predictions appear in gray text as you type. To utilize the prediction just tap the tab key on your keyboard. And if you don't like the suggested text, just keep typing to ignore it. I use Gmail's Smart Reply function many times throughout the day as it does save me a few minutes crafting replies to emails.

If you haven't tried Smart Reply in Gmail (including Gmail accounts managed as part of G Suite for Education), you can enable it in your Gmail settings panel. To open your settings simply click on the gear icon that appears in the upper, right corner of your inbox (on a desktop or Chromebook). You will find Smart Reply about 2/3 of the way down the settings page.

Not everyone likes Smart Reply. If you're annoyed by the constant suggestions while you're typing an email, simply disable the feature from the same settings menu as is used to enable it.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Nearly 900 Free Art History Books - And an Art Lesson

Around this time five years ago I discovered that the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts free online art history texts. A recent Tweet from Open Culture reminded me of that collection. Today, I revisited that collection and discovered that it has expanded to 569 volumes. All of the books can be read online or downloaded as PDFs (warning, some of them are massive files). You can search through the catalog of books by thematic category, format, and publication type. And, of course, you can search through the books by title, author, and keyword.

The Getty Museum also has a large collection of art books available online for free. That collection currently has put 325 art books available for anyone to read online and or download. You can find all of these books in the Getty Publications Virtual Library. You can search through the collection by author, keyword, or title. Alternatively, you can simply browse the collections. All of the free books are also available through Google Books.

And on a related note, TED-Ed recently published a new video lesson titled Who Decides What Art Means?

800+ Persuasive Maps - And a Tool for Making Your Own

About a week ago Open Culture published an article about Cornell University's Persuasive Cartography collection. I hadn't seen that collection before so I went down a rabbit hole looking at map after map for a good 45 minutes.

Persuasive maps aren't maps that you would use to teach a classic geography lesson. That's because persuasive maps are maps that were created for the purpose of sending a message. In Cornell University's Persuasive Cartography collection you will find maps that were created to persuade and satirize. The maps in this collection date back as far as 1491 and up to 2012. Browse through the collection and you'll find maps about the Cold War, imperialism, moral issues, social causes, and plenty of maps related to various war efforts.

Applications for Education
You can browse Cornell University's Persuasive Cartography collection from the homepage of the collection. The better way to search and browse is to jump directly into collection listings here.

I found the collection of maps related to imperialism to be particularly interesting. The maps in the collection show a variety of viewpoints geographically, politically, and historically with regards to imperialism. I'd use that collection that spark discussion in my classroom about what imperialism means, who it affects, and how viewpoints change over time.

If you teach high school or middle school students, StoryMap JS is a good tool for telling stories through the use of maps, text, and multimedia.

How to Create Custom Greeting Cards on Storyboard That

A few years ago Storyboard That introduced a great little feature for making greeting cards. Initially, it was only available for a few holidays, but now is available for all of the major greeting card holidays. This is a feature that anyone can use on Storyboard That. In the following video I demonstrate how to design and print a greeting card through Storyboard That.

Applications for Education
Design, printing, writing, and sending greeting cards can be a good way to engage elementary school students in writing correspondence.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on this blog. 

How to Use Guest Mode in Flipgrid

A few weeks ago Flipgrid added a new feature called Guest Mode. Guest Mode allows you to give parents access to view a specific topic within a Flipgrid grid. Guest Mode also provides the option for parents to record a video to be added to a specific topic within a Flipgrid grid. Watch my following video to learn how to access Guest Mode in Flipgrid.

Applications for Education
Flipgrid's Guest Mode only grants access to specific topics within a grid, not all topics. As demonstrated in my video, you can revoke guest access at any time. And you can moderate guest submissions.

Guest Mode could be great for getting parents involved in a classroom discussion. I can envision guest mode being great for asking parents to share short local history stories. It could also be a great way for parents to share encouraging messages with the class before a big test, game, or concert.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Backchannels, Sounds, and Thanksgiving - The Week in Review

Good morning from snowy Maine. I hope that all of you who celebrated Thanksgiving this week had a wonderful holiday with family and friends. Based on the number of "out of office" emails I received this week, a fair number of you were off all week.

Earlier this week I hosted the first night of the winter session of Teaching History With Technology. If you're looking for other professional development opportunities I'm holding a Black Friday/ Cyber Monday sale on my six most popular webinars of 2018.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Change Coming to Your Google Account's Sign-in Screen
2. Fiction vs. Non-fiction - A Canva Infographic
3. An Interactive Timeline of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade
4. 5 Free Thanksgiving Lesson Plans You Can Use This Week
5. How to Create a Backchannel on Padlet
6. Bensound - Free Music for Video Projects
7. How to Make a QR Code for Just About Anything

I'll Come to Your School in 2019!
My 2019 schedule is quickly filling up. If you're interested in having me lead a professional development day at your school, please send me a note at richardbyrne (at) or click here to learn more about my PD 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. Click here to learn more or 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, November 23, 2018

Did You Get the Text? - Google Calendar to Stop Sending Texts

From the department of "no one uses that feature anymore," Google has announced via text message and on the G Suite Update blog that as of January 7th you'll no longer be able to receive text (SMS) notifications about Google Calendar events.

Until I read the notification this week, I did not realize that getting SMS notifications was even still an option. I thought it had been phased out years ago with the launches of the Google Calendar Android and iOS apps that provide push notifications to remind you of Calendar events. You can also get event reminder notifications on your desktop and via email.

You can learn more about Google Calendar in my recorded webinar, Getting Organized With Google Classroom, Calendar, and Keep which is a part of my Black Friday bundle of PD webinars

How to Access and Use the Blurring Tools in YouTube's Video Editor

This is the time of year for winter concerts and plays at schools. If the ones at your are anything like the one I attended last week, there will be plenty of parents recording the performances. And I'd guess that you or someone from your school will record it too. Before you or a colleague publishes that video on YouTube, consider the students whose parents don't want them to appear in an online video. If you have students whose parents don't want their likenesses appearing in online videos, consider using YouTube's built-in blurring tools.

YouTube recently introduced a new (still in beta) version of Creator Studio. Doing so moved the location of some features of the YouTube video editor. In the following video I demonstrate how to access the blurring effects through the new beta version of Creator Studio.

If your YouTube account doesn't have the new beta version of Creator Studio, watch this video to learn how to apply blurring effects to your videos.

How Frost Appears on Plants - A Science Lesson

Here in Maine we're way past worrying about frost in the morning. That's because we've already had a few snow storms. But some of you may have frost on plants in the morning. SciShow Kids has a new video all about what causes frost to appear on plants in the fall.

By watching It's Time for Frost! students can learn how the right combination of cold temperatures and moisture can make frost appear on plants. Students can also learn why sometimes frost seems to just disappear while other times you can clearly see frost melting.

A convenient thing that SciShow Kids has started doing for teachers is posting the Next Generation Science Standards used in their videos. The standards addressed in this video are:

K-PS3-1. Make observations to determine the effect of sunlight on Earth’s surface.
K-ESS2-1. Use and share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

What If You Stopped Sleeping? - Video Lesson

As the parent of a two year old and a one year old I know a thing or two about operating on little sleep. There are times when I wonder if I'll ever get a full night's sleep again. Which begs the question, "what if I stopped sleeping?" That question is the focus of an ASAP Science video. What If You Stopped Sleeping? explains the effects of sleep deprivation as well as the effects of sleeping too much.

ASAP Science includes links to the references used in the production of the videos. Those links are included below:

Human Body Study Jams

Scholastic Study Jams are slideshows and animations that provide a short overview of various topics in science and math. The Human Body Study Jams from Scholastic provide short overviews of topics in anatomy and physiology. There are six Human Body Study Jams; skeletal system, nervous system, digestive system, respiratory system, muscular system, and circulatory system.

Applications for Education
The Human Body Study Jams from Scholastic could be useful resources for elementary school or middle school students to review prior to a lesson that you teach to them. The Study Jams could also be good review materials for students.

You Can Get Anything You Want... Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Somewhere in the last 50 years it became a tradition that classic rock stations play Alice's Restaurant Massacree at noon on Thanksgiving Day. And it has become a tradition for the last ten years that I post a video of Alice's Restaurant Massacree here on Free Technology for Teachers. If you search for the song on Wolfram Alpha you will find a chart of Wikipedia traffic for the search term "Alice's Restaurant." So the question/ cultural history lesson for students is "why do people search for that term around Thanksgiving?"

Happy listening! Happy Thanksgiving!

Measuring Mountains - A Math Lesson

A few years ago I read Mount Everest, The Reconnaissance 1921 which I downloaded for free from Google Books. In the introduction there is a three page explanation of the methods used to measure the height of Mount Everest. An explanation of the differences in measurements is also provided in the introduction. Part of that explanation includes differences in snow fall, cyclical deviations of gravity, and differences atmospheric refraction when observations were made. I'm not a mathematics teacher and will never pretend to be one, but reading that introduction did get me thinking about a possible mathematics lesson.

Applications for Education
Turn to pages 10 through 13 of Mount Everest, The Reconnaissance 1921 and read about the difficulties of accurately measuring Mount Everest in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. It's interesting to note that most accepted measurements were more than 100 feet higher than today's accepted measurement. Tell your students that Mount Everest has shrunk over the last 100 years and ask them to solve the mystery of the shrinking mountain. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Chemistry of Thanksgiving or "Why It's Not the Turkey Making You Sleepy"

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the United States. Just like I did last year, on this Thanksgiving Eve I found a video that would have made for a nice Thanksgiving-themed lesson. So even though it is too late to use it this year, bookmark the Thanksgiving Turkey Compilation from the Reactions YouTube channel. The video explains two things. First, it explains how the deep-frying process works and how it helps to make a turkey more flavorful. Second, the video explains why turkey isn't the primary culprit in making you drowsy after devouring your Thanksgiving meal.

Black Friday Sale on Practical Ed Tech Webinars

One of the ways that I keep Free Technology for Teachers running is through the sales of professional development webinars on my other site, Practical Ed Tech. In the last year I hosted more than three dozen professional development webinars on that site. For Black Friday and Cyber Monday I'm offering the six most popular Practical Ed Tech webinars in one convenient package.

The webinars in the Practical Ed Tech Black Friday bundle are:
  • 5 Video Projects for Nearly Every Classroom 
  • 10 Search Strategies Students Need to Know 
  • Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners 
  • Get Organized With Google Classroom, Calendar, and Keep 
  • Introduction to AR & VR in Education (only available in this bundle) 
  • 5 Ways to Blend Technology into Outdoor Lessons (only available in this bundle)
Purchased individually this collection of webinars would cost $120. During this sale the whole collection is just $47. 

How to Create a Backchannel on Padlet

Padlet is one of the most versatile tech tools that a teacher can have in his or her toolbox. From making KWL charts to exit tickets to simply posting ideas in a shared online space, Padlet can be used in nearly every grade level and subject area. And your notes aren't limited to just text on Padlet walls. In fact, there are ten types of notes that you can add to Padlet walls including screencasts, audio notes, and even maps.

Recently, I noticed that Padlet has a new wall template designed for hosting backchannel chats. In the following video I demonstrate how to create a backchannel on Padlet.

Applications for Education
When you use the backchannel template on Padlet you and your students can still add all of the note formats that Padlet offers. That means that you could post a picture or video as a discussion prompt.

Bensound - Free Music for Video Projects

On Tuesday I wrote about the impending closure of the Free Music Archive. In that post I shared some other sites to find free music to use in your multimedia projects. Thanks to an email from Kari Kakeh I've learned about another good site to find free music. That site is called Bensound.

Bensound offers about 175 music tracks that you can download for free. Those tracks are arranged in eight categories. Those categories are acoustic/folk, cinematic, corporate/pop, electronica, urban/groove, jazz, rock, and world. You can listen to the tracks before you download them. When you click the download button you will see the clear rules about using the music. You can download and use the music in your video projects for free provided that you credit Bensound for the music. Alternatively, you can purchase a license to use the music wherever you want without crediting Bensound.

Applications for Education
Bensound's collection features instrumental music which is great for classroom use because you won't have to worry about students picking music that has lyrics that are not appropriate for classroom use.

Wakelet Now Lets You Copy and Build Upon Collections

Wakelet is free bookmarking and note-taking service that I've been using since April when I started looking for alternatives to Padlet. On Wakelet you can create collection and sub-collections of notes, bookmarks, and pictures. You can add those materials to your Wakelet collections through a browser extension or by adding them directly to your collection on the Wakelet website.

Wakelet has always let users share their collections with others. This week Wakelet added the option to let other users make copies of collections that you make publicly available. Those who make copies of your collections can then add to those collections within their own Wakelet accounts. Watch this video to see how that is done.

Applications for Education
Wakelet's new "copy collections" feature could be used by teachers to start a small collection of resources for students to build upon. For example, I might start a small collection of resources for about a unit on my US History curriculum then have my students add their related resources that they find as conduct their own research.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Change Coming to Your Google Account's Sign-in Screen

New Google Sign-in screen.
Starting next Tuesday you might notice a small change to the sign-in screen for your Google account. The change is that you will see a box around the "email or phone number" field on the sign-in page instead of just a single line. This won't change anything about your Google account or how any of the G Suite tools function. It's simply worth noting as changes to sign-in screens sometimes cause people to worry about spoofing or fraud.

If you're a G Suite for Education domain administrator, it might be worth notifying your staff so that they don't worry or inundate you with questions when the sign-in screen changes.

As with most updates to G Suite for Education, the change will roll-out over the course of a couple of weeks.

You can read Google's announcement about this change right here.

Two Good Places to Find Classrooms to Connect With

Last week I ran a guest post written by Sarah Fromhold containing great tips for hosting Mystery Skype or Mystery Hangout activities. Since then I've fielded a few emails from readers who were looking for other ways that they can connect their classrooms with other classrooms. There are two things that I've recommended to those folks. First, is to try using Flipgrid's new GridPals service. Second, is to try the Edublogs list of classroom blogs.

Flipgrid's GridPals is available to any teacher who has a Flipgrid account. Through Gridpals you can find other teachers around the world who are looking to connect their students with yours for video conversations. If you're not quite sure what Flipgrid is or how it works, take a look at this video tutorial that I made last year.

Every year Edublogs updates a list of public classroom blogs. You can use this list to find examples of how other teachers are using blogging in their classrooms. You can also use this list to find other teachers who are looking for classrooms to connect to their own for written dialogue.

The Free Music Archive is Closing - But Not All is Lost

For the better part of the last decade the Free Music Archive has been one of my go-to places to find free music to use video projects. Unfortunately, the end is near for the Free Music Archive. Earlier this month the hosts of the FMA announced that it would be shutting down at the end of the month. That's just ten days from now!

Fortunately, all of the FMA's collections will be posted on You'll be able to access the music there. However, doesn't have nearly enough filters to make it suitable for classroom use. What you could do is go into the FMA archive yourself and download some music that you then put into a Google Drive, OneNote, or Dropbox folder for your students to access.

And if you're looking for some alternatives to the Free Music Archive, you can try Dig CC Mixter, The National Jukebox, or Musopen. My video overview of Dig CC Mixter is embedded below.

Free Webinar - How to Make Your Own Common Craft-style Videos

If you have followed this blog for more than a few weeks, you've probably seen me make references to Common Craft videos. More than ten years ago Common Craft pioneered a unique style of online video that has since been imitated, but never quite duplicated by others. That style uses paper cut-outs on blank white canvas to illustrate an explanation. For a sample, take a look at this Common Craft video explanation of fair use.

Next Tuesday, November 28th, Common Craft's founder, Lee LeFever is a hosting a free webinar in which he'll explain the process of creating explanatory videos. An added bonus for attending is a free 100 pack of Common Craft cut-outs. Register here!

Even if you're an experienced video producer, you can benefit from attending this free webinar. I attended a previous webinar that Lee hosted on this topic and it was totally worth my time!

Fair Use Explained By Common Craft

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

How to Make a QR Code for Just About Anything

This fall there seems to be a renewed interest in QR codes, at least amongst readers of this blog. In just the last two weeks I've answered a half dozen emails with questions related to QR codes. QR codes can make it easy to get all of your students onto the same webpage, into the same document, or viewing the same file relatively quickly. QR Droid, my go-to tool for making QR codes, makes it possible to create a QR code for just about anything online.

In the following video I demonstrate how to use QR Droid to make QR codes for Google Docs, for video files in Google Drive, and for webpages. The process that I demonstrate can be applied to just about anything that is hosted online.

Monday, November 19, 2018

An Interactive Timeline of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is a tradition that millions of Americans share. This year will be the 92nd edition of the parade. What started out as a relatively simple affair has grown into an hours-long production. You and your students can see how the parade has evolved through the decades by exploring the interactive timeline on Macy's Parade History. You can select any decade on the timeline to view 360 interactive images of the parade. Each decade on the timeline also includes some video clips. Scroll through the decades and you'll see that the parade reflects the popular culture of each decade.

History offers the following short video about the history of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The Next News Network also offers a nice, concise summary of the history of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Fiction vs. Non-fiction - A Canva Infographic

This morning I was browsing through Canva's gallery of free design templates looking for one to use for an upcoming course that I'm teaching. That's when I stumbled into a this Fiction vs. Non-Fiction infographic template. As you can see below, the template could be printed as used as is. Better yet, you could have students modify the template to include some of their own examples of fiction vs. non-fiction.

Applications for Education
You can get a copy of this template (in higher resolution than what I've posted) in the infographics section on Canva. I would use this template by having students make a copy to modify. In their modified copies I'd have students include examples from books to explain the differences between fiction and non-fiction books.

5 Free Thanksgiving Lesson Plans You Can Use This Week

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. If you're an elementary school teacher who has school this week, Storyboard That has five free Thanksgiving lesson plans that you can use.

As you might expect, all of the Thanksgiving lesson plans that Storyboard That offers are centered around the use of storyboards and artwork. The five lesson plans are The Story of Thanksgiving, Symbols of Thanksgiving, What Thanksgiving Means to Me, Thanksgiving Cards, and I Am Thankful for... 

The activities in the lesson plans can be completed even if you don't use Storyboard That. But if you do choose to use Storyboard That, watch my video on how to make Thanksgiving Cards that your students can print. 

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on this blog. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

17 Lessons in Teaching History With Technology

This coming Monday evening (7pm ET) I am hosting Teaching History With Technology on This course meets five times (once per week). There are seventeen concepts that are covered in the course. Each concept can be applied to the creation of technology-infused history lessons. The concepts covered in the course are listed 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.
Click here to register for Teaching History With Technology. 

Guests, Snow, and Feedback - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we've had two small snowstorms this week. They haven't been big snowfalls, but they have produced enough snow that all the leaves I didn't rake won't be discovered again until spring. On the upside, ski season is here and I'm looking forward to getting my oldest daughter on skis this winter.

This week I hosted a dozen guest bloggers. I hope you enjoyed their posts as much as I did.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Edji - A Great Tool for Literacy and Critical Thinking
2. Is Your Feedback Really Effective? - This Google Docs Add-on Will Tell You
3. CoRubrics - An Add-on to Facilitate Assessment Among Students
4. Build a Body - An Interactive Biology Lesson
5. 7 Tips for Moving from Decorating to Designing Classrooms
6. A Digital Differentiation Model
7. Apps Day - A Great Way to Learn About Apps

Teaching History With Technology
Teaching History With Technology is a Practical Ed Tech online course starting on Monday evening. This course meets for five Mondays in a row. Some of the things you'll learn in the course include using virtual reality and augmented reality in your classroom, multimedia storytelling, and search strategies for history students. Click here to register.

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. 

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