Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Thinking of Starting a Blog in 2018? - Here Are My Recommendations

Are you thinking about starting a blog in 2018? If you are, here are my recommendations based on more than a decade of daily blogging.

Classroom Blogging
If you want to start a blog to use with your students my first recommendation is to try Edublogs. It runs on the powerful WordPress platform but doesn't require you to worry about any of the technical aspects of using WordPress. More importantly, you have control over the creation of your students' usernames and passwords. Blogs and individual blog posts can be made private, password-protected, or public.

Blogger is a good option for G Suite for Education users. If you get your G Suite for Education administrator to enable Blogger on your domain, your students can log into Blogger by using their Google Accounts. Blogger doesn't have quite as many privacy options as Edublogs, but there are enough privacy options for most classroom settings.

Weebly for Education, like Edublogs, lets teachers create and manage students' accounts. The limitation of Weebly for Education is that you can only have 40 students in your account for free. Weebly was originally designed to be a website builder, and it is good at that, so there are quite a few options built into it that you won't need if you're just using it for a classroom blog.

Personal / Professional Blogging
Many, many times that if I was starting Free Technology for Teachers today, it would be done as a self-hosted WordPress blog. In fact, every other blog and website that I run is built that way. A self-hosted WordPress blog will give you the ultimate in design and function flexibility. On this page I have written directions and detailed step-by-step tutorial videos that will walk you through the process of creating a self-hosted WordPress blog.

If creating a self-hosted WordPress blog isn't the route you want to go, I'd then consider using Weebly (affiliate link). My buddy Tom Richey has been quite successful in building a nice following through his Weebly-powered site.

Learn more about how to create a great classroom blog in this recorded Practical Ed Tech webinar

Free Timer Templates for PowerPoint Presentations

Over the years I have featured a lot of free countdown timers that you can use in your classroom. At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year I published this list of recommended countdown timers. Here's one more option to consider, using a timer in a PowerPoint slide.

Microsoft offers a couple of timer templates that you can use in your PowerPoint presentations. You can find those templates in this template gallery (use Control+F to search the gallery). You can use the default timer settings in the slides or you can modify them.

Applications for Education
Putting a timer on a slide can help you create a sense of urgency to complete an activity. Using a timer is also a great way to keep a break from running too long.

When I give conference presentations I usually include short breaks for teachers to talk to each other. Using a timer always helps me refocus the audience after those conversation breaks.

A Permission Slip Template for G Suite Use

About a week ago I had an interesting conversation on my Facebook page with a teacher who was looking for help convincing her administration to allow her students to use Google Earth. In the conversation I was asked if Google offers advice or has a template for getting permission from parents to use their services. The answer is yes. The permission slip template can be found here in the G Suite Administrator help pages.

G Suite administrators can enable Google Earth for their domain users. I'm not a school law expert, but it is my understanding that if you have permission for students to use G Suite tools they can use Google Earth if it is enabled for your schools G Suite domain. (Again, I'm not a school law expert and you should consult with your school's attorneys if you are worried about regulations for your specific situation).

Find the G Suite permission slip template here.

You can learn more about G Suite in my online course G Suite for Teachers. And in Teaching History With Technology you can learn how to use Google Earth and Google Maps.

How to Add Audio to Google Slides

AudioPlayer for Google Slides is a free Add-on that will let you add music to the background of a presentation created with Google Slides. The music that you add through the Add-on can loop in the background throughout the course of your presentation. Watch my video to learn how to use AudioPlayer for Google Slides.

As I noted in the video, you must have audio files stored in your Google Drive prior to using the AudioPlayer Add-on. It's also important to remind students to only use music that they have the rights to use for public presentations. and the Free Music Archive are good places to find free music to use in presentations.

New to G Suite for Education? Join my online course G Suite for Teachers to get up to speed on everything you need to know to feel comfortable using Google Slides and more in your classroom.