Friday, September 20, 2019

SnackVids - Automatic Creation of Searchable Video Transcripts

SnackVids is a new service that will generate a searchable transcript for any YouTube video of your choosing. To use the service simply copy the URL of a video, paste it into SnackVids, and then let SnackVids generate a transcript. When the transcript is completed it is displayed directly below the video. You can search the transcript for any keyword of your choosing. The keyword will be highlighted on the transcript. Click on the keyword highlighted in the transcript to jump to the corresponding section of the video.

Applications for Education
SnackVids could be a good tool to use when you come across a long tutorial video and want to see if the video will cover a topic or keyword that you're interested in. It's also convenient for jumping directly to specific sections within a video.

As with any automatic transcription tools, the quality of the transcript is dependent on the quality of the audio and the clarity of the narrator.

Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage - An eBook of Writing Prompts

Make Beliefs Comix is a creative writing platform that I have recommended for years. The core of Make Beliefs Comix is a free set of tools that students can use to create their own comics in multiple languages. Here's a video overview of how it works. In addition to the comic strip creation tools, Make Beliefs Comix hosts free ebooks that you can use online or download for free. All of ebooks are designed as fillable PDFs that your students can write in.

The latest ebook published by Make Beliefs Comix is titled Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage. The first half of the book contains comics featuring the title character talking about situations that make him scared and ideas for dealing with those feelings. The second half of Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage contains pages for students to write on in response to prompts like "people who inspire me and courage me to be braver..."

Applications for Education
Comics can make reading and writing seem less intimidating to some students. Free ebooks like Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage can be useful in generating approachable writing prompts for elementary school students.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

5 Features of Google's Advanced Search Menu

My last two blog posts (here and here) have been about creating search practice activities for students. One of the Google search tools that students often overlook or have never been taught to use is the advanced search menu found on the search results page. Using the tools within the advanced search menu can help students find web pages that they might not otherwise find. In the following video I provide an overview of five features of the Google's advanced search menu and why students might use those tools.

Another Approach to Creating Search Challenges for Students

Yesterday afternoon I shared one of my approaches to creating search practice activities for students. That strategy involves using pictures to tell as story and have students answer some questions based on the story and picture. Another approach that I use is to have students ask the questions that they want to know the answers to. To that end I keep a Google Slides presentation that contains some interesting pictures intended to get students to ask questions that they’ll answer by using a variety of search strategies.

The pictures below are ones that I’ve used for many years to prompt students to ask questions that they then have to search to find the answers to.


Some of the questions that students often ask about these pictures include:

  • How big is it?
  • What is it used for?
  • Can I drive it?
  • How big is the wheel?
  • What’s the gas mileage?

All of these questions can be answered once students determine where the truck is located (fairly obvious if they look at the second picture). Once the location is determined students can use Google Maps or Earth to view the truck in Street View and see its make and model. With the make and model information is obtained the answers to the other questions should fall into place.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

My Approach to Creating Search Practice Activities for Students

This week's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week Newsletter featured ten Google search tips for students. It's all well and good to give those tips to students and show them how to use them, but for the tips to really sink in students should get some practice using them. To that end, you can use some the free lesson plans available through Google's Search Education page. But I've always been a bit of a DIYer so I like to create my own search challenges. Here's an overview of the process that I use.

The process that I use is heavily influenced by following the work of Dan Russell. His title is Senior Research Scientist for Search Quality and User Happiness at Google. What that means for you, for me, and for students is that he spends a lot of time studying how people search and using that information to help people conduct better searches. His blog Search ReSearch offers lots of explanations of detailed search methods. Many of his examples include images and mine do too.

Here’s the process that I use to create my own image-based search challenges for students.

  1. Select an interesting picture that you can build a little story around. Incorporate into that story some clues that students can use to answer the questions that you will ask students to answer about the image.
  2. Create a few questions based on the image. I like to arrange the questions in an order such that the correct answer to the first one provides clues toward answering the subsequent questions.
  3. Take a test run of answering your own questions to detect any possible confusion or pain points for students.


Here’s a sample image-based search challenge that I developed and frequently use.

  • The story: The picture in this blog post is one that I took while walking through a historic neighborhood in Maine. I was told that the house was once owned by a Vice President of the United States but I couldn’t find any signs around the house that confirmed that rumor. With the use of a couple of Google search tools I was able to confirm that it was, in fact, owned by a former Vice President. Furthermore, it’s now the site of a historical collection that contains the last Duesenberg produced.


  • Questions:
    • Which former Vice President owned this house?
      • How did you find that?
    • What is the address of the house?
    • Will the sunset be on the front or back of the house?
      • What Google tools did you use to find that answer?
    • Who owns the last Duesenberg?


Here’s the outline of the possible steps students might take to get the answers to the search challenge questions.

  • Find a list of all former Vice Presidents of the United States. (Wikipedia provides an accurate list). Work through the list to find the Vice Presidents who either resided in Maine and or owned property in Maine.
    • Alternatively, conduct a search along the lines of “vice presidents owning property in Maine.”
    • Through both methods students may come up with answers that include George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Hannibal Hamlin, and Nelson Rockefeller.
    • After creating the list of possible owners of the home, students turn to Google Images to search for pictures of the properties of respective VPs.
  • Another method that students can use to get to the answer to the first question is to take a copy of the picture presented to them and upload it to Google Images. This will create a list of possible matches for the original picture. (Note, by the time you read this students might come across one of my blog posts describing this search challenge).


  • Through one of the methods outlined above students should determine that the house was owned by Hannibal Hamlin. It is at this point that some students will mistakenly think that the home in Bangor, Maine when it is actually in Paris, Maine (sometimes listed as South Paris or Paris Hill). From here students can turn to Google Maps or Google Earth to find the address for the home. The use of Google Maps or Google Earth will let students see the orientation of the house to determine if the sun will set on the front or back of the house.


  • Now that students know where the house is (Paris, Maine) and who owned it (Hannibal Hamlin) students can add Duesenberg to a search for Paris Maine or Hannibal Hamlin House in a manner like this “Paris Maine Duesenberg.” Those search results will lead to many articles are about the car collection of Bob Bahre, the current owner of the home and car collection.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Practical Ed Tech Podcast #8 Featuring Dr. Beth Holland

At the end of the last episode of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast I mentioned that I had recently recorded a great conversation that I had with Dr. Beth Holland. That recording is now available as episode #8 of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast.

In the episode Beth and I talked about her work at COSN around issues of digital equity and what digital equity means in schools. Because I want listeners to know a bit more about my guests than just their professional work, Beth and I also talked about stand-up paddleboarding and her burgeoning stand-up paddleboard racing career. It was a fun conversation and I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.


You can listen to episode 8 here on Anchor.fm or find it on one of the following podcast networks:

7 TED-Ed Lessons for Constitution Day

Tomorrow is Constitution Day in the United States. As I shared last week, C-SPAN and DocsTeach have lots of free lesson plans and online activities. TED-Ed also has a bunch of lessons that are appropriate for Constitution Day.

The Making of the American Constitution.



Why is the US Constitution So Hard to Amend?



Why Wasn't the Bill of Rights Originally Included in the US Constitution?



How is Power Divided in the US Government?



A 3-Minute Guide to the Bill of Rights


How do Executive Orders Work?



What You Might Not Know About the Declaration of Independence

Sunday, September 15, 2019

My Top Twelve Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students

Last week I published a list of my top five Google tools for social studies teachers and my top five non-Google tools for social studies teachers. If you missed either of those lists or you want all of them in one place, I've put together the following combined list and added two more items to make it an even dozen tools for social studies teachers and students.

Timeline JS
Timeline projects as as old as history classes themselves. It used to be that timelines were only made on paper. Today, students can build timelines that include videos, audio recordings, pictures, and interactive maps. Timeline JS is the best tool for making multimedia timelines today.

StoryMap JS
StoryMap JS is produced by the same people that make Timeline JS. StoryMap JS enables students to tell stories through the combination of maps and timelines. On StoryMap JS you create slides that are matched to locations on your map. Each slide in your story can include images or videos along with text.


VR Tour Creator
This is Google's free service for creating virtual reality tours. In a social studies classroom students can use it to record virtual reality tours of historical landmarks, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, or unique geographic features that spurred the development of civilizations. A playlist of VR Tour Creator tutorials is available here.

Google Earth
Google Earth is available in two versions. The Pro version is the version that you can install on your desktop. That's the version that I prefer if given a choice because it includes more features that the web browser version. Google Earth Pro can be used by students and teachers to record narrated tours and to layer historical imagery on top of current map views. You can find a playlist of Google Earth tutorials here.

Google Books
This is an often overlooked search tool. Google Books provides students with access to millions of free books and periodicals. Google Books really shines when you start looking for work that was published in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. One of the best features of Google Books is the ability to search within a book for a phrase or keyword. Learn how to use Google Books by watching these tutorial videos.

Google Expeditions
This is Google's free virtual reality service. Students can use it to go on more than 800 virtual reality tours. You can either guide students through the tours or let them guide themselves. Take a look at these videos to learn how to start using Google Expeditions.

Google Keep
Google Keep is a bookmarking and note-taking tool that students can use as part of their G Suite for Education accounts. It's a convenient tool to use to save bookmarks with notes. Students can add labels to their bookmarks to make them easy to organize. The best feature is that students can access their Google Keep bookmarks and notes from Google Docs to insert their bookmarks and notes directly into the papers they're writing. Here's a set of Google Keep tutorial videos.


DocsTeach
DocsTeach is a free service provided by the U.S. National Archives. Through DocsTeach you can create online activities based upon primary source artifacts from the National Archives. Your students can complete the activities online. Don't let the fact that the service is provided by the National Archives fool you into thinking that it can only be used for U.S. History lessons. You can upload any primary source artifact that you like to your DocsTeach account to develop an online history activity. DocsTeach offers more than a dozen activity templates that you can follow to develop your primary source-based lessons.

EDpuzzle
When I taught social studies I liked to use video clips as part of current events lessons. I also liked to use excerpts from documentary videos. If you use videos in the same way, EDpuzzle is a tool that you need to try. EDpuzzle lets you add questions directly into the timeline of the video.



Synth
Conversations about historical events and current events is an important aspect of teaching social studies. Sometimes the constraints of the classroom setting (time, attendance, student dynamics) limit the amount of constructive conversation that takes place. Synth is a free platform that you can use to have students record short podcasts and then reply to each other's podcasts with audio comments of their own. Watch this video to see how it works.



WeVideo
If you want your students to make short documentary-style videos, WeVideo is hard to beat. It works on Chromebooks, Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac (though if you have a Mac, iMovie is just as good). Those who have upgraded WeVideo accounts can even use it to make green screen videos.



RWT Timeline & Sutori
Elementary school teachers who are looking for an easy way for students to create timelines that include pictures should take a look at Read Write Think's Timeline Creator. Students can use it without creating any kind of online account and it's simple to use. Watch this video to see how it works.

Middle school and high school teachers who are looking for ways for their students to create multimedia timelines would do well to try Sutori. Sutori offers a collaborative multimedia timeline tool for students. Students can work together to add pictures, text, and video to timelines that they build in Sutori. Teachers who use Clever or Google Classroom can use those rosters to add students to Sutori.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast Episode #7

On Friday I recorded the seventh episode of the Practical Ed Tech podcast. In the episode I shared some news about a change in my career, some highlights from the week in educational technology, and answered a handful of questions from readers. I broadcast live on my YouTube channel when I record. Join me for the next live edition later this week. Notes from the episode are available in this Google Doc.


You can listen to episode 7 here on Anchor.fm or find it on one of the following podcast networks:




Saturday, September 14, 2019

Rubrics, Mind Maps, and Foliage - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it is a perfect early autumn morning. It's ideal for going fishing with my loyal dog, Mason. We did that on Thursday afternoon and it was perfect. I'm looking forward to doing that again this weekend. I hope that you also have something fun that you're looking forward to doing this weekend.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. How to Use Rubrics in Google Classroom
2. My Top 5 Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students
3. Ten Free Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Flowcharts - Updated for 2019-20
4. 2019 Fall Foliage Map - And Why Leaves Change Color
5. Glide Now Lets You Publish App Templates
6. One of My Favorite Tools for Quickly Creating Audio Slideshows
7. Ten Sites & Apps to Help Students Learn New Vocabulary Words - Updated for 2019-20

A New On-demand Professional Development Course
Last week I launched a new on-demand version of my popular Getting Going With G Suite course. You can sign-up now and complete it at your pace.

Thank You for Your Support!
  • More than 400 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech webinar this year. Thank you!
  • Pixton is a fantastic tool for students to use to create digital stories. Get started by using their free "Truth or Lie" lesson plan. 
  • PrepFactory offers free, personalized SAT and ACT prep. 
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County has been supporting this blog for many years.
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides FreeTech4Teachers.com and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - More than 15,000 are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has nearly 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last twelve years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

My Top 5 Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students (Non-Google Edition)

Earlier this week I published my top five Google tools for social studies teachers and students. Recognizing that not everyone wants to use or has access to G Suite for Education accounts, here are my top five non-Google tools for social studies teachers and students. I didn't include my all-time favorite timeline tool, Timeline JS because I wanted to keep this completely free of a need for a Google account.

DocsTeach
DocsTeach is a free service provided by the U.S. National Archives. Through DocsTeach you can create online activities based upon primary source artifacts from the National Archives. Your students can complete the activities online. Don't let the fact that the service is provided by the National Archives fool you into thinking that it can only be used for U.S. History lessons. You can upload any primary source artifact that you like to your DocsTeach account to develop an online history activity. DocsTeach offers more than a dozen activity templates that you can follow to develop your primary source-based lessons.

EDpuzzle
When I taught social studies I liked to use video clips as part of current events lessons. I also liked to use excerpts from documentary videos. If you use videos in the same way, EDpuzzle is a tool that you need to try. EDpuzzle lets you add questions directly into the timeline of the video.



Synth
Conversations about historical events and current events is an important aspect of teaching social studies. Sometimes the constraints of the classroom setting (time, attendance, student dynamics) limit the amount of constructive conversation that takes place. Synth is a free platform that you can use to have students record short podcasts and then reply to each other's podcasts with audio comments of their own. Watch this video to see how it works.



WeVideo
If you want your students to make short documentary-style videos, WeVideo is hard to beat. It works on Chromebooks, Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac (though if you have a Mac, iMovie is just as good). Those who have upgraded WeVideo accounts can even use it to make green screen videos.


RWT Timeline & Sutori
Elementary school teachers who are looking for an easy way for students to create timelines that include pictures should take a look at Read Write Think's Timeline Creator. Students can use it without creating any kind of online account and it's simple to use. Watch this video to see how it works.

Middle school and high school teachers who are looking for ways for their students to create multimedia timelines would do well to try Sutori. Sutori offers a collaborative multimedia timeline tool for students. Students can work together to add pictures, text, and video to timelines that they build in Sutori. Teachers who use Clever or Google Classroom can use those rosters to add students to Sutori.

Now You Can Share a Link to Jump to a Scene in Google Expeditions

In a Tweet yesterday afternoon Google announced a neat little addition to Google Expeditions. You can now share a link to a specific scene within an Expedition.

Previously if you wanted to get all of your students onto the same scene at the same time you had to guide them through the whole Expedition. Now you can just give them a link (posting it in Google Classroom would be a convenient option) and they can click it to jump to the scene. And just like any other URL, you could share it via QR code. My tool of choice for making QR codes is QR Droid, but any QR code generator should work for you.

If you're looking for some help getting started with Google Expeditions, I have a collection of tutorial videos here.



How to Apply Custom Sizing Including Portrait Mode to Google Slides

A couple of days ago someone sent me a Tweet asking if it was possible to arrange Google Slides presentations in portrait mode instead of the default landscape mode. It is possible to do that even though Google Slides doesn't contain a standard "portrait layout" option in any of the editing menus. To put Google Slides into portrait mode you have to apply custom sizing. That option is found when you open the File drop-down menu and select Page Setup. In Page Setup you can apply any size and aspect ratio of your choosing. Watch my short video below to learn how to apply custom sizing to Google Slides.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

One of My Favorite Tools for Quickly Creating Audio Slideshows

Whether it's for an open house night, an awards night, or another school event I'm often asked for a recommendation on a quick and easy way to create an audio slideshow. When the requirement doesn't call for spoken words, my usual recommendation is to try Sharalike.

Making an audio slideshow video on Sharalike is an easy three step process. First, import some pictures into your account. Second, put the pictures into the order in which you want them to appear. Third, select a sound track. Sharalike will do the rest of the video production process for you. When your video is ready you can view it on Sharalike, post it to the social media sites of your choosing, and embed it into a blog post or web page.

Sharalike can be used in your web browser or you can use their free Android app or free iOS app to make a video.

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

How to Use Rubrics in Google Classroom

Earlier this year Google announced a beta test of rubrics feature in Google Classroom. Schools that applied to participate in that program have now started to see the rubrics feature appear. If your domain doesn't have it, watch my video below to see how it works.


As I point out in the video there are a couple of things that could be improved to make Google Classroom rubrics better. First, Google needs to add a way to re-use rubrics from assignment to assignment. Currently, you have to create a new rubric for every assignment. Second, I'd like to see an option to have rubric scores automatically tallied and averaged into the assignment score.

Reminder - Google is Closing Fusion Tables

When it was launched almost a decade ago Google's Fusion Tables was an amazing service for creating data visualizations. Over the years other, better tools emerged for creating data visualizations including Google's own Explore features in Google Sheets. That's why at the end of last year Google announced that Fusion Tables would be shuttered at the end of this year. Google just sent out an email to all Fusion Tables users reminding them that the end is near and that they should use Google Takeout to download any data that they want to save.

One of the things that you could do with Fusion Tables was create maps that were representative of data sets. You can also do that by importing a Google Sheet into Google's My Maps tool. Watch this video to learn how to do that.

My Top 5 Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students

As longtime readers of this blog know, my background is largely in social studies with a smattering of special education and corporate training thrown in for good measure. It's teaching social studies that will always be my first professional love. That's why I always get excited when readers send me questions like the one I got on Monday from a teacher who was looking for ideas about using G Suite and Google products in his classroom. That question inspired me to make a video and send him the following ideas.


VR Tour Creator
This is Google's free service for creating virtual reality tours. In a social studies classroom students can use it to record virtual reality tours of historical landmarks, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, or unique geographic features that spurred the development of civilizations. A playlist of VR Tour Creator tutorials is available here.

Google Earth
Google Earth is available in two versions. The Pro version is the version that you can install on your desktop. That's the version that I prefer if given a choice because it includes more features that the web browser version. Google Earth Pro can be used by students and teachers to record narrated tours and to layer historical imagery on top of current map views. You can find a playlist of Google Earth tutorials here.

Google Books
This is an often overlooked search tool. Google Books provides students with access to millions of free books and periodicals. Google Books really shines when you start looking for work that was published in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. One of the best features of Google Books is the ability to search within a book for a phrase or keyword. Learn how to use Google Books by watching these tutorial videos.

Google Expeditions
This is Google's free virtual reality service. Students can use it to go on more than 800 virtual reality tours. You can either guide students through the tours or let them guide themselves. Take a look at these videos to learn how to start using Google Expeditions.

Google Keep
Google Keep is a bookmarking and note-taking tool that students can use as part of their G Suite for Education accounts. It's a convenient tool to use to save bookmarks with notes. Students can add labels to their bookmarks to make them easy to organize. The best feature is that students can access their Google Keep bookmarks and notes from Google Docs to insert their bookmarks and notes directly into the papers they're writing. Here's a set of Google Keep tutorial videos.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Glide Now Lets You Publish App Templates

Glide is probably my favorite new tool of 2019. The free service lets you take a Google Sheet and quickly turn it into a mobile app. It can be used to create all kinds of apps including staff directories, study guides, scavenger hunts, and local tourism guides. My tutorial on how to use Glide can be seen here.

This week Glide introduced a new feature that lets you share your app as a template. This means that once you've created an app that you like you can share it and let others make a copy of it to modify for their own needs.


Applications for Education
This new feature of Glide could be useful in providing students with a template for an app that they can modify and build upon. Of course, the nature of Glide's basis on Google Sheets makes it possible to students to collaborate on the content displayed within their apps.

Ten Free Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Flowcharts - Updated for 2019-20

Creating a mind map is an excellent way to generate and write down ideas connected to a central topic. I frequently use mind maps to generate ideas for blog posts and for workshop topics. Students can use them to generate ideas for creative writing, to plan presentations, and to record all of the factors contributing to a central event. Flowcharts help students see how a process works from start to finish. Here are ten free tools that students and teachers can use to create mind mind maps and flowcharts.

Google Slides & PowerPoint
If your students have a computer in front of them, they probably have access to either Google Slides or PowerPoint or both. Google Slides and PowerPoint have built-in tools that students can use to create flowcharts. The following videos demonstrate how students can use Google Slides and PowerPoint to create flowcharts. As you'll see in the videos, you can make the flowcharts interactive through the use of linking in PowerPoint and Google Slides.





Bubbl.us
Bubbl.us is a mind mapping and flowchart tool that I've been recommending for more than a decade. It has evolved overtime to keep up with the needs of students, teachers, and other users. Creating mind maps on Bubbl.us is an easy process of simply clicking on the center of your screen then entering the central topic of your mind map. The next step is to add "child" topics or bubbles that are connected to the central topic. Those are added by clicking the "+" that appears while holding your cursor over an existing bubble.




Padlet
Padlet offers templates for creating flowcharts and know, want, learn charts. Unfortunately, you can only make three Padlet walls before you have to either delete one to make a new one or upgrade to a paid plan. The upside to using Padlet is that it's designed for collaboration.



Text2MindMap
This is a mind mapping tool that was a commercial project for a few years before going out of business then coming back as an open-source project supported by Tobias Løfgren. The way that it works is that you type a linear outline and Text2MindMap will automatically generate a corresponding mind map. To use it simply go here, clear the existing text and replace it with your own text. Every line that you type in your outline becomes a node in the mind map. You can create a branch from a node by simply indenting a line in your outline (see my screenshot below for an example).

Post-it App for Android and iOS
The Post-it mobile apps for Android and iOS let you take a picture of physical sticky notes and then sort them on a digital canvas. By the way, you can save 10% on Post-it notes on Amazon when you use the code 10OFFCOLLEGE before October 15th.



MindMup
MindMup is a free mind mapping tool that can be used online, with Google Drive, and on your desktop. MindMup works like most mind mapping tools in that you can create a central idea and add child and sibling nodes all over a blank canvas. MindMup nodes can contain text and links. When you're ready to save your MindMup mind map you can save it to Google Drive, save it to your desktop, or publish it online. If you publish it online, you can grab an embed code for it to post it in a blog post or webpage.

Coggle
Coggle is a collaborative mind-mapping service that is very easy to use. To create a Coggle mind map just sign-in with your Google account and click the "+" icon to start your mind map. After entering the main idea of your mind map you can add branches by clicking the "+" icons that appear next to everything you type. To re-arrange elements just click on them and drag them around your screen. Coggle is a collaborative tool. You can invite others to view and edit your mind maps.



Google Drawings and Google Jamboard
Both of these free Google tools can be used to create mind maps and flowcharts. Drawings has more features than Jamboard. The upside of Jamboard is that it's probably a more intuitive tool for new users. Demonstrations of how to use both tools are embedded below.



SpiderScribe
Spider Scribe is an online mind map creation service. Spider Scribe can be used individually or be used collaboratively. What jumps out about Spider Scribe is that users can add images, maps, calendars, text notes, and uploaded text files to their mind maps. Users can connect the elements on their mind maps or let them each stand on their own. You can embed your interactive SpiderScribe mind map into your blog or website.

Ask Me Anything This Friday

On Friday afternoon at 3pm ET.  I'm recording the next episode of my Practical Ed Tech Live series in which I answer batches of questions that readers like you send to me throughout the week.  This school year I'm opening each broadcast with a recap of some ed tech news that you might have missed in the previous week.

I'll be broadcasting this live on my YouTube channel. (subscribe to my channel to be notified when I go live). You can ask me questions during the broadcast or submit them in advance to ensure that I'll see your question. You can submit questions through the form that is embedded below.

Mozilla Is Shutting Down X-Ray Goggles

Mozilla's X-Ray Goggle's is a service that I've been promoting for years as way to help students understand how HTML works. Students can use it to view and change the HTML behind almost any webpage that they find. The changes happen as a local copy of the page that students could then share with their teachers.

Unfortunately, Mozilla has announced that they are discontinuing support of X-Ray Goggles. On December 16, 2019 Mozilla will close X-Ray Goggles and delete all user data associated with the project.

At the end of their announcement Mozilla recommended looking at Glitch as a possible alternative to X-Ray Goggles. I'd also recommend taking a look at Tynker.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is Now on Apple Podcasts

I recently started the Practical Ed Tech Podcast. So far I have published six episodes including a recent conversation that I had with Dr. Scott McLeod. Some of you have asked when it would be available on Apple Podcasts. The answer is, now. The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts as well as a handful of other platforms including Google Podcasts, RadioPublic, and Spotify. Please give it a listen and let me know what you think about it.


Moving forward the Practical Ed Tech Podcast will be a mix of episodes recorded with guests and episodes of just me sharing news and notes about educational technology while answering questions from readers and listeners.

TeachPhysEd- A Great Library of Videos Demonstrating Phys Ed Lessons

TeachPhysEd is a website and YouTube channel maintained by Coach Benjamin Pirillo. On his YouTube channel Coach Pirillo demonstrates and explains activities for physical education teachers to use in their classrooms. I've watched half a dozen of the videos and have been impressed by his explanations of the rationale for the formatting of the activities and cross-curricular inclusion. Embedded below you can see the latest TeachPhysEd video and my favorite cross-curricular TeachPhysEd activity (yes, the choice reveals my social studies background).


Diving Into Google - Learn Search Techniques from Dan Russell

Longtime followers of this blog may have picked up on my appreciation for Dan Russell's excellent Search ReSearch blog where he posts interesting search challenges designed to help readers become better web researchers. His forthcoming book, The Joy of Search, is sure to be excellent too. If you're not familiar with Dan's work or you are and you want to learn more search techniques, check out this video that he recently posted on his YouTube channel.

Diving into Google: An advanced search methods tutorial is a video of a presentation that he gave at the National Geographic Society back in 2014. The strategies and techniques he covers in the presentation are as useful today as they were five years ago. The best part of the video is that because it is the recording of a live presentation, there is time for you to try some of the techniques while you're watching the video.


On a related note, here's a challenge that I created using the framework that Dan employs: In July my three-year-old daughter found this mushroom (picture below) while we were walking in the woods near our home in Paris, Maine. I initially thought that it might be a Lobster Mushroom but it didn't look quite right so I took a picture of it with my phone so that I could look it up later. What kind of mushroom is it? (I'll post the answer later this week).

Dozens of Constitution Day Activities and Resources

Next Tuesday is Constitution Day in the United States. According to federal law all schools that receive federal funding have to teach some type of lesson about the Constitution on this day. C-SPAN, DocsTeach, and the National Constitution Center all offer either lesson plans or resources for building your own Constitution Day lesson plans.

25 Constitution Day Lesson Plans from C-SPAN Classroom
C-SPAN Classroom offers 25 lesson plans that were either designed for Constitution Day or can be used to meet the requirements of Constitution Day. All of the lesson plans incorporate short video clips addressing topics like enumerated and implied powers of Congress, interpretation of the Constitution, and checks and balances. You can find all of the lesson plans and additional resources in this Google Doc.

Constitution Hall Pass
The National Constitution Center offers an online program called the Constitution Hall Pass. The Constitution Hall Pass is a series of videos mostly featuring scholars discussing elements of the Constitution and issues relating to it. There are also a few "discussion starter" videos that are intended to get students thinking about how the Constitution can have a direct impact on their lives. I know from experience that this Freedom of Expression video and accompanying questions will get high school students talking.

DocsTeach
DocsTeach is a National Archives website that all middle school and high school U.S. History teachers should have in their bookmarks. DocsTeach lets you build online activities based upon curated collections of primary source documents. DocsTeach also provides some pre-made activities that you can give to your students. DocsTeach has sixteen pre-made Constitution Day activities that you can use today. An additional 35 documents and artifacts about the Constitution can be found through a quick search on DocsTeach.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

How to Use the Mindful Internet Use Chrome Extension

On Friday morning I wrote about a Chrome extension called Mindful Internet Use that I recently added to my browser. The extension displays motivation quotes and asks thought-provoking questions whenever you access a time-wasting site like Facebook or stay on a time-wasting activity for too long. It's an interesting alternative to just blocking yourself from going on the sites that you tend to waste time on. In the following video I demonstrate how Mindful Internet Use works.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

2019 Fall Foliage Map - And Why Leaves Change Color

The 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map is a feature of the SmokyMountains.com website. The map displays a week-by-week prediction of when leaves in the continental United States will be changing colors from now through the end of November. You can see the predictions change by moving the timeline at the bottom of the map.

On the same page as the 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map there is a graph of average temperatures in the United States since 1900. The graph is accompanied by a short explanation of why leaves change colors in the fall and the relationship to air temperatures.

Applications for Education
The 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map doesn't tell the whole story of why leaves change colors at different times in different parts of the country. I'd use the incomplete nature of the map's explanation as a jumping-off point for students to hypothesize and investigate why leaves change colors at different times in different parts of the country. I might also have them investigate why some trees have brighter leaves than others in the fall. 

Additional Resources for Teaching and Learning About Fall Foliage
A couple of weeks ago I shared a couple of good videos that explain why leaves change colors in the fall. Those videos are included below.



For an explanation of why leaves change colors that elementary school students can understand, watch the following SciShow Kids video.



Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode #6 Featuring Dr. Scott McLeod

In the last episode of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast I mentioned that I had recently spoken with Dr. Scott McLeod about his new book, co-authored with Julie Graber, Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning. I was going to wait a few more days before publishing the conversation as a podcast, but I couldn't wait. So here it is.

I've known Scott for ten years or more. He's one of the people in the educational technology space that I've always looked up to and trusted for good advice. Our conversation for the podcast ranged beyond just talking about his new book.

You might not be familiar with Scott's written work, but there's a good chance you've seen the video that he did with Karl Fisch, Did You Know; Shift Happens. I kicked off the conversation by asking him, "what's changed since Did You Know; Shift Happens was published twelve years ago?" Give the podcast a listen to hear his response.


The Practical Ed Tech Podcast can be heard on Anchor.fm, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple PodcastsRadio Public, Breaker, and Pocket Casts. And you can find the RSS feed for it here.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it is a little overcast so I thought I'd cheer things up by sharing this picture of a bright flower I saw this week.

As I do at this time every weekend, I have put together a short list of the most popular posts of the last week. This list is based on total views during the previous seven days. Take a look and see if there are any interesting things that you might have missed.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Ten Google Product Updates for Teachers to Note
2. How to Avoid the Google Calendar Scheduling Mistake I Keep Making
3. How to Create and Distribute Google Docs Templates
4. Knoword Offers Fun Vocabulary and Spelling Games
5. Fossils 101 - And How Scientists Know What Color Dinosaurs Were
6. ClassHook Adds Live Discussions for Video Lessons
7. These Cool Cats Will Teach You About Phrasal Verbs

A New On-demand Professional Development Course
This week I launched a new on-demand version of my popular Getting Going With G Suite course. You can sign-up now and complete it at your pace.

Thank You for Your Support!
  • More than 375 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech webinar this year. Thank you!
  • Pixton is a fantastic tool for students to use to create digital stories. Get started by using their free "Truth or Lie" lesson plan. 
  • PrepFactory offers free, personalized SAT and ACT prep. 
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County has been supporting this blog for many years.
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides FreeTech4Teachers.com and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - More than 15,000 are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has nearly 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last twelve years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Email 101 - And Some Time-saving Tips

We're all busy. And the new school year can feel exceptionally busy. That's not an excuse to ignore basic email etiquette like addressing a person by name when sending him or her a message for the first time or for the first time in a while. Here are a few videos that offer good advice and guidelines for using email in a polite manner.

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

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



Watch Clear Email Communication by Common Craft to learn how to get a recipient's attention and how to get a response from that recipient.



I was reminded of these lessons this morning when I opened my inbox to three emails from people that I don't know asking me for help with their tech problems. As a teacher it's in my nature to help people. But I'm going to put a lot more effort into helping when I know the other person can at least take the time to type my name.

Time-saving Email Tips
In the following video I highlighted five features of Gmail that teachers should know how to use. A few of these can be big time-savers for you.


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

Ten Sites & Apps to Help Students Learn New Vocabulary Words - Updated for 2019-20

There was a time when I regularly published longer lists of helpful sites and apps. Over the last few years I got away from doing that with any regularity because I wasn't sure that anyone really benefited from them. But in the last month I've been asked a handful of questions that could have been answered by having a current list. All that is to say that I'm going to start publishing some lists with regularity. First up is the following list of good sites and apps for helping students learn new vocabulary words.

Knoword
This is a game that has been around for nearly a decade. It continues to evolve with the times. The latest version of Knoword has three levels for students to play. The game is played the same way across all three levels. To play the game simply pick a level and then hit "Begin." Once you begin you have 90 seconds to correctly spell as many words as possible. The catch is that you have guess what words to spell based on the definitions that are provided. It's a bit like Jeopardy in that way. You can earn more time to keep the game going by getting streaks of five correct words in row.

Math Vocabulary Cards
Understanding the vocabulary of mathematics is often the first step that students need to take in order to be able to solve math problems. Math Vocabulary Cards can help students overcome that challenge. Math Vocabulary Cards is a free tool designed for elementary school students. The app (available for iOS and for Chrome) offers exactly what its name implies, a series of flashcards of mathematics vocabulary terms. Each card contains a term, a diagram, and a definition. By default the term is hidden and students have to guess the term based on the definition and diagram. Students can also use the cards with the definitions hidden and the terms revealed.

World's Worst Pet
This is an app that has been around for five or six years. While it hasn't had a significant update recently, it still works well on iPads running the latest version of iOS. In the app players have to help bring home Snargg, the world’s worst pet, who has run away. To get Snargg back players have to fill his food dish by learning new vocabulary words. Each of the six levels in the game contain ten dishes (each dish represents a new set of words) that can be filled. Four games are available for each dish. The games are fill-in-the-blank, synonym identification, antonym identification, and definition identification. The app contains a total of 1,000 vocabulary words.

Vocabulary.com
Vocabulary.com is an excellent vocabulary study service offering thousands of vocabulary practice lists and activities for students in elementary school through graduate school. In addition to lists of SAT, GRE, and other test prep words, you can find vocabulary lists that are attached to novels, historical documents, famous speeches, and current news articles. When you sign up for Vocabulary.com you will be given an assessment quiz in order to give you suggested lists with which to start your practice. After completing the assessment you can use the practice lists suggested by Vocabulary.com or choose your own lists from the huge gallery of vocabulary lists.

Flippity Flashcards
Flippity is a great service that offers templates for creating all kinds of things in Google Sheets including multimedia flashcards. You or your students can use Flippity's flashcard template to create flashcards for any words or phrases that you choose. The flashcards created through the template are displayed on their own stand-alone webpages. Watch my video below to see how it works.


Winning Words
Winning Words is a series of seven iPad apps that feature matching / “memory” style vocabulary games. There are six apps in the series. Each app is played in the same manner of flipping a card and trying to find a match for it. The six apps are synonym match, antonym match, homophone match, compound match, double letter match, verb match, and singular/plural match. Each app supports up to four players and has three levels of difficulty.

PrepFactory
PrepFactory is a free service that offers students a great selection of free SAT and ACT preparation activities. PrepFactory focuses on helping students develop good test-taking strategies while also not boring them with dozens of continuous rote exercises. But before students even dive into the practice activities they can work through in-depth strategy review activities. To help students know what strategy to review or which practice assessment to take, PrepFactory has students complete diagnostics activities.

Vocabulist
This is a site that was developed by a high school student (who is now a Harvard student). Vocabulist enables students to upload a document and have it extract words and definitions from it. Each word in the document is matched to a definition. If the definition rendered isn't exactly right, students can modify it within Vocabulist. Once the list of words and definitions is set students can download the list as a PDF or export the list to Quizlet where it will then be turned into a set of digital flashcards. (Students must have a Quizlet account).

New Tab Quizlet
New Tab Quizlet is a Chrome extension that will display a flashcard from your Quizlet sets whenever you open a new tab. If you have questions on your cards, you'll see the question and answer. If you have vocabulary words on your cards, you'll see the word and definition.

VocabAhead
VocabAhead offers videos and flashcards that are designed to help students learn new vocabulary words. The website hosts animated videos that explain what words mean in context. Next to each video there is a set of corresponding flashcards.

Disclosure: PrepFactory is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Workshops I Can Run for Your Next PD Day

Over the last ten years I've had the good fortune to run workshops and give presentations at hundreds of schools and conferences. I'm frequently asked what I cover in my workshops and keynotes. Some of the outlines and slides from those presentations have appeared in blog posts in the past. But my list of workshops and keynote topics is always evolving with the times and technologies available to schools. That said, here are the ten most popular workshops that I'm currently offering to schools for your next professional development day.

  • A combination of any of the following can be done. Just fill out the form below and I'll be in touch ASAP.
  • Teaching History With Technology
  • Getting Going With G Suite
  • AR, VR, and Mixed Reality in Education 
  • DIY App Creation  
  • Teaching Search Strategies Students Need to Know 
  • Fast & Fun Formative Assessments  
  • Making & Teaching With Video 
  • To Geography and Beyond With Google Earth & Maps 
  • Blending Technology Into Outdoor Learning 
  • Keeping Track With Google Keep, Calendar, and Classroom
All of these workshops can be modified according to grade level (elementary, middle, high), the technology available to teachers and students, and to time allotted for professional development. 

If you're interested in having me run a professional development workshop at your school, please get in touch with me at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com or complete the short form below. 




Throughout the year I host live professional development webinars over on PracticalEdTech.com. Join the Practical Ed Tech newsletter to be notified when those webinars are scheduled.