Friday, November 15, 2019

How to Create a Great Presentation With Canva

Canva is a great design tool that I have been using for years to design social media graphics, posters, infographics, business cards, greeting cards, and tee shirts. Recently, I've started using Canva to create presentations too. There are a few things that I really like about using Canva to create presentations. First, Canva has great templates that are perfect for folks like me who don't have a great eye for design. Second, when I embed the presentation into a webpage or blog post the presentation automatically resizes for the space available. Third, Canva presentations can quickly be published as a nice stand-alone webpage. In the following video I demonstrate all of those features and more found in Canva's presentation creation tools.


Applications for Education
As I mentioned in the video above, Canva's presentation tool includes the option to publish your presentation as a simple stand-alone webpage. Using that option could be a great way for students to assemble a simple portfolio of their work for parents and others to see.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode #19 - Great Google Slides Update and More

This morning I published the latest episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. In this episode I shared the exciting, for some, news about Google Slides and some not-so-exciting news about how Google is using health data. The episode also features a handful of other updates from the world of educational technology that is worth considering. In the second half of the episode I answered a handful of questions from readers, listeners, and viewers like you. My favorite question, and the one I rambled about for a while, was about crafting conference proposals. Find the complete show notes here.

Listen to episode #19 of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast right here or on your favorite podcast app.



You can listen to all episodes of the podcast here or find them on the following podcast networks:

How to Make & Play "Fling the Teacher" Games

Earlier this week I wrote a post about a new game template from Classtools called Fling the Teacher. The game lets students slingshot or "fling" an image of their teachers after they answer fifteen multiple choice questions. In the following video I demonstrate how the game is played and how you can create your own Fling the Teacher game.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

How to Use Wakelet to Gather Feedback from Students

Wakelet is a great tool for creating collections of bookmarks, pictures, documents, videos, and more. It is free, easy to use, and offers privacy settings that you can easily control. It also offers a couple of easy ways to have students collaborate on creating collections. Because of the collaboration option I have been suggesting to some people that Wakelet can be a good way to collect feedback from your students in the forms of videos and pictures. In the following video I demonstrate how you can use Wakelet to post a prompt for your students then have them respond to it with pictures or videos.

My Three Step Method for Producing a Podcast

One of my new projects for this school year is producing The Practical Ed Tech Podcast every week. I'm now up to nineteen published episode (not twenty-one as I thought earlier this week). I've had a handful of people ask me about the process and the tools that I'm using to record and publish the podcast. It's actually a really simple process that only involves three tools that anyone can learn rather quickly. Those tools are Screencast-o-matic, Garage Band, and Anchor.fm. Those tools and my process for using them are demonstrated in the following video.


Step 1: Record a video in Screencast-o-matic. 

  • I use the desktop version of Screencast-o-matic which costs $18/year. But you could use the free online version if you stay under 15 minutes per recording. 
  • I record a video because I like to post it on my YouTube channel for those who prefer the YouTube option over using a podcast player app. 
Step 2: Import video into Garage Band. 
  • I import the video into Garage Band where I then extract the audio to create an MP3.
Step 3: Upload audio to Anchor.fm
  • I use Anchor to host my podcast because they make it super easy to have the podcast distributed to all major podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 
Applications for Education
Is this the fanciest podcast on the web? No. Is it a quick and simple way to produce a podcast? Yes. If you're looking for a way to start a podcast yourself or with your students, my method could be a good way to start to see if you like doing it. Then after you make that decision you could expand your editing and production skills. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

How to Create Image Overlays in Google Earth

Google Earth is one of my favorite tools to use in history and geography lessons. Google Earth enables students to see and explore places in ways that printed maps and images never could. One of the features of Google Earth that I love to use in history lessons is the image overlay function.

In the following video I demonstrate how to create image overlays in Google Earth.


Applications for Education
Image overlays in Google Earth let students make comparisons of historical maps with current maps. Image overlays can also be used to overlay different map types on top of the default Google Earth imagery.

The Library of Congress has a great collection of nearly 40,000 historical maps that students can download and reuse for free. That's where I got the image for this blog post as well as the image overlaid in the video above.

Google Earth can be used for a lot more than just social studies lessons. In fact, I have a Practical Ed Tech on-demand webinar about that topic.

Update About the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference

Last month I announced the free Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference that I'm hosting in December. The presenters have been chosen and in the next few days the final schedule of presentations will be announced. There are going to be presentations that are appropriate for teachers of students of all ages. Some of the topics to be covered include coding, drones, 3D printing, video reflections, and assistive technology.

The Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference is a free, online event that will happen on December 10th, 11th, and 12th. You can register for the conference right here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Submit Questions for The Practical Ed Tech Podcast

Later this week I'll publish the nineteenth episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. That's beaten the law averages when it comes to podfading. Except for the episodes that have guests, every episode follows the same pattern. That pattern is an opening with news and notes from the week in ed tech, followed by some thoughts from classroom, and the episodes conclude with me answering a handful of questions from readers and listeners like you. If you have a question that you would like me to answer on the podcast (I usually answer them in direct email too), please put it in the short form that is embedded below.

How to Schedule Video Releases on YouTube

YouTube has a lot of helpful little features that are often overlooked. One of those features is the option to upload videos and schedule them to appear at a later time. This can be great if you have a YouTube channel that you want keep updated with a regular schedule of new releases, but only have one day every week or two to create new videos. Scheduling releases is also great if you are trying to build up anticipation for an event like a school talent show, a concert, or sporting event.

In the following video I demonstrate how to schedule video releases on your YouTube channel.

How to Create a Multimedia Timeline Through Google Sheets

Timeline JS is one of my all-time favorite tools for use in history classes. It is always at the top of my list of tools for creating timelines. Timeline JS allows you to create a Google Sheet that then becomes a multimedia timeline. In your Google Sheet you can add links to pictures, maps, videos, and audio files. Of course, there is also plenty of space for writing in the timeline.

Five years ago I published a video tutorial on how to use Timeline JS. While that video is still good, there have been a few changes to Timeline JS over the last five years. Therefore, I created a new tutorial on how to use Timeline JS to create a multimedia timeline. That tutorial is embedded below.


Applications for Education
The obvious aspect of Timeline JS is the ability for students to create multimedia timelines to publish online. The thing that I often have to point out about Timeline JS is that because it does rely on Google Sheets, it can be a collaborative creation tool. Have one student start the spreadsheet then share it with his or her classmates. Similarly, you could start a timeline template for your students then distribute it as an assignment through Google Classroom.

Monday, November 11, 2019

It's Official! Google Slides Will Have Native Audio Support by End of November

Last night I published a post in which I speculated that Google is rolling out the "insert audio" feature to more G Suite accounts. This afternoon my speculation became reality when Google announced that all G Suite accounts will have the option to insert audio into Google Slides by the end of November. Read Google's statement here.

If you haven't seen the "insert audio" feature, watch my short video that is embedded below for a demonstration.



And if you're looking for a quick and easy way to record audio, try the new version of Vocaroo that I demonstrate in the following video.

More Than 30,000 Historical Maps for Student Projects

This morning I was looking for a historical map of Mount Vernon to overlay onto Google Earth imagery. (I'm publishing a video about that later this week). I was able to find exactly what I was looking for in the historical map collection available through the Library of Congress. LOC's online historical map collection has nearly 38,000 items for visitors to view. Many of the maps are in the public domain or have Creative Commons licenses. You can browse and search for maps in the collection according to date, location, subject, language, collection, and contributor.

Applications for Education
Historical maps can provide students with perspective on how physical and political landscapes have changed over time. Putting historical and current maps side-by-side is one of the easiest ways for students to see and make comparisons. Layering historical maps on top of current maps is another good way to do that. Google Earth makes layering maps possible.

Now You Can Use Vocaroo Without Flash

For more than a decade I've used Vocaroo.com whenever I've needed to quickly create an audio recording. The one complaint it about was that it required the use of Flash. And with Flash being deprecated in 2020 it looked like Vocaroo wouldn't be in my toolbox any longer. That changed when I noticed that Vocaroo has a new version that doesn't require Flash. The new version is in beta and can be used at beta.vocaroo.com.

The beta version of Vocaroo works the same way as the classic version just without the annoying step of enabling Flash. As you can see in my demo below, just go to the site and click record to start recording your audio. When you're done recording you can download an MP3 or embed your recording into a webpage.


Applications for Education
One of the ways that I've used Vocaroo over the years is for recording substitute teacher plans. I simply record my directions for the day and then post them either on my classroom blog or in Google Classroom.

Fling the Teacher! - A Fun Review Game from Classtools

Russel Tarr recently added a new game template to the toolbox available on Classtools.net. The new game is called Fling the Teacher. Fling the Teacher lets students fling or slingshot their teachers across the screen for up to sixty seconds after they correctly answer fifteen consecutive multiple choice questions. Try it for yourself with this demo game.

You can create your own Fling the Teacher game by simply going to Classtools.net and then choosing the Fling the Teacher template. You'll then have the option to click "create your own" (bottom, left corner of the screen) where you can write your own questions and answer choices. Classtools will automatically shuffle answer choices when the questions are presented to students.

Your complete Fling the Teacher game will be assigned a unique URL for you to give to your students. Classtools will also generate a QR code and an embed code for you to use. Fling the Teacher games can be played on computers, tablets, and phones.

Applications for Education
Fling the Teacher could provide students with a fun reward for successfully completing a review quiz. Of course, you could also have your students make their own review games with the Fling the Teacher template.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

How to Add Audio to Google Slides - Updated

Earlier this evening I Tweeted that another of my Google Slides accounts now has access to the native audio feature that Google teased us with earlier this year. I now have it in one of my G Suite Edu domains and in one of my personal accounts. I'm taking this as a sign that Google is starting to roll it out to more users. That prompted me to create this short video overview of how to add audio to Google Slides.


Another Way to Add Audio to Google Slides

If your Google Slides account doesn't have the new insert audio feature, there is a method that you can use to insert audio into your Google Slides presentations. That method is outlined in the following videos.




Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good afternoon from Maine where all the leaves have turned brown and the air has turned cold. We had our first snowfall of the year this week and the local ski mountain opened this morning. Winter isn't far away. Staying indoors all day just because it's cold is a recipe disaster in our house so we all bundled up and played outside this morning. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you get time to play outside this weekend too.

This week I hosted a webinar about formative assessment methods. If you missed it, you can get the recorded version of it here.

These were the most popular posts of the week:
1. My Updated Five Favorite Google Slides Add-ons
2. Plagiarism Explained by Common Craft - Updated
3. Three Tools for Recording The Great Thanksgiving Listen
4. The Great Thanksgiving Listen is Back!
5. Get Instant Feedback on Your Presentations With Presenter Coach
6. Create Random Story Starters With This Flippity Template
7. How to Randomly Shuffle Google Slides Presentations

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
I'm already booking my 2020 workshop and conference schedule. This will be my tenth year of speaking at schools and conferences. Send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more.

On-demand PD
On PracticalEdTech.com I have seven professional development webinars available to view whenever you like.

Thank You for Your Support!
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 16,000 are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is where I answer questions from readers, share news and notes, and occasionally talk to interesting people in education. 
  • 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. 

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast Episode #18

This morning I published the eighteenth episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. In this episode I shared a handful of new resources for teachers and students including a great tool that can help students improve their presentations and a great resource for introducing primary sources to elementary school students. As always, in the podcast I answered a handful of questions from readers and listeners. Those questions are included below the recording that is embedded below. Get the complete show notes here.

Listen to episode 18 of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast right here, as embedded below, or on your favorite podcast network.



You can listen to all episodes of the podcast here or find them on the following podcast networks:

Questions from readers answered in the podcast:

Are there any free or inexpensive sites where I can have a webinar with my class and use a whiteboard? 
Really liked your video on Google Drive Any way one can change the DIRECTORY view columns or (for that matter) widen 'File" column (or change the point size of lettering - to see more of the file name) or remove columns "Owner" & "Modified."

I’m aware of all the online sites which can randomly select a name after you upload a list of student names But... I’m looking for a way to upload photos of my students so I can randomly have the site select a photo. (The students are learning how to use adjectives to describe themselves and I would like to project a face onto the screen randomly) I can’t seem to find a site or a method that makes it easy to accomplish this feat... Any ideas? 
I love the automatic grading in Google Forms. My question is, is there way to set a time limit on the quiz but still be able to let kids who are absent take the quiz when they come back to school?  
Our students are about to begin a project creating videos through still images and perhaps some recorded video chunks on their phones. I would like to have them be able to do voice overs, but am unsure of a good web based video editor that I can use that 9th graders can navigate and store their information. Do you have any suggestions for me? 

A Classic Geography Tool - Overlap Maps

As I mentioned on the latest episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast, last week I was reminded of a great little geography site called Overlap Maps. I hadn't used it in a long time so I went to see if it was still functioning as it did when I was regularly using it seven years ago. I was pleased to find that Overlap Maps still works as well as it did when I first started using it in 2012.

Overlap Maps can be used to quickly create visual comparisons of the size of countries, states, provinces, and some bodies of water. To create a comparison of two countries select one country from the "overlap this" menu and select one country from the "onto this" menu. The comparisons you make are displayed on a map. You can make comparisons from different categories. For example, you can overlap Lake Ontario onto the state of Rhode Island. Or, as is pictured in my screenshot, you can compare the size of a state in one country to that of a province in another. 

Applications for Education
Overlap Maps is a handy little tool to help students gain perspective of the relative size of places that they study in their geography lessons.

Thanksgiving Chemistry

The Thanksgiving Turkey Compilation from the Reactions YouTube channel explains two concepts related to the traditional Thanksgiving turkey. 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.


Applications for Education
This video could be a good introduction to a science lesson or a culinary arts lesson (I'm looking at you Erik & Norma). Of course, if you're worried that your students might not pay attention all the way through the video, you could use a tool like EDpuzzle to build questions into the video. In the following video I demonstrate how to use EDpuzzle for that purpose.

Friday, November 8, 2019

The History of Thermometers and Barometers

Many moons ago when I was an undergrad I took a meteorology course. It was my favorite course outside of my major. I'm still fascinated by weather and weather forecasting. In fact, for my next career I might become a meteorologist. All that to say, I was naturally interested when I came across a Met Office (the UK's national weather service) video about the history of the thermometer and then a YouTube-suggested TED-Ed video The History of the Barometer.

Fahrenheit to Celsius: History of the Thermometer is an eight minute overview of the evolution of thermometers and their units of measurement. The video begins with an introduction to the earliest attempts to measure temperature before progressing into the work of Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit and Anders Celsius. The video explains how Fahrenheit settled on his standards for the freezing and boiling points of water. The video also explains how Anders Celsius did the same and why his original scale is the opposite of what we read on Celsius thermometers today.


The History of the Barometer is a TED-ED lesson that explains how a barometer works and how it was developed. The majority of the video is spent on explaining how the work of Galileo and Evangelista Torricelli contributed to how we measure barometric pressure today.

Mapping Thanksgiving

Where Does Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? is an interactive storymap that displays where eight popular Thanksgiving foods are grown and harvested in the United States. The storymap includes a map for each ingredient. Each map shows the locations of commercial producers. Fun facts are included in the storymap too. For example, did you know that Illinois has at least twice as many acres of pumpkins as any state?



Applications for Education
When I shared it last year I suggested using it as a way to spark students' curiosity to investigate questions about the origins of traditional Thanksgiving foods. This year I'd like to suggest that students can create their own storymaps about Thanksgiving. Students could do that with tools provided by ESRI. An easy way to do it is to use StoryMap JS. In the following video I demonstrate how to create a storymap with StoryMap JS.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Get Instant Feedback on Your Presentations With Presenter Coach

Presenter Coach is one of best features to be added to PowerPoint in a long time. Presenter Coach is found in the online version of PowerPoint that anyone can use with a free Microsoft account. Presenter Coach will give you feedback on the pacing of your presentations, your use of filler words, and your use of sensitive phrases. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Presenter Coach in PowerPoint.


Applications for Education
Presenter Coach has the potential to be a great tool for students to use a few times before presenting in front of their classmates. Even students who don't normally get nervous about giving presentations or think that they're good at giving presentations may be surprised at how many filler words they use or how quickly they speak.

Plagiarism Explained by Common Craft - Updated

Plagiarism and issues around copyright are topics that I am passionate about. That's why I was happy to see my friends at Common Craft release an updated version of their video explanation of plagiarism. Plagiarism Explained by Common Craft does a good job explaining what plagiarism is and how to avoid unintentionally plagiarizing a work. To that end, the video includes an example of citing information that many students might not think they would need to cite.


On a related note, a couple of years ago my friend Dr. Beth Holland and I hosted a free webinar about copyright as it pertains to school settings. The recording of that webinar is embedded below.



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

Create Random Story Starters With This Flippity Template

This morning I answered an email from a reader named Brian who wrote,
"I’m looking for a way to upload photos of my students so I can randomly have the site select a photo. (The students are learning how to use adjectives to describe themselves and I would like to project a face onto the screen randomly) I can’t seem to find a site or a method that makes it easy to accomplish this feat... Any ideas?"
I think Brian's idea is a good one and one that can be accomplished with the random name picker template offered by Flippity.

Flippity's random name picker template lets you enter a list of names and a list of pictures into a Google Sheet to then randomly select names with corresponding pictures. The trick of adding pictures to the template is that the pictures must be hosted online so that you can link to them in your Google Sheet.

While Flippity's random name picker template was designed for randomly selecting a student from a list, you could substitute any words or phrases in place of names and insert pictures of anything that you like. You could insert a list of story starter words and pictures for your students to write about. Run the picker whenever you want students to see a new writing prompt.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

How to Randomly Shuffle Google Slides Presentations

Last week I wrote a short blog post about a neat Google Slides add-on called Slides Randomizer. The add-on will randomly shuffle a Google Slides presentation for you. It's easy to use and, as I explain the video below, it could be a good tool to use to have students practice putting a sequence of events or steps of process into the correct order. Watch my video below to see how Slides Randomizer works.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Three Tools for Recording The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Last week I shared the news that StoryCorps is once again hosting The Great Thanksgiving Listen. This is an annual event intended to encourage people to record family stories during the month of November. StoryCorps offers a free mobile app that you can use to record interviews with family members. That's not the only tool that students can use to record stories during The Great Thanksgiving Listen. Here are some other good options for recording interviews.

Anchor.fm
Anchor offers recording and editing tools that you can use in your web browser for free. One of the convenient aspects of Anchor's browser-based tool is that you can combine multiple clips into one final product. That means that you can take breaks during the recording and come back to finish later if you want to. You can also use that feature to combine multiple interviews into one final audio recording. Here's a tutorial to help you get started using Anchor.fm.

Audacity and GarageBand
If you're looking to use a tool that doesn't require constant internet access then you'll want to try Audacity (Windows) or GarageBand (Mac). Both of these tools offer everything you could ever need for a classroom audio production project. Tutorials to help you get started with both tools are embedded below.






Microphones for Audio Recording
You could use the internal microphone on your computer, tablet, or phone. You'll get a better sound quality if you record with an external microphone. There are two microphones that I use and recommend. The first is the Snowball ICE Microphone from Blue Designs. For a much cheaper option I use and recommend this three pack of lapel microphones for $7.

Webinar Tomorrow - Five Fun Formative Assessment Methods

One of the ways that I am able to keep Free Technology for Teachers afloat is through the in-person and online training services that I offer. On that note, tomorrow afternoon I'm hosting a new webinar titled Five Fun Formative Assessment Methods.

This webinar will go beyond the typical Kahoot and Gimkit type of games that are probably already prevalent in your school. In this webinar you will learn how to use free tech tools to create and conduct fun, engaging, and informative formative assessments. Whether you teach elementary school, middle school, or high school, you will come away from this webinar with fun formative assessment activities that you can do tomorrow.

Five Things You Can Learn In This Webinar:
1. What makes a formative assessment valuable to you while also fun for students.
2. How to create fun formative assessments for classrooms that aren’t 1:1.
3. Why you should leverage students’ picture-taking habits for formative assessment.
4. Development of engaging formative assessment activities that use a variety of question formats.
5. How to include students in the creation of formative assessments.

Register here.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

My Updated Five Favorite Google Slides Add-ons

Earlier this year I published a rundown of my five favorite Google Slides add-ons. Since then a couple of those add-ons have gone the way of the 5.25" floppy disk. Fortunately, I've recently discovered a couple of new Google Slides add-ons that I really like. Here's the updated list of my five favorite Google Slides add-ons.


Slido Polls
Slido is a polling service that offers a free Google Slides add-on and companion Chrome extension. The combination of the two tools makes it easy for anyone who uses Google Slides to quickly create and launch polls directly within the Google Slides editor. The thing that I like about Slido is that you can see your students' responses without having to toggle between presentation and editing modes in Google Slides. Your students' responses pop-up on the screen in realtime. Your students respond to your Slido poll or survey by simply going to Slido.com on their laptops or phones and then entering the code that appears on your polling slide. Watch my short video below to see how easy it is to create, run, and respond to a poll made with Slido in Google Slides.



Grackle
Grackle is a service that will check your Google Documents, Slides, and Sheets for accessibility. It is available as an Add-on for Google Docs, for Google Slides, and for Google Sheets. When you run Grackle's accessibility checker it will identify places where your slide doesn't meet accessibility standards. It makes suggestions for improvement on the areas in which your document, slide, or sheet doesn't meet accessibility standards. Some of the suggestions can be implemented with just a click from the Grackle Add-on menu while others are changes that you will have to make yourself.

Slides Randomizer
Slides Randomizer is a Google Slides add-on that will randomly shuffle a set of Google Slides. It's easy to use the Slides Randomizer add-on. Once you've installed the add-on simply select Slides Randomizer from the add-ons drop-down menu while viewing your slides then click on "randomize presentation." Right before the slides shuffle you'll be asked if you want to include the title slide in the shuffle or leave it at the beginning of the presentation. You can always undo the shuffling of your presentation by reverting to the previous version in the "version history" menu found in the "File" drop-down menu.

Unsplash Photos for Google Slides
Unsplash Photos Google Slides add-on gives you instant access to Unsplash's collection of free, royalty-free photographs. In the following video I demonstrate how to add the Add-on to your Google Slides, how to use Unsplash Photos, and I explain the licensing of Unsplash Photos.



Easy Accents
This add-on appeared in my list of recommended Google Docs add-ons. I recommend the Google Slides version of it too. Easy Accents for Google Slides is easy to use. When you have it installed you can launch it on any slide. Type as you normally would until you need to add an accent mark that isn't easy to create on your keyboard. Then just insert the letter and accent mark that you need from the Easy Accents keyboard. After inserting the letter and accent mark you can go back to typing on your physical keyboard.  Easy Accents for Google Slides currently supports more than twenty languages.

Formative Assessment, Search, and Listening - The Week in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on the first Saturday in November. Tomorrow the sun will set an hour earlier after we turn our clocks back tonight for the end of Daylight Saving Time. On that note, here are three short lessons about Daylight Saving Time.

My kids, dogs, and I had lots of time outside today. We're all happiest when we can play outside. I hope that you got to do whatever makes you happiest this weekend too.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Slides Randomizer - A Neat Google Slides Add-on
2. Two Ways I'm Using Pictures in Formative Assessments This Fall
3. How to Adjust the Captions on YouTube Videos
4. How Vocabulary Lists Help Students Conduct Better Searches
5. The Great Thanksgiving Listen is Back!
6. How My Students Are Using Google Sheets With Their Arduino Projects
7. A Five Minute Explanation of How Google Search Works

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
I'm already booking my 2020 workshop and conference schedule. This will be my tenth year of speaking at schools and conferences. Send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more.

On-demand PD
On PracticalEdTech.com I have seven professional development webinars available to view whenever you like.

Thank You for Your Support!
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 16,000 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, November 1, 2019

Slide Tricks, Candy, and Maps - The Month in Review

October has come and gone. As I do at the end of every month I have looked through my Google Analytics account to find the most read posts of the last month. The most popular posts in October centered around Google Slides tricks and tips, making educational games, and a source of historical maps. Take a look at the list and see if there is something interesting that you missed in the last month.



These were the most popular posts in October:
1. 5 Handy Google Slides Features You Might Be Overlooking
2. Slido - Create and Run Polls Within Your Google Slides
3. Educandy - Quickly Create Educational Games from Word Lists
4. Math & Science Halloween Lessons
5. Actively Learn - Find & Create Engaging Reading Assignments and More
6. How to Find and Edit Thousands of Halloween Games for Your Classroom
7. topoView - View and Download Thousands of Historical Maps
8. Kami - Annotate PDFs in Google Drive
9. How to Create Vocabulary Games on Educandy
10. Using Google Slides to Design a Mobile App

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
I'm already booking my 2020 workshop and conference schedule. This will be my tenth year of speaking at schools and conferences. Send me an email at richard (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more.

On-demand PD
On PracticalEdTech.com I have seven professional development webinars available to view whenever you like.

Thank You for Your Support!
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 16,000 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. 

The Great Thanksgiving Listen is Back!


For the fifth year in a row StoryCorps is hosting The Great Thanksgiving Listen. This annual event is an effort to get families to talk and record their stories around the Thanksgiving table. The project was originally developed to get high school students to record the stories of their parents, grandparents, and other older family members. It has expanded over the years to be open to anyone who wants to participate. You can contribute your stories to a national collection or keep them private for just your family to enjoy.

StoryCorps provides materials to help students and teachers get involved in The Great Thanksgiving Listen. The resources for teachers include lesson plans, handouts, and even letters and a permission slip that you can send home to help explain the project to parents. To record interviews students can use the StoryCorps mobile apps (iOS version, Android version) or any other recording tool that you feel is appropriate for your students.

Applications for Education
I love Thanksgiving and I love oral histories. If I was still teaching social studies (I teach computer science now) I would have my students participate in The Great Thanksgiving Listen as a way to have them gather local history stories in the context of personal stories. Before The Great Thanksgiving Listen came along I did this kind of project with a social studies class by having them record their parents' and grandparents' stories about going to our local county fair.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast Episode #17 - Ninjas, Gladiators, and Copyright

It's Friday afternoon and I've just finished recording the seventeenth episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. In this episode I address some questions around a Tweet I made last Saturday, discuss my infuriating experience of defending my copyright rights, and share my thoughts about talking with students about topics that can be a bit polarizing. As usual, the podcast begins with some news and notes from the world of ed tech. The episode ends with my answers to a handful of questions from readers, listeners, and viewers like you.

You can listen to episode 17 of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast right here or on your podcast network. The show notes are available in this Google Doc.



You can listen to all episodes of the podcast here or find them on the following podcast networks:

Last Call for Creativity Conference Proposals

In about six weeks from now I'll be hosting the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference. It is a free online event. The list of conference presentations will be finalized in the next couple of weeks. If you would like to give a presentation, the proposal form is open until midnight (Eastern Time) tonight.

If you have an idea that you would like to present, please complete this short presentation proposal form. If you've never presented in a webinar format before, I'll give you some training in advance.


Register to Attend
  • It's Free! Register here and you’ll be registered for all live sessions (it will be recorded for those who cannot attend the live broadcasts).
    • December 10th at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm ET.
    • December 11th at 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm ET.
    • December 12th at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm ET.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Five Minute Explanation of How Google Search Works

Last week Google published a new video that explains how Google Search works. The video presents an explanation of the factors that contribute to why some pages rank higher in the results page than others. The video also explains the factors that can contribute to a change in the ranking of a webpage.


Applications for Education
Understanding the basics of how webpages are ranked by Google can be helpful to students in evaluating the relevance of a page to their own research of a topic.

Of course, this video is just scratches the surface of what students need to know when it comes to understanding search. To learn more about search check out the list of search strategies I included in the free Practical Ed Tech Handbook or watch my on-demand webinar Search Strategies Students Need to Know.

An Easier Way to Add Images to Blogger Posts

Over the last couple of weeks I've received a few emails from people who were having trouble with images not loading on Blogger blog posts. I've also had a couple of little issue with image uploads. The trouble appears to be that the default image uploader in Blogger doesn't fully load. The work-around for the problem is to simply drag and drop an image from your desktop into your blog post. In the following video I demonstrate how that works.


The downside to this method is that it doesn't give you an option to re-use an image that is already stored in your Blogger blog (other than uploading it again). The upside to this method is that it is a little faster.

How My Students Are Using Google Sheets With Their Arduino Projects

The students in one of my classes are starting to make some Arduino-powered gadgets. I let them choose what they wanted to build so I have some that are making cars, one making a Bluetooth-connected locks, and couple making a variation of this Hacking STEM project. In other words, there are a lot of things going on at once with 13 students working on different projects at the same time.

I am fortunate in that I have a fairly generous budget for buying supplies for my class. I have a lot of Arduino-compatible parts available to my students. My students can pick and choose the parts that they need to use. But I need a way to keep track of parts they're using. I set up a Google Form that they use to record the parts they take from the collection. That makes it easy to see who has which parts. 

When we started our exploration of Arduino I had students just writing in their notebooks or Google Docs to document what they were trying to accomplish. That was fine at first. Before too long that got a little messy when it came time for me to review what they were doing. That was partly my fault because I didn't give them a structure for recording their trials and observations. 

Keeping Track of Parts and Progress With Google Sheets
To satisfy the need to keep track of parts and the need for a clear way to review what students are working on, I set up a Google Sheets template that all of my students are now following. In the Google Sheet template there is a sheet for parts used and parts needed. There is a second sheet included on which students document problems they've encountered, solutions they've tried, and solutions that worked. You can view a copy of the template right here

Arduino Parts Suppliers
There are two suppliers that I've used for Arduino parts. Those are Elegoo and SparkFun. The Elegoo Mega 2560 (affiliate link) is a good place to start if you're looking to get started with some simple Arduino projects with your students. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Slides Randomizer - A Neat Google Slides Add-on


Slides Randomizer is a Google Slides add-on that will randomly shuffle a set of Google Slides. It's easy to use the Slides Randomizer add-on. Once you've installed the add-on simply select Slides Randomizer from the add-ons drop-down menu while viewing your slides then click on "randomize presentation." Right before the slides shuffle you'll be asked if you want to include the title slide in the shuffle or leave it at the beginning of the presentation. You can always undo the shuffling of your presentation by reverting to the previous version in the "version history" menu found in the "File" drop-down menu.

Applications for Education
I learned about Slides Randomizer from one of my students who was using it to shuffle his slides in a flashcard-like manner. That's one way of using it.

What I'm thinking about doing with it is to put together a set of slides that outlines a sequence (data transmission from one computer to another through a WLAN). Then I'll use the Slides Randomizer to shuffle the slides before I share them with my students through Google Classroom where they'll be given the assignment of putting the slides into the correct order.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

One Last Round-up of Educational Halloween Resources

Halloween is less than 48 hours away as I write this. My daughters are excited about their Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck costumes. Some of my high school students seemed pretty excited about Halloween too.

If you find yourself looking for some last-minute Halloween-themed activities here some items that I featured earlier this month.

Those of you who are looking for Halloween-themed stories to use in ELA lessons could do well to turn to this collection on ReadWorks. The bulk of the Halloween collection on ReadWorks features articles for a  K-8 audience with a few 9-12 articles mixed in.

ReadWorks is hosting a writing contest for students in fifth through eighth grade. The contest deadline is this Friday. Details are available here.

Speaking of Halloween-themed writing, TED-Ed has a lesson titled How to Make Your Writing Suspenseful.


TED-Ed has another Halloween-themed lesson. That lesson is Vampires: Folklore, Fantasy, and Fact.



Number Chase - Math vs. Zombies is a free iPad game with a Halloween theme. The game is has three virtual worlds each containing ten levels of basic math problems.

If you'd like to play some Halloween trivia games or Halloween safety tips review games with your students, Kahoot has hundreds of games on those topics. Here's my video tutorial on how to find and modify Halloween games on Kahoot.

The Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference - Call for Proposals

In December I'm hosting a free online conference called the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference. The purpose of the conference is to give teachers an opportunity to share their creative classroom projects with other teachers. If you have an idea that you would like to present, please complete this short presentation proposal form. If you've never presented in a webinar format before, I'll give you some training in advance.


Register to Attend
  • It's Free! Register here and you’ll be registered for all live sessions (it will be recorded for those who cannot attend the live broadcasts).
    • December 10th at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm ET.
    • December 11th at 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm ET.
    • December 12th at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm ET.

Two Ways I'm Using Pictures in Formative Assessments This Fall

This fall I'm teaching a few computer science classes. The curriculum for one of those courses is heavy on hardware and hardware repair. This month my students and I have been using a lot of pictures and diagrams. There are two ways that I've been incorporating those pictures and diagrams into formative assessment.

Formative Assessment With Images on GoFormative
I've been using GoFormative about every week or two to have students answer questions based on a diagram that I upload to GoFormative.com. I like using GoFormative.com for this purpose because I can add multiple questions to the same diagram. Students know exactly which part of the diagram each question is referring to because the questions appears when they click the digram. In addition to wiring diagrams I've done this with a picture of a multimeter.

Students Documenting Processes With Pictures
One of the first hands-on activities that my students did this year was to disassemble and then reassemble some old desktop computers. Originally, I was going to have students draw diagrams throughout the disassembly process. That proved to be time-consuming and inaccurate (sloppy drawings, poor penmanship). So I switched it up and had them start taking pictures on their phones then labeling those images before sharing them with me via Google Classroom.

The act of photographing and labeling wasn't graded (other than done/ not done). I wanted to see which students could recall and document well and which still needed help with the process.

I'll be sharing more ideas about using images in the formative assessment process in my upcoming webinar, Five Fun Formative Assessment Methods

Monday, October 28, 2019

How to Adjust the Captions on YouTube Videos

This week's Practical Ed Tech newsletter featured a few things that we can do to improve the accessibility of the slides and videos that we use in our classrooms. One of those things is to turn on the captions when playing a YouTube video in class. Another is to create a transcript of the YouTube videos that you show in class.

Just turning on the captions is a good first step. It is possible to adjust the size and color scheme of the captions for students who needs that. In the following video I demonstrate how to adjust the size, style, and color scheme of the captions displayed on a YouTube video.



As I pointed out in the video above, it is possible to view an automatically generated transcript of some YouTube videos without the use of a third-party tool. Other videos will require a third-party tool to generate a transcript. If that's the case for a video that you need to create a transcript for, try using VidReader. My demonstration of VidReader is embedded below (note that when I made the video the service was going by a different name, the tool works the same way).