Friday, May 24, 2019

An Overview of Fishbowl - A Professional Discussion App for Teachers

Last week I published a post about Fishbowl that generated some good questions from readers about how the app works. Fishbowl is more than an app, it's a professional discussion network. Teachers can join Fishbowl to engage in discussions on issues important to educator community.

Fishbowl will let you participate in discussions anonymously, on the condition that you have first verified your identity. If that seems to be a contradiction, watch my video overview below to see how the app and the discussions work.


Disclosure: Fishbowl is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

How Make Copies of Google Docs Marked as "View Only"

On a fairly regular basis I'm asked some variation of the following question, "is it possible to duplicate a Google Doc if it wasn't shared with me?" Yes, you can make a copy of Google Documents that weren't directly shared with you. If you have the link to a Google Document that has been made public, you can probably make a copy of it.

Before jumping into how to make a copy of Google Document that is marked as "view only" let's take a look at how to find publicly shared Google Documents. You can do that by refining your Google Search to display only results from docs.google.com. Make that refinement in the advanced panel in Google Search. Watch the following video to see that process.



When you have found a Google Document that you want to copy, use the process demonstrated in the following video to make a copy of the document.


Learn more about Google Docs in my upcoming course, Getting Going With G Suite

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Five DIY Virtual Reality Projects for Students

Google’s VR Tour Creator offers an excellent way to create virtual tours that can be viewed in your web browser and or in the Google Expeditions app.

Google’s Street View imagery is the backbone of the VR Tour Creator. To start creating a tour you have to identify a location using the built-in connection to Google Maps. Once you’ve identified a location you then add a scene to your tour. At a minimum each scene will include a Street View image and the text description that you add to it. You can add images within the Street View image of the scene. Those images are called “points of interest.” Each point of interest can have its own description.

Google’s VR Tour Creator lets you add audio to each scene and point of interest. The audio has to be recorded outside of the Tour Creator and then uploaded to the scenes or points of interest. Any MP3 file will work in your tour. Vocaroo.com and TwistedWave.com are a couple of simple tools for creating an audio recording.

Completed tours can be shared publicly or privately. Your tours can be viewed in your Google Expeditions account provided that you created the tour with the same Google account that you use for Google Expeditions. With your tour in Google Expeditions you can guide students just like you can with any other tour that is available in the Google Expeditions app.

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

Tour Creator basics.

Adding points of interest to tours.



How to Share Your Tours With Students


How to Use Your Tours in Google Expeditions

How to View the Moon and Mars in Google Earth

This morning I answered an email from a reader who wanted to know how to view the solar system in Google Earth. While you can't view the entire solar system in Google Earth, you can view Mars, the moon, and some constellations in Google Earth Pro. Google Earth Pro is the free desktop version of Google Earth. Watch my short video below to learn how to explore Mars and the moon in Google Earth.



It is possible to create narrated tours of Mars and the moon in Google Earth Pro. That process is demonstrated in this video that I published a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

How to Add Formative to Your G Suite Domain

Formative is one of my favorite online assessment tools. I'e been using and and featuring it in my workshops about formative assessment for many years. It's a flexible tool that can be used to create and deliver assessments that include handwritten responses, diagram-based questions, interactive image-based questions, and many other question styles.

Formative can be added to your G Suite for Education. As I demonstrate in the following video, it can be added as a domain-wide tool or it can be added to your individual account.



In the following videos I highlight some of my favorite ways to use Formative for formative assessments.

"Show Your Work" or handwritten responses.



Labeling activities.



Diagram-based assessments.

Four Ways to Create Your Own VR & AR Experiences

Observing and interacting with augmented reality and virtual reality content is nice, but after a while students will get bored with the pre-made commercial content. You can combat some of that boredom by putting students in charge of picking the AR and VR experiences that are of most interest to them while also being relevant to the topic at hand. You can further engage students by having them create their own AR and VR experiences to share with their classmates, with you, and with the world at large.

Here are some options for creating your own virtual reality and augmented reality experiences. These are listed in order of easiest to learn how to use to the most difficult to learn how to use.

Cardboard Camera
Cardboard Camera is a free iOS and Android app offered by Google. The app lets you take a 360 panoramic image that you can share to view in Google Cardboard viewer or similar VR headset. The app will capture any sounds including your voiceover present while capturing the image. Those who use Cardboard Camera on Android can save their VR images in Google Photos where they can be cropped and edited with basic image filters.

Cardboard Camera for Android is available here. Cardboard Camera for iOS is available here.

Here’s a video tutorial on how to use the Cardboard Camera app:



Google Street View App
The Google Street View app for Android and iOS offers more than just a way to view interesting places around the world. The free app includes a camera function that can be used to capture 360 photospheres. When you tap the camera icon in the app it will guide you through taking a series of pictures that will be automatically stitched together to form the photosphere. The completed photosphere can be shared with others in a variety of ways including direct sharing via SMS or email, posting on social media, or by contributing to the Google Maps community.

The Google Street View iOS app is available here. The Google Street View Android app is available here.

Metaverse Studio
Metaverse Studio is a free service for creating your own augmented reality learning experiences. With Metaverse you can create interactive, augmented reality games and challenges for students to complete on their phones or tablets. Metaverse Studio is a block programming (sometimes called visual programming) interface similar in concept to what you will find in the MIT App Inventor and Thunkable. This means that you don't write code. Instead of writing code you create your augmented reality experience by selecting commands and selecting pieces of media from a menu. Put the commands together in the proper sequence and your augmented reality experience can be used on any iOS or Android device.

Mastering Metaverse Studio can take quite a while. That’s not because the service is hard to use. It takes a while to master because there are so many command and logic options that you can employ to create an augmented reality application.

Metaverse does offer an extensive set of tutorial videos. The first of those can be seen below.

Patches from Vizor
Patches is a free program that you can use to develop animated virtual reality experiences. Patches offers animated characters, animals, buildings, and common objects that you can place inside a virtual reality scene. Just drag and drop objects and animations from the selection menus to the Patches design canvas. You can create and customize your VR scenes as much as you like by changing object positioning, color schemes, and even the speed at which an animation moves. You can preview your VR scenes within the Patches editor. Completed projects can be viewed in a VR viewer by just enter the link assigned to your project into your mobile phone's browser.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Good and Free Summer Activity for Rainy Days

This afternoon I was talking with my childcare provider about activities for kids to do on rainy summer days. One of the things that I mentioned was going bowling. Doing that reminded me of a free program that I've been sharing almost every year since 2012 and has been running for a dozen years. That program is Kids Bowl Free.

Kids Bowl Free offers two free games per day to students in the United States and Canada. Kids Bowl Free is a program funded by bowling alleys to provide students with a safe and fun activity during the summer.

To receive coupons for up to two free games of bowling per day, parents need to register on Kids Bowl Free. Each bowling center sets its own start and end date for the program so check the listings for a bowling center in your area.

7 Good Apps for Getting Started With AR & VR

One of the components of this year's Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp (a few seats still available) is time to explore how augmented reality and virtual reality can be used in a variety of classroom settings. The following is by no means a comprehensive list of AR and VR apps that can be used in classrooms. Instead, the following list represents a selection of AR and VR apps that are good introductions to the concepts of using AR and VR in education.

Plum's Creaturizer
Plum's Creaturizer from PBS Kids is a free iOS and Android app that lets students create fun cartoon creatures and then place them into outdoor settings through the use of augmented reality. The purpose of the app is to have students learn and show how the characteristics of an animal help it thrive in its environment.


Google Expeditions
Google Expeditions probably has the most name recognition of the VR and AR apps that are designed for schools. The AR content in Google Expeditions lets students view and manipulate digital content in a physical world context. The AR content can be used as components in science, math, geography, history, and art lessons. Some examples of the more than 100 AR experiences that you'll find in the app include landforms, the skeletal system, dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, the brain, and the Space Race.

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

My beginner’s guide to using Google Expeditions as a teacher is available in the following video.



VR Hangar
The Smithsonian has a neat VR app called VR Hangar. The app, available on iOS and Android devices, contains three virtual reality tours about landmark moments in aviation history. Those moments are the Wright Brothers' first flight, Chuck Yeager's record-breaking flight in the Bell X-1, and the Apollo 11 mission. You can use VR Hangar with or without a VR headset, but it is much better with a VR headset.

VR Math
VR Math is a virtual reality app that, as the name implies, is designed for use in mathematics lessons. Specifically, the app is intended to help students gain a better understanding of geometry concepts. When students open the app they have to choose between “I want to learn” and “I want to understand.” The “I want to understand” mode opens a library of exercises that students complete in virtual reality. Some of the exercise categories that students will find include calculating volume, sum of angles, and counting vertices. Within each of those categories students will find exercises to complete within the VR environment. VR Math can be used with or without a virtual reality headset. As with most VR apps that have a non-headset option, the app experience is much better with a headset than without one.

Sites in VR
Sites in VR is a free Android and iOS app that provides a 1700 virtual reality views of significant landmarks around the world. The app is a good one for those who would like to experience a bit of virtual reality without having to use a virtual reality headset. Sites in VR provides imagery that you can navigate by moving your phone or tablet in a manner similar to that of using a virtual reality viewer like Google Cardboard. To use the app simply open it then select a country, city, or landmark type. Then on the next screen select from a menu of landmarks to view. Once you've made a selection you will be able to view the imagery and navigate through it by moving your phone or tablet.

Wonderscope
Wonderscope is an iPad app that uses augmented reality featuring stories that students interact with through voice and touch. Students position animations and interact with story animations by moving their iPads and reading the lines that appear on their screens.

Wonderscope doesn't require students to have any kind of log-in to use the stories in the app. Students simply open the app and tap the story to begin. Once the story is open students have to move around the room to make the animations appear on the screen. If students end up pointing the camera in a direction that isn't sustainable for the entirety of the story (looking at the ceiling, for example) they can reposition the animations. Once the animations appear students read the lines on the screen to unlock each chapter of a story. The animations in the story will talk to the students too.

Merge Cube
Merge Cube offers augmented reality experiences through the use of a physical object, the Merge Cube, and free apps that interact with the cube. The is essentially a six-sided QR code. Interactive digital content is displayed on students’ phones or tablets when they scan a side of the cube with one of the Merge Cube apps. Turning the cube changes the content that is displayed on the phone or tablet.

To use Merge Cube augmented reality experiences you will need to purchase a Merge Cube. They’re typically $14.99 from your favorite online retailers. Once you have the cube you can use it with as many compatible apps as you like. A few popular apps to try include 3D Museum Viewer, Galactic Explorer, and AR Medical.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Two Online PD Courses I'm Hosting in June

The primary support for Free Technology for Teachers comes from folks like you who enroll in my Practical Ed Tech webinars and workshops. This spring and summer I'm hosting a series of professional development webinars and workshops. The next webinars are starting in June.

In June I'm hosting Teaching History With Technology and Getting Going With G Suite.

Teaching History With Technology is a popular online course that I’ve offered in the past as a series of three webinars. I’ve expanded it to five weeks in order to include more fun and engaging topics including augmented reality and virtual reality lessons, the latest Google Earth features, and making mobile apps in social studies lessons. The course starts on June 4th at 7:30pm ET. Learn more and register here.


Getting Going With G Suite sells out almost every time that I offer it. This is a five week course designed for teachers and administrators who are new to using G Suite for Education. In the course you will not only learn the nuts and bolts of using G Suite for Education, you’ll also learn how to leverage these tools to create engaging experiences for your students. This course draws on my ten years of training thousands of educators on G Suite for Education tools. This course will start in June 3rd at 7:30pm ET. Learn more and register here.

Nine Tutorials for Making Your Own Mobile App

Glide is a service that anyone can use to create a mobile app without doing any coding. Glide lets you take one of your Google Sheets and have the information become a mobile app. It's easy to use and you can get started in minutes. Last month I published this five minute tutorial on how to make your own mobile app with Glide.


Glide recently published their own official tutorial videos. Glide offers these eight tutorials that will walk you through each step of using Glide from sign-up through publication of your app.

5 Places to Find Summer Math Activities for Elementary School Students

Summer break will be here soon (for those of us in the northern hemisphere). As evidenced by the popularity of last week's article about the ReadWorks summer reading packets, preventing summer slide is a topic that many are interested in at this time of year. A few readers emailed me over the weekend looking for suggestions for math resources similar to those that ReadWorks offers. Here are five good places to find summer math activities for elementary school students.

MathGames.com
Don't let the name fool you, MathGames.com offers more than just a series of math practice games. You can find hundreds of worksheets to print for free on MathGames.com. Those are organized according to grade level.

There are plenty of games for students to play on the site too. You can find those by clicking on the "games" header in the site. If you do that, scroll down the page a few times to find the MathGames.com digital textbook which organizes the games according to topic.


CK-12 Elementary Math Resources
CK-12 offers a good collection of resources for elementary school math practice. The collection is organized by grade level (grades 1 through 5) and skill set. The resources include a mix of videos and online practice exercises. Students can review a video and then attempt the practice activities.

XtraMath
XtraMath is a non-profit service designed help students develop basic mathematics skills. The service provides an online environment in which students complete practice activities that are recorded and shared with teachers and parents. Teachers can create classroom accounts in which each child has his or her own log-in credentials. Parents can also be given log-in credentials to see how their children are progressing. XtraMath offers materials seven languages. Those are languages are English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and American Sign Language.

XtraMath recently announced that they now have summer flyers available for teachers to print and send home to parents.

A Maths Dictionary for Kids
Jenny Eather's A Maths Dictionary for Kids has been one of my go-to math resources for many years. It students provides simple and clear definitions of math terms. Each definition includes a small diagram or simple activity to illustrate the term's definition.

A Maths Dictionary for Kids has more than 250 free worksheets arranged according to topic. All of the worksheets can be found here.

ABCya
ABCya offers hundreds of educational games for K-8 students. The site is arranged according to grade level. The only way to find games according to topic is to search for them by Common Core standard or by keyword. If you use keyword search on the site, it will yield results to everything on the site, not just the games.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Summer Reading, Portfolios, and Animations - The Week in Review

Good evening from sunny and windy Paris Hill, Maine. It was a great day for playing outside and that's exactly what my little family did today. I had a nice long bike ride through part of the White Mountain National Forest that ended with meeting my daughters at a playground besides the Androscoggin river. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you had a fun and relaxing day too.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Ten Great Tech Tools for Social Studies Lessons
2. Rivet - A Reading App from Google
3. 5 Ways for Students of All Ages to Make Animated Videos
4. How to Use the New Version of Google Books
5. 5 Good Options for Making Digital Portfolios
6. ReadWorks Offers Free Summer Reading Packets
7. Easy Notecards and Flashcards

Thank You for Your Support!

How to Make an Animated Timeline in Google Slides

Eighteen months ago I published a video about how to use Google Slides to create a timeline. Yesterday, that video hit 50,000 views. I watched the video again and realized that I could use the animation tools in Google Slides to add animations to my timeline. So yesterday I made a video about how to do that. In the following video I demonstrate how to create an animated timeline in Google Slides.


If you like this video, please take a look at my YouTube channel for hundreds of other tips on using educational technology tools.

How to Find Games & Quizzes in Google Earth

This week Google added a new round of Where in Google Earth is Carmen Sandiego? The new game follows up on the popularity of the first Where in Google Earth is Carmen Sandiego? that was launched in March. The new game has players help Carmen Sandiego find Tutankhamun’s Mask.



That's not the only game that you can find in the web, Android, and iOS versions of Google Earth. If you go into the Voyager mode in Google Earth you will find other games and quizzes to try. The quizzes are neat because when you answer a question correctly you automatically zoom to the Street View imagery of the location. Check it out in my video below.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Fishbowl - A New Professional Network for Teachers

This week Fishbowl joined Free Technology for Teachers as a new advertiser on the site.

Fishbowl is a professional networking service for professionals in many fields including education. Based on that description you might think it's just another LinkedIn or Twitter, but you'd be wrong. Fishbowl features dedicated communities for discussions about the issues that matter most to them. Fishbowl makes you verify your identity, but lets you post questions and responses anonymously. That enables you to ask sensitive questions or respond to sensitive questions without jeopardizing your privacy.

Here's a good example of discussions that can happen in Fishbowl. In the Fishbowl teachers community there is currently a discussion about taking "mental health days." That's a question that you might not want to discuss on Twitter or LinkedIn because everyone can see your real name and where you teach. On Fishbowl you can post in that discussion and have your screen name appear as simply "teacher in Maine."

Fishbowl is designed to be used on your phone or tablet. Fishbowl is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android. After you install the app you will have to verify your identity by using either a professional email address (not Gmail, Yahoo, etc) or your LinkedIn profile. Once you've verified your identity it's time to add a bit of information about where you work. That doesn't mean naming the school district it simply means adding the type of school, the state/province it's in, and what you do there. Once you've done that you can start joining discussion groups and participate in conversations. When you post you can choose to use your name or simply use "Works at School in State X" or "Subject X High School Teacher."

I like that Fishbowl provides a place to ask questions and engage in discussions that you might not otherwise feel comfortable discussing on places like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. I think this could be a great for new teachers who have a lot of questions and not a great support system around them. But just like any other network, you still want to be responsible with the information that you share and be mindful of how written words aren't always read the way you intended for them to sound. The other thing that I like about Fishbowl is that as of right now, posting on the network doesn't have the "popularity contest" aspect that can pop-up in things like #edchat on Twitter.

You can find the Fishbowl apps right here and start joining discussions today.

Common Craft Explains URLs

We enter URLs into our web browsers every day, but have you ever wondered what all the parts of those URLs mean? The URL can give us information about the type of website we're visiting, the security of the site, when a page was created, and much more. What's in a URL is the topic of the latest Common Craft video.

By watching URLs (Web Addresses) Explained by Common Craft viewers can learn what each element of a URL means, the difference between top-level domains and subdomains, and how URLs are connected to web servers.


You can preview all Common Craft videos on their website. You do need a subscription in order to download them or embed them into other pages. All Common Craft videos come with a lesson plan that you can download.

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

An Overview of the New Creative Commons Search Tool

Whenever I talk about using media in videos, slideshows, podcasts, or any other media, I always emphasize the importance of using media that is either in the public domain or carries a Creative Commons license. The Creative Commons organization recently launched a new search tool that indexes nineteen sources of public domain and Creative Commons licensed media. You can see the list of sources here. In the following video I demonstrate how to use the new CC Search site. At the end of the video I highlight three other good places to find pictures for students to use in their projects.


Learn more about the basics of Creative Commons in Common Craft's Copyright and Creative Commons.


Disclosure: I have an in-kind relationship with Common Craft.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Wikispaces Alternatives

Almost a year after it ceased operations, Wikispaces and "Wikispaces alternatives" are still two of the most frequently searched terms on this blog. If you find yourself looking for an alternative to Wikispaces, here are some good options to try.

Google Sites
Google Sites, like almost every G Suite for Education product, offers collaboration options. Create a Google Site and invite students or colleagues to be editors on that site. As editors of the site they can add content to the pages of the site and edit the work of all contributors to the site. In a classroom setting I might create a page for each student to be responsible for managing. Here's an overview of how to get started using Google Sites.



Notion
Notion is a service that is best described as part wiki and part project management tool. Notion is designed for group projects. You can create sections for each of your projects. Within each section you can create a list of tasks. Notion also lets you add sections that include links, videos, images, and documents that you have written outside of the service. And you can write directly on a page in your Notion account too.

Weebly for Education
Weebly for Education will let you create a website that can have multiple contributors. Just like with Google Sites, I would create a series of pages and assign each student to be responsible for maintaining one of those pages. Here's an overview of how to get started with Weebly for Education.


Wikis in Plain English
Wondering what a wiki is? Looking for a way to explain wikis to students or colleagues? Common Craft's Wikis in Plain English is probably the best explanation you'll find. (Disclosure: I have a long-standing in-kind relationship with Common Craft).

ReadWorks Offers Free Summer Reading Packets

Summer will be here soon (in the northern hemisphere) and ReadWorks has free summer reading packets that you can send home with your students. The free summer reading packets are available with fiction and nonfiction articles for students entering first grade through high school. Click on either the fiction or nonfiction packet for a grade and it will open a PDF that you can print and distribute to your students. There is an option to download a packet with reading comprehension questions for each grade level.

To preview, download, and print the ReadWorks summer reading packets you will need to create a free ReadWorks account.

If this is your first time reading about ReadWorks, there is much more to it than just PDF packets. ReadWorks offers a complete online environment for finding grade-level appropriate fiction and nonfiction assignments then distributing those to your students. Here's a video overview of how ReadWorks works.

5 Google Drive Tips for New Users

Google Drive is the core of many aspects of G Suite for Education. There are lots of little features of Google Drive that are often overlooked by new users. If you're new to using Google Drive take a look at these five features that can help you save time and otherwise improve your Google Drive experience.

Change the Layout of Your Google Drive Dashboard
There are two layouts that you can apply to your Google Drive dashboard. You can use either the material view (the layout that has files arranged in tiles) or the linear view. I prefer the linear view that puts all of my files and folders in a list. Watch this video to see how to change the layout in your Google Drive dashboard.



Disable Email Notifications
If you end up sharing files and folders with a lot of people, you could end up getting an overwhelming volume of notification emails. You can disable those notifications rather easily. Here's how to disable email notifications in Google Drive.



Create Shared Google Drive Folders
Do you have a bunch of documents and slideshows that you want to share with a colleague? Put those files in one folder and share it. Here's how you can create and share a Google Drive folder.



Share Videos Through Google Drive
You can store just about anything in your Google Drive including videos. In fact, Google Drive offers a great way to share videos without having to upload them to a video sharing site. Here's how to share videos through Google Drive.



Automatic File Conversion
If you're transitioning to G Suite for Education there is a good chance that you have a lot of older Word and PowerPoint files that you'll still want to use. You can have those files automatically converted to Google Docs and Slides format when you upload them to Google Drive. Watch the following video to learn how to have files automatically converted to Google Docs format when you upload them to Google Drive. It's important to note, as Deborah Alexander pointed out to me, that converting a file from PPT or Word to Google Docs or Slides can impact on the formatting of that file.




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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

How to Use the New Version of Google Books

On Monday I published a list of my ten go-to tech tools for social studies teachers and students. Google Books was one of the tools that I included in that list. Recently, Google Books got an updated user interface. The new interface includes some handy features including an option to quickly locate libraries near you that have your chosen book available to lend out. Watch my new video embedded below for an overview of how to use the new version of Google Books.


Google Books is a fantastic tool for students to use to locate books and search within those books. As is demonstrated in the video even if a book isn't available to download in its entirety, students can still search within the book to determine if the book contains enough references to make it worth their time and effort to buy or borrow a copy of the book.

5 Ways for Students of All Ages to Make Animated Videos

Making animated videos is a great way for students to bring their written stories to life on screen. Those could be fiction or nonfiction stories. Some nonfiction animated video topics include making a video to illustrate a historical event, making biographies, and explaining complex concepts in simple animations like Common Craft does. In the fiction realm you might have students make an adaptation of a favorite story or an animation of their own creative writing. Whichever direction you choose, the following five tools offer good ways for students of all ages to make their own animated videos.

Toontastic 3D
Toontastic 3D is a great app for making animated videos that I have been using and promoting since its launch a few years ago. Toontastic 3D can be used on iPads, Android tablets and phones, and Chromebooks that support Android apps. Students can use Toontastic 3D without having to create or sign into any kind of account.

To make an animated video with Toontastic 3D students simply open the app, select a background scene or draw their own, select some characters or draw their own, and then record themselves talking while moving their characters around the screen. When students have completed their recordings they can add background music to their videos. Finished videos are saved directly to device on which the video was created.

Animaker
Animaker is a service that students can use to create animated videos in the web browser on their Chromebooks, Windows computers, or Macs. Students create videos in Animaker on a slide-by-slide basis. Animaker provides lots of background settings that students can add to the slides that will form their videos. On each slide students add the pre-drawn characters that they want to have appear in their videos. Each character's appearance and positioning can be edited in each slide. Once the backgrounds and characters have been positioned students can add audio to each their videos by selecting from a gallery of royalty-free audio, by uploading audio recordings, or by using the built-in voice-over tool in Animaker.

Brush Ninja + Screencastify
This is a method of making an animated video that I detailed back in October after using it with a great group of eighth grade students. This method calls for making animated GIFs with the free Brush Ninja drawing tool and then recording a series of GIFs with the Screencastify screencast video tool for Chromebooks. You can get detailed directions for combining Brush Ninja and Screencastify in this post.

Google Slides + Screencastify or Screencast-o-Matic
Google Slides, like PowerPoint and Keynote, provide users with lots of ways to animate elements within their slides. Use those animation tools to make clipart and simple drawings move on the screen. Then capture those movements with a screencasting tool like Screencastify or Screencast-o-matic. Of course, you'll want to include a voiceover while recording. This method can be used to create animated videos like those made popular by Common Craft. You can read about and then watch this whole process in this Practical Ed Tech article.

Draw and Tell
Draw and Tell is a free iPad app that has been on list of recommendations for K-2 students for many years. In this free app students can draw on a blank pages or complete coloring page templates. After completing their drawings students then record a voiceover in which they either explain the drawings or tell a story about the characters in their drawings.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Easy Notecards and Flashcards

Easy Notecards is a free study aid that Vicki Davis introduced to me eight years ago. This post is an update on what I wrote eight years ago.

As you probably guessed from name, Easy Notecards is a free tool for creating text-based and image-based flashcards. What makes Easy Notecards a little different from other notecard and flashcard services is that you can search for public notecard sets according to textbook topics and titles. This is possible because when an Easy Notecards user creates a set of cards he or she can tag the cards with a book title and chapter within that book. For example, if I am making a set of cards based on chapter four of the U.S. History textbook The Americans I would tag that set with "The Americans, Chapter 4."

The cards that you create and or find on Easy Notecards can be used in five ways. They can be used as traditional flashcards that you simply flip back and forth. They can be used in a matching game. The cards can be used in a quiz game. Your cards can be used in an online bingo game. And the cards can be printed.

Easy Notecards offers an online classroom feature. The classroom is used to share cards with a class. The class is assigned a code and only those who have the code can access the cards. Those who have the code can contribute cards to the class.

Applications for Education
When I first tried Easy Notecards eight years ago it was in beta and the options were limited. Today, Easy Notecards has more than two million notecards available through the site. As students prepare for exams, it could be worth their time to explore Easy Notecards for review materials.

Ten Great Tech Tools for Social Studies Lessons

Over the last decade I've written about a lot of excellent resources for social studies lessons. Over time some of those tools have faded away and others have moved to the forefront of my top recommendations. Here's my current list of ten top tools for social studies lessons.

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.

Google's VR Tour Creator
Google's VR Tour Creator is a free tool that enables anyone to create virtual reality tours that can be viewed online and in the Google Expeditions app. In the year since the VR Tour Creator was announced it has added features for including featured images and audio recordings.

Google Expeditions
Google's free virtual reality application that lets students virtually tour more than 800 places around the world. The best of Google Expeditions is the option for teachers to lead students on virtual tours. When leading students you can point out the landmarks that you want to make sure they see and you can ask them questions about those places. Here's a list of tips for getting started with Google Expeditions in your classroom.

Anchor.fm
If you have ever considered making a current events podcast or a history podcast, Anchor.fm makes it easy to do that. You can record, edit, and publish through Anchor.fm. The best part is that you can publish your podcast to up to ten podcast networks from one place with just one click.

Metaverse Studio
With Metaverse Studio students can create augmented reality games and tours. Making an augmented reality tour of historic landmarks in your community can be a good way to have students research local history and produce a product that they can share with the community.

Checkology
In today's media climate it is more important than ever for students to be able to recognize what is and isn't valid information, how media is manipulated, and how to be responsible consumers of media. Checkology is a service that is designed to help students develop those skills. Checkology's free version offers four interactive modules for students to complete. Each of the modules is comprised of between twenty and forty-seven instructional video clips and interactive comprehension checks. The four modules are titled Info Zones, Democracy's Watchdog, Practicing Quality Journalism, and Misinformation. As you might expect, the contents of the modules gets progressively more difficult as each section is completed.

Google Earth
The desktop and browser versions Google Earth should be a standard in the collection of tools that a social studies teacher uses. Google Earth provides a great way to view places and collections of places around the world from overhead and street-level views. Viewing in Google Earth lets students zoom-in and explore details in a manner that simply can't be replicated in printed maps. And students can build their own tours in Google Earth. Take a look at this playlist to find tutorials to help you get started using Google Earth in your classroom.

WeVideo
If you want to have your students try their hands at making Ken Burns-style documentary videos, WeVideo is great tool for that purpose. With WeVideo students can mix images, video clips, audio, and text to create a short documentary video. Here's a collection of short tutorials on how to create a video with WeVideo.

Google Books
Google Books offers a huge collection of books, magazines, and newspapers that are in the public domain. For history teachers this means there is an abundance of books about famous battles, biographies, and other works that your students can access for research. The option to search within a book is useful in helping students find information within a book.

Rivet - A Reading App from Google

Rivet is a reading app from Area 120 (a Google property). The free app offers more than 2,000 books for students to read independently. The books are appropriate for students in Kindergarten through second grade (5-8 years old). All of the books provide audio support to students in the form of an option to tap on a word and hear it read aloud. When students tap on a word they will hear it read aloud and can then read a definition of the word. Students also have the option to practice saying the word aloud. When students say a word aloud they get instant feedback on their pronunciation of that that word.

All of the books in Rivet have the audio support functions described above. Some of the books have even more audio support in the form of story dictation. There are some books that display a little audio icon in the bottom, left corner of their pages. When students tap on that audio icon they can hear the entire page read aloud to them.

Rivet offers more than just books for students to read. The app will track how long a student spends reading in the app. Students can earn badges for time spent reading and consecutive days of using the app.


Rivet is available for iPads, iPhones, Android phones, Android tablets, and Chromebooks that support the use of Android apps.

Monday, May 13, 2019

5 Good Options for Making Digital Portfolios

In yesterday's Practical Ed Tech post I mentioned that if you have been using a service like SeeSaw all year to have students create digital portfolios, it is relatively easy to have students create an end-of-year showcase of their best work. Of course, SeeSaw isn't the only way to create a digital portfolio. Here's are my five go-to recommendations for creating digital portfolios.

Google Sites
For students that have G Suite for Education accounts, Google Sites offers a convenient way to create a digital portfolio. Students can import documents, slides, videos, and just about anything else stored in their Google Drives into pages in Google Sites. In the following video I demonstrate how to create the first pages of your first Google Sites website.



SeeSaw
As mentioned in the opening, SeeSaw is a great tool for making a digital portfolio. It is accessible to students of all ages including those who don't have email addresses. You can have students sign into SeeSaw via student codes and or QR codes. Students can select the items that they want to include in their portfolios. You can view all of your students' portfolio items from one page. Get a big picture overview of SeeSaw by watching the following video.



ClassDojo Portfolios
ClassDojo is best known for its behavior and habits tracking tools. Over the last couple of years ClassDojo has made an effort to be more than just a behavior tracker. Last June ClassDojo introduced a portfolio tool. ClassDojo Portfolios let students select the items that they want to include in the portfolios they build to share with you and their parents.



Weebly for Education
Weebly for Education is the free website creation tool offered by Weebly. Weebly for Education lets you create and manage student accounts. Students can use those accounts to create websites in which they showcase examples of their best work. Here's a quick guide to getting started on Weebly for Education.



FreshGrade
FreshGrade is a digital portfolio service that enables teachers and students to create portfolios containing video and audio files, pictures, and text files. Teachers using FreshGrade can create and manage accounts for their students. From their dashboards teachers can assign tasks to students and see the work that students complete. A nice end-of-the-year aspect of FreshGrade is the option to create a "video yearbook" of up to ten highlights of a student’s portfolio. That video slideshow can be shared directly to parents.

On a related note, you may be interested in exploring this rubric for digital portfolio assessment.

How the Stock Market Works

Playing a stock market simulation game is one of the popular ways to teach the basic concepts of stock markets. I played one when I was in fifth grade and decades later teachers still use the same concept. In fact, I did a stock market simulation game with my own high school students. Before jumping into the game I always spent a day or two introducing some of the big concepts of what stocks are and how stock markets work. A couple of weeks ago TED-Ed released a video that I'll add to my list of resources for introducing stocks and the stock market to students.

How Does the Stock Market Work? is a TED-Ed lesson that provides a four minute overview of the origin of stock markets, why companies offer stock, and the basic factors that influence the prices of publicly-traded stocks.


Here are a couple of related items to explore:

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Adding Audio to Google Slides When Your Domain Doesn't Have the Native Audio Feature

Six weeks ago Google announced the introduction of native support for audio in Google Slides. Unfortunately, the roll-out of that feature seems to be taking longer than was initially promised. I have been receiving emails for weeks from people asking me if they missed something in their Google accounts. They haven't. I don't have the feature in any of my accounts yet, either. And, unfortunately, Ed Tech Team seems to have pulled support for their AudioPlayer for Slides extension and add-on.

If you want to add audio to your Google Slides and your domain doesn't have new audio feature, you're not completely out of luck. The methods that I outlined in the following two videos that I published a couple of years ago.



Saturday, May 11, 2019

Digital Maps, Collages, and Legends - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where this week the weather was finally nice enough for bike rides, flip-flops, and lots of yard work. And this weekend's forecast has lots of sunshine in it which is perfect for Mother's Day. Speaking of which, happy Mother's Day to my mom, to Jess (Isla and Emma's awesome mom), and to all of the mothers who read my little blog on a regular basis. I hope that you have a wonderful weekend!

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Google Earth Pro Tips for Teachers and Students
2. 8 Options for Making Digital Maps
3. An Interactive Map of English Myths and Legends
4. Three Ways to Create Digital Collages to Summarize the School Year
5. Twelve Tools for Creating End-of-Year Review Activities
6. 5 Ways to Quickly Create Audio Slideshows for End-of-Year Events
7. How to Add a Calendar to an Edublogs Page or Post

Thank You for Your Support!

Now You Can Re-use Questions in Your GoFormative.com Activities

Formative is a one of the tools that I regularly feature in my workshop on Fast & Fun Formative Assessments. I like it and use it because of two outstanding features. The first is the ability to collect handwritten responses from students through a feature called Show Your Work. The second feature that I always highlight is the option to add questions directly on top of pictures and documents (watch this video to see that feature in action).

Recently, Formative added a handful of new features. The one that I'm most excited about is the option to re-use questions from previous assessments that you have made in your Formative account. That new feature is called Personal Item Bank. A few other new features include notifications when students change their answers, expanded standards descriptors, and a new way for students to sort the assessments that have been assigned to them. All of these new features are shown in the short video that is embedded below.

A Quick and Easy Way to Create Comic Strip Templates

YouTube, like many social networks, has a little for creators that notifies them of old video postings and significant moments for their older videos. This week YouTube notified me that one of the videos I published three years ago hit 50,000 views. That video is How to Create Comic Strips in Google Slides. In the video I demonstrated how to make a comic strip template and how to fill it with clip art and word art.



If you just need a printable comic strip template for your students to use, you could follow the steps at the beginning of the video above and then just print the slides. The steps for printing from Google Slides are included in the video below.



Learn more creative ways to use Google Slides in my upcoming course, Getting Going With G Suite

A Great Google Sites Feature That I Missed This Week

As many of you know, I've spent the bulk of the last two weeks dealing with a slew of copyright issues and technical issues. Those have kept me from doing a lot of the things that I normally do every day. That's why I missed Google's announcement about a new image carrousel option being added to Google Sites. I only noticed it because John Padula was kind enough to email the announcement to me.

Soon Google Sites users will have a new way to create image carousels to include in the pages of their sites. This option will be found in the "insert" menu in Google Sites. Once selected you can upload images directly to your carousel or import images that already exist in your Google account. You'll be able to drag-and-drop images into the sequence in which you want them to appear. And as you might expect, you can set the carousel to automatically play.

The new Google Sites image carousel option is available now in some G Suite domains. The feature will be available to all users in the next couple of weeks.

Applications for Education
The image carousel option could be a good one for students to use to include a set of pictures within a Google Sites they build as digital portfolios of their work.

Friday, May 10, 2019

How to Use the Photo Slideshow Add-on for Google Slides

Last week I published 5 Ways to Quickly Create Audio Slideshows for End-of-Year Events. In that post I mentioned using the Google Slides add-on called Photo Slideshow. Over the last week I've answered a handful of questions from people who ran into a little difficulty using that add-on. I made the following video to show how I use the Photo Slideshow add-on. Take a look.