Google
 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Taskade - Collaboratively Create Meeting Notes and Task Lists in One Place

Taskade is a task management tool that you can use on your computer, phone, or tablet. The service is collaborative because you can invite other people to join you to work on lists and notes in the same online space. The best part of Taskade is the selection of templates that you can use to organize notes, calendars, and to-do lists. Watch my video to see how you can use Taskade to create a collaborative meeting plan.

How to Use Audio or Video in Your Sub Plans

The other day I saw a meme that read, "a teacher never realizes how much they do until it's written down in sub plans." Many of the the comments written under that meme said things like, "that's why I go in when I'm sick" and "it takes forever to write sub plans." I felt that way for a long time too. Then one day about nine years ago I was so sick that the idea of writing a sub plan was exhausting. So instead of writing a detailed sub plan I just made a voice a recording on Vocaroo and embedded it into my classroom blog. Then for my sub plan I sent an email to our school secretary that just read, "have kids visit blog and listen to my directions." That was nine years ago. Today, there are more options for quickly creating audio or video recordings to use in sub plans.

Places to Post Your Sub Plans
Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, or a class blog can be a good place to post your audio or video instructions. Many LMSs like Otus and Edmodo have places to post your audio or video instructions too. Whatever you do, make sure the place that you post your instructions to is a place that your students are already familiar with visiting for important class information. This is not the time to experiment with a new platform.

Audio Tools for Sub Plans
As I mentioned above, Vocaroo was the tool that I used when I started leaving audio sub plans. Vocaroo is still a great option because it doesn't require registration and it works on Windows, Mac, and Chromebook. Recordings can be downloaded, shared with a link, or embedded into blog posts. If you're using Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, or another LMS just post the link for your students to click and listen. Watch this video for an overview of Vocaroo.


Another option for making audio recordings in your web browser is Online Voice Recorder. It works in manner that is similar to Vocaroo. The advantage of Online Voice Recorder is that you can crop your recording file.


If you would prefer to create your audio recordings on your phone, then I recommend trying Anchor.fm's iPhone and Android apps. You do have to create an account on Anchor.fm in order to use the app, but once you have created an account it is easy to just tap the record button and start talking. Unique URLs are created for each of your recordings. You can share that link anywhere that you would share any other kind of link. There is also an option to share directly to Google Classroom.

Video Tools for Sub Plans
If you use Google Classroom, you should try Screencastify to record short videos with your webcam. Screencastify provides the option to save your recording directly to Google Drive and to share it directly to Google Classroom. Screencastify is also a good choice because you can record your screen to give instructions while also recording with webcam at the same time.

You can broadcast from your YouTube account from computer or from your phone. Regardless of how long it is, your broadcast is saved in your YouTube account and from there you can share it anywhere that your students can see it. Of course, this won't work if YouTube is blocked in your school. If that's the case for you, try recording on your phone then uploading the video to Google Drive. Once your video is in Google Drive it can be shared anywhere via the "anyone can view" link available in the sharing menu for all Google Drive files. Watch this video to learn how to do that.

A Few Final Thoughts to Keep Your Principal Happy

  • I wrote this with middle school and high school classrooms in mind. 
  • If your school requires that you use a standardized substitute template, use it but add links to your audio or video in it. 
  • Having every student play your video or audio at the same time could make your classroom sound like the Tower of Babel. Designate a student who can play the recording aloud for the whole class including the substitute. 
  • Still keep a written emergency sub plan in your desk just in case your students come to class and all of the sudden there isn't an internet connection. 

Videos, Image Editing, and G Suite - The Month in Review

Good morning from frigid South Paris, Maine. As I posted in an Instagram story, this morning it's so cold that even in my office I'm wearing a down jacket. Like every January in Maine we've had a lovely mix of frigid days and snowy days. I like the winter, but these frigid days just make me appreciate summer days even more. Speaking of summer, this week I opened the registration for the 2019 Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp.

As I do at the end of every month, I have put together a list of the ten most popular posts of the month. This month's list includes a couple of cool image editing tools, some updates to G Suite for Education products, and a library of educational videos.

These were the most popular posts in January, 2019:
1. Boclips - Millions of Ad-free Educational Videos
2. The WWII Museum Announces D-Day Electronic Field Trip
3. Remove Image Backgrounds With PhotoScissors
4. Doodle 4 Google 2019
5. Free PDF Containing 30 Pages of Illustrated Vocabulary Lessons
6. A New Look is Coming to Google Slides, Sheets, Docs, and Sites
7. How to Create a Self-grading Quiz from Google Classroom
8. Picture Yourself in Front of Any Landmark With Remove.BG and Google Slides
9. Students Can Create Their Own Tours to Share in Google Expeditions
10. How to Use Canva to Create a Timeline


Now Booking Summer Workshops!
I know that June can feel a long way away in the middle of January, but I'm already booking my summer workshop calendar. If you'd like to have me come to your school this spring (I have two May openings) or summer, please take a look at my speaking page and fill out the short form at the bottom of it.

And speaking of summer, the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is happening on July 15th and 16th. I've secured a beautiful location for it that offers lots of activities for the whole family within walking distance. Register in February and you'll save $70! Registration is now open here.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
TypingClub offers more than 600 typing lessons for kids.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.

Seterra offers a huge selection of geography games for students. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Two More Lessons in TED-Ed's "Why Should You Read..." Series

Last fall TED-Ed started publishing a series of lessons titled "Why Should You Read..." The series features TED-Ed lessons that explain the significance of classic works of literature. When I last wrote about the series it contained seven lessons. The series is now up to nine lessons. The latest lessons are about Fahrenheit 451 and the works of Flannery O'Connor. Those lessons are linked and embedded below along with the seven other lessons in the series.

Why Should You Read Fahrenheit 451?


Why Should You Read Flannery O'Connor?


Why Should You Read MacBeth?


Why Should You Read A Midsummer's Night Dream?


Why Should You Read Kurt Vonnegut?



Why Should You Read "Waiting for Godot?"



Why Should You Read "Don Quixote?"



Everything You Need to Know to Read "The Canterbury Tales."



Why Should You Read Edgar Allan Poe?

CleverPDF Offers 20 Ways to Work With PDFs in Other Formats

CleverPDF is a free service that anyone can use to convert a PDF into a Word document, a Pages file, or an ePub file. That's just the tip of the iceberg of what's on offer from CleverPDF. The service can be used to create PowerPoint slides, Keynote slides, images, Numbers, and Excel files.

In addition to turning existing PDFs into other formats, CleverPDF can be used to convert other files into PDFs. For example, you can use CleverPDF to create PDFs from Word, PPTX, Excel, and images.

And if you already have a PDF, but need to modify it, CleverPDF has tools for that too. CleverPDF will let you combine PDFs, split PDFs, apply watermarks to your PDFs, and encrypt your PDFs.

I used CleverPDF to convert one of my PDFs into a Word document today. It was quick and easy. I didn't have to register on the site or enter my email address in order to convert my PDF and then download the Word document.

Applications for Education
CleverPDF could be useful for applying watermarks to draft documents that you want to send to colleagues for review. Of course, it could also be a good choice when you need to convert a PDF into an editable format.

Six Educational Activities That Have a Super Bowl Theme

The Super Bowl is this weekend. My prediction is that the Patriots will win. I'm guessing that my American readers have a student or two who has an interest in the game too. Try one of the following resources to turn your students' enthusiasm for the Super Bowl into a fun lesson.

NBC's Science of Football is a series of ten videos from NBC Learn explaining and demonstrating math and science concepts as they relate to football. The list of topics covered in the Science of NFL Football includes Torque & Center of Mass, Pythagorean Theorem, Geometric Shapes, Projectile Motion & Parabolas, Vectors, Kinematics, Nutrition, and Newton's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Laws of Motion.

Choosito has a lesson plan that asks students to investigate the causes and effects of concussions. The lesson includes studying the trends in concussion diagnoses and treatments during the last 20 years.

Practical Money Skills hosts a series of eight online games designed to teach students some money management skills. One of the games that is timely considering that the Super Bowl is just a few days away is Financial Football. Financial Football has students answer questions about budgets, savings, and spending to move their football teams down the field against another team. The games use real NFL team logos. Financial Football takes at least twenty minutes to play.

The Superb Owl is a cute video about owls. The video presents interesting facts about four types of owls. The whole four minute video is presented as if it is an NFL pre-game show.


One of the dangers of playing football is the risk of head injuries. TED-Ed has a good lesson that explains what happens to your brain when you get a concussion.



NFL Play 60 Kids Day Live is a virtual field trip happening today at 12pm Eastern Time. The free virtual event will take kids on a tour of the field where the Super Bowl will be played. Throughout the tour there will be appearances from NFL players and cheerleaders who will share tips for staying physically active and healthy. You can register for the virtual field trip right here. For those who cannot attend the live broadcast, the virtual field trip will be available on-demand at a later date. And there are lots of related lesson plans that you can download and other videos that you can view on-demand on the NFL Play 60 Teachers' page. There are lesson plans that can be used in elementary school and middle school physical education, science, math, and language arts.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Common Craft Explains Podcasting

The development of easy-to-use podcast production tools like Anchor and Synth have contributed to the proliferation of podcasts in the last few years. The ways that we can find and listen to podcasts has also increased substantially in the last few years. That's why Common Craft has released a new version of their popular video, Podcasts Explained by Common Craft.

Podcasts Explained by Common Craft explains what podcasts are, why they are popular, and how to subscribe to podcasts. 


If you've considered creating your own podcast or podcasting with your students, take a look at the tutorial videos that I have produced on the topic. You can also find a list of ideas for classroom podcasts right here.

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

Take Your Class On a NFL Virtual Field Trip

The Super Bowl is happening this weekend. If your students have an interest in football, you might be interested in a virtual field trip that the NFL and Discovery Education are hosting tomorrow.

NFL Play 60 Kids Day Live is happening tomorrow at 12pm Eastern Time. The free virtual event will take kids on a tour of the field where the Super Bowl will be played. Throughout the tour there will be appearances from NFL players and cheerleaders who will share tips for staying physically active and healthy. You can register for the virtual field trip right here.

For those who cannot attend tomorrow, the virtual field trip will be available on-demand at a later date. And there are lots of related lesson plans that you can download and other videos that you can view on-demand on the NFL Play 60 Teachers' page. There are lesson plans that can be used in elementary school and middle school physical education, science, math, and language arts.

The Sunset for Classic Google Sites Has Been Extended to 2021!

Last year Google announced a timeline for the shutdown of the classic version of Google Sites. That announcement called for the classic version of Google Sites to come to an end at then end of this year. It appears that Google has listened to user feedback because this week they announced that support for the classic version of Google Sites will continue until the end of 2021!

In the same announcement about support for classic Google Sites there was information about new features being added to the new (current) version of Google Sites. Those new features include tables, image carousels, and greater control over font styling.

If you're wondering about the key differences between the classic version of Google Sites and the new version of Google Sites, I wrote an overview of them here.

And for those who want to convert their old Google Sites to the new version, I created this video tutorial for you.

How to Make Room in Your Google Docs Dashboard

One of the participants in my current Getting Going With G Suite course asked me about how to change the layout of her Google Docs dashboard. In this case we're using dashboard to refer to what you see when you visit docs.google.com. In particular, my students' question was about applying the linear layout to the Google Docs dashboard that she is using in her Google Drive dashboard. Fortunately, this is a simple change to implement. That's what I demonstrate in the following video.

Monday, January 28, 2019

What's the Difference Between England, Great Britain, and United Kingdom?

Since I've just returned from a trip to London, I figure it's a good time to revisit one of my favorite geography videos. That video is The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained. The video explains name refers to, the differences between the three, and why some people incorrectly use them interchangeably.



Applications for Education
When I taught World Geography one of the things that occasionally baffled and or annoyed my students was my insistence that they knew that United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England are not correct interchangeable terms.This video does a good job of explaining the historical origins as well as modern implications of the differences. My only complaint about the video is the narrator speaks very quickly.

How to Create a Self-grading Quiz from Google Classroom

This afternoon I received an email from a reader who had watched one of my YouTube videos about Google Forms. She wanted to know if it was better to manually place the link to her Google Form into Google Classroom or if she should make the Form within Google Classroom. The answer is that it doesn't really make a huge difference which way you do it because the Form will operate the same regardless of how it was started. All that said, here's how you can create a Google Forms quiz from your Google Classroom Classwork page.

A Few of My 2019 BETT Show Highlights

On Friday evening after spending the day at the 2019 BETT Show I recorded a video of my observations of walking through the maze of vendors. If you didn't see the video on my YouTube channel, you can now watch it as embedded below.



The 2019 Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp

After putting it on hiatus last year, I'm happy announce that the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is returning this July! Registration is now open for this two-day, hands-on learning experience. This year's workshop will be held at the historic Bethel Inn & Resort in picturesque Bethel, Maine.

Highlights of the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp:
  • Practical ideas for using technology in your classroom.
  • A small, collaborative, hands-on learning environment. Bring your laptop because you’ll be doing, not just listening.
  • Sixteen+ hours of learning in a relaxed and picturesque setting.
  • Develop a repertoire of new tools and tactics to effectively integrate technology into your lessons.


Read more about the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp right here. Super-early registration is $377 which is a savings of $70 compared to the standard registration.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

PhotoScissors, STEM, and BETT - The Week in Review

Good evening from terminal five in Heathrow airport. I'm waiting for my flight home after spending a couple of days in London for the annual BETT Show. For my U.S. readers who might not be familiar with BETT, it's a bit like ISTE without all of the breakout sessions. Basically, it's all vendors, all the time which is why admission to the show is free. Some of the vendors do put on useful presentations. I saw excellent and useful presentations in the Microsoft and Micro:bit booths. As much as I enjoy going to events like BETT there is nothing like the feeling of heading home to my daughters. I'm especially excited to give them these little Paddington Bear teddy bears.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1.Remove Image Backgrounds With PhotoScissors
2. Boclips - Millions of Ad-free Educational Videos
3. Students Can Create Their Own Tours to Share in Google Expeditions
4. Three Good Places to Find Hands-on STEM Activities
5. A Master List of Resources About Microsoft's Inclusive Classroom Tools
6. Vizor 360 is Now Free for All - Create Interactive 360 Imagery
7. How to Use PhotoScissors to Remove the Background from Any Image


Now Booking Summer Workshops!
I know that June can feel a long way away in the middle of January, but I'm already booking my summer workshop calendar. If you'd like to have me come to your school this spring (I have two May openings) or summer, please take a look at my speaking page and fill out the short form at the bottom of it.

And speaking of summer, the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp will return this year! I've secured a beautiful location for it that offers lots of activities for the whole family within walking distance. Registration information will be available soon on PracticalEdTech.com.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
TypingClub offers more than 600 typing lessons for kids.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.

Seterra offers a huge selection of geography games for students. 

Free PDF Containing 30 Pages of Illustrated Vocabulary Lessons

I get what feels like zillions of emails every day from companies that I have never heard of. 90% of them go straight to the trash bin after a three second glance. But then every once in a while I get one that is useful. Today's random, but useful email came from a company called Mrs. Wordsmith. The email that received contained a link to this free 30 page PDF of vocabulary building activities (clicking link will open or download PDF depending upon your browser settings).

All of the activities in the PDF follow the same format. That format is to display a familiar word with a familiar sound highlighted in it. Then below that word students will see illustrations that correspond to similar sounding words. Finally, the illustrations are followed by a worksheet on which students try to spell the words that are represented by illustrations.

Overall, Mrs. Wordsmith's worksheets look like a fun way to help students develop spelling and vocabulary skills.

More Good News for Remind Users - And a Bit of Bad News

Last night I shared the great news that Verizon has reversed their policy on the fee that they were going to start charging Remind to deliver free text messages. That means that the 7 million Remind users who were due to stop receiving texts via Remind will not experience any service disruptions. This morning in my inbox I got more good news about Remind.

Thanks to Tracy Zordan who forwarded to me an email from Remind to Canadian Remind users, I learned that Bell has decided not to increase fees to Remind. This means that Bell mobile subscribers who use Remind will be able to continue receiving text messages for free without any service disruptions.

Unfortunately, Rogers Canada has not extended the same policies that Bell and Verizon have. That means that on Monday, January 28th any Remind user who has a Rogers mobile plan will no longer be able to receive Remind text messages.

The following screenshot is of the email that was sent to Remind users in Canada.
Click to view in full size. 

Boclips - Millions of Ad-free Educational Videos

Today at the BETT Show Bethany Beaudrie introduced me to a new educational video provider called Boclips for Teachers. Boclips hosts more than two million educational videos from more than 100 vetted video producers. You'll probably recognize many of the names in the list of videos producers. Two of the producers that I noticed right away were Crash Course and TED-Ed.

In Boclips for Teachers you can search for videos according to keyword. When you find a video or videos that you like you can put them into a collection in your Boclips account. Boclips doesn't use the YouTube video player like many other educational video sites. That is significant because it means that if your school blocks YouTube you will still be able to access all of the content available through Boclips for Teachers.

Boclips for Teachers is still in beta. As part of that beta Boclips is asking teachers to complete short surveys in exchange for unlimited, lifetime access to the Boclips library.

Applications for Education
Boclips for Teachers could become a great alternative to displaying YouTube videos in your classroom. The vetting of video producers who contribute to Boclips is significant because it means that when you search in Boclips for Teachers you won't find "related" videos that aren't actually related to your search.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Huge News! No Service Disruptions for Remind Users on Verizon Mobile Plans

Eleven days ago Remind announced that they would be discontinuing delivery of text messages to students and parents who were on Verizon wireless plans. That change was due to a change in the way that Verizon was classifying Remind messages and a huge increase in the fee that Verizon was going to charge Remind to deliver text messages. A few days after Remind's initial announcement there were rumors that Verizon was changing their policy. Finally, today Remind was able to announce that there will not be any service disruption for users on Verizon wireless plans.

Today's announcement from Remind means that all U.S. users of Remind's free plan will be able to continue using the service as they always have.

Immersive Reader in Virtual Reality

Immersive Reader is one of my three favorite Microsoft products (the others others are Hacking STEM and Flipgrid). Today at the BETT Show I got to try a new implementation of Immersive Reader. That implementation is in virtual reality.

Immersive Reader in VR is a beta product. In fact, I was told by representatives of Microsoft that Immersive Reader in VR has only been shown to the public this week.

Immersive Reader in VR brings the experiences of Immersive Reader including line highlighting, syllable differentiation, and text read-aloud to a VR headset. According to the Microsoft employees that I spoke with today,  early trials of Immersive Reader in VR have proven to improve focus of readers by blocking out distractions. It has also been proven to make text accessible to readers who have previously been unable to access documents for a variety of reasons including vision.

One of the things that impressed me when I tried Immersive Reader in VR today was the ability to put up "walls" around the VR experience. Those walls were simple white walls that made the VR experience feel less enclosed that some other virtual reality experiences that I have tried. I generally start to feel trapped and unbalanced by VR experiences if I'm in them for more than a minute, I didn't feel that way when I implemented the "walls" option in the Immersive Reader in VR experience.

When Will It Be Available?
That was the question that I had for Microsoft's representatives today. They didn't have a firm date that they could share. I'll be sure to share it as soon as I know.

2,000+ New Stickers and Emojis Are Being Added to Flipgrid

Today at the BETT Show I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Charlie Miller. You might not know his name, but you probably know the company he founded, Flipgrid. In our conversation I mentioned the Ed Tech Fitness Flipgrid that I created and how I would love it if they added some fitness or exercise stickers like runners, bikers, and skiers. It was then that Dr. Miller told me that next week almost the full range of emojis that you find on your iOS and Android keyboards will be available in Flipgrid!

Adding more stickers or emojis to Flipgrid won't fundamentally change the way that you or your students use Flipgrid. That said, I think that it will be nice to have more options to express a reaction to a video or to decorate a video. After four weeks of using Flipgrid almost every day for the Ed Tech Fitness Flipgrid videos, I've found myself longing for more sticker options so I welcome the addition of more stickers. I'm sure that students will appreciate having more sticker options too.

On a related note, if you are new to Flipgrid or you're trying to introduce Flipgrid to other teachers at your school, please take a look my complete guide to using Flipgrid.

I Don't Like Vegetables - A Free Book About Eating Vegetables

One of my favorite parts of the BETT Show is the section called BETT Futures. BETT Futures is comprised of small stands of small start-ups. It's in that section that I have found many neat products over the years. Today, I found a small stand owned by a woman named Debbie Coggan who was featuring her book I Don't Like Vegetables. Her book is available as a free ebook on Apple Books. You can also purchase copies of it directly from her website or from Amazon

I Don't Like Vegetables is a beautifully-illustrated book that features the "Vegetable Pack." The Vegetable Pack includes characters like Tommy-Mateo, Hugh-Cumber, and the duo of Brock n' Ollie. These characters provide a fun introduction to where vitamins come from and the benefits of eating vegetables. 

If you have a Mac, iPad, or iPhone download the book for free via iTunes and if you like it, you can support an independent author with a great mission by purchasing a printed copy of the book. I'm purchasing a copy for my toddlers. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Three Good Places to Find Hands-on STEM Activities

On a fairly regular basis I'm asked for recommendations for hands-on STEM activities. In fact, just this morning I answered an email from a reader who was seeking that recommendation. Here are three of my go-to recommendations for hands-on STEM activities.

Microsoft has two excellent and free resources for those who are seeking ideas for hands-on STEM lessons. The first is MakeCode. MakeCode offers free programs that students can use to develop their programming skills. These include coding with LEGO Mindstorms, Adafruit, and Micro:bit. Checkout the MakeCode YouTube channel for great project ideas.

The second offering from Microsoft is called Hacking STEM. The idea behind Hacking STEM is to make low-cost or no-cost hands-on STEM projects accessible to as many people as possible. You can follow Microsoft's directions as written or modify the projects to use other materials to build the projects. In the following video I explain how I modified one of the Hacking STEM projects. So you might say that I hacked a Hacking STEM project.


Science Snacks from Exploratorium has been a recommendation of mine for a few years now. Science Snacks are activities that can be conducted with inexpensive and readily available materials. Each Science Snack comes with a materials list and step-by-step directions. Science Snacks are also accompanied by a written explanation of the science at work in the activity. Many Science Snacks, like Penny Battery, include video demonstrations and explanations.

Working with Arduino circuit boards is a fantastic way for students to develop programming skills. Students write programs on their computers then see their programs "come to life" through the lights, motors, and robotics connected to their Arduino boards. The Arduino project hub is full of project ideas for beginner through advanced programmers. If you're new to Arduino and wondering what hardware to purchase to get started, there are many inexpensive kits for beginners. I'm partial to this Arduino hardware kit for beginners.

Share Rubrics and Other Improvements to Microsoft Teams for Edu

Back in August rubric grading was added to Microsoft Teams for Edu. With that feature enabled you can attach rubrics to assignments for students to see before and after completing an assignment. Equally important, you'll be able to grade an assignment using that rubric without having to open multiple tabs or windows. This week at the BETT Show Microsoft launched new features for Microsoft Teams for Edu including improvements to grading process in Teams.

Microsoft Teams for Edu now lets you share rubrics with your colleagues. This means that you can share a rubric with a colleague, get feedback on it, and collaborate on editing a rubric.

If you spend more time using your tablet or phone than you do using your laptop, you'll be happy to know that you can now grade assignments on the Teams iOS and Android apps.

Microsoft's Grade Sync now integrates with popular SISs like PowerSchool and Infinite Campus. This means that you'll be able to easily move grades from Microsoft Teams for Edu into your student information system. Watch the following video for a short overview of how this will work.


Finally, Turnitin users can use that service within Microsoft Teams for Edu.

Students Can Create Their Own Tours to Share in Google Expeditions

Googles' Tour Creator launched last spring and since then has become one of my favorite tools for history and geography classes. One of my few complaints about it was that while students could easily build virtual reality tours, it wasn't always easy to share those tours with their teachers and classmates. That is about to change. Yesterday, Google announced that the updated version of the Expeditions Android app (iOS support is coming soon) will allow sharing of tours that students build in Tour Creator.

If you haven't tried Tour Creator, take a look at the following tutorials that I created.

How to Use Google's VR Tour Creator (The Basics)



How to Add Points of Interest in Tour Creator


How to Include Narration in Tour Creator


Applications for Education
In addition to making tours for history and geography lessons, students can use Tour Creator to build VR tours based on their favorite books. My detailed directions for that process are available here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

JotForm Offers a Great Way to Collect Registrations for Summer Camps and Field Trips

Summer might feel far away right now, but those of us who organize summer camps and summer field trips are already getting into full planning mode for the summer. If you have organized any kind of camp, field trip, or summer workshop you might have used Google Forms or good old fashioned paper forms to collect registration information. This year there is a better way to collect and organize registration information. That way is to use JotForm to organize camp registrations.

What is JotForm?
JotForm is a service for creating great-looking and highly-functional forms for collecting information from form visitors. You can embed your JotForm forms into an existing webpage or you can simply direct people to the URL for your stand-alone JotForm form. JotForm offers dozens of design themes that you can apply to your forms. In the gallery of themes you'll find designs that like this one that are perfect for summer camp registrations. And if you're making the switch from using Google Forms to using JotForm, you can import your Google Forms' information directly into a theme in JotForm.

Features of JotForm not Found in Google Forms
JotForm has a lot of features that make it a great tool for creating registration forms. Some of those features include the option to have personalized confirmation notices sent to registrants without the need for a third-party add-on, the option to collect signatures in forms, and the option to collect payments directly through your forms. Those features are all available in the free version of JotForms. Those who choose to upgrade can create HIPAA-compliant forms which can be used to collect important information like food allergies in your registration forms.



If you're interested in using JotForm to create registration forms for summer camps and similar activities, you will want to check out this guide on how to start a camp.

How to Use JotForm?
Whether you're creating a form for summer camp registrations, creating a form for a field trip, or creating a form to make an interest survey, JotForm is equally easy to use. Watch my video tutorial or read on for detailed directions on how to use JotForm to create forms.



To get started you will need to create a free JotForm account. Once you have created your account click the "create form" button and choose whether you want all questions to be on one page or if you want to have respondents answer one question per page in an index card style. Once you have selected a layout you can choose to use a template, build a form from scratch, or import questions from an existing form even if that form was made with another service including Google Forms.

If you choose to build a form from scratch rather than use a template you will have to drag question types onto a blank form canvas. You can add open response questions, multiple choice questions (single selection and multiple selection), and questions that require a response in the form of a file upload. There is also a star rating question format. Additionally, you can add pictures, charts, block text to forms that you design in JotForm.

After you have added all of your questions you can customize the color and font scheme of your form. You can apply any colors to your form that you can think of. The text options are almost as plentiful as the color options. And if you really want to customize your form's look, you can open the advanced editor where you'll find options for text alignment, background images, and object spacing. There's even an option for adding custom CSS.

After you have added all of your questions and settled on the design of your JotForm form you can preview it to see how it will look to visitors. If you like the way it looks, you're ready to publish it. You can share your JotForm forms by emailing or posting your form's URL online. JotForm forms can also be embedded into your existing web pages. Those are options are typical of every online form-builder. What makes JotForm different is that it contains an option to download your form as a fillable PDF!

Responses to your JotForm form are found through your JotForm dashboard. To see responses simply select your form then click "submissions." You can see all submissions in a spreadsheet format or you can view them as individual PDFs that you can download, print, or email. And speaking of PDFs, JotForm has an excellent guide to editing PDFs.

Disclosure: JotForm is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

How to Change Google Classroom Notification Settings

Earlier today a subscriber to my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter asked me if it was possible to change the frequency of Google Classroom notification emails. Yes is the answer to that question.

Here's how to change Google Classroom notification settings:
1. Sign into Google Classroom.
2. In the upper, left corner of the screen click on the "hamburger" or "three line menu."
3. At the bottom of the menu select "settings."
4. Notifications options will appear in the settings menu.
5. Choose your global settings and choose your class-by-class notification options.

A video of this process is included below.


Click here to read more about Google Classroom notification settings including how to change notification settings in the Google Classroom mobile apps.

Lego Launches Their 2019 Master Educator Program

Lego Education is one of the vendors whose stands that I always enjoy visiting at big education conference like the BETT Show (I'll be there later this week). They always have neat hands-on displays (they never let me take them home though) and people who are passionate about using Legos in education. If you're a teacher in the U.S. who also passionate about using Legos in your classroom, you're a candidate for Lego Education's 2019 Master Educator Program.

Lego Education's Master Educator Program is open to K-12 teachers in the United States. The program is an ambassador program that gives participants access to a community of other teachers who are passionate about using Legos in their classrooms. The program appears to include some specialized online PD opportunities. And, of course, participants get a digital badge and the right to say they are Lego Master Educators. In exchange for all of this three or four times a year participants have to give Lego feedback on their education products and initiatives. Participants are also expected to promote Lego Education whenever they can. If you're interested in becoming a Lego Education Master Educator, you can apply here.

On a related note, before engaging in a brand ambassador program I recommend considering reading Examining the New Phenomenon of Teachers as Brand Ambassadors.

Vizor 360 is Now Free for All - Create Interactive 360 Imagery

Vizor offers great tools for creating interactive 360 imagery. I've previously covered their Patches program for creating animated VR because that was the free service that they offered. Now their core product Vizor 360 is available for free too.

Vizor 360 lets you upload a series of pictures and then stitch them together. After you have stitched your pictures together to create a 360 image you can then add interactive elements to it. Those interactive elements can be links to websites, audio, and additional text and image overlays. A completed project can be viewed and interacted with in a web browser and or a VR headset.

Applications for Education
Vizor 360 could be a great tool for students to use to create interactive imagery of places that they have visited as part of a class or school field trip. Adding interactive elements to the imagery enables students to link to Google Docs they've created about the imagery and or to include audio of themselves talking about the imagery.

You Can Now Publish Entire Book Creator Libraries

Book Creator, one of my favorite tools for creating multimedia ebooks, has announced a new publishing option that many teachers have requested. Book Creator now lets teachers publish entire libraries of their students' books. This library publishing option is in addition to the option to publish individual books.

Publishing an entire library of student-created Book Creator books could be a good way to showcase an entire class' work in one place. If you're building a portfolio of your class' work on a class website or blog, putting the Book Creator library into that website will make it easier for visitors to see contributions from all students in one place. Libraries, like individual books, can be password protected.

Detailed directions for Book Creator library publishing can be found here. In short, you'll find the library publishing option in your teacher dashboard in the new library settings cog.

Here's a short overview of how to create an ebook on Book Creator.

Here's How Parents Can Receive Text Notifications in the SeeSaw App

In all of last week's kerfuffle about Remind and Verizon it got lost that there are other ways for students and their parents to receive mobile updates from you. SeeSaw is one of the services that offers a way for parents to receive text notifications. SeeSaw's parent app includes the option for parents to enable SMS text notifications. The following video demonstrates how to do that.


And if you're new to using SeeSaw, check out this video on how to send announcements to parents.

Monday, January 21, 2019

A Master List of Resources About Microsoft's Inclusive Classroom Tools

Microsoft offers many excellent tools that improve the accessibility of documents, web pages, PowerPoint presentations, and other online media. Many of those tools are included in what Microsoft calls Learning Tools. A couple of weeks ago Microsoft announced ten updates to their Learning Tools. Microsoft offers free professional development training packs that you can use to teach others about Learning Tools. Last Friday those training packs in a new master list of links for inclusive classroom experiences.

Helpful Links for Microsoft’s Inclusive Classroom Experiences contains more than four dozen resources for learning about Microsoft's Learning Tools and other accessibility features. The list includes a few full-length professional development webinars, the aforementioned training packs, case studies, and deployment guides for IT administrators.

How to Use PhotoScissors to Remove the Background from Any Image

In yesterday's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week I shared directions for using Remove.bg to take the background out of selfies and then use those modified pictures to virtually place yourself in a new setting. At the end of that newsletter update I mentioned PhotoScissors as an alternative to Remove.bg.

PhotoScissors lets you remove the background from any picture, not just selfies. This afternoon I used PhotoScissors to remove the background from a picture of my dog. I then used a picture of the White House's lawn in a Google Slide and layered the cutout of my dog on top of it. Watch this short video from my YouTube channel for an overview of how to use PhotoScissors.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Virtual Amusement Park About Molecules

The NanoSpace Molecularium is a nice educational game produced by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It is available to play in a web browser and is available as an iOS and Android app. The purpose of the game is to provide elementary school and middle school students with an introduction to the properties of atoms and molecules. The NanoSpace Molecularium is a virtual amusement park that students can click through to find videos, games, and other short lessons about atoms and molecules.

Students enter the NanoSpace Molecularium through the "Hall of Atoms & Molecules." From there students can choose which of the four parts of the amusement park they want to explore first. The four sections that students can explore are DNA Land, H20 Park, Sizes of Molecules, and Molecular Materials.

Here's a video about the game.


Applications for Education
The NanoSpace Molecularium can be used by students with or without creating an account on the site. The benefit of creating an account is that students can keep track of where they left off during their previous visit.

Remove Image Backgrounds With PhotoScissors

PhotoScissors is a free image editing tool that you can use to remove the background from your images. PhotoScissors is available to use for free online and is available to download as desktop software.

To use PhotoScissors online simply go to the site and upload a picture that you want to edit. After you have uploaded your picture you will be taken to an editing screen. On that screen you use a green marker to indicate the parts of the picture that you want to keep and use a red marker to indicate the parts of the picture that you want to remove. You will see a live preview of your edited image while you work. If you remove too much, you can put it back into the picture by just coloring with the green marker. If you didn't remove enough, just do a little more red marking. When you are happy with your cutout image you can download it as a new image.

I found PhotoScissors last night when I was looking for a free alternative to Remove.bg. I was looking for an alternative because of some complaints about the cover image on the Remove.bg website being a little too close to PG-13 for some users. It turns out that PhotoScissors is probably an overall better tool because you can use it for more than just pictures of people. You can use it for pictures of animals (I tried it with a picture of my dog), plants, and buildings. That's because you selectively indicate which parts of the picture to keep and which to remove.

Applications for Education
Students can use PhotoScissors in the same manner in which I outlined using Remove.bg to virtually place themselves in front of any landmark. Students can use PhotoScissors on a favorite selfie picture then use their cutout to place themselves in a picture of a famous landmark. I did this last night when I put the cutout of my daughter and I in front of Mount Everest (see above). I made that picture by putting a picture of Mount Everest on a Google Slide then placing my cutout on top of it. I then downloaded the Google Slide as a PNG. This could be done as part of a social studies lesson in which students create a series of pictures of themselves in front of landmarks and write short stories about "visiting" each landmark.

BTW, as many Twitter followers have pointed out, most versions of PowerPoint have a tool for removing backgrounds from images. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

How to Print Google Slides

One of the frequently asked questions during my Getting Going With G Suite workshop is "can I print Google Slides like I can print my PowerPoint slides?" The answer to that question is yes. In fact there are quite a few options for printing your Google Slides. Watch my new video to learn how you can print Google Slides.


Subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified whenever I post a new tutorial video. While you're there, take a look at my Google Tutorials and Practical Ed Tech playlists.

And if you're in the market for a good, inexpensive printer, I recommend this Brother laser printer. I've had one in my office for years and it has been fantastic for printing documents.

37 People Signed Up for #EdTechFitness Challenges This Week

One of the new projects for 2019 that I am most excited about is my new Ed Tech Fitness site. As I shared at the end of 2018 I have a few goals for the site. First, to have a space where I would be accountable for exercising my body and mind as it should be. Second, to create a place that other educators could come to share their successes in improving their physical and mental health. Third, to share some technology tips related to time management and fitness. To those ends I created a weekly Ed Tech Fitness newsletter. This week 37 people joined!

The Ed Tech Fitness newsletter is sent on Monday morning. The newsletter contains a weekly challenge (this week's was to do a daily five minute stretching routine) and will contain summary links of anything new that is posted on Ed Tech Fitness. Sign-up here or read more about it here.

Remind, Timelines, and Landmarks - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we're eagerly anticipating the arrival of the biggest snow storm of the year. The forecast for where I live calls for 20" of snow! As a skier, I can't wait for it! As the owner of a long driveway and long walkways, I'm not looking forward to shoveling.

This week was the second week for three online courses that I'm teaching through Practical Ed Tech. I've had emails from a few people who wanted to know if the courses will be offered again this winter. I will offer them again before the end of the school year. The dates for the course are still to be determined. In the meantime, I do have some course offerings available on-demand.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. A Huge Change Coming to Remind - No More Texts for Verizon Subscribers
2. The WWII Museum Announces D-Day Electronic Field Trip
3. A New Look is Coming to Google Slides, Sheets, Docs, and Sites
4. Picture Yourself in Front of Any Landmark With Remove.BG and Google Slides
5. Free Alternatives to Remind - Spoiler Alert! They're Limited
6. How to Use Canva to Create a Timeline
7. 5 Good Tools for Creating Timelines

Now Booking Summer Workshops!
I know that June can feel a long way away in the middle of January, but I'm already booking my summer workshop calendar. If you'd like to have me come to your school this spring (I have two May openings) or summer, please take a look at my speaking page and fill out the short form at the bottom of it.

And speaking of summer, the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp will return this year! I've secured a beautiful location for it that offers lots of activities for the whole family within walking distance. Registration information will be available soon on PracticalEdTech.com.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
TypingClub offers more than 600 typing lessons for kids.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.

Seterra offers a huge selection of geography games for students. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Colds, Flu, and Boogie Wipes - Timely Science Lessons

As anyone who has heard me speak this week can attest, I'm getting over a miserable cold. I'm not the only one as this cold has affected my kids and many others in our community. We're going through a lot of boogie wipes in our house. Thankfully, none of us have had the flu. But what's the difference between a cold and the flu? How can you avoid catching either one? Those questions and more are answered in the following videos.

Colds, the Flu, and You is a video from SciShow Kids that is appropriate for elementary school classrooms.




How is a cold or flu passed from person to person and what exactly is it doing to your body? NPR answers those questions in the following animated video.



Did you get your flu shot this year? This TED-Ed lesson explains why you should get one every year.

Despite Earlier Reports, Verizon Hasn't Reversed All Fees to Remind

Yesterday EdSurge ran a story about Verizon promising to reverse course on the fees it is going to charge Remind to deliver text messages. The Twitterverse rejoiced in their victory over the corporate giant! It seems that the rejoicing might have been a bit premature.

Last night Remind's CEO published a blog post stating that despite what Verizon has said publicly, there is not a signed deal in place to reverse course on the fees that Remind would be charged under Verizon's new classification of Remind's text messages. He went on to share that the statement made by Verizon may not apply to other user groups of Remind's free services. Some of those groups include preschools, colleges, churches, and various youth organizations.

Like I wrote on Monday these changes that Verizon is making will impact other services that operate like Remind. So even if you're not a Remind user, it is worth following the story because it has the potential to impact millions of teachers, students, and students' parents in the United States. I recommend following Remind's suggestions if you would like your voice to be heard on this matter.

Update: Ars Technica has a fairly balanced report on the negotiations between Verizon and Remind. Neither party looks great in the article.