Google
 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

How to Find More Free Images to Use in Adobe Spark Videos

Adobe Spark is one of my favorite free tools for creating videos. It works well on Chromebooks and any other laptop that is using a modern web browser. One the excellent features of Adobe Spark Video is the integrated image search tool. When students use images found through the integrated search, the image is automatically added to a credits screen at the end of the video. While the default image library in Adobe Spark is good, it is possible to expand the size of the library in your Adobe Spark account settings. Watch my video to learn how to find more free images to use in your Adobe Spark video projects.


Monday, February 18, 2019

A Helpful Search Refinement Option for Students Studying Trending Topics

Earlier this month I published Ten Search Strategies Students Should Try. An eleventh strategy that students can try when they are researching current events, trending topics, or any rapidly changing topic is to refine results according to publication date. In the following video I demonstrate how students can refine search results according to publication date.

A Comparison of Blogging Services for Teachers and Students

The Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge kicks-off two weeks from now. You don't need to be an Edublogs user in order for your students to participate in the challenge. If you're new to blogging or new to having students blog, Edublogs is a solid choice for a blogging platform. Edublogs isn't the only option for student bloggers. In this updated chart I compare seven options for creating student blogs.

At the bottom of my blogging platforms comparison chart you will see my final ranking of the seven services. Spoiler Alert! I rank Edublogs and Blogger as 1a and 1b. But take a look at the chart and see which services have the features that you want and need.

My YouTube channel contains many short tutorials on the features of both of these blogging services.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

An Online Lab for Learning About Weather Patterns and Forecasts

The Smithsonian Science Education Center's Weather Lab is one of many online learning activities produced and hosted by the Smithsonian. The Weather Lab is designed to help elementary and middle school students learn about weather patterns.

In the Weather Lab students select an ocean current and an air mass then try to predict the weather pattern that will result from their choices. The Weather Lab provides an overview of the characteristics of each air mass and ocean current. Students should use that information in making their weather predictions.  After making their predictions the Weather Lab will tell students if they were correct or not. In the feedback given to students they will find links to videos for further learning about each weather pattern featured in the Weather Lab.

Applications for Education
The Smithsonian Science Center's Weather Lab isn't the most robust online activity that you'll find online. That said, it is a good starting place for lessons about weather. I would have students use the Weather Lab to learn a bit about weather patterns then transition them to using real-time meteorological data to make weather forecasts for where they live.

Presidents Day Sale on Practical Ed Tech Webinars

One of the ways that I keep the lights on at Free Technology for Teachers is through the sale of online training webinars on my other site, Practical Ed Tech. This weekend all of the on-demand webinars are on sale at 50% off. Click here to take advantage of the offer.

Practical Ed Tech webinars on sale this weekend:

  • 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom
  • Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners
  • Get Organized With Google Classroom, Calendar, and Keep
  • Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know
  • Introduction to AR & VR in Education
  • 5 Ways to Blend Technology into Outdoor Lessons
Click here to get one, two, or all six of these webinars at 50% off!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Whiteboards, Valentines, and Adventure - The Week in Review

Good morning from Paris Hill, Maine where the snow has stopped and the sun is shining. It's a perfect day to go snowshoe festival. That's exactly what one of my daughters and I are going to do as soon as I finish writing this post.

This week I had the pleasure of leading an all-day workshop for a fun group of teachers in Pekin, Illinois. The title of the workshop was using Technology to Engage All Learners. It was a condensed version of what we do at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Speaking of which, a couple more people took advantage of the February discount for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Six Online Whiteboard Drawing Tools
2. ReadWorks Now Offers Illustrated eBooks
3. A Handful of Resources and Ideas for Valentine's Day Lessons
4. New Features are Coming Soon to Your Gmail Inbox
5. 7 Tips for Moving from Decorating to Designing Classrooms
6. How to Use Keynote to Create Choose Your Own Adventure Stories
7. How to Use Google Slides to Create Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

Now Booking Summer Workshops!
Summer might feel a long way away right now, 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.


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. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Free Lessons on Developing Speaking and Listening Skills

The BBC's Skillswise website offers many good activities for learning and practicing skills in language arts and mathematics. A section of the site that could be useful in a lot of classrooms is the speaking and listening section. The speaking and listening section contains subsections offering lessons and activities to develop a specific skill. Those skills are listening for specifics, communication skills, formal and informal speaking, and giving presentations. Each section has a short introductory video followed by a set of quizzes and interactive games in which students test their skills.

Applications for Education
While all of the activities are good, the speaking and listening activities on Skillswise that I would be most inclined to use with students are the types of listening and listening for specifics games. The games in both sections require students to listen and follow a set of detailed instructions to complete tasks like delivering products to addresses, recording details of story, and responding to emergency situations.

Try the Random Name Picker on ClassTools

Random Name Picker is a free tool from Russel Tarr at Classtools.net. Random Name Picker lets you input names and spin a virtual wheel to have a name randomly selected from the list. After a name is selected you can remove it from the wheel so that it is not selected again.

Random Name Picker is free to use and does not require a registration on Classtools.net. You can save your lists by assigning passwords to them. You can re-use your saved lists. The Random Name Picker wheel can be embedded into your blog or website. The Random Name Picker was written in HTML5 so that it will run in the browser of your iPad.


Applications for Education
At one point or another every teacher has asked for volunteers and not had any hands raised. In that situation using the Random Name Picker could be a fun way to select the order in which students will present to classmates.Or for those times when all of your students raise their hands for something fun like being the line leaders, the Random Name Picker is a convenient tool to have at your disposal.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Guide to Blogging Terminology

In my previous post I shared some information about the upcoming Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge. If you're new to blogging or it has been a long time since you did any blogging, it can be helpful to have a glossary of terms that are frequently used when writing and talking about blogging. That's why I put together the following glossary of terms. (Access the glossary as a Google Doc here).

Before you jump into the glossary, watch Common Craft's explanation of what blogs are and how they work.


Theme: WordPress and many other blogging platforms use “themes” to describe the look of a blog. The theme can include the color scheme and the layout of elements on the blog. Changing the theme does not change the content of your blog posts.

Template: Blogger and some other blogging platforms use the term “template” to describe the look of a blog. The template can include the color scheme and the layout of elements on the blog. Changing your template does not change the content of your blog posts.

Tag: Tags are applied to WordPress (Wordpress.com, Kidblog, Edublogs) blog posts to identify the key ideas or purpose of a post. Tags make it easier for people to search and find older posts on your blog. For example, if you write a post about your Revolutionary War lesson, tag it with “revolution” or “revolutionary war” so that at the end of the school year when you have 150 posts on your blog your students can quickly click on the “revolution” tag and jump to the post that have that label. It’s a lot easier to locate older posts by tag than it is to click through archives by date.

Label: Labels are applied to Blogger blog posts to identify the key ideas or purpose of a post. For example, if you write a blog post about your Revolutionary War lesson plan, label it with “revolution” or “revolutionary war” so that at the end of the school year when you have 150 posts on your blog your students can quickly click on the “revolution” label and jump to the posts that have that label. It’s a lot easier to locate older posts by label than it is to click through archives by date.

Tag Cloud and Label Cloud: Tag and Label clouds can be added to your blog’s homepage to make it easy for visitors to see the tags or labels that you use, click on one of them, and jump to a list of all of the posts that have that particular label.

Categories: In WordPress-powered blogs you can use categories for broad descriptions of posts in addition to using tags. For example, on iPadApps4School.com I use the categories “pre-K,” “elementary school,” “middle school,” and “high school.” I assign each post to a category and use tags for describing the academic topic of the post. This way if someone visits my blog looking for math apps appropriate for elementary school he or she can click on the “math” tag then click on the “elementary school” category to find all of my posts meeting that search criteria.

Embed: To display a video, slideshow, audio recording, Google Calendar, Google Map, game, and many other multimedia elements in a blog post you will use an embed code provided by service hosting that media. Embedding media into a blog post does not make you the owner of it and as long as you follow the guidelines set forth by the hosting service you are not violating copyright by embedding something you didn’t create. For example, when you find a video on YouTube that you want your students to watch you can embed it into a blog post and ask students to comment on the blog post. If the owner of that video decides to take it offline the video will no longer play through your blog post.

Embed Codes: An embed code is a piece of code, often HTML, that media hosting services like YouTube provide so that you can easily display the media that they host in your own blog posts. On some services an embed code will be clearly labeled as such next to the media you’re viewing. On other services the embed code will be one of the options that appears when you click on the “share” option. YouTube, for example, currently requires you to open the “share” menu before you see the embed code option.

Widget: A widget is a small application that you can include in the posts and or pages of your blog. A widget could be a game, a display of Tweets, a display of RSS feeds, a tag cloud, a calendar, or any other application that offers an embed code.

Gadget: Gadget is the term that Blogger uses for a widget. A gadget and a widget do the same things.

Plug-in: A plug-in (sometimes plugin) is a small application that you can add to the software that powers your blog. Unlike widgets and gadgets plug-ins operate in the background and visitors to your blog will not see them working. A plug-in can add functions to your blog such as suggesting related posts to your visitors or detecting the type of device a visitor is using to view your blog then automatically displaying the mobile or desktop version of your blog’s layout.

Post: “Post” can refer to an entry on your blog as in “a blog post.” “Post” can also be used as a verb as in “I am going to post a new entry on my blog.”

Page: A page on a blog is different than a post because a page is designed for static content. Pages are good for posting information that you want visitors to your blog to be able to quickly access. For example, my classroom blog had pages for curriculum outlines and review guides.

Permalink: Each blog post is assigned its own separate URL this is known as a permalink (permanent link). This URL is the one that you would share if you wanted someone to directly access a post rather than going to your blog’s homepage then searching for the post.

Hosted Blog: A hosted blog is one whose software is maintained by a company for its users. Services like Blogger and WordPress.com are examples of services on which you can create hosted blogs. The advantage of using a hosted service is that you don’t have to worry about installing software, software updates, server maintenance, or bandwidth capacity. The disadvantage of using a hosted service is that you don’t have access to the servers hosting your blog, the service may limit some customization options (WordPress.com in particular does this), and if the service closes you will be looking for a new place to blog.

Self-hosted Blog: A self-hosted blog is one for which you own the blogging software, you install it on a server or shared server, and you are responsible for all technical maintenance and updates. The advantage of having a self-hosted blog is that you can customize it to your heart’s content, you have access to the server(s) hosting your blog, and you can move your content from one hosting service to another if you choose. The disadvantage of a self-hosted blog is that you do have to feel somewhat comfortable installing the software on a server. Fortunately, most hosting companies have good tutorials on installing popular blogging software. Another disadvantage of self-hosting is that you are responsible for performing all updates and other maintenance tasks. This can be time consuming for new bloggers. Finally, to have a self-hosted blog you will have to buy a domain and pay a monthly or annual hosting fee for your blog. I pay roughly $200 annually to MediaTemple.com for hosting and I have eight domains on my plan. If you decided to go the self-hosted route, Media Temple is my recommendation for a hosting service. They offer excellent 24/7 customer service and I’ve never experienced any downtime since I started using them in April of 2012.

The Next Student Blogging Challenge Starts Soon

Blogging can be a great way to get students interested in writing and publishing their work for an audience. The challenges of classroom blogging have always been coming up with things for kids to write about and building an audience for your students' work. The Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge addresses both of those challenges. The next Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge begins on March 3rd.

The Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge provides weekly blogging suggestions suitable for K-12 students. Every week students complete the challenge then you can submit the URL of your students' posts to be included in a larger Student Blogging Challenge form that other participating classes can see. By submitting the URLs of your students' work, you're providing them with an opportunity to get feedback from other students and teachers who are participating the challenge.

The Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge is open to all K-12 classrooms. You do not have to use Edublogs in order to participate in the challenge. Click here to read the complete details of the challenge including how to register.

How Ocean Currents Work - And 24 Other Lessons About Oceans

How Do Ocean Currents Work? is a TED-Ed lesson that makes a fantastic addition to TED-Ed's list of lessons about oceans. The list now has 25 lessons covering a range of ocean-related topics including how waves are formed, the depths of oceans, and lessons about marine life.

In How Do Ocean Currents Work? viewers learn about the forces influencing surface and deep ocean currents. The lesson is told through the story of 28,000 rubber ducks drifting around the world.


I've watched this lesson a few times. The last time that I watched it I realized that the clay model featured in the video could be replicated in a fish tank or large dish pan. Having students make and modify models like the one in the video could be a good way for them to see and experiment with forces that influence the flow of water.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

ReadWorks Now Offers Illustrated eBooks

ReadWorks, a fantastic free service for ELA teachers, recently added new illustrated ebooks to their library. These illustrated ebooks can be used in the same way that all other ReadWorks ebooks can be used by you and your students. That includes distributing ebooks to your students through a ReadWorks classroom and or through Google Classroom.

ReadWorks is more than just a library of free ebooks for schools. ReadWorks offers standards-aligned lesson plans that incorporate ebooks from their library. And the ebooks themselves are all labeled with a recommended grade level and a lexile score range. All articles are accompanied by lists of key vocabulary terms and suggested comprehension and or discussion questions.

Every ReadWorks ebook can be read online. Students can also listen to every ReadWorks ebook. The combination of new visuals and the read-aloud function makes ReadWorks lessons accessible to more students than ever before.

FAQs About the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp

Earlier this week I sent out an email about super-early registration for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Some people have already jumped on that offer and others have emailed me with questions about the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Here's a short list of the some of the frequently asked questions and their answers.

1. What topics will be covered in the workshop?
• Teaching search strategies
• How to use AR & VR in your classroom
• Coding with kids
• Making movies
• Podcasting
• Fun formative assessment
• Putting it all together…

2. Do I have to be a G Suite for Education user?
No, you do not. This is not a G Suite for Education training session.

3. I teach elementary school, will this be too advanced for my students?
No. This is designed to be inclusive of all K-12 educators.

3. Do I need to bring my laptop/ iPad/ Chromebook?
Yes, you must bring your own laptop, Chromebook, iPad, or Android tablet. Better yet, bring them all.

4. Do I have to stay at the Bethel Inn & Resort?
No, you can stay anywhere you want and you will still get breakfast and lunch included in your registration.

5. What can my spouse and kids do during the day?
The resort itself offers an 18 hour golf course, walking and biking paths, swimming, and spa services. There are outfitters in town who are happy to provide canoe and kayak rentals and shuttle service so you can explore the Androscoggin River that flows through town.

6. I'm thinking about flying, is there public transportation available between the airport and the resort?
While the Bethel Inn & Resort is in a beautiful location, it is about an hour’s drive from the Portland airport. I recommend renting a car if you are flying to Maine.

7. I need to register with a purchase order, can you accommodate that?
Yes, I can. I'd prefer if you can register online, but I can accept a PO from most schools in the U.S. Send me an email to start that process.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Handful of Resources and Ideas for Valentine's Day Lessons

Valentine's Day is only a couple of days away. If you're looking for some last minute activities to do in your classroom, take a look at these resources.

Why Do We Love? is a TED-Ed lesson that explores some philosophies on why people love. The lesson won't provide you with any clear answers, but it will make you think. And isn't that what philosophers want you to do?



Storyboard That offers templates for designing and printing Valentine's Day cards. To do this your students will first have to create a simple three-frame storyboard. Then they can print the story in a foldable card format. In my video embedded below I demonstrate how to create a Valentine's Day card on Storyboard That.



Canva offers design templates for almost every card-giving occasion. That includes offering Valentine's Day card designs. In the video below I demonstrate how to use Canva to design cards.



If you're wondering if you can use Canva with students under the age of 13, please read this statement from Canva's CEO Cliff Obrecht.

The Science and Math of Valentine's Day
The following video from It's Okay To Be Smart (produced by PBS Digital Studios) explains why humans kiss, the history of symbols associated with kissing, and some cultural views of kissing. When I saw this video I immediately thought of my friends who teach middle school and high school health classes.


The following fun video, also from It's Okay to Smart, attempts to use math to determine the odds of a 25 year old woman finding love in New York. (Remember, the video is just for fun).


Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

New Features are Coming Soon to Your Gmail Inbox

Last year Google added Smart Replies to all Gmail accounts including those of G Suite for Education users. The Smart Replies feature has become quite the time-saver in my busy day. This week Google announced a new Gmail feature that could also prove to be a time-saver for many of us.

Over the next couple of weeks you will start to see new options when you right-click on the subject line of an email in your inbox. The new options will include adding labels, replying to and forwarding messages with one click, searching for emails with the same subject line, and opening emails in multiple tabs. I anticipate using the labeling and searching tools quite a bit once they appear in my Gmail accounts.

These new features are being rolled out over the next two weeks. If you don't see it now, keep trying and you'll see it before too long.


Try These 6 Things When a Website Doesn't Work as Expected

In the last week I've fielded a half-dozen emails from readers who were experiencing problems with web tools not working as they expected. This seems like a good time to revisit six things that you should check when a website doesn't work as you expected it to work.

1. Is your browser updated? This isn't as common as it used to be, but in some instances of a site not working properly the cause can be traced to using an outdated version of a web browser. If you're using an older version of a browser, not only will some sites not work correctly, you are also opening yourself up to more potential security threats.

2. Do you have cookies enabled? Many websites require cookies in order to offer you the best possible experience. Explania and Common Craft offer good explanations of how cookies work.


3. Are you using a pop-up blocker? It is not uncommon for a website to use a pop-up window for account log-ins. If the pop-up is blocked, you won't be able to log-in.

4. Are you using the site on a tablet/ iPad/ phone? While it would be great if every site was optimized for tablets, that is not the case.

5. Have you checked your spam folder? If you sent a help request to the help desk/ site administrators, they may have replied and had their messages flagged by your spam filter. I've experienced this more than once when using a school district email address.

6. Last, but not least, in the words of The IT Crowd, "have you tried turning it off and on again?" Or logging out and logging back in? It's amazing how often that can fix a problem.


Disclosure: For years I have had an in-kind business relationship with Common Craft.

Monday, February 11, 2019

How to Use Keynote to Create Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

Last week I published a video about using Google Slides to create choose your own adventure stories. That prompted a couple of people to ask if Keynote and or PowerPoint can be used in the same manner. The answer to that question is yes. In the following video I demonstrate how you can use Keynote to create choose your own adventure stories.


The concept used to create a choose your own adventure story in Google Slides or Keynote can be utilized to create any kind of interactive presentation including Jeopardy games or simple reference documents.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Six Online Whiteboard Drawing Tools

Thanks to an email from a reader I was alerted that a few of the online whiteboard tools that I have reviewed in the past are no longer working. Here's an updated list of online whiteboard tools that you and your students can use for free.

Scratchwork is an online whiteboard and video conferencing tool designed with math students in mind. The platform works like many similar services as it provides you with a whiteboard on which you can draw, type, and import images to annotate. Scratchwork is a little different than other services because it includes a Latex editor for writing equations. Scratchwork also offers an option to draw on a tablet and import those drawings. The collaboration aspect of Scratchwork comes into the picture when you activate the video conferencing component built into Scratchwork.

Draw Chat is a free service that allows anyone to create a video chat over a whiteboard, PDF, image, or map. To use Draw Chat you just have to visit the site and click "Start New Whiteboard." Once your whiteboard launches you will have the option to enable access to your webcam and microphone. You can have people join your whiteboard video conference by sending them the link assigned to your whiteboard.Draw Chat allows you to draw or type on a shared whiteboard. Additionally, you can upload a PDF or an image to annotate on the whiteboard. A fourth option for drawing on Draw Chat is to import the URL for a Google Map and draw on that map.

WebRoom is a free service for hosting online meetings. WebRoom doesn't require you to download any software and you don't need to register in order to use it. WebRoom lets you use your webcam if you want people to see your face during the meeting. A whiteboard space is provided. You can draw on the whiteboard or upload a file to share and discuss on the whiteboard. A text chat space is provided in each WebRoom meeting. It is possible to share your screen with other meeting participants. However, to share your screen you will need to install the WebRoom Chrome extension.



Realtime Board is an online whiteboard tool that I have been using and recommending for the better part of the last decade. At its basic level Realtime Board provides a blank canvas on which you can type, draw, and post pictures. You can connect elements on your boards through a simple linking tool. Realtime Board includes an activity tracking feature. This feature lets you see the changes that have been made to a shared Realtime Board whiteboard.

While it doesn't have a voice or video chat component, Google Drawings can be used as a collaborative whiteboard space. Simply start your drawing at drawings.google.com then hit the share button to invite others to view and work on the drawing.

If you're a OneNote Class Notebooks user you could create a blank page to draw on with other members of the Class Notebook.

Search, AR, VR, and Stories - The Week in Review

Good morning from cold and windy Maine. How windy? In the words of my two-year-old, "soooo windy!"

Before sharing the list of the week's most popular posts, I have an update about Free Technology for Teachers that will answer some of the questions that I've received lately. The reason for the lighter posting over the last week is three fold. First, and the biggest reason, is that I'm determined to finally finish writing a book that I started almost 18 months ago. Pounding out 1,000+ words a day on that is much more difficult than writing three or four blog posts per day. Second, I'm spending time writing on Ed Tech Fitness and building that community. Third, I'm building and revising new keynote presentations for the conferences that I am speaking at over the next couple of months. So no, I'm not shutting down this blog. I haven't lost interest in it. I just have a couple of things that for first time in years I'm putting slightly ahead of the blog for the next few weeks. By March, I'll be back to publishing three or four posts per day.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. What is Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?
2. Ten Overlooked Google Docs Features
3. How to Use Google Slides to Create Choose Your Own Adventure Stories
4. Two Image-based Search Challenges to Use With Your Students
5. Ten Search Strategies Students Should Try
6. A Couple of Free Online Alternatives to Audacity
7. Tracing the Evolution of Phones - A Google Scholar Practice Activity

Now Booking Summer Workshops!
I know that June can feel a long way away right now, 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.

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. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

How to Use Google Slides to Create Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

Google Slides has lots of little hidden features and overlooked tools that students can use to make all kinds creative presentations. One of those overlooked features is linking slides to other slides. If used correctly and with a little planning students can create choose-your-own-adventure stories by using the slide linking feature in Google Slides. That's what I explain and demonstrate in the following video.



Building Models to Understand Brain Injury - A Hacking STEM Project

I'm still working through many of the notes that I took during the 2019 BETT Show that wrapped up in a London a couple of weeks ago. One of the new things that I saw there was a new Hacking STEM project called Building Models to Understand and Mitigate Brain Injury. This is one the newest projects added to Microsoft's Hacking STEM library.

In Building Models to Understand and Mitigate Brain Injury students create a model brain that is connected to pressure sensors to measure the force of impact on the brain from a hit to the head. Those sensors are connected to a Excel where data from each impact is immediately charted. My shakily recorded video shows the model and connected Excel sheet in action.


This project and corresponding lesson plan are intended for use with middle school students. Of course, you could modify it for high school students. The complete lesson plan is available for free right here. Microsoft estimates the cost of materials for the project at $3/ student excluding the Arduino circuit board which are not terribly expensive.

The lesson plan isn't just building a model and recording data about impacts on the brain. There is a design component that you can add to the lesson. In the design component students design various helmets and helmet materials. They then test their designs using the same simulation method that was used to impact in the initial simulation.

While this project could be great for any middle school science class, it could be particularly meaningful to students who participate in sports like soccer and football that have a high risk of head injuries.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

What is Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?

Go to any educational technology conference or ed tech blog today and you are bound to encounter augmented reality and virtual reality products. They’re the hot topics of the day in the educational technology industry. Every week I answer questions from readers about AR and VR. One of the patterns I've discerned from answering those questions is that a lot of people aren't clear on what AR and VR really are what is different about the two technologies. Here's a concise overview of AR and VR.

What is Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?
Augmented Reality (AR) displays digital content (video, picture, animation) in a physical world. This is digital content is typically displayed on your mobile phone or internet-connected tablet. The display of digital content is often triggered by location. Pokemon Go is a mainstream example of augmented reality displays triggered by location.

The other way the display of digital content can be triggered is by focusing the camera of your phone or tablet on an object. You’ll find examples of this in children’s books that have companion AR apps. Kids can read the book and scan the book’s pages with a companion app to see digital content.

Virtual Reality (VR) is a digital experience is typically displayed inside a virtual reality headset or viewer like Google Cardboard. The digital content that you see is not dependent on your current physical location, but it does require that you have a VR viewer. Fortunately, VR viewers are inexpensive. You can get ones that are suitable for classroom use for under ten dollars on Amazon and many other retailers. You can even make your own VR headset. A quick search on YouTube for “DIY Virtual Reality Headset” will lead you to lots of videos on how to make your own VR headset.

Apps to Quickly See How AR & VR Works
Like most things in educational technology, it’s better to try AR & VR than to just read about it. Here are a couple of apps that will let you quickly and easily experience AR & VR.

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 has AR and VR experiences. 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.

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.

Come to the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp to learn more about AR and VR and how you can use it in your classroom. 

Anchor Has Been Acquired by Spotify

Anchor, one of the best new podcast creation tools to emerge in the last few years, has been acquired by Spotify. In an email sent to users and in this blog post Anchor's founders announced the acquisition. According to Anchor's announcement the acquisition by Spotify won't change how you can use Anchor to record, edit, and publish podcasts through Anchor's apps and browser tools. That is good news because Anchor provides one of the two best ways for students to create podcasts. Watch my video to learn how you and your students can create a podcast with Anchor's free tools.



Wednesday, February 6, 2019

How to Use Location-based Reminders

I started this year with a goal of improving my fitness. As I wrote on January 2nd, I use Google Keep to set reminders to do things that will help me reach my goals. I use Google Keep to get reminders on my phone at various points in my day. Those reminders are time-based. But there is another way to get reminder notifications in Google Keep. That way is through location services.

When you create a location-based reminder in Google Keep, you get a notification when you arrive at a location of your choosing. For example, you could have a reminder pop-up as soon as you arrive at school in the morning. The example I use in the following video is a reminder when I get near my local post office to put a bill in mailbox.


On a related note, check out Ed Tech Fitness to see my fitness progress and to join in on some fitness challenges.

Building Image-based Search Challenges

On Monday I wrote about a couple of image-based search challenges that I do with students. I use those challenges as a way to get students to think about all of the search tools and search strategies that they have at their disposal. To solve the challenges students need to combine strategies and tools.

I received a handful of emails from readers who were seeking more explanation of the image-based search challenges that I shared on Monday. I made the following video to, hopefully, explain them better.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A Couple of Free Online Alternatives to Audacity

On Monday someone Tweeted at me a request for an alternative to Audacity that his students could use online to record and edit audio tracks. My first thought was to try SoundTrap, but they no longer offer a free version of their product. So my next suggestion was to try Twisted Wave. This morning I started searching my archives and recalled another online alternative to Audacity. That tool is Beautiful Audio Editor.

Twisted Wave is a browser-based audio recording and editing tool that functions in a manner similar to GarageBand. Through TwistedWave you can create and edit spoken audio recordings from scratch. Your completed tracks can be exported to Google Drive and SoundCloud.If you have existing audio tracks in your SoundCloud or Google Drive account you can also import it into TwistedWave to edit those audio tracks. TwistedWave's audio editing tools include options for fade-in, fade-out, looping, sound normalization, and pitch adjustments. The editor also includes the typical track clipping tools that you would expect to see in an audio editing tool.

Beautiful Audio Editor is a free audio editor that you can use in the Chrome and Firefox web browsers. Beautiful Audio Editor lets you record spoken audio directly and or import audio that you have previously recorded in MP3 and WAV formats. You can edit and blend multiple tracks in the Beautiful Audio Editor. When your audio editing project is complete you can download it as an MP3 file, download it as a WAV file, or you can save it in Google Drive.

Tracing the Evolution of Phones - A Google Scholar Practice Activity

Google Scholar can be an excellent place to find articles from academic journals. Articles from academic journals aren’t the only things that students can search for on Google Scholar. Google Scholar provides search tools for locating court decisions and tools for locating patent filings. A good way for students to practice using the patent search feature in Google Scholar is to trace the evolution of telephones through patent filings. For example, The patent search option in Google Scholar can be used to help us find out how many subsequent, related patents have been filed since Alexander Graham Bell's 1876 patent.

In the following video I demonstrate how your students can use Google Scholar to trace product development through patent research.



Applications for Education
Using the patent search function in Google Scholar can be a good way for students to attempt to trace product developments over time. In this case the challenge for students would be to find the major, subsequent innovations in telephone technology. Of course, the concept can be applied to almost any product that has been patented at some point in time. Read more about the strategy and application here.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Two Image-based Search Challenges to Use With Your Students

One of my favorite ways to reinforce the use of good search strategies to students is to show interesting pictures and have students try to make a long list of questions about what they see. Then I let the students try to find the answers to those questions. When they get stuck, I intervene to remind them of one of the search strategies that they have been taught. The other method that I use is to give students a bit of an image-based riddle to solve through the use of the search strategies that they have learned. Outlines of both types of challenges are included below. (Feel free to use the images, just give me credit for them).

Challenge #1 - The Big Truck!
I like to use this one with elementary school and middle school students. I display the following picture in the front of the room then ask students to ask any questions that they have about it. A lot of students will ask things like, “is that real,” “how big is it,” and “can I drive it?” All of those questions above can be answered by using various search strategies and tools. Using the "similar images search" in Google Images will help you answer these questions. Google Maps Street View will help you answer the questions too. And while not essential to answering the questions, refining your search to a specific top-level domain could help too.



Challenge #2 - The Camel!
This is a challenge for middle school, high school, and college students. It involves a bit of geography, geology, and folklore.

Step 1: Take a look at the following pictures.





2. Find the camel in the second picture. (Hint: it’s the outline of a camel you’re looking for, not an actual camel).
3. The search challenge is to find out which mythological person rode that camel.
4. Identify the connections between the camel and the shoe.
5. Explain how the camel in the picture was actually formed.

The Explanation of the Camel Challenge
1. The camel is outlined in the picture below.



2. Students need to think about mythology beyond the usual Greek mythology that they tend to default to. The picture should give students a clue or two that this "camel" isn't in a typical environment for a myth or folklore involving a camel. They should rule out stories that center on a camel in a desert environment. Eliminating those stories will narrow the list of possibilities.

The camel is actually at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

3. Once students figure out where the camel is located, they should be able to discover that the camel is part of the story of Finn McCool (also written as Fionn MacCoul or Fionn mac Cumhaill).

4. The shoe is representative of Finn McCool's shoe that, according to the folklore, he lost while fleeing from the wrath of Scottish giant, Benandonner.

5. The camel is actually a basaltic dyke.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Search Strategies, PDFs, and the Super Bowl

Good morning from Maine where I'm not doing anything particularly exciting other than brewing up a batch of chili to have during the Super Bowl tomorrow night. Between stirs of the chili I'm working on materials for a bunch of workshops and keynotes that I have coming up over the next three months. The first is next week and then I have at least one every week for through the April. When those are over it will almost be summer. Speaking of summer, the first registrations for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp came in this week. Register in February for the lowest rate.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Ten Search Strategies Students Should Try
2. Ten Overlooked Google Docs Features
3. CleverPDF Offers 20 Ways to Work With PDFs in Other Formats
4. Free PDF Containing 30 Pages of Illustrated Vocabulary Lessons
5. Take Your Class On a NFL Virtual Field Trip
6. How to Create a Self-grading Quiz from Google Classroom
7. Boclips - Millions of Ad-free Educational Videos

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. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

Ten Search Strategies Students Should Try

Students often think that because they can type a phrase into Google or saying something aloud to Siri they know how to search. Of course, any teacher who has heard a student say "Google has nothing on this" or "there's no information about my topic" knows that students don't inherently know how to search despite growing up in a world filled with Google and Siri. When your students need help formulating or refining a search, have them review the following ten tip. Better yet, have them review these tips before starting their next searches.

Ten Search Strategies Students Should Try
1. Ask your teacher-librarian/ school librarian for help. He or she can probably give you access to databases that aren’t otherwise publicly accessible. He or she likely knows more about search than anyone else in your school building.

2. Search is a thinking skill just as much as it is a technical skill. Take time to stop and think about your query terms before typing your query into the search box. Account for all information that you have when you are formulating your queries.

3. Brainstorm alternative words and phrases. Think about the words that other people might use to describe the same topic. Turn to your notebook or textbook to find words and phrases associated with your topic.

4. Use a pre-search checklist. Did you brainstorm alternative words and phrases? Did you check in your notes for clues that can help you in your search? Did you make a list of things you already know about your topic? If not, do that now before typing your query into Google.

5. Try alternative search engines. Google.com is not the only search engine that you can use. Ask your librarian about databases that you can access through a school account. Try Google Scholar, Bing, Wolfram Alpha, or Duck Duck Go.

6. Look within your search results. This means actually clicking the links on the search results page and reading through the pages. If a web page or document is particularly long, use “control+F” on a Windows computer or “command+F” on a Mac to search for specific words and phrases within a page.

7. Refine your Google search according to file type. Web pages generally rank far above documents, spreadsheets, slides, and Google Earth files in search results. That doesn’t mean they’re not valuable. In fact, they can be more valuable than some web pages that appear at the top of search results. Open the advanced search options in Google and scroll down to the field that lets you search according to file type. You can then search for PDFs, Word Docs, PowerPoint, Excel files, Google Earth (KML) files, and RTF (Rich Text Format) files.

8. Refine your search results according to date. On a Google search results page you can open the “tools” menu and specify that you only want results from sites that have been updated within a particular time frame.

9. Refine your search results according to domain. By default Google will serve up results from any site that ranks in its search algorithm. You can narrow the scope of your search by using the advanced search menu and entering a top-level domain in the “site or domain” field. Some examples of top-level domains are .edu, .mil, and .gov. Every country has its own top-level domain too. Canada’s top-level domain is .ca. Refine a search by using .ca in the “site or domain” field in Google’s advanced search page and you’ll only get results from sites based in Canada.

10. Combine strategies. Using each strategy on its own can help you get better results and find what you’re looking for. But combining multiple strategies like refining by top-level domain and file type can help you get more specific results faster than just scouring the web one search results page at a time.