Friday, April 19, 2019

A Flipgrid Feature That is Often Overlooked

Earlier this week I was leading a workshop about making videos with students. The first part of the workshop included using Flipgrid. One of the features of Flipgrid that I always show is the sticky notes feature for students. Even though this feature is in plain view many people say to me, "I never tried that."

I always show teachers and students the sticky note feature in Flipgrid because it is a good one for students to use to write out a few bullet points before they record their Flipgrid videos. The sticky notes are present to students while they record so they could use it to include an entire script. The notes don't appear in the video. Watch my video to learn how to use Flipgrid's sticky note feature.


You can find twelve more Flipgrid tutorial videos in my complete guide to using Flipgrid.

Two New Options in Google Classroom's Classwork Page

This week Google added a couple of frequently-requested features to Google Classroom. Those features are automatically placing the latest work at the top of the Classwork page and filtering the Classwork page by topic. Both of these features should be available to you as soon as you open your Classwork page. You can read more about both of them here.

Filtering the Classwork page according to topic comes at just the right time for end-of-year review. filtering by topic should help you and your students quickly find materials and assignments according to topic. And automatically putting new work at the top of the page should be helpful to students in not missing important and new items.

How to Use Google's Dataset Search Tool

Yesterday, I wrote an overview of Google's relatively new Dataset Search tool. It is a tool that is designed to help users locate publicly available datasets. As I explain in the following video, datasets aren't limited to CSV or Excel files. Through the Dataset Search tool you will find datasets in the forms of Google Earth files, zip files of images, and collections of documents. Learn more about how to use Google's Dataset Search tool in my new video that is embedded below.


I'll be talking more about search and search strategies in next week's Practical Ed Tech webinar, Search Strategies Students Need to Know

How to Measure Distances & Share Google Earth Views

Thanks to YouTube's "on this day" feature last night I was reminded that two years ago I published a video overview of what was then the new browser-based version of Google Earth. As I shared on my YouTube channel last night, Google has added a couple of features to Google Earth since I published my original video. Two of those features are the ability to measure distances in multiple units and the ability to share a specific view to Google Classroom. Both of those features are demonstrated in the new video that I published this morning. Watch it on my YouTube channel or as embedded below.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Edublogs Explains How to Handle Student Blogs at the End of the Year

The end of the school year will be here before too long. For many of you it's only about six weeks away. If you and your students have been blogging along this year, you might be wondering what you should do with those blogs when the year ends. Do you leave them floundering in the Internet winds? Do you delete all of the posts? Do you password protect all of the content? Or should you download the content and turn it into a physical artifact? Edublogs answers those questions and more in their new guide on how to deal with student and class blogs at the end of the year.

In How to Deal With Student and Class Blogs at the End of the Year Edublogs provides directions for archiving blogs, hiding content, deleting blogs, and transferring ownership and administration of blogs. The guide also includes step-by-step directions for exporting the content of a blog and then turning it into a PDF through a service called Blog Booker.

I've used Blog Booker in the past to turn Blogger blogs into PDFs and ebooks. Watch this video to see how that process is done.

What Is Turbulence? - A Physics Lesson You Can Feel

At the end of 2018 I shared a half-dozen resources for learning about the science of flight. This morning I watched a new TED-Ed lesson that will make a nice addition to my list of resources about aviation.


Turbulence: One of the Great Unsolved Mysteries of Physics is a new TED-Ed lesson that explains what turbulence is and the forces that create it. The lesson explains that even though we typically associate turbulence with flying in airplanes, turbulence exists in many other places including oceans.

Google Dataset Search - Locate Publicly Available Datasets

Google Dataset Search is a search tool that I learned about this week during one of Daniel Russell's presentations at the TLA conference. Google Dataset Search is a new (still in beta) search tool that is designed to help users locate publicly available datasets. This isn't a tool for searching within the datasets, it's a tool for finding datasets. For example, if you're doing research on earthquakes and want to find some datasets to analyze, Google Dataset Search will help you locate datasets that you could then open and or download to analyze.
Applications for Education
Google Dataset Search could be helpful to high school and college students who are interested in analyzing data for the purposes of identifying patterns, changes, and correlations. Students who find datasets in this manner will need to remember to use "Control + F" or "Command + F" to search within the datasets that they open.

Sub-image Search - A Strategy for Answering "What Is This?"

Image Credit: Becky Willough
Earlier this week I had the good fortune to sit in on two presentations at TLA given by Daniel Russell. He is Google's Senior Scientist in charge of search quality and user happiness. If you ever get the chance to hear him talk about search, take it! Even if you think you're good at conducting web research, you will learn something new by listening to Dan speak. This week I learned about Google's new Dataset Search tool (more on that in another blog post) and I was reminded of an image search strategy called sub-image searching.

The strategy is to take a screenshot of a portion of an image then upload that image to Google Image search to see if you can identify or at least get a good clue to help you solve a search challenge.

I used this strategy and wrote about it six years ago to help a friend identify the meaning of the lettering on the tea set that she purchased at a flea market. Had I simply uploaded a picture of the whole tea set to Google Image search, I would have had a huge list of pictures of random tea sets because Google Images would have interpreted my search as a request for tea sets. So instead of uploading a picture of the tea set I uploaded a screenshot of the lettering. That alone that work in some cases. In this case I had to try adding few words to my image search before I was able to find the answer to the question of "what does this lettering mean?" That additional step is called Search by Image FU and is outlined in this 90 second video.



By the way if you are interested in learning more about developing search lessons for K-12 students, I am hosting a webinar on that topic next week. And if you want to dive into some highly advanced search challenges, take a look at Daniel Russell's SearchReSearch blog. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Best of the Web - The TLA Edition

Greetings from the Austin, Texas airport where I'm waiting for a flight home after a great three days at the TLA annual conference. I gave three presentations and ran two workshops during the conference. The last of my presentations ended just a couple of hours ago. The room was packed (I was worried about the fire marshal shutting us down) as I shared the latest version of my Best of the Web presentation. This one was different than the others that I have recently shared because it was designed with teacher-librarians in mind and it included some resources that I haven't even written about on this blog, yet. Check it out as embedded below.


A huge thank you to all of the kind folks who came to all of my presentations this week. And especially to those who came up to me after my sessions for selfies or to just say hello. Getting to meet so many passionate teachers and librarians is always the highlight of a conference for me.

If you're interested in the other things that I shared at TLA, you can see them here.

How to Make Your Own Mobile App

On Tuesday morning I published a post about great service called Glide that enables anyone who can make a Google Sheet to make his or her own mobile app. Judging by the volume of emails and Twitter DMs that I received, a lot of people are interested in using Glide. I made the following video to answer many of the questions that I received about Glide and to help more people get started making their own mobile apps in minutes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A New Way to Customize Google Slides

Earlier this month Google announced a huge update to Google Slides in the form of native support for audio files. Yesterday, Google Slides got another update that many users will like. That is the option to customize the color palettes in the themes within Google Slides. In other words, if this is a new way to tweak a theme in Google Slides.

You can access the new color palette customization tool from any of the color picker menus in Google Slides (the one for font colors is probably the easiest one to find). To change the colors open the color picker menu then click on pencil icon next the word theme that appears below the color grid in the menu.

This new feature isn't a groundbreaking feature, but it will be convenient for those teachers and students who want break away from the standard themes of Google Slides.

This feature is rolling out over the next couple of weeks.

Glide - Make Your Own App by Just Making a Spreadsheet

Glide is an amazing free tool that I featured in a presentation during yesterday's TLA Tech Glamp. Glide enables anyone who can make a spreadsheet in Google Sheets to create his or her own mobile app. If that sounds simple, that's because it is just that simple. The headers that you put into your spreadsheet and the data that you enter into your spreadsheet is used by Glide to generate a mobile app for you that will work on Android and iOS devices.

To get started making your first app with Glide you will need to create a spreadsheet in Google Sheets. Your spreadsheet's column headers are what will become the sections your app. The information that you enter into your spreadsheet's columns is what will be displayed within each section your app. You can include links to videos, images, and maps in your spreadsheet and those items will be included in your app too.

After you have created your spreadsheet in Google Sheets, go to Glideapps.com and connect to your Google account. That connection will allow you to import your Google Sheet. Once your spreadsheet is imported you will be able to see a preview of your app. You can change the layout and color scheme of your app in the Glide editor. When you're happy with how it looks, hit the share button to publish your app for others to see. You can share your app publicly via QR code and public URL or you can share your app privately via email.

Applications for Education
Glide could be a fantastic way to have students create simple study guide apps, to create apps for making guides to their favorite video games, or to build apps about their towns.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Few Resources for Learning About Income Taxes

Tomorrow is the deadline to file income taxes in the United States. If you have high school students, some of them may be filing taxes (or having parents do it on their behalf) for the first time. That may lead to all kinds of questions about why we have taxes, the way taxes are calculated, and types of taxes. Crash Course has a twelve and a half minute video in which those questions are addressed.



PBS Learning Media has a free lesson plan through which students learn about reasons for taxes being withheld from paychecks, where the withholdings go, and why some people have more or less withheld than others. In addition to helping students understand taxes withheld from paychecks Taxes - Where Does Your Money Go? introduces students to concepts related to saving for retirements. To that end, the lesson plan includes a video about how a self-employed person handles budgeting for taxes and retirement.

To explain the origins of income taxes in the United States, CBS News hosted author Kenneth Davis. Davis is the author of the popular "Don't Know Much" series of history books.



Pictures of the American Revolution - And Other Resources for Patriots' Day

Tomorrow is Patriots' Day in Maine and Massachusetts. The day commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord. As a New Englander this is a good day to review some good resources for teaching and learning about the American Revolution.

History Animated has an entire section called Revolutionary War Animated. That is a great place to find nice animated maps of troop movements throughout the Revolutionary War. Despite looking rather web 1.0, this resource is one that I continue to return to because it does a great job of illustrating the movement of battles.

America, A Narrative History is a text published by Norton. As a free supplement to the book, Norton offers ten Google Earth tours. These tours include major themes and events in US History. The American Revolution is one of the Google Earth tours included in the list of tours.

Teaching American History has a series of interactive lessons about the American Revolution that are suitable for middle school and elementary school use. The lessons are divided into three chronological sections; 1775-1778, 1778-1781, and Treaty of Paris 1783. All of the lessons in the first two sections ask students to locate a place on a map. Students then answer a question about that place. After answering the question students are given a short text lesson. The lessons appear in chronological order. In the section on the Treaty of Paris students move through a series of placemarks on a map to learn about the terms of the Treaty of Paris.

Pictures of the Revolutionary War is a compilation of images about the Revolutionary War. The images in the collection chronicle the stirrings of rebellion in the pre-revolution years, the war from both American and British perspectives, and events following the Revolutionary War.

Crash Course has a ten part series on U.S. History. Included in that series is Taxes & Smuggling - Prelude to Revolution.



Saturday, April 13, 2019

Only Seven Seats Left!

The snow is almost gone here in western Maine. It won't be long now until we're breaking out the shorts, tee shirts, and flip flops. As the summer gets closer the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is filling up. As of this morning there are only seven seats remaining for this hands-on learning experience. If you have been thinking about registering, now is the time.

In the following video I answer a bunch of FAQs about the 2019 Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp.



Check out this list of things to learn and do at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp.

Spring, Winter, and a New Look - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we're hoping the sun comes out today like it did last weekend. Of course, after last weekend's warm weather we woke up to six inches of fresh snow on Monday morning. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you can get outside to play too.

This week I decided to start moving Free Technology for Teachers in a slightly different direction. If you only read this in email or in an RSS reader, you may not have noticed that the blog has a new look. There are fewer banner links, fewer advertising banners, larger font, and the header image has a current picture of me instead of one taken in 2011. The cosmetic changes are part of a larger change in how Free Technology for Teachers is funded. I'll be sharing more about that in a forthcoming blog post. In short, there will be more time spent on my consulting and training services.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. How to Create Video-based Lessons
2. Seven Good Tools for Creating Word Clouds
3. Important Information for Fans of Flippity
4. The Most Dangerous Writing App - Great for Jumpstarting Creative Writing
5. A Great Email Etiquette Lesson from a Student
6. Create Text Message Exchanges Between Fictional and Historical Characters
7. Braingenie - Math & Science Practice from CK-12

Only Seven Seats Left!
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. Only seven seats are left! Register here!



Register here!

Ten things to learn and do at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Google Science Journal App Now Saves Data in Google Drive

Google's Science Journal app is one that I regularly feature in my presentations and workshops about blending technology into outdoor lessons. With the app (available for iOS and Android) students can record data about acceleration, location, sound, light, and barometric pressure. Those are just a handful of the things that students can measure and record with the Science Journal app.

Today, Google announced that the data and observations students record in the Science Journal app can be synced and saved in folders in Google Drive. This means that if your students use the Science Journal app on a classroom iPad and later want to access their observations or edit their observations on a laptop, they can do that.

Observations & Experiments
Google offers a couple of dozen suggestions for using the Science Journal app with students. You can see those suggestions right here. The five examples that I often use in workshops are outlined below.

1. Decibel Levels
Ask your students if a basketball clanging off of a rim is louder in an empty gym or a full gym? Have them make a hypothesis then test it in your school's gym. (Check with your physical education teacher to make sure it's okay to borrow his or her classroom).

2. Speed. 
Have students record how quickly or slowly they walk down the hallway.

3. Speed and Sound Correlation
Have students record the speed with which they walk down the hallway. Have them record the sound at the same time. Ask them to try to identify a correlation between the speed with which they walk and the amount of noise that they make.

4. Light
Today, whenever I look out of my office window I am nearly blinded by the reflection of the sun off of the frozen snow. It was brighter earlier today when the sun was hitting the snow at a more direct angle. Students can use the Science Journal app to measure and compare the brightness of one place throughout the day.

5. Light and angles correlation
The Science Journal app has an inclinometer function. Have students use that function to measure the angle of the sun to a fixed position throughout the day. Have them use the light meter whenever they use the inclinometer. Then ask them to determine the correlation between the angle of the sun and the brightness at the chosen spot. They might be surprised at the results.

Bonus item:
I plan to use the Science Journal app on my phone to record the cries of my baby in relation to the speed at which I walk and bounce her. Maybe I will find the perfect speed at which she always stops crying.

Kahoot Adds a Smart Practice Mode

Kahoot has added a new way for students to use the free Kahoot iOS and Android apps. The new way to use the apps is to play games in what Kahoot is calling Smart Practice mode.

Kahoot's new Smart Practice mode gives students an opportunity to focus on the questions that they answered incorrectly during a Kahoot game or challenge. Smart Practice works in three phases. The first phase is immediately trying the questions again. The second phase is trying the questions again after 24 hours. And, as you probably guessed by now, the third phase has students try the questions after 48 hours.

Here's a short video overview of Kahoot's Smart Practice mode. It's important to note that Smart Practice is only available on the Kahoot mobile apps and not in the web browser version.

How to Set Google Drive to Automatically Convert Files

Google Drive is more than just a suite of document, slides, and spreadsheet tools. You can use it to simply store all kinds of files like videos, pictures, sounds, and more. You can also use it to convert your existing Word, PPT, and TXT files into Google Docs format. In the following video I demonstrate how you can set Google Drive to automatically convert your TXT, Word, and PPT files into Google Docs and Slides formats.

How to Use The Most Dangerous Writing App

On Monday I wrote a review of a neat tool called The Most Dangerous Writing App. It's a website that provides a blank canvas to write on for a minimum time of your choosing. The catch is that if you stop writing before the time is up, you lose your work. I've received a few questions about it this week so this morning I made the following video overview of The Most Dangerous Writing App.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Great Email Etiquette Lesson from a Student

This morning, like most mornings, I opened my email to see a bunch of requests for help with various educational technology tools. Half of them I am very happy to answer. Those are the ones in which the sender addresses me by name and makes a polite request. Then there are the ones like this one (embedded below) that lack any kind of greeting or reek of "fix my problem, now!" Those are the ones that I either ignore or reply to with something along the lines of "I'm sorry, I can't provide remote tech support."


I'm sharing this partly as a rant, partly as a reminder that I'm a one-man show, and partly as a reminder that manners matter. To that end, here's a great lesson about email etiquette. The video lesson was produced by a student for inclusion on Next Vista for Learning's library of educational videos.

Q&A Recording

Yesterday afternoon, as I've done for the last five weeks, I hosted a live Q&A session in which I answer questions that readers have sent to me over the last week. I get dozens of questions emailed to me every week. During the live session I answer those that I think have a broad appeal. The recording of yesterday's session is embedded below.


How to Protect a Range in Google Sheets

During yesterday's live Q&A session I answered a question about sharing a Google Sheet spreadsheet in a manner that would let students edit some, but not all of the spreadsheet's elements. The way to do that is to use the "protect range" setting in Google Sheets. With that setting activated you can prevent your collaborators from editing a particular set of cells within your spreadsheet. I made a new video to demonstrate how to protect a range in Google Sheets, check it out!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

How to Mirror Your Android Device to Your Mac or Windows Computer

Whenever I give a presentation about augmented reality or virtual reality I'm asked how I project my Android phone's screen. Vysor is the product that I use to project my Android phone's screen. Vysor is my choice because it uses a wired connection rather than a wireless connection. This is important to me because many of the wireless solutions that I've tried run into glitches when switching from a home network to a public network even those that are password protected like is found at a conference.

To project an Android screen onto your Mac or Windows computer you will need to install the Vysor software. The software is available for free. Once the software is installed and activated you can use a standard USB cable to connect your phone to your computer. The trick to making your phone's screen appear on your computer via Vysor is that you must enable USB debugging on your phone. The steps for enabling USB debugging vary slightly between phone manufacturers and Android versions, but a good general overview of that process can be found in this Make Use Of article. Don't worry, USB debugging is not nearly as "techy" as it sounds.

Vysor's software is free to download, install, and use. The free version will display a short advertisement at an interval of roughly once every thirty minutes. There is an optional upgraded version of Vysor that you can purchase. The paid version provides some additional features including drag-and-drop file transfers between phone and computer, a wireless mirroring option, and no advertisement displays.

Flippity's Google Sheets Add-on is Back!

On Monday I shared an update from Flippity about their Google Sheets add-on being broken and taken offline because the deprecation of the Goo.gl service. This morning I woke up to the news that Flippity's Google Sheets add-on is back. Not only is it back, it's better than ever before!

Flippity's updated Google Sheets add-on now automatically publishes for you. In the old version you had to open the File menu then select "publish to web" and then paste the publish URL into Flippity's template. Now you simply use your chosen template and the URL is automatically generated for you. In fact, the URL is front and center for you as soon as you pick a template.

The automatic publishing of templates should make Flippity easier than ever for new users. I worked with lots of teachers over the years who forgot to manually publish their Flippity activities and then wondered why students couldn't access the activities.

For those who are not familiar with Flippity, it is a free service that provides twenty Google Sheets templates that you can use to create things like online word games, multimedia flashcards, progress trackers, and random name selectors.

Braingenie - Math & Science Practice from CK-12

Braingenie is a free service offered by the CK-12 Foundation. Braingenie provides online math and science practice activities for elementary, middle, and high school students. Braingenie's library of activities is divided into nine sections and many subsections. The nine sections are 1-8 Math, Brain Math, Algebra I, Algebra II, Precalculus, 6-8 Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.

Students can use Braingenie independently by simply going to the site and clicking on the "learn and practice" button. Students can use any and all of the practice activities without having to register on the site. Students who do create Braingenie accounts can save their progress and their scores. Registered users can also have their top scores appear on the leader board for each practice activity.

Braingenie can also be used by students as part of class accounts created by their teachers. Teachers can register on Braingenie to create a classroom account. Teachers are able to generate accounts on behalf of their students and even manage students' passwords. That's a great option for elementary school and middle school teachers. Teachers who create classes on Braingenie can set class goals and give their students specific practice activities to work toward reaching those goals.

Like most online practice services, Braingenie isn't a replacement for your own instruction. Braingenie offers instructional videos for students to watch before diving into each set of practice activities. This makes Braingenie a good complement to your instruction as a place for students to refresh their knowledge and practice their skills.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Five Resources for Teaching & Learning About Mount Everest

April and May is the peak of the climbing season in the Himalaya Mountains. In May many mountaineers will be making their summit attempts on Mount Everest. Long-time readers of this blog may recall, one of my bucket list items is seeing Mount Everest in person. Until then I have to entertain myself with books, videos, and imagery of the mountain. Here are some of the resources that I like to consult when teaching students about Mount Everest and the area surrounding it.

Why is Mount Everest so Tall? is a TED-Ed lesson in which students learn why the peak of Everest is so high, why other mountains are longer from base to summit, and how mountains in general are formed. Through the lesson students can also learn why the heights of mountains change and why Everest may not be the tallest mountain forever.


Google Expeditions has an excellent tour of Mount Everest base camp. In fact, I gave a demo of that tour in a webinar that I hosted today. But if you don't have access to Google Expeditions, you can experience a lot of the same imagery through Google's Street View imagery of Mount Everest Basecamp (south side) students can zoom and pan around the foothills of Mount Everest. Students viewing that imagery for the first time might be surprised at how different the view is compared the to the typical pictures of Everest. After viewing the imagery students can click forward to see Street View imagery of other places in the region.

Snow in the Kingdom: My Storm Years on Everestby Ed Webster (a fellow Mainer) is one of the best books ever written about Mount Everest. If you enjoy good adventure stories and or stories about overcoming personal struggles, I think you will enjoy Webster's book. For my money, and I own two copies of it, it does a far better job of explaining how it feels to be on Mount Everest than any of the two dozen or so books that I've read about Mount Everest and the Himalaya.

Scaling Everest is an infographic that goes beyond the usual scale of Everest comparisons to buildings and jet flight paths. In the infographic you will find audio of three Everest climbers talking about the approach to Everest basecamp and the nuances of the climb itself. The infographic also provides some interesting facts about plants and animals in the region.

Mount Everest Base Camp to Summit in 3D is a Google Earth tour that takes viewers up the South Col route to the summit of Everest. A video of the tour is embedded below.

Word Hippo - Convenient Source of Definitions, Antonyms, Translations, and More

Word Hippo is a nice little tool that students can use to find definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and translations for words. The service also provides students with verb conjugation assistance, pronunciation assistance, and assistance with prefixes and suffixes. In total, Word Hippo offers more than a dozen tools for students.

Applications for Education
Word Hippo could be a good aid to ELL students. Some of Word Hippo's features could be useful for all students. For example, the synonym finder could be useful to a student that finds himself using the same adjective over and over throughout a paper. 

Synth Adds Podcast Moderation Features

Synth is an excellent tool for creating short podcasts. In fact, it's one of my picks for Best of the Web for the 2018-19 school year. But to call Synth a podcasting tool is a bit misleading because it is more than that. On Synth you can create threaded audio conversations in which people reply to your original podcast with audio messages of their own.

Synth has just released an update that introduces podcast moderation. This means that you can now create private podcasts and have students reply with private comments instead of having all replies be private.


Join Me Tomorrow Afternoon for a Live Q&A

Tomorrow at 4pm Eastern Time I'll be going live on my YouTube channel to answer another round of questions from readers like you. If you have a question about educational technology that you'd like me to answer you can put in the form below or just join the live broadcast and submit your question this afternoon.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified when the broadcast starts. I'll also broadcast on the Practical Ed Tech Facebook page.


Monday, April 8, 2019

Important Information for Fans of Flippity

Flippity is one my favorite Google Sheets add-ons. I probably refer people to it more than any other individual Google Sheets add-on. I do that because Flippity's Google Sheets add-on provides twenty templates for making useful things within Google Sheets without having to be a scripting master. Some of the things Flippity can be used to create include word games, multimedia flashcards, progress trackers, and random name selectors.

This morning the official Flippity Twitter account posted an important update. The update is that the Flippity Google Sheets add-on was broken by the deprecation of the Goo.gl URL shortener. That's the bad news. The good news is that an updated version is on its way. The updated version has been submitted to Google for review. In the meantime, you can still use the Flippity templates by going to Flippity.net and selecting "template" on any of the templates that you want to use. When you click "template" on Flippity a copy of the template will be opened in your Google Sheets account.


Watch my video to see how you can use Flippity's templates without using the Google Sheets add-on.

The Most Dangerous Writing App - Great for Jumpstarting Creative Writing

The Most Dangerous Writing App is a free service that is designed to force you to write without stopping for a preset amount of time. You can set your writing timer for as few as three minutes or as many as many as sixty minutes. If you stop writing before the minimum time has been reached, all of your writing is deleted. Once you have reached the minimum time you can keep writing or you can download your writing as a plain text file.

The Most Dangerous Writing App can also be used with a minimum word count. The same concept as the timer mode applies to the word count mode. If you stop writing before your word count is reached, your work disappears.

While you are writing on the The Most Dangerous Writing App you will see a progress meter across the top of the screen. If you stop writing for more than a few seconds you will see the screen start to turn red. When you have stopped writing for six seconds you'll see a "you failed" message and your work is erased.

Applications for Education
The Most Dangerous Writing App doesn't require any kind of registration. In fact, you can't register on the site. Simply go to the site, set a timer, and start writing. That ease of use makes it a good service for students to use to free-write for three, five, ten, or more minutes.

I can see having students use The Most Dangerous Writing App to jumpstart the brainstorming process for creative writing. You might give students some suggested topics to help them get start and then tell them to write for three minutes about one of those topics. Or challenge your students to include a handful of vocabulary words in their three minute writing blocks.

Your students can share the plain text files that The Most Dangerous Writing App generates for them via email, Google Classroom, OneNote, Google Drive, or any number of other file sharing services. If you and your students use G Suite for Education, have them upload their plain text files to Google Drive to have them automatically converted into Google Docs format to utilize the editing tools in Google Docs.

Seven Good Tools for Creating Word Clouds

The popularity of word cloud generation tools seems to have declined from their peak of about six years ago. None-the-less they are still useful in providing students with a nice way to visualize the most frequently used words in a passage of text. Wordle is probably the best known tool for making word clouds. But Wordle doesn't work well in many web browsers today so here are seven other word cloud generators to try.

On WordClouds.com you can create word clouds in a variety of shapes and sizes with a wide array of color schemes. I've even used it to make a word cloud about cats in the shape of a cat. In my video embedded below I demonstrate the features of WordClouds.com



Word Cloud Generator is a free Google Docs add-on for creating word clouds based on your Google Documents. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to quickly create a word cloud in Google Documents.


WordWanderer attempts to be different from other word cloud creation tools by letting you drag and drop words to rearrange the look of your word clouds. Additionally, WordWanderer includes a search tool that you can use to find a word. The context of your chosen word is shown below the word cloud itself.

Paste your text into Analyze My Writing and it will generate a ton of information about your writing. Analyze My Writing will give you a break-down of the readability of your writing on five indices. The analysis will include listings of the most common words and most common word pairs in your writing. A listing of how frequently you use punctuation and punctuation types is included in the analysis provided by Analyze My Writing. Finally, a word cloud is included at the end of the analysis of your writing. The word cloud and the graphs can be saved as images.

ABCya! offers a nice word cloud generator. Like all word cloud generators you simply copy and paste chunks of text into the text box to have a word cloud created. Common words like "the" are automatically excluded from your word clouds. You can edit the font style, adjust color schemes, and flip the layout of your word clouds on the ABCya! Word Cloud Generator.

Word It Out creates word clouds out of any text that you paste into the word cloud generator. Once the word cloud is created you can customize the size and color scheme of the cloud. You can also customize the font used in your word cloud. The feature of Word It Out that I like the best is that you can choose to have Word It Out ignore any word or words you choose. Ignoring words keeps them out of the word cloud.

Tagxedo makes it very easy to customize the design of your word clouds. You can select from a variety of shapes in which to display words or you can design your shape for your word cloud. You can enter text into the word cloud generator manually or simply enter a URL from which Tagxedo will generate a word cloud. As with other word cloud generators you also have options for excluding words from your word clouds.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Create Text Message Exchanges Between Fictional and Historical Characters

The Classtools SMS Generator is one of my favorite tools from the large catalog of free tools offered by Classtools. The SMS Generator is intended for creating fictional text message exchanges between fictional and or historical characters. It is free to use and does not require students to log-in. To use the SMS Generator just click the left speech bubble icon and enter a message. Then to create a reply just click the right speech bubble icon and enter a new message. You can make the exchange as long as you like. To share the conversation click the sprocket icon and grab the embed code, direct link, or QR code for the exchange.


Applications for Education
You could have students use the Classtools SMS Generator to create simple conversations between historical characters as way to get them to think about those peoples' lives and the conversations that they might have had.

A Few Good Resources for Earth Day Lessons

Earth Day is a couple of weeks away. Here are a few resources that you might consider incorporating into your Earth Day lesson plans. I'll be sharing more resources later this week.

ARMAP is a comprehensive resource of interactive, online maps of Arctic research. ARMAP's resources include files for use in Google Earth as well as ArcGIS explorer. You can also access 2D maps directly on the ARMAP website. ARMAP provides map layers and placemarks about a wide range of topics related to Arctic research. Before opening the general ARMAP map, visit the map gallery for a primer on the type of resources that can found on ARMAP. You should also check out the links section of ARMAP to visit the sources of much of the ARMAP content.

Storyboard That's Earth Day Activities page offers eleven lesson plan ideas appropriate for elementary school and middle school classrooms. Some of the featured plans on Storyboard That's Earth Day Activity page include creating "cool Earth facts" storyboards, creating comics about how to help the Earth, and creating public service announcements about pollution and pollution prevention.

National Geographic has some other great resources for learning about environmental science and Earth  Day. On the National Geographic website students can learn about the Green House Effect through an interactive lesson.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on this blog. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Poetry, Slides, and Interactive Videos - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the spring skiing is awesome! This is a great time of year to be outside in the sun and snow. In fact, that's what I'll be doing with my daughters a little bit later today. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you can get outside for some fun in the sun too.

This week I had the privilege to speak at New Jersey City University on Monday, host a Practical Ed Tech webinar on Tuesday, and run a workshop of Cumberland (Maine) County Adult Education. If you'd like to have me speak at your event or run a workshop at your school, please get in touch with me here.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Google Slides Now Has Native Support for Audio! Finally!
2. Six G Suite Updates You Might Have Missed in March
3. Math Keyboard and More Updates to Microsoft Forms
4. How to Make Interactive Videos
5. How to Use BoClips to Find and Share Great Educational Videos
6. How to Create QR Codes for Google Forms
7. Poetry Comics from Make Beliefs Comix


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. Only eight seat are left! Register 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.

Friday, April 5, 2019

How to Create Video-based Lessons

Earlier today I answering a question about uploading videos to EDpuzzle when I realized that I haven't made a complete tutorial video on how to use EDpuzzle since its design was updated. My previous videos about the service are all a few years old and while the functions are largely the same, the layout has changed. So this afternoon I made a video that walks you through the steps of creating a roster on EDpuzzle and creating video-based lessons on the service. My video also shows the student perspective of EDpuzzle.

What is EDpuzzle?
It's a free service for creating video-based lessons. You can use videos that are available on YouTube, videos that you upload to EDpuzzle, and videos that others have uploaded to EDpuzzle to create your lesson. Once you have selected a video you can add comments and quiz questions into the timeline of the video. Those comments and questions then appear to students when they watch the video that you share with them. The best part is that you can prevent students from fast-forwarding through the videos.

EDpuzzle Rosters
You can create rosters/ classes in EDpuzzle by importing a Google Classroom roster or by having students join your class via a code that you provide to them. Students in your class will see every video lesson that you assign to them in their accounts. They watch the lessons and answer questions on their computers, tablets, or phones. You see their answers as soon as they hit the submit button at the end of the lesson.

You Don't Need to Reinvent the Wheel
You can certainly upload your own videos to EDpuzzle. You can also import existing YouTube videos to make lessons. But before you do either of those things, search through all of the public lessons in EDpuzzle to see if there is one that is relevant to what you're teaching and modify it for your students.

Here's my complete tutorial on how to create a classroom and a video-based lesson through EDpuzzle.com.

What Makes Birds Different Colors? - A Nice Lesson for Spring

The birds are starting to return here in northern New England. It's always nice to hear the first birds of the spring chirping away early in the morning after a long winter of silence early in the morning. I always like seeing orioles return. Orioles bring a nice splash of color to what is otherwise a drab landscape in the time after the snow has melted and before the plants have started to blossom. What gives colorful birds like orioles their colors? And why are there so many variations in colors of birds? Those questions and more are answered in a new Reactions video titled Why Are Birds Different Colors?


Applications for Education
This is the type of video that is an ideal length for introducing a topic through a short, video-based lesson created on a service like EDpuzzle.

How to Share Google Slides via QR Code

Earlier this week I published a video and blog post about how to share Google Forms through QR codes. In response to that video a follower of my Facebook page asked for some help sharing Google Slides presentations via QR code. Students were having trouble viewing the slides she had shared via QR code so she reached out to me for help. She wanted students to be able to view the slides without having to open them in their own Google accounts. This problem was quickly fixed once I learned how she had shared the slides.

The problem my reader was experiencing was due to the fact that when she created the QR code she used the link that is available through "share" button in the upper, right corner of the Slides editor. Even though the option she choose was "anyone with the link" the Slides would only open if her students signed into their Google accounts. To resolve this problem I had her use the "Publish to the Web" link that is available under the "File" drop-down menu. Take a look at the new video I made to see how this process works.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Questions to Ask When Planning a Classroom Video Project

Making videos can be a great way to get students excited and invested in the process of researching a topic and presenting their findings for others to see. But before you dive headlong into a video project with your students take some time consider the following questions as you plan the project.

*Planning questions to ask yourself.
-What do you want students to demonstrate?
- What is your knowledge of the creation process?
- What is your students' level of knowledge of content?
- What are yours and your students' skills in writing, research, editing, assembling?
- How much time can you allot to this project?
- What are your skills? (Tip, do the project yourself from scratch)
- What are your students’ skills?
- What kind of equipment do you have at your disposal? How often can you access that equipment?

And once you have answer these questions don't forget to have students create a storyboard as part of their creative process.

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image has an excellent overview of storyboarding for beginners. The ACMI overview of storyboarding includes suggested activities for learning how to create storyboards. Included in those activities is a storyboard template that beginners can download and duplicate. Watch this video from the ACMI for an explanation of what a storyboard is an how it is used in the video creation process.


If you don't want to use ACMI's storyboard template you can make your own in PowerPoint or in Google Slides. Watch my videos embedded below to learn how to use PowerPoint and Google Slides to make printable storyboards.

How to create a storyboard template in PowerPoint.

How to create a storyboard template in Google Slides.