Friday, May 31, 2019

Six Google Product Updates Made in May Impacting Teachers and Students

Google is constantly making updates to the services that they offer. Some of the updates are only affect the administrative side of G Suite for Education. I rarely write about those updates. Then there are updates that have a direct impact on teachers and students. Those are the ones that I usually write about. Here are six updates to Google products that were made in May and have an impact on teachers and students.

New Google Docs Formatting Options
As was announced yesterday, there are a couple of new formatting options in Google Documents. The new options include new section and page break options. You can also now adjust the margins for a section of a document without affect the margins for the rest of the document. These features are available to some users right now and will be widely available in the coming weeks.

A New Carmen Sandiego Game in Google Earth
Following up on the popularity of the Carmen Sandiego game that was released in Google Earth in March, Google added another Carmen Sandiego game to Google Earth in May. Watch my video below to see how to access the new game.

Google Sites Photo Carousels
Google Sites now has an option to include a photo carousel within your site's pages. You'll be able to insert images by uploading from your computer or importing from your Google account.

Team Drives Renamed as Shared Drives
This change was actually announced on the last day of April, but the change didn't start going into effect until May 21st. The change has already happened in some G Suite for Edu domains and is still coming soon to others.

A New Version of Google Books
The new users interface for Google Books appeared in May. What my video to see what's new and how it works.

Gmail Confidential Mode
The new confidential mode for Gmail started to appear in some domains in May. By the end of June it will be on by default in all G Suite domains. This could be a great option to use when you're emailing colleagues about issues related to students. Watch my video below to see how the confidential mode works.

8 Good Resources to Help Students Develop Spelling Skills

Last night the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in an eight-way tie! In honor of the eight champions, here are eight resources that can help your students develop their spelling skills.

Making Sense of Spelling
Making Sense of Spelling is a TED-Ed lesson that explains why some words have multiple correct spellings, the relationships between words, and why not all words are spelled the way they sound.

Flippity Spelling Words
Flippity offers a great Google Sheets template that you can use to create custom, individualized spelling games for your students. Watch my video embedded below to see how you can create spelling games with Flippity's Spelling Words template.

Teach Your Monster to Read Minigames
Teach Your Monster to Read is a fun online environment in which students play games that are designed to help them improve the speed and accuracy with which they recognize letters, sounds, and words. Students play the games as friendly monster avatars that they are helping learn to read. If you want something that doesn't require any set-up time, try the minigames on Teach Your Monster to Read. Teach Your Monster to Read Minigames are games that students can play in a short amount of time and can quit at any time. The idea behind this being that students can quickly jump into a game and get a bit of practice in intervals rather than having to play through a longer game. There are six minigames that let students practice sound identification for every letter of the alphabet. There are three minigames that have a basic spelling component to them.

World's Worst Pet
World’s Worst Pet is a free iPad app that contains a series of fun vocabulary games. In the app players have to help bring home Snargg, the world’s worst pet, who has run away. To get Snargg back players have to fill his food dish by learning new vocabulary words. Each of the six levels in the game contain ten dishes (each dish represents a new set of words) that can be filled. Four games are available for each dish. The games are fill-in-the-blank, synonym identification, antonym identification, and definition identification. World’s Worst Pet is designed for students in grades four through eight. The app contains a total of 1,000 vocabulary words.

Knoword is a fun and challenging game that tests your ability to match definitions to words. Knoword is played like this; you're presented with the first letter of a word, its part of speech, and the definition. You then have to fill in the correct spelling of the word. If you enter the correct word, you earn points. If you don't get it right, you lose points. Knoword is probably best suited to use by students in middle school and high school. I think many of the words would be too difficult for elementary school students and they could end up frustrated with the game.

Spell It Out Challenge
Vox's Spell It Out challenge presents you with the final winning words from twenty past national spelling bees. You will hear the word pronounced then you have to type it in the spelling box to submit your answer. Before submitting your answer you can hear the word used in a sentence and see the origin of the word.

TinyTap Games
TinyTap is a service that lets you create educational games for your students to play on their iPads, Android tablets, and in their web browsers. For the most part the style of games that are created on TinyTap are identification activities in which students either choose an answer or type an answer to a question. Recently, TinyTap added the option for students to speak responses to game questions. TinyTap's Talk or Type feature lets you create activities that your students can interact with by speaking. 

ABCya Spelling Games
ABCya offers hundreds of games covering a wide range of topics. The games are designed for K-6 students. One of the spelling games that you might want to try is Submarine Spelling. Submarine Spelling is a based on the Dolch Word List. Students progress through the list by hearing then spelling each word by dragging and dropping letters into the correct order. Spelling the words correctly moves students' submarines through the ocean. 

Copyright, VR, and Summaries - The Month in Review

It's the last day of May. Congratulations to those of you who have just finished the school year! And to those who still have some time to go, you can do it! The end is in sight.

As I do at this time every month, I've put together a list of the most popular posts of the last 30 days. In this list you'll find an article about copyright lessons for teachers, tools for creating end-of-year reviews and summaries, and ideas for using virtual reality in your classroom.

These were the most popular posts in May, 2019:
1. Three Lessons to Learn from the $9.2M Copyright Ruling Against Houston ISD
2. 5 Ways to Quickly Create Audio Slideshows for End-of-Year Events
3. Ten Great Tech Tools for Social Studies Lessons
4. How to Add a Calendar to an Edublogs Page or Post
5. Three Ways to Create Digital Collages to Summarize the School Year
6. Rivet - A Reading App from Google
7. 5 Ways for Students of All Ages to Make Animated Videos
8. Twelve Tools for Creating End-of-Year Review Activities
9. How to Make an Animated Timeline in Google Slides
10. Five DIY Virtual Reality Projects for Students

Thank You for Your Support!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Ten Workshops I Can Run For Your Next PD Day

Over the last ten years I've had the good fortune to run workshops and give presentations at hundreds of schools and conferences. I'm frequently asked what I cover in my workshops and keynotes. Some of the outlines and slides from those presentations have appeared in blog posts in the past. But my list of workshops and keynote topics is always evolving with the times and technologies available to schools. That said, here are the ten workshops that I'm currently offering to schools for summer and fall professional development days.

  • Teaching History With Technology
  • Getting Going With G Suite
  • AR, VR, and Mixed Reality in Education 
  • DIY App Creation  
  • Teaching Search Strategies Students Need to Know 
  • Fast & Fun Formative Assessments  
  • Making & Teaching With Video 
  • To Geography and Beyond With Google Earth & Maps 
  • Blending Technology Into Outdoor Learning 
  • Keeping Track With Google Keep, Calendar, and Classroom
All of these workshops can be modified according to grade level (elementary, middle, high), the technology available to teachers and students, and to time allotted for professional development. 

If you're interested in having me run a professional development workshop at your school, please get in touch with me at richardbyrne (at) or complete the short form below. 

Finally, if you'd like to work with me in a small group setting this summer, there are two tickets left to join me for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp in July.

How to Use Gmail's Confidential Mode

Yesterday, Google announced that beginning on June 25th confidential mode will be available by default in all G Suite domains. The confidential mode will allow you to send emails that your recipients cannot print, copy, download, or forward. Through the confidential mode you can even require that recipients have to use an SMS code to access the content of the messages that you send to them. In the following video I demonstrate how to use the confidential mode when sending an email and what a recipient sees when receiving an email in confidential mode.

Applications for Education
Confidential mode could be a good setting to use when you're sending messages to colleagues regarding a student's grades, accommodations, or other information that shouldn't be distributed to anyone that doesn't absolutely need to know it. I would use this mode when sending confidential emails to colleagues who have a habit of printing emails and forgetting to pick them up from networked printers.

Learn more about Gmail and all aspects of G Suite for Education in my upcoming course, Getting Going With G Suite

Quick Key - Quickly Score Paper-based Quizzes With Your Phone or Tablet

This morning I answered an email from a reader named Eric who was looking for an alternative to GradeCam. His school district is possibly not renewing their subscription to GradeCam, but based on his message (copied below), it sounds like he likes the technology of GradeCam.

Here's the message I received:

I teach an AP class and when it comes down to it my students will sit for a traditional bubble sheet test during the AP Exam. So, I would like to prepare them as much as possible for this. I do implement best practice and conduct other assessment types, but for my unit assessments I think it is important that they get use to this. Do you know have any other platform that will allow us to print off a bubble sheet that use technology to score it for free? We traditionally ask up to 20-25 multiple choice questions per test.

My suggestion was to try the Quick Key service offered by Validated Learning. Quick Key has free and paid plans. The free plan provides thirty question bubble sheets and a license to score up to one hundred quizzes per month. You can use the free Quick Key iOS or Android app to scan the bubble sheets and have the scores automatically added into a spreadsheet.

My Thoughts About Bubble Sheet Scoring Apps
I've written about Quick Key and similar apps in the past. Whenever I do that I receive comments (on Facebook or Twitter) or emails from folks who think that I shouldn't promote these types of apps because they promote giving multiple choice tests. The reality is that there are lots of good teachers who, like in the case of the teacher who emailed me today, have to administer multiple choice bubble sheet tests whether they want to or not. A tool like Quick Key can make the scoring process quicker which in turn gives teachers more time for other things like developing new and interesting teaching strategies to use in their classrooms.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Ethics of Making Copies of "View Only" Google Docs

Last week I published a blog post about how to make copies of Google Documents that are shared as "view only." In that same post I included a video on how to find public Google Documents. That post raised a good question from a reader who asked about the ethics of making copies documents that are shared as "view only." I shared my thoughts on that question in the following short video.

For those who can't watch the video or don't want to, the short version is that I think it's fine to make a copy provided that you don't then try to pass-off the work or a derivative of it as your own. Of course, if the person who published the document has disabled the option to make a copy of the document then copying and pasting the text would be unethical too.

How to Use the Google Dictionary Chrome Extension

The Google Dictionary Chrome extension is a handy little tool that lets you highlight a word on any webpage to quickly find a definition and hear a pronunciation of that word. Google Dictionary isn't the only Chrome extension that has this capability, but it is the only one that Google itself offers. In the following video I demonstrate how easy it is to install and use the Google Dictionary Chrome extension.

Using this extension is different than simply highlighting a word and conducting a Google search in a new tab. The difference is that the extension puts the word's definition on the same page that it appears on. It's a slightly faster process that is less prone to students getting distracted by looking at a search results page in a separate tab.

Applications for Education
The Google Dictionary Chrome extension could be a good tool for students to use when they come across words that are unfamiliar to them. The option to hear the word read aloud can help students recall its meaning and pronunciation more quickly the next time that they see it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

ClassHook Adds Pause Prompts to Personal Clips

ClassHook is one of my favorite alternatives to searching on YouTube for educational videos. A few months ago ClassHook added a feature called Pause Prompts that enables you to add discussion questions to the videos that you find through their site. Then last month ClassHook added a new playlist feature called Personal Clips. As of today, those two features now work together.

Today, ClassHook announced that you can now add Pause Prompts to the videos that you have saved in your Personal Clips playlists. Users of the free ClassHook plan can add up to five Pause Prompts to each of the videos in their Personal Clips playlists. Users of the paid ClassHook plan can add as many Pause Prompts as they like.

For those who haven't tried ClassHook, it hosts and indexes video clips from popular movies and television shows to use to teach short lessons. ClassHook lets you search according to grade level, subject, clip length, standard, and decade of video production.

Three Lessons to Learn from the $9.2M Copyright Ruling Against Houston ISD

Thanks to an email from Jay Schwermer over the weekend I learned about a federal court's ruling against Houston ISD for violating the copyright of a small company called DynaStudy that sells study guides. You can read a good summary of the ruling including the $9.2 million in damages awarded to DynaStudy in this Houston Chronicle article. World IP Review also has a short overview of the case.

The short version of the case is that teachers in the district were photocopying and redistributing copyrighted study guides without permission of DynaStudy and continued to do so even after DynaStudy raised concerns to the school district. According to World IP Review's article, the district tried to make a Fair Use claim regarding use of four of the copyrighted works, but the court ruled against the claims.

Three Lessons to Learn from This Case
1. When you purchase a workbook, a study guide, a video, a webinar, or other creative work you are often purchasing a license for your personal use and not a license to redistribute that work to other people including colleagues. Read the fine print and check with the creator before redistributing a work.

2. Fair Use may not cover as much as you think it does. Simply saying, "I'm making copies for an educational purpose" isn't sufficient for a Fair Use claim. If that was the case we'd just purchase one copy of a textbook then run off photocopies of the pages we needed for our students. There are many factors to consider in determining if reproduction and redistribution of a copyrighted work qualifies for a Fair Use exemption. Stanford University has some excellent resources about Fair Use.

3. Teachers and students need more education about copyright. I shared the Houston Chronicle article on Facebook and Twitter yesterday afternoon. There were quite a few replies from teachers along the lines of "more training is needed about copyright" and "I see this too often in my school." One person even Tweeted me say that in 22 years in the profession no one had talked to her about copyright and copying materials.

An Introduction to Copyright for Teachers
While I am not an attorney, over the last ten years I have spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with websites (including school websites) that have committed various levels of copyright infringement of my work. My friend Dr. Beth Holland has spent a lot of time addressing this topic in school settings. That's why we hosted and recording a free webinar about copyright for teachers. You can view the recording of that webinar in its entirety on my YouTube channel or as embedded below.

Where to Find Public Domain Pictures and Video Clips

In my previous post I shared the news that Canva has acquired Pixabay and Pexels. Both of those sites are popular places to find pictures and video clips that are in the public domain. The libraries of both sites are now accessible through Canva but are also still available to use independently. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Pixabay and Pexels to find public domain pictures and videos clips.

Canva Has Acquired Pixabay and Pexels - Five Ways to Use Canva

Canva has been my go-to graphics creation tool for the last five or so years. It is incredibly easy to use and makes it possible for people like me who have no visual design skills to create good looking graphics. Pixabay has been my go-to source for public domain pictures and video clips for the last six or seven years. Last week Pixabay became a part of Canva.

Last week Canva acquired Pixabay and a similar site called Pexels. Pixabay and Pexels offer millions of high quality public domain images and video clips. The libraries of both sites will be integrated into the image search tool included within Canva. You can still access both sites independently of Canva.

Five things that you and your students can do with Canva:

Create Image Collages

Create Simple Webpages

Create a Greeting Card

Create a Timeline

Create Certificates

How to Use Pixabay

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Educational and Moving Memorial Day Videos

Tomorrow is Memorial Day here in the United States. Students often confuse the origin and purpose of Memorial Day with those of Veterans Day. The following videos can help students understand the origins and meanings of Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

The Meaning of Memorial Day is a two minute video covering the origins of the holiday in the United States. The video is embedded below.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers the following video overview of the history of Memorial Day.

Jocko Willink isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoy his podcast and found this video that he released last Memorial Day to be quite moving.

To find more resources for teaching about Memorial Day, visit Larry Ferlazzo's list of resources.

Four Ways to Show & Share Videos Without Distractions

At this point I think we can all agree that YouTube can be a great place to find educational videos to share with students. Of course, the downside to YouTube has always been all of the "related" content that appears around the videos that you find on YouTube. In the following video I demonstrate four methods of displaying and sharing YouTube videos without all of the "related" sidebar content.

And if you're looking for alternatives to YouTube, check out the options I highlighted in this Practical Ed Tech article.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

AR, VR, and Bowling - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the sun is shining to start this Memorial Day weekend. We're going to Maine Wildlife Park, riding bicycles, and playing outside for as long as we can put with the black flies this weekend. I hope that wherever you are this weekend, you can get outside too.

Before I head out for a day of outdoor fun, I have this week's list of the most popular posts of the week.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. How to Make an Animated Timeline in Google Slides
2. Nine Tutorials for Making Your Own Mobile App
3. 7 Good Apps for Getting Started With AR & VR
4. A Good and Free Summer Activity for Rainy Days
5. 5 Places to Find Summer Math Activities for Elementary School Students
6. Fishbowl - A New Professional Network for Teachers
7. Five DIY Virtual Reality Projects for Students

Thank You for Your Support!

Three Good Resources to Help Students Become Discerning News Consumers

Earlier this week TED-Ed published a new lesson titled Can You Spot the Problem With These Headlines? The short video lesson walks students through dissecting a couple of hypothetical news headlines. By watching the video students can begin to understand how headlines are written to entice readers and how misleading headlines are created.

Here are a couple of other resources that I've previously featured for helping students learn to discern the information that they find online and in other media.

Factitious is a game for testing your skill at identifying fake and misleading news stories. The game was developed by the American University Game Lab and the American University's School of Communication. To play Factitious simply go to the site and select quick start. You'll then see an article appear on the screen. Read through the article, click the source listed at the bottom, and then select either the green check mark or red X to indicate whether or not you think the article is a real news story. After you make your selection you'll get instant feedback and an explanation of how you can tell if the article was a real or fake news story.

Checkology is a service that is designed to help students develop those skills. Checkology's free version offers four interactive modules for students to complete. Each of the modules is comprised of between twenty and forty-seven instructional video clips and interactive comprehension checks. The four modules are titled Info Zones, Democracy's Watchdog, Practicing Quality Journalism, and Misinformation. As you might expect, the contents of the modules gets progressively more difficult as each section is completed.

Friday, May 24, 2019

An Overview of Fishbowl - A Professional Discussion App for Teachers

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

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

Disclosure: Fishbowl is currently an advertiser on

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Five DIY Virtual Reality Projects for Students

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

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

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

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

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

Tour Creator basics.

Adding points of interest to tours.

How to Share Your Tours With Students

How to Use Your Tours in Google Expeditions

How to View the Moon and Mars in Google Earth

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

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

How to Add Formative to Your G Suite Domain

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

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

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

"Show Your Work" or handwritten responses.

Labeling activities.

Diagram-based assessments.

Four Ways to Create Your Own VR & AR Experiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Good and Free Summer Activity for Rainy Days

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

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

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

7 Good Apps for Getting Started With AR & VR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 20, 2019

Two Online PD Courses I'm Hosting in June

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

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

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

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

Nine Tutorials for Making Your Own Mobile App

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

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

5 Places to Find Summer Math Activities for Elementary School Students

Summer break will be here soon (for those of us in the northern hemisphere). As evidenced by the popularity of last week's article about the ReadWorks summer reading packets, preventing summer slide is a topic that many are interested in at this time of year. A few readers emailed me over the weekend looking for suggestions for math resources similar to those that ReadWorks offers. Here are five good places to find summer math activities for elementary school students.
Don't let the name fool you, offers more than just a series of math practice games. You can find hundreds of worksheets to print for free on Those are organized according to grade level.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 18, 2019

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

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

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

Thank You for Your Support!

How to Make an Animated Timeline in Google Slides

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

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

How to Find Games & Quizzes in Google Earth

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

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

Friday, May 17, 2019

Fishbowl - A New Professional Network for Teachers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common Craft Explains URLs

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

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

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

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

An Overview of the New Creative Commons Search Tool

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

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

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

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Wikispaces Alternatives

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

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

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

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

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

ReadWorks Offers Free Summer Reading Packets

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

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

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

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