Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Last Day to Get Practical Ed Tech On-demand Webinars

As I announced a couple of weeks ago, at the end of July all of the Practical Ed Tech on-demand webinars from the 2018-19 school year are going into the vault. They'll be replaced in the new school year with new and updated professional development webinars. But the 2018-19 webinars still have great information in them.

For one more day you can get the most popular 2018-19 Practical Ed Tech webinars in one bundle at 67% off the regular price. You can purchase the webinars individually for $15 each or all six in one package for $50. Purchase all of the webinars right here

After today the webinars will not be available to purchase as they will be replaced by new live webinars in the 2019-2020 school year starting in August. The first three of those webinars have been announced. They are Intro to Animation and Green Screen Video, Get Organized With Google Classroom, Calendar, and Keep, and Search Strategies Students Need to Know Now.

To be clear, if you purchase the 2018-19 on-demand webinars today, you will still be able to access them for as long as you like after today.

Gmail, Posters, and Quizzes - The Month in Review

Good morning from Maine where it's nice and cool after a big thunderstorm rolled through breaking the heat and humidity we'd been experiencing. We have about four more weeks of summer until people start to complain about seeing the first leaves change and getting their fall clothes out. I plan to enjoy what's left of summer. I hope that you're enjoying the summer too (my friends in the southern hemisphere, I hope your winter is going well).

It's the last day of the month. As I do at this time every month, I have put together a list of the most popular posts of the last thirty days. Take a look and see if there is anything new or interesting that you missed earlier this month.

These were the most popular posts in July:
1. 5 Helpful Gmail Features for Teachers
2. A Free Service That Lets You Print Almost Any Poster
3. Ten Handy Google Keep Features for Teachers and Students
4. Mapping Books
5. Seven Google Product Updates Made in June for Teachers to Note
6. 300+ Google Tools Tutorial Videos
7. My 5 Favorite Google Docs Add-ons
8. Five More Handy Features of Google Keep
9. Quillionz - Get Quiz Questions Automatically Generated From Documents
10. Create Your Own Mobile-friendly Random Name Picker

Live PD in August!
In August I'm hosting some new and updated professional development webinars through PracticalEdTech.com. Those webinars are:

Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides FreeTech4Teachers.com and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - More than 15,000 are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has nearly 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last twelve years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing. 

Thank You for Your Support!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Dozens of Apps for Physical Education

Glide is in my top five favorite new tools in 2019. Glide makes it incredibly easy for anyone who can make a spreadsheet to make a mobile app. We had fun using at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp and many other people have shared their apps with me over the last few months. Perhaps no one has shared more apps made with Glide than Kevin Shephard at Support REAL Teachers.

Kevin has created dozens of apps through Glide. Many of the apps are designed for use by physical education teachers. In the Support REAL Teachers list of apps made with Glide include apps for equipment check out, exercise routines, golf scoring, grading, and a directory of mentors for physical education teachers.

If you would like to learn how to make your own mobile app through Glide, watch my short tutorial video that is embedded below.


You can find even more apps for physical education in the Support REAL Teachers directory of apps.

Knowt - Quickly Turn Notes Into Practice Quizzes

Knowt is a free service that students can use to quickly turn their notes into practice quizzes. I recently learned about it from Larry Ferlazzo and I gave it a try right away because of his description of it.

At its core Knowt is an online notebook. It has all of the text editing functions that you might need when taking notes. You can create multiple notebooks within a Knowt account. And if you're not ready to switch from taking notes in Google Docs to taking notes in a Knowt notebook, you can simply import notes from Google Docs into a Knowt notebook. After writing your notes, simply click on the quiz button in the upper-right corner of your notes and a quiz will be instantly created for you. The quiz that is created will be a mix of multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions. Instant feedback is provided for every question. You can exit the quiz at any time and to return to your notes.

Knowt can be used in your web browser and is also available as Android app and as an iOS app. Watch my new video that is embedded below to see Knowt in action.


Applications for Education
Knowt could be a great tool for students to use to review their notes in preparation for a quiz or test. I like that students can quickly toggle between their notebooks and the quizzes that are generated for them.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Why Do Whales Sing? - A Lesson Prompted by My Daughters

As you may know, I have two toddler-age daughters. So as you might guess, our bathtub is full of bath toys. One of those toys is a water scoop that is made to look like a whale. Tonight, during bath time my oldest asked, "what's a whale say?" Not being able to make a whale sound myself, I turned to YouTube for a video of whale sounds. In doing so I stumbled into a TED-Ed lesson about whale sounds.

Why Do Whales Sing? is a TED-Ed lesson through which viewers can learn which whales (all baleen whales) sing, how whales create songs, how far their songs can travel, and theories about why whales sing. The lesson also teaches viewers how man-made noises in the oceans can affect the feeding and migration patterns of whales.


Applications for Education
In addition to being an interesting lesson about whales and whale anatomy, Why Do Whales Sing? could be a good introduction to a lesson about how sound travels.

Google Announces Transformation Reports for G Suite for Education

Earlier today Google announced the launch of a new product called Google for Education Transformation Reports. Through Transformation Reports school administrators will be able to survey users of G Suite for Education products in their schools and see usage reports for the various G Suite for Education products employed in their schools. Google, of course, will see this data and make recommendations for improving/ increasing use of various G Suite tools.

As of now, Google for Education Transformation Reports is a service that is only being offered to schools using G Suite for Education in the United States. School and network administrators can apply for early access to Google for Education Transformation Reports now.

Using Google for Education Transformation Reports is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one side it could be useful to see which products teachers and students are using in your school. On the other side, this smacks of giving Google more information that could then be used to further hook users into the G Suite ecosystem.

How to Use the Read-aloud Function in Microsoft Edge

Edge is Microsoft's web browser that replaced their classic Internet Explorer. Edge has a lot of handy features including a customizable read-aloud function. The read-aloud function has been available in the Windows version of Edge for quite a while. This morning, thanks to Mike Tholfsen I learned that the read-aloud function is available in the Mac version of Edge. In the following video I demonstrate how to access and customize the read-aloud function in Microsoft Edge.


To use the read-aloud function in Edge on a Mac you do have to have the developer version of Edge installed. Anyone can get that version right here

Applications for Education
One of the things that I appreciate about the read-aloud function in Edge is that students can customize it to meet their needs. Students can not only choose the voice that reads aloud to them, they can also choose the speed at which text is read aloud to them. The other nice aspect of Edge's read-aloud function is that the words on the page are highlighted as they are read aloud. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Alt Text, Google Keep, and Posters - The Week in Review

Good morning from sunny Paris, Maine where it's going to be a great day to play outside. Before my kids wake up and and we start our day of play, I have this week's list of the most popular posts of the week to share with you. Take a look and see if there is something interesting that you missed this week.

The end of July is near and next month I'll be hosting a series of live professional development webinars through PracticalEdTech.com. But if you would like to get copies of my most popular webinars of the last school year, you get them right here until the end of the month.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. How to Add Alt Text to Images and Videos in Google Slides
2. Five More Handy Features of Google Keep
3. How to Design Posters and Print Them With a Standard Printer
4. Three Recommended Resources for Teaching Civics and Government
5. Ten Handy Google Keep Features for Teachers and Students
6. Ginger Ale, Stomach Aches, and Placebos
7. 300+ Google Tools Tutorial Videos

Practical Ed Tech Newsletter
Many people ask if they can get a weekly email instead of daily email. That's exactly what you get with the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. Once per week I send out my favorite tip of the week along with a summary of the week's most popular posts from this blog. You can join that newsletter here.

Thank You for Your Support!

Changes Coming to the Popular GeoGuessr Geography Game

GeoGuessr is a fun geography game that I've been playing and sharing with others for the last six years. As I wrote back in 2014 GeoGuessr is a great game to have students play to spark their imaginations and lead them to making inquiries about interesting places all around the world. Yesterday, I was preparing an outline for a digital geography workshop that I'm leading in a few weeks and I visited the GeoGuessr website to see if there was anything new to note. It turns out that there is a significant change coming.

According to the announcement on the GeoGuessr homepage, after the summer GeoGuessr will be expanding their fremium pricing model. This will mean that there will be a limited amount of games available for free and you'll need to be a pro subscriber to create your maps and games. A screenshot of the announcement is included below.
Click to view full size.
The announcement is kind of vague, but it seems that at a minimum there will be fewer games available to free users moving forward. How limited is to be determined. Hopefully, there will still be enough games to keep students interested long enough to spark their curiosities about interesting places around the world.

Sharks in Street View!

On Friday morning I shared a few good resources for learning about sharks. Another neat way for students to learn about sharks is through the Google Earth voyage titled Searching for Sharks in Street View. This is a seven part voyage created with imagery captured by The Ocean Agency. The voyage takes viewers to seven underwater locations around the world to view sharks in their natural habitats.

Each section of Searching for Sharks in Street View contains information cards that tell readers about the types of sharks they're seeing, where they live, and the threats to that type of shark. Take a look at sharks in Street View right here.

Applications for Education
Searching for Sharks in Street View is a nice way to start learning about sharks through Google Earth. To dive deeper into learning about shark habitat and movement, use one of Google Earth files about shark tracking that you can find through a quick Google search for "shark tracking" that is refined by file type to .KML.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Lewis & Clark in Google Earth - And Lesson Plans for K-12

This morning while browsing through Google Earth looking for a resource about sharks for Shark Week (I found it) I came across a Google Earth voyage about Lewis and Clark.

The Google Earth voyage titled Explorers: Lewis and Clark contains twelve multimedia placemarkers documenting the outbound and return journey of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Each stop in the voyage contains a gallery of pictures and or videos related to significant landmark on the expedition. The placemarks are displayed on the righthand side of the screen while the map is displayed to the left. You can drag the Google Earth Pegman to the map to see each of the locations in Street View instead of just in satellite imagery. Explorers: Lewis and Clark was constructed using media from the PBS series about the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Lesson Plans
The Smithsonian's Lewis and Clark page offers lesson plans for elementary grades and middle school grades. The elementary school lesson plan is titled Animal Encounters. Animal Encounters is a two part lesson in which students draw pictures and write descriptions of the animals Lewis and Clark encountered on their journey.

DocsTeach offers a detailed activity for high school students to complete by analyzing documents and maps related to Lewis and Clark's expedition. You can customize the activity for your students by creating a free DocsTeach account and then making an editable copy of the activity.

How to Design Posters and Print Them With a Standard Printer

I got my first "back to school" email this week which was a jolting reminder of just how quickly time flies during summer break. The "back to school" email that I received was from a classroom supplies and classroom decorations vendor. While I don't have a free alternative to glue sticks, pushpins, and paperclips, I do have an alternative to purchasing posters to display on the walls of your classroom. That alternative is to use Canva to design a poster and Block Posters to print the poster using a standard printer with standard size paper.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about using the combination of Canva and Block Posters. I made the following video to illustrate how easy it is to use this combination of tools.

Three Good Resources for Shark Week

This Sunday is the start of Discovery's annual Shark Week. A couple of weeks ago I shared SciShow Kids' Super Sharks lesson. That's a nice lesson for elementary school students. If you're looking for something for older students, take a look at the following resources.

The Global Fishing Watch map includes an animated layer that displays the movement of tagged sharks off of the east coast of the United States. The map contains records for 45 tagged sharks. You can find shark tracks by clicking on one of the small placemarkers on the map. When you select a shark you will see the entire path of travel for that shark. The timeline slider at the bottom of the map lets you select a timespan for the tracking of the shark. The play button on the timeline will replay the travel of the shark in the Atlantic ocean.

National Geographic has just released a new video titled Sharks 101. The video covers five key facts about sharks including the basics of shark size, the number of teeth a shark goes through in its life, the hyrdodynamic design of sharks, shark reproduction, and shark conservation. The video, particularly the section on shark conservation (staring at 3:43 in the video), does include images that some viewers might find disturbing.


Why Are Sharks so Awesome? is a TED-Ed lesson about sharks. This lesson is a bit more detailed than the National Geographic Sharks 101 video. The TED-Ed lesson delves into the physiology of sharks and the role of sharks as apex predators in the ecosystem.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Three More Recommended Resources for Teaching Civics and Government

Earlier this week I published a blog post in which I shared the resources that I shared with a reader who had emailed me seeking my recommended resources for teaching civics and government. I made that list completely from memory. This afternoon I dug into my archives to find a few more recommended resources for teaching civics and government. Here they are...


The Constitution Center's website features the U.S. Constitution divided into easily searchable sections. From the main page you can select and jump to a specific article or amendment. What I really like about the site is that you can choose an issue like privacy, civil rights, or health care and see how those issues are connected to the Constitution. The Constitution Center offers an extensive list of lesson plans for each of the Constitution's articles and amendments. Select an article or amendment then scroll to the bottom of the page to find the lesson plans. Alternatively, you can find all of the lesson plans listed here.

Google and the Comparative Constitution Project offer a neat site called Constitute. The site hosts the constitutions of 160 countries. You can search the site according to country and or constitutional theme. Searching by constitutional theme is the best aspect of the site. More than 300 themes are outlined on the site. Select a theme then select a country and the element of that country's constitute addressing your chosen theme will be highlighted. You can pin parts of the constitutions to compare them to each other.

Teaching the Constitution With Political Cartoons was a webinar hosted last fall by the National Archives' Docs Teach. It is still available to view for free. The webinar focuses on using Clifford K. Berryman cartoons from the U.S. Senate Collection in lessons designed to help students understand the nuanced aspects of the US Constitution. The webinar includes a good overview of how students should analyze political cartoons and guiding questions that you can give to your students. The last third of the webinar, around the 27 minute mark, is where the webinar transitions into demonstrating how to use the tools within DocsTeach.

Five More Handy Features of Google Keep

Last week I published a video that highlighted ten handy features of Google Keep. Since then a few people have emailed me to point out other features that I should have included in that video. So thanks to some reminders from Matt, Susan, and Kevin here are five more features Google Keep for teachers and students. In the following video you can learn how to use voice notes, dark mode, photo notes, image text, and highlight & save in Google Keep.


And if you missed last week's video about Google Keep, it's embedded below.

Two Alternatives to the New Twitter Interface

If you're one of the many people who doesn't like the new Twitter interface, I'm one of them, you don't have to use it in order to still enjoy connecting with others through Twitter. First, you can do what I did and switch to using Tweet Deck to view new Tweets, replies, mentions, and to post your own new Tweets. Tweet Deck lets you see Tweets separated into columns of mentions, hashtags, and lists that you've created in Twitter.

The second alternative to using the new Twitter interface is to use the Minimal Twitter Chrome extension or Firefox extension to remove the sidebar clutter from Twitter. In the following video I demonstrate how both Tweet Deck and Minimal Twitter work.


Here's how you can create lists in Twitter.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Ginger Ale, Stomach Aches, and Placebos

Over the weekend and through the first part of this week I was stricken with a flu-like bug that had me doing nothing more than sleeping and occasionally throwing up. As you might guess, I ate a lot of saltines and drank a lot of ginger ale to settle my stomach. It worked, but it also got me wondering about why ginger ale is effective relieving an upset stomach. A quick search of that question on YouTube led me to a Mental Floss video titled Does Ginger Ale Really Help With Stomach Aches?


If you watched the video above, you know that the evidence that ginger ale truly does settle your stomach is inconclusive. That said, if it makes you feel better when you're sick, drink it. And that is a good lead-in to this TED-ED lesson about the power of the placebo effect.

Last Week to Get Six Practical Ed Tech Webinars

One of the ways that I'm able to keep Free Technology for Teachers going is through the sale of my in-person workshops and professional development webinars on Practical Ed Tech. I hosted webinars throughout the 2018-19 school year. The most popular of those webinars are available on-demand.

I'm offering the 2018-19 school year webinars on sale for the rest of July. During the sale you can save as much as 67% compared to the regular price. You can purchase the webinars individually for $15 each or all six in one package for $50. Purchase all of the webinars right here

After July the webinars will not be available to purchase as they will be replaced by new live webinars in the 2019-2020 school year starting in August.

Three Recommended Resources for Teaching Civics and Government

Yesterday I received an email from a reader who was looking for my recommendation for a few resources for teaching a government or civics course. The following are the recommendations that I made.

iCivics is an excellent source of educational games related to various topics in civics and government. iCivics has steadily grown over the years to now offer twenty-one educational games for students. All of the games require students to take on a decision making role. To succeed in the games students have to apply their understanding of the rules and functions local, state, or Federal government. Some games require an understanding of the U.S. court system and or the Constitution.

Case Maker is a free service designed for middle school social studies teachers and their students. Case Maker uses primary sources from the Library of Congress as the basis of activities in which students have to build a case in response to real civics scenarios. For example, the first cast that I tried was about anger toward immigrants. In that scenario students had to use evidence in the form of primary sources to support the claim that many of those who are angry toward immigrants come from families that were once immigrants themselves.

Let's Talk Politics is an Alexa app designed for reviewing and learning about U.S. government. Let's Talk Politics is an interactive game in which Alexa asks you questions about the U.S. political system and you speak your answers. The app provides explanations of the correct answers after you reply to each question. Unlike typical online games in which students pick a level to play, Let's Talk Politics adjusts the difficulty of t the game in response to how players are answering questions. Watch the following video to see a demonstration of Let's Talk Politics.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Crowdsourcing Civil War Document Transcription

Last fall the Library of Congress launched a new online initiative called Crowd. As the name implies, it's a crowdsourcing project that anyone who registers on the LOC Crowd site can participate in. All of the documents in the Crowd project are documents in the LOC's collection that need to be transcribed.

The latest collection of documents added to the Crowd project is a set of roughly 35,000 documents related to the American Civil War. Anyone can participate in this project. To get started simply go to the site and select a document within the Civil War collection. Your chosen document will appear on the left side of the screen and a field for writing your transcription appears on the right side of the screen. After you have completed your transcription it is submitted for peer review.

Watch the video that I made last fall to see how the LOC Crowd project works and how your students can participate in it.



Applications for Education
Participating in the LOC's Crowd project could be a good opportunity for high school students and some middle school students to learn through primary source documents while contributing to a national project.

As is show in the video above, The Smithsonian has a similar crowdsourcing project called Smithsonian Digital Volunteers.

How to Add Alt Text to Images and Videos in Google Slides

Alt text is text that you can add to images and videos to describe what they are and or what they contain. Adding alt text can make your materials that you post online more accessible to more visitors. This morning a friend of mine asked if it is possible to add alt text to images in her Google Slides presentations. Yes is the answer to that question. You can also add alt text to videos in Google Slides.

In the following video I demonstrate how you can add alt text to images and videos in Google Slides.

The 6,000 Calorie Challenge - A Lesson in Sports Nutrition

At the end of June I completed a double century bike ride and in the process ate as much as I possibly could without feeling sick. What I ate was nothing compared to what a professional cyclist consumes during the Tour de France which I've been watching every morning for the last couple of weeks. Just how much does a cyclist eat during the Tour de France? Generally, 6,000-8,000 calories per day.

What does it look like and feel like to eat like a professional cyclist? That's what the Wall Street Journal's Joshua Robinson set out to discover in his 6,000 calorie challenge. Take a look at the video below to see how he did it. Pay attention to the professional cyclist at the 2:40 mark in the video for commentary about energy gels.



If you want to get into a bit more of the science of nutrition of cyclists, take a look at this video featuring the team nutritionist for EF Education First's professional cycling team.


Applications for Education
Both of these videos could be useful in a lesson about nutrition. They could be helpful in showing students why many of the energy drinks that are marketed to them aren't necessary or even good for them to consume on a regular basis.

As always, if you want to create a flipped lesson with these videos, I recommend using EDpuzzle. This video provides an overview of how to use EDpuzzle.

Canva Adds New Trifold Design Templates

Canva has been my go-to graphic design tool for the last half decade. It's a tool that's easy to use and makes those of us who don't have an eye for design look like we do have a bit of a clue. I often the use Canva's blog post graphics, Twitter graphics, and YouTube cover image templates. This week Canva added a new category of design templates. That new Canva category is Trifold Brochures.

Canva's new trifold brochures category contains templates for making travel brochures, college brochures, photography brochures, and many other brochure purposes. Like all Canva templates, you can customize the color schemes, font sizes and styles, and swap out place-holder images for your own images. You completed trifold design can be saved as a PDF for easy printing.

Applications for Education
As soon as I saw Canva's new trifold brochures templates I thought of the classic social studies project of having students create travel brochures about cities and countries they have researched.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Quick Videos, Google Keep, and Camp - The Week in Review

Good afternoon from Everett, Washington where we're attending a family wedding. It has been a busy week as I hosted the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp at the beginning of the week and then we flew across the country with two toddlers in tow. This year's Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp was, in my opinion, the best one yet! The new venue was great and everyone who cam dove right into trying new things on both days including those people who were attending for the second, third, or fourth time!

Work With Me
There is still lots of summer left and I'm using it to plan some new professional development events and workshops for the fall. If you're interested in having me come to your school in the fall, please get in touch with me through the form here or by sending me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Ten Handy Google Keep Features for Teachers and Students
2. 300+ Google Tools Tutorial Videos
3. A Free Service That Lets You Print Almost Any Poster
4. How to Use Feedly
5. Quik - Quickly Create Audio Slideshow Videos
6. A Chrome Extension That Shows You the Value of Your Time
7. Common Craft Explains How to Craft Clear Email Communication

Practical Ed Tech Newsletter
Many people ask if they can get a weekly email instead of daily email. That's exactly what you get with the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. Once per week I send out my favorite tip of the week along with a summary of the week's most popular posts from this blog. You can join that newsletter here.

Thank You for Your Support!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Another Great Source of Ed Tech Tools Tutorial Videos

On Thursday I shared my playlist of more than 300 Google tools tutorial videos. Today I'd like to highlight someone else's YouTube channel. Brad Dale regularly publishes quick tutorial videos about a variety of helpful, free tools including Wakelet, Flipgrid, and Google Drawings. And it's through Brad's YouTube channel that I learned about a neat tool for generating transcripts of YouTube videos. That tool is called Gnotes.io. It will automatically create a transcript of any YouTube video that you choose. That transcript can be saved directly into your Google Docs too. Watch Brad's video below to see how Gnotes.io creates transcripts of YouTube videos.

Neil and Buzz Go For a Walk - A Tour of the First Hours on the Moon

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. By now you've probably seen Google's Google Earth story about the mission. If you haven't seen it, it's worth a few minutes of your time. Neil and Buzz Go For a Walk is another neat site about the Apollo 11 mission that's worth bookmarking.

Neil and Buzz Go For a Walk is the story of the first two hours Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent on the moon. The site is a scrolling display of the highlights of the transcript of Armstrong and Aldrin to each other and to NASA while on the surface of the moon. As you scroll through the transcript's highlights you'll see little drawings representing Aldrin and Armstrong as well as a little timeline.

Applications for Education 
Neil and Buzz Go For a Walk offers an engaging presentation of the transcript of Aldrin and Armstrong's first hours on the moon. Before showing the site to students I'd ask them to make some guesses as to what the surface of the moon looks like up close and how it feels. I'd also ask them to share their thoughts about what they would talk about to each other if they were the first people to land on the moon.

Thanks to Maps Mania for the link to Neil and Buzz Go For a Walk. Check out Maps Mania for more great map-based stories and websites. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

300+ Google Tools Tutorial Videos

In early 2015 I started to make an effort to publish more tutorial videos on my YouTube channel. Since then I've created more than 1,000 tutorial videos. Included in those is a playlist of 331 tutorials about the Google tools that teachers and students use most.

You can find all 331 of my Google tools tutorial videos in this playlist. In the playlist you will find videos about things like creating activity trackers in Google Formshow to create canned responses in Gmail, creating QR codes for Google Forms, and how to use data validation in Google Forms.





Common Craft Explains How to Craft Clear Email Communication

Love it or hate it, email is a part of our daily work lives. And for our students of middle school age or older it's a part of their daily lives too. If you're like me, the emails that you reply to the fastest are the shortest emails that get right to the point. Brevity is one of the components of crafting clear email communication. Clear email communication is the topic of Common Craft's latest video.

By watching Clear Email Communication viewers can learn how to get a recipient's attention and how to get a response from recipients.


On the topic of email communication, Emailing Your Teacher, With Captain Communicator is one of my favorite videos about email etiquette. The short video features two students demonstrating how to write an email to a teacher. It's cute and well worth 90 seconds of your time.



The following video was made by a teacher for the purpose of sharing email etiquette tips with students. It's a bit more serious that the Captain Communicator video.



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

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Ten Handy Google Keep Features for Teachers and Students

Google Keep is a great tool that students and teachers can access through G Suite for Education and through Gmail. Google Keep works just as well in the Chrome web browser as in the mobile apps. There are many some obvious features of Google Keep, like bookmarking, and there are some "hidden" features that are also good to know about, like annotating images. In the following video I demonstrate ten handy features of Google Keep.


Ten Google Keep Features Demonstrated in the Video:
1. Bookmarking
2. To do lists
3. Sharing notes and bookmarks
4. Date and time reminders
5. Location-based reminders
6. Drawing notes
7. Annotating images
8. Sending notes to Google Docs
9. Using note labels and searching notes
10. Color-coding notes

What's the Fastest Tire Pressure? - A Science Lesson

Global Cycling Network is a popular YouTube channel that produces high-quality videos about all aspects of bicycle riding. The videos are hosted by retired professional cyclists. The topics covered by GCN range from basics like picking a proper helmet to more nuanced topics like finding the tire pressure that will make you fastest on your bicycle. That's the topic covered in this GCN video featuring Emma Pooley, a retired professional cyclist who also holds a PhD in Geotechnical Engineering.

In What's the Fastest Tyre Pressure? Emma Pooley does some road testing of tire pressures before then heading into the classroom to explain the physics factors that influence the speed.


Applications for Education
Before showing this video to your students they could do some of their own testing of tire pressure on bicycles. Have them make some hypotheses about which tire pressure will be the fastest on their own bicycles. Or if your school is one that has bicycles available in the physical education department, make this experiment an outdoor activity during the school day.

The video could also be useful in demonstrating to students the many variables that must be accounted for when conducting an experiment. For example, in the first few minutes of the video there are many opportunities for students to identify variables that could affect the outcome of the experiment.

Quik - Quickly Create Audio Slideshow Videos

Quik is a free app from GoPro for quickly creating videos on your Android or iOS phone or tablet. With the app installed on you can import pictures and videos that you have stored on your phone, in Google Photos, or in a GoPro Plus account. After you've selected a few pictures or video clips Quik then generates a video that combines those selected pictures and video clips. Quik automatically adds music and applies image effects to the video. You can change the automatically added music and image effects by simply selecting a different theme from Quik's menu of video themes. Watch my video that is embedded below for a demonstration of the Quik app. Get the Android version here and the get the iOS version here.


Applications for Education
Quik could be a good app for students to use to quickly create a video of highlights of a field trip, to showcase some highlights from a group project, or to simply make a little autobiographical video to share with friends and family.

It should be noted that Quik is also available as desktop software for Mac and Windows. The desktop version offers more features than the mobile version.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

See What's Behind Any Webpage With Mozilla's X-Ray Goggles

One of the topics that we talked about during the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp was digital literacy and critical thinking. To that end, I presented Mozilla's X-Ray Goggles as a tool that can be used to create a modified version of real news story from legitimate sources. Mozilla's X-Ray Goggles lets you see the code behind any web page and change that code to display anything that you want in place of the original text and images. After you have made the changes you can publish a local copy of the web page.

Watch the following video that I created to learn how to use Mozilla's X-Ray Goggles.



Applications for Education
Mozilla's X-Ray Goggles provides a good way for students to see how the code of a webpage works.

As I mentioned in the video, you could use X-Ray Goggles to alter an article on the web to make it a satire story. Then print the page and give it to your students to try to identify the satire elements of the story.

Find and Share National Parks Stories

A buffalo I saw while hiking in
Grand Teton in 2006.
Find Your Park is a U.S. National Parks service website. The purpose of the site is to help people discover the National Parks near them and the activities they can enjoy in the parks.  To that end, Find Your Park offers tools for finding parks according to location and or activity type. You can search for a park or public land by name, location, or activity. When you select a park from the search results, you can dive into more information about that park.

If you do visit one of the parks, Find Your Park encourages you to share your pictures and stories of the experience. You can do that by uploading your pictures and stories directly to the Share Your Experience section of the Find Your Park website.

Applications for Education
As the weather warms and you start to think about outdoor activities for your children or your students, take a look at Find Your Park. Find Your Park could help you discover educational programs happening in a national park near you.

Pros and Cons of Using Social Media for School Announcements

Today at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp I was asked for my opinion about using Facebook as the primary tool for posting information for the parents of your students. Answering that question reminded me of an article that I wrote a few years ago on the same topic. An updated version of that article appears below.

When used correctly social media can be a fantastic aid in spreading the good word about your school. As I wrote in my post about socializing school events with social media, social media can be very helpful in building a positive feeling of community around your school too. On the other hand, social media isn't always the best way to share news about your school. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of using social media for school announcements.

The social media networks you might use:
In an effort to be concise this post will deal only with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Unless otherwise specified the pros and cons here will deal with all four networks as category rather than breaking out the pros and cons of each network individually.

Pros of using social media for school announcements:
  1. The likelihood of students checking their favorite social networks frequently is much higher than that of them checking email frequently. 
  2. You can quickly post concise messages with visuals that grab the attention of students and their parents. (I've been testing using large images into my Tweets lately. Each time I do I get more favorites and reTweets than I do with the same message that lacks a visual). 
  3. It is easy for students and or parents to share the announcement through a reTweet, tag or share on Facebook, or a tag/mention on Instagram. 
  4. It is easy for students and parents to reply to announcements. 
  5. A small archive of recent announcements is automatically created for you. 
Cons of using social media for school announcements:


  1. You must convince students and parents to follow or like your school's social media account. 
  2. Students and parents who follow a lot of social media accounts can easily overlook yours. This is especially true on Facebook because Facebook tends to hide posts from people/pages that haven't been interacted with on a frequent basis. (In other words, if you click on a lot of "cuddly kitten/ puppy" stories on Facebook you're more likely to see more of those than you are stories from sources that you don't click frequently). 
  3. You, your school administrator, or some committee within the school needs to decide who will be the "official" social media voice of the school. In other words, decide who gets to post on the school account. 
  4. Someone has to monitor and moderate conversations that arise from announcements posted on social media. On a Facebook page or Instagram account you can delete inappropriate comments. On Twitter your only option is to block, mute, or report the offender. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

A Chrome Extension That Shows You the Value of Your Time

Time Is Money is a free Chrome extension that can help students see what the expression "time is money" means. Time Is Money will display the number of hours a person would have to work in order to have enough money to purchase any product that has a price listed on a shopping site. For example, I went to Cabelas.com and found a couple of sweaters that I might like to buy. With the Time Is Money extension activated, the price in dollars is displayed along with the price in hours I would have to work in order to buy those sweaters. Time Is Money can be customized to be based on your hourly wage or your annual salary.

Applications for Education
High school students who have just gotten their first jobs may find the information that Time Is Money reveals to be an eye-opener. It's also a nice little extension that I will integrate into my hands-on economics lesson, Life on Minimum Wage.

My only criticism of the extension is that it doesn't appear to account for taxes and Social Security contributions being withheld from a paycheck.

How to Use Feedly

I'm often asked how I keep up with what's new in educational technology. Part of the answer to that question is social media and part of the answer is press releases. The biggest part of the answer is Feedly. I use Feedly to subscribe to a couple hundred websites and blogs. I've been using it daily since 2012 (prior to that I used Google Reader for six years). Feedly's interface is simple. Simple interfaces appeal to me. The service works in essentially the same way in my browser as it does on my phone. In the video embedded below I demonstrate the basics of getting started with Feedly.


Applications for Education
If you have students creating and maintaining their own blogs, you could use Feedly to keep track of their blogs.

Subscribing to blogs through Feedly is a great way to keep up with new ideas and trends in your field. Following just one dozen blogs is a good way to get started.

Zip Tapestry - Demographic Data and More, Mapped

Zip Lookup is an interesting use of the ESRI mapping platform. The map allows you to enter any US zip code to discover demographic data about that area. Whenever I see something like this I am skeptical of how well it will work for very small towns like the one that I live in (South Paris, Maine). I was pleasantly surprised to find that Zip Lookup was quite accurate.

The site will give you graphs of the demographic data for a zip code. It will also give you a little blurb about what the data graphs mean in terms of the characteristics of the town or city represented by the data.

Applications for Education
Zip Lookup could be a neat tool for students to use to discover how people in other parts of their counties, states, or country live. A short research activity based on Zip Lookup would be to investigate what draws people of a particular demographic to an area.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Green Screens, Posters, and Books - The Week in Review

Good afternoon from Maine where I'm enjoying watching a replay of today's Tour de France stage after a fun morning participating in a team triathlon. My team finished, "The Team With No Name," finished first and won a cowbell. I hope that you're also having a great weekend.

Next week I'm hosting the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Getting the opportunity to leads hands-on professional development is my favorite part of writing this blog. If you'd like to have me lead a professional development workshop at your school during the upcoming school year, please get in touch with me for more information.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. My 5 Favorite Google Docs Add-ons
2. A Free Service That Lets You Print Almost Any Poster
3. Mapping Books
4. 5 Helpful Gmail Features for Teachers
5. How to Create a Green Screen Video in iMovie
6. How to Refine a Search According to Top-level Domain
7. How to Create a Green Screen Video on an iPad


Practical Ed Tech Newsletter
Many people ask if they can get a weekly email instead of daily email. That's exactly what you get with the Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. Once per week I send out my favorite tip of the week along with a summary of the week's most popular posts from this blog. You can join that newsletter here.

Thank You for Your Support!

A Super Shark Lesson for Kids for Shark Week

Every summer Discovery runs a week of programming all about sharks. They call it Shark Week and it usually has some interesting content even if it is a bit sensationalized. That said, I my daughters won't be watching it with me and I don't recommend it for other young children. But if you are looking for a video about sharks for young students, SciShow Kids offers Super Sharks!

Super Sharks! is a video for kids that explains the unique elements of a shark's body including cartilage skeletons, why some sharks will have thousands of teeth during their lives, and what a shark's skin feels like. The video also teaches students about the largest sharks (whale shark) and smallest sharks (dwarf lantern shark) in the oceans.


On a related note, my youngest daughter's favorite book at the moment is Good Night Sharks. She wants it read to her every night.

The Science of Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Like most toddlers, my daughters love grilled cheese sandwiches. I enjoy a good one too. My daughters prefer the ones mommy makes to the ones that I make. Again, I do too. She just seems to have a better grasp of the art and science of making a good grilled cheese. While the art of making a grilled cheese sandwich is debatable, there is actual science involved in creating the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Reactions, a YouTube channel that features lessons about the chemistry of everyday life, has a video that explains the science of the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.


Applications for Education
The Science of the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich covers the chemistry of milk and the chemistry of the process of creating cheese. Then to complete the sandwich the video covers the PH of cheese and why that is important in selecting the perfect cheese for a grilled a cheese sandwich. Spoiler alert: mild cheddar is better for a grilled cheese sandwich than sharp cheddar.

The Science of the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich is just one of more than five dozen videos that Reactions has produced about the chemistry of food.

Friday, July 12, 2019

NowComment - A Good Tool for Hosting Online Discussions

NowComment is an interesting tool for creating online conversations centered around shared documents. While you could do something similar in Google Docs, NowComment was designed for hosting threaded discussions and works with a wide variety of document types including PDFs and Word files.

NowComment lets you upload a document then create a discussion about the document as a whole or about selected portions of the document. If your document includes images, you can create discussions about those images as well as the document and selected portions of the document. In other words, you could have three threaded discussions running at the same time about the same document. In this scenario you would have a discussion about the whole document, a discussion about a selected portion of the document, and a discussion about the image in the document. That might sound like it would be confusing, but it's not. At the top of the document that you upload into NowComment you can select the conversation(s) that you do or don't want to view.

Applications for Education
NowComment is the kind of tool that can be helpful in facilitating a discussion about a primary source document in a history class. Similarly, it could be a good option for facilitating online discussion and evaluation of research reports.

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for adding NowComment to his list of tools for annotating websites