Sunday, August 25, 2019

A Couple of Good Places to Find Icebreaker Activities

Every year at about this time I get a handful of requests for ideas for icebreaker activities. In fact, I found of one of those requests this morning in my inbox. Here are the two sites that come to the top of my mind when I'm asked for places to find icebreaker activities for classrooms.

Icebreakers.ws is an online catalog of dozens of fun icebreaker and team builder activities. The activities are categorized by group size and activity type. To find an activity appropriate for your group just select your group's size then use the activity type key to find "get-to-know-you games," "team building games," or "active (break a sweat) games."

How Do You Play? is a free site that offers directions on how to play icebreaker games, team building games, board games, card games, and many other in-person multiple player games. You can browse the games featured on the homepage or search through eight game categories for the game that you need the directions to.

Applications for Education
We often think of icebreaker and team-building activities as things we do at the beginning of the school year. But as we know, getting to know our students is an on-going process. The next time you're looking for a team building activity, take a look at Icebreakers.ws or How Do You Play?

ICYMI - Practical Ed Tech Podcast #3

Last weekend I announced that I've started a podcast that I'm simply calling the Practical Ed Tech Podcast. The podcast consists of the audio from my Practical Ed Tech Live broadcasts on YouTube.

In the latest episode I highlighted some news from the world of educational technology including a neat augmented reality app and new book from Scott McLeod and Julie Graber. In the second half of the episode I answer a handful of questions from readers like you.

You can get the podcast through the Anchor app, on Spotify, on Google Podcasts, on Radio Public, and in Pocket Casts. Find the option that works for you right here.

Four Good Places to Find Audio Files for Multimedia Projects

Whenever I talk to students or teachers about using music in multimedia projects I emphasize that just because a song is available to stream or download through the Internet, doesn't mean that you have the rights to re-use it. Therefore, you should strive to use public domain or Creative Commons licensed music. To that end, here are four good places to find free audio files to use in your multimedia projects.

Dig CC Mixter offers thousands of songs that are Creative Commons licensed. The site is divided into three main categories. Those categories are Instrumental Music for Film & Video, Free Music for Commerical Projects, and Music for Video Games. Within each category you can search according to genre, instrument, and style.


Bensound offers about 250 music tracks that you can download for free. Those tracks are arranged in eight categories. Those categories are acoustic/folk, cinematic, corporate/pop, electronica, urban/groove, jazz, rock, and world. You can listen to the tracks before you download them. When you click the download button you will see the clear rules about using the music.


SoundBible is a good place for students to find all kinds of free sound effects recordings. Students can download files as MP3 or WAV files. And best of all, students don't need to register on the site in order to download the files. But they do need to remember to cite the source of the sound effects as most are labeled with a Creative Commons license. Learn more about SoundBible in my short video embedded below.


Anyone can download music from the Free Music Archive for use in podcasts, videos, and other digital presentation formats. Downloading music from FMA does not require any kind of registration. In the following video I demonstrate how to find and download free music from the Free Music Archive.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Week in Review - Bad News and New Fonts

Good morning from Maine where the 50F air and the appearance of red leaves makes it feels like the end of summer is near. This always leaves me feeling conflicted as I don't want summer to end, but I also love the arrival of autumn. I'm looking forward to getting outside this weekend and I hope that you also have something you're looking forward to this weekend.

This week I hosted the third of four Practical Ed Tech professional development webinars that I'm offering in August. By September we'll all be too busy to commit to a specific time for a webinar so I'm offering an on-demand PD course in September.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Quizizz Adds Three New Features Including Tools for Making Math Problems
2. How to Add New Fonts to Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets
3. How to Extract Audio from a Video
4. EDpuzzle Live Mode - Turn Video Lessons Into Group Activities
5. 8 Epic Tools to Try This School Year - A Podcast With Vicki Davis
6. How to Use Socratic by Google
7. Bad News - Interactive Simulation Shows Students How Misinformation is Spread

Would you like to have me visit your school this year?
Click here to learn more about my professional development services.

Thank You for Your Support!
  • More than 370 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech webinar this year. Thank you!
  • Pixton is a fantastic tool for students to use to create digital stories. Get started by using their free "Truth or Lie" lesson plan. 
  • PrepFactory offers free, personalized SAT and ACT prep. 
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County has been supporting this blog for many years.
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. 

A Modification to Book Trailer Projects

Over the years I've written plenty about book trailer videos and the tools that students need for making book trailer videos. For the most part, the book trailers that I've made and those that I've seen have been designed to entice the viewer to read the book featured in the video. This week I read Scott McLeod's and Julie Graber's book Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning which changed some of my thinking about book trailer projects.

In Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning McLeod and Graber share protocols and ideas for reframing some common classroom activities. One of the activities they mention is the "Pumpkin Book Report" in which students decorate pumpkins to look like characters from books they've read. Students then record videos of their pumpkins and those videos are combined by the teacher in Flipsnack. McLeod and Graber suggest that this project can be improved if teachers ask students to articulate why they chose the character, share passages from the book that represent the character's traits, and share the theme of the story.

The modification that McLeod and Graber suggest for the Pumpkin Book Report could easily be applied to book trailer videos. Rather than just highlighting key points in their chosen books, students could focus on a theme of their chosen books or on the traits of a central character.

A Quick Way to Check if a Website is Working Correctly or Not

On Thursday afternoon I was having trouble loading a couple of websites that I planned to use in a presentation. To make check if the problem was on my end or with the website I turned to a handy site called Down For Everyone Or Just Me? The site will tell you if a website that you're trying to visit is down or not. To use the site just enter the name of a site into the search tool on Down For Everyone Or Just Me? and you will quickly get a yes or no answer. Watch my short video overview below.


Applications for Education
The next time you try a site in your classroom and the kids say to you, "it's not working" put the site's address into Down For Everyone Or Just Me? to see if the problem lies with the site or with your school's filters.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Practical Ed Tech Live - Episode #2 Now Available in Six Places

Earlier today I recorded the second episode of Practical Ed Tech Live for the new school year. As I mentioned last week, this year I'm starting each episode with five to ten minute overview of new and interesting things in the world of educational technology. The second half of the episode is when I answer questions from readers, viewers, and listeners like you.

The latest episode can be viewed as embedded below. You can also find it in podcast format on five platforms including Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Spotify, Radio Public, and Anchor.fm. Click here to find it in podcast format. 


Here's a copy of the show notes.


A Good Source of Free Music for Multimedia Projects

Last fall the Free Music Archive, one of my go-to sources of free music for multimedia projects, nearly closed. Fortunately, it was taken over by KitSplit who has kept it running. The Free Music Archive provides free, high-quality, music in a wide range of genres. The content on Free Music Archive is used under various creative commons licenses.

Anyone can download music from FMA for use in podcasts, videos, and other digital presentation formats. Downloading music from FMA does not require any kind of registration. In the following video I demonstrate how to find and download free music from the Free Music Archive.


Applications for Education
FMA can be a good resource for high school students looking for music tracks to use in podcasts and videos.

I am hesitant to use FMA in middle school or elementary school settings because there isn't a way to filter out tracks that might have inappropriate lyrics in them.

The Free Music Archive does offer an FAQ for educators that addresses many questions about use and re-use of audio tracks from the FMA.

5 Google Drive Tips You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten

Google Drive is the core of many aspects of G Suite for Education. There are lots of little features of Google Drive that are often overlooked or simply forgotten about. Many of those little features can improve your Google Drive experience. So as we head into the new school year, take a look at these five Google Drive settings that you might have overlooked or just forgotten about.

Change the Layout of Your Google Drive Dashboard
There are two layouts that you can apply to your Google Drive dashboard. You can use either the material view (the layout that has files arranged in tiles) or the linear view. I prefer the linear view that puts all of my files and folders in a list. Watch this video to see how to change the layout in your Google Drive dashboard.



Disable Email Notifications
If you end up sharing files and folders with a lot of people, you could end up getting an overwhelming volume of notification emails. You can disable those notifications rather easily. Here's how to disable email notifications in Google Drive.



Create Shared Google Drive Folders
Do you have a bunch of documents and slideshows that you want to share with a colleague? Put those files in one folder and share it. Here's how you can create and share a Google Drive folder.



Share Videos Through Google Drive
You can store just about anything in your Google Drive including videos. In fact, Google Drive offers a great way to share videos without having to upload them to a video sharing site. Here's how to share videos through Google Drive.



Automatic File Conversion
If you're transitioning to G Suite for Education there is a good chance that you have a lot of older Word and PowerPoint files that you'll still want to use. You can have those files automatically converted to Google Docs and Slides format when you upload them to Google Drive. Watch the following video to learn how to have files automatically converted to Google Docs format when you upload them to Google Drive. It's important to note, as Deborah Alexander pointed out to me, that converting a file from PPT or Word to Google Docs or Slides can impact on the formatting of that file.



Learn more about Google Drive and G Suite for Education in my upcoming on-demand course, Getting Going With G Suite

Ten Workshops Ideas 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 your next professional development day.

  • 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
  • A combination of these topics? I can do that for you. Just fill out the form below.
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) freetech4teachers.com or complete the short form below. 




Finally, if you're looking for an online option for professional development, I am offering an on-demand course starting in September. And throughout the year I host live professional development webinars over on PracticalEdTech.com. Join the Practical Ed Tech newsletter to be notified when those webinars are scheduled.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Fill-in PDF Forms in the Google Drive Mobile Apps

Earlier today Google released a convenient update to the Google Drive iOS and Android apps. The update enables users to fill out PDF forms on their phones and tablets. The update will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks although some users may already see the new feature.

Being able to fill out a PDF form on a phone could be convenient for parents who need to fill out a lunch order form for their children at the beginning of the school week. They can now do that without having to print the form.

It's important to note that Google has stated that the new feature is not for digitally signing documents. If you want to do that, I recommend using a service like HelloSign.

Bad News - Interactive Simulation Shows Students How Misinformation is Spread

Bad News is a website that offers simulations that show visitors how misinformation is spread through social media. Bad News is available in two versions. The regular version is intended for those who are high school age or older. Bad News Junior is appropriate for middle school and older elementary school students. The difference between the two versions is found in the news topics that are used in the simulations.

In both versions of Bad News players work through a simulation in which they attempt to build a Twitter following by spreading misleading news stories. (I must emphasis that there are no real Tweets sent and you don't have to even have a Twitter account to play Bad News). Through the simulation players learn how headlines, memes, and Tweets are designed to manipulate people and prompt reactions from them. The simulation also shows players how Twitter bots are used.

There are six distinct sections of Bad News. At the end of each section players are awarded a badge signifying that they have learned about the manipulation techniques associated with trolling, impersonation, discrediting, polarizing, emotional manipulation, and conspiracy theories.

Bad News does offer a short guide, in the form of this PDF, to using Bad News Junior in your classroom.

As I played the game and then researched the developers I couldn't help but think, "am I fall for a fake?" Despite learning about the game from a trusted source, Larry Ferlazzo, I still did my own research to make sure that Bad News wasn't an elaborate ploy to get people to participate in the spread of a game that was bad news. It all seems to be on the up and up.

When the Shine is Gone

Yesterday, Quizizz made an announcement about some new features that they have added to their quiz game service. As I was writing about those features I started thinking about a comment that I am starting to hear on a fairly regular basis about services like Quizizz and Kahoot. That comment is, "our kids are bored with Kahoot/ Quizizz." The last time I heard that comment it was followed by "do you have anything more exciting we can do for review?" I addressed that comment and question in a new video and Practical Ed Tech podcast episode.

An On-demand PD Opportunity Starting September 3rd

Getting Going With G Suite has been my most popular Practical Ed Tech course over the last six years. It has gone through many iterations just as G Suite for Education has evolved. To reflect the latest updates to G Suite for Education I've updated Getting Going With G Suite once again. This time I'm offering the course in an on-demand format.

The on-demand version of Getting Going With G Suite contains ten self-paced modules. The modules go beyond the nuts and bolts of using G Suite for Education and dive into practical classroom uses for all of the G Suite for Education tools. In the course I share activities that I have done and continue to use with students of all ages.

Sign-up here to be notified when the course is available.

Enjoy a National Park for Free This Weekend

Portions of this post originally appeared on one of my other blogs, Ed Tech Fitness.

The U.S. National Parks Service is turning 103 years old on August 25th. In recognition of the Parks Service’s birthday admission is free to all parks on the 25th. Find the National Park that is closest to you through this interactive map.

This is the third of five free entrance days that the National Park Service is offering this year. The next one is on September 28th, National Public Lands Day. The last free day of the year will be on November 11th, Veterans Day.

Share Your National Park Stories
The National Parks Service has a crowdsourcing site called Share Your Park on which park visitors can share their stories. On the Share Your Park site you can upload pictures and write short stories about your National Parks visit.

Another way to share a National Parks story is to create some panoramas for others to enjoy in their web browsers or in a virtual reality headset. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Google's Cardboard Camera app to create a panorama.



Learn About the Birth of the National Parks Service
Teddy Roosevelt was instrumental in the creation of the National Parks Service. A few years ago I read a fantastic book titled Wilderness Warrior – Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America. The book tells the story of Roosevelt’s life through the lens of his interest in wilderness and wilderness preservation. It is one of the most fascinating 900+ page books I’ve ever read.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Quizizz Adds Three New Features Including Tools for Making Math Problems

This morning Quizizz, a popular classroom quiz game service, announced the launch of three new features that many teachers have wanted. Those features are polling, sound clips, and math equations. These are all features that you can use now when you create new games in Quizizz.

The new polling option lets you ask subjective questions and gather responses from your students. To do this you simply have to uncheck the option for "has correct answer" when creating a question.

The sound clips option lets you upload or record audio clips to use in your Quizizz games.

Finally, the question editor in Quizizz now includes an equation editor for creating math problems for your students to answer during a Quizizz activity.

50 Years of Migration Waves

This morning while reading a National Geographic article about animal migrations in national parks I stumbled onto a related feature titled Migration Waves. Migration Waves is a series of graphs depicted the movement of humans between countries between the years 1967 and 2017.

The graphs on Migration Waves are grouped according to four factors that prompted migration. Those four factors are labor markets, political policies, political instability, and poverty. Each graph in the Migration Waves series has a caption that explains some of the conditions leading to migration.

Applications for Education
My first thought when viewing Migration Waves was to use it as a prompt for students to further investigate the causes of migration during the 50 years covered in the graphs. Then I thought some more about it and decided that a more challenging assignment would be for students to look at a couple of data sets then create their own similar migration waves graphs.

To find some a couple of data sets for students to use to generate their own migration waves graphs I turned to Google's Dataset Search. It was through Google's Dataset Search that I found this GDP by state and region spreadsheet (you'll have to create a free Data.World account to access) and found the Census Bureau's Population Distribution and Change document (PDF).

Google Dataset Search tool is still in beta. Earlier this year I published the following a short video about it.


If you would like to learn more about advanced search tools and strategies, join me tomorrow for Search Strategies Students Need to Know Now.

EDpuzzle Live Mode - Turn Video Lessons Into Group Activities

EDpuzzle has been my go-to tool for making video-based lessons and quizzes for many years. Just in time for the new school year EDpuzzle has released a new feature called Live Mode. EDpuzzle's Live Mode lets you take your existing EDpuzzle lessons or any new lessons that you create and turn them into group activities.

When you use EDpuzzle's Live Mode you project a video on a screen in the front of your classroom. Students watch the video on your projected screen while they have their laptops or tablets open. Then when a question appears in the video the video pauses and the question automatically appears on your students' screen for them to answer. As the teacher you can instantly see which students have answered and how they answered.

Watch my short video below to see how EDpuzzle's Live Mode works.



And if you have never tried EDpuzzle in any capacity, watch my complete EDpuzzle tutorial below.

Join Me This Friday for Practical Ed Tech Live

This Friday at 9am ET I'm bringing back my Practical Ed Tech Live series in which I answer batches of questions that readers like you send to me throughout the week. Additionally, this school year I'll open each broadcast with a recap of some ed tech news that you might have missed in the previous week.

I'll be broadcasting this live on my YouTube channel at 9am ET. (subscribe to my channel to be notified when I go live). You can ask me questions during the broadcast or submit them in advance to ensure that I'll see your question. You can submit questions through the form that is embedded below.

PrepFactory Offers Free, Personalized ACT & SAT Prep

SAT prep was one of the things that I used to do in my homeroom when I had junior year students. Many of the activities were directly from SAT prep books that I had purchased. Today, there are many excellent online options for SAT prep. One of the best options is available on PrepFactory.

PrepFactory offers students a great selection of free SAT and ACT preparation activities. PrepFactory focuses on helping students develop good test-taking strategies while also not boring them with dozens of continuous rote exercises. But before students even dive into the practice activities they can work through in-depth strategy review activities. To help students know what strategy to review or which practice assessment to take, PrepFactory has students complete diagnostics activities.

PrepFactory differentiates itself from other test prep websites by focusing on individual student diagnostics. In the PrepFactory programs, students are continually evaluated across all topics applicable to his or her test. The program then allows the student to skip over the content they’ve shown mastery of and it encourages students to spend extra time improving in areas they have not yet mastered. It's this type of practice that gets students away from repeating the easy tasks and forces them to focus on the difficult tasks.

Students can use PrepFactory independently or join a virtual classroom under a teacher's account. Teacher accounts have additional features including creating assignments and monitoring student progress. Fully-featured student and teacher accounts can be created for free.

Disclosure: PrepFactory is currently an advertiser on this blog. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

MacBook Setup Essentials for Students

Randy Krum, the author of Cool Infographics, has published a new infographic that is a great resource for any student who has a new MacBook for the new school year. Randy designed it with college students in mind, but the information can be used by anyone who is setting up a new MacBook.

MacBook Setup Essentials for College Students covers eleven things that you should do when setting up a new MacBook. The eleven components covered in the infographic are:

  • Creating admin and user accounts
  • Turning off auto login
  • Find my Mac
  • Using the Firewall
  • Enabling password requirements
  • App settings
  • iCloud settings
  • Password management
  • Productivity suites
  • Backup routines
  • Cloud storage options
You can download and print a copy of the infographic at Cool Infographics or InfoNewt

On a related note, if you are thinking about purchasing a MacBook, there are quite a few on sale on Amazon right now

Search Strategies Students Need to Know Now - Webinar This Thursday

The beginning of the new school year is a great time to introduce students to some new search strategies and to give them refreshers on techniques they may have forgotten about during the summer. That is why this Thursday at 4pm ET I'm hosting an updated version of my popular Search Strategies Students Need to Know webinar.

I've updated this webinar to include new activities that you can use in your classroom to teach students how to employ multiple search strategies. The webinar also includes strategies for getting students beyond the first few pages of search results. We'll look at some of the powerful, but overlooked search tools that students have at their disposal. Finally, we'll dive into activities that you can use to help students become better at discerning good information from bad.


The webinar will be recorded for those who register but cannot attend the live presentation.

An Easy Way to Send Links From Your Computer to Your Phone or Tablet

If you're like me, you probably have a smartphone and a laptop and perhaps a tablet that you use throughout the course of your day. And at least once a day browsing on my laptop when I realize that it's time to go to the dentist or another appointment and I need want to take an article with me (true story, I had to get fillings yesterday). It's then that I either bookmark the article with Google Keep or I send the article to my phone using Chrome's built-in "send to device" on my Mac. That's a simple process that I demonstrate in the following video.


StudentCam 2020 - Student Documentary Contest

Every year C-SPAN hosts the StudentCam video contest for middle school and high school students in the United States. This annual event invites students to produce short videos about current issues related to United States government and politics.

This year's C-SPAN StudentCam contest asks students to produce a 4-6 minute video about the issue they most want presidential candidates to address during their campaigns. C-SPAN suggests that students include historical context of the issue and various viewpoints of the issue they choose.

The StudentCam contest is open to U.S. students in grades six through twelve. Submissions will be accepted beginning on November 1st. The contest deadline is January 20, 2020. All videos must include some C-SPAN footage. This year more than $100,000 in prizes will be awarded. There are separate judging categories for middle school and high school submissions. Students can work individually or in teams of up to three members. Complete contest rules can be found here.

Monday, August 19, 2019

How to Add New Fonts to Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets

Last week Google announced the addition of a new series of fonts that you can add to Google Docs, Slides, Sheets. The new fonts are called Lexend fonts. They are designed to improve reading speed by avoiding the visual crowding that is associated with some font styles and types. You can read more about the development of Lexend fonts here.

Adding Lexend fonts to Google Documents is done the same way as adding any other font to Google Docs, Slides, or Sheets. To do this you simply open the fonts drop-down menu in Docs, Slides, or Sheets and then choose "even more" to search for the Lexend fonts and add them to your document, slide, or spreadsheet. Once you've added the Lexend font in Docs, it will stay in your fonts drop-down menu in all future Google Documents, Slides, and Sheets that you create. Watch my short video that is embedded below for a tutorial on how to add fonts to Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets.


On a related note, in a couple of weeks I'm launching an on-demand version of my popular Getting Going With G Suite course. Sign-up here to be notified when it is available. 

Truth or Lie Comics - A Lesson Plan

Pixton is a service that teachers and students can use to create comic strips by selecting customizable drawings and adding them into comic frames. This enables even those of us who don't have any drawing skills to make comics that look great. Pixton provides an online classroom in which you can view all of your students' work and give them assignments. For back-to-school season Pixton has a free activity for teachers and students. That activity is called Truth or Lie.

Truth or Lie is an activity designed as an ice-breaker or familiarization activity for your class. In the activity students create a short comic strip in which they create frames that represent either a truth or a lie. They then share those comics with classmates who have to guess if the comic represents a truth or a lie.


You can create a free Pixton account and log-in by using your G Suite credentials, Microsoft credentials, or by using a standard email address then setting a password.

Disclosure: Pixton is currently an advertiser on this blog.

64 Years of Presidential Campaign Commercials - A Lesson Plan

In a little more than one year from now we'll be casting ballots for President of the United States. That means for the next year we'll see campaign commercials online and on television. Campaign commercials have changed a lot in the last 60+ years. That's evident in a C-SPAN Classroom lesson plan titled Evaluating Historical Presidential Campaign Ads.

Evaluating Historical Campaign Ads includes fourteen videos of campaign commercials that were broadcast beginning in 1952 through 2016. A fifteenth video features two campaign consultants (one Republican, one Democrat) talking about what makes an effective campaign commercial. All of the videos can be shared individually, embedded into classroom websites, or clipped by using the clipping tools provided by C-SPAN.


Applications for Education
The focus of the lesson plan is on having students identify what makes a campaign commercial effective. An extension to the lesson would be to have students compare the issues of concern over the last 60+ years. Another lesson extension would be to have students analyze changes in tone and rhetoric over time.


Book Creator's Autodraw Feature Now Works on iPads

Back in June Book Creator added an autodraw feature to the Chrome version of their popular multimedia ebook creation service. Autodraw enables you to attempt to draw something and have Book Creator try to interpret what that drawing is. As you draw Book Creator will display a menu of completed drawings based on what you're attempting to draw. Choose from the menu of suggestions and Book Creator will automatically complete the drawing for you. See this video for an example.

This morning Book Creator announced that the autodraw feature is now available to use on iPads. Run the update for the app and autodraw will appear when you start drawing on a blank page in the Book Creator book editor. Get the updated Book Creator app here.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

ImageCodr Makes it Easy to Give Image Attribution

Properly citing Creative Commons licensed works can sometimes be a confusing, multi-step process. ImageCodr makes that process easier.

ImageCodr generates properly formatted Creative Commons attributions for images that you find on Flickr. Once you've found a Flickr image that you want to use just paste its URL into the ImageCodr code generator to get a properly formatted image code with Creative Commons attribution.


Applications for Education
ImageCodr could be a good tool for students to use when they're adding images to blog posts. ImageCodr gives students all of the code and attributions necessary for using a Creative Commons image found on Flickr in their blog posts.

How to Use Socratic by Google

Last week Google announced the release of an updated version of the Socratic app. Socratic is now owned by Google and is therefore called Socratic by Google in the app store. The free iPhone and iPad app (Android version available in the fall) lets students take a picture of a problem, question, or phrase and get some helpful information about that problem, question, or phrase.

In the case of a math problem, Socratic by Google will give students an explanation of the problem and videos about how to solve it. Socratic by Google will also provide links to Google search results related to the problem.

When students use Socratic by Google to take a picture of a question or of an unfamiliar term the app will display helpful definitions, videos, and diagrams. In other words, it does what a Google search does.

In the following video I demonstrate how Socratic by Google works.

8 Epic Tools to Try This School Year - A Podcast With Vicki Davis

A few weeks ago I Vicki Davis invited me to be a guest on her fantastic 10 Minute Teacher Podcast. As the title implies, in the podcast I shared an overview of eight educational technology tools that can be used in almost any classroom. You can find the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast on all major podcast distribution networks. You can also listen to it directly on Vicki's Cool Cat Teacher blog and on YouTube.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Week in Review - Originality, Audio, and Clocks

Good afternoon from rainy South Paris, Maine. Even though the weather was less than ideal for a bike ride I went out for ride to exercise this morning. Along the way I saw a red leaf on a maple tree. In this part of the world, the appearance of red leaves on maple trees is a reminder that the new school year will be here soon. If you've already started school, I hope it's off to a great start. And if you still have some vacation left, I hope you get outside to enjoy it.

This week I hosted a Practical Ed Tech webinar titled Intro to Animation and Green Screen Videos. More than 50 of you attended that webinar, thank you! This week I'm hosting Search Strategies Students Need to Know Now. And coming up in September I'm launching an on-demand version of my popular Getting Going With G Suite course.

The Most Popular Posts of the Week:
1. Google is Adding an Originality Checker to Google Classroom
2. Two Important Changes Coming to Google Classroom
3. Unsplash for Education - Free Photos for Your Lessons
4. How to Add Video and Audio Comments to Google Docs
5. Three Ways to Create Shortened URLs People Can Actually Spell
6. How to Add an Animated Clock to PowerPoint Slides
7. How to Extract Audio from a Video

Would you like to have me visit your school this year?
Click here to learn more about my professional development services.

Thank You for Your Support!
  • More than 350 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech webinar this year. Thank you!
  • Pixton is a fantastic tool for students to use to create digital stories. Get started by using their free "Truth or Lie" lesson plan. 
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County has been supporting this blog for many years.
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. 

New! The Practical Ed Tech Podcast

Last spring a reader named Tiffany asked me if I would ever consider publishing my Practical Ed Tech Live episodes as podcasts instead of just on my YouTube channel. It was a good idea. Thanks to Tiffany's suggestion I am now publishing the audio of my Practical Ed Tech live episodes as a podcast.

I'm using the Anchor.fm platform to publish the podcast. As of right now you can get the episodes through the Anchor app, here on the Anchor website, and through Spotify. The Practical Ed Tech Podcast will soon be available through other podcast distribution networks.


I've never done something quite like this so it's a bit of a work in progress. I hope you enjoy the first episode and if not, I hope you'll be patient and give the next couple of episodes a try as I work out the kinks.

An Easy-to-Search Index of Teachers on Twitter

Twitter can be a good place to connect with other educators to exchange ideas and resources. The trouble is that it is not always easy to filter through all of the accounts that Twitter automatically suggests to find the people that you really want to connect with. Thanks to a Tweet from Mark Anderson yesterday I learned about a new way easy-to-search index of teachers on Twitter.

EduTwitter is a site developed by Tristan Kirkpatrick. The site provides a searchable index of educators on Twitter. You can search by name or browse according to speciality area. You can sort search results display users who have the most or the least followers (a great way to discover new voices). Take a look at EduTwitter and see if you can find someone new to follow. And if you don't see your Twitter account on EduTwitter, you can submit your name for inclusion.

Friday, August 16, 2019

How to Extract Audio from a Video

One of the questions that I answered during today's Practical Ed Tech Live episode was, "is there a way that I can just take the audio out of the videos to publish it as a podcast?" There are a few ways that you can extract the audio from a video. One of the easier ways to do that is found in GarageBand. In the following video I demonstrate how to extract the audio from a video file that you have stored on your computer.


As I mentioned at the end of the video, you should only do this with videos that you created or videos that you have received permission to edit.

If you're looking for an easy way to publish a podcast, take a look at using Anchor.fm. Anchor makes it easy to publish your MP3 recordings as podcast episodes that get distributed through all of the major podcast platforms.

ICYMI - Practical Ed Tech Live Recording

This morning I hosted a new episode of Practical Ed Tech Live on my YouTube channel. I hadn't held one of these sessions since the last school year ended. For the new school year I'm adding a new element to the broadcast. That element is a recap of some of the bigger stories in the world of educational technology. Of course, I'm still answering questions from readers and viewers like you. The recording of today's episode of Practical Ed Tech Live is now available to view as embedded below and on my YouTube channel.


Here's an outline of what was covered in the broadcast. The outline includes links for many of the things that I mentioned in the video.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel to be notified whenever I host a live session and whenever I upload a new tutorial video.

Post-it App for Android - Turn Physical Stickies Into Digital Ones

For many years Post-it has offered a free iPhone and iPad app that you can use to turn a collection of physical sticky notes into digital ones. This morning I discovered that Post-it now offers an Android version of the same app. Both versions of the Post-it app let you snap a picture of a collection of sticky notes that you want to digitize. After snapping the picture you'll be able to sort and group the digitized version of your sticky notes. You can export your digitized stickies and groups of stickies as PDF, PowerPoint, and Excel files. Watch the video below to see how the Post-it app works.


On a related note, Amazon currently offers a 10% discount on Post-it notes and other 3M products on this page when you use the discount code 10OFFCOLLEGE.

Applications for Education
As I've written before, this app is good for digitizing the output of a brainstorming session that started with physical notes. You could have students carry-out brainstorming sessions with physical notes then go around the room with one iPad or Android tablet to create a digital record of those notes. Then project the app through an LCD projector or interactive whiteboard to show students all of the notes and talk about which notes should be sorted into various categorized boards in the app.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Three Ways to Create Shortened URLs People Can Actually Spell

Whenever I have a webpage that I want a group of students or colleagues to go to at the same time, I use a URL shortener to turn long URLs into things that are easy to copy and spell. Sure, I could email the link in advance or post it on Google Classroom, but when I do that I've introduced an intermediate step that is full of distractions (colleagues start reading email, students start looking at grades).

Bitly has been my URL shortener of choice for many years because it lets me customize the shortened URL and track click-throughs. That said, lately I find that I also like Yellkey a lot. Finally, I can't write about URL shorteners without mentioning TinyURL which has been around forever, it seems. All three of these tools can be used to create custom shortened URLs. Demonstrations of how to use all three tools are included in the video below.

How to Add an Animated Clock to PowerPoint Slides

This afternoon I received an email from a reader who had watched my video about adding timers to PowerPoint slides. My video features a timer with a digital countdown display. She wanted to know if there is a way to add an analog clock countdown display to a PowerPoint slide. It is possible to do that through the use of shapes and animations in PowerPoint, but it does take some time. Normally, I would make a video about how to do this, but this time I'm just going to refer you to this tutorial from The Tech Train channel on YouTube.


And if you're curious about how to add a digital countdown to PowerPoint slides, my tutorial on that process is embedded below.

How to Annotate Webpages With Seesaw's Chrome Extension

Seesaw recently released an updated Chrome extension that makes it easy for students to save and annotate articles in their digital portfolios. With SeeSaw's free Chrome extension installed students can save an entire webpage or select a portion of the page to save. Once they've made a selection of what to save the Chrome extension will automatically open SeeSaw in a new browser tab where students can then highlight, draw, and type on the saved page. Students can also record themselves talking about the pages they've clipped. Watch my video below for a quick overview of how SeeSaw's free Chrome extension works.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Google is Adding an Originality Checker to Google Classroom

Today, in what they're spinning as a feature to "help students turn in their best work," Google announced the addition of an originality checker to Google Classroom. Google is calling this new feature Originality Reports.

Originality Reports in Google Classroom will let students and teachers check documents for elements of plagiarism originality against the millions of webpages and books that are indexed by Google. Students will be able to run Originality Reports on their own work before submitting it as an assignment in Google Classroom. Teachers can run Originality Reports on any work that has been submitted through Google Classroom.

Originality Reports is a feature that is in a beta testing period. G Suite for Education domain administrators can apply here to have their schools participate in the beta.

I've applied to participate in the Originality Reports beta on behalf of two domains that I manage. Until then all I can tell you about the Originality Reports functions is what I've gleaned from Google's announcement and GIF of the feature. It appears that Originality Reports will display in the margins of documents any possible matches for sentences or phrases found online.

From a business standpoint, Originality Reports certainly looks like an attempt by Google to compete with other plagiarism detection services like TurnItIn.

On a related note, in a few weeks I am releasing an on-demand course that will be full of practical ways to use all aspects of G Suite for Education in your classroom. Register here to be notified when the course is available. 

DocsTeach Adds New Documents and Lessons About Suffrage

Earlier this week the Library of Congress launched a new crowdsourcing campaign to transcribe more than 20,000 primary source documents related to the women's suffrage movement in the United States. The LOC isn't the only organization to make primary sources related to suffrage available online. DocsTeach, produced by the National Archives, has a Women's Rights section that was updated this summer to include more primary source documents and more teaching activities.

The Women's Rights section on DocsTeach offers seven instructional activities built around primary source documents. Those seven activities are:

You don't have to use these activities exactly as written. When you create a free DocsTeach account you can make copies of the activities and then modify them as needed for your students. You can also create new activities from scratch based on the primary source documents available on DocsTeach. 

Sharing Videos Through Google Drive

One of the things that people sometimes forget about Google Drive is that you can use to share just about any kind of file that you have stored on your computer. This includes video files. In fact, using Google Drive can be a good way to share a video with students or colleagues without having to use YouTube. When you share a video through Google Drive the person you share it with can view it right in his or her Google Drive account without having to download it.

A few years ago I recorded a video about how share videos through Google Drive and it is still one of the most frequently watched videos on my YouTube channel. The video is embedded below.



In September I am releasing an on-demand course that will be full of practical ways to use all aspects of G Suite for Education in your classroom. Register here to be notified when the course is available. 

Join Me on Friday for Practical Ed Tech Live!

This Friday at 9am ET I'm bringing back my Practical Ed Tech Live series in which I answer batches of questions that readers like you send to me throughout the week. I'll be broadcasting this live on my YouTube channel (subscribe to my channel to be notified when I go live). You can ask me questions during the broadcast or submit them in advance to ensure that I'll see your question. You can submit questions through the form that is embedded below.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

How to Add and Edit Alt Text in PowerPoint Presentations

A few weeks ago I published a video about how to add alt text to pictures in Google Slides. That video was prompted by a friend's request for help. This morning a reader asked me about using alt text in PowerPoint. So I recorded the following short video to demonstrate how you can add alt text and edit alt text in PowerPoint. The video includes instructions for the browser version  of PowerPoint and for the desktop version of PowerPoint (thankfully, the two versions are getting more similar all the time).


Applications for Education
After I published my last video about alt text I had a few people ask what purpose it served. The purpose of alt text is to convey the purpose of an image in a presentation or online document. This is done to help students who use screen readers access the full content and purpose of the presentation.

For more information about the purpose of alt text and what alt text should entail, read How to Write Alt Text and Image Descriptions for the Visually Impaired published by the Perkins School for the Blind eLearning.

Unsplash for Education - Free Photos for Your Lessons

Unsplash is one of my go-to recommendations for finding public domain pictures for classroom projects. Thanks to Rushton Hurley's latest Next Vista for Education newsletter I just learned that Unsplash now has an Unsplash for Education section.

Unsplash for Education is comprised of ten curated collections of images for teachers and students to use in their projects. Those ten collections are math & science, art, space, politics & current events, geography, health, history, tech, nature, and a catch-all education collection.

Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be a dedicated search tool for the Unsplash for Education collections so you just have to browse through them to find pictures that you like. When you do find a picture that you like you can download it for free without having to register on the Unsplash site. And while Unsplash does encourage giving attribution for images, it clearly states that you don't have to give attribution for the images.

On a related note, Unsplash offers a free Google Slides add-on that makes it easy to find and use public domain images in your slides without ever leaving your Google Slides editor. Watch the video embedded below to learn how to use the Unsplash Google Slides add-on.


Image credit: Javier Quesada