Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Week in Review - Icebreakers, Cool Cats, and Pictures

Good morning from Maine where it is a beautiful start to Labor Day weekend. We have family visiting for the weekend so I'm going to quickly write this week's week-in-review before they everyone wakes up.

This week I had the privilege to work with teachers in Saint John's High School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. We worked through a progression of learning experiences that I chose based on their needs and wants. If you'd like to have me do the same at your school, please get in touch.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. A Couple of Good Places to Find Icebreaker Activities
2. 5 Google Drive Tips You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten
3. These Cool Cats Will Teach You About Phrasal Verbs
4. How to Embed Google Docs Into Your Blog Posts
5. Ten Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures - Updated for 2019-20
6. Four Good Places to Find Audio Files for Multimedia Projects
7. Camera and Locomotive - A Mapped Story About the Transcontinental Railroad

A New On-demand Professional Development Course
This week I hosted the fourth Practical Ed Tech webinar of the month. I won't be hosting any more live webinars until the end of September. But I will have a new on-demand course available next week.

Thank You for Your Support!
  • More than 375 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. 

How to Create and Distribute Google Docs Templates

At the beginning of the school year you might find yourself reviewing or introducing to your students the best way to take notes. You might also find yourself teaching them things like to how complete a science lab report. I was reminded of this yesterday when a former colleague asked if there was a way to create a note-taking template for his students to follow in Google Documents. There is a simple way to do that but it's easier to show than it is to tell. Therefore, I made the following video about how to create and distribute Google Docs templates.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Ten Google Product Updates for Teachers to Note

Every month Google rolls-out updates to many of the products that teachers and students use through G Suite for Education. Some of those updates happen in background on the administrative side of G Suite for Education. Those updates usually don't have much impact on end-users. Then there are updates that directly affect teachers and students. Here's a rundown of the Google product updates made in August that teachers and students should note.

Automatic Out-of-Office Notifications
As I shared earlier today, Gmail will now alert the people sending you emails that you're out-of-office before they even send the messages they compose.

Old Version of Google Classroom Going Away on September 4th
If you're still using the old version of Google Classroom, you're going to be forced into the new version on September 4th. What's important to note about this is that existing content in the "class settings" page will not be automatically moved into a Classwork page. That content will be saved in your Google Drive and you can manually add it to a Classwork page.

Rubrics in Google Classroom
In August Google announced the launch of a beta version of a rubrics tool for Google Classroom. Your domain administrator needs to apply to have your school participate in the beta test of rubrics for Google Classroom.

I've had access to rubrics in Classroom for a couple of weeks now. My initial impression is that it is easy to use and could be useful tool once Google adds the ability to re-use rubrics from assignment to assignment. Currently, you have to create a rubric for every assignment.

Google Drive Priority Page
All G Suite accounts now have access to the Priority Page feature. This is a feature that will display what Google's algorithm determines to be your most important Google Drive files at any given moment. This is largely files that have recently been shared with you for commenting and editing or files you've recently shared for the same purpose. From the Priority Page you will be able to see new comments without having to open the file in a separate tab or window.

Originality Reports in Google Classroom
This is a new program that Google has added to Google Classroom and Assignments. This feature, still in a beta testing period, will let students and teachers check documents for elements of potential plagiarism 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.

Socratic by Google
Socratic by Google is the updated version of the Socratic iPad app. The app lets you scan a question or problem to quickly conduct a Google search. Watch my video below to see it in action. An Android version of this app will be available later this fall.



Lexend Fonts in Docs, Slides, and Sheets
Lexend Fonts are a family of fonts that are designed to improve reading speed by avoiding the visual crowding that is associated with some traditional font styles and types.



Play Slides on a Loop
Earlier this week Google announced the addition of an option to have slides play on a continuous loop. Unfortunately, today I learned that the roll-out of this feature has been delayed.

White-out, Black-out Google Slides
This is another feature that Google announced earlier in the week and then announced that the roll-out has been delayed. When it does appear, this new feature will let you black-out or white-out your slides when you pause your presentation.

Complete a PDF on the Google Drive Mobile App
If you use the Google Drive iPhone or Android app, you can now complete a fillable PDF on your phone. Read more about that feature here.

On a related note, next week I'm launching a new self-paced course featuring practical and engaging ways to use G Suite for Education in your classroom. Learn more here

Practical Ed Tech Podcast Episode #4

This morning I hosted a new episode of Practical Ed Tech Live on my YouTube channel. For those who missed it, it is now available as the fourth episode of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast. The podcast can be found on Anchor.fm, on Google Podcasts, on Spotify, on RadioPublic, and on Pocket Casts. I'm working on getting it distributed through iTunes too.

And now that school is back in session for pretty much everyone, I'm moving the live broadcast to Thursday afternoons instead of Friday mornings. So join me on my YouTube channel next Thursday at 3pm to watch and ask questions live.




The show notes can be viewed here as a Google Document.

Questions answered in the podcast include:

Can you limit the number of responses on Microsoft forms? For instance, we are doing a sign-up at school and only want 15 students/choice. Can this be done?

Hi - I teach technology classes and I am looking for a few good videos to show my class for sub days. Any recommendations? Thank you!!

What apps for a Chromebook or in general do you recommend for ELL Students? By this, I am referring to helping students take content that is spoken or written in English and translate it into Spanish. Something besides Google Translate.

With my students I have created bilingual dictionary in Google sheets (two columns, one for English and one for translation). Do you happen to know of any way to turn it into an online dictionary with a search box?

I'm looking for a way to record comments/feedback and send to my students when reading their essays. Is there something you can think of I could utilize? The only thing that I can think of is voice memo recording and emailing.

These Cool Cats Will Teach You About Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal Verbs Friends is a fun YouTube channel that features cats explaining phrasal verbs. The videos use pictures of cats in green-screen settings to show and explain the various meanings of phrasal verbs like "warm up" and "take care."


Applications for Education
Phrasal verbs can be tricky for students to understand. These cute cat videos could help students understand the meanings of some phrasal verbs.

The videos could be the inspiration for a classroom video project. You could have students make their own fun phrasal verbs videos featuring their own pets. Use a tool like Remove.bg or PhotoScissors to remove the background from the original image and then drop the pet picture in front of a new setting. Then take those pictures and use them in a video editor like iMovie, WeVideo, or Adobe Spark Video to make videos of the pets explaining a phrasal verb.

Wonderopolis Now Includes Immersive Reader

Wonderopolis is a great site for finding interesting articles to spark your students' imaginations. I've been a fan of the site since I first discovered it more than six years ago. At its core Wonderopolis offers more than 2400 interesting articles for elementary school and middle school students. Each article covers a different topic that your students might wonder about. For example, today's article is Who Invented Friend Chicken?

Every Wonderopolis article is accompanied by a short video and some corresponding images. All of the articles are also accompanied by a short reading comprehension quiz that can be printed or taken online. A vocabulary matching exercise also accompanies the articles on Wonderopolis.

This week Wonderopolis announced that Immersive Reader has been integrated into the site. Immersive Reader is Microsoft's free program that reads pages aloud to students. Immersive Reader does more than just read aloud. It also lets students customize the display of the text and highlights each word as it is read aloud.

Gmail Will Now Automatically Notify Senders When You're Out of Office

This weekend is a Labor Day weekend here in the U.S. For many of us it is the symbolic end of the summer. And for many of us it's the last time that we'll unplug from work for a few months. Speaking of unplugging from work, yesterday Google announced a new Gmail feature that will notify senders that you're out of office before they even send you a message.

Now when have an out-of-office entry on your Google Calendar, Gmail will display an out-of-office warning to people who are drafting messages to you. For example, if I have an out-of-office entry for 3pm-5pm today and you draft a message during that time, Gmail will display a warning that I'm out-of-office before you even send that message.

This new Gmail feature could be a great addition to the traditional out-of-office auto responder that you use. By displaying that you're out of office, senders might reconsider sending you a message or will schedule it to be sent at a time when they know you're more likely to read it and reply to it.

The new out-of-office warning feature will be available to all Gmail and G Suite users within the next few weeks. The feature will be on by default.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

You've Got Questions, I've Got Answers (Some of Them)

Tomorrow I'm recording the next episode of my Practical Ed Tech Live series in which I answer batches of questions that readers like you send to me throughout the week.  This school year I'm opening 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. (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.

International Podcast Day Stickers - How to Make a Podcast

International Podcast Day (I didn't know that was a thing until today, either) is September 30th. Synth is one of the sponsors of International Podcast Day. Synth is a free service for recording and publishing short podcasts. I've been writing and talking about it since its launch last fall because it is so simple for teachers and students to use it to create a podcast.

Synth is giving away sets of stickers to classrooms that participate in International Podcast Day. Simply fill out this short Google Form to get your stickers. Then on September 30th Tweet or otherwise share your podcast with the hashtag #internationalpodcastday

You can find more information about Synth's participation in International Podcast Day here.

Watch my video below to learn how to make a simple podcast with Synth.

How to Make Stop Motion Movies - And The Apps You Need

It's funny what you remember about students that you had ten or more years ago. Earlier this week I ran into an old student of mine while I was getting coffee at my favorite cafe. While I struggled to remember his name (it came to be eventually) I clearly remembered a stop motion video project that he did when he was in my U.S. History class. His stop motion movie was about the Battle of Bunker Hill. He used paper cutouts of soldiers then positioned them to move to tell the story.

If you've ever thought about making a stop motion movie with your students, Science Filmmaking Tips has a good video that covers everything you need to know and more. The video covers everything from types of stop motion to equipment needs to actually shooting the movie. How to Make Stop Motion Movies is well worth ten minutes of your time.



The mobile app that is mentioned in the video is Stop Motion Studio. You can get the app for iPad and for Android.

Chromebook users should try using Stop Motion Animator. Watch my video below to learn how to use Stop Motion Animator.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

It's That Time Again - Why Leaves Change Color in the Fall

There are some trees in my neighborhood whose leaves always start to change color earlier than the rest. I noticed them this morning as I drove down my road. And when I got home I noticed one in my backyard was starting to develop some red leaves too. That means it's time for my annual post about why leaves change color in the fall.

Reactions is a great YouTube channel from the American Chemical Society. I've featured a handful or more of their videos this year. One of the Reactions videos explains the chemistry involved in the process of leaves changing color. The video explains how chlorophyll and the glucose stored inside trees create the red, yellow, and brown of fall foliage.



For an explanation of why leaves change colors that elementary school students can understand, watch the following SciShow Kids video.

Two Handy New Features Added to Google Slides

Google Slides users are about to get two features that many people have wanted for a long time. Yesterday, Google announced that you'll now be able to black-out or white-out your slides when you pause in the middle of a presentation. To do this you'll simply hit either B or W on your keyboard while your presentation is in full screen mode. You'll be able to remove the black-out or white-out by simply hitting any other key or clicking on your slides.

The other new feature that is coming soon to Google Slides is the ability to have your presentation play on a loop. To do this you'll simply put your presentation into full screen mode then click on the gear icon to open settings and select "loop."

Applications for Education
The new keyboard shortcuts to black-out or white-out your slides when you pause a presentation could be useful for hiding the slides while you're answering a question from your students.

Being able to have your Google Slides presentation play on a continuous loop could be great for things like open house nights when you want to be able to let the slides scroll for a long time as people filter in and out of a room.

Both of these new Google Slides features will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks.

If you're new to using Google Slides or other aspects of G Suite for Education, consider signing up for my on-demand Getting Going With G Suite course that will be available on September 3rd. 

Ten Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures - Updated for 2019-20

Four years ago I published a PDF that outlined ten tools and how students can use them to tell stories with pictures. On Monday I received an email from a reader who had recently stumbled upon that PDF. She rightly pointed out that a couple of the tools featured in that document were no longer available for free and one was not available at all anymore. This morning I created an updated version of Ten Great Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures.

Within Ten Great Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures there are sections on digital collages and on making ebooks. The PDF also contains information on how to quickly and easily remove and replacing the background in an image. You can view the PDF as embedded below. The embed frame includes the option to download the PDF.


If you cannot see the embedded PDF, you can view it here as a Google Document.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Camera and Locomotive - A Mapped Story About the Transcontinental Railroad

Camera and Locomotive is the title of a fantastic mapped story published by the Library of Congress. Camera and Locomotive tells the story of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad and the development of photography in the United States. As you scroll through the story you will find interactive maps that are loaded with photographs taken during the construction of railroads. You can click on any placemarker on the maps to reveal an image. Clicking on an image will take you to a corresponding Library of Congress page where you can learn more about the photograph and download a high resolution copy of it.

Camera and Locomotive has seven connected sections that you can jump to from the introduction. One of the most fascinating sections for me was Plumbe's Dream. Plumbe's Dream is about John Plume, Jr. who was a photographer and early advocate for the construction of a transcontinental railroad who never did see any of the tracks of what would become the first Transcontinental Railroad. From the section on Plumbe the story continues to tell readers about other photographers including Andrew Joseph Russell who captured some of the iconic photographs of the west associated with the Transcontinental Railroad.

Applications for Education
If you teach U.S. History Camera and Locomotive could be a great addition to your lists of resources for teaching and learning about the Transcontinental Railroad and the westward expansion of the United States.

A couple of related resources worth noting are Railroad Journey and the Industrial Revolution and this collection of primary sources hosted on DocsTeach.

H/T to Maps Mania for the link to Camera and Locomotive. 

Intro to Using AR & VR in Your Classroom - Webinar This Thursday

More than 100 people have participated in a Practical Ed Tech webinar this month. Thank you for your support!

This Thursday I'm hosting the last Practical Ed Tech webinar of the month. This week's webinar is Intro to Using AR & VR in Your Classroom. This an update to last year's webinar on the same topic. It has been updated for the new school year with new research, new tools, and new ideas for using augmented reality and virtual reality in your classroom.

Five Things You Can Learn in Intro to Using AR & VR in Your Classroom

  • The differences between AR and VR.
  • How to create AR and VR experiences.
  • Research on the benefits of AR and VR in education.
  • The best AR and VR apps for beginners.
  • Solutions to common quirks with AR and VR apps.

Register here!

A Chrome Extension to Help With a Facebook Fast

I'm going on a bit of a Facebook fast. Like many people I say that I'm going "just check Facebook for a minute" and then find that I've wasted twenty minutes going down a rabbit hole following interesting links or commenting on friends' posts. I'm also prone to getting melancholy when I see some of "my memories" pop-up in my Facebook feed. Those melancholy moments have a bigger impact on my productivity than anything else. All this is to say that I'm going on a Facebook fast for the next two weeks.

I've enlisted the help of the StayFocusd Chrome extension to stick to my Facebook fasting plan. Because of the nature of running a small business like mine I can't completely give up posting on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page. What I can do is limit my time on Facebook to only things that are directly related to business. The StayFocusd Chrome extension lets me set a maximum amount of time that I can cumulatively spend on Facebook during a twenty-four hour period. I've set a limit of twenty minutes which should be more than enough time to update the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page.

The StayFocusd Chrome extension works with more than just Facebook. You can customize it to block yourself from any website that you want to avoid wasting time on during your day. You can use StayFocusd to block or limit access to sites like Reddit, Twitter, Pinterest, or even Amazon. Whatever the site is that sucks time out of your day, you can block it or limit it with the StayFocusd Chrome extension.

It's important to note that StayFocusd will only work on Chrome on your computer. It won't prevent you from accessing your blocked sites via a web browser on your phone and it won't stop you from accessing your blocked sites via their corresponding mobile apps. Therefore, I've uninstalled the Facebook app on my phone (I never had it installed on my iPad).

A Time-saving Tip for Testing iPad and Android Apps

As you might expect, I test tons of apps every year. Some of those apps are brand new ones and others are older ones that people suggest that I try. And throughout the year I go back and look at some apps that I've previously reviewed to see if they've been update or are even still working as well as they once did. When I look at older apps the first thing that I do is look at the version history and "last updated" dates.

When looking at the listing for an iPad app or iPhone app I check the version history before I install it. If it hasn't been updated in a couple of years, there's probably a good chance that the app is no longer being actively supported by the developer. Likewise, when I look at the listing for an Android app I check the "last updated" date. Again, if it hasn't been updated in a couple of years the developer probably isn't actively supporting. In both cases I won't install an app that hasn't been updated in a couple of years.

Where to find the update history for an Android app. 

Where to find the update history for an iOS app. 


Time and Security
Not installing apps that haven't been updated in a couple of years not only saves you time, it can potentially save the security of your phone or table. Older apps that haven't been updated in a couple of years are more susceptible to security flaws than those that have been updated on a recent and regular basis.

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.